The text from our leaflets
The text of some of our more recent leaflets are shown here. Please remember that these are copyright. You may print a copy for your own use, but if you wish to translate and/or print multiple copies please contact us for permission. Select the title you wish to view. (If the title is not here, it can be viewed on the Baha’i library.)
All Religions are One
Bahá’ís believe that religion progresses from one age to the next, as conditions change and humanity’s spiritual capacity develops. In this sense all religions are one, in that they are all inspired by God and are part of His great plan for humanity. In the sense that they arise at different places and times they are of course quite distinct. It is like the sun: it rises every day from a slightly different point, but we still recognise it as the same sun, though we call each day by a different name.
If we look carefully at the scriptures of each of the great world religions, we will find that the spiritual truths, such as the message of love, the need for honesty, truthfulness and purity, can be found in every religion. They may be developed from one age to the next, but they always remain true, and they are re-emphasised when the next religious cycle begins:
“…these foundations of the Religion of God, which are spiritual and which are the virtues of humanity… are renewed in the cycle of every Prophet.”
The Messengers of God
God, by definition, is unknowable. A creature can never understand its Creator, any more than a picture can understand the artist who painted it. In each age, therefore, God chooses someone through whom He can manifest His qualities to mankind. Bahá’ís use the term “Manifestation of God” to refer to these Prophets or Messengers.
Bahá’ís believe that, among others, Krishna, Moses, Buddha, Christ, Muhammad and Bahá’u’lláh were Manifestations of God.
The light of God within each Messenger is the same. It is only the human being which is different. It is like when you put different coloured lampshades around the same light. Each one makes it look different, but it is still actually the same light inside.
The Voice of God
Therefore, although we may be looking at a different human being, that Person still speaks with the voice and authority of God:
“God hath, moreover, conferred on Him a double station. The first station, which is related to His innermost reality, representeth Him as One Whose voice is the voice of God Himself…The second station is the human station…”
This is why a Manifestation sometimes speaks as God, and sometimes as a human being. For example, at one time Christ said, “I and my Father are one” (John 10 v.30), and at another time He said, “Why callest thou me good? There is none good but one, that is, God” (Mark 10 v.18).
Each Messenger, speaking as the Voice of God, builds on the Messages of those who have gone before. For instance, in ancient times, kindness and friendship was shown within the family, then within the tribe. Christ used an example to show the people of the time that someone from another tribe was also to be considered as a neighbour. Now Bahá’u’lláh, the Founder of the Bahá’í Faith, has made it quite clear that every person in the world is our neighbour, for “The earth is but one country and mankind its citizens.”
The part of the Religion of God which refers to the material world, is modified and altered in each prophetic cycle in accordance with the necessities of the times:
“Every age hath its own problem, and every soul its particular aspiration. The remedy the world needeth in its present day afflictions can never be the same as that which subsequent ages may require.”
This can be illustrated by comparing the laws of Moses, which were revealed to a wandering people in a harsh environment, with those of Christ, given in a later age and a more settled time. For example, Moses taught “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth”, as a practical and more advanced approach to justice than was the custom of the time. However, when the rule of law was established, Jesus was able to go beyond this teaching when He urged people to, “turn the other cheek”.
It is as though humanity has been going through a school. In each class, the teacher only teaches what the children are capable of understanding. In the case of the Manifestations of God, each One emphasises those things most necessary for that time:
“Each Manifestation of God hath a distinct individuality, a definitely prescribed mission, a predestined Revelation, and specially designated limitations. Each one of them is known by a different name, is characterised by a special attribute, fulfils a definite Mission, and is entrusted with a particular Revelation.”
Different attributes – such as love, detachment, submission to the will of God – have characterised each religion over the ages. Bahá’u’lláh’s revelation identifies the need of this age as unity – unity of all people and peoples, free of all hindrance, and working together in harmony for the good of all.
No Beginning or End
The one part of religion which is not renewed consists of those man-made beliefs and traditions which can be cast aside when the new Manifestation of God appears.
The process of God revealing Himself to His creatures is a process without end – God will always guide humanity. Each Prophet or Messenger is a lamp shining with the light of God. We must be careful not to become too attached to the lamp, but rather to love the light which shines from it, so that we can allow the reflection of this light to shine through us:
“If thou wilt observe with discriminating eyes, thou wilt behold Them all abiding in the same tabernacle, soaring in the same heaven, seated upon the same throne, uttering the same speech, and proclaiming the same Faith.”
The process of religion is the very process of God giving mankind a framework within which individuals, and even society itself, can develop spirituality. Bahá’ís believe that humanity, as a whole, has been going through a growing-up process over the centuries. It is now just starting to come out of adolescence into maturity.
The Manifestations of God are like perfect mirrors reflecting the light of God. If we look at the sun reflected in a mirror, we can truthfully say that we have seen the sun. But the sun has not come down out of the sky into the mirror. So it is with the Manifestations: they are perfect mirrors in which we can see God.
“…these sanctified Mirrors, these Day-springs of ancient glory are one and all the Exponents on earth of Him Who is the central Orb of the universe… From Him proceed their knowledge and power…”
If we clear the dust of the material world from the mirrors of our own hearts, we will surely be able to reflect the love of God and, by following the laws revealed for this age, gradually bring about unity, peace and justice – the Kingdom of God on earth:
“All nations will become one; all religions will be unified; all individual men will become of one family and of one kindred.”
