The oneness of humanity is the pivot around which all Baha’i teachings revolve. Baha’u’llah, the prophet-founder of the Baha’i Faith has woven this thread throughout all the basic principles and teachings, especially universal education.
In a talk, the son of the prophet said: “Baha’u’llah has announced that inasmuch as ignorance and lack of education are barriers of separation among mankind, all must receive training and instruction. Through this provision the lack of mutual understanding will be remedied and the unity of mankind furthered and advanced. Universal education is a universal law.”
He also said, “the beloved of God must train their children with life and heart and teach them in the school of virtue.”
The Baha’i writings refer to the education and training of children as “among the most meritorious acts of humankind.” The faith talks about education being of three kinds: material, human and spiritual; emphasizing that our spiritual education consists of acquiring virtues. We are urged to develop spiritual qualities such as: compassion, generosity, justice, truthfulness, kindness, patience, love, service, trustworthiness, courage, respect and gratitude.
The Sacred Writings often use the metaphor of a garden, referring to the instruction of children as “the work of a loving gardener who tends young plants in the flowering fields of the All-Glorious.” This “primary consideration” that all children need to “develop spiritual characteristics and the praiseworthy virtues of humankind” was a new and bold concept for a prophet to reveal in 1800s Persia.
Baha’u’llah declared that girls and boys be given equal education, that the community should provide education in the event that family could not, and emphasized that girls are the first teachers of the next generation and, therefore, must be given schooling and opportunities.
The Baha’i Writings illustrate these points:
“In the East, women were degraded and considered subordinate to man. Bahá’u’lláh proclaimed equality of the sexes—that both man and woman are servants of God before Whom there is no distinction. Whosoever has a pure heart and renders good deeds is nearer to God and the object of His favor—whether man or woman. The sex distinction which exists in the human world is due to the lack of education for woman, who has been denied equal opportunity for development and advancement. Equality of the sexes will be established in proportion to the increased opportunities afforded woman in this age, for man and woman are equally the recipients of powers and endowments from God, the creator.”
Calling education as “one of the requisites of religion,” Baha’u’llah said:
“In this New Cycle, education and training are recorded in the Book of God as obligatory and not voluntary. That is, it is enjoined upon the father and mother, as a duty, to strive with all effort to train the daughter and the son, to nurse them from the breast of knowledge and to rear them in the bosom of sciences and arts.”
According to the teachings of Baha’u’llah “all religious, racial, patriotic and political prejudice must be abandoned, for these are the destroyers of the real foundation of humanity.” Education can be a powerful transformational agent in overcoming these prejudices that stem from ignorance.
Baha’i teachings also call for moderation in all things, so this applies to spiritual and religious education as well. Baha’u’llah taught that “schools must first train the children in the principles of religion.” At the same time, He also cautioned “but this in such measure that it may not injure the children by resulting in ignorant fanaticism and bigotry.”
Returning to the underlying Baha’i principles of the oneness of humanity, the elimination of all forms of prejudice, and service to humanity, the divine principle of universal education was revealed to uplift the conditions of society, and transform the world into one where harmony and cooperation prevail.