CAIRO: Bahaism has recently been making headlines in the national press. As the debate on whether or not to recognize the faith officially heats up, it spurs a seemingly endless stream of misinformation about Bahaism. Here is a quick glance at what is considered “one of the youngest of the world’s major religions.
The Bahai faith was founded by Bahaullah (the Glory of God in Arabic) in Iran in 1844. According to Bahai teachings, religious history is seen as a continuous learning process for mankind through God’s messengers, which are termed “Manifestations of God. Bahaullah is believed to be a more recent “manifestation , and proclaimed that he was not the final messenger but spoke of the impending arrival of the latest in the line of prophets, including Moses, Jesus Christ, and the Prophet Mohamed.
The faith’s central concept is that of unity. Bahais believe that people should combine their efforts towards the benefit of humanity as a whole. In that sense, the Bahai religion is unusual in that it accepts all other faiths as true and valid.
Bahais believe in a single, imperishable God, the creator of all things. The existence of God is thought to be eternal, without a beginning or end.
Shoghi Effendi, the appointed head of the religion from 1921 to 1957, wrote the following summary of what he considered to be the distinguishing principles of Baha’u llah s teachings, which, he said, together with the laws and ordinances of the Kitáb-i-Aqdas constitute the bed-rock of the Bahai faith: “The independent search after truth, unfettered by superstition or tradition; the oneness of the entire human race, the pivotal principle and fundamental doctrine of the Faith; the basic unity of all religions; the condemnation of all forms of prejudice, whether religious, racial, class or national; the harmony which must exist between religion and science; the equality of men and women, the two wings on which the bird of human kind is able to soar; the introduction of compulsory education; the adoption of a universal auxiliary language; the abolition of the extremes of wealth and poverty; the institution of a world tribunal for the adjudication of disputes between nations; the exaltation of work, performed in the spirit of service, to the rank of worship; the glorification of justice as the ruling principle in human society, and of religion as a bulwark for the protection of all peoples and nations; and the establishment of a permanent and universal peace as the supreme goal of all mankind – these stand out as the essential elements [which Bahaullah proclaimed].
The Bahai faith was listed in The Britannica Book of the Year (1992-2006) as the second most widespread of the world s independent religions in terms of the number of countries represented. Britannica claims that it is established in 247 countries and territories; represents over 2,100 ethnic, racial, and tribal groups; has scriptures translated into over 800 languages; and has seven million adherents worldwide (2005).