This is the sixth post in a series about the Bahá’í Faith, written by Daniela Kantorova and myself. Previous posts have introduced the Bahá’í Faith, discussed the life of its Founder, Baha’u’llah, the life of the Báb, and explained the situation of the Bahá’ís in Iran. In the last post, we introduced the concept of the Covenant, and today’s post will discuss some of the laws of the Bahá’í Faith and the life of the individual Bahá’í.
An important aspect of every religion is the laws that the Manifestation of God brings to humanity in order to guide it. Bahá’ís believe that some of these laws and commandments are eternal, others change as humanity progresses and evolves. Looking at almost any of the world’s religions, we can see that the spiritual laws they proclaim are very similar. For example, most religions teach followers to love their neighbor, honor their parents, show kindness and generosity to others, etc. However, what differs among the laws of the different religions of God is their social laws. For example, restrictions on food, marriage, and how to pray represent some social laws that have evolved as humanity has progressed. Baha’u’llah attributes this evolution of the laws of God to a concept that Bahá’ís call “Progressive Revelation” – as humanity progresses, the laws and guidance that govern it must also progress according to the needs and exigencies of the time. For this reason, God sends a new Manifestation every thousand years or so, with new guidance that is appropriate to humanity in that particular stage of development. Bahá’ís thus see the different religions of God, including Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Zoroastrianism, Christianity, Islam, and the Bábi and Bahá’í Faiths as being part of the “changeless Faith of God, eternal in the past, eternal in the future” (~Baha’u’llah).
The Bahá’í Faith teaches that one should not think of Bahá’í laws as a series of do’s and don’ts. Rather, Baha’u’llah teaches that His laws have been brought to humanity for love of humanity, in order to guide it and ensure its progress. Baha’u’llah also teaches that Bahá’ís should not obey these laws out of fear of punishment, for He clearly states in His Most Holy Book, the Kitab-i-Aqdas: “Observe My commandments, for the love of My beauty.”
These ideas will become clearer if we look at a few examples of Bahá’í laws. In the physical world, human beings must eat every day. This is a requirement of the human body; if we don’t, we will get sick and quickly die. We can say, then, that eating daily is a law of physical existence which has to be obeyed. In the same way, one of the commandments of Baha’u’llah is that we should pray every day. Like our body, our soul needs constant nourishment, and prayer provides the nourishment for
our spiritual growth.
In another commandment, Baha’u’llah prohibits backbiting and calumny. This is important because one of the greatest enemies of unity is backbiting, and the purpose of the Bahá’í Faith is nothing
short of the unification of mankind. Unfortunately, backbiting has become an established practice among most of humanity to talk about other people’s faults in their absence. Abdu’l-Baha states that if one sees ten good qualities in someone and one fault, we should concentrate on the ten, and if a person has ten faults and only one good quality, we should focus on that one quality.
Baha’u’llah also prohibits the drinking of alcohol and substance abuse. He teaches that mankind has been created noble, and must therefore not abase themselves with substances that interfere with their minds and make them lose their ability to think clearly.
Another commandment of Baha’u’llah is about the obligation of parents and society to educate children. Reflecting on this law, Bahá’ís worldwide offer neighborhood children’s classes, where children of all backgrounds and Faiths are brought together to receive spiritual and moral education.
Baha’u’llah teaches that it is the duty of the individual Bahá’í to remain firm in the Covenant, to strive daily to bring his or her life in line with Baha’u’llah’s Teachings, and to serve humanity, always conscious of the fact that life does not end with death and that one’s relation with God is eternal. Bahá’ís believe that after death, the human soul becomes free and continues to progress towards God for all eternity. Our lives here are very much like the life of an infant in the womb of the mother. For some nine months, the child develops faculties – eyes, ears, hands and so on – to be used later in this world. Bahá’ís believe that in the same way, human beings are to develop here the spiritual faculties that are needed to progress in the other worlds of God. In order to achieve this purpose, some important aspects of living a Bahá’í life are to follow the laws of Baha’u’llah, serve fellow human beings, and share knowledge with others.
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