This faith grew out of Babism, which itself developed as an
offshoot of the Shiite sect of the Muslim faith. On May 23, 1844, Siyyid Mírzá `Alí-Muhammad began to proclaim in the land of Persia the fundamentals of
his theology. He became known as the Bab (a Persian term meaning "the Gate"ť)
because he was revered as a "gate" of true revelation. He announced that
various prophets of the past were divine Manifestations and that he was a
Prophet and a Manifestation of God. He claimed greatness equal to Mohammed, yet
identified himself only as a forerunner of an even greater Manifestation of God
destined to emerge nineteen years later. A strong advocate of monogamy, the Bab
preached against the polygamy so prevalent in the society of his day. Though
greatly persecuted, this sect survived. In 1863 a disciple of the Bab named
Mírzá ?usayn-`Alí Núrí declared that he was the "Manifestation"
foretold by the Bab. He took the name Bahá'u'lláh (which means "the
glory of God"ť).
Bahá'ís believe strongly in the oneness of the human race
and the establishment of a universal religion for all. It has no official
priesthood and no system of sacraments in its belief system. There is no
preaching in Bahá'í temples, simply the reciting of scriptures from the
sacred texts of all religions. Especially in its beginning years, members of
this faith suffered severe persecution.
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