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The Bahá'í Faith is a religion founded by Bahá'u'lláh in 19th century Persia. Bahá'ís number around 6 million in more than 200 countries around the world.<ref>See Bahá'í statistics for a breakdown of different estimates.</ref><ref name="eor">Hutter, Manfred. (2005). "Bahā'īs". Encyclopedia of Religion (2nd ed.) 2: p737-740. Ed. Ed. Lindsay Jones. Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA. ISBN 0028657330.</ref>
According to Bahá'í teachings, religious history is seen as an evolving educational process for mankind, through God's messengers, which are termed Manifestations of God. Bahá'u'lláh is seen as the most recent, pivotal, but not final of these individuals. He claimed to be the expected redeemer and teacher prophesied in Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and other religions, and that his mission was to establish a firm basis for unity throughout the world, and inaugurate an age of peace and justice, which Bahá'ís expect will inevitably arise.<ref name="esslemont">Esslemont, J.E. (1980). Bahá'u'lláh and the New Era, 5th ed., Wilmette, Illinois, USA: Bahá'í Publishing Trust. ISBN 0877431604.</ref>
"Bahá'í" (Ba-haa-ee or /baˈhaːʔiː/) is either an adjective referring to this religion or the term for a follower of Bahá'u'lláh, and not a noun referring to the religion as a whole. The term comes from the Arabic word Bahá’ (بهاء), meaning "glory" or "splendor".<ref>Bahá'ís prefer the orthographies "Bahá'í", "Bahá'ís", "the Báb", "Bahá'u'lláh", and "`Abdu'l-Bahá", using a particular transcription of the Arabic and Persian in publications. "Bahai", "Bahais", "Baha'i", "the Bab", "Bahaullah" and "Baha'u'llah" are often used when diacriticals are unavailable.</ref>
Three underlying core assertions are often simply referred to as the unity of God, the unity of religion, and the unity of mankind.<ref name="eor" /> This formulation is often helpful in understanding Bahá'í approaches to a variety of religious topics, though it belies much of the complexity found in the hundreds of books and letters that form the Bahá'í texts. Much of Bahá'í practice and social teachings are rooted in these priorities.
Bahá'ís believe in a single, imperishable God, the creator of all things, including all the creatures and forces in the universe. <ref name="britannica"> "The Bahá'í Faith". Britannica Book of the Year. (1988). Chicago: Encyclopaedia Britannica. ISBN 0852294867.</ref> The existence of God is thought to be eternal, without a beginning or end,<ref name="britannica" /> and is described as "a personal God, unknowable, inaccessible, the source of all Revelation, eternal, omniscient, omnipresent and almighty." <ref>Effendi, Shoghi (1944). God Passes By. Wilmette, Illinois, USA: Bahá'í Publishing Trust, pp.139. ISBN 0877430209.</ref> Though inaccessible directly, God is nevertheless seen as conscious of his creation, with a will and purpose. Bahá'ís believe that God expresses this will in many ways, including through a series of divine messengers referred to as Manifestations of God or sometimes divine educators.<ref name="eor" /> In expressing God's intent, these manifestations are seen to establish religion in the world.
