What if we understood religion as one great book with many chapters unfolding throughout history? Many of us are quick to say, we all worship one God, one divine creator, yet the debate over religious differences continues.
Baha’u’llah, the prophet-founder of the Baha’i Faith, said, “The purpose of religion is to establish unity and concord amongst the people of the world; make it not the cause of dissension and strife.”
At the heart of Baha’u’llah’s message are two core ideas: first, the incontrovertible truth that humanity is one family; second, that all the great faiths have come from one common source and are expressions of one unfolding religion.
If all the religions are from the same God, then how do we account for their differences? Baha’is embrace the eternal covenant, that eternal promise of God, the creator, the divine—by whatever name we wish to use—who promised to always be with us, and to always send guidance.
God fulfills this promise by sending messengers who we often call prophets, or manifestations of God. These divine luminaries renew and uphold the universal teachings of all the great religions, while broadening and expanding the social and ethical teachings to meet the needs of the time in which they appear—as humanity matures.
While some of their names have been lost to history, we continue to honor and praise the lives and teachings of those we know: Krishna, Abraham, Moses, Zoroaster, Buddha, Jesus and Muhammad, and, in more recent times, the The Bab and Baha’u’llah. The Baha’i Holy Writings highlight the oneness of religion:
“The Revelation of God may be likened to the sun. No matter how innumerable its risings, there is but one sun, and upon it depends the life of all things.”
These divine educators appear in different places in the world at different times, with teachings essential for the development of the people in that place and time. Each has a distinct individuality and a definite mission, yet they all share a divinely ordained purpose. Baha’u’llah said: “The fundamental purpose animating the faith of God and his religion is to safeguard the interests and promote the unity of the human race, and to foster the spirit of love and fellowship amongst men.”
Viewed in light of history and the maturing of humanity, when we think of the purpose of religion to unite people, we can see a progression from Abraham’s time, uniting the family unit, to the time of Moses, bringing the tribes together, and in the time of Jesus, the city-state, and Muhammad, uniting a nation. Now, in this time, Baha’u’llah has come for the unity of the entire planet.
Just as your school teachers, in the early years, laid a foundation for the more complex subjects that came later, so did the prophets. These different messengers from God had different missions—missions that were given in direct proportion to the spiritual capacity, maturity and readiness of humanity. Each of these divine messengers made a promise—a prophecy—that another messenger would come after them, as did Baha’u’llah.
Baha’u’llah explained that the founders of the world’s religions could be regarded as skilled physicians. He said: “The prophets of God should be regarded as physicians whose task is to foster the well-being of the world and its peoples, that, through the spirit of oneness, they may heal the sickness of a divided humanity.”
As the world now faces its most pressing challenges yet, is it any wonder that God may have spoken again by sending one whose teachings will usher in that long-promised time when all humanity will live side by side in peace and unity?