A New World – building a better future
The world faces many threats to its future – war, climate change, tyranny, injustice and poverty are some of the major issues. Bahá’ís see the future as ultimately bright, but there are many obstacles to be overcome first. Humanity needs a fresh start. We need to build a better world.
In the second half of the nineteenth century, Bahá’u’lláh, the Founder of the Bahá’í Faith, set out a clear path towards peace and a framework for order in the world, and communicated this in writing to the rulers of the time. He promised:
“Soon will the present-day order be rolled up, and a new one spread out in its stead.”
A World Peace Conference
One basic necessity is that all the nations must come together to establish peace. This requires the involvement of the representatives of the entire world in the process. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, the son of Bahá’u’lláh, wrote of this meeting:
“They must make the Cause of Peace the object of general consultation, and seek by every means in their power to establish a Union of the nations of the world… In this all-embracing pact the limits and frontiers of each and every nation should be clearly fixed… the size of the armaments of every government should be strictly limited… if any government later violate any one of its provisions, all the governments on earth should arise to reduce it to utter submission…”
Political Peace and Real Unity
When this peace treaty is signed, it will bring in a political peace – the end to outright war. At the same time there will be a realisation that we need greater co-operation, however unwilling, in order to survive immediate threats such as climate change. This situation must gradually evolve into a real positive unity, brought about by a fundamental change in attitude towards our fellow human beings who share this planet.
The new world civilisation which we so desperately need can only be founded on the recognition of the basic principle of the oneness of mankind. All the human sciences agree that there is only one human species. All religions teach that we should treat other people in the same way as we would like to be treated.
No-one is an island – the good of the individual
is always to be found in the good of the whole world. We need to work together and help one another in order to achieve well-being for all.
In this age, we increasingly have world-wide trade patterns, communications and financial systems, but we also have world-wide problems, such as pollution and international crime, which require world-wide solutions. We now need to have a government at the world level, with national and local bodies still looking after the affairs of their own areas. There needs to be:
- A World Parliament
The members of this should be elected by the people in each country, and their election should be confirmed by their respective governments.
- A World Executive
This would enact the laws required to satisfy the needs of all peoples. It will have at its disposal the combined forces of the world in order to maintain peace.
- A World Code Of Law
This will be based on justice for individuals and for all nations.
- A World Tribunal
The decisions of this body will be binding on all parties.
- A World Police Force
An international police force must be created, dedicated to upholding justice with complete impartiality.
- A World Language
A world language must be either chosen or invented. This will be taught in all the schools of each country, alongside the mother tongue of the region.
- Universal Equality
Everyone must have the right to education and to be equal before the law. There must be a universal bill of human rights.
Our Economic Future
No lasting solution to economic problems can be found unless it is based on spiritual principles such as equality and justice. The economic resources of the world will have to be used more responsibly, and shared more fairly.
Certain practical worldwide changes can begin to improve the situation. A world currency is necessary to stabilise the world economy. A universal system of weights and measures is required to improve trade and communications. A world economic community needs to be created where all economic barriers will be removed, and a world free trade area established.
For this new world civilisation to become a positive reality, attitudes must change. Spiritual principles must guide all levels of the decision-making process. Justice must be foremost, rather than greed or self-interest. Religion has always been a strong unifying force, but religious intolerance causes conflict and disintegration. Bahá’u’lláh urges us to:
“consort with the followers of all religions with joy and fragrance.”
Only when individuals regard themselves as citizens of the world will the golden age of humanity come into being:
“This earth is but one country and mankind its citizens.”
A Model for the Future
The Bahá’í administrative structure already exists at a local, national and international level and can be taken as a model for future society. People are elected to the Bahá’í bodies for their character and ability, without any nominations or canvassing. In the Bahá’í system, power is devolved to the lowest possible level, and is given to groups, not to individuals.
Consultation at all levels is a key part of Bahá’í administration. The main local community meeting consists of prayer, consultation and social interaction, designed to foster a spirit of unity and co-operation. All activities initiated by Bahá’ís are centred around bringing people together, empowering everyone to serve their wider community and thereby ensuring greater prosperity for all.
Bahá’u’lláh’s call, 150 years ago, is still waiting to be answered by the world at large. It is time we started to build a new world.
A Life of Service – following the example of Abdu’l-Bahá
Who was ‘Abdu’l-Bahá?
‘Abdu’l-Bahá was the eldest son of Bahá’u’lláh, who was the Founder of the Bahá’í Faith. Bahá’u’lláh passed on authority to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, who was the perfect example of how a Bahá’í should behave. Bahá’ís try to follow the example of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, who was utterly selfless. He had the responsibility of leading the Bahá’í Faith and of guiding the Bahá’ís, but he still spent much of his time caring for the poor and the sick. He chose the name ‘Abdu’l-Bahá because it means “Servant of Bahá” and this was his whole aim – to serve his Father by serving the cause of God and all of humanity.
How do we serve?
