In a world where religious conflicts continue to plague much of humanity, it can be easy to see religious teachings as pitted against each other — but that is not the case for the followers of the Baha’i faith.
Established in 1863 by the prophet Bahá’u’lláh in the Middle East and attracting over seven million followers worldwide, the Baha’i faith teaches the essential worth of all religions and the unity and equality of all people.
It is known for its three pillars: unity of God, unity of religion and unity of mankind.
However, according to senior Nura Mostaghimi, a member of the Baha’i community, the faith is more than a religious doctrine.
“The Baha’i Faith is the second most widespread religion in the world, so I know that wherever I travel, I can find a group of Baha’i’s and essentially consider them a home away from home.”
Senior Nura Mostaghimi
At Paly, the Baha’i faith community is small but strong. According to Mostaghimi, the faith has periodic gatherings.
“Every nineteen days, there is a community gathering called a Feast,” Mostaghimi said. “During this get-together, the members of the Baha’i community in their respective city or town get together to say prayers, discuss some writings, reflect on community events, plan activities and socialize.”
Like other religions, the Baha’i faith has important times of year. According to Mostaghimi, Ayyam-í-Ha is a time to do service, give gifts and strengthen bonds of friendship.
Another critical holy time is Ridván, a 12-day period in Baha’i history during which the prophet of the Faith, Baha’u’llah, declared that he was a messenger of God and had a message of peace and unity to share with the peoples of the world.
Naw-Rúz, the Baha’i new year, is commemorated by fasting.
“Baha’is also Fast from [March 2 to March 20] each year leading up to the Baha’i new year,”Mostaghimi said. “The purpose of the fast is to cleanse our souls from the materialistic aspects of our lives and connect with God. Each day of the fast you can only eat or drink before sunrise and after sunset.”
The Baha’i faith shares aspects with other religions.
For example, similar to how Christians typically celebrate the Confirmation sacrament when believers are entering their teenage years, the Baha’i’s celebrate a time of spiritual maturity.
“In the Baha’i Faith there is this notion that once a person reaches the age of 15, they have reached a point of spiritual maturity,” Mostaghimi said. “It is at this point in their life that they are able to formally declare themselves as a Baha’i, or take a different path; either decision is accepted with no judgment.”
Compared to other popular religions, the Baha’i faith is unique in its broad acceptance of religious belief and social unity.
Mostaghimi said she was exposed to these beliefs through Baha’i classes.
“At a young age, [my parents] took me to children’s virtues classes where not only did I develop and learn to understand some of life’s most important values and lessons, but I was [also] able to learn about the history and characteristics of other world religions,” Mostaghimi said. “In participating in these classes with children of a variety of religious affiliation, I was exposed to many world religions and expanded my understanding of them at a young, developmental phase in my life.”
As a result of the open-minded nature of the Baha’i faith, Mostaghimi was able to interpret the religion in a way that made most sense for her.
“My faith has played a large role in the moral foundation that I’ve developed and the outlook I have on society,” Mostaghimi said. “The belief system I have is supported by this larger notion that I have a purpose in my life and that everything that I do and all the things that happen to me happen for a reason.”
Senior Luc Pardehpoosh, also a member of the Paly Baha’i community, agrees that the Baha’i community has positively impacted him.
“I think it has just made me as a person more accepting and loving of everyone.”
Senior Luc Pardehpoosh
As an active member of the faith, Pardehpoosh volunteers his time to teaching the faith to younger kids — similar to the kind of virtue classes Mostaghimi took when she was younger.
“On Sundays, I help teach Baha’i children’s classes,” Pardehpoosh said. “We don’t have any church. We do it between people’s houses, and we rent out Lucie Stern … and meet there.”
Freshman Sophie Pardehpoosh, also a member of the Baha’i faith, said the faith has impacted her beyond the religious teachings.
“The community has impacted me by having a whole other group of people that are like my family aside from my school life and actually family,” Pardehpoosh said. “I have grown up with most of the people and have so many connections with other people that a lot of kids this age don’t have.”
Similar to Mostaghimi, Pardehpoosh believes she will continue to embrace the Baha’i faith because of its principles and application.
“I was raised as a Baha’i, and as I am growing older, and learn to think for myself I realize the great impact this faith and the beliefs have and will have on my life,” Pardehpoosh said.
Mostaghimi believes the Baha’i faith has helped her understand her individual beliefs to a greater extent.
Mostaghimi said, “I believe in the oneness of God, oneness of religion, the equality of men and women, compulsory education, the elimination of extremes of wealth and poverty and many other beliefs of the Baha’i Faith.”