Lights of Guidance
A Bahá’í Reference File
Compiled by Helen Bassett Hornby
Reproduced with the kind permission of the
National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of Ecuador
 

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INTRODUCTION

“The Bahá’í Faith is an independent world religion. ‘It proclaims the necessity and inevitability of the unification of mankind… It, moreover, enjoins upon its followers the primary duty of an unfettered search after truth, condemns all manner of prejudice and superstition, declares the purpose of religion to be the promotion of amity and concord, proclaims its essential harmony with science, and recognizes it as the foremost agency for the pacification and the orderly progress of human society. It unequivocally maintains the principle of equal rights, opportunities and privileges for men and women, insists on compulsory education, eliminates extremes of poverty and wealth, abolishes the institution of priesthood, prohibits slavery, asceticism, mendicancy and monasticism, prescribes monogamy, discourages divorce, emphasizes the necessity of strict obedience to one’s government, exalts any work performed in the spirit of service to the level of worship, urges either the creation or the selection of an auxiliary international language, and delineates the outlines of those institutions that must establish and perpetuate the general peace of mankind.’ ”1
This volume contains letters from Central Figures of the Bahá’í Faith and its guiding institutions, applying the spiritual principles of the Bahá’í Faith, as expressed in the revealed word of Bahá’u’lláh, to the practical problems and issues facing individual Bahá’ís and their local communities.
Just as Jesus Christ referred His followers to the spiritual teachings of Moses and Muhammad in turn directed His believers to the teachings of Christ, Bahá’u’lláh’s Revelation acknowledges its position as the newest in an ancient succession of religions. Each of the world’s great religions draws on a sacred body of text that expresses eternally valid spiritual principles and applies those principles to the time and place of the Messenger of God whose words form the basis of that Holy Scripture.
The Báb (the “Gate”), Himself a Messenger of God, established the Bábí religion in Persia in 1844. His example and teachings invigorated the people with the force of spiritual revolution. Before His martyrdom in 1850, the Báb instructed His followers to search for the Promised One, whose Revelation the Bábí Faith heralded.
A period of persecution followed when more than 20,000 Bábís were tortured and executed for their steadfast beliefs. Then in 1863, in garden near Baghdád, Bahá’u’lláh (the “Glory of God”) revealed Himself to a group of Bábís as the Messenger so long awaited. The Bahá’í Faith is the religion founded on Bahá’u’lláh’s Revelation of God’s Word for this age.
Before His death in 1892, Bahá’u’lláh appointed His eldest son, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá (the “Servant of the Glory”), to guide the Bahá’í community by example and by words, authorizing Him to interpret the sacred text. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá did so until His death in 1921, travelling to Africa, America and Europe.
The Will and Testament of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá designated His grandson, Shoghi Effendi Rabbani, Guardian of the Cause and authorized interpreter of Bahá’u’lláh’s Revelation. During his lifetime, the Bahá’í Faith grew rapidly and communities were founded throughout the world. Shoghi Effendi Rabbani guided the development of local, national, and international institutions prescribed in Bahá’u’lláh’s teachings; these allowed Bahá’í communities to be nourished by their diversity and frameworks which promoted unity. A few years after his death, the administrative structure Shoghi Effendi Rabbani so lovingly fostered blossomed in the election of the first Universal House of Justice, an institution ordained by Bahá’u’lláh’s Revelation.
“The Universal House of Justice is the supreme governing body of the Bahd'i Faith. Elected quinquennially at international conventions, the Universal House of Justice gives spiritual guidance to and directs the administrative activities of the worldwide Bahá’í community that numbers between three and four million.” 2, 1
Dawn K. Smith
 
1   Addendum to The Promise of World Peace, Wilmette, 1985
2   In 1993, over five million