Unity of humanity is one of the central teachings of the Bahá'í Faith. The Bahá'í teachings state that since all humans have been created in the image of God, God does not make any distinction between people regardless of race or colour. Thus, because all humans have been created equal, they all require equal opportunities and treatment. Thus the Bahá'í view promotes the unity of humanity, and that people's vision should be world-embracing and that people should love the whole world rather than just their nation. The teaching, however, does not equal unity with uniformity, but instead the Bahá'í writings advocate for the principle of unity in diversity where the variety in the human race is valued.
The Bahá'í teaching of the unity of humanity (also known as the oneness of humanity) stems from the teaching that all humans have been created equal in the image of God, and that God does not make any distinction between people. The teaching emphasizes the unity of humanity transcending all divisions of race, nation, gender, caste, and social class, while celebrating its diversity. The Bahá'í writings states that since the human race is one unified organic unit, all people have the same basic capacities, and that the physical differences, such as skin colour, are superficial and do not make one ethnic group superior to another.
In the Bahá'í view, humanity has always constituted one group, but that ignorance, prejudice and power-seeking have prevented the recognition of the oneness of humanity. The historical differences that have existed between different ethnic groups is attributable to differences in education and cultural opportunities over a long-term, as well as to racial prejudice and oppression.
Unity in diversity
In the Bahá'í view, unity does not equal uniformity, but instead the Bahá'í writings advocate for the principle of unity in diversity where the variety in the human race is valued.`Abdu'l-Bahá, the son of the founder of the religion, compared the human race to a flower garden where the garden was made more beautiful by its diversities of colour and form.
The world of humanity is like unto a rose garden and the various races, tongues and people are like unto contrasting flowers. The diversity of colors in a rose-garden adds to the charm and beauty of the scene as variety enhances unity.
The Bahá'í writings note that unity will not be arrived at through the suppression of difference, but instead when each respects the intrinsic value of other individuals and cultures. In this view, it is not the diversity that causes conflict, but rather people's intolerance and prejudice towards diversity.
The cultural norms in the religion have gone through major transitions. In the later 1930s and 1940s Bahá'ís in the West began a systematic implementation of the Tablets of the Divine Plan towards Latin America. At a certain stage of the process regional coordinating committees were appointed and a stated purpose for them was to facilitate a shift in the balance of roles from North American leading guidance and Latin cooperation to Latin leading guidance and North American cooperation. The process was well underway by 1950 and was to be enforced about 1953. By 1961 most Latin and South American countries had their own national assembly. See Bahá'í Faith in Latin America. Almost in parallel with this process in the West in the East Bahá'ís in India were embarking on a comparable process. The Bahá'í message had for decades been primarily addressed to Indian Muslims and Parsees (Zoroastrians), a re-interpretation of the Bahá'í message in accordance with Hindu ideas was undertaken to reach the masses of Hindus. In two more years almost as many people converted as had been Bahá'ís through regions of Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat. By 1970 there were 3,350 assemblies and over 312,000 believers. See Bahá'í Faith in India.
While those early processes continued locally international attention shifted to Africa for Bahá'ís in the West and East. In Africa there was widespread conversions to the religion following the 1950s. It was emphasized that pioneers be self-effacing and focus their efforts not on the colonial leadership but on the native Africans - and that the pioneers must show by actions the sincerity of their sense of service to the Africans in bringing the religion and then the Africans who understand their new religion are to be given freedom to rise up and spread the religion according to their own sensibilities and the pioneers to disperse or step into the background. See Bahá'í Faith in Africa.
Since then other examples of this pattern of growing respect for cultures has taken hold in specific instances. Unlike the spread of Christianity within Indian country, in the United States, the Bahá‘í Faith has never been associated with a fortification of colonial occupation, Euro-American assimilation, or forced conversions of Native Americans. Indeed, in 1960 Hand of the CauseRúhíyyih Khánum asked for forgiveness for the injustices her race had done and praised the great past of the native peoples. And in 1963 anthropologist Alice Beck Kehoe, a well known researcher of Native Americans, observed that the Bahá‘í Faith is considered by its members to be a universal faith, not tied to any one particular culture, religious background, language, or even country of origin. See Bahá'í Faith and Native Americans. In Papua New Guinea whereas Christian missionaries openly opposed traditional funerary art and performances, the Bahá'ís encouraged their production as a form of worship. Thus while Nalik Bahá'ís are regarded by other Naliks as arbiters of traditional knowledge and practices, the Christian missions and their followers are seen as antagonistic to kastom. See Bahá'í Faith in Papua New Guinea.
