Day of the Covenant - Devotional Program
Updated: Nov 22, 2019
A devotional program to be used for the commemoration of the Day of the Covenant Baha'i Holy Day.
O my Lord and my Hope! Help Thou Thy loved ones to be steadfast in Thy mighty Covenant, to remain faithful to Thy manifest Cause, and to carry out the commandments Thou didst set down for them in Thy Book of Splendors; that they may become banners of guidance and lamps of the Company above, wellsprings of Thine infinite wisdom, and stars that lead aright, as they shine down from the supernal sky. Verily, Thou art the Invincible, the Almighty, the All-Powerful. (Abdu’l-Baha, Baha’i Prayers, 2002 U.S. Edition, pp. 71-72)
The Day of the Covenant is the day when Bahá'ís celebrate the appointment of `Abdu'l-Bahá as the Centre of Baha'u'llah's Covenant. It occurs yearly on the 4th day of Speech (Qawl) which coincides with either November 25 or 26 depending on when Naw Ruz falls on that year.
`Abdu'l-Bahá had stated that since May 23 was also the day that the Báb declared his mission, and should be exclusively associated with him, that that day should under no circumstances be celebrated as his day of birth. However, as the Bahá'ís begged for a day to be celebrated as `Abdu'l-Bahá's birthday, he gave them November 26, 181 days after the ascension of Bahá'u'lláh, to be observed as the day of the appointment of the Centre of the Covenant. The holiday was originally known as the Jashn-i-A’zam in Persian (The Greatest Festival), because `Abdu'l-Bahá was known as the Greatest Branch; in the West, the holy day became known as the Day of the Covenant
The first duty prescribed by God for His servants is the recognition of Him Who is the Dayspring of His Revelation and the Fountain of His laws, Who representeth the Godhead in both the Kingdom of His Cause and the world of creation. Whoso achieveth this duty hath attained unto all good; and whoso is deprived thereof hath gone astray, though he be the author of every righteous deed. It behoveth everyone who reacheth this most sublime station, this summit of transcendent glory, to observe every ordinance of Him Who is the Desire of the world. These twin duties are inseparable. Neither is acceptable without the other. Thus hath it been decreed by Him Who is the Source of Divine inspiration.
(Bahá’u’lláh: The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, p. 19)
A Covenant in the religious sense is a binding agreement between God and man, whereby God requires of man certain behaviour in return for which He guarantees certain blessings, or whereby He gives man certain bounties in return for which He takes from those who accept them an undertaking to behave in a certain way. There is, for example, the Greater Covenant which every Manifestation of God makes with His followers, promising that in the fulness of time a new Manifestation will be sent, and taking from them the undertaking to accept Him when this occurs. There is also the Lesser Covenant that a Manifestation of God makes with His followers that they will accept His appointed successor after Him. If they do so, the Faith can remain united and pure. If not, the Faith becomes divided and its force spent. It is a Covenant of this kind that Baha’u’llah made with His followers regarding Abdu’l-Baha and that Abdu’l-Baha perpetuated through the Administrative Order.
(From a letter written by The Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, 23 March 1975)
The Lord of the universe hath never raised up a prophet nor hath He sent down a Book unless He hath established His covenant with all men, calling for their acceptance of the next Revelation and of the next Book; inasmuch as the outpourings of His bounty are ceaseless and without limit. (The Báb: Selections from the Báb, p. 87)
His Holiness Abraham, on Him be peace, made a covenant concerning His Holiness Moses and gave the glad-tidings of His coming. His Holiness Moses made a covenant concerning the Promised One, i.e. His Holiness Christ, and announced the good news of His Manifestation to the world. His Holiness Christ made a covenant concerning the Paraclete and gave the tidings of His coming. His Holiness the Prophet Muhammad made a covenant concerning His Holiness the Báb and the Báb was the One promised by Muhammad, for Muhammad gave the tidings of His coming. The Báb made a Covenant concerning the Blessed Beauty of Bahá’u’lláh and gave the glad-tidings of His coming for the Blessed Beauty was the One promised by His Holiness the Báb. Bahá’u’lláh made a covenant concerning a promised One who will become manifest after one thousand or thousands of years. He likewise, with His Supreme Pen, entered into a great Covenant and Testament with all the Bahá’ís whereby they were all commanded to follow the Center of the Covenant after His departure, and turn not away even to a hair’s breadth from obeying Him.
(‘Abdu’l-Baha: Bahá’í World Faith, p. 358)
Bahá’u’lláh covenanted, not that I (Abdu’l-Baha) am the Promised One, but that Abdu’l-Baha is the Expounder of the Book and the Centre of His Covenant, and that the Promised One of Bahá’u’lláh will appear after one thousand or thousands of years. This is the Covenant which Bahá’u’lláh made. If a person shall deviate, he is not acceptable at the Threshold of Bahá’u’lláh. In case of differences, Abdu’l-Baha must be consulted. They must revolve around his good pleasure. After Abdu’l-Baha, whenever the Universal House of Justice is organized it will ward off differences.