Bahá’ís believe that we are in this life to learn, to become better people, to acquire virtues, so that we are ready for life in the next world, which is entirely spiritual. One way of learning is by serving others. If we live our lives in a spirit of service we will not only make other people happy, we will be happy ourselves.
“Happy the soul that shall forget his own good, and, like the chosen ones of God, vie with his fellows in service to the good of all.”
We all have gifts, skills and talents. These have been given to us by God so that we may use them in this world. We can share our gifts with others as we go through life together. Everyone has something to offer.
“Senses and faculties have been bestowed upon us, to be devoted to the service of the general good.”
Firstly we need to use our talents to make a living. But we should also see this as an opportunity for service:
“Everyone should have some trade, or art or profession, be he rich or poor, and with this he must serve humanity.”
If we approach our work with an attitude of service, we are more likely to appreciate its value and to gain satisfaction from it.
In addition, every small act in our daily life, even a welcoming smile, can be an act of service:
“Let each one of God’s loved ones centre his attention on this: to be the Lord’s mercy to man; to be the Lord’s grace. Let him do some good to every person whose path he crosseth, and be of some benefit to him…”
Our object should be to improve the lives of all around us, both in spiritual and practical ways:
“Your utmost desire must be to confer happiness upon each other. Each one must be the servant of the others, thoughtful of their comfort and welfare.”
If we arise to serve, God will guide and help us:
“God is the helper of those souls whose aim is
to serve humanity and whose efforts and endeavours are devoted to the good and betterment of all mankind.”
We should serve everyone
Our view should not be limited. We should think of all humanity, not just the people we know:
“Think ye at all times of rendering some service to every member of the human race.”
“Let all your striving be for this, to become the source of life and immortality, and peace and comfort and joy, to every human soul, whether one known to you or a stranger…”
In this age it has become obvious that we are all part of one world and that our actions can affect people living far away from us. We all depend on one another for survival and for well-being.
Concerns over climate change and disease have made this very clear. We can each play our part in improving life for everyone:
“Blessed and happy is he that ariseth to promote the best interests of the peoples and kindreds of the earth.”
Our whole lives should be seen as an act of service, a way of making the world a better place:
“…dedicate the precious days of your lives to the betterment of the world…”
“Consecrate and devote yourselves to the betterment and service of all the human race.”
Service is worshipping God
All action should be guided by spiritual values:
“Order your lives in accordance with the first principle of the divine teaching, which is love. Service to humanity is service to God.”
If we do our best to serve and advance, this is a spiritual act. It is a kind of prayer in itself:
“All effort and exertion put forth by man from the fullness of his heart is worship, if it is prompted by the highest motives and the will to do service to humanity. This is worship: to serve mankind and to minister to the needs of the people. Service is prayer.”
“Strive that your actions day by day may be beautiful prayers.”
As mentioned previously, service starts with our simple everyday actions. But it becomes more powerful if we work together side by side. Bahá’í communities have a range of basic activities to improve life for everyone.
Firstly, to improve our spiritual life – for this is the foundation of a happy and fruitful life – Bahá’ís gather together with their friends to say prayers. From this spiritual life the desire to serve grows stronger.
‘Abdu’l-Bahá said: “Turn all your thoughts toward bringing joy to hearts.”
One avenue of service is to help teach young children to develop qualities such as generosity, honesty and kindness. Another is to help pre-teens and young teenagers to discover their identity and inner strengths. These children and junior youth then naturally wish to serve their communities. It may be collecting for a food bank, clearing up a canal or visiting the elderly, whatever need they see in their local area. Adults are of course involved in service projects too. The object is always to serve the community. Bahá’ís also support projects initiated by local people in other parts of the world, such as community banking or schools.
A prayer for service
“O Lord! Make us useful in this world; free us from the condition of self and desire.
O Lord! …cause us to be loving toward all Thy children. Confirm us in service to the world of humanity so that we may become the servants of Thy servants, that we may love all Thy creatures and become compassionate to all Thy people.”
‘Abdu’l-Bahá – the Master
Who was `Abdu’l-Bahá?
`Abdu’l-Bahá was the eldest son of Bahá’u’lláh, Who was the Founder of the Bahá’í Faith. His Father gave him the name Abbás but often referred to him as “the Master”. However, he always referred to himself as `Abdu’l-Bahá, which means the servant of Bahá. The object of his life was to serve his Father. He said:
“My station is `Abdu’l-Bahá, my name is `Abdu’l-Bahá, my qualification is `Abdu’l-Bahá, my praise is `Abdu’l-Bahá, my title is `Abdu’l-Bahá.”
Before Bahá’u’lláh announced His Mission, a young man called the Báb (meaning Gate) came to prepare the way for Bahá’u’lláh. `Abdu’l-Bahá was born in Iran in 1844 on the very night that the Báb announced His Mission to His first follower.
`Abdu’l-Bahá was born into a wealthy family, but his life changed forever when his Father became a follower of the Báb, and, like many others, was persecuted for His beliefs. When `Abdu’l-Bahá was eight years old, his Father was put into a dungeon and the family were left with nothing. The rest of their lives were spent in exile, often in prison or under house arrest. When Bahá’u’lláh was released from the dungeon, they were moved to Iraq and then to Turkey and finally to Palestine, which was then part of the Turkish empire. `Abdu’l-Bahá never saw his home country again.