Elimination of prejudice
One of the main principles of the Bahá'í Faith that comes about from the unity of humanity is the elimination of all forms of prejudice, and it entails non-discrimination against individuals on such things like race, religion, gender or class. `Abdu'l-Bahá states that while the challenge is large, social prejudices including religious, political, and patriotic lead to war, and thus the elimination of prejudice was essential for human well-being. In that regard, the Bahá'í teachings state that the elimination of all forms of prejudice is a fundamental requirement to achieve world unity and peace. Two prime examples of this in action exist - one comes from the American South, and the other from South Africa. Arriving in the face of the rise of Jim Crow laws and the rise of the Ku Klux Klan as a broad-based national movement and in contrast to Protestant, Catholic and Jewish organizations in South Carolina, the Bahá’ís explicitly promoted racial integration from the local level up. Called by the scriptures of their faith to “associate with all the peoples and kindreds of the earth with joy and radiance,” they deliberately sought converts from diverse backgrounds, forging bonds of shared religious identity across traditional social boundaries even when their meetings were raided. By the end of the twentieth century, the Bahá’í Faith was the largest non-Christian religion in South Carolina, and it was well known for its longstanding commitment to promoting racial harmony, interfaith dialogue, and the moral education of children and youth. In South Africa, faced with the segregated social pattern and laws of Apartheid, the integrated population of Bahá'ís had to decide how to be composed in their administrative structures – whether the National Spiritual Assembly would be all black or all white. The Bahá'í community decided that instead of dividing the South African Bahá'í community into two population groups, one black and one white, they instead limited membership in the Bahá'í administration to black adherents, and placed the entire Bahá'í community under the leadership of its black population. In 1997 the National Spiritual Assembly presented a Statement to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of South Africa which said in part:
Abhorring all forms of prejudice and rejecting any system of segregation, the Bahá'í Faith was introduced on a one-to-one basis and the community quietly grew during the apartheid years, without publicity. Despite the nature of the politics of that time, we presented our teachings on unity and the oneness of humankind to prominent individuals in politics, commerce and academia and leaders of thought including State Presidents.... [b]oth individual Bahá'ís and our administrative institutions were continually watched by the security police.... Our activities did not include opposition to the previous Government for involvement in partisan politics and opposition to government are explicitly prohibited by the sacred Texts of our Faith.... During the time when the previous Government prohibited integration within our communities, rather than divide into separate administrative structures for each population group, we opted to limit membership of the Bahá'í Administration to the black adherents who were and remain in the majority of our membership and thereby placed the entire Bahá'í community under the stewardship of its black membership.... The pursuit of our objectives of unity and equality has not been without costs. The "white" Bahá'ís were often ostracized by their white neighbours for their association with "non-whites". The Black Bahá'ís were subjected to scorn by their black compatriots for their lack of political action and their complete integration with their white Bahá'í brethren. The most tragic loss to our community was the brutal execution of four of our adherents, at our places of worship, three in Mdantsane and one in Umtata.
An essential mission in Bahá'u'lláh's, the founder of the Bahá'í Faith, teachings was to bring about a consciousness in the people's of the world regarding the oneness of humankind. However, Bahá'u'lláh stated that along with the increase in individual and collective consciousness of the oneness of humanity, new social structures are also needed for the oneness of humanity to be achieved. He wrote:
It is not for him to pride himself who loveth his own country, but rather for him who loveth the whole world. The earth is but one country, and Mankind its citizens.
The Bahá'í teachings thus state that it is not sufficient that humanity acknowledge its oneness and still live in a disunited world that contains prejudice and conflict. In Bahá'í belief, humanity has gone through a process of progressive revelation through various different messengers of God, including Buddha, Moses, Jesus, Muhammad and others, where humanity has grown collectively. In this belief, society has been steadily organizing itself with higher levels of unity through the various messengers of God; going from the unity of the family, the tribe, the city-state and the nation. The Bahá'í writings state that the next stage of the collective growth is that of world unity and the organization of society as a planetary civilization.Shoghi Effendi, the head of the Bahá'í Faith in the first half of the 20th century, wrote:
The principle of the Oneness of Mankind — the pivot round which all the teachings of Bahá'u'lláh revolve — is no mere outburst of ignorant emotionalism or an expression of vague and pious hope. Its appeal is not to be merely identified with a reawakening of the spirit of brotherhood and good-will among men, nor does it aim solely at the fostering of harmonious cooperation among individual peoples and nations. Its implications are deeper, its claims greater than any which the Prophets of old were allowed to advance. Its message is applicable not only to the individual, but concerns itself primarily with the nature of those essential relationships that must bind all the states and nations as members of one human family. ... It implies an organic change in the structure of present-day society, a change such as the world has not yet experienced. ... It calls for no less than the reconstruction and the demilitarization of the whole civilized world ...
