Generally, an agreement or contract between two or more people, usually formal, solemn, and binding.
The Universal House of Justice
explains, in a letter dated 23 March 1975, that a religious covenant 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 also explains that there are two types of religious covenant: “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. 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.”
In the Bahá’í Dispensation
the Greater Covenant refers to the renewal of God’s ancient Covenant through the appearance of the twin Manifestations of God, the Báb
, and the promise of another Manifestation to come in the future after the passage of at least one thousand years. The Lesser Covenant, in this case, refers to Bahá’u’lláh’s Covenant with His followers, which establishes ‘Abdu’l-Bahá
as the Centre of the Covenant
. It confers upon ‘Abdu’l-Bahá the authority to interpret Bahá’u’lláh’s Writings in order “to perpetuate the influence” of the Faith and to “insure its integrity, safeguard it from schism, and stimulate its world-wide expansion.” The Lesser Covenant also establishes the Guardianship
and the Universal House of Justice as the twin successors of Bahá’u’lláh and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá.