Baháʼí Faith

A white building with several columns and a domed roof
Seat of the Universal House of Justice, governing body of the Baháʼís, in Haifa, Israel

The Baháʼí Faith (/; Persian: بهائیBahāʼi) is a religion teaching the essential worth of all religions, and the unity and equality of all people.[1] Established by Baháʼu'lláh in 1863, it initially grew in Persia and parts of the Middle East, where it has faced ongoing persecution since its inception.[2] It is estimated to have between 5 and 8 million adherents, known as Baháʼís, spread throughout most of the world's countries and territories.[3]

It grew from the mid-19th-century Bábí religion, whose founder (the Báb) taught that God would soon send a prophet in the same way of Jesus or Muhammad.[4] In 1863, after being banished from his native Iran, Baháʼu'lláh (1817–1892) announced that he was this prophet. He was further exiled, spending over a decade in the prison city of Acre in Ottoman Palestine.[5] Following Baháʼu'lláh's death in 1892, leadership of the religion fell to his son ʻAbdu'l-Bahá (1844–1921), and later his great-grandson Shoghi Effendi (1897–1957). Baháʼís around the world annually elect local, regional, and national Spiritual Assemblies that govern the affairs of the religion, and every five years the members of all National Spiritual Assemblies elect the Universal House of Justice, the nine-member supreme governing institution of the worldwide Baháʼí community, which sits in Haifa, Israel, near the Shrine of the Báb.

Baháʼí teachings are in some ways similar to other monotheistic faiths: God is considered single and all-powerful. However, Baháʼu'lláh taught that religion is orderly and progressively revealed by one God through Manifestations of God who are the founders of major world religions throughout history; Buddha, Jesus, and Muhammad being the most recent in the period before the Báb and Baháʼu'lláh. Baháʼís regard the major religions as fundamentally unified in purpose, though varied in social practices and interpretations. There is a similar emphasis on the unity of all people, openly rejecting notions of racism and nationalism. At the heart of Baháʼí teachings is the goal of a unified world order that ensures the prosperity of all nations, races, creeds, and classes.[6][7]

Letters written by Baháʼu'lláh to various individuals, including some heads of state, have been collected and assembled into a canon of Baháʼí scripture that includes works by his son ʻAbdu'l-Bahá, and also the Báb, who is regarded as Baháʼu'lláh's forerunner. Prominent among Baháʼí literature are the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, Kitáb-i-Íqán, Some Answered Questions, and The Dawn-Breakers.

Etymology

In English-language use, the word Baháʼí is used either as an adjective to refer to the Baháʼí Faith or as a term for a follower of Baháʼu'lláh.[8] It is derived from the Arabic Baháʼ (بهاء), meaning "glory" or "splendor".[note 1]

The older term "Bahaʼism" (or "Bahaism") is still used,[9][10][11][12][13] for example as a variant of "Bahai Faith" by the U.S. Library of Congress,[14] though it is now less common[15] and the Baháʼí community prefers "Baháʼí Faith".[16]