Coming of age in the Bahá’í faith

15 is the age when Bahá’ís come of age. Here, continuing our series on rites of passage Collis Tahzi

The Bahá’í faith is a distinct religion, based on the teachings of its Prophet-Founder, Bahá'u'lláh. In Persia, in the middle of the 19th century, he taught that all the world’s diverse faiths are in essence, one. An acceptance of the truth of all other religions, recognising them as authentic, divine sources of guidance for different timeframes, provides the foundation on which world unity can be built. It is a universally appealing faith, which contains the minimum of ritual, no clergy and no confession. Therefore, for young believers, the process of becoming a Bahá’í - of coming of age - does not carry with it any elaborate celebration or ceremony, but represents the start of a process of personal spiritual development where they take personal responsibility for their actions.

According to Bahá'u'lláh, turning 15 represents the age of spiritual maturity. It is at this moment that certain practices become binding – the recital each day of an obligatory prayer, the participation in a period of fasting each year, the opportunity to contribute money in a private and voluntary way to the work of the faith.

Most importantly, becoming a Bahá’í represents a commitment to social change and service to the community. Young people have always played a major role in the establishment of the Bahá’í faith, and continue to do so in its vision for a new global society. Quite in contrast to the expected disengagement of youth from the affairs of society, the Bahá’í faith gives its young members an engaging vision rooted in the notion of the equality of the human race:

unity of family, of tribe, of city-state, and nation have been successively attempted and fully established. World unity is the goal towards which a harassed humanity is striving.

Young Bahá’ís, upon their “declaration”, see this as their goal. To be an effective instrument in this process, we strive to be upright, kind, intelligent, truthful and honest. It is through aligning ourselves to high ideals that we can influence others. The concept of ‘Year of Service’ – a kind of spiritually motivated “gap year” – where young Bahá’ís can offer to travel and engage in any number of social development projects in the world, also becomes a subject for consideration along with choice of career and university courses.

In truth, reaching spiritual maturity at the age of fifteen – as Bahá’ís believe – does not mark a sudden transition. Having been raised with Bahá’í ideals it was, for me, part of a gradual process of development. The declaration of faith does, nonetheless, indicate a personal commitment and the assumption of responsibility for my actions. In this sense it is an important milestone, and a moment of dedication to living a spiritual life.

Collis Tahzib is a pupil at Warwick School, currently studying for his GCSEs; hoping to read Politics, Philosophy, Maths and English at A-Level, and do a PPE degree at university.
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Rarely has it mattered so little if Manchester United won; rarely has it been so special they did

Team's Europa League victory offers chance for sorely needed celebration of a city's spirit.

Carlo Ancelotti, the Bayern Munich manager, memorably once said that football is “the most important of the least important things”, but he was only partly right. While it is absolutely the case that a bunch of people chasing around a field is insignificant, a bunch of people chasing around a field is not really what football is about.

At a football match can you set aside the strictures that govern real life and freely scream, shout and cuddle strangers. Football tracks life with such unfailing omnipresence, garnishing the mundane with regular doses of drama and suspense; football is amazing, and even when it isn’t there’s always the possibility that it’s about to be.

Football bestows primal paroxysms of intense, transcendent ecstasy, shared both with people who mean everything and people who mean nothing. Football carves out time for people it's important to see and delivers people it becomes important to see. Football is a structure with folklore, mythology, language and symbols; being part of football is being part of something big, special, and eternal. Football is the best thing in the world when things go well, and still the best thing in the world when they don’t. There is nothing remotely like it. Nothing.

Football is about community and identity, friends and family; football is about expression and abandon, laughter and song; football is about love and pride. Football is about all the beauty in the world.

And the world is a beautiful place, even though it doesn’t always seem that way – now especially. But in the horror of terror we’ve seen amazing kindness, uplifting unity and awesome dignity which is the absolute point of everything.

In Stockholm last night, 50,000 or so people gathered for a football match, trying to find a way of celebrating all of these things. Around town before the game the atmosphere was not as boisterous as usual, but in the ground the old conviction gradually returned. The PA played Bob Marley’s Three Little Birds, an Ajax staple with lyrics not entirely appropriate: there is plenty about which to worry, and for some every little thing is never going to be alright.

But somehow the sentiment felt right and the Mancunian contingent joined in with gusto, following it up with “We’ll never die,” – a song of defiance born from the ashes of the Munich air disaster and generally aired at the end of games, often when defeat is imminent. Last night it was needed from the outset, though this time its final line – “we’ll keep the red flag flying high, coz Man United will never die" – was not about a football team but a city, a spirit, and a way of life. 

Over the course of the night, every burst of song and even the minute's silence chorused with that theme: “Manchester, Manchester, Manchester”; “Manchester la la la”; “Oh Manchester is wonderful”. Sparse and simple words, layered and complex meanings.

The match itself was a curious affair. Rarely has it mattered so little whether or not United won; rarely has it been so special that they did. Manchester United do not represent or appeal to everyone in Manchester but they epitomise a similar brilliance to Manchester, brilliance which they take to the world. Brilliance like youthfulness, toughness, swagger and zest; brilliance which has been to the fore these last three days, despite it all.

Last night they drew upon their most prosaic aspects, outfighting and outrunning a willing but callow opponent to win the only trophy to have eluded them. They did not make things better, but they did bring happiness and positivity at a time when happiness and positivity needed to be brought; football is not “the most important of the least important things,” it is the least important of the most important things.

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