Bahá'í teachings state that God is too great for humans to fully comprehend, or to create a complete and accurate image.<ref name="manifestation">Template:Cite journal</ref> In the Bahá'í religion God is often referred to by titles (e.g. the All-Powerful, or the All-Loving), and there is a substantial emphasis on monotheism, rejecting such doctrines as the Trinity.<ref>Template:Cite journal</ref><ref>`Abdu'l-Bahá (1990). Some Answered Questions, Softcover, Wilmette, Illinois, USA: Bahá'í Publishing Trust. ISBN 0-87743-162-0.</ref>
Bahá'í notions of progressive religious revelation result in their accepting the validity of most of the worlds' religions, whose founders and central figures are seen as Manifestations of God. These include, but are not limited to Jesus, Muhammad, Moses, and Buddha. Bahá'ís also believe that other religious figures, such as Adam, Noah, and Hud historically existed and were prophets of God. Religious history is interpreted as a series of dispensations, where each manifestation brings a somewhat broader and more advanced revelation, suited for the time and place in which it was expressed.<ref name="britannica" /> Specific religious social teachings (e.g. the direction of prayer, or dietary restrictions) may be revoked by a subsequent manifestation so that a more appropriate requirement for the time and place may be established. Conversely, certain general principles (e.g. neighbourliness, or charity) are seen to be universal and consistent. Bahá'ís do not believe that this process of progressive revelation will end. They do, however, believe that it is cyclical. Bahá'ís do not expect a new manifestation of god to appear prior to 1000 years after Bahá'u'lláh's revelation.<ref>McMullen, Michael D. (2000). The Baha'i: The Religious Construction of a Global Identity. Atlanta, Georgia: Rutgers University Press, pp. 7. ISBN 0813528364.</ref><ref>`Abdu'l-Bahá (1978). Selections From the Writings of `Abdu'l-Bahá, Hardcover, Wilmette, Illinois, USA: Bahá'í Publishing Trust, pp. 67. ISBN 0853980810.</ref>
Bahá'í beliefs are sometimes described as syncretic combinations of earlier religions' beliefs. Bahá'ís, however, assert that their religion is a distinct tradition with its own scriptures, teachings, laws, and history.<ref name="britannica" /> Its cultural and religious debt to the Shi'a Islamic matrix in which it was founded is seen as analogous to the Jewish socio-religious context in which Christianity was established. Bahá'ís describe their faith as an independent world religion, differing from the other traditions only in its relative newness and in the appropriateness of Bahá'u'lláh's teachings to the modern context. Bahá'u'lláh is believed to fulfill the messianic expectations of these precursor faiths.
 Human beings
Bahá'ís believe that human beings have a "rational soul", and that this provides the species with a unique capacity to recognize God's station and humanity's relationship with its creator. Every human is seen to have a duty to recognize God and his manifestations, and to conform to their teachings.<ref>McMullen, Michael D. (2000). The Baha'i: The Religious Construction of a Global Identity. Atlanta, Georgia: Rutgers University Press, pp. 57-58. ISBN 0813528364.</ref> Through recognition and obedience, service to fellow humans and regular prayer and spiritual practice, Bahá'ís believe that the soul becomes closer to God, the spiritual ideal in Bahá'í belief. When a human dies, the soul passes into the next world, where its spiritual development in the physical world becomes a basis for judgment and advancement in the spiritual world.<ref name="lafd">Masumian, Farnaz (1995). Life After Death: A study of the afterlife in world religions. Oxford: Oneworld Publications. ISBN 1-85168-074-8.</ref> Heaven and Hell are taught to be spiritual states of nearness or distance from God that describe relationships in this world and the next, and not physical places of reward and punishment achieved after death.<ref name="lafd" />
The Bahá'í writings emphasize the essential equality of human beings, and the abolition of prejudice. Humanity is seen as essentially one, though highly varied; its diversity of race and culture are seen as worthy of appreciation and tolerance.<ref name="eor" /> Doctrines of racism, nationalism, caste, and social class are seen as artificial impediments to unity.<ref name="eor" /> The Bahá'í teachings state that the unification of mankind is the paramount issue in the religious and political conditions of the present world.<ref name="britannica" />
Bahá'í sources usually estimate the worldwide Bahá'í population to be above 5 million.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref> Encyclopedias and similar sources estimate from 2 to 8 million Bahá'ís in the world in the early twenty-first century, with most estimates between 5 and 6 million.<ref name="brittanica_stats">Template:Cite web</ref><ref>Template:Cite web</ref><ref> (2002) World Book editors: The World Book Encyclopedia: 2003 ed edition. World Book Inc. ISBN 0716601036.</ref><ref>Paul Oliver (2002). Teach Yourself World Faiths, New Edition. McGraw-Hill. ISBN 0071384480.</ref>
From its origins in the Persian and Ottoman Empires, the Bahá'í Faith acquired a number of Western converts by World War I. Fifty years later its population was distributed much more towards the Third World as a result of Bahá'í pioneering efforts.