Thus in the Bahá'í view, unity must be expressed by building a universal and unified social system that is based on spiritual principles. In this view, the fundamental purpose of society is spiritual and is to create a society that is favourable to the healthy development of all its peoples.
- ^ abStockman 2000, p. 7
- ^ abcSmith 2008, p. 138
- ^ abcSmith 2008, p. 139
- ^ abcHatcher & Martin 1998, p. 75
- ^ abcdeHatcher & Martin 1998, p. 76
- ^`Abdu'l-Bahá 1918, p. 183
- ^ abcHatcher & Martin 1998, p. 78
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- ^"Latin American Administration Develops". Bahá'í News. No. 197. July 1947. p. 3.
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- ^ abGarlington, William (June 1997). "The Baha'i Faith in India: A Developmental Stage Approach". Occasional Papers in Shaykhi, Babi and Baha'i Studies (2). Retrieved 2010-05-30.
- ^Garlington, William (January 1998). "The Baha'i Bhajans: An example of the Baha'i Use of Hindu Symbols". Occasional Papers in Shaykhi, Babi and Baha'i Studies. 02 (1). Retrieved 2010-05-30.
- ^"Overview Of World Religions". General Essay on the Religions of Sub-Saharan Africa. Division of Religion and Philosophy, University of Cumbria. Archived from the original on 2007-12-09. Retrieved 2008-04-16.
- ^"United States Africa Teaching Committee; Goals for this year". Bahá'í News. No. 283. September 1954. pp. 10–11.
- ^Addison, Donald Francis; Buck, Christopher (2007). "Messengers of God in North America Revisited: An Exegesis of "Abdu'l-Bahá's Tablet to Amír Khán"(PDF). Online Journal of Bahá'í Studies. London: Association for Bahá'í Studies English-Speaking Europe. 01: 180–270. ISSN 1177-8547. Retrieved 2009-12-06.
- ^Were, Graeme (2005). "Thinking through images:Katomand the coming of the Baha'is to Northern New Ireland, Papua New Guinea"(PDF). Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute. 11 (4): 659–676. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9655.2005.00256.x. Retrieved December 11, 2012.
- ^Chryssides 1999, p. 250
- ^Smith 2000, pp. 275–276
- ^McMullen 2003, p. 17
- ^Venters, III, Louis E. (2010). Most great reconstruction: The Baha'i Faith in Jim Crow South Carolina, 1898-1965 (Thesis). Colleges of Arts and Sciences University of South Carolina. pp. v, 4, 150, 297. ISBN 978-1-243-74175-2. UMI Number: 3402846.
- ^ abTruth and Reconciliation Commission of South Africa Report (1998-10-29). "Regional Profile: Eastern Cape and Appendix: Statistics on Violations in the Eastern Cape"(PDF). Volume Three - Truth and Reconciliation Commission of South Africa Report. Truth and Reconciliation Commission of South Africa Report. pp. 32, 146. Retrieved 2008-03-19.
- ^ abNational Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of South Africa (1997-11-19). "Statement to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission". Official Webpage. National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of South Africa. Archived from the original on 2008-04-08. Retrieved 2008-03-19.
- ^ abTruth and Reconciliation Commission of South Africa (1998-10-29). "various chapters"(PDF). Volume Four - Truth and Reconciliation Commission of South Africa Report. Truth and Reconciliation Commission of South Africa. paragraphs 6, 27, 75, 84, 102. Retrieved 2008-03-19.
- ^Reber, Pat (1999-05-02). "Baha'i Church Shooting Verdicts in". South Africa Associated Press. Retrieved 2008-03-19.
