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Bahá'í Faith and the unity of religion

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Bahá'í Faith
Bahai star

Central figures

Bahá'u'lláh
The Báb · `Abdu'l-Bahá

Key scripture
Kitáb-i-Aqdas · Kitáb-i-Íqán

The Hidden Words
The Seven Valleys

Institutions

Administrative Order
The Guardianship
Universal House of Justice
Spiritual Assemblies

History

Bahá'í history · Timeline
Bábís · Shaykh Ahmad
Persecution

Notable individuals

Shoghi Effendi
Martha Root · Táhirih
Badí‘ · Apostles
Hands of the Cause

See also

Symbols · Laws
Teachings · Texts
Calendar · Divisions
Pilgrimage · Prayer

Index of Bahá'í Articles

The Bahá'í Faith states that religion has the same foundation, and that there is unity of religion. It is one of the core teachings of the Bahá'í Faith, alongside the unity of God, and the unity of humanity.

The Bahá'í teachings state that there is but one religion which is progressively revealed by God, through prophets/messengers, to mankind as humanity matures and its capacity to understand also grows. The outward differences in the religions, the Bahá'í writings state, are due to the exigencies of the time and place the religion was revealed.

The Bahá'í writings state that the essential nature of the messengers is twofold: they are at once human and divine. They are divine in that they all come from the same God and expound His teachings, and thus they can be seen in the same light, but at the same times they are separate individuals known by a different name, who fulfills a definite mission, and is entrusted with a particular revelation.

Bahá'u'lláh, the founder of the Bahá'í Faith, claimed to be the most recent, but not the last, in a series of divine educators which include Jesus, Buddha, Muhammad, and others.

Unity of religion

Main article: Progressive revelation

The Bahá'í teachings state that religion has been revealed progressively from the same God through different prophets/messengers, who at different times through history and in different locations come to provide the teachings of God. In this way Bahá'ís see that religion has the same foundation.

According to the Bahá'í Writings, the purpose of religion is to "carry forward an ever advancing civilisation..."[1] and that the revelation, which allows for this continual advancement of civilization, is continuous and never ending:

"Among the bounties of God is revelation. Hence revelation is progressive and continuous. It never ceases. It is necessary that the reality of Divinity with all its perfections and attributes should become resplendent in the human world. The reality of Divinity is like an endless ocean. Revelation may be likened to the rain."
`Abdu'l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 378. [2]

Humanity is likened to a child that grows and needs training at various stages. Religion, therefore, is likened to a school, where the pupil (humanity) goes through various courses and various grades. Similarly, religion is the ongoing education of humanity. The earliest forms of religion are seen, in many of the Bahá'í Writings, to be like early school. Concepts which may have been appropriate at an earlier time, then, might be quite inaccurate when one has sufficient context. Bahá'ís would say that these earlier beliefs were not wrong, since they were sufficient to the capacity of humanity at the time.

Religious scripture is viewed as being partly literal, partly metaphorical and highly symbolic. Bahá'u'lláh, for instance, states that each word (in scripture) has "70 and 2" meanings. This statement is typically interpreted to mean that religious truth is subtle and filled with a variety of meaning and value, and that it requires substantial inquiry and self-discovery on the part of the reader to be fully understood. Religious institutions are seen as conditional upon the discretion of each manifestation of God, who may choose to form, alter, or disband them.

Thus do Bahá'ís resolve many of the conflicts between the differing theologies and cosmologies of the world. Each different religion may have been told different things according to the needs of the flock to whom the teaching was revealed. The proper attitude, the Bahá'í Faith teaches, would then be to accept the next messenger of God, in the same manner as one might graduate from grade three to grade four. This addresses a common criticism of the Bahá'í Faith, that it accepts many religions whose beliefs cannot be reconciled.

Unity of the prophets

The Bahá'í Faith teaches that the Messengers from God come from the same source, God, to deliver God's Teachings, while also mirroring forth His attributes. In this light, the Bahá'í writings state that the reality of these Messengers of God is the same reality.

Bahá'u'lláh explains the essential nature of the Manifestations of God as twofold: they are at once human and divine. They are divine in that they all come from the same God and expound His teachings (and can thus be seen in the same light), but at the same time they are separate individuals known by different names, who fulfill definite missions, and who are entrusted with particular revelations.

Regarding the relationships of these prophets Bahá'u'lláh writes:

"God hath ordained the knowledge of these sanctified Beings to be identical with the knowledge of His own Self. Whoso recognizeth them hath recognized God. Whoso hearkeneth to their call, hath hearkened to the Voice of God, and whoso testifieth to the truth of their Revelation, hath testified to the truth of God Himself. Whoso turneth away from them, hath turned away from God, and whoso disbelieveth in them, hath disbelieved in God . . . They are the Manifestations of God amidst men, the evidences of His Truth, and the signs of His glory." [3]

Bahá'u'lláh on the oneness of the prophets:

"The door of the knowledge of the Ancient of Days being thus closed in the face of all beings, the Source of infinite grace... hath caused those luminous Gems of Holiness to appear out of the realm of the spirit, in the noble form of the human temple, and be made manifest unto all men, that they may impart unto the world the mysteries of the unchangeable Being, and tell of the subtleties of His imperishable Essence.
"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, its Essence and ultimate Purpose. From Him proceed their knowledge and power; from Him is derived their sovereignty. The beauty of their countenance is but a reflection of His image, and their revelation a sign of His deathless glory."
Bahá'u'lláh, The Kitáb-i-Íqán, p 99. [4]

Concerning their twofold station, Bahá'u'lláh has written:

"These Manifestations of God have each a twofold station. One is the station of pure abstraction and essential unity. In this respect, if thou callest them all by one name, and dost ascribe to them the same attributes, thou hast not erred from the truth. ... It is clear and evident to thee that all the Prophets are the Temples of the Cause of God, Who have appeared clothed in divers attire. 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. Such is the unity of those Essences of Being, those Luminaries of infinite and immeasurable splendor! Wherefore, should one of these Manifestations of Holiness proclaim saying: "I am the return of all the Prophets," He, verily, speaketh the truth. ...
"The other station is the station of distinction, and pertaineth to the world of creation, and to the limitations thereof. In this respect, 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 characterized by a special attribute, fulfils a definite mission, and is entrusted with a particular Revelation.
Bahá'u'lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, p. 50. [5]

See also

References

  • Fozdar, Jamshed K. (1995) [1973]. The God of Buddha. Ariccia (RM), Italy: Casa Editrice Bahá'í Srl. ISBN 8872140315. 
  • Hatcher, W.S.; & Martin, J.D. (1998). The Bahá'í Faith: The Emerging Global Religion. Wilmette, Illinois, USA: Bahá'í Publishing Trust. ISBN 0877432643. 
  • Momen, M. (1994). Buddhism and the Bahá'í Faith. Oxford, UK: George Ronald. ISBN 0853983844. 
  • Momen, M. (2000). Islam and the Bahá'í Faith. Oxford, UK: George Ronald. ISBN 0853984468. 
  • Sours, Michael (1990). A Study of Bahá'u'lláh's Tablet to the Chistians. Oxford, UK: One World. ISBN 1851680179. 

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