According to The World Almanac and Book of Facts 2004:
|The majority of Bahá'ís live in Asia (3.6 million), Africa (1.8 million), and Latin America (900,000). According to some estimates, the largest Bahá'í community in the world is in India, with 2.2 million Bahá'ís, next is Iran, with 350,000, and the USA, with 150,000. Aside from these countries, numbers vary greatly. Currently, no country has a Bahá'í majority. Guyana is the country with the largest percentage of Bahá'ís (7%).|
The Bahá'í religion was listed in The Britannica Book of the Year (1992–present) 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 .<ref name="brittanica_stats" />
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 Bahá'u'lláh's teachings, which, he said, together with the laws and ordinances of the Kitáb-i-Aqdas constitute the bed-rock of the Bahá'í Faith:
 Social principles
The following 12 principles are frequently listed as a quick summary of the Bahá'í teachings. They are derived from transcripts of speeches given by `Abdu'l-Bahá during his tour of Europe and North America in 1912.<ref name="bcom">Template:Cite web</ref> The list is not authoritative and a variety of such lists circulate.<ref name="bcom" /><ref>Dewey, J.J. (1999). “The Three Revelations”, The Gathering of Lights.</ref>
- Unity of God
- Unity of religion
- Unity of mankind
- Gender Equality
- Elimination of all forms of prejudice
- World peace
- Harmony of religion and science
- Independent investigation of truth
- Universal compulsory education
- Universal auxiliary language
- Obedience to government and non-involvement in partisan politics
- Elimination of extremes of wealth and poverty
 Mystical teachings
Although it concentrates on social and ethical issues as well, some of the Bahá'í Faith's foundational texts might be described as mystical.<ref name="britannica" /> Shoghi Effendi has called the Seven Valleys Bahá'u'lláh's "greatest mystical composition." It was written to a follower of Sufism, a mystic and esoterical tradition of Islam.<ref name="rob1">Taherzadeh, Adib (1976). The Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh, Volume 1: Baghdad 1853-63. Oxford, UK: George Ronald, pp. 96-99. ISBN 0853982708.</ref> It was first translated into English in 1906, becoming one of the earliest available books of Bahá'u'lláh to the West. The Hidden Words is another book written by Bahá'u'lláh during the same period, containing 153 short passages described by `Abdu'l-Bahá as "a treasury of divine mysteries".
 The Covenant
Bahá'ís have high regard for what is termed the "Greater Covenant", which they see as universal in nature, and from "time immemorial" has been carried through by the Manifestations of God of all ages.<ref>Taherzadeh, Adib (1972). The Covenant of Bahá'u'lláh. Oxford, UK: George Ronald. ISBN 0853983445.</ref> They also regard highly the "Lesser Covenant", which is viewed as an agreement between a Messenger of God and his followers, unique to each revelation, and includes social practices and the continuation of authority in the religion.<ref name="momen_covenant">Template:Cite web</ref> At this time Bahá'ís view Bahá'u'lláh's revelation as a binding lesser covenant for his followers; in the Bahá'í writings being firm in the covenant is considered as one of the main religious virtues a person can work toward.<ref name="momen_covenant" />
With unity as an essential teaching of the religion, Bahá'ís follow an administration that they believe is divinely ordained, and therefore see attempts to create schisms and divisions as insignificant, doomed efforts which are contrary to the teachings of Bahá'u'lláh. Throughout Bahá'í history schisms have occurred over the succession of authority.<ref name="momen_covenant" /> The followers of the various Bahá'í divisions, who in total, number in the low thousands, are regarded as Covenant-breakers and shunned,<ref name="momen_covenant" /> essentially excommunicated.
Bahá'í history is often traced through a sequence of leaders, beginning with the Báb's May 23, 1844 declaration in Shiraz, and ultimately resting on an administrative order established by the central figures of the religion. The tradition was mostly isolated to the Persian and Ottoman empires until after the death of Bahá'u'lláh in 1892, at which time he had followers in thirteen countries of Asia and Africa.<ref name="rob4">Taherzadeh, Adib (1987). The Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh, Volume 4: Mazra'ih & Bahji 1877-92. Oxford, UK: George Ronald, 125. ISBN 0853982708.</ref> Under the leadership of his son, `Abdu'l-Bahá, the religion gained a footing in Europe and America, and was consolidated in Iran, where it still suffered intense persecution.<ref name="affolter">Template:Cite journal</ref> After the death of `Abdu'l-Bahá in 1921, the leadership of the Bahá'í community entered a new phase, evolving from that of a single individual to an administrative order with a system of both elected bodies and appointed individuals.