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- ^Effendi 1938, pp. 42–43
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The Bahá'í teachings represent a considerable number of theological, social, and spiritual ideas that were established in the Bahá'í Faith by Bahá'u'lláh, the founder of the religion, and clarified by successive leaders including `Abdu'l-Bahá, Bahá'u'lláh's son, and Shoghi Effendi, `Abdu'l-Bahá's grandson. The teachings were written in various Bahá'í writings. The teachings of the religion, combined with the authentic teachings of several past religions, including Islam and Christianity, are regarded by Bahá'ís as teachings revealed by God.
The Bahá'í teachings include theological statements about God, his messengers, and humans, as well as social teachings including the equality of all humans, regardless of gender, race and class, the harmony of science of religion, compulsory education, and the elimination of extremes of wealth and poverty, among others.
The most prominent and distinctive principles in the Bahá'í teachings are love and unity, which are exemplified by the Golden rule, and the many social principles.
Shoghi Effendi, the appointed head of the religion from 1921–1957, 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:
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 Bahá'u'lláh proclaimed].
Three core assertions of the Bahá'í Faith, sometimes termed the "three onenesses", are central in the teachings of the religion. They are the Oneness of God, the Oneness of Religion and the Oneness of Humanity. They are also referred to as the unity of God, unity of religion, and unity of mankind. The Bahá'í writings state that there is a single, all-powerful god, revealing his message through a series of divine messengers or educators, regarding them as one progressively revealed religion, to one single humanity, who all possess a rational soul and only differ according to colour and culture. This idea is fundamental not only to explaining Bahá'í beliefs, but explaining the attitude Bahá'ís have towards other religions, which they regard as divinely inspired. The acceptance of every race and culture in the world has brought Bahá'í demographics diversity, becoming the second most widespread faith in the world, and translating its literature into over 800 languages.
The oneness of God
Main article: God in the Bahá'í Faith
The Bahá'í view of God is essentially monotheistic. God is the imperishable, uncreated being who is the source of all existence. He is described as "a personal God, unknowable, inaccessible, the source of all Revelation, eternal, omniscient, omnipresent and almighty". Though transcendent and inaccessible directly, his image is reflected in his creation. The purpose of creation is for the created to have the capacity to know and love its creator.
In Baha'i belief, although human cultures and religions differ on their conceptions of God and his nature, the different references to God nevertheless refer to one and the same Being. The differences, instead of being regarded as irreconcilable constructs of mutually exclusive cultures, are seen as purposefully reflective of the varying needs of the societies in which the divine messages were revealed.
The Bahá'í teachings state that God is too great for humans to create an accurate conception of. In the Bahá'í understanding, the attributes attributed to God, such as All-Powerful and All-Loving are derived from limited human experiences of power and love. Bahá'u'lláh taught that the knowledge of God is limited to those attributes and qualities which are perceptible to us, and thus direct knowledge of God is not possible. Furthermore, Bahá'u'lláh states that knowledge of the attributes of God is revealed to humanity through his messengers.
As our knowledge of things, even of created and limited things, is knowledge of their qualities and not of their essence, how is it possible to comprehend in its essence the Divine Reality, which is unlimited? ... Knowing God, therefore, means the comprehension and the knowledge of His attributes, and not of His Reality. This knowledge of the attributes is also proportioned to the capacity and power of man; it is not absolute.
While the Bahá'í writings teach of a personal god who is a being with a personality (including the capacity to reason and to feel love), they clearly state that this does not imply a human or physical form. The Bahá'í teachings state that one can get closer to God through prayer, meditation, study of the holy writings, and service.
The oneness of humanity
Main article: Bahá'í Faith and the unity of humanity
The Bahá'í writings teach that there is but one humanity and all people are equal in the sight of God. The Bahá'í Faith emphasizes the unity of humanity transcending all divisions of race, nation, gender, caste, and social class, while celebrating its diversity.`Abdu'l-Bahá states that the unification of mankind has now become "the paramount issue and question in the religious and political conditions of the world." The Bahá'í writings affirm the biological, political, and spiritual unity of mankind. Bahá'u'lláh wrote:
Ye are the fruits of one tree, and the leaves of one branch. Deal ye one with another with the utmost love and harmony, with friendliness and fellowship.
Regarding biological unity the Bahá'í writings state that differences between various races, nations, and ethnic groups are either superficial (e.g. skin colour) or the result of differences in background or education. A basic Bahá'í teaching is the elimination of all forms of prejudice, which refers to not only the elimination of racial prejudice but also that of other forms of prejudice such as gender discrimination.
