Find Communities in Australia

Join activities, celebrations, study groups, spiritual empowerment and education programs for young people, and more.

Learn about the Baha’i Faith

Baha’i beliefs address essential spiritual themes for humanity’s collective and individual advancement. Learn more about these and more.


Featured in: Day of the Covenant


This post is featured in the following collections:

Day of the Covenant

in Explore > Calendar

In His Will, Baha’u’llah instructed all to turn to His eldest Son, Abdu’l-Baha, not only as the authorized interpreter of the Baha’i Writings but also as the perfect exemplar of the Baha’i Faith’s spirit and teachings. Every year Baha’is celebrate Abdu’l-Baha as the Centre of Baha’u’llah Covenant.

The Baha’i Covenant: A Brief Overview

October 15, 2013, in Articles > Baha'i Life, by
Photo: Courtesy PamelaB via flickr.

One of the topics of the Faith Baha’is are consistently encouraged to study and deepen their understanding of is the topic of the ‘Covenant of Baha’u’llah’, also known as the ‘Baha’i Covenant’.

In order to discuss the Baha’i Covenant, we first need to understand what a covenant is. Conventionally speaking, a covenant is a pact or binding agreement, but in the religious sense, it’s more than that. As the Universal House of Justice wrote:

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.

The Universal House of Justice, 23 March 1975, The Covenant Compilation

Wonderful! Now we have a primer for the word “covenant” as it applies to religious discourse. So, what is the Baha’i Covenant?

Baha’is typically discuss two ‘forms’ of the covenant: the “Greater Covenant” and the “Lesser Covenant.” Let’s start with the Greater Covenant. In the same letter from the Universal House of Justice cited above, we find this passage:

There is… the Greater Covenant which every Manifestation of God makes with His followers, promising that in the fullness of time a new Manifestation will be sent, and taking from them the undertaking to accept Him when this occurs.

The Universal House of Justice, 23 March 1975, The Covenant Compilation

In other words, this is the belief that God has never left mankind without guidance from above. This guidance has always been delivered to mankind through an intermediary, to whom Baha’is refer to as ‘Manifestations of God’ (not literal incarnations of God Himself, but mirrors of His divine attributes) who are usually called “messengers” or “prophets”. Baha’is number Abraham, Moses, Krishna, Buddha, Zoroaster, Jesus, Mohammad, the Bab, and Baha’u’llah among these Manifestations of God.

This Greater Covenant has implications for mankind as a whole — hence the name — but what about the “Lesser Covenant?” In a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi some 90 years ago, he explains:

The second form of covenant is such as the one Baha’u’llah made with His people that they should accept the Master [Abd’ul-Baha]. This is merely to establish and strengthen the succession of the series of Lights that appear after every Manifestation. Under the same category falls the covenant the Master made with the Baha’is that they should accept His administration after Him…

From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to an individual, October 21, 1921, in Lights of Guidance, no.593

As we can see, this form of the Covenant applies to Baha’is. It is an agreement to accept the chain of succession which has taken place since the time of Baha’u’llah, beginning with Him and continuing to His son Abdu’l-Baha, then Shoghi Effendi, then the Hands of the Cause of God, and finally the Universal House of Justice, which was first elected in 1963.

Why is this dimension of the Covenant so crucial? Each of the aforementioned leaders of the Baha’i Faith had the title of “Center of the Covenant”. As Abdu’l-Baha states:

…whosoever obeys the Center of the Covenant appointed by Baha’u’llah has obeyed Baha’u’llah, and whosoever disobeys Him has disobeyed Baha’u’llah…

Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p.23

This is strong, purposely chosen language as it reflects the importance of the Lesser Covenant as a way to unite Baha’is against threats of dissension and sedition, forces which have ravaged religions of the past. The late Adib Taherzadeh, who served on the Universal House of Justice, gives an example of how a lack of clarity in religious successorship led to profound sectarianism in Christianity:

The Gospels are silent on the question of successorship. Only a vague and inconclusive statement, ‘…thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church’, has led some to consider Peter as Christ’s successor. Such a claim, which is not upheld by a clear and unequivocal declaration in the Gospels, has resulted in bitter conflicts throughout the checkered history of Christianity. As a result the religion founded by Christ has been divided into major sects from the early centuries, and these have multiplied in the course of time.

