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Today—November 26th—Baha’is around the world will celebrate the unity of their Faith on the Day of the Covenant.
No matter where you live in the world, if you go to a Day of the Covenant celebration in your local Baha’i community, you’ll participate in and experience a global observance of oneness.
Why? Because the Baha’i Faith does not have different denominations, orders or sects—it is one. It not only teaches unity, it exemplifies unity.
Most other worldwide religions can’t make that claim, because their growth over time has resulted in deep divisions and sectarian splits. When you go to other holy day celebrations, for example, they may differ dramatically from one denomination to another, from one country to another, even from one church or temple or mosque from another.
So how has the Baha’i Faith retained its unity?
It came originally from Baha’u’llah’s appointment of Abdu’l-Baha as the Center of the Baha’i Covenant—an unbroken, unified line of appointed 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.
So the Day of the Covenant recognizes Abdu’l-Baha as the Center of the Baha’i Covenant, and also celebrates the overall concept of a unique, lasting covenant between God and humanity:
As to the most great characteristic of the revelation of Baha’u’llah—a specific teaching not given by any of the Prophets of the past—it is the ordination and appointment of the Center of the Covenant. By this appointment and provision He has safeguarded and protected the religion of God against differences and schisms, making it impossible for any one to create a new sect or faction of belief. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, pp. 455-456.
The Baha’i covenant views all true religion as an organic, connected, ever-unfolding and unbroken sequence of God’s messengers, who all taught the same essential truths. 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. For Baha’is this idea of that covenant—essentially, a promise made between God and humanity—underpins one of the core concepts of the Baha’i teachings, called progressive revelation:
… it is a basic principle of the Law of God that in every Prophetic Mission, He entereth into a Covenant with all believers—a Covenant that endureth until the end of that Mission, until the promised day when the Personage stipulated at the outset of the Mission is made manifest. – Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 207.
That central principle of the Baha’i Faith says that God reveals religious and mystical truth through a systematic sequence of prophets and messengers throughout history. You already know some of their names and titles: Krishna, Abraham, Moses, Zoroaster, Buddha, Christ, Muhammad, the Bab and Baha’u’llah. The Baha’i teachings say the Creator has sent humankind many of these holy messengers throughout history, to every culture and civilization:
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 understand that God has sent humanity an unbroken chain of these great educators, the founders of the world’s major Faiths, to bring different stages in one continuous spiritual educational system for humanity. Each one of these great teachers made a promise to their followers that they would return, their reality re-appearing to lead humanity to God again. That eternal covenant, which calls on every person of faith to recognize and accept the next prophet in that great chain of being, forms the basis of the system of divine education called progressive revelation.
When Baha’u’llah appointed his son Abdu’l-Baha as the Center of the Covenant, he did so to protect his Faith and its followers over the long term:
To ensure unity and agreement He has entered into a Covenant with all the people of the world, including the interpreter and explainer of His teachings, so that no one may interpret or explain the religion of God according to his own view or opinion and thus create a sect founded upon his individual understanding of the divine Words. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 455.
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.