|Bahá'ís believe that the
distinctive unity of the Bahá'í Faith stems from a promise from God to humanity that
assures His continuing guidance after the passing of Bahá'u'lláh. This promise is
referred to as the Covenant.
The idea of a
covenant between man and God is, of course, familiar to the followers of many religions.
Many Jews understand that God entered into a covenant with them, promising to guide them
as long as they obeyed His laws. Many Christians, too, understand that Jesus entered into
a new covenant with His followers.
For Bahá'ís, the Covenant made by Bahá'u'lláh
is both a renewal of the promise of Divine guidance and a system that ensures its
continuance. Specifically, the Covenant can be understood to be synonymous with the line
of succession described in the Will and Testament of Bahá'u'lláh. This line goes from
Bahá'u'lláh to His son, `Abdu'l-Bahá, and then from `Abdu'l-Bahá to His grandson,
Shoghi Effendi, and to the Universal House of Justice.
To be faithful to the Covenant of Bahá'u'lláh
is to be obedient to Him as God's Messenger. This means to accept the authority of His
appointed successors and to adhere to the arrangements He made for the advancement of His
Faith. To break the Covenant is to reject or deliberately attempt to usurp or undermine
the authority Bahá'u'lláh has established, while still claiming to be a Bahá'í. Such
an action constitutes an attack on the unity which is the Faith's distinguishing
Anyone who persistently engages in such behavior becomes
known as a Covenant-breaker and is therefore denied access to the Bahá'í community. Such
a person can gain re-admittance through genuine repentance.
Moral shortcomings, such as a failure to conform to Bahá'í
standards, are not a breach of the Covenant.