The Bahá'í teachings state that while ethnic and cultural diversity will continue to exist, humanity's first allegiance will be with the human race rather than any subsidiary group such as race, nation, or ethnic group. There will be an end not only to war, but even to inter-group rivalry.
While the Bahá'í writings talk about the unity of the world and its peoples, unity is not equated to uniformity, but instead the Bahá'í writings affirm the value of cultural, national and individual diversity through the principle of "Unity in diversity," which states that while recognizing the unity of mankind, cultural diversity should be celebrated. Unity in diversity is commonly described in the Bahá'í writings through the analogy of flowers of one garden, where the different colours of the flowers add to the beauty of the garden.
It [the Faith] does not ignore, nor does it attempt to suppress, the diversity of ethnic origins, of climate, of history, of language and tradition, of thought and habit, that differentiate the peoples and nations of the world... Its watchword is unity in diversity...
The oneness of religion
Main article: Bahá'í Faith and the unity of religion
The Bahá'í teachings state that there is but one religion which is progressively revealed by God, through prophets/messengers, to mankind as humanity matures and its capacity to understand also grows. The outward differences in the religions, the Bahá'í writings state, are due to the exigencies of the time and place the religion was revealed. Bahá'u'lláh claimed to be the most recent, but not the last, in a series of divine educators which include Jesus, Buddha, Muhammad, and others.
The Bahá'í writings state that the essential nature of the messengers is twofold: they are at once human and divine. They are divine in that they all come from the same god and expound his teachings, and thus they can be seen in the same light, but at the same time they are separate individuals known by different names, who fulfill definite missions and are entrusted with particular revelations. Bahá'u'lláh in many places states that denying any of the messengers of God is equivalent to denying all of them, and God himself. Regarding the relationships of these educators, which Bahá'ís refer to as Manifestations of God Bahá'u'lláh writes:
God hath ordained the knowledge of these sanctified Beings to be identical with the knowledge of His own Self. Whoso recognizeth them hath recognized God. Whoso hearkeneth to their call, hath hearkened to the Voice of God, and whoso testifieth to the truth of their Revelation, hath testified to the truth of God Himself. Whoso turneth away from them, hath turned away from God, and whoso disbelieveth in them, hath disbelieved in God . . . They are the Manifestations of God amidst men, the evidences of His Truth, and the signs of His glory.
Main article: Progressive revelation
Bahá'ís believe God to be generally regular and periodic in revealing His will to mankind through messengers/prophets, which are named Manifestations of God. Each messenger in turn establishes a covenant and founds a religion. This process of revelation, according to the Bahá'í writings, is also never ceasing, which is contrary to many other belief systems that believe in a finality of their prophet/messenger. The general theme of the successive and continuous religions founded by Manifestations of God is that there is an evolutionary tendency, and that each Manifestation of God brings a larger measure of revelation (or religion) to humankind than the previous one. The differences in the revelation brought by the Manifestations of God is stated to be not inherent in the characteristics of the Manifestation of God, but instead attributed to the various worldly, societal and human factors; these differences are in accordance with the "conditions" and "varying requirements of the age" and the "spiritual capacity" of humanity. These differences are seen to be needed since human society has slowly and gradually evolved through higher stages of unification from the family to tribes and then nations.
Thus religious truth is seen to be relative to its recipients and not absolute; while the messengers proclaimed eternal moral and spiritual truths that are renewed by each messenger, they also changed their message to reflect the particular spiritual and material evolution of humanity at the time of the appearance of the messenger. In the Bahá'í view, since humanity's spiritual capacity and receptivity has increased over time, the extent to which these spiritual truths are expounded changes.
Bahá'u'lláh explained that the appearance of successive messengers was like the annual coming of Spring, which brings new life to the world which has come to neglect the teachings of the previous messenger. He also used an analogy of the world as the human body, and revelation as a robe of "justice and wisdom".
Bahá'u'lláh mentioned in the Kitáb-i-Íqán that God will renew the "City of God" about every thousand years, and specifically mentioned that a new Manifestation of God would not appear within 1000 years of Bahá'u'lláh's message.