Leader, Interpreter, Example
`Abdu’l-Bahá is a very special person to Bahá’ís. His position is unique in any religion – he is often described as “The Mystery of God”. In 1863 his Father, Bahá’u’lláh, announced that He was the Promised One of all religions. At this time `Abdu’l-Bahá was still in his teens. `Abdu’l-Bahá learned everything from his Father and helped Him as much as he could. Bahá’u’lláh appointed `Abdu’l-Bahá to lead the Bahá’í Faith after His death in 1892. Bahá’u’lláh also made `Abdu’l-Bahá the authorised interpreter of His Writings. Therefore everyone could trust that what `Abdu’l-Bahá said was correct. Bahá’u’lláh said that if everyone followed `Abdu’l-Bahá then the new Faith would stay united and would not split into sects.
`Abdu’l-Bahá was also the perfect example of how a Bahá’í should behave. He spent his life in serving others. Bahá’ís try to follow his example.
Freedom at Last
`Abdu’l-Bahá continued his Father’s work, drawing together people from different religious and ethnic backgrounds, but he remained in Palestine as a prisoner of the Turkish empire until 1908 when he was released as a result of the Young Turk revolution. In the few years before the First World War, he was able to travel abroad. Although 67 years old, and in poor health from the long years of prison and house arrest, he embarked upon two major tours of Europe and North America where he told many people about the Faith’s teachings. Many of these were quite revolutionary for the time, such as a world government, the equality of men and women and the equality of people of all colours and backgrounds. Many people were so impressed by him that they thought he was the return of Jesus Christ, but he explained that it was Bahá’u’lláh Who was the promised Return.
`Abdu’l-Bahá never accepted any money for himself – on the contrary, he was always giving it away. He was quite selfless. For example, when he was in the USA, he saw a man on the street with ragged trousers, so he stepped into the shadows, pulled his cloak around him, took off his own trousers and gave them to the man.
Visits to Britain
`Abdu’l-Bahá first visited Britain in 1911. He arrived in London on 4th September and stayed at the house of Lady Blomfield, at 97 Cadogan Gardens. Every day, streams of visitors of different nationalities and religions came to the house. Philosophers, poets, clergymen, politicians, ordinary working people, academics, tramps, journalists, all were received with the same heartfelt love by `Abdu’l-Bahá. In addition to the meetings he had in this house, he gave several public talks to large numbers of people. There were also newspaper articles. Having made a great impact on the British Bahá’ís, their friends, and the public at large, `Abdu’l-Bahá left for Paris after just a month.
He returned to the Middle East and rested there for a while before setting out again, in March 1912, for an even longer trip, across North America and back through Europe. He arrived in Liverpool in December of that year. He again stayed in London, but was also able to visit Edinburgh, Oxford and Bristol.
`Abdu’l-Bahá left Britain again on 21st January, 1913, and visited other countries in Europe before returning home. One of the subjects on which he frequently spoke was the high level of armaments held in Europe, and the need to make great efforts to avoid war. Unfortunately his words were not heeded and the First World War followed. Indeed, it was that very war which prevented him from making further visits abroad.
In 1917, Allied troops began to capture parts of Palestine. The Turkish general in charge of Haifa threatened to crucify `Abdu’l-Bahá. The British authorities sent a telegram to General Allenby, who was in charge of the attack, asking him to ensure `Abdu’l-Bahá’s safety. When the Allied troops captured Haifa, General Allenby cabled London with the message: “Have today taken Palestine. Notify the world that `Abdu’l-Bahá is safe.”
`Abdu’l-Bahá had organised food supplies for the poor during the war, and even fed the British army when it arrived in Haifa. For these services he was knighted by the British government in 1920, though he never used the title.
`Abdu’l-Bahá passed away, after a lifetime of service, in 1921. The next morning the funeral took place; such a funeral had never been seen before. It brought together ten thousand people, of all different religions and races. There were dignitaries and diplomats, leaders of all religions, Christian and Muslim boy scouts with their banners, and Bahá’ís of all colours and backgrounds. They were all united in weeping over the loss of `Abdu’l-Bahá. He had spent many years looking after the poor and the sick in and around Haifa and was much loved. `Abdu’l-Bahá’s body was laid to rest within the Shrine of the Báb on Mount Carmel. A hundred years after his passing, a separate shrine for `Abdu’l-Bahá has been built between Haifa and Akká. This unique building is shown on the cover of this leaflet. It is a place of pilgrimage and remembrance for Bahá’ís.
`Abdu’l-Bahá led the Bahá’í Faith through some very difficult times, from 1892 to 1921. He always stressed that the Bahá’ís should be united and should unite others. He appointed his grandson, Shoghi Effendi, as the Guardian of the Bahá’í Faith after his passing. Shoghi Effendi followed the example of his beloved Grandfather. Thanks to his encouragement, the Bahá’í Faith spread across the world. In 1963, the time was right for the world body, the Universal House of Justice, to be elected. The Bahá’í Faith therefore has continuing guidance and a focal point of unity. And the memory of `Abdu’l-Bahá’s shining example of love and kindness lives on.
