Baháʼí Faith

The Baháʼí Faith is an Abrahamic religion teaching the essential worth of all religions and the unity of all people. Established by Baháʼu'lláh in the 19th century, it initially developed in Iran and parts of the Middle East, where it has faced ongoing persecution since its inception.

The ringstone symbol, representing humanity's connection to God

The religion is estimated to have 5–8 million adherents, known as Baháʼís, spread throughout most of the world's countries and territories.


On the evening of 22 May 1844, Siyyid ʻAlí-Muhammad of Shiraz gained his first convert and took on the title of "the Báb" (الباب "Gate"), referring to his later claim to the status of Mahdi of Shiʻa Islam. His followers were therefore known as Bábís. As the Báb's teachings spread, which the Islamic clergy saw as blasphemous, his followers came under increased persecution and torture. The conflicts escalated in several places to military sieges by the Shah's army. The Báb himself was imprisoned and eventually executed in 1850.

Baháʼís see the Báb as the forerunner of the Baháʼí faith, because the Báb's writings introduced the concept of "He whom God shall make manifest", a messianic figure whose coming, according to Baháʼís, was announced in the scriptures of all of the world's great religions, and whom Baháʼu'lláh, the founder of the Baháʼí Faith, claimed to be.


Mírzá Husayn ʻAlí Núrí was one of the early followers of the Báb, and later took the title of Baháʼu'lláh. Bábís faced a period of persecution that peaked in 1852–53 after a few individual Bábis made a failed attempt to assassinate the Shah. Although they acted alone, the government responded with collective punishment, killing many Bábís. Baháʼu'lláh was put in prison.

Shortly thereafter he was expelled from Iran and traveled to Baghdad, in the Ottoman Empire. In Baghdad, his leadership revived the persecuted followers of the Báb in Iran, so Iranian authorities requested his removal, which instigated a summons to Constantinople (now Istanbul) from the Ottoman Sultan. In 1863, at the time of his removal from Baghdad, Baháʼu'lláh first announced his claim of prophethood to his family and followers, which he said came to him years earlier while in a dungeon of Tehran. From the time of the initial exile from Iran, tensions grew between him and Subh-i-Azal, the appointed leader of the Bábís, who did not recognize Baháʼu'lláh's claim. Throughout the rest of his life Baháʼu'lláh gained the allegiance of most of the Bábís, who came to be known as Baháʼís.

He spent less than four months in Constantinople. After receiving chastising letters from Baháʼu'lláh, Ottoman authorities turned against him and put him under house arrest in Adrianople (now Edirne), where he remained for four years, until a royal decree of 1868 banished all Bábís to either Cyprus or ʻAkká.

It was in or near the Ottoman penal colony of ʻAkká, in present-day Israel, that Baháʼu'lláh spent the remainder of his life. After initially strict and harsh confinement, he was allowed to live in a home near ʻAkká, while still officially a prisoner of that city. He died there in 1892. Baháʼís regard his resting place at Bahjí as the Qiblih to which they turn in prayer each day.


The teachings of Baháʼu'lláh form the foundation of Baháʼí belief. Three principles are central to these teachings: the unity of God, the unity of religion, and the unity of humanity. Baha'is believe that God periodically reveals his will through divine messengers, whose purpose is to transform the character of humankind and to develop, within those who respond, moral and spiritual qualities. Religion is thus seen as orderly, unified, and progressive from age to age.

The Baháʼí writings describe 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. Though inaccessible directly, God is nevertheless seen as conscious of creation, with a will and purpose expressed through messengers called Manifestations of God.

Baháʼí 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.

Baháʼí beliefs are sometimes described as syncretic combinations of earlier religious beliefs. Baháʼís, however, assert that their religion is a distinct tradition with its own scriptures, teachings, laws, and history. The religion was initially seen as a sect of Islam because of its belief in the prophethood of Muhammad and in the authenticity and veracity of the Qur’an. Most religious specialists now see it as an independent religion, with its religious background in Shiʻa Islam being seen as analogous to the Jewish context in which Christianity was established.

Muslim institutions and clergy, both Sunni and Shi'a, consider formerly-Muslim Baháʼís to be deserters or apostates from Islam, which has led to Baháʼís being persecuted. Baháʼís describe their faith as an independent world religion, differing from the other traditions in its relative age and in the appropriateness of Baháʼu'lláh's teachings to the modern context. Baháʼu'lláh is believed to have fulfilled the messianic expectations of these precursor faiths.