readings/prayers for study
“…Bahá’u’lláh hath made the Center of the Covenant the Interpreter of His Word—a Covenant so firm and mighty that from the beginning of time until the present day no religious Dispensation hath produced its like.”
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, cited in The World Order of Bahá’u’lláh p. 136)
- Songs from the Ruhi Institute:
- The Covenant;
- The Promise.
Throughout history, God has sent His Manifestations to educate humanity and to teach His Cause. While these Manifestations were alive, many people became Their followers, and great civilizations arose thanks to Their influence. But when these Manifestations passed on to the spiritual worlds, Their followers were left without guidance. Eventually, with no one to turn to, these followers came to disagree about certain things which were not clear to them. Differences arose, and conflict spread as they fought amongst themselves over who was right. Eventually, they divided into separate groups called sects, and their unity was destroyed.
This did not happen to the followers of Bahá’u’lláh, because of the unique power of the Covenant that He made with His followers. Bahá’u’lláh wrote that after His passing, all of His followers must turn to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá for guidance and refer all of their questions to Him, and eventually, to the Universal House of Justice. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá made the first preparations for the election of the Universal House of Justice, and wrote that after His passing, the followers of Bahá’u’lláh must turn to the Guardian of the Cause, Shoghi Effendi. Shoghi Effendi built on the work of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, and soon after His passing, the Universal House of Justice was elected. In this way, the Covenant ensured that Bahá’ís would always know to whom they should turn for guidance, and it continues to protect the Bahá’í community and preserve its unity.
‘Abdu’l-Bahá has a very special role in the history of the Covenant. He was the unerring Interpreter of Bahá’u’lláh’s Writings, as well as the Perfect Exemplar of His Teachings. He spent His life teaching the Bahá’ís about the Covenant and making sure they understood it. During His travels to the West, He announced His station as the Centre of Bahá’u’lláh’s Covenant, and spent time helping the Western believers to understand what that meant. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s Will and Testament is one of the most important documents we can read to understand the Covenant, because it not only names Shoghi Effendi as the Guardian of the Cause and confirms the role of the Universal House of Justice, but it also helps to explain what the Bahá’í Administrative Order should look like. It is thanks to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s lifelong efforts that the Bahá’í community is what it is today.
- Maze: The Covenant. Also available in French, Spanish, and Vietnamese.
This maze has four “rooms”: one for each of the Universal House of Justice, Shoghi Effendi, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, and Bahá’u’lláh. Children begin the maze at one end and follow it to the other end, going through each “room” in order according to the successive Heads of the Baha’i Faith. This illustrates the Covenant of Bahá’u’lláh.
- Word search: ‘Abdu’l-Baha (PDF).
- Covenant Relay. A relay race is a good way to help children understand how the Covenant operates, as it illustrates the idea of successorship—one person comes after another. If the classroom is too small for children to run around, this activity can take place outdoors or in a gymnasium.
- Artist Monika Ahlkvist Mackenzie produced a lovely colouring page for the Day of the Covenant.
- Covenant collage: If your community has a lot of older, out-of-date Bahá’í picture magazines lying around, cut the photos out of it and ask the children to prepare a collage about the Covenant and the Central Figures of the Bahá’í Faith. If there are many children in class, they can work together in small groups, with each group focusing on one of the Central Figures.
- Shield of the Covenant. Jim at Ruhi Crafts described how a Ruhi Book 8 study circle designed shields to symbolize the Covenant, based on the quote “All-praise to Him Who, by the Shield of His Covenant, hath guarded the Temple of His Cause from the darts of doubtfulness…” You can combine this craft with the Covenant collage, and have the children use the pictures to decorate shields representing each of the Central Figures of the Faith. Alternately, you could ask the children to decorate their shields with drawings of what the Covenant achieves—unity, agreement, cooperation, strength, great accomplishments, and so on.
The Will of the divine Testator is this: It is incumbent upon the Aghsan, the Afnan and My Kindred to turn, one and all, their faces towards the Most Mighty Branch. Consider that which We have revealed in Our Most Holy Book: ‘When the ocean of My presence hath ebbed and the Book of My Revelation is ended, turn your faces toward Him Whom God hath purposed, Who hath branched from this Ancient Root.’ The object of this sacred verse is none other except the Most Mighty Branch [Abdu’l-Bahá]. Thus have We graciously revealed unto you Our potent Will, and I am verily the Gracious, the All-Powerful. Verily God hath ordained the station of the Greater Branch [Muhammad Ali] to be beneath that of the Most Great Branch [Abdu’l-Bahá]. He is in truth the Ordainer, the All-Wise. We have chosen ‘the Greater’ after ‘the Most Great’, as decreed by Him Who is the All-Knowing, the All-Informed. (Bahá’u’lláh, The Kitab-i-Ahd, paragraph 9)
To direct and canalize these forces let loose by this Heaven-sent process, and to insure their harmonious and continuous operation after His ascension, an instrument divinely ordained, invested with indisputable authority, organically linked with the Author of the Revelation Himself, was clearly indispensable. That instrument Bahá’u’lláh had expressly provided through the institution of the Covenant, an institution which He had firmly established prior to His ascension. This same Covenant He had anticipated in His Kitáb-i-Aqdas, had alluded to it as He bade His last farewell to the members of His family, who had been summoned to His bed-side, in the days immediately preceding His ascension, and had incorporated it in a special document which He designated as “the Book of My Covenant,” and which He entrusted, during His last illness, to His eldest son ‘Abdu’l-Bahá.
Written entirely in His own hand; unsealed, on the ninth day after His ascension in the presence of nine witnesses chosen from amongst His companions and members of His Family; read subsequently, on the afternoon of that same day, before a large company assembled in His Most Holy Tomb, including His sons, some of the Báb’s kinsmen, pilgrims and resident believers, this unique and epoch-making Document, designated by Bahá’u’lláh as His “Most Great Tablet,” and alluded to by Him as the “Crimson Book” in His “Epistle to the Son of the Wolf,” can find no parallel in the Scriptures of any previous Dispensation, not excluding that of the Báb Himself. For nowhere in the books pertaining to any of the world’s religious systems, not even among the writings of the Author of the Bábí Revelation, do we find any single document establishing a Covenant endowed with an authority comparable to the Covenant which Bahá’u’lláh had Himself instituted. (God Passes By, p. 237-8)