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Every year in November, Baha’is around the world honor unity on the Day of the Covenant.
This special Baha’i Holy Day recognizes and celebrates the appointment of Abdu’l-Baha as the Center of Baha’u’llah’s Covenant, that unbroken, unified line of guidance which safeguards the Baha’i Faith from division and disunity.
That Covenant, unique to the Baha’i Faith, fulfills each one of the dictionary definitions of the word:
cov·e·nant: n [see CONVENE] <fr. Latin convenīre, to come together, agree> 1. an agreement; compact. 2. law. 3. a solemn agreement to act together in harmony. 4. a. the conditional promises made to man by God, as revealed in scripture. b. the agreement between God and the ancient Israelites, in which God promised to protect them if they kept His law and were faithful to Him. 5. a formal agreement, treaty, pact or convention of legal validity.
Baha’is celebrate the unity of their Faith — and the essential unity of all Faiths — on the Day of the Covenant. They also recognize, on this special day, the wider covenant that exists between God and humanity, which expresses itself in the singular purpose, common principles, and prophetic connections that link every Faith. This eternal covenant between God and humanity calls on each human being to recognize and accept all of the founders of the world’s great Faiths, acknowledging the system of divine education Baha’is call progressive revelation.
The Baha’i teachings say that God reveals religious and mystical truth through a systematic succession of prophets and messengers 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 all humanity.
Those messengers of God, history tells us, each made a promise to their followers that they would return to lead humanity to God again. This greater eternal Covenant, which calls on every person of faith to recognize and accept the next divine messenger, forms the basis of the successive system of divine education known as progressive revelation.
Baha’is see the unity of religion as an organic, unbroken chain of God’s messengers, who all taught the same essential Faith. This great Covenant – God’s promise never to leave His creation bereft of guidance – has held true throughout every time and civilization, as explained here by Abdu’l-Baha:
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’u’llah’s Covenant continues that unbroken chain of divine guidance and love, by promising that another world faith will come in the future, but also by appointing Abdu’l-Baha to lead the Baha’i Faith. 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 survived for more than a century and a half without sects, schism, or denominations, its unity firmly established and guarded. That accomplishment means that Baha’is all over the world, from every race and culture and class and former religion and nation, believe in and adhere to a single unified Faith.
Baha’u’llah’s appointment of Abdu’l-Baha as the center of his covenant 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 exemplified the qualities, character, and ideals of a true Baha’i. The unique combination of these functions in one person created an unprecedented station in all religious history — Center of the Covenant — and made Abdu’l-Baha a singular, revered, and beloved exemplar, renowned around the world for his humility, his knowledge, his service to humanity and his advocacy of global peace and unity. That station, explained here by Abdu’l-Baha himself in a speech he gave in New York City, both protects and unifies the Baha’i Faith:
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 anyone to create a new sect or faction of belief. 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, pp. 455-456.
The Baha’i teachings say that 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. 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 us and our Creator.
Baha’is believe that this Covenant will help humanity build a unified global society, so you’re invited to please join us today as we recognize and celebrate the healing power of unity.