(‘Abdu’l-Baha: The Covenant, p. 117)
Today no power can conserve the oneness of the Baha’i world save the Covenant of God; otherwise differences like unto a most great tempest will encompass the Baha’i world. It is evident that the axis of the oneness of the world of humanity is the power of the Covenant and nothing else. Had the Covenant not come to pass, had it not been revealed from the Supreme Pen and had not the Book of the Covenant, like unto the ray of the Sun of Reality, illuminated the world, the forces of the Cause of God would have been utterly scattered and certain souls who were the prisoners of their own passions and lusts would have taken into their hands an axe, cutting the root of this Blessed Tree. Every person would have pushed forward his own desire and every individual aired his own opinion!
(Abdu’l-Baha, Tablets of the Divine Plan, p. 51)
Inasmuch as great differences and divergences of denominational belief had arisen throughout the past, every man with a new idea attributing it to God, Bahá’u’lláh desired that there should not be any ground or reason for disagreement among the Bahá’ís. Therefore, with His own pen He wrote the Book of His Covenant, addressing His relations and all people of the world, saying, “Verily, I have appointed One Who is the Center of My Covenant. All must obey Him; all must turn to Him; He is the Expounder of My Book, and He is informed of My purpose. All must turn to Him. Whatsoever He says is correct, for, verily, He knoweth the texts of My Book. Other than He, no one doth know My Book.” (‘Abdu’l-Baha: Promulgation of Universal Peace, pp. 322-323)
As to the most great characteristic of the revelation of Bahá’u’lláh, 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. The Book of the Covenant or Testament of Bahá’u’lláh is the means of preventing such a possibility, for whosoever shall speak from the authority of himself alone shall be degraded.
(‘Abdu’l-Baha: Promulgation of Universal Peace, pp. 455-456)
The first condition is firmness in the Covenant of God. For the power of the Covenant will protect the Cause of Bahá’u’lláh from the doubts of the people of error. It is the fortified fortress of the Cause of God and the firm pillar of the religion of God. Today no power can conserve the oneness of the Bahá’í world save the Covenant of God; otherwise differences like unto a most great tempest will encompass the Bahá’í world. It is evident that the axis of the oneness of the world of humanity is the power of the Covenant and nothing else. Had the Covenant not come to pass, had it not been revealed from the Supreme Pen and had not the Book of the Covenant, like unto the ray of the Sun of Reality, illuminated the world, the forces of the Cause of God would have been utterly scattered and certain souls who were the prisoners of their own passions and lusts would have taken into their hands an axe, cutting the root of this Blessed Tree. Every person would have pushed forward his own desire and every individual aired his own opinion! Notwithstanding this great Covenant, a few negligent souls galloped with their chargers into the battlefield, thinking perchance they might be able to weaken the foundation of the Cause of God: but praise be to God all of them were afflicted with regret and loss, and erelong they shall see themselves in poignant despair. Therefore, in the beginning the believers must make their steps firm in the Covenant so that the confirmations of Bahá’u’lláh may encircle them from all sides, the cohorts of the Supreme Concourse may become their supporters and helpers, and the exhortations and advices of Abdu’l-Baha, like unto the pictures engraved on stone, may remain permanent and ineffaceable in the tablets of all hearts.
(‘Abdu’l-Baha: Tablets of the Divine Plan, pp. 51-52)
A story to illustrate the covenant:
It was the custom of Shoghi Effendi to walk on Mount Carmel, and at times he invited the Persian men believers to walk with him. They would walk a few paces behind him, out of respect. Ali-Kuli Khan was a member of one of these groups of men, and at one point Shoghi Effendi stopped, and turned to the men, and said, “Although I am Abdu’l-Baha’s successor, I am not His equal. His station is far greater than my own.” Then he turned, and continued walking. Ali-Kuli Khan burst into tears. When he finished weeping, one of his fellow pilgrims asked him, “What Shoghi Effendi said was very beautiful, but why did it have such an effect on you?” Ali-Kuli Khan answered, “Many years ago, I was here on Pilgrimage during the days of Abdu’l-Baha. One day I was walking with Him on the slopes of Mount Carmel, and He stopped, at that very same spot, and turned to me and said, “Although I am the Successor to Baha’u’llah, I am not His equal. His station is far, far greater than My own.” And of course, as we were walking behind the beloved Guardian, I recalled the sweetness of that moment. And then I saw that we were approaching that spot where the Master had spoken, and to my astonishment, Shoghi Effendi stopped, and spoke at that same spot. And when he said what he did, then I understood the greatness of this Cause.”
Referring to both the Guardian and the Universal House of Justice we read these emphatic words: “The sacred and youthful Branch, the Guardian of the Cause of God, as well as the Universal House of Justice to be universally elected and established, are both under the care and protection of the Abhá Beauty, under the shelter and unerring guidance of the Exalted One (the Báb) (may my life be offered up for them both). Whatsoever they decide is of God.” (Shoghi Effendi: World Order of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 149)
...They [Bahá’u’lláh and ‘Abdu’l-Baha] have ... in unequivocal and emphatic language, appointed those twin institutions of the House of Justice and of the Guardianship as their chosen Successors, destined to apply the principles, promulgate the laws, protect the institutions, adapt loyally and intelligently the Faith to the requirements of progressive society, and consummate the incorruptible inheritance which the Founders of the Faith have bequeathed to the world.
(Shoghi Effendi: Lights of Guidance, p. 319)