Under each topic below, you will find presentations, links to audio-visual material, classroom activities and in some cases schemes of work and lesson plans, as well as teachers’ notes.
In addition to the downloadable resources, the following items are available for purchase from the Warwick Bahá’í Bookshop:
- The Bahá’í Faith – photocopiable worksheets for teachers of RE. This can be downloaded free of charge here (PDF, 10Mb);
- a leaflet The Bahá’í Faith – What is it?. A useful leaflet containing basic information;
- a series of short biographies of central figures of the Bahá’í Faith: the Báb, Bahá’u’lláh, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and Shoghi Effendi;
- a Resource Pack for teachers, containing all of the above, plus teachers’ notes, a class set of the leaflet The Bahá’í Faith – What is it?, and various other leaflets on contemporary issues, as well as photographs. These materials, though aimed primarily at KS3, may also be used or adapted for RE and RS at KS4.
The Warwick Bahá’í Bookshop offers a range of topic-related leaflets giving a Bahá’í perspective of contemporary concerns. The list below gives just some of the large range of leaflets available. They can also be accessed in electronic format by clicking on the leaflet title.
We would love to hear about your experiences of using any of our materials, so do please let us know how you get on, using the contact form.
The following Powerpoint presentation gives a general introduction into what Bahá’ís believe, community life, key teachings and the history of the faith. It is designed for students to study individually, and comes with a worksheet for students to complete as they study the presentation.
Evil and suffering
Bahá’ís do not believe in a force of evil, in terms of a devil or other Satanic force. What seems evil is merely the absence of good. A person who has not been properly educated in the principles of religion, or who has chosen to turn away those principles, will do things which create distress or hurt to themselves and others. Some of them may even begin to revel in the suffering of others. The way to reduce the incidence of bad deeds is to educate people in the principles of religion.
Suffering is caused sometimes by the actions of others, and sometimes by some other agency, such as accidents, disease etc. Bahá’ís believe that while suffering can sometimes help to awaken a person’s spiritual understanding, there is nothing inherently noble about suffering, and that it is praiseworthy for people to work to alleviate the suffering of other people or animals.
God and Truth
Bahá’ís believe that there is one God, an “unknowable essence”, who created everything in a sense that we, as contingent creatures, cannot understand. For a human being to expect to be able to comprehend the infinite is akin to a flower trying to understand the gardener. “Creation” is not an act that we understand, although a study of both religion and science can enable us to move towards such an understanding. Thus over the past 170 years, scientists have vastly enlarged human understanding of the nature, origin, continuity and development of the cosmos.
Life after death
To the Bahá’í, the essential aspect of a human being is the human soul, the existence of which is unaffected by the death of the body with which it is associated. The soul acquires attributes from this life which it then takes into “the next world”, the next spiritual state. This state, and other states through which the soul will successively move in the future, are beyond the comprehension of humans on this plane.
People are here to acquire virtues and good attributes, since the soul’s task is to move towards God. Its progress will be swifter if a person manages to acquire such virtues and attributes.
Bahá’u’lláh teaches that there is one God, who sends a perfect soul from time to time to teach people how to live. They re-establish spiritual laws and principles and also bring social laws appropriate to a particular time and place. These changes restore harmony by focusing people upon positive attitudes and attributes. All the world’s major religions derive from these “Manifestations of God”; the divisions between their followers result from their devotion to the social teachings rather than the spiritual teachings of their faith, arguing about dress, family structure, mode of worship and other peripheral issues.
Over time, social needs change, and people forget what is important spirituality. God sends another Manifestation. Over time, people move to the beliefs of the new manifestation, and peace and progress are re-established. Bahá’u’lláh is the Manifestation of God for this age
Science and religion
To the Bahá’í, Truth is indivisible, and Religion and Science constitute two ways of looking at that Truth. Without Science, without rationality, and with an over-emphasis upon Religion, society will become superstitious; while without Religion, and with an over-emphasis upon Science, society will fall into materialism:
Abdu’l-Bahá told Bahá’ís to: “Put all your beliefs into harmony with science, there can be no opposition, for truth is one. When religion, shorn of its superstitions, traditions and unintelligent dogmas, shows its conformity with science, then will there be a great unifying, cleansing force in the world, which will sweep before it all wars, disagreements, discord and struggles, and then will mankind be united in the power of the Love of God.”