 The Báb
In 1844 Siyyid `Alí-Muhammad of Shiraz, Iran proclaimed that he was "the Báb" (Arabic: الباب "the Gate"), after a Shi`a religious concept.<ref name="affolter" /> His followers were therefore known as Bábís. As the Báb's teachings spread, the Islamic clergy saw it as a threat, and Bábís came under increased persecution, at times being forced to choose between renouncing their beliefs or being killed.<ref name="britannica" /> Several military confrontations took place between government and Bábí forces. The Báb himself was imprisoned and eventually executed in 1850.<ref>Template:Cite journal</ref>
Bahá'ís see the Báb as the forerunner of the Bahá'í Faith, because the Báb's writings introduced the concept of "He whom God shall make manifest", a Messianic figure whose coming, according to Bahá'ís, was announced in the scriptures of all of the world's great religions, and whom Bahá'u'lláh, the founder of the Bahá'í Faith, claimed to be in 1863.<ref name="britannica" /> The Báb's tomb is located in Haifa, Israel, and is an important place of pilgrimage for Bahá'ís. The remains of the Báb were brought secretly from Persia to the Holy Land and were eventually interred in the Shrine built for them in a spot specifically designated by Bahá'u'lláh.<ref name="balyuzi">Balyuzi, Hasan (2001). `Abdu'l-Bahá: The Centre of the Covenant of Bahá'u'lláh, Paperback, Oxford, UK: George Ronald. ISBN 0853980438.</ref>
Mírzá Husayn `Alí of Núr was one of the early followers of the Báb, who later took the title of Bahá'u'lláh. He was arrested and imprisoned for this involvement in 1852. He claimed that while incarcerated in the dungeon of the Síyáh-Chál in Tehran, he received the first intimations that he was the one anticipated by the Báb.<ref name="eor" /> He announced this in 1863.
Shortly thereafter he was expelled from Persia to Baghdad,<ref name="eor" /> in the Ottoman Empire; then to Constantinople; then to Adrianople. During this time tensions grew between Bahá'u'lláh and Subh-i-Azal, the appointed leader of the Bábís, culminating in Bahá'u'lláh's 1866 declaration.<ref name="iranica"> "Baha'-allah". Encyclopædia Iranica. (1989).</ref> While in Adrianople, he wrote letters to several rulers of the world, including Sultan Abdülâziz, declaring his mission as a Messenger of God. As a result Bahá'u'lláh was banished a final time, to the penal colony of `Akká, in present-day Israel.<ref name="iranica" />
Towards the end of his life, the strict and harsh confinement was gradually relaxed, and he was allowed to live in a home near `Akká, while still officially a prisoner of that city.<ref name="iranica" /> He died there in 1892. Bahá'ís regard his resting place at Bahjí as the Qiblih to which they turn in prayer each day. During his lifetime, Bahá'u'lláh left a large volume of writings; the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, and the Book of Certitude are recognized as primary Bahá'í theological works, and the Hidden Words and the Seven Valleys as primary mystical treatises.
`Abbás Effendi was Bahá'u'lláh's eldest son, known by the title of `Abdu'l-Bahá (Servant of Bahá). His father left a Will that appointed `Abdu'l-Bahá as the leader of the Bahá'í community, and designated him as the "Centre of the Covenant", "Head of the Faith", and the sole authoritative interpreter of Bahá'u'lláh's writings.<ref>Bahá'u'lláh [1873-92] (1994). Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh Revealed After the Kitáb-i-Aqdas. Wilmette, Illinois, USA: Bahá'í Publishing Trust, pp.217. ISBN 0877431744.</ref><ref name="balyuzi" />
`Abdu'l-Bahá had shared his father's long exile and imprisonment, which continued until `Abdu'l-Bahá's own release as a result of the Young Turk Revolution in 1908. Following his release he led a life of travelling, speaking, teaching, and maintaining correspondence with communities of believers and individuals, expounding the principles of the Bahá'í Faith.<ref name="eor" />
 Bahá'í administration
Bahá'u'lláh's Kitáb-i-Aqdas and The Will and Testament of `Abdu'l-Bahá are foundation documents of the Bahá'í administrative order. Bahá'u'lláh established the elected Universal House of Justice, and `Abdu'l-Bahá established the appointed hereditary Guardianship and clarified the relationship between the two institutions.<ref name="balyuzi"/> In his Will, `Abdu'l-Bahá appointed his eldest grandson, Shoghi Effendi, as the first Guardian of the Bahá'í Faith.<ref name="esslemont" />
Shoghi Effendi throughout his lifetime translated Bahá'í literature; developed global plans for the expansion of the Bahá'í community; developed the Bahá'í World Centre; carried on a voluminous correspondence with communities and individuals around the world; and built the administrative structure of the religion, preparing the community for the election of the Universal House of Justice.<ref name="eor" /> He died in 1957 under conditions that didn't allow for a successor to be appointed.
