The idea most central to our lives as Baha’i is that we have entered into a Covenant with Baha’u’llah. As you know, in all religions, after the passing of the Manifestation, His followers had thousands of disputes among themselves and, as a result, split the religion into many sects. The cause of disunity was sometimes the desire for leadership of certain ambitious individuals. But, when differences of opinion arose between even sincere believers about what the words of the Manifestation meant, no one had been authorized by the Manifestation himself to settle the disagreements,and this contributed to conflict and dissension. Each set of interpretations led to the creation of a different sect.
Baha’u’llah has protected his faith against such division by endowing it with a unique power, the power of the covenant. Before his passing, He stated in the clearest terms, in writing, that after him, all Baha’is should turn to ‘Abdu’l-Baha (the Servant of the Glory). His oldest son was thus named the sole interpreter of his words and the center of his covenant. He had been raised by Baha’u’llah himself, had recognized his station even as a child and had shared the sufferings of his father. He was a most precious gift given to humanity, the perfect exemplar of all Baha’i teachings.
‘Abdu’l-Baha lived on this earth for 77 years. He was born of the same night the Bab declared his mission in 1844 and passed away in November 1921. His life was filled with affliction, but to everyone who entered his presence He brought the greatest joy and happiness. After the passing of his father, the responsibility for the Baha’i community fell on his shoulders, and He labored day and night to spread the faith throughout the East and the West.
He wrote thousands of tablets to individuals and groups everywhere and clarified the teaching of his father. His interpretations are now an essential part of writings of the Baha’i Faith.
By focusing on ‘Abdul’l-Baha, as the center of Baha’u’lla’s covenant, the Baha’is of the world remain united in their efforts to live a Baha’i life and to create a new civilization. We remember that as part of our promise to Baha’u’llah , we are to love one another and, in ‘Abdu’l-Baha, we see the perfect example of one who loves.
We remember that we must uphold justice. That we must be generous, that we must overlook the faults of others and from the example of ‘Abdul-Baha we learn those virtues. More than anything else, by keeping our focus on ‘Abdu’l-Baha, we will labor until the oneness of humankind has been firmly established.
In His Will and Testament, ‘Abdu’l-Baha named his grandson the guardian of the faith and after his passing, Shoghi Effendi became the authorized interpreter of the teachings. For 36 years, he continued the work of his grandfather, clarifying the words of the Manifestation and firmly establishing his faith in all parts of the planet.
Five and one-half years after his passing, the Baha’is of the world elected the Universal House of Justice, as envisioned by Baha’u’llah and clearly described by ‘Abdu’l-Baha and the Guardian. The Universal House of Justice is the supreme institution of the faith to which all the Baha’is of the world now turn.
Judi Panetta is a member of the Baha’i faith of Sheridan.