Adib Taherzadeh, The Covenant of Baha’u’llah, p.99

He goes on to give a similar example from Islam, where a single verbal statement made by Muhammad ultimately led to the Shi‘ah/Sunni bifurcation, and of course even more sects have arisen since that split. Mr. Taherzadeh concludes that section with the following passage:

One of the distinguishing features of the Revelation of Baha’u’llah, then, is that its Author has established a mighty covenant with His followers concerning His successor, a covenant whose characteristics are delineated by Baha’u’llah Himself, a covenant written in His own hand, unequivocal in the provisions it has made for the future of His Cause, and acknowledged as an authentic document even by those who violated it.

Adib Taherzadeh, The Covenant of Baha’u’llah, p.99

In sum, the purpose of the Baha’i covenant is twofold: on the one hand, it is meant to keep mankind cognizant of their perpetual, unending relationship with God through His Manifestations — who will forever continue to guide us throughout the ages, and on the other, it is meant to keep Baha’is unified by delineating the line of their leadership in clear and unequivocal language.

Posted by

Adib Masumian

Adib is a student, Kindle enthusiast, and avid reader of anything with words. In 2009, he put together a brief book entitled 'Debunking the Myths', which deals with conspiracy theories leveled against the Baha'i Faith. He is keen on the latest news from the tech industry and enjoys honing his translation skills (Persian to English) during his free time.
Adib Masumian

Discussion 8 Comments

Rainbows, vis-à-vis the Covenant, remind us of the beauty of religious images referenced in the holy Bible – if I recall correctly.
I’m certainly not sure about the above as it all harks back to Bible studies in my Saul like days as a kid and as an unbelieving adolescent.
Nor am I well enough deepened in the Baha’i Covenant. So please weigh in with more updates and more info

Your article made me want to live as long as Methuselah who reached 969 years, expiring a week or two before the Flood.
I’d be more than moderately keen to live as long, if only (possibly!) to witness interactions between the next Manifestation of God, the Universal House of Justice as a Divinely ordained institution tasked with providing all humankind with infallible guidance, and its nine non-infallible members as individual believers upholding like the rest of us the Greater and the Lesser Covenants.

Underpinning one of your closing points, i.e. that God’s ‘Manifestations — will forever continue to guide us throughout the ages’ is Haifa’s 23 March 1975 statement:
‘…the Greater Covenant which every Manifestation of God makes with His followers, promising that in the fullness of time a new Manifestation will be sent, and taking from them the undertaking to accept Him when this occurs’

Both of these extracts above indicate that a future Manifestation is a certainty. While He or She won’t appear, according to the Writings until at least AD 2843 or 2844, that Coming prima facie seems not to be in question.

I recall Baha’i speakers in 1989 when I started investigating the Baha’i Faith make claim that a new Manifestation need not necessarily appear at all depending on how earnestly the Baha’is in the interim, including our nine eminent rulers in the Holy Land together with the many learned all over the world, live the Baha’i life and propagate the faith of Baha’u’llah???

Baha’i love


Paul Desailly

Paul Desailly (October 10, 2013 at 12:24 AM)

‘Abdu’l-Bahá, in “Some Answered Questions” pp 164-166 has expanded as to the renewal of religion and the meaning of ‘Return’ as in the Manifestations of God.:

“In the beginning the tree was in all its beauty, and full of blossoms and fruits, but at last it became old and entirely fruitless, and it withered and decayed. This is why the True Gardener plants again an incomparable young tree of the same kind and species, which grows and develops day by day, and spreads a wide shadow in the divine garden, and yields admirable fruit. So it is with religions; through the passing of time they change from their original foundation, the truth of the Religion of God entirely departs, and the spirit of it does not stay; heresies appear, and it becomes a body without a soul. That is why it is renewed.
The meaning is that the Buddhists and Confucianists now worship images and statues. They are entirely heedless of the Oneness of God and believe in imaginary gods like the ancient Greeks. But in the beginning it was not so; there were different principles and other ordinances.
Again, consider how much the principles of the religion of Christ have been forgotten, and how many heresies have appeared. For example, Christ forbade revenge and transgression; furthermore, He commanded benevolence and mercy in return for injury and evil. Now reflect: among the Christian nations themselves how many sanguinary wars have taken place, and how much oppression, cruelty, rapacity and bloodthirstiness have occurred! Many of these wars were carried on by command of the Popes. It is then clear and evident that in the passage of time religions become entirely changed and altered. Therefore, they are renewed.”