Religion as a school
The earliest forms of religion are seen, in many of the Bahá'í Writings, to be like early school. In this view humanity, like a child, has been maturing with a greater ability to grasp complex ideas as it grows in years and passes school. Each time a divine messenger appear, the message was given at levels appropriate to humanity's degree of maturation. In this view each different religion may have had truth explained differently according to the needs of the recipients of the teaching.
The following 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. The list is not authoritative and a variety of such lists circulate.
Equality of women and men
Main article: Bahá'í Faith and gender equality
The Bahá'í Faith affirms gender equality; that men and women are equal. Bahá'u'lláh noted that there was no distinction in the spiritual stations of men and women. `Abdu'l-Bahá wrote that both men and women possess the same potential for virtues and intelligence, and compared the two genders and the progress of civilization to the two wings of a bird where each wing is needed to provide flight. In this sense, the equality of the sexes is seen as Bahá'ís as a spiritual and moral standard that is essential for the unification of the planet and the unfoldment of world order, and in the importance of implementing the principle in individual, family, and community life.
While the Bahá'í teachings assert the full spiritual and social equality of women to men, there are some aspects of gender distinctiveness or gender differentiation in certain areas of life. Men and women are seen as having different strength and abilities that enable them to better fill different roles. Thus there are certain teachings that give preference to men in some limited circumstances and some that give preference to women. One of these aspects relate to biological fact of potential motherhood for women, and thus the Bahá'í teaching that girls should be given priority in education as they potentially would be the children's first educator. In terms of Bahá'í administration, all positions except for membership on the Universal House of Justice are open to men and women. No specific reason has been given for this exception, but `Abdu'l-Bahá has stated that there is a wisdom for it, which would eventually become clear. Regardless rates of women serving at national levels of governance in the religion exceed those in general society: in 2010 the world average for female members of parliaments was 19%, while the world average of women serving on national assemblies had reached rates of 39%.
Harmony of religion and science
Main article: Bahá'í Faith and science
The harmony of science and religion is a central tenet of the Bahá'í teachings. The principle states that that truth is one, and therefore true science and true religion must be in harmony, thus rejecting the view that science and religion are in conflict. `Abdu'l-Bahá asserted that science without religion leads to materialism, and religion without science leads to superstition; he also affirmed that reasoning powers are required to understand the truths of religion. `Abdu'l-Bahá condemned civilizations based solely on materialistic beliefs which he said would bring about moral problems.
Universal compulsory education
Main article: Bahá'í Faith and education
The theme of education in the Bahá'í Faith is given quite prominent emphasis. Its literature gives a principle of universal, or compulsory education. The Bahá'í teachings focus on promoting a moral and spiritual education, in addition to the arts, trades, sciences and professions. Bahá'u'lláh wrote that the spiritual capacities of each individual could not be achieved without spiritual education, and thus children needed to have spiritual/religious education from an early stage. He also stressed the importance of secular education in that one's work and vocation is socially important. The Bahá'í teachings state it is the obligation of the parents to provide for the education of their children, and that special importance should be given to the education of girls.
Universal auxiliary language
Main article: Bahá'í Faith and auxiliary language
As part of the focus on the unity of humankind, the Bahá'í teachings see improved communication between peoples throughout the world as a vital part of world unity and peace. The Bahá'í teachings see the current multiplicity of languages as a major impediment to unity, since the existence of so many languages cuts the free flow of information and makes it difficult for the average individual to obtain a universal perspective on world events.
Bahá'u'lláh taught that the lack of a common language is a major barrier to world unity since the lack of communication between peoples of different languages undermines efforts toward world peace due to misunderstandings of language; he urged that humanity should choose an auxiliary language that would be taught in schools in addition to one's own native language, so that people could understand one another. He stated that until an auxiliary language is adopted, complete unity between the various parts of the world would continue to be unrealized.
Bahá'u'lláh stressed, however, that the auxiliary language should not suppress existing natural languages, and that the concept of unity in diversity must be applied to languages. The Bahá'í teachings state that cultural heterogeneity is compatible with unity, and that at the present time in the history of humankind, the Bahá'í teaching of unity requires the embracing of cultural diversity since humanity is enriched by the various cultures throughout the world. The Bahá'í teachings state that having an international auxiliary language would remove the pressure from the natural aggrandizement of majority language groups and thus preserve minority languages, since each person would keep their own mother-tongue, and thus minority cultures.
