The Baha’i Faith, a new religion which emerged from the Shi’ite branch of Islam, sees itself as the latest but not the last appearance of ‘the ancient faith of God’. It is claimed to be one of the great universal religions of the world, with a community of six to seven million people in over 200 countries. In terms of geography, it comes second only to Christianity as the most widespread religion.

In 1844, a young Persian named Siyyid ‘Ali-Muhammad took the title ‘the Bab’, meaning ‘the Gate’, and announced the imminent appearance of a messenger from God, who would be the most recent of a long line which included Moses, Zoroaster, Buddha, Jesus Christ and Muhammad.

The Bab was persecuted by dominant Muslim leaders of the time and eventually executed, but his message had spread widely. His followers, too, were massacred or exiled.

Mirza Hussayn-Ali was one of those followers to be imprisoned and tortured. During four months chained in the notorious ‘Black Pit’ dungeon in Tehran, he experienced a revelation that he was the prophet foretold by the Bab. Exiled to Baghdad, he announced his mission in CE 1863. His followers knew him as Baha’u’llah, the ‘Glory of God’.

From Baghdad, Baha’u’llah was summoned to Constantinople. He was then exiled to Adrianople and, in 1868, to Acre, where he wrote a series of letters to world rulers, exhorting them to reconcile their differences. — Religions of the World