Bahá’í Teachings and Community Life
In this section:
The Bahá’í Faith is a monotheistic religion based on the teachings of the Báb and Bahá’u’lláh, each of whom received a direct revelation from God. The Bahá’í Faith accepts the validity of all the other major world religions, but it is not a sect or offshoot of any of them. Its independent character is reflected in a unique world-view and community structure anchored in its own sacred scriptures, religious laws and calendar.
Basic Bahá’í Belief
Bahá’ís believe that the unique God, Creator of the Universe, has educated humankind all through history by sending the prophets or messengers, such as Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Mohammed, as well as Krishna, Buddha and Zoroaster, who established the world’s major religions.
Thus, Bahá’ís believe that all religions come from the same source and are part of one ongoing educative process. Bahá’ís recognize two prophets for this age, the Báb and Bahá’u’lláh.
Central Teachings of the Bahá’í Faith
Bahá’u’lláh’s message is addressed to a world where literacy is widespread and a combination of social evolution and technological progress has made it both timely and essential to address problems in a global context. The main thrust of His teachings is that humankind is one, that the prejudices and barriers that divide humanity must be overcome, and that the unity of all peoples must be established through the evolution of the social order.
Most of Bahá’u’lláh’s social teachings, such as the eradication of prejudice, the equality of men and women, the necessity of universal education, and the importance of social justice, which requires, among other things, the elimination of extremes of wealth and poverty, all flow logically from this fundamental assertion.
According to the Bahá’í teachings, the health and progress of society depend on properly functioning families based on a monogamous union in which the man and the woman are equal partners. Bahá’u’lláh described matrimony as “a fortress for well-being and salvation” and identified the rearing of children as the fundamental, though not the only, purpose of marriage. Bahá’ís have a duty to meet the needs of their families through gainful work and to see to the moral and academic education of their children.
At the personal level, Bahá’u’lláh urged each individual to develop his or her God-given talents and capacities and to learn a trade or profession, adding that work performed in the spirit of service to others is accepted in the eyes of God as a form of worship. While warning against the dangers of intellectual pride and pointless hairsplitting, He encouraged the use of the mind, stating that there should be no contradiction between science and religion, because they are complementary approaches in the search after truth.
Leadership and Organization of the Bahá’í Community
In the Bahá’í Faith there is no professional clergy or other category of people whose function is to administer the community, officiate at ceremonies or provide spiritual guidance.
The absence of individual leaders and hierarchical structures creates a situation where decisions affecting the collective welfare must be made together by those who are affected. To meet this challenge, all Bahá’ís must learn a system of joint problem-solving that Bahá’u’lláh called “consultation”. Consultation is the basis of decision-making in Bahá’í families and in all other collective undertakings in the Bahá’í community. While offering an efficient way of reaching decisions that will be assured of community support, the practice of consultation also contributes substantially to the building of a communal culture where justice is more important than power, where all voices can be heard, and where people can enjoy learning together.
The necessary coherence is provided by a network of elected councils at the local and national levels, which are composed of ordinary members elected annually. The work of these councils is coordinated by the Universal House of Justice, whose members are elected every five years by the members of all the national councils. All Bahá’í elections take the form of a secret ballot cast in a prayerful atmosphere. Each voter is guided only by his or her own conscience and knowledge of the community, as there are no lists of candidates and no nominations, campaigns or discussions that might influence his or her choice.
The elected institutions are assisted by a worldwide network of appointed counselors or advisers whose activities are coordinated by an institution established by the Universal House of Justice and known as the International Teaching Centre.
Bahá’í Worship and Other Laws
Bahá’ís worship God through prayer and meditation. Devotional gatherings consist in the reading of prayers and other passages from the scriptures of the Bahá’í Faith and other religions. The worship that constitutes a religious duty consists in the daily recitation of any one of three special prayers prescribed by Bahá’u’lláh. This duty is fulfilled by each adult believer in privacy and is not subject to any control or sanction. Other laws governing personal life include an annual period of fasting and nine holy days on which work is suspended. There are no dietary restrictions in the Bahá’í Faith, but the consumption of alcoholic beverages and the non-medicinal use of narcotic and hallucinogenic drugs is forbidden.
The Bahá’í Calendar and Holy Days in 2021
The Bahá’í Gardens and Terraces are closed on these dates.
The Bahá’í calendar takes, as its starting point, the equinox marking the beginning of spring in the northern hemisphere, which falls on or around 21 March. The year is made up of nineteen months of nineteen days each, with four or five days added between the eighteenth and nineteenth months to complete a year in the solar calendar. The nineteenth month is a period of fasting and spiritual preparation for the New Year. In Israel and in several other countries, some holy days were celebrated according to the lunar calendar.
Bahá’ís should not work on these nine holy days. In 2021, the principal holy days fall on the following dates:
20 March – Naw-Rúz is both the Bahá’í New Year’s Day and a celebration of the conclusion of the month of fasting.
20 April, 28 April and 1 May – The Riḍván Festival is a joyful holiday marking the 12 day period Bahá’u’lláh spent in the Garden of Riḍván outside Baghdad in 1863, during which He announced His prophetic mission to the followers of the Báb. The first, ninth and twelfth days of this festival have special emphasis.
23 May – The Declaration of the Báb marks the anniversary of the moment in 1844 when He disclosed His prophetic mission to His first disciple.
28 May – The Ascension of Bahá’u’lláh is a commemoration of His passing in 1892.
9 July – The Martyrdom of the Báb commemorates the day in 1850 when the Báb was executed in Tabriz, Iran.
6 November – The anniversary of the birth of the Báb.
7 November – The anniversary of the birth of Bahá’u’lláh.