Both African religion and the Bahá'í Faith consider religion, in essence, as acts and sentiments that
enable man to turn to his Creator. This definition of religion is one of the similarities between the
two religions. This paper attempts to draw out the similarities and harmonize the differences
found in these two religions. The paper is organized into five sub-headings - the belief in and
worship of God; the kingdoms of God and their spirits; the nature of man, life after death and
judgement; ancestors and ancestresses; and mysterious forces.
Both religions believe in one, supreme God called different names according to the various
languages in Africa. He is worshipped through outward forms that convey a united essence -
turning towards God.
The creatures of God are grouped in five kingdoms -- mineral, vegetable, animal, human and
spiritual -- each of which has some basic driving force called `spirit' which differs in meaning
from one to the other religion. In African religion, divinities are anthropomorphic spirits and
deified forebears, and they act as intermediaries between God and man. The Bahá'í Faith, on the
other hand, maintains that each of the five kingdoms has a unique spirit which can neither be
anthropomorphized nor deified, and is not an intermediary between God and man. No material
object or mundane thought is worthy of worship.
Man has a dual nature, both religions concur -- a composed body, and an intangible spitrit that
lives on after death in a life that differs in some details from one to the other religion. Judgement
takes place in the material as well as the spiritual worlds, bad deeds being punished and good
Life after death naturally introduces the concept of ancestors and ancestresses. Both religions
believe in their continued existence and enjoin upon their adherents their veneration, performing
good acts in their name, praying for them and through them, and believe in them in them praying
for the living on earth and their influencing life on this earth. The manner of veneration differs in
some aspects from one religion to the other.
For human reasons, African religion tries to harness supernatural forces by the use of psychic
phenomena, occultism, mysticism, and herbalism.
The Bahá'í Faith recognises the truth as well as some falsehood in these matters. What is
forbidden in the Bahá'í Faith is the invocation of the spirit of the departed or perpetration of acts
that imply membership in another religion, or are contrary to Bahá'í principles. Some forms of
mysticism and herbalism are acceptable in the Bahá'í Faith.
To conclude, the points of similarity in both religious stages in one religion. As a very long time
separates the times of revelation of the two, one would expect differences due to the different
requirements of the respective times of revelation, the different levels of understanding of the
peoples living at the different times, and due to the interpretations that wear away the pillars of
divine truth and vitiate the waters of religion.