At local, regional, and national levels, Bahá'ís elect members to nine-person Spiritual Assemblies, which run the affairs of the religion.<ref name="britannica" /> There are also appointed individuals working at various levels, including locally and internationally which perform the function of propagating the faith and protecting the community.<ref name="britannica" /> The latter do not serve as clergy, which the Bahá'í Faith does not have.<ref name="britannica" />
The Universal House of Justice, first elected in 1963, remains the supreme governing body of the Bahá'í Faith, and its 9 members are elected every five years by the members of all National Spiritual Assemblies.<ref>Stockman, Robert (1995). “Bahá'í Faith: A portraint”, Joel Beversluis (ed): A SourceBook for Earth's Community of Religions. Grand Rapids, MI: CoNexus Press.</ref> Any male Bahá'í, 21 years or older, is eligible to be elected to the Universal House of Justice; all other positions are open to male and female Bahá'ís.
 Involvement in society
Monasticism is forbidden, and Bahá'ís attempt to ground their spirituality in ordinary daily life. Performing useful work, for example, is not only required but considered a form of worship.<ref name="britannica" /> Bahá'u'lláh prohibited a mendicant and ascetic lifestyle,<ref name="britannica" /> encouraging Bahá'ís to "Be anxiously concerned with the needs of the age ye live in."<ref>Bahá'u'lláh (1991). Proclamation of Bahá'u'lláh. Wilmette, Illinois, USA: Bahá'í Publishing Trust, pp. 122. ISBN 0877430640.</ref> The importance of self-exertion and service to humanity in man's spiritual life is emphasised further in Bahá'u'lláh's writings, where he states that work done in the spirit of service to humanity enjoys a rank equal to that of prayer and worship in the sight of God.<ref name="britannica" />
 United Nations
Bahá'u'lláh wrote of the need for world government in this age of humanity's collective life. Because of this emphasis many Bahá'ís have chosen to support efforts of improving international relations through organizations such as the League of Nations and the United Nations. The Bahá'í International Community is an agency under the direction of the Universal House of Justice in Haifa, and has consultative status with the following organizations:<ref name="bic">Template:Cite web</ref>
- United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC)
- United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF)
- World Health Organization (WHO)
- United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM)
- United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)
The Bahá'í International Community has offices at the United Nations in New York and Geneva and representations to United Nations regional commissions and other offices in Addis Ababa, Bangkok, Nairobi, Rome, Santiago, and Vienna.<ref name="bic" /> In recent years an Office of the Environment and an Office for the Advancement of Women were established as part of its United Nations Office. The Bahá'í Faith has also undertaken joint development programs with various other United Nations agencies. In the 2000 Millennium Forum of the United Nations a Bahá'í was invited as the only non-governmental speaker during the summit.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref> See this article for further information on the relationship between the Bahá'í International Community and the United Nations.
