Bahai Faith: Origin & Founder

Instructor: David Juliao

David has a bachelor's degree in architecture, has done research in architecture, arts and design and has worked in the field for several years.

In this lesson, we will explore the Baha'i Faith, a religion that originated in Iran with a strong message of unity. Learn about the origins and the history of this belief, as well as the life of its founder, Baha'ullah.

The Baha'i Faith

The world is a huge place with different people and diverse beliefs. Many are familiar with the major religions: Christianity, Islam, Buddhism and Judaism. But there are several other smaller faiths that profess interesting messages and even combine elements from different religions. The Baha'i Faith is one of them.

The Baha'i Faith is a religion that originated in Iran in 1863. Its beliefs are based on the different Manifestations of God, which are considered the multiple messengers sent by God to deliver a powerful message, and help mankind evolve and advance. Some of these messengers were Jesus, Moses, Buddha, and Muhammad. Today, Baha'i Faith has over 5 million followers scattered all over the world.

The main tenets of the Baha'i Faith are, among other things:

  • All religions have elements worth studying and all religions are devoted to the same God.
  • Humans should unite and work together towards a prosperous, advanced and pacifist world with no racism, discrimination or nationalism.
  • Women and men are equal.
  • Social classes are bad for society, therefore, there shouldn't be extremely wealthy nor extremely poor people.

9-Point Star, Symbol of the Bahai Faith
9-Point Star, Symbol of the Bahai Faith

The Life of Baha'ullah

The Baha'i Faith's origins begin with its founder, Baha'ullah, but to better understand this religion, we have to examine some of the life of this religious leader.

Early Life

Later known as Baha'ullah, Husayn Ali was born in Tehran, Persia (modern Iran) in November 1817. He was born into a wealthy family and from an early age distinguished himself as a mature, intellectual, and very spiritual child.

Shortly after his father's death, Husayn Ali rejected a promising career in ministerial affairs, and instead devoted himself to more philanthropic activities, like helping the poor. That gained him the nickname Father of the poor. During this same period, he married his three wives.

Baha'ullah and Bábism

In 1844, Husayn met Siyyid 'Ali-Muhammad, known as Báb (meaning gateway in Arabic), founder of Bábism. It was a faith based on the belief of a unique and incorporeal God, who sent several emissaries, known as Manifestations of God to help mankind advance. Shortly after, Husayn looked at his writings and was so captivated by the message of Báb that he became one of his most active and faithful followers. He started to be known as Baha'ullah, meaning Glory of God, and he became a leader of Bábism. He eventually established the Baha'i Faith.

Bab, Founding Leader of Babism
Bab, Founding Leader of Babism

The Origins of the Baha'i Faith

The history of the Baha'i Faith starts with Bábism. The religion established by Báb found a home in Persia, where it was embraced by over 100,000 followers. In 1848, the faith began to experience difficult times. That year, Báb was put on trial and imprisoned.

In the following years, there was great tension between the Persian government, the clergy, and the Babis and several armed uprisings exploded. Báb was publicly executed in 1850, enraging his followers even more, and encouraging them to continue with the rebellions. The conflict was brought to an end with a massacre of many Babis in 1853. After that, Bábism was transformed into a more underground cult with only a few thousand followers.

Before his death, Báb left some tablets with specific instructions related to his succession; they were delivered to Baha'ullah and Subh-i Azal (Baha'ullah's brother). Supposedly, the intention of Báb was for Subh-i Azal to take leadership of the cult, and the tablets were meant to be the proof needed by the followers to accept him as their leader. However, Subh-i Azal, who was only a teenager, stepped aside from the Babis and hid in Baghdad for the duration of the struggles.

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