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TITLEWho are the Bahá'ís?: The Forgotten 4th Abrahamic Faith
AUTHOR 1Mason Stahl
ABSTRACTAn introductory educational video on the history and community of Bahá'ís, the 4th (or 5th) Abrahamic religion with several million followers worldwide and communities in nearly every nation.
NOTES Transcript prepared by Doug Couper from video online at

Note: this video uses a variant pronunciation of the Báb (short instead of long 'a') and incorrectly uses the definite article before Bahá'u'lláh; engaging images, graphs and insights offset the fast narrative and run-on sentences.

TAGSAlan Coupe; Introductory

1. Transcript (see video below)

Who are the Bahá'ís? The Forgotten 4th Abrahamic Faith
uploaded by Masaman
2019 December 16
11:36 minutes
Video description: Who are the Bahá'ís? The 4th Abrahamic faith that not very many people are aware of. Today we will be discussing the history and modern community of the practitioners of the Bahá'í faith; the 4th (or 5th) most commonly practiced Abrahamic religion, numbering several million worldwide, with communities in nearly every single country on the planet.

We will also be delving into some of their beliefs, morals, traditions and practices that distinguish them from any other religion on Earth and gives an interesting snapshot of some of these already established and emerging communities worldwide. This is a neutral video for educational purposes only and is not intended to promote or denigrate any religious belief or lake thereof.
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Jews, Christians, Muslims — the trifecta of Abrahamic religions, but what even is an Abrahamic religion anyways? Why are these three religions arguably some of the most famous on the planet, having such an astronomical impact on the human species in the past two millennia, and spreading to every corner of the globe. Although it may not seem like it at times, considering the extreme historical and modern conflicts and tensions between these groups, the Abrahamic faiths actually have much more in common than many would think - obviously stemming from the biblical patriarch of Abraham, (who is) an extremely influential figure in all of these religions, and hence is given great reverence, and all of them being viewed in different lights and various sects - but still regarded as quite important nonetheless.

An example of an Abrahamic religious group outside of these three main mentioned at the start that the majority of people from a Judeo-Christian background have heard of, would be the Samaritans - a people you might recognize from the parable of the Good Samaritan. Although not too different from the Jewish people and religion, having only diverged a few generations before, the Samaritans had a fierce and bitter relationship with them for most of history, although, for various reasons the Jews ended up thriving, more or less, while the Samaritans have nearly vanished from existence as both a people group and religion with less than 1,000 members remaining today.

There are many other religions belonging to the Abrahamic branch that most people have never heard of, many of which have actually been lost to history as their members were either wiped out or converted, but there are some that have survived the ages with one in particular expanding to become what has been described as the world's second most geographically dispersed religion after Christianity - having members in every single country on earth with the exception of the Vatican and North Korea. Where did this religion start, why is it so geographically spread, and just how has it grown so far and so fast in a relatively short period of time - already becoming the world's fourth or fifth largest Abrahamic religion depending on whether you consider Mormonism to be part of Christianity or not.

The Baha'i faith, like most of the other Abrahamic religions has its origins in the Middle East although it was established far after Christianity and Islam spread through this region with one of the most important theological (and) philosophical predecessors being Babism - a movement founded in 1844 by Ali Muhammad Shirazi later known simply as the Bab, a Persian merchant who originally began His movement as an interpretation of Shia Islam yet, as the movement's central figure or prophet, soon stylized His own religious movement that began to pick up steam in Persia. Babism was quickly shut down by the Persian government, however, and the Bab was executed along with many of His followers. However, one ardent disciple Mirza Hussain Ali Nuri, later known as the Baha'u'llah, later took up His mantle as the central figure of this religious group later christened the Baha'i faith - founded in 1863 nearly 19 centuries after Christianity, 13 centuries after Islam, and eight centuries after the Druze religion,

One reason for the wide appeal of the Baha'i faith is its recognition of prophets, saints, gods, messiahs and other holy figures from religions all around the world, as the Baha'i scripture outlines not only the coming of the Baha'u'llah, the latest in the line of holy prophets known as the Manifestations of God, but also recognizes Abraham, Jesus, Muhammad, Krishna, Buddha, Zoroaster and others who along with the minor prophets of the faith. are seen as divine messengers, who all had important revelations or abilities that all led to where we are in the present day. However, despite all this, the Baha'is still only believe in one Almighty deity or creator which they describe as indescribable, mysterious, yet omniscient and benevolent - only interacting with humanity at select times in this plane of existence.

During this period directly after the Baha'u'llah's exile and the new crackdown on the Baha'i religion, many of the Baha'u'llah's followers and others that had converted fled the country of Persia as well, and they were the base for some of the earliest Baha'i communities by proselytizing mostly in Asia and Africa but also even visiting as far as the South Pacific. In the Americas new converts very quickly began to outnumber those from Iran, and due to coming from such a diverse background from nearly every race and religion on the planet, there wasn't really a core identity of the Baha'i followers in the same way that there is in other religions - as with most other religious groups there's a strong link between one's ethnic and religious identities and communities.

