Bahá’ís observe eleven holy days each year. These include days associated with the lives of Bahá’u’lláh and the Báb, as well as the Bahá’í new year, on March 21. The most important of the other holidays is Ridván, a twelve-day period in April/May that commemorates Bahá’u’lláh’s declaration of His mission. The holy days are commemorated with community gatherings for prayer, reflection, and fellowship. On nine of these holy days, Bahá’ís abstain from work.
Bahá’u’lláh called for temples of great beauty to be built eventually in every locality where Bahá’ís reside, each to be surrounded by institutions of social service. To date, seven have been built, at least one on each continent. While their architectural styles differ, they share certain features, such as nine entrances on nine sides, and are set in magnificent gardens (nine being the highest digit symbolizes completeness or unity). These temples are places for personal prayer and meditation, as well as collective worship, where sacred scriptures are recited and sung.
Bahá’ís worship God through prayer and meditation, by participating in devotional gatherings, and through active service to their communities. They individually recite one of three obligatory prayers each day as prescribed by Bahá’u’lláh. The Bahá’í scriptures offer much guidance on the uses of prayer and contain many prayers for various purposes and occasions. Moreover, work performed in the spirit of service is, according to the Bahá’í teachings, a form of worshipping God.
People commune with God through prayer and receive guidance through study of the Word of God. The Bahá’í writings contain prayers for a wide range of purposes and occasions in addition to certain daily obligatory prayers. Moreover, Bahá’ís believe that work performed in a spirit of service is worship. Thus, together with active service, fasting, meditation, and obedience to spiritual and moral laws, prayer enables us to develop and grow closer to God.
Through Divine Messengers, God has revealed His laws and teachings for humanity in order that the individual soul can draw near to Him and society can advance spiritually and materially. Throughout history, the revelations of the Messengers of God have renewed religion so that humanity can come to understand its true purpose.
God is the ultimate Reality, Creator of the universe, Whose nature is unknowable and inaccessible to humankind. Such designations as God, Allah, Yahweh, Brahma all refer to the One Divine Being. We learn about God through His Messengers, Who teach and guide humanity.
All world religions are in essence stages in the ongoing revelation of the one religion. They come from the same Source and have the same essential purpose—to guide and educate the human race. Their spiritual core is one, but they differ in their secondary aspects such as in their social teachings, which change in relation to humanity’s evolving requirements.
Bahá’u’lláh has stated that each Bahá’í has the duty to share the Faith with others but forbids the practice of proselytism. Thus, no pressure must be put on anyone to accept it, since independent investigation of truth is a fundamental right and responsibility of each individual.
Bahá’ís believe that there is one God, that all humanity is one family, and that there is a fundamental unity underlying religion. They recognize that the coming of Bahá’u’lláh has opened the age for the establishment of world peace, when, as anticipated in the sacred scriptures of the past, all humanity will achieve its spiritual and social maturity, and live as one united family in a just, global society.
While restating basic spiritual teachings brought by all the Messengers of God, the Bahá’í Faith brings new social principles appropriate to the needs of a global society, such as the oneness of mankind, the equality of rights and opportunities for men and women, the abolition of all forms of prejudice, the essential harmony of science and religion, universal education, the need for a universal auxiliary language, and the elimination of extremes of poverty and wealth. Members of the Bahá’í Faith come from diverse cultural and racial background.
Bahá’ís believe that the Báb (1819-1850) was an independent Messenger of God, whose mission was to inaugurate a new cycle in humanity’s spiritual development. His writings prepared the way for the mission of Bahá’u’lláh. The Báb was executed in 1850 at the instance of Islamic clergy who felt their position threatened by the principles He taught.