 International plans
In 1939 Shoghi Effendi launched a seven year plan, followed by another in 1946.<ref>Danesh, Helen, Danesh, John; Danesh, Amelia (1991). “The Life of Shoghi Effendi”, M. Bergsmo (Ed.): Studying the Writings of Shoghi Effendi. George Ronald. ISBN 0853983364.</ref> In 1953 he launched the Ten Year World Crusade, with extremely ambitious goals for the expansion of Bahá'í communities and institutions, the translation of Bahá'í literature into several new languages, and the sending of Bahá'í pioneers into previously unreached nations.<ref>Template:Cite journal</ref> He announced in letters during the Ten Year Crusade that it would be followed by other plans under the direction of the Universal House of Justice, which was elected in 1963 at the culmination of the Crusade. The House of Justice then launched a nine year plan in 1964, and a series of subsequent multi-year plans of varying length and goals followed, guiding the direction of the international Bahá'í community.<ref>Template:Cite journal</ref>
 Current international plan
Since the late 1990's, the House of Justice has been directing communities to prepare for large-scale expansion, organizing localities into "clusters", creating new institutions such as Regional Councils and strengthening the various "training institutes". <ref name="uhj_letter_2003">Template:Cite web</ref> The recently completed five-year plan (2001-2006) focused on developing institutions and creating the means to "sustain large-scale expansion and consolidation" (Riḍván 158). Since 2001, the Bahá'ís around the world have been specifically encouraged to focus on children's classes, devotional gatherings, and a systematic study of the religion, known as study circles.<ref name="uhj_letter_2003" /> A new focus was added in December 2005 with the addition of "junior youth" classes to the core activities, focusing on education for those between 11 and 14.<ref name="second_five">Universal House Of Justice (2006). Five Year Plan 2006-2011. West Palm Beach, Florida: Palabra Publications.</ref>
The second five-year plan (2006-2011) was launched by the Universal House of Justice in April of 2006; it calls upon the Bahá'ís of the world to establish advanced patterns of growth and community development in over 1,500 "clusters" around the world.<ref name="second_five" /> It also alludes to a possible tier-election process for Local Spiritual Assemblies in localities with many Bahá'ís. The years from 2001 until 2021 represent four successive five-year plans, culminating in the centennial anniversary of the passing of `Abdu'l-Bahá.<ref name="second_five" />
 Study circles
Along with a focus on consolidation has come a systematic approach to education and community development. The "study circles" are intended to be sustainable and self-perpetuating on a large scale. Participants complete a sequence of workbooks in small groups, facilitated by a tutor, and upon completion of the sequence a participant can then go on to facilitate study circles for others.
The most popular study program is the Ruhi Institute, a study course originally designed for use in Colombia, but which has received wide use. The first book studies three themes: the Bahá'í writings, prayer, and life and death. Subsequent themes include the education of children, the lives of the Báb and Bahá'u'lláh, service, and others.
 Social practices
The laws of the Bahá'í Faith primarily come from the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, written by Bahá'u'lláh. The following are a few examples of basic laws and religious observances,
- Bahá'ís over the age of 15 recite an obligatory prayer each day. There are three such prayers among which one can be chosen each day.
- Backbiting and gossip are prohibited and denounced.
- Adult Bahá'ís in good health observe a nineteen-day sunrise-to-sunset fast each year from March 2 through March 20.
- Bahá'ís are forbidden to drink alcohol or to take drugs, unless prescribed by doctors.
- Sexual relationships are permitted only between a husband and wife, and thus homosexual acts are not permitted. See Homosexuality and Bahá'í Faith.
- Gambling is strictly forbidden.
While some of the laws from the Kitáb-i-Aqdas are applicable at the present time, Bahá'u'lláh has provided for the progressive application of other laws that are dependent upon the existence of a predominantly Bahá'í society.<ref name ="aqdas_intro">Universal House of Justice (1992). “Introduction”, The Kitáb-i-Aqdas. Wilmette, Illinois, USA: Bahá'í Publishing Trust, pp. 5. ISBN 0853989990.</ref> The laws, when not in direct conflict with the civil laws of the country of residence, are binding on every Bahá'í,<ref name ="aqdas_intro" /> and the observance of personal laws, such as prayer or fasting, is the sole responsibility of the individual.<ref name="walbridge">Template:Cite web</ref> Some laws may be enforced to a degree by the administrative institutions, while still others are dependent upon the existence of a predominantly Bahá'í society.<ref name="enforce">Template:Cite web</ref>
 Places of worship
Most Bahá'í meetings occur in individuals' homes, local Bahá'í centers, or rented facilities. Worldwide, there are currently seven Bahá'í Houses of Worship, basically one per continent, with an eighth under construction in Chile.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref> Bahá'í writings refer to an institution called a "Mashriqu'l-Adhkár" (Dawning-place of the Mention of God), which is to form the center of a complex of institutions including a hospital, university, and so on.<ref name="esslemont" /> Only the first ever Mashriqu'l-Adhkár in `Ishqábád, Turkmenistan, was built to such a degree.