What does ‘Abdul-Baha’s statement above: “But if religions did not change and alter there would be no need of renewal.” mean for the Baha’i Faith and the coming of the next Manifestation of God?

Baha’i love


Paul Desailly

Paul Desailly (October 10, 2013 at 8:14 AM)

This post is really well done, and I congratulate the author. It’s an endless and wonderful topic, though, so I hope you get a chance to expand upon it in further posts.


Alan Manifold

Alan Manifold (October 10, 2013 at 5:52 AM)

Readers here might enjoy a wider context for this subject of the covenant which I deal with at the following sub-section of my website, in addition to many other parts of my website for what I try to provide–a highly comprehensive and complex context for the Baha’i Faith within the immense diversity of the fields of learning:


RonPrice (November 11, 2013 at 12:02 AM)

“Blessed is the spot, and the house, and the place, and the city, and the heart, and the mountain, and the refuge, and the cave, and the valley, and the land, and the sea, and the island, and the meadow where mention of God hat been made, and His praise glorified.”

William M. danjon Dieudonné

William M. danjon Dieudonné (November 11, 2013 at 10:47 AM)

Thursday, November 28th. November 2013

You know…Together with Diane and Georges STARCHER, on the 30th. of November 1973/130, in Paris, we were
at the house of Ms. Laura Clifford DREYFUS BARNEY to celebrate her 94th. anniversary…and we said that
prayer for PROTECTION:

Lauded be Thy Name, O Lord my God! I entreat Thee
by Thy Name through which the Hour hath struck, and the
Resurrection came to pass, and fear and trembling seized
all that are in heaven and all that are on earth, to rain down,
out of the heaven of Thy mercy and the clouds of Thy tender
compassion, what will gladden the hearts of Thy servants, who
have turned toward Thee and helped Thy Cause.
Keep safe Thy servants and Thy handmaidens, O my Lord, from
the darts of idle fancy and vain imaginings, and give them from
the hands of Thy grace a draught of the soft-flowing waters of
Thy knowledge.
Thou, truly, art the Almighty, the Most Exalted, the Ever-Forgiving,
the Most Generous,


William M. Danjon Dieudonné

William M. danjon Dieudonné

William M. danjon Dieudonné (November 11, 2013 at 3:01 PM)

Near the beginning of this blog about Manifestations of God Moses is listed twice so that is an error of print. Some thing to look at and amend. I am a Baha’i myself endeavouring to prove to Christians, and others, the veracity of the Baha’i Faith claims and explanations.

Geoffrey Cullimore

Geoffrey Cullimore (December 12, 2022 at 12:37 AM)

Hi Geoffrey,

Thank you for noticing this error. We have fixed it. We appreciate you reaching out to us!

– Sonjel

Sonjel Vreeland

Sonjel Vreeland (December 12, 2022 at 5:12 AM)

Leave a Reply


"*" indicates required fields

Receive our regular newsletter

Join activities, celebrations, study groups, spiritual empowerment and education programs for young people, and more.

Find Communities in Australia

or Internationally

Horizons is an online magazine of news, stories and reflections from around individuals, communities
and Baha’i institutions around Australia

Visit Horizons

Baha’i beliefs address essential spiritual themes for humanity’s collective and individual advancement. Learn more about these and more.

What Baha’is Believe

We acknowledge the Traditional Owners of country throughout Australia.

We recognise their continuing connection to land, waters and community. We pay our respects to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and their cultures; and to elders both past and present.

Baha’i Blog is a non-profit independent initiative

The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent authoritative views of the Baha’i Faith.