It follows that to the Bahá’í, the persecution of Gallileo by churchmen, or the strong opposition by people of many faiths to theories of evolution, are motivated by a misunderstanding of the teachings of the teachings of the founders of their faith. Jesus Christ did not, for instance, suggest that the earth was the centre of the universe, any more than Muhammad declared that species were created immutable in the same form they are now. Bahá’ís appreciate that both Science and Religion will develop human understanding further, and that interplay between their proponents will enable civilisation to develop in a positive direction.
This issue is explored in a number of key Bahá’í books, notably in Paris Talks and in Some Answered Questions
Sources of authority
Central to Bahá’í belief is the idea that human civilisation advances by means of ‘Manifestations’ of God, who provide humanity with the teachings required to provide harmony and advancement. Thus the original teachings of all the world’s great teachers, and many of the further insights developed under their shadows, are legitimate sources of authority for the Baha’i. It follows that the Bible and the Qu’rán are regarded as ‘the Word of God’, although Bahá’ís would lay more store by the original teachings of the founders of the Faith than upon the statements of prophets and commentators. The second major source of authority in the Baha’i Faith is (or are), the “Central Figures” of the Baha’i Revelation. These are four in number, “The Báb” (the Forerunner), “Bahá’u’lláh himself, the Prophet-Founder of the Bahá’í Faith, his son and authorised interpreter, Abdu’l’Bahá, and the Guardian of the Faith in its infancy, Shoghi Effendi.
Authority however is continuous. The Bahá’í Faith has no clergy; and has an elective system for its administration. The Supreme Elected Body of the Bahá’í Faith is the Universal House of Justice, a body of nine people based in Haifa, in the Holy Land, with elections held every five years. For each country where Bahá’ís are allowed to worship and operate freely there is an intermediate House of Justice, a National Spiritual Assembly, and for each city, town with a Bahá’í community there is a local House of Justice, a Local Spiritual Assembly. These Houses of Justice have authority to consult over the needs of the community and to help individuals.
The following presentation may be used by students studying individually or in pairs or small groups, making observations as they review each slide. It covers some basic principles and teachings of the Bahá’í Faith, including sources of authority, God and truth, and the fundamental Bahá’í teaching that revelation is progressively communicated through the ages.
Principles and Teachings (8Mb)
Bahá’u’lláh taught that God is unknowable in His essence, but that we should pray and meditate daily in order to develop our own spiritual faculties. The following Powerpoint presentation explores these teachings, including what Bahá’í scripture teaches about life after death, and the practices of prayer and meditation as understood by Bahá’ís.
The figures associated with the foundation and early years of the Bahá’í Faith are:
- The Báb, a Messenger of God and the Herald of Bahá’u’lláh. He declared his mission in 1844 and was executed in 1850;
- Bahá’u’lláh, the Messenger of God foretold by the Báb, who despite repeated exile and imprisonment was able to develop the Báb’s new religious community into an outward-looking force;
- ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, the son of Bahá’u’lláh, who took his father’s religion to new parts of the world.
The lives of both the Báb and Bahá’u’lláh are exalted above those of ordinary humans, and the life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá is an example of how human beings should ideally behave.
The following Powerpoint presentations tell the stories of Bahá’u’lláh and the Báb. They were designed for younger students, but provide useful background information for students at this level.
The History of the Bahá’í Faith Part 2 – The Báb (to follow)
The following presentations approach the topic at a more in-depth level, and could be used for self-guided work by students:
Like other prophets and messengers of God, Bahá’u’lláh established certain laws and practices to guide his followers in their daily lives. The following Powerpoint presentation outlines some of these. It is designed for students to study individually, and comes with a worksheet for students to complete as they study the presentation.
The Bahá’í calendar (also called the Badi calendar meaning wondrous or unique) is a solar calendar composed of nineteen months of nineteen days each, plus an extra period of four or five intercalary days, known as Ayyam-i-Ha. The Bahá’í year begins on the day of the spring equinox, which always falls on either March 20th or March 21st. The inception of the Baha’i calendar was on 21 March 1844, the year during which the Báb declared His mission and the Bahá’í Faith began. Years are counted with the date notation of BE (Bahá’í Era). The year 173 BE began on 20 March 2016, but because the Bahá’í day begins and ends at sunset, this was celebrated from sunset on 19th March.
The following 15-minute animation explains the significance and functioning of the Badi calendar.