Education – A Baha’i View
To Bahá’ís, education is of fundamental importance. The purpose of education, from a Bahá’í point of view, is to fulfil the spiritual, intellectual, physical and practical potential of each individual. This will not only bring happiness to each person but will enable them to contribute to the general welfare of the world of humanity. The Bahá’í Writings say:
“The education and training of children is among the most meritorious acts of humankind…”
The different aspects of education are explained in this way:
“… education is of three kinds: material, human and spiritual. Material education aims at the growth and development of the body, and consists in securing its sustenance, and obtaining the means of its ease and comfort…
Human education, however, consists in civilisation and progress, that is, sound governance, social order, human welfare, commerce and industry, arts and sciences, momentous discoveries, and great undertakings….
As to divine education, it…consists in acquiring divine perfections. This is indeed true education…”
Spiritual and Moral Education
The divine perfections mentioned above are what we call moral qualities or virtues, such as kindness, generosity, honesty, trustworthiness and so on. Bahá’ís see acquiring these virtues as the fundamental part of educating a child. All else flows from this.
For this reason, most Bahá’í communities run weekly children’s classes in their local area. These are for all children, not just the children of Bahá’ís, and the main purpose for the early years is to teach the different virtues, and how they can be practised and developed. Bahá’ís want to help each child to fulfil their potential and to become a force for good, for:
“Every child is potentially the light of the world…”
Bahá’ís lay great stress on unity. This is made easier if we understand one another’s point of view. According to the Bahá’í Writings:
“…inasmuch as ignorance and lack of education are barriers of separation among mankind, all must receive training and instruction…Universal education is a universal law.”
In most countries Bahá’í children will attend an existing local school. However, in those countries where education is not universally and freely available, the Bahá’í community will set up a school for the use of the local population. Here, adults as well as children have the opportunity to learn.
An unusual feature of Bahá’í beliefs is that, if there is no free schooling and parents are forced to make a choice, then priority should be given to daughters rather than sons:
“…most important of all is the training of girl children, for these girls will one day be mothers, and the mother is the first teacher of the child.”
Bahá’u’lláh, the Founder of the Bahá’í Faith, wrote:
“Regard man as a mine rich in gems of inestimable value. Education can, alone, cause it to reveal its treasures, and enable mankind to benefit therefrom.”
Education is therefore about finding, encouraging and developing the talents of each child:
“Give them the advantage of every useful kind of knowledge. Let them share in every new and rare and wondrous craft and art.”
Music is also an important aspect of education, for “…music, sung or played, is spiritual food for soul and heart.”
As Bahá’ís look towards the development of a world civilisation, a common curriculum would be helpful:
“Education is essential and all standards of training and teaching throughout the world of mankind should be brought into conformity and agreement; a universal curriculum should be established…”
Bahá’ís believe that there should be a world language and script, chosen or invented, which would be taught in all schools:
“They would, in this way, be acquiring only two languages, one their own native tongue, the other the language in which all the peoples of the world would converse.”
One of the basic Bahá’í principles is that individuals should investigate truth for themselves. Bahá’í children are therefore encouraged to learn about different beliefs and to respect them. Indeed, Bahá’ís see all religions as part of the same one religion of God, revealed in different places and at different times throughout the ages.
Bahá’ís teach their children to see themselves as world citizens so that prejudices of gender, race or nation will not appear and they will appreciate that we all hold responsibility for our common home, this earth.
Bahá’ís use the term “junior youth” to describe those aged from about 11 to 14, who are at a stage when they are thinking about the world and their place in it. Bahá’ís and friends run local junior youth groups for young people of this age. In these groups the young people learn to value themselves and to think carefully about the world around them – recognising the power and true nature of much advertising material, for example. The young people are encouraged to develop a sense of service, and to this end they plan and carry out projects which are of service to their community. The Bahá’í Writings say, of children:
“Teach them to dedicate their lives to matters of great import, and inspire them to undertake studies that will benefit mankind.”
This should be a good basis for the rest of their lives.
Methods of Education
There is no overall educational method specified in the Bahá’í Writings. However, there are a number of guidelines. For example:
“Many elementary sciences must be made clear to them in the nursery; they must learn them in play, in amusement. Most ideas must be taught them through speech, not through book-learning. One child must question the other concerning these things and the other must give the answer. In this way they will make great progress.”
should be encouraged to think for themselves – to investigate and weigh the
evidence before them with an open mind.
Bahá’ís continue with their education for the whole of their lives. From the age of 15 they join together with others in study circles where they explore how to lead a spiritual life, and learn how to run children’s classes, junior youth groups and other community-building activities. Many people who are not Bahá’ís enjoy these study circles, where everyone’s opinion is valued. They are happy to join the Bahá’ís in running children’s classes or junior youth groups for the benefit of everyone.
Bahá’ís believe that humanity will have a glorious future. As education becomes universal and spiritually based, amazing results will follow. Ignorance will no longer hold us back from realising that we are all one human family, that we all share one planet and that we need to build a peaceful world together, for:
“Knowledge is as wings to man’s life, and a ladder for his ascent.”
