A Persian man named Mirza Ali Muhammad in 1844 proclaimed himself to be a specially chosen prophet of God, and began to call himself the Bab, which means “the Gate,” signifying that he was the open door to God. His followers were called Babists. The Muslims of Persia rejected this new prophet, putting him to death in 1850. However, before he was killed the Bab prophesied that a prophet would arise after him, who would be the greatest prophet of all time.
The successor to the Bab was another Persian named Mirza Husayn Ali, who proclaimed that he was the Chosen One prophesied by the Bab. He took the name Baha’u’llah, which means the “glory of God.” Baha’u’llah asserted that all religions were expressions of worship of the true God. The original prophets of each religion had taught the same truths. But their followers had corrupted the pure message God had given these prophets. His basic teachings focused on the harmony of all religions, and that an era of universal peace was approaching.
Baha’u’llah faced persecution and exile for many years. But he continued to proclaim his message until he died in 1892. After his death, his eldest son, Abbas Effendi, took over the leadership of the movement. He took the name Abdul-Baha. Effendi toured Europe and American in 1912, making quite a few disciples, Woodrow Wilson’s daughter being one of them. Since that time, Bahai worship centers and groups have been established throughout the U.S. and around the world. The international headquarters of Bahaism is found in Israel.
Although Bahai draws inspiration from all religions, it does have its own religious system. There are particular scriptures, the writings of Baha’u’llah. They have their own fast day at the Bahai new year (March 20-22). This is followed by a nineteen day period of feasting. They abstain from alcohol and all drugs. They stress the importance of chastity.
It can be difficult to witness to a Bahai, because they draw their inspiration from so many sources. However, like any cult, they deny the essentials of the Christian faith. They utterly reject the Trinity, the deity of Christ, His incarnation, His sinless life, His bodily resurrection, and salvation through grace alone.
God: There is one God, proclaimed by all religions. There is no Trinity.
Jesus: Jesus was a prophet, but nothing more than this. He did not rise bodily. He is not deity.
Sin: Sin is an imperfection which can be removed through proper teaching.
Salvation: Based on human effort, good works, prayer and worship.
Scriptures: The Scriptures of all religions are honored. However, the Bible is not inerrant. The highest revelation of God’s will is found in the writings of the Baha’u’llah.
Afterlife: There is a hell, but it is only remedial, not eternal. There is a paradise for the righteous.
Truth: There is truth in all religions. However, the most perfect truth has been revealed by the Baha’u’llah.