The Bahá'í Faith (
Persian: بهائی Bahā'i) is a
monotheistic religion that emphasizes the spiritual unity of all
humankind. Three core principles establish a basis for Bahá'í teachings and doctrine: the
unity of God, the
unity of religion, and the
unity of humanity. According to Bahá'í teachings, God is known by spiritual virtues such as truthfulness, kindness, unity, love, and justice, and the purpose of religion is to advance these virtues in humankind.
The Bahá'í Faith was announced by
Bahá'u'lláh (1817-1892) in Baghdad, then a part of the
Ottoman Empire, when in 1863 he declared himself
He whom God shall make manifest, a
messianic figure in the religion of
Bábism. Bahá'u'lláh based this announcement on an experience he had previously while imprisoned in the
Tehran, Persia, where he is said to have had a vision of the
Maid of Heaven. Opposition from Islamic clergy especially out of Persia meant that early Bahá'ís faced heavy persecution, and this oppression continues in modern Iran. Bahá'u'lláh himself was imprisoned and exiled from Persia subsequent to a failed assassination attempt by some Bábis of
Naser al-Din Shah Qajar as part of an action aimed at the entire Bábí community and ultimately spent his last 40 years under various forms of house arrest in the
Ottoman Empire. Letters written by Bahá'u'lláh to various individuals, including some heads of state, have been collected and canonized into a body of
Bahá'í scripture that includes works by his son
`Abdu'l-Bahá, and also
the Báb, who is regarded as Bahá'u'lláh's forerunner.
At the time of Bahá'u'lláh's death in 1892, the religion was mostly confined to the Persian and Ottoman empires. By the 1910s it had gained a foothold in Europe and America and by the 1960s it had been established all over the world. There are estimated at least 5 million Bahá'ís around the world in more than 200 countries and territories.
According to Bahá'í doctrine, religious history is seen as having unfolded through a series of divine messengers, each of whom established a religion that was suited to the needs of the time and to the capacity of the people to understand it. The
Muhammad, for example, are looked upon as the most recent messengers in the period before the
Bahá'u'lláh. In Bahá'í belief, each consecutive messenger was a prophet of messengers to follow, and Bahá'u'lláh's life and teachings fulfilled the
end-time promises of earlier scriptures. Humanity is understood to be in a process of collective evolution, and the need of the present time is for the gradual establishment of peace and unity on a global scale.