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Christ and Baha'u'llah

by George Townshend

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Chapter 6


      TO the Christians Muḥammad showed the greatest kindness. Insisting that all Muslims should fully accept both Jesus Christ and His Gospel and assuring them in the Qur'án (Sura 5 verse 85) that they would find the Christians nearest of all men to them in affection, He took the Christians under his express protection.

      A remarkable illustration of this is afforded by the charter which Muḥammad granted to the Christians in general and to the monks of the monastery of St. Catherine, near Mount Sinai, in particular, the actual document itself having been faithfully preserved down the centuries by the analysts of Islám.

      Quoting this charter in The Spirit of Islám (p. 84) Syed Ameer 'Alí remarks that it "has been justly designated as one of the noblest monuments of enlightened tolerance that the history of the world can produce," and he calls attention to its marvelous breadth of view and liberality of conception.[1] "By it," he writes, "the Prophet secured to the Christians privileges and immunities which they did not possess even under sovereigns of their own creed; and declared that any Moslem violating and abusing what

1. That this charter represented the firm attitude of tolerance and goodwill which the Prophet was accustomed to show towards Christians may be judged from the terms of a parallel charter to the Christians of Najrán is quoted by the author in the same work on page 273.

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was therein ordered, should be regarded as a violator of God's testament, a transgressor of His commandments, and a slighter of His Faith. He undertook himself, and enjoined on his followers, to protect the Christians, to defend their churches, the residences of their priests, and to guard them from all injuries. They were not to be unfairly taxed; no bishop was to be driven out of his bishopric; no Christian was to be forced to reject his religion; no monk was to be expelled from his monastery; no pilgrim was to be detained from his pilgrimage. Nor were the Christian churches to be pulled down for the sake of building mosques or houses for the Moslems. Christian women married to Moslems were to enjoy their own religion, and not to be subjected to compulsion or annoyance of any kind on that account. If Christians should stand in need of assistance for the repair of their churches or monasteries, or any other matter pertaining to their religion, the Moslems were to assist them. This was not to be considered as taking part in their religion, but as merely rendering them assistance in their need, and complying with the ordinances of the Prophet which were made in their favor by the authority of God and of His Apostle. Should the Moslems be engaged in hostilities with outside Christians, no Christian resident among the Moslems should be treated with contempt on account of his creed. Any Moslem so treating a Christian should be accounted recalcitrant to the Prophet."

      No Christian student reading Muhammad's teachings can miss the fact that His ethical system corrected many of those corruptions which had crept into the Christian Faith of the seventh century. For instance Muḥammad preached an emphatic monotheism in place of a trinitarian

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Godhead. He left no room for that sacerdotalism which had so enervated and distorted the spirit of the Gospel. He encouraged and promoted in the strongest way the pursuit of science and  learning which had become anathema to Christian orthodoxy; He is believed to have said that the ink of the scholar was more holy than the blood of the martyr and to have bidden believers to go as far as China for knowledge if necessary. Instead of endorsing celibacy He honored marriage, home life and home duties and by the stress He laid on the oneness of all believers and the paramount duty of brotherly loyalty He showed His horror of schism.

      So kindly were the relations between the two Faiths and so strong the spiritual influence of Muḥammad that the Christian masses were disposed to accept the Faith of the Arabian Prophet. The Báb indeed says that they were only prevented from doing so by the failure of the clergy "for if these had believed, they would have been followed by the mass of their countrymen." Had it not been for the unfortunate divisive counsel of these Christian priests, history would have been different indeed.

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