Bahá'í marriage is the union of a man and a woman. Its purpose is mainly to foster spiritual harmony, fellowship and unity between the two partners and the rearing of children.<ref name="marriage_pamphlet">Template:Cite web</ref> The Bahá'í teachings on marriage call it a fortress for well-being and salvation and place marriage and the family as the foundation of the structure of human society. Bahá'u'lláh highly praised marriage, declaring it an eternal command of God, also discouraging divorce, and requiring chastity outside of marriage; Bahá'u'lláh taught that a husband and wife should strive to improve the spiritual life of each other.<ref name="marriage_pamphlet" />
Bahá'ís intending to marry "should study each other's character and spend time getting to know each other before they decide to marry, and when they do marry it should be with the intention of establishing an eternal bond."<ref> (1997) Bahá'í marriage and family life : selections from the writings of the Bahá'í Faith. Willmette, IL: Bahá’í Publishing Trust. ISBN 0877432589.</ref> Although parents should not choose partners for their children, once two individuals decide to marry, they must receive the consent of all living parents, even if one partner is not a Bahá'í.<ref name="esslemont" /> Interracial marriage is highly praised in the Bahá'í teachings. The Bahá'í marriage ceremony is simple; the only compulsory part of the wedding is the reading of the wedding vows prescribed by Bahá'u'lláh which both the groom and the bride read, in the presence of two witnesses.<ref name="esslemont" /> The vows are:
- "We will all, verily, abide by the Will of God."<ref>Bahá'u'lláh  (1992). The Kitáb-i-Aqdas: The Most Holy Book. Wilmette, Illinois, USA: Bahá'í Publishing Trust, pp. 105. ISBN 0853989990.</ref>
The official symbol of the Bahá'í Faith is the five-pointed star, but a nine-pointed star is more frequently used.<ref>Effendi, Shoghi, The Universal House of Justice (1983). Hornby, Helen (Ed.): Lights of Guidance: A Bahá'í Reference File. Bahá'í Publishing Trust, New Delhi, India. ISBN 8185091463.</ref> The ringstone symbol and calligraphy of the Greatest Name are also often encountered. The former consists of two stars interspersed with a stylized Bahá’ (Arabic: بهاء "splendor" or "glory") whose shape is meant to recall the three onenesses.<ref>Faizi, Abu'l-Qasim (1968). Explanation of the Symbol of the Greatest Name. Bahá'í Publishing Trust, PO Box No. 19, New Delhi, India.</ref> The Greatest Name is Yá Bahá'u'l-'Abhá (Arabic: يا بهاء الأبهى "O Glory of the Most Glorious!")
The Bahá'í calendar is based upon the calendar established by the Báb. The year consists of 19 months of 19 days, with four or five intercalary days, to make a full solar year.<ref name="eor" /> The Bahá'í New Year corresponds to the traditional Persian New Year, called Naw Rúz, and occurs on the vernal equinox, March 21, at the end of the month of fasting. Bahá'í communities gather at the beginning of each month at a meeting called a Feast for worship, consultation and socializing.<ref name="britannica" />
Each of the 19 months is given a name which is an attribute of God; some examples include Bahá’ (Splendour), ‘Ilm (Knowledge), and Jamál (Beauty).<ref name="esslemont" />The Bahá'í week is familiar in that it consists of seven days, with each day of the week also named after an attribute of God; some examples include Istiqlál (Independence), Kamál (Perfection) and ‘Idál (Justice). Bahá'ís observe 11 Holy Days throughout the year, with work suspended on 9 of these. These days commemorate important anniversaries in the history of the religion.
