The Baha’i religion is an independent, monotheistic religion. Baha’is follow the teachings of Baha’u’llah who lived from 1817 to 1892. He is regarded by the Baha’is as the most recent in the line of Messengers of God that stretches back beyond recorded time. Like the followers of other major religions, Baha’is come from virtually every nation, ethnic group, culture, profession and social or economic class.
In the words of Shoghi Effendi, the Guardian of the Baha’i Religion from 1921 to 1957: “The Baha’i religion recognizes the unity of God and of His Prophets, upholds the principle of an unfettered search after truth, condemns all forms of superstition and prejudice, teaches that the fundamental purpose of religion is to promote concord and harmony, that it must go hand in hand with science, and that it constitutes the sole and ultimate basis for a peaceful, an ordered and progressive society. It inculcates the principle of equal opportunity, rights and privileges for both sexes, advocates compulsory education, abolishes extremes of poverty and wealth, recommends the adoption of an auxiliary international language, and provides the necessary agencies for the establishment and safeguarding of a permanent and universal peace”.
Historian Arnold Toynbee noted in 1959: “Bahaism [sic] is an independent religion on a par with Islam, Christianity, and other recognized world religions. Bahaism is not a sect of some other religion; it is a separate religion, and it has the same status as the other recognized religions.
According to the 1992 Encyclopaedia Britannica, the Baha’i religion is established in 205 sovereign countries and dependent territories.
From its administrative seat on Mount Carmel, located just above the Shrine of the Ba’b, the Universal House of Justice, the highest international governing body of the Baha’i religion, directs the affairs of this worldwide community with the assistance of about 600 Baha’i volunteer staff representing more than 55 countries.
This administrative centre comprises several buildings in neo-classical style which include the Seat of the Universal House of Justice, the International Baha’i Archives, Library and other administrative institutions. The International Baha’i Archives was the first building to be completed in 1955 and its architecture set the pattern for the other buildings, which have been designed by Architect Husayn Amanat.
History of the Bahá’í
Historically the association of the Baha’i religion, an independent world religion, with Israel dates back to the late 1800s when its founder, Baha’u’llah, was banished from His native land of Iran and exiled first to Baghdad, then to Constantinople (Istanbul), to Adrianople (Edirne), and finally to Acre (Akko), which was at that time a penal colony of the Ottoman Empire. The final resting place of Baha’u’llah is located in Bahji, near Akko.
During one of His visits to Haifa in 1890 Baha’u’llah pointed out to His son ‘Abdu’l-Baha the spot on Mount Carmel where the mortal remains of the Ba’b, the Prophet-Herald of the Baha’i religion, should be laid to rest, and instructed Him to build a befitting sepulchre for them.
Baha’u’llah also foreshadowed the establishment of the administrative centre of the Baha’i religion in Haifa. The Ba’b was martyred in the year 1850 in Iran, six years after He declared His mission. For almost 60 years His remains were transferred to different places in secrecy, to prevent their falling into the hands of enemies, until in 1909 they were interred in the exact spot pointed out by Baha’u’llah on Mount Carmel. ‘Abdu’l-Baha Himself constructed the preliminary structure of the Shrine of the Ba’b. Shoghi Effendi, the Guardian of the Baha’i religion, embellished this sacred edifice in accordance with ‘Abdu’l-Baha’s wishes.