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bullet.gif (837 bytes) The Bahá'ís
bullet.gif (837 bytes) Unity in Diversity
bullet.gif (837 bytes) Bahá'u'lláh
bullet1.gif (837 bytes) Social and Moral
bullet1.gif (837 bytes) Spiritual Beliefs of
the Bahá'í Faith
bullet1.gif (837 bytes) A System for
Global Governance
bullet1.gif (837 bytes) A Century of 
Growth and
bullet1.gif (837 bytes) New Approaches
to Old Problems
bullet1.gif (837 bytes) Towards the New
World Order

A Century of Growth and Expansion

Maintaining the unity of the Bahá'í Faith after Bahá'u'lláh

The question of religious succession has been crucial to all faiths. Failure to resolve this question has inevitably led to schisms. Alone among world religions, the Bahá'í Faith has resisted any fragmentation.

At the time of the passing of Bahá'u'lláh a century ago in 1892, there were perhaps 50,000 Bahá'ís in the world. The Faith had spread to most of the countries and territories in the Middle East and to the Indian-subcontinent. In Europe, the Americas, sub-Saharan Africa, Australasia, and most of Asia, however, Bahá'u'lláh and His teachings were known.

Today, the Bahá'í Faith is the most geographically widespread independent religion after Christianity, with communities in at least 205 countries and major dependent territories. There are more than five million Bahá'ís in the world, an increase of a hundred fold in 100 years.

The story of this growth and expansion is intimately tied to two major figures in the Bahá'í Faith: `Abdu'l-Bahá and Shoghi Effendi, who headed the Faith successively after the passing of Bahá'u'lláh in 1892.

As noted in the last section, the governance of the Bahá'í Faith is in the hands of democratically elected bodies. The achievement of Bahá'u'lláh's purpose in the regard was the work of these two hereditary leaders. The role they played in maintaining the essential unity of the Bahá'í Faith is without parallel in religious history.

"My object is none other than the betterment of the world and the tranquillity of its peoples." -- Bahá'u'lláh

The question of religious succession has been crucial to all Faiths. Failure to resolve this question has inevitably led to enduring schisms. Today, there are more than 2,000 sects of Christianity, 1,000 or more in Islam, and comparable divisions in Hinduism, Buddhism and Judaism. Many of these sects emerged because of disagreements over who had final authority over the interpretation of sacred scripture.

Bahá'u'lláh prevented schism in the Bahá'í Faith through a seemingly simple device: a will and testament. In that will, Bahá'u'lláh not only appointed His oldest son to succeed him but passed to Him. clear-cut authority to interpret His writings and to be the focal point for unifying the community.

`Abdu'l-Bahá: The Master

In retrospect, it became clear that from the start Bahá'u'lláh had carefully prepared `Abdu'l-Bahá to succeed Him. He was born on May 23, 1844, the very night of the Báb's declaration. As a child, He suffered along with His Father during the first round of persecutions against the Bábís.

"The religion of God is for love and unity; make it not the cause of enmity and dissension." -- Bahá'u'lláh

`Abdu'l-Bahá was eight when Bahá'u'lláh was thrown into prison. He visited Him there and saw the iron collar and chains around His Father's neck.

As He grew older, `Abdu'l-Bahá became His Father's closest companion and carried out for Him many important at tasks. He interviewed in advance, for example, the numerous visitors who came to see His Father and protected Him from frivolous or ill-intentioned impositions on His work.

In Acre, when nearly the entire group of Bahá'ís there became ill with typhoid fever, malaria and dysentery, `Abdu'l-Bahá washed, nursed and fed the patients, taking no rest for Himself. Finally, exhausted, He took ill Himself, suffering in critical condition for nearly a month.

These qualities of selflessness, erudition and great humility, along with Bahá'u'lláh's own obvious admiration, soon won for `Abdu'l-Bahá the title of "the Master." It is a term still used today by Bahá'ís in referring to `Abdu'l-Bahá.

Despite the explicit terms of Bahá'u'lláh's will and testament, some envious relatives attempted to usurp `Abdu'l-Bahá's position after Bahá'u'lláh's passing. Repeated attempts were made by these ambitious individuals to create followings of their own.

It is significant, in view of the swift emergence of schisms in the world's other religions, that none of the resulting dissident groups were able to maintain themselves or create a division of the Bahá'í Faith. Ultimately, each group disintegrated with the death of the leader who had tried to establish it and no sects or denominations have endured. Bahá'ís attribute this unity to the power of the "Covenant." [See page 49.] continues continues

"Excerpted from The Bahá'ís, a publication of the Bahá'í International Community."

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Photo from page 48
`Abdu'l-Bahá in Paris, 1911.

Photo from page 50
`Abdu'l-Bahá as a young man.







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