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Every year in late November, Baha’is around the world celebrate the unity of their Faith—and of all Faiths—on November 26th, the Day of the Covenant.
That unique Baha’i Holy Day recognizes and joyously celebrates the appointment of Abdu’l-Baha as the Center of Baha’u’llah’s Covenant—an unbroken, unified line of guidance that safeguards the Baha’i Faith from schism, division and disunity:
O ye that dwell on earth! The religion of God is for love and unity; make it not the cause of enmity or dissension … That which is conducive to the regeneration of the world and the salvation of the peoples and kindreds of the earth hath been sent down from the heaven of the utterance of Him Who is the Desire of the world. Give ye a hearing ear to the counsels of the Pen of Glory. Better is this for you than all that is on the earth. – Baha’u’llah, Tablets of Baha’u’llah, pp. 219-221.
Baha’is believe in the overall concept of a covenant between God and humanity, which finds expression in all Faiths. That holy covenant underpins one of the core concepts of the Baha’i teachings–progressive revelation. The Baha’i teachings say that God reveals religious and mystical truth through a systematic succession of Prophets and Manifestations throughout history. Baha’is see those great teachers, the founders of the world’s major Faiths, as bringing different stages in one continuous spiritual educational system for humanity. Those messengers, prophets and manifestations of God each made a promise to their followers that they would return, their reality re-appearing to lead humanity to God again. This eternal covenant, which calls on every person of faith to recognize and accept that entire succession of messengers, forms the basis of the system of divine education called progressive revelation:
Abraham, on Him be peace, made a covenant concerning Moses and gave the glad-tidings of His coming. Moses made a covenant concerning the promised Christ, and announced the good news of His advent to the world. Christ made a covenant concerning the Paraclete and gave the tidings of His coming. The Prophet Muhammad made a covenant concerning the Bab, and the Bab was the One promised by Muhammad, for Muhammad gave the tidings of His coming. The Bab made a Covenant concerning the Blessed Beauty, Baha’u’llah, and gave the glad-tidings of His coming, for the Blessed Beauty was the One promised by the Bab. Baha’u’llah made a covenant concerning a Promised One Who will become manifest after one thousand or thousands of years. – Abdu’l-Baha, Baha’i World Faith, p. 358.
Baha’is see the unity of religion as an organic, connected, ever-unfolding and unbroken chain of God’s messengers, who all taught the same essential truth. The Baha’i teachings say this great covenant–God’s promise never to leave His creation bereft of guidance–has held constant throughout every era and all human civilizations.
In that way, Baha’u’llah’s Covenant continues that unbroken chain of divine guidance and love, not only by promising that another world faith would come in the future, but by appointing Abdu’l-Baha to lead the Baha’i Faith and protect it from fracture and failure. Unique in religious history, that appointment provides the organizing principle for the continuation of the Baha’i teachings and the administration of the growing Baha’i community around the world, as well as answering the questions of succession and leadership that have troubled so many past religions.
Because of that Covenant, the Baha’i Faith has flourished and grown for nearly two centuries without suffering from schism or sectarianism, with its worldwide unity firmly established. That remarkable accomplishment—which has never previously occurred in any former Faith—means that Baha’is all over the world, from every race and culture and class and religion and nation, believe in and adhere to a single unified Faith.
How did that happen? Baha’u’llah’s appointment invested Abdu’l-Baha with the authority to function as the sole interpreter of the Baha’i writings, and named him as the one who would carry out Baha’u’llah’s purpose in the establishment of the Baha’i administrative order.
The appointment of Abdu’l-Baha as the Center of the Covenant also recognized that in his personal life, in his words and deeds, Abdu’l-Baha perfectly exemplified the qualities and ideals of a true Baha’i. The unique combination of these functions in one person created a unprecedented station in all religious history—Center of the Covenant—and made Abdu’l-Baha a singular, revered and beloved figure, renowned around the world for his humility, his knowledge, his service to humanity and his advocacy of global peace and unity.
Ultimately, the Baha’i teachings say, everyone on Earth will gradually awaken to Baha’u’llah’s prophetic vision of our planet as a single homeland and humanity as one family. So Baha’u’llah’s Covenant, with its emphasis on unity and oneness, helps us heal past differences and divisions, while building a new, mutual relationship between humanity and our Creator. That Covenant, Baha’is strongly believe, will help us build a unified, peaceful global society. For that bounty alone, we can all celebrate the Day of the Covenant today.