Chapter 8     Chapter 10

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The belief that Muhammad, as "Seal of the Prophets", would be the last of God's Messengers sent to mankind enabled His followers to conclude that the Islamic state would be the last religious nation or people as well. However, the Qur'an itself clearly indicates that the Muslim nation is not the last, but represents an intermediate stage in mankind's spiritual history.
Thus have we made you a central people, that ye may be witnesses in regard to mankind, and that the apostle may be a witness in regard to you. (Surih II, "The Cow", v. 137)

The identification of Muslims as a "central people" is not only stated with respect to the people that went before them, but presupposes that another will follow, in keeping with the principle of continuity of religion confirmed elsewhere in the Qur'an:
O children of Adam! there shall come to you Apostles from among yourselves, rehearsing my signs to you; and who so shall fear God and do good works, no fear shall be upon them, neither shall they be put to grief
(Surih VII, "Al Araf", v. 33)

This verse, addressed to the children of Adam, assures mankind that Apostles will continue to be sent by God, without affirming the continuity of Prophethood.

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In Some Notes on Baha'i Proofs Based on the Qur'an, pp. 5-6, 'Ali Nakhjavani comments:
Another interesting point we find in the Qur'an is the setting forth of a universal principle governing the appearance of the Messengers of God. This principle, which has no exceptions and therefore does not exclude Islam, provides that any people who receive a Messenger of God are given a fixed term or appointed time. At such an appointed time, a Divine Book is revealed by God through His Messenger which seals the past term and starts the new one.

The following verses from the Qur'an are cited in illustration of this view:
Every nation hath its set time. And when their time is
come, they shall not retard it an hour; and they
shall not advance it.1
(Surih VII, "Al Araf", v. 32)

Neither too soon, nor too late, shall a people reach its
appointed time.

(Surih XXIII, "The Believers", v. 45)

... To each age its Book.
What He pleaseth will God abrogate or confirm: for
with Him is the source of revelation.
(Surih XII, "Thunder", vv. 38-9)

The Set Term of the Muslim Nation

The "fixed term" of a nation can be likened to that of an individual, whose life-span becomes known when he passes away, but not prior to it. That the Islamic Dispensation had its own "fixed term" can be found in the interpretation of the figurative verses of

  1. cf. The Revelation of Baha'u'llah, vol. 2, p. 12 Also, in Tablets of Baha'u'llah, p. 149, He states "For every land We have prescribed a portion, for every occasion an allotted share, for every pronouncement an appointed time..."

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the Qur'an, which remained with God and those firmly grounded in knowledge2 until the Promised One came to reveal it. The end of the term of the Muslim nation occurred in the year 1260,3 with the appearance of the Bab and the revelation of His Book, the Bayan. To that event the Qur'an refers in the following verse:
From the Heaven to the Earth He governeth all things: hereafter shall they come up to him on a day whose length shall be a thousand of such years as ye reckon.4
(Surih XXXII, "Adoration", v. 4)

There are two periods included in the Islamic cycle. The second, to which the verse refers, is a span of one thousand lunar years and was a time of "reckoning" of the people to whom the Revelation had been sent. The first period was that of the actual ministry of Muhammad as well as of the twelve Imams who were His descendants, in accordance with the tradition:
I have amongst you two weighty legacies, the Book of God and My Descendants.5

  1. The Imams. For further study of the Imamate as found in Baha'i secondary sources, see H. M. Balyuzi's Muhammad and the Course of Islam, and M. Momen's An Introduction to Shi'i Islam.
  2. The date 1260 in the Muslim calendar is the number of lunar years since the Hijra, or flight of Muhammad from Mecca to Medina in 622 A. D. In the Gregorian calendar, this year is 1844 A. D.
  3. cf. Six Lessons on Islam, p. 33.
  4. This important tradition is one of many cited by Shi'ih theologians as evidence of support for the succession of 'Ali as Imam following the ascension of Muhammad. See An Introduction to Shi'i Islam, p. 16.

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The last of the Imams passed away in the year 260 and then the full period of 1000 years as mentioned in the verse passed before the Bab appeared in 1260 (1844).

        The set term: "Every nation hath 1260 years its set time"
        The Book: "... To each age its Book"
        The Bayan
        "What He pleaseth will God abrogate or confirm ..."

The "Seal of the Prophets" and Islamic Law

Consistent with the belief that Islam is the final religion, Muslims also identify Islamic or Shari'ah Law as the last that will be sent by God to mankind. However, the laws of Islam were sent down as in previous dispensations, as conveyed by the eleventh verse of the Surih of the Counsel,6 differing from one another in accordance with the exigencies of the time, which God in His Wisdom deemed necessary. It is interesting to note that during His ministry, Muhammad modified some of the laws, as evidenced by the changing of the Qiblih, the direction toward which one should face during prayers. In its early period, this spot was Jerusalem. God then commanded the Apostle to turn toward the Ka'bah in Mecca, which then became the Qiblih of the Muslim world.7

  1. See Chapter VI, p. 41.
  2. Baha'u'llah describes this event in the Kitab-i-Iqan, pp. 49-52, and reveals that ". . . God caused not this turmoil, but to test and prove His servants. " See also Muhammad and the Course of Islam, pp. 59-61 and An Introduction to Shi'i Islam, pp. 5-6.

