I feel like starting with Baha’is and their prayer beads. Why? Don’t know. Not the oldest religion or the oldest prayer beads. Not the newest, either. Maybe I just feel like going alphabetically. No, I think I saw a picture of a set of Baha’i prayer beads as I was web-surfing the other day and I just felt like starting there. And I’ve had enough Christian prayer beads and rosaries after six weeks of Lent. And Baha’is are a good place to start because it is an extremely inclusive religion – they have never met a major prophet they didn’t like.
So, what is the Baha’i faith? It was founded about 150 years ago in the land that was once called Persia and is now known as Iran. Like many religions, it was founded by someone who had an extreme mystical experience that forever changed his life. The founder of the Baha’i faith was a Persian nobleman named Bahá’u’lláh. Bahá’u’lláh claimed to be a messenger of God, a continuation of – not a repudiation of – the line of God’s prophets that began with Abraham (Judaism) and continued through Muhammad (Islam). His main message was that there is only one God and that all the other prophets and their followers were all of His children who should be united in their love for Him and for each other. I often think of the Baha’i faith as the ultimate feel-good religion (and I mean that as a very good thing).
Who are the Baha’is? Relatively speaking, their numbers are small. Adherents. com lists 7.6 million worldwide, with perhaps 700,000 in the U.S. But their blanket is quite wide, with Baha’is today coming from more than 2,100 different ethnic and tribal groups, according to Baha’i International. The majority of Baha’is live in Iran, where many are persecuted for their faith.
Bahai’s have about the best description of prayer I have ever come across – they see themselves “in conversation with God,” with whom they are “speaking a language of love.” One of the ways they pray was spelled out by Bahá’u’lláh in his Kitab-i-Aqdas:
In a forthcoming entry, we’ll talk with a Baha’i about their use of prayer beads. Until then . . . happy beading and praying.