Pilgrimage is made to Bahá’í sites in the Holy Land. On a full nine-day pilgrimage the pilgrims are taken to Bahá’u’lláh’s prison cell in Akká, to the house where He was subsequently confined, and to the two houses in the countryside where He ended his days. Adjacent to Bahji, His last house, is the building in which He was interred. This is referred to as “The Shrine of Bahá’u’lláh”, and is the spot Bahá’ís face when saying their obligatory prayers.
A pilgrimage also includes prayer at the Shrine of the Báb, where his remains were interred, some years after his execution. The steps and terraced gardens leading up to the Shrine, and beyond the Shrine towards the top of Mount Carmel, provide a fitting and spiritual setting to the building itself. The beauty of the Shrine and the tranquillity of the gardens bring peace to the soul. The effect of the experience upon each pilgrim is naturally personal and individual. Visits to the different historical and sacred sites take place in companionship with others, allowing each pilgrim to take back both personal glimpses and shared experiences.
The downloadable presentation includes personal insights from young people about their experiences of Bahá’í pilgrimage. It has been designed for younger students, but provides good general information on this topic.
Bahá’í pilgrimage (8.3 Mb)
Worship can take place anywhere, but in practice the vast majority of Bahá’í devotional meetings take place either in a private home or in a Bahá’í Centre. In the future, each town or village will have its own Mashriqu’l-Adhkar, or House of Worship. Mashriqu’l-Adhkar literally means “Dawning Place of the Remembrance of God”. In the fulness of time, each House of Worship will also offer “institutions of social service” that relieve suffering, sustain the poor, and provide shelter, solace and education – such as a care home, a clinic, a library or a hostel.
Each House of Worship is circular in shape, has nine sides, and is surrounded by nine gardens. All the world’s Scriptures are read there, and the building is open to people of all races and of all religions or none. The first to be built was at Ishqabad (Ashkabad) in what is now Turkmenistan. It was confiscated by the Soviet authorities, and later suffered earthquake damage. There is one Mashriqu’l-Adhkar in each continent at present. The latest one was opened in Santiago, Chile, in October 2016. The architecture of some of these buildings is very striking, particularly that of the Chile temple and the one in India. Known as the “lotus temple”, the House of Worship in New Delhi is built on the design of a giant lotus flower.
Photos of each of the eight Houses of Worship can be downloaded from the Other Resources page.
The Bahá’í Faith is unique among world religions in that it acknowledges the divine origin of all major faiths. This in particular enables it play a unifying role in the classroom. In addition, Bahá’u’lláh’s writings address directly a large number of important contemporary issues. Several of these are explored in the leaflets listed at the top of this page.
Bahá’í literature is extensive, applicable, beautiful and comprehensible, and can be used to throw the discussion of almost any issue into relief.
Bahá’ís are urged to be kind to animals, provided that one may do so without that kindness leading to greater tyranny. “One must be very considerate towards animals and show greater kindness to them than to man…The harmful animals, such as the bloodthirsty wolf, the poisonous snake and other injurious animals are excepted, because mercy towards these is cruelty to man and other animals.”
Briefly, it is not only their fellow human beings that the beloved of God must treat with mercy and compassion, rather must they show forth the utmost loving-kindness to every living creature…. The feelings are one and the same, whether ye inflict pain on man or on beast.
“Nature”, writes Bahá’u’lláh, is God’s will.” It is the duty of people to protect the environment, which also plays a powerful part in calming human agitation,
“We cannot segregate the human heart from the environment outside us and say that once one of these is reformed everything will be improved. Man is organic with the world. His inner life moulds the environment and is itself also deeply affected by it. The one acts upon the other and every abiding change in the life of man is the result of these mutual reactions.”
It can also teach humanity about God:
When… thou dost contemplate the innermost essence of all things, and the individuality of each, thou wilt behold the signs of thy Lord’s mercy in every created thing, and see the spreading rays of His Names and Attributes throughout all the realm of being…. Then wilt thou observe that the universe is a scroll that discloseth His hidden secrets, which are preserved in the well-guarded Tablet. And not an atom of all the atoms in existence, not a creature from amongst the creatures but speaketh His praise and telleth of His attributes and names, revealeth the glory of His might and guideth to His oneness and His mercy….