Bahá'ís continue to be persecuted in Islamist ruled countries, especially Iran, where over 200 believers were executed between 1978 and 1998. Since the Islamic Revolution of 1979, Iranian Bahá'ís have regularly had their homes ransacked or been banned from attending university or holding government jobs, and several hundred have received prison sentences for their religious beliefs, most recently for participating in study circles.<ref name="fdih1">Template:Cite web</ref> Bahá'í cemeteries have been desecrated and property seized and occasionally demolished, including the House of Mírzá Buzurg, Bahá'u'lláh's father.<ref name="affolter" /> The House of the Báb in Shiraz has been destroyed twice, and is one of three sites to which Bahá'ís perform pilgrimage. <ref name="affolter" /><ref>Template:Cite web </ref><ref>Template:Cite web </ref>
Even more recently the situation of Bahá'ís has worsened; the United Nations Commission on Human Rights revealed an October 2005 confidential letter from Command Headquarters of the Armed Forces of Iran to identify Bahá'ís and to monitor their activities <ref name="unhchr">Template:Cite web </ref> and in November 2005 the state-run and influential Kayhan <ref>Template:Cite web</ref> newspaper, whose managing editor is appointed by Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei,<ref> Template:Cite web</ref> ran nearly three dozen articles defaming the Bahá'í Faith.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref>
Due to these actions, the Special Rapporteur of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights stated on March 20, 2006 that she "also expresses concern that the information gained as a result of such monitoring will be used as a basis for the increased persecution of, and discrimination against, members of the Bahá'í faith, in violation of international standards. ... The Special Rapporteur is concerned that this latest development indicates that the situation with regard to religious minorities in Iran is, in fact, deteriorating."<ref name="unhchr" />
Bernard Lewis states that the Muslim laity and Islamic authorities have always had great difficulty in accommodating post-Islamic monotheistic religions such as the Bahá'í Faith, since on one hand the followers of such religions cannot be dismissed either as benighted heathens, like the polytheists of Asia and the animists of Africa, nor as outdated precursors, like the Jews and Christians. Moreover, their very existence presents a challenge to the Islamic doctrine of the perfection and finality of Muhammad's revelation. <ref> Lewis (1984) p.21 </ref>
 See also</div>
- Bahá'í apologetics - for critical viewpoints.
- Bahá'í individuals
- Bahá'í orthography
- Bahá'í Faith in fiction
- `Abdu'l-Bahá (1891). Browne, E.G., Tr.: A Traveller's Narrative: Written to illustrate the episode of the Bab. Cambridge University Press.
- `Abdu'l-Bahá [1901-08] (1992). The Will And Testament of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. Mona Vale, N.S.W, Australia: Bahá'í Publications Australia. ISBN 0909991472.
- Britannica (Eds.) (1992). Britannica Book of the Year. Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc. Chicago,.
- Hatcher, W.S., & Martin, J.D. (1998). The Bahá'í Faith: The Emerging Global Religion. Wilmette, Illinois, USA: Bahá'í Publishing Trust. ISBN 0877432643.
- Heggie, James (1986). Bahá'í References to Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Oxford, UK: George Ronald. ISBN 0853982422..
- Lewis, Bernard (1984). The Jews of Islam. Princeton: Princeton University Press. ISBN 0691008078..
- Momen, Moojan (1994). Buddhism and the Bahá'í Faith. Oxford, UK: George Ronald. ISBN 0853983844..
- Momen, Moojan (2000). Islam and the Bahá'í Faith, An Introduction to the Bahá'í Faith for Muslims. Oxford, UK: George Ronald. ISBN 0-853984468..
- Momen, Moojan (1990). Hinduism and the Bahá'í Faith. Oxford, UK: George Ronald. ISBN 0853982996..
- Townshend, George (1986). Christ and Bahá’u’lláh. Oxford, UK: George Ronald. ISBN 0853980055..
- Motlagh, Hudishar (1992). I Shall Come Again. Global Perspective. ISBN 0-937661-01-5.
- Schaefer, Udo (2000). Making the Crooked Straight: A Contribution to Bahá'í Apologetics. Oxford, UK: George Ronald. ISBN 0-85398-443-3.
- Townshend, George (1966). Christ and Bahá’u’lláh. Oxford, UK: George Ronald. ISBN 0853980055.
- Universal House of Justice (2001). Century of Light. Wilmette, Illinois, USA: Bahá'í Publishing Trust. ISBN 0877432945.
 External links
- The Bahá'ís, the official presence of the Bahá'í International Community on the Web.
- BBC Religion and Ethics special: Bahá'í, BBC on the Bahá'í Faith.
- The Baha’i Faith Index, a search engine and directory of all Baha’i web sites, with 3000 links, 4000+ news articles, and much more.
- Baha'i Library collection of Baha'i writings on the net.
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