Bahai, also written Baha'i or Bahá'í, is the name given to the followers of the Bahai Faith, a monotheistic religion that is founded on the principle of the spiritual unity of all human beings. The word Bahai is an adjective used to describe such followers, there is no noun for the religion itself as terms like Bahaism have never really caught on. The word Bahai comes from the Arabic word "Bahá' " (glory / splendor) and refers to the Glory and Splendor of God / Allah.

Origins and History
The Bahai Faith originates in 19th century Persia (nowadays Iran) in the context of the Shia branch of Islam. Most Muslims regard Bahai therefore as an islamic sect. It is the most recent of the world religions. Siyyid 'Ali-Muhammad (1819-1850), better known under his title 'Bab' ("the Gate") prophesied the eminent arrival of "One greater than Himself", a striking resemblance to John the Baptist and his foretelling of the beginning ministry of Jesus Christ, nearly 2000 years earlier.
Mirza Husayn-'Ali-i-Nuri (1817-1892), a follower of the 'Bab' declared himself as the fulfillment of this prophecy and took on the title Baha'u'llah, meaning "Glory of God". In the eyes of the Bahai, he became the last, and most important of all prophets and divine messengers sent by God.
The Bahai faith is still looked upon by many Muslims as a breakaway sect of Islam. Bahai are heavily persecuted in some islamic countries, particularly Iran. More of this towards the end of the article.

Faith and Doctrine
Bahai believe in one God that was, and still is, revealed by a succession of 'divine messengers'. They see their own prophet, Bahá'u'lláh, in a direct line with Abraham, Buddha, Jesus Christ and Mohammed. Each of these divine messengers is believed to be predecessor and successor at the same time. Bahá'u'lláh being the last and most important one. The keyword of the Bahai Faith is 'Unity', the ultimate goal is to form a single world religion that unites everybody under one banner. There are no clergy as such, all believers have to take part in the Bahai ministry, especially when it comes to mission and outreach. The Bahai are an actively proselyting religion with high goals to increase their membership.

Holy Scriptures
The is no single 'holy book', but several, equal important, sacred writings by Bahá'u'lláh which are used for personal and public devotion.

There are between 5 and 6 million Bahai worldwide, in over 200 countries. The headquarter is in Haifa, Israel. Most of the Bahai live in Asia, Africa and Latin America. India has the largest Bahai community, followed by Iran, both the land of origin and fiercest persecution of the Bahai faith. The Bahai Faith is present in 240+ countries, with 2100+ ethnic groups represented. The sacred writing of the Bahai tradition have been translated into 800+ languages. It is also thought of being one of the fastest growing religion worldwide.

Bahai and Christianity
Bahai reject both the Christian doctrine of the Holy Trinity and the divinity of Christ, making it therefore impossible for Christians to accept their teachings. Bahai don't ask from converts to renounce their original faith, rather to include it into the unity with the Bahai faith.

Bahai and Islam
Muslim laity and Islamic authorities have always had great difficulty in acknowledging other Islamic religions / developments as these pose a threat to the perceived perfection and finality of Mohammed's revelation of Allah. For muslims Mohammed was the last and most important prophet of Allah, for the Bahai Faithful he was superseded by Bahá'u'lláh.

Bahai and the equality of men and women
Despite the fact that the Bahai Faith propagates the equality between men and women, only men can achieve the highest honor of being elected into the ' Universal House of Justice', their highest governing assembly. Nevertheless women can be elected to be part of the lesser, national and regional, spiritual assemblies.

Bahai and Homosexuality
The Bahai see homosexuality as a sinful condition that has to be treated and condemn it as being against nature. Gay and Lesbian Bahai that don't want to be treated / change are expected to live celibate.

Every Bahai over the age of 15 has to recite one prayer per day which can be chosen freely amongst three, equally valid, prayers.
Prohibited activities include backbiting, gossiping, sex outside of marriage, gambling, drinking of alcoholic beverages and taking of drugs others than prescribed by a doctor.
Every adult -and healthy- Bahai should keep a 19 day sunrise-to-sunset fast, similar to the Ramadan fast of the Muslims, from 2-20th March. This is because the Bahai New Year equals the classic Persian New Year ("Naw Rúz") and takes place at the spring equinox on the 21th March.
But each beginning of a month a so-called "Feast for worship, consultation and socializing" is held, where all Bahai faithful attend.
Divorce is discouraged and family values are held up high. Interestingly enough there is a great deal of appreciation and encouragement for inter -racial marriages. Most likely because these stress the point of the unity of the human race. Nevertheless, before a couple is allowed to marry they have to obtain the consent of all four parents!
There is no tradition of monasticism or asceticism in the Bahai Faith, the faith has to be lived out and brought to life in the daily whereabouts of the person concerned. But there is a strong emphasis on social causes and a life of service to others.
Only seven, soon to be eight, centers of worship exist worldwide. Making them automatically a center of Bahai pilgrimage. An average Bahai faith community will meet in people's homes or rented spaces. The ideal Bahai worship center is called "Mashriqu'l-Adhkár" (Dawning-place of the Mention of God) and consists of a hospital, university or other institution of learning.

International Involvement
Bahai are represented or take actively part in the following institutions: WHO, UNICEF, ECOSOC, UNEP and UNIFEM. They also have offices at the UN seats in New York and Geneva.

Bahai and persecution
Bahai faithful continue to be persecuted in Islamic countries, especially in Iran, where around 200 were executed between 1978 and 1998. This kind of persecution includes, but is not restricted to ransacking of their houses, being banned from (university) education or the holding of government related jobs and professions. Prison sentences have been imposed frequently on those that take part in Bahai study circles. Attacks have, again, increased since Mahmoud Ahmadinejad became the new president of Iran.

Egypt, 6th December 2006 the Supreme Administrative Council of Egypt ruled that the government may not recognize the Bahai Faith in official identification documents. Egyptian Bahai are therefore unable to obtain official documents such as ID cards, birth or death certificates, or to get legally married or divorced in the country. This changed in 2008 as Cairo's, the Egyptian capital's, court of Administrative Justice, ruled that Bahai will be in future allowed to obtain both birth certificates and identification documents.

Official Bahai Faith Web Site