Prejudice and discrimination
The Bahá’í belief in the unity of humankind constitutes the fundamental premise through which the Bahá’í revelation deals with the question of prejudice and discrimination. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá states that humanity “is one kind, one race and progeny,” and that in “the creative plan [of God] there is no racial distinction and separation.” Such separation is a cultural artifact, “not natural and original” These statements imply that unity is humankind’s natural condition, and that prejudice and discrimination are not part of the natural order. While human diversity has historically proven to be the basis of separation, the Bahá’í writings view diversity as an essential ingredient of global life, which should be appreciated within the context of humanity’s essential oneness. Just as it is humanity’s capacity to create prejudice and discrimination, it is also within its capacity to eradicate them.
From the Bahá’í perspective, it is religion that gives humanity its capacity to remove prejudice and discrimination. Without religion, according to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, we “may be able to realize some degrees of fraternity … but these are limited associations and subject to change. When human brotherhood is founded upon the Holy Spirit, it is eternal, changeless, unlimited”.
Wealth and poverty
Bahá’ís believe that extreme wealth and extreme poverty are both harmful to their possessor. The Bahá’í writings emphasise the need for progressive taxation, for education and for justice to improve the situation. The approach must be one of peace and goodwill:
“The fundamentals of the whole economic condition are divine in nature and are associated with the world of the heart and spirit.… The Bahá’ís will bring about this improvement and betterment, but not through sedition and appeal to physical force—not through warfare, but welfare. Hearts must be so cemented together, love must become so dominant that the rich shall most willingly extend assistance to the poor and take steps to establish these economic adjustments permanently.”
There is no specific reference to abortion in the Bahá’í writings. However, Bahá’u’lláh explains that life begins at conception, so while the matter is left to the conscience of the mother in discussion with a competent physician, no abortion should be entered into lightly.
Crime and Punishment
It is explained in the Bahá’í writings that people should be educated as children to the point where they would consider committing a crime as unworthy of themselves, and knowledge that one has committed it in itself a severe burden and hence punishment. However, justice rather than mercy is the root of an ordered and peaceful society, and society must have the means of discouraging criminality. “The canopy of existence resteth upon the pole of justice, and not of forgiveness, and the life of mankind dependeth on justice and not on forgiveness.” Society may also have prisons, although these should have facilities for the rehabilitation of the criminal, rather than merely to punish her.
There is nothing specific in the Bahá’í writings about euthanasia. It conflicts however with the Bahá’í principle that it is better to be killed than to kill.
War and Peace
This matter is addressed very frequently in the Baha’i writings. Bahá’u’lláh wrote to most of the powerful rulers in the late 1860s asking them to reconcile their differences, to reduce their armaments and to resolve to unite against any aggressor, bringing the world into “the Lesser Peace”, a managed peace, and then gradually to bring the world to “the Most Great Peace”, a peace of love. Since Bahá’ís are required to be faithful to just governments, they should accept conscription, but try to see if they can serve in medical roles.
Within the family group, it is stressed that the rights of no-one should be ignored, whether husband, wife or child. Within a religion dedicated to unity, the family is clearly an essential unit. If only one partner within a marriage is Bahá’í, then for the sake of family unity they may have to forgo attendance at Bahá’í meetings. However, a non-Bahá’í partner does not have the right to insist that the Bahá’í leave the faith. Religious belief is seen as between the individual and God.
Being part of the Bahá’í community is seen as a very important part of being a Bahá’í. For this reason Bahá’u’lláh said that all Bahá’ís should attend the local Feast every Bahá’í month. This includes praying together, discussion of local matters and a social time. All of these are equally important and all are conducive to the unity of the community.
The family is ideally based upon a secure marriage, marriage having been termed “a fortress for wellbeing”. In this context, children should be taught morals and a spiritual outlook. The Bahá’í family should have the outlook encouraged by Bahá’u’lláh in his advice: “Let your vision be world-embracing, rather than confined to your own self.”
As a part of general moral development, Bahá’ís offer children’s classes, open to all, which encourage positive social behaviour. Children from Bahá’í families are considered as Bahá’ís, and have the rights this entails. However, from the age of maturity, set by Bahá’u’lláh as fifteen, the choice of religion is up to the individual – parents cannot force a young person to be a Bahá’í. The general principle which applies is that of “the individual investigation of truth”.
Children, young and old, have a duty towards their parents. Bahá’u’lláh wrote, “Should anyone give you a choice between the opportunity to render a service to Me and a service to them, choose ye to serve them, and let such a service be a path leading you to Me”.