Independent investigation of truth
Bahá'u'lláh taught that each human being must acquire knowledge through their processes, and not blindly believe or follow others blindly, and he made it a fundamental obligation. He stated that since Truth is one, that when a person independently investigates they lead to the same truth and help lead to the oneness of humanity. Baha'is are forbidden from communicating with Covenant-breakers or reading their literature. Additionally when Baha'is published material explaining the religion, the Baha'i administration had practiced "literature review," a fact decried by some, wherein Bahá'ís submit their material for vetting before it is published to ensure credibility from the administration's understanding.
Elimination of extremes of wealth and poverty
The teachings of the Bahá'í Faith state that it is necessary to eliminate the extremes of wealth and poverty. `Abdu'l-Bahá noted both poverty and extreme wealth disallowed for a compassionate society, as poverty demoralized people and extreme wealth overburdened people. Bahá'u'lláh wrote that rich should take care of the poor, as the poor are a divine trust. The Bahá'í teachings state of multiple ways of addressing the extremes of wealth and poverty including institutional means, such as Huqúqu'lláh, as well as creating a sense of mutual concern.
While the Bahá'í teachings promote the elimination of extremes of wealth and poverty they do not promote communism and instead legitimize individual property. `Abdu'l-Bahá further noted that wealth by itself was not evil, and could be used for good.
Main article: Covenant of Bahá'u'lláh
Covenant in the Bahá'í Faith refers to two separate binding agreements between God and man. There is a distinction between a Greater Covenant which is made between every messenger from God and his followers concerning the next dispensation, and a Lesser Covenant that concerns successorship of authority within the religion after the messenger dies.
The greater covenant refers to the covenant made between each messenger from God, which the literature of the Bahá'í Faith name Manifestations of God, and his followers regarding the coming of the next Manifestation from God. According to Bahá'u'lláh God has promised that he will send a succession of messengers that will instruct humankind. In Bahá'í belief, this covenant is seen to be expressed in prophecy in the religious scripture of each religion, and each Manifestation of God, such as Abraham, Moses, Jesus, Muhammad, the Báb, and Bahá'u'lláh, prophesied the next Manifestation. In return, the followers of each religion are seen to have a duty to investigate the claims of the following Manifestations.
The lesser covenant is a covenant that concerns the recognition of the messenger, acceptance and application of his teachings and laws made regarding the successorship of authority within the religion. In Bahá'í belief the manner in which the Covenant of Bahá'u'lláh was clearly put forth is seen as being a fundamental defining feature of the religion and a powerful protector of the unity of the Bahá'í Faith and its adherents.
Main article: Bahá'í administration
"Bahá'í administration" or "Bahá'í administrative order" is the administrative system of the religion which directly rests on the teachings of the religion penned by its central figures - especially Bahá'u'lláh and `Abdu'l-Bahá. It is split into two parts, the elected and the appointed. The supreme governing institution of the Bahá'í Faith is the Universal House of Justice, situated in Haifa, Israel.
The Bahá'í administration has four charter scriptural documents,
Key to the function of Bahá'í organization is the principle of consultation. This refers to the method of non-adversarial discussion and decision making which is described in the Bahá'í writings, and which is used in all levels of Bahá'í administration. Consultation strives to move beyond a decision making process that accepts the majority view, to one that aims to discover truth through universal participation and disciplined cooperation.
God is described in the Bahá'í writings a single, personal, inaccessible, omniscient, omnipresent, imperishable, and almighty God who is the creator of all things in the universe. The existence of God and the universe is thought to be eternal, without a beginning or end. The Bahá'í teachings state that God is too great for humans to fully comprehend, or to create a complete and accurate image of, by themselves. Therefore, human understanding of God is achieved through his revelations via his Manifestations. In the Bahá'í religion God is often referred to by titles and attributes (e.g. the All-Powerful, or the All-Loving), and there is a substantial emphasis on monotheism. The Bahá'í teachings state that the attributes which are applied to God are used to translate Godliness into human terms and also to help individuals concentrate on their own attributes in worshipping God to develop their potentialities on their spiritual path. According to the Bahá'í teachings the human purpose is to learn to know and love God through such methods as prayer, reflection and being of service to humankind.
The Bahá'í writings state 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 through His messengers, and to conform to their teachings. Through recognition and obedience, service to humanity and regular prayer and spiritual practice, the Bahá'í writings state 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. Bahá'ís' believe in the eternal life of the soul rather than reincarnation. 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. See Bahá'í Faith on life after death.
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