What is the Eternal Covenant?
The Creator of all things is God. The Bahá’í Writings explain that the essence of God is incomprehensible to the human mind; the finite cannot comprehend the infinite. Bahá’u’lláh teaches us that God is not a man, nor a mere force spread throughout the universe. Rather, we may find expressions of God’s attributes in every created thing- similar to the way we know the sun through its rays that provide heat and light.
O Son of Man! I loved thy creation, hence I created thee. Wherefore, do thou love Me, that I may name they name and fill thy soul with the spirit of life.”
Bahá’u’lláh tells us that God’s love for humanity is the very reason for our existence. This love protects us and always embraces us. We learn from the Bahá’í teachings that having created us out of this love, God has entered into a Covenant- a pact or promise- with humanity: He will never abandon us.
The Divine Messengers
Throughout civilisation, God has sent a succession of Divine Messengers, known as Manifestations of God, to educate and guide humanity. They are universal Educators who teach us how to individually and collectively live in accordance with the Will of God and to achieve true happiness. Among the Manifestations are Abraham, Krishna, Moses, Zoroaster, Buddha, Christ, Muhammad, and the Báb and Bahá’u’lláh.
These holy Manifestations have been as the coming of springtime in the world…For each spring is the time of a new creation…—
Thus, in the eternal Covenant of God, His part has always been fulfilled. A question we must then ask is: “How do I fulfil my part of the Covenant?” The answer we find in all religious scriptures is: by recognising the Manifestation of God and obeying Their teachings. This response points to the very purpose of lives, which is to know and to worship God.
Since it is impossible for us to know God except through His Manifestations, the only way we can achieve the purpose of our lives is by recognizing Them and following Their teachings.
'Abdu'l-Baha as the Centre of the Covenant
The eldest Son of Bahá’u’lláh, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá is a most unique figure in human history, and we can find no personage like Him in any previous religion. He recognised the divine station of His Father while still a child and shared in His exiles and sufferings. It was under ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s care and protection that Bahá’u’lláh left the Bahá’í community after His passing, through Whose knowledge and wisdom Bahá’u’lláh said the world would be guided and illumined.
‘Abdu’l-Bahá is the Center of Bahá’u’lláh’s Covenant. Bahá’u’lláh made a covenant with His followers calling upon them to direct their hearts towards that center and be entirely loyal to it. In His Will and Testament, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá named Shoghi Effendi, the Guardian of the Faith, to be the center to which all should turn after His passing. Today this center is the Universal House of Justice, which has been established in accordance with the explicit command of Bahá’u’lláh and the clear instructions given by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and the Guardian. The power of the Covenant holds the Bahá’í community together, protecting it from division and disintegration.
Abdu’l-Bahá's first visit to England in September 1911 included a weekend stay in the city of Bristol where He met Bahá'ís and their friends.
The mark of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s life was His servitude. We can turn to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, striving to follow His example of being the very essence of love and kindness, of purity, justice, rectitude, joy and generosity. He manifested these qualities to the utmost perfection.
Today, the distinctive unity of the Bahá’í Faith- founded by the Báb and Bahá’u’lláh- stems from explicit instructions given by Bahá’u’lláh that have assured the continuity of divine guidance following His passing. This line of succession, referred to as the Covenant, went from Bahá’u’lláh to His Son ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, and then from ‘Abdu’l-Bahá to His grandson, Shoghi Effendi, and the Universal House of Justice, ordained by Bahá’u’lláh. A Bahá’í accepts the divine authority of the Báb and Bahá’u’lláh and of these appointed successors.