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The foolish ones will say, "What hath turned them from the kebla [Qiblih] which they used? "Say: the East and the West are God's. He guideth whom he will into the straight path."
(Surih II, "The Cow", v. 136)

In the case of alcohol, the prohibition was revealed progressively:8
They will ask thee concerning wine and games of chance. Say: In both is great sin, and advantage also, to men; but their sin is greater than their advantage ....
(Surih II, "The Cow", v. 216)

O ye true believers, come not to prayer when ye are drunken, but wait till ye can understand what ye utter . . .
(Surih IV, "Women", v. 46)

O believers! surely wine and games of chance, and statues, and the divining arrows, are an abomination of Satan's work! Avoid them, that ye may prosper.
(Surih V, "The Table", v. 92)

Thus, within the very period of Muhammad's ministry, there were changes in Islamic laws, representing a gradual unfoldment of divine decree. It can therefore be readily understood how such divinely ordained changes have manifested themselves from one religion to another at different periods of time, to different peoples, and at different places on earth. Just as it was revealed in the Surih of the Counsel that the laws of Islam have been prescribed as those commended to Noah, Abraham, Moses and Jesus, and further ordained that the Muslims should observe the Faith and not be divided, it is clear that while religion

  1. For further study. see Muhammad and the Course of Islam, p. 89, and The Revelation of Baha'u'llah, vol. 354.

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is one, the laws change from one Revelation to another. The absence of logical argument for the concept that Shari'ah Law is eternal becomes apparent through study of the Qur'an itself, which, moreover, refers to different Sacred Scriptures by the same name, despite the claim of finality advanced by followers of earlier religions.
Blessed be He who hath sent down Al Furkan (the illumination) on his servant, that to an creatures he may be a warner.
(Surih XXV, "Al Furkan", v. 1)

We gave of old to Moses and Aaron the illumination [al-Furqan], and a light and a warning for the God-fearing.
(Surih XXI, "The Prophets", v. 49)

In these two verses, both the Qur'an and the Torah are referred to as "Furqan", meaning "criterion" or "illumination", yet the laws in these two Books of God are not all the same. Each Nation Has Its Own Law The Qur'an clearly explains that God has revealed to each people a set of laws to be followed. And to thee we have sent down the Book of the Koran with truth, confirmatory of previous Scriptures, and their safeguard. Judge therefore between them by what God hath sent down, and follow not their desires by deserting the truth which hath come unto thee. To every one of you have we given a rule and a beaten track And if God had pleased He had surely made you all one people; but He would test you by what He hath given to each . . . (Surih V, "The Table", vv. 52-3)

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In these verses, Muhammad was enjoined to judge with the newly revealed law which, by its revelation, superseded those given to mankind in previous dispensations. When one law becomes impractical, another one is revealed to take its place. Not only does the new revelation include a new set of laws, but the rites and observances change too:
To every people have we appointed observances which they observe.
Therefore, let them not dispute this matter with thee, but bid
them to thy Lord, for thou art on the right way:
But if they debate with thee. then Say: God best knoweth what ye
God will judge between you on the day of resurrection, as to
the matters wherein ye differ.
(Surih XXII, " The Pilgrimage", vv. 66-8)

While Muhammad was enjoined to judge by the law that had been revealed to Him, God had promised in the Qur'an that He Himself will judge on the Day of Resurrection concerning matters of difference. For those who doubt that God may abrogate or replace the verses He has revealed, the Qur'an confirms:
Whatever verses we cancel, or cause thee to forget, we bring a better or its like.9 Knowest thou not that God hath power over all things?
(Surih II, "The Cow" v. 100) [2:100]

The Will of God: Mankind as "One Nation"
And if God had pleased He had surely made you all one people...10
(Surih V, "The Table ", v. 53) [5:53]

  1. 'Abdu'l-Baha cites this verse in a Tablet to the Baha'is of Egypt Published in Star of the West, vol. 10, no. 4, p. 73, concerning the renewal of religion, as conveyed in the imagery of creadon and springtime.
  2. See Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, pp. 71-2, in which Baha'u'llah cites this verse in a commentary on the purpose of God in creating man as one "to enable the pure in spirit and the detached in heart to ascend, by virtue of their own innate powers, unto the shores of the Most Great Ocean, that thereby they who seek the beauty of the All-Glorious may be distinguished from the wayward and the perverse..."

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Had thy Lord pleased he would have made mankind of one religion: but those only to whom thy Lord hath granted his mercy will cease to differ.11 And unto this hath He created them ...
(Surih Xl, "Houd" v. 120)

Had God so pleased, He had made them one people and of one creed: but He bringeth whom He will within His mercy; and as for the doers of evil, no patron, no helper shall there be for them.
(Surih XLII, "The Counsel", v. 6)

Had God pleased, He could have made you one people: but He causeth whom He will to err, and whom He will He guideth: and ye shall assuredly be called to account for your doings.
(Surih XVI, "The Bee" v. 95)

Were it the will of God, or as the Arabic language may intimate in such expressions, "when it shall be the will of God", all peoples on earth shall become one nation an event that shall come to pass at a time known only to God and previously appointed by Him. On that Day, all shall be informed of that through which all differences shall be explained and all shall be judged and called to account for their acts.

  1. cf. Selections from the Writings of the Bab, p. 67.

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