In thousands upon thousands of locations around the world, the teachings of the Bahá’í Faith inspire individuals and communities as they work to improve their own lives and contribute to the advancement of civilization.
The Bahá’í Faith began with the mission entrusted by God to two Divine Messengers—the Báb and Bahá’u’lláh. Today, the distinctive unity of the Faith They founded stems from explicit instructions given by Bahá’u’lláh that have assured the continuity of guidance following His passing. This line of succession, referred to as the Covenant, went from Bahá’u’lláh to His Son ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, and then from ‘Abdu’l-Bahá to His grandson, Shoghi Effendi, and the Universal House of Justice, ordained by Bahá’u’lláh. A Bahá’í accepts the divine authority of the Báb and Bahá’u’lláh and of these appointed successors.
Baha’u’llah’s Revelation affirms that the purpose of our lives is to know God and to attain His presence. Our true identity is our rational soul, whose free will and powers of understanding enable us to continually better ourselves and our society. Walking a path of service to God and to humanity gives life meaning and prepares us for the moment the soul separates from the body and continues on its eternal journey towards its Maker.
Four topics are examined in this section. Under each heading, there is a collection of pages, articles, selections from the Bahá’í writings, and further resources, that explore each of the topics in depth.
The Bahá’í Writings explain that the reality of God is beyond the understanding of any mortal mind, though we may find expressions of His attributes in every created thing. Throughout the ages, He has sent a succession of Divine Messengers, known as Manifestations of God, to educate and guide humanity, awakening in whole populations capacities to contribute to the advancement of civilization to an extent never before possible.
Realization of the principle of the oneness of humanity is at once the goal and operating principle of Bahá’u’lláh’s revelation. Bahá’u’lláh compared the world of humanity to the human body. Within this organism, millions of cells, diverse in form and function, play their part in maintaining a healthy system. Similarly, harmonious relationships among individuals, communities, and institutions serve to sustain society and allow for the advancement of civilization.
The teachings of Baha’u’llah are vast in their scope, exploring as they do such themes as the nature and purpose of Revelation, the inherent nobility of the human being, the cultivation of spiritual qualities, and humanity’s interactions with the natural world. The Bahá’í Writings are also replete with references to universal peace—“the supreme goal of all mankind”—as well as explanations of the social principles with which this peace is associated.
Since the inception of the Bahá’í Faith in the Nineteenth Century, a growing number of people have found in the teachings of Bahá’u’lláh a compelling vision of a better world. Many have drawn insights from these teachings—for example, on the oneness of humanity, on the equality of women and men, on the elimination of prejudice, on the harmony of science and religion—and have sought to apply Bahá’í principles to their lives and work. Others have gone further and have decided to join the Bahá’í community and participate in its efforts to contribute directly to the realization of Bahá’u’lláh’s stupendous vision for humanity’s coming of age.
A pivotal concept in the Bahá’í teachings is that the refinement of one’s inner character and service to humanity are inseparable facets of life. Shoghi Effendi, in a letter written on his behalf, states:
In light of this, Bahá’ís have come to appreciate the operation of a two-fold purpose that is fundamental to their lives: to attend to their own spiritual and intellectual growth and to contribute to the transformation of society.
Service and worship are at the heart of the pattern of community life that Bahá’ís around the world are trying to bring into being. They are two distinct, yet inseparable elements that propel the life of the community forward. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá writes that, “Success and prosperity depend upon service to and worship of God”.
Prayer is integral to Bahá’í life, whether at the level of the individual, the community, or the institutions. Bahá’ís turn their hearts in prayer to God repeatedly throughout the day—imploring His assistance, supplicating Him on behalf of loved ones, offering praise and gratitude, and seeking divine confirmations and guidance. In addition, meetings of consultation and gatherings where friends have come together to undertake one or another project commonly begin and end with prayers.
The family unit is the nucleus of human society. It provides a vital setting for the development of praiseworthy qualities and capacities. Through its harmonious functioning and the development and maintenance of the bonds of love that join together its members, it gives constant expression to the truth that the well-being of the individual is inextricably bound to the progress and well-being of others.
“Although your realities are shaped by a broad diversity of circumstances, yet a desire to bring about constructive change and a capacity for meaningful service, both characteristic of your stage of life, are neither limited to any race or nationality, nor dependent upon material means. This bright period of youth you share is experienced by all—but it is brief, and buffeted by numerous social forces. How important it is, then, to strive to be among those who, in the words of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, ‘plucked the fruit of life’.”
— The Universal House of Justice
Youth have played a vital role in Bahá’í history. The Báb Himself declared His mission when He was but twenty-five years old and so many among the band of His followers were in the prime of their youth when they embraced His Revelation. During the ministries of Bahá’u’lláh and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, young people were at the forefront of efforts to proclaim the message of the new Faith and to share its teachings with others.
“As the institutions of the Faith gain experience… they become increasingly adept at offering assistance, resources, encouragement, and loving guidance to appropriate initiatives; at consulting freely and harmoniously among themselves and with people they serve; and at channelling individual and collective energies towards the transformation of society.” — The Universal House of Justice
The gradual development of the Bahá’í community’s administrative structures and the refinement of its associated processes are areas that have received significant attention since the inception of the Bahá’í Faith. The subject is described in some detail in the Bahá’í Administrative Order topic collection in the “What Bahá’ís Believe” area of this website.
Bahá’u’lláh counselled His followers: “Be anxiously concerned with the needs of the age ye live in, and centre your deliberations on its exigencies and requirements.”
As such, Bahá’ís throughout the world—both individually and collectively—strive to become involved in the life of society, working shoulder to shoulder with divers groups to contribute to the advancement of material and spiritual civilization.