Climate Change – A Baha’i View
Most countries now recognise global warming as an established fact, leading to climate change across the world. We can see the effects in the worsening and more frequent extremes of weather which we experience – floods and droughts, damaging winds, heavy snowfall and record-breaking heatwaves. Most countries have also recognised that much of the cause of this global warming is our overuse of the world’s resources. We now know that the average temperature of the world is rising steadily, and that we need to stop it from rising much further. This requires drastic action from governments, companies and individuals. Otherwise we are at serious risk of destroying our own habitat, along with that of many other species.
If we only used what we need, rather than what we want, the problem would not have grown to its current size. Unfortunately the current world economic system both encourages and relies on people buying and using more and more, which simply enriches a small proportion of the population, at the expense of the rest of humanity and of the planet itself.
Bahá’u’lláh, the Founder of the Bahá’í Faith, urged “moderation in all things”. Back in the 19th century He specifically warned of the effects of over-development:
“If carried to excess, civilisation will prove as prolific a source of evil as it had been of goodness when kept within the restraints of moderation. Meditate on this, O people…”
It would seem that civilisation has indeed been carried to excess and that we are now facing the consequences.
Preserving the Ecosystem
In the Bahá’í Writings there is much said about the relationship of humanity with our environment. Bahá’ís have an attitude of respect for the earth and all its creatures. We must “show forth the utmost loving-kindness to every living creature.”
Bahá’ís see the whole of creation as an entity:
“… even as the human body in this world, which is outwardly composed of different limbs and organs, is in reality a closely integrated, coherent entity, similarly the structure of the physical world is like unto a single being whose limbs and members are inseparably linked together.”
If we are all linked, then we are all dependent on one another’s existence for our own well-being.
The diversity of life forms needs to be preserved, not just to maintain an ecological balance but for our own particular benefit too. A variety of plants are required to maintain a healthy diet, as well as for medicinal purposes.
The Bahá’í Writings state that agriculture is the world’s most important industry – an obvious fact which often tends to be overlooked. The methods of agriculture, however, need to be such that an ecological balance is maintained. For example, research has shown that growing vegetable crops uses far less resources than rearing animals for food. Bahá’u’lláh’s son, to whom He passed on authority, is reported as saying, in the early part of the 20th century, that, “…our natural diet is that which grows out of the ground.”
One of the basic principles of the Bahá’í Faith is justice. Bahá’u’lláh said, “…fix your gaze under all conditions upon justice and fairness.” We all have an equal right to the world’s resources, and no-one has a right to more than his or her fair share.
Bahá’ís see global warming as fundamentally a spiritual problem. Too many of us have been using more than we should of the world’s resources. Bahá’ís believe that the material aspects of life need to be guided by spiritual principles in order to achieve a sustainable and happy life. All of the world’s great religions have this same underlying belief – none of them encourages greed or selfishness.
As individuals we all need to play our part, but this means changes in lifestyle, which require a change of heart. We need a spiritual renewal, giving us the courage and strength to make the necessary changes, for the sake of all humanity.
If we understand that our purpose in life is to learn and grow spiritually, to become better people, then we will not feel the need to acquire more and more material possessions in order to prove our worth, or to try to make ourselves happy. It is a sobering thought that the source of all our wealth is the ground which we tread beneath our feet.
Unity and Co-operation
The most fundamental principle of the Bahá’í Faith is unity. This means, firstly, that there needs to be a recognition that all human beings are of equal value, of whatever gender, race, faith or nation, and that we need to respect and to look after one another. Those of us who use a lot of the world’s resources will need to use less, to make sacrifices, in order to ensure that every individual can have enough of what they need.
Secondly, we need to work together to achieve our goals. For humanity to survive, the human habitat, like that of any other species, must be sustainable. The maintenance of a suitable environment for all living things is a global problem. Problems like climate change know no boundaries and the causes need to be tackled at a global level. Bahá’ís believe that in reality we need a form of world government to implement worldwide solutions. It must be able to manage the resources of the earth for the good of all:
“The well-being of mankind, its peace and security, are unattainable unless and until its unity is firmly established.”
Although Bahá’ís believe that the world should be organised as if it were one country, they recognise that excessive centralisation is a danger to be avoided. Each piece of the planet’s surface is held in trust by the local inhabitants as well as by mankind as a whole. We all need to ensure that our own local area contributes to the well-being of the whole world rather than having a negative impact on it.
Balance and Harmony
We upset the balance of nature at our peril:
“For every part of the universe is connected with every other part by ties that are very powerful and admit of no imbalance…”
Mankind has a faculty which plants and animals do not have, the power to discover the secrets of nature. We therefore have the responsibility to use this power only in a positive way, to ensure that balance is maintained in the world.
If we can all recognise the spiritual basis of life and make the necessary changes in lifestyle, we can solve the problem of global warming which has led to climate change. Bahá’ís are hopeful for the future:
“The Lord of all mankind hath fashioned this human realm to be a Garden of Eden, an earthly paradise. If, as it must, it findeth the way to harmony and peace, to love and mutual trust, it will become a true abode of bliss, a place of manifold blessings and unending delights. Therein shall be revealed the excellence of humankind…”
Ethical Economics – a Baha’i Approach
The systems of economics which have been tried so far have not brought prosperity to everyone. On the contrary, some people and some nations have done very well, but most people and most nations have not.
