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(bähä`ē, –hī`, bə–), religion founded by Baha UllahBaha Ullah
or Baha Allah
[Arab.,=glory of God], 1817–92, Persian religious leader originally named Mirza Husayn Ali Nuri. One of the first disciples of the Bab (see Babism), he and his half-brother Subhi Azal became the leaders of the Babi faith.
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 (born Mirza Huseyn Ali Nuri) and promulgated by his eldest son, Abdul Baha (1844–1921). It is a doctrinal outgrowth of BabismBabism
, system of doctrines proclaimed in Persia in 1844 by Ali Muhammad of Shiraz. Influenced by the Shaykhi Shiite theology that viewed the Twelve Imams as incarnations of the Divine, Ali Muhammad proclaimed himself the Bab,
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, with Baha Ullah as the Promised One of the earlier religion. The Baha'i faith holds that God can be made known to humankind through manifestations that have come at various stages of human progress; prophets include Abraham, Moses, Jesus, Muhammad, the Bab, and Baha Ullah. Baha'is believe in the unity of all religions, in universal education, in world peace, and in the equality of men and women. An international language and an international government are advocated. Emphasis is laid upon simplicity of living and upon service to the suffering. The teachings spread in the 20th cent., particularly in Africa. The center of the faith in the United States is the great house of worship at Wilmette, Ill. The administrative center of the world faith is in Haifa, Israel, the site of Baha Ullah's tomb. There are some 5 million Baha'is in the world, with the largest communities in India and Iran. Prior to the Iranian revolution (1979) there were about 1 million Iranian Baha'is, who, despite widespread societal discrimination, had generally prospered. Under the Iranian Islamic republic, which regards the religion as an Islamic heresy, Baha'i is banned; Baha'i religious institutions were closed, and Baha'i property confiscated. Baha'is were removed from government posts, thousands were imprisoned, and several hundred were executed, and systematic persecution of Iranian Baha'is has continued into the 21st cent.


See S. Effendi, The Promised Day Is Come (rev. ed. 1980); P. Smith, The Baha'i Religion (1988).


(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

In 1844 a Muslim named Ali Muhhamad Shirazi declared himself the spokesman for the twelfth Imam, or prayer leader, anticipated by some Shi'ite Muslims ever since the ninth century. Calling himself Bab-ud-Din, the "Gate of Faith," he introduced sweeping reforms into Islam, such as raising the status of women. A group of followers gathered around him, calling themselves Babis, "followers of the Bab." Although Bab-ud-Din was executed in 1850, he believed he had prepared the way for another who would found a worldwide religion.

A follower who escaped after the execution believed himself to be the predicted one. Mirza Husayn Ali took the name Baha'u'llah, "Glory of Allah," in 1863, and those who followed him became known as Baha'is.

Imprisoned in Acre, Turkey, Baha'u'llah was still able to receive guests and write. After his death in 1892, his son Abdul Baha took over the movement, traveling and lecturing extensively, eventually even receiving knighthood in England for his work promoting world peace.

Now, having moved far away from Islam, Baha'i is recognized as a separate religion.

Baha'u'llah's emphasis was on unity. He believed his religion to be the culmination of all the religions of the world, though he didn't seek to overthrow any of them. He taught that the Qur'an should be interpreted allegorically and was equal to the scriptures of all other religions. He did not believe in the existence of angels or spirits, and he felt that heaven and hell are symbolic conditions of the soul, not literal places.

He taught his followers that all religions come from the same source, and that divine revelation is continuous and progressive. Messengers of God, according to the teachings of Baha'u'llah, include Moses, Zoroaster, Jesus, Muhammad, and the Buddah. Baha'u'llah was the most recent, the Manifestation of God for the New Era. His was one of the first world religions to preach the unity of the whole human race and to teach that all religions are the work of one God.

Communal worship takes place in members' homes, consisting of prayer and readings from various scriptures and Baha'u'llah's writings. The Baha'i vision is positive and world-embracing, seeking the elimination of war and armaments and the formation of a world tribunal for settling disputes.

Some five million followers carry the vision throughout the world.

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