One common factor among most Baha'i communities in various countries is that they tend to attract converts from ethnic minorities, or those from lower on the socio-economic scale, but not always, obviously, as there are the Baha'is of all backgrounds, although in most regions, Baha'i communities are so novel that there have yet to be any conclusive surveys or studies among them, as there are for Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, or Hindus. Baha'is are recorded as being the fastest growing religious minority in several countries around the world although currently numerically small, and there's no evidence of a particularly high birth rate among Baha'is which leads to the conclusion that their growth in most countries is predominantly due to conversion into the religion.

Now you might be wondering if the Baha'i faith currently has any sort of central figure or leader in the present day - similar to how Catholics have the Pope or Tibetan Buddhists have the Dalai Lama, and the answer is a bit more confusing than one would expect, as they technically should but they don't. The Baha'u'llah appointed a successor before his passing in 1892 - his eldest son Abbas Abdu'l-Bahá, the first of the Guardians of the faith - a title designated exclusively for male descendants of the Baha'u'llah, and this position was eventually passed on to Shoghi Effendi, born in 1897, grandson of Abdu'l-Bahá and great-grandson of the Baha'u'llah - although Effendi actually never had any children - which is why the line was broken and a new successor was never appointed.

Especially after the Iranian Revolution, Baha'is began leaving Iran, and it's actually estimated that five to ten percent of Iranian Americans belong to the Baha'i faith, and even in the present day, the Iranian government does not recognize the Baha'i faith as a legitimate spiritual or religious movement, outright banning any Houses of Worship or meetings related to the Baha'is - seeing them as apostates or converts from Islam, despite many of them being a part of this community for many generations now - with there being entire villages practising the Baha'i faith in secret, while nominally claiming an Islamic identity in order to avoid persecution.

This does, however, show the somewhat fluid nature of religious adherence as many people often dabble in multiple religions without committing to a single one, or may mix and incorporate elements from here and there, and this is especially true for the Baha'i faith due to its Universal approach and outlook. Interfaith marriages are also a major source of conversion into the faith, as there have been many cases of marriage between two people of different religious backgrounds, either (getting married) at a Baha'i House of Worship as a compromise between them, or full-on converting and leaving their old religions behind.

This is one of the reasons that Baha'is are almost always undercounted in official censuses, but this is also due to a variety of factors, and I personally estimate that they're around 8 million active members of the Baha'i faith worldwide as of 2019 (which is) about 0.1 percent of the global population which may not sound like a lot, but this varies considerably by region and compare this to Judaism, which has only around 16 million members worldwide (which is about) 0.2 percent of the (global) population - yet they have been extremely influential throughout world history.

In many countries in Africa such as Kenya, Zambia, Chad or Mauritius, Baha'is hover around one to two percent of the population and the same goes for some island countries in the Caribbean such as Trinidad and Tobago or Barbados, but by far the region with the highest proportion of Baha'is as a percentage of the total population would be in Oceania as, for whatever reason, it would seem that the faith has had the most success among small island nations. Baha'is have attracted a relatively small number of converts in the region of Oceania, but because the area has such a low population already, they make up a statistically significant proportion of a country like Kiribata (pronounced Kiribass in the Gilbertese language) - a collection of islands totalling around 100,000 people and actually pretty religiously diverse - split between Catholics, Protestants, Mormons and Baha'is officially making up no more than 3 percent of the population although some sources claim that as high as 10 percent have some affiliation with the faith. In Tuvalu, the island of Nana Mia is the only geographic area in the world where Baha'is make up a majority of the population - albeit only with around 600 people.

In the United States, Baha'i converts mostly came from the native American and black communities, especially in South Carolina where in some counties, nearly 20 percent of the black population are adherents of the faith, although in recent years Baha'is have come from virtually all ethnic groups in the country with many gaining quite some prominence in the media. The largest number of Baha'is are currently in Asia with an estimated two million in South Asia, mostly in India, where the religion has seen an explosion among some lower-caste Hindus in major cities, while the next largest number are in Africa with another 2 million, followed by other areas of Asia, the Middle East, Latin America (and) North America. The area with the lowest number of Baha'is, both in terms of percentage and numbers, would be in Europe with only a hundred thousand adherents out of a population of 700 million.

Overall this is still an incredibly diversified population with no one country or people group being the face of the Baha'i religion. Now you might think that this flies in the face of my earlier video where I discussed the deep cultural and, yes, even genetic links that generally exist between people of the same religion, and due to the fact that the bulk of the Baha'i community is made out of converts from wildly different backgrounds from all over the world, it would seem that there would be little to no genetic correlation between them in the same way that Muslims Christians, Hindus, or especially Jews in a country have varying degrees of genetic homogeneity. However, given enough time and enough endogamous intermixing between Baha'is in any given community, they would eventually start to act and display much in the same manner as other older faiths around the world.

So the Baha'i faith certainly stands out from all of the religions of the world, and has one of the most interesting philosophies of any theology that perhaps we could all find useful in certain circumstances. Oh, and in case you're curious, the largest and most influential Baha'i holiday is a festival known as Ridvan celebrating the revelations of the Baha'u'llah which takes place on the 20th of April every year - that's right folks: 4/20.

So please let me know your thoughts on the Baha'i faith, its history and the modern people we see all around the world today. And for today's poll, let me know which other smaller Abrahamic religious group you'd like to hear about. And as always, thanks for watching everyone. This has been Masuman, and I'll see you next time.

2. Video

VIEWS90 views since 2024-06-10 (last edit 2024-06-21 05:07 UTC)
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