There are many teachings on economics in the Bahá’í Faith. To gain a better understanding of these, the Bahá’í economic principles need to be seen in the light of general Bahá’í beliefs. The most fundamental beliefs are, firstly, that we should treat all people, of whatever country, faith, gender, ability or degree of wealth, as of equal value as a human being. Secondly, that this earth should be seen as if it were one country, with a world government, world economic system and a world civilisation.
The current economic model depends on greater and greater consumption by the individual. This is not a sustainable model, neither is it good for the environment. Rampant materialism must give way to a more balanced view of the world, in which everyone has the right to a reasonable standard of living and in which resources can be conserved. At present, much of the developing world struggles against poverty and a world economic system which is loaded against them.
Bahá’ís believe that the following basic measures are necessary to improve matters:
- all trade barriers should be removed
- a common system of weights and measures should be adopted
- a world currency should be established
- interest rates should be set at a fair level
These measures would make trade easier between countries and remove many of the difficulties faced by less developed nations.
A Moral and Spiritual Basis
In order for improvements to be made, there needs to be a change in the general attitude of humanity. All religions teach that we should treat others as we would wish to be treated ourselves; all religions teach moral qualities such as honesty, integrity, fairness, trustworthiness and loyalty. Each individual worker and each company, as well as each level of government, needs these qualities in order to bring lasting economic benefits to all.
For example, trustworthiness is an essential quality: the world could not run successfully without it. Bahá’u’lláh, the Founder of the Bahá’í Faith, said that trustworthiness is “the supreme instrument for the prosperity of the world.” In any undertaking, any business dealing, the two parties need to be able to trust one another.
In another example, companies and employees need to be loyal to one another. But this cannot be blind loyalty – both parties must respect one another and know that they will be treated fairly and honestly. Employees need to do a fair day’s work and employers need to pay them fairly for that work. Likewise, companies need to be honest with their customers and to treat them fairly and with respect. The owners of each enterprise should understand that ultimately it exists to serve humanity as a whole.
Work and the Individual
Bahá’u’lláh said that work, performed in a spirit of service, is equivalent to worshipping God. This is a very different attitude to that which many of us have; however, this spirit of service does make work more satisfying.
Bahá’u’lláh’s son, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, travelled to Europe and America and there he explained the principles of the Bahá’í economic system. For example, he said that employees should receive a share of the profits of their company. This gives workers both a greater role and a greater interest in their employment.
Equality and Justice
At a time when communism was new, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá explained that absolute equality of income and role is not practical:
“Absolute equality in fortunes, honours, commerce, agriculture, industry would end in chaos, in disorganisation of the means of existence, and in universal disappointment; the order of the community would be quite destroyed.”
Although absolute equality is not possible, extremes of poverty and wealth must certainly be eliminated. Each person has the right to the basic necessities of life but no-one has the right to more wealth than he or she can use. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá explained, more than 100 years ago, that there should be a minimum wage and that taxation laws should be designed to ensure that everyone exists within comfortable limits.
He explained a detailed system of financial support, administered by the local authority. A family whose income exceeds its needs is taxed, but a family which does not earn enough to support itself is supported by the local community.
Each local community would contribute to the national funds, if it could afford to do so, but could also be supported by national funds if necessary. The same principle would apply to national communities, who could support others or be supported themselves. This system already applies within the Bahá’í community.
In the Bahá’í system, someone who has increased their wealth by a certain amount should give a specified percentage of that increase to be used for the good of the community. This is a voluntary act and it is up to the individual to decide by how much their income has exceeded their needs. This decision therefore has a spiritual basis. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá wrote, more than a century ago:
“The time will come in the near future when humanity will become so much more sensitive than at present that the man of great wealth will not enjoy his luxury, in comparison with the deplorable poverty about him. He will be forced, for his own happiness, to expend his wealth to procure better conditions for the community in which he lives.”
Voluntary giving has certainly become more widespread during the last century. Many of us are moved to help those in need within our own communities, or indeed, across the world. A natural disaster will attract immediate help from many countries.
A Brighter Future
This voluntary giving is a hopeful sign that we are on our way to a better future. Although the implementation of certain economic principles could improve the lot of humanity, it is only when the need for justice and social equality is universally recognised that the full impact can be achieved, for in reality:
“The secrets of the whole economic question are…concerned with the world of the heart and spirit.”
When we are able to make the necessary changes to ourselves and to our economics:
“…Divine Justice will become manifest in human conditions and affairs, and all mankind will find comfort and enjoyment in life.”
Baha’u’llah – the Promised One
The Messengers of God
Bahá’ís believe that in every age God sends a Messenger to mankind. Those we know about in the past have been the great religious Teachers such as Krishna, Moses, Buddha, Christ and Muhammad. They manifest or show forth the qualities or attributes of God and teach mankind how to live. Bahá’u’lláh said:
“Every one of them is a mirror of God, reflecting naught else but His Self, His Beauty, His Might and Glory, if ye will understand.”
