The information contained here is
intended to acquaint school staff with Bahá'í beliefs and practices to the
extent necessary for the pastoral care of pupils whose parents are Bahá'ís. It
may be photocopied at will.
The Bahá'í Faith is an independent
world religion. It is not an offshoot or sect of any other religion, nor does
it derive its inspiration from the sacred books or teachings of other faiths.
Its founder, Bahá'u'lláh, asserts that His message is a revelation direct from
Oneness of God
Fundamental to the Bahá'í Faith is
the belief in the oneness of God, in the essential oneness of all religions, and
in the oneness of humanity. Bahá'u'lláh taught that divine revelation is not
absolute or final, but progressive, relative and comparative, and that religion,
like humanity itself, evolves from age to age. Bahá'ís therefore give reverence
to the past Prophets, including Moses, Zoroaster, Krishna, Buddha, Christ and
Muhammed. Bahá'ís believe that each of these "Manifestations" of God appeared
at a time when the human race was in particular need of spiritual guidance, and
that each one re-stated the basic spiritual truths in a form which matched
humanity's growing spiritual understanding. At the same time they brought
social teachings appropriate to the needs and capacities of mankind in the age
in which they appeared. Thus to Bahá'ís the original forms of all the major
religions of the world are in essential harmony: they teach the same principles,
have the same aims and purposes, and differ only in their social doctrines.
Subsequent additions to or interpretations of the teachings of each messenger
have clouded this essential harmony. Bahá'ís believe that Bahá'u'lláh is the
Messenger of God for this age.
The World Today
The problems which plague and divide
the world today were foreseen by Bahá'u'lláh over a century ago, and Bahá'ís
believe that if mankind adopts and practices Bahá'u'lláh's teachings, the entire
human race can live together in peace and prosperity. Bahá'u'lláh condemned all
forms of prejudice, whether religious, racial, class-based or nationalistic.
The Bahá'í Faith advocates the equality of the sexes, universal compulsory
education, and the principles of justice in human affairs, and believes that
religion must go hand-in-hand with science. As Bahá'ís feel that they must put
their principles into practice, they sponsor and encourage projects which
advance these principles.
Distribution of Bahá'ís
There are Bahá'ís in nearly all of
the 489 districts of the United Kingdom and in around 200 of these there are
elected administrative bodies (Local Spiritual Assemblies). There have been
Bahá'ís in this country for nearly a century and in 1923 the election took place
of the first U.K. National Spiritual Assembly. The Bahá'í Faith is established
in virtually every country of the world and its writings are translated into
more than 750 languages and dialects.
Bahá'ís meet for community worship
once every nineteen days and on certain Holy Days commemorate significant events
in their Faith. On nine of these Holy Days, Bahá'ís are encouraged to refrain
from work, and some parents may ask to withdraw their children from school as
may be permitted in England and Wales under the Education Reform Act 1988 and in
Scotland (subject to LEA permission) under the Education (Scotland) Act 1980.
In practice, less than half of these days will, in any one year, fall on school
days. The Bahá'í Holy Days are as follows:
Naw Ruz (New Year)
21 April First day of
29 April Ninth day of
Twelfth day of Ridvan
23 May Declaration of the
Ascension of Bahá'u'lláh
Martyrdom of the Bab
20 October Birth of the
12 November Birth of Bahá'u'lláh
Bahá'ís are urged to pray daily. In
addition to their own private prayers Bahá'ís use a variety of prayers revealed
by Bahá'u'lláh. There are also daily prayers which are obligatory from the age
of 15. Prayers should not prove disruptive to school life, since they may be
said before or after school.
From the age of fifteen, Bahá'ís take
part in a nineteen day fast from Sunrise to Sunset (2 March to 20 March). This
involves complete abstinence from food and drink. The fast is a period of
increased meditation and prayer and its significance and purposes are,
therefore, fundamentally spiritual in character. Fasting is seen as symbolic and
a reminder of abstinence from selfish and physical desires. The fast is not
binding on the weak, the sick or the old, nor on women during menstruation or
Bahá'ís have no specific dietary
restrictions, although the use of alcohol or of habit-forming drugs is
forbidden. Smoking is strongly discouraged.
ATTITUDES TO EDUCATION
View of Education
Bahá'u'lláh taught that education
should be compulsory for all children. The curriculum should be similar for
boys and girls, and should include basic literacy and numeracy, science, arts
and crafts. Great emphasis should also be laid upon the development of values,
with stress being laid on honesty and the breaking down of prejudices. Since
Bahá'ís are committed to the oneness of humanity, parents will be strongly
supportive of multicultural education and of world studies.
View of Religious Education
Bahá'ís are committed to a religious
content in school education. By "religious" is implied not only corporate
worship, but spiritual and ethical education by contact with the world's
faiths. Bahá'ís would prefer their children to have contact with a variety of
world faiths, in the spirit of "light is good in whatsoever lamp it shines".
However, Bahá'ís would not object to a syllabus that was predominantly
Christian, so long as, in accordance with the Education Reform Act 1988, it also
takes account of the teaching and practices of other principal religions. To a
Bahá'í, Jesus Christ was a manifestation of God, a mirror showing forth the
attributes of God and a
lesson from God as to how human beings should live. Parents will therefore be
complete supportive of solely Christian RE provided that the teacher does not
denigrate other religions and does not expect the child to view the entire
Bible, in any version, as the literal and authenticated Word of God Himself.
While supportive of religious drama, some parents would be worried by actors
portraying a Manifestation of God.
Bahá'ís are discouraged from drawing
representations of the Manifestations but would be happy to consider alternative
approaches if required in RE and art.
Education and Gender
Since the Bahá'í Faith upholds that
men and women should enjoy equality of opportunity and rights, Bahá'ís favour a
common curriculum for both boys and girls. Parenting and technology, for
instance, will, in the future, be requirements for both men and women. In view
of the special responsibility for early childhood education which is usually
accorded to women, the education of girls is regarded as even more important
than the education of boys. Most Bahá'í parents would be supportive of
responsible sex education, which places sex within the context of family life
and the upbringing of children.
Bahá'ís recognise the authority of
the teacher "in loco parentis". It would be hoped that Bahá'í children would
not cause discipline problems but if complaints did arise parents would welcome
the opportunity to consult with teachers or others in order to correct the
behaviour. The "twin pillars" for the training of children are reward and
A good account of Bahá'í teachings
and ideas may be found in the Shap/CRE booklet, World Religions - a handbook for
Staff requiring further information
on the Bahá'í Faith should contact The Bahá'í Information Office, 27 Rutland
Gate, London, SW7 1PD.
The text of all these leaflets remains the copyright of Warwick Bahá'í Bookshop. The Bookshop is happy for people to download individual copies for their own purposes. Printed copies can be purchased from the Warwick Bookshop. Individuals or communities wishing to translate or print these leaflets in other countries please contact the Bookshop for permission.