Each Messenger builds upon the Messages of Those gone before, leading us to new spiritual heights and bringing social teachings designed for that particular age:
“For every age requireth a fresh measure of the light of God. Every Divine Revelation hath been sent down in a manner that befitted the circumstances of the age in which it hath appeared.”
The Hindu scriptures describe it thus:
“Whenever there is a decay of righteousness, then I Myself come forth… for the sake of firmly establishing righteousness, I am born from age to age.”
All the Messengers in the past have promised that a great World Teacher would appear who would bring an age of peace to mankind. Sometimes they refer to this as the return of their own spirit, sometimes it sounds like another person, as in this from the Christian scriptures:
“I have many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit, when He the Spirit of truth is come, He will guide you unto all truth…”
The Promised One
Bahá’ís believe that, although the Messengers are all different individuals, it is the same spirit, the spirit of God, which animates them all. Bahá’ís believe that Bahá’u’lláh fulfilled all the promises and prophecies of the past when He arose in Iran in the 19th century and announced His Message to mankind. Bahá’ís believe that the same spirit which was in all the Messengers is in Bahá’u’lláh.
“The Revelation, which from time immemorial, hath been acclaimed as the Purpose and Promise of all the Prophets of God, and the most cherished Desire of His Messengers, hath now, by virtue of the pervasive Will of the Almighty and at His irresistible bidding, been revealed unto men. The advent of such a Revelation hath been heralded in all the sacred Scriptures.”
The Bahá’í Writings explain that Bahá’u’lláh was the Promised One of all religions:
“To Israel He was neither more nor less than the incarnation of the ‘Everlasting Father’, the ‘Lord of Hosts’…; to Christendom, Christ returned ‘in the glory of the Father’, to Shi’ah Islam the return of the Imam Husayn; to Sunni Islam the descent of the ‘Spirit of God’; to the Zoroastrians the promised Shah-Bahram; to the Hindus the reincarnation of Krishna; to the Buddhists the fifth Buddha.”
The name Bahá’u’lláh means ‘the Glory of God’ or ‘Glory of the Lord’. This title is mentioned in many prophecies:
“To Him Isaiah, the greatest of the Jewish prophets, had alluded as the ‘Glory of the Lord’, the ‘Everlasting Father’, the ‘Prince of Peace’, the ‘Wonderful’, the ‘Counsellor’.”
The Promised Day of God
This is the day for which mankind has been hoping and waiting for thousands of years:
“Verily I say, this is the Day in which mankind can behold the Face, and hear the Voice, of the Promised One… Great indeed is this Day! The allusions made to it in all the sacred Scriptures as the Day of God attest its greatness. The soul of every Prophet of God, of every Divine Messenger, hath thirsted for this wondrous Day.”
This is the day when the will of God will be done upon all the earth:
“The time foreordained unto the peoples and kindreds of the earth is now come. The promises of God, as recorded in the holy Scriptures, have all been fulfilled. Out of Zion hath gone forth the Law of God, and Jerusalem, and the hills and land thereof, are filled with the glory of His Revelation.”
The law of God did indeed go forth from the Holy Land – Bahá’u’lláh was exiled there and wrote to the kings and rulers of the earth, proclaiming His Message. He explained how they should govern their peoples and what they needed to do to bring peace to the world.
This is the promised Age of Peace:
“This is the Day in which God’s most excellent favours have been poured out upon men, the Day in which His most mighty grace hath been infused into all created things. It is incumbent upon all the peoples of the world to reconcile their differences, and with perfect unity and peace, abide beneath the shadow of the Tree of His care and loving-kindness.”
The Message for this Day
Bahá’u’lláh re-emphasised and expanded the spiritual teachings found in all religions. He also brought many teachings specifically for the age we live in today. Here are some examples of these:
“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.”
“…among the teachings… is the equality of women and men. The world of humanity has two wings… Not until both wings are equally developed can the bird fly.”
“It is important to limit riches, as it is also of importance to limit poverty. Either extreme is not good.”
“The day is approaching when all the peoples of the world will have adopted one universal language and one common script… These things are obligatory and absolutely essential.”
“Should any king take up arms against another, all should unitedly arise and prevent him.”
“Peace must first be established among individuals, until it leadeth in the end to peace among nations.”
“The gift of God to this enlightened age is the knowledge of the oneness of mankind and of the fundamental oneness of religion. War shall cease between nations, and by the will of God the Most Great Peace shall come….”
The New Age
“…this is the Day which the one true God… hath announced in all His Books unto His Prophets and His Messengers.”
Bahá’ís believe that the coming of Bahá’u’lláh
brought the prophetic cycle to an end. His coming marks the dawn of the maturity of mankind. In this age we will achieve the unity of the peoples of the world. In this age we will achieve peace. The Message of Bahá’u’lláh begins a new cycle in the history of mankind: the future Messengers of this cycle will build on the foundations of the laws of Bahá’u’lláh.
The Bahá’í community is still at an early stage in its development but it is inclusive of people from all faiths, countries and backgrounds. All are working to build a new civilisation built on spirituality, love and justice.
Bahá’u’lláh said that we should look at things with an open mind. No one else can decide our response to His Message:
“O people! The Day, promised unto you in all the Scriptures, is now come. Fear ye God, and withhold not yourselves from recognising the One Who is the Object of your creation.”