Islam and the Bahá'í Faith
by Abir Majid2004
The Bahá'í Faith proclaims an underlying oneness that binds all major world religions. All are connected through the unity of their originating source, and the similarities in their core teachings. The different relationships between the Bahá'í Faith and many of these religions are explored at various web sites. The relationship between Islam and the Bahá'í Faith has its own particulars. It is affected by the proximity between the two Faiths in both time and geography.
1. How Bahá'ís View Islam
Even though the Bahá'í Faith is an independent religion and is not a sect of Islam, we find in the writings of Shoghi Effendi (the Guardian of the Bahá'í Faith 1921-1957), much emphasis on the need for Bahá'ís to help correct the many mistaken views about Islam, held by the majority of people in the West:
2. How Muslims view Bahá'ís and the Bahá'í Faith
Obviously opinions will differ with different people according to the extent of one's familiarity with, and knowledge of the Bahá'í Faith. Also, on the extent of one's personal association with Bahá'ís. And here we note that, notwithstanding the very large geographical spread of the Bahá'í Faith, the number of Bahá'ís in the world - except in a few places -, is still very small, and the number of Muslims who have had opportunities to directly know and associate with Bahá'ís, is also very small.
So here we propose a simple idea, for our visitors to think about:
It's an unfortunate fact that a large number of people, especially in the West, have many misconceptions and wrong ideas about Islam and Muslims. The reasons are many for this, including the role of the media and their statistically biased reporting of the negative, with very few positive stories about Islam. But a much more important reason (rather, the most important reason) for this misunderstanding and misinformation, has always (and since the inception of Islam), been the opposition of the Jewish and Christian clergy, and their false accusations and inciting remarks against Muslims and Muslim beliefs, as well as books written by missionaries and influential writers.
And now we see that most of what Muslims know about the Bahá'í Faith at present, is from what other Muslims say, or from what they read in Muslim and other non-Bahá'í sources.
Yet, would it be fair that while Muslims encourage others to learn about Islam and understand it from its own Holy Book, and books written by Muslim scholars, they themselves remain satisfied with what their clergy and others say about the Bahá'í Faith? Without investigating the truth for themselves?
In the Holy Quran we find:
3. The Most Recent among the World's Religions
Bahá'ís believe in the Oneness of God. This leads them to believe in the Oneness of Religion, the "changeless Faith of God, eternal in the past, eternal in the future." In this sense, the Bahá'í Faith is related to all past religions. Its roots however, are in the religion which immediately preceded it, Islam. This relationship is analogous to that between Christianity and Judaism. This has led sometimes to the inaccurate perception of the Bahá'í Faith as a sect of Islam.
Before we go any further, it should be stated that the Bahá'í Faith, unequivocally, and without any hesitation, teaches and asserts the divine origin of Islam. It affirms that the Holy Qur'an is God's revelation, pure and unaltered, and that Muhammad (PBUH) is God's Servant and Messenger and the Seal of the Prophets. People from every religious and ethnic background who embrace the Bahá'í Faith, embrace this belief.
The Bahá'í Faith however, has its own Founder (Bahá'u'lláh), its own holy Books, and its own laws and principles.
The independent nature of the new Faith was first proclaimed during the Conference of Badasht in 1848 when a group of the followers of the Bab (the Herald of the Bahá'í Faith), gathered in the hamlet of Badasht in North East Iran to discuss the nature of their new Faith.
As the new religion first spread in countries predominantly Muslim, many of it's followers maintained the strong ties they had with their Muslim families and friends. Objections, however, often arose in those countries to many of the everyday life observances such as marriages and funerals which were conducted according to Bahá'í laws. Because of these objections, Bahá'ís for example were refused burial in cemeteries which belonged to followers of other religions.
Resulting from one such case, the highest religious court in Egypt, confirmed in 1925, the decision of one of the lower courts, and officially declared the Bahá'í Faith as a separate and independent religion which (according to the court) could not be reconciled with what followers of Islam, of the different schools of thought, believe in:
"The Bahá'í Faith is a new religion, entirely independent, with beliefs, principles and laws of its own, which differ from, and are utterly in conflict with, the beliefs, principles and laws of Islam. No Bahá'í, therefore, can be regarded a Muslim or vice-versa, even as no Buddhist, Brahmin, or Christian can be regarded a Muslim or vice-versa."
It follows that both Bahá'ís, and the Islamic court agree that the Bahá'í Faith is not a sect of Islam.
3a. Some New Laws and Features in the Bahá'í Faith
O ye that dwell on earth! The distinguishing feature that marketh the preeminent character of this Supreme Revelation consisteth in that We have, on the one hand, blotted out from the pages of God's holy Book whatsoever hath been the cause of strife, of malice and mischief amongst the children of men, and have, on the other, laid down the essential prerequisites of concord, of understanding, of complete and enduring unity. Well is it with them that keep My statutes.
While all religions brought principles that can be seen as universally applicable, they varied in their degree of emphasis on different themes. For example Judaism placed much emphasis on the importance of the family and adherence to the law, while Christianity placed a greater emphasis on the theme of love (without diminishing the importance of the law). Love went beyond the family to reach one's neighbor. Through Islam, the warring tribes were united and the concept of nationhood came about. Unity among the believers was encouraged and emphasized.
The emphasis in the Bahá'í Faith has even been greater on the unity and the coming together of all people and all nations as members of one family and citizens of one country.
All principles of the Bahá'í Faith revolve around, and work towards this principle of the "oneness of Mankind".
While this theme in its essence in neither new, nor unique to the Bahá'í Faith, there remained many barriers which stood in the way of its implementation and successful realization. Concepts like the "religious uncleanness" of certain peoples and casts for example, stood in the way of this unity. Marriage restrictions among people of different religions was another barrier. Lack of agreement on successorship to the Founders of religion, resulted in factions and sects which often resulted in bloody wars.
Among the new ordinances and teachings in the Bahá'í Faith intended to facilitate the realization of the unity of all people, we find: " . . .
In this section we look at a few examples of what might have contributed throughout the ages to what may now be perceived as an atmosphere of separation or division between "believers", and "non believers" (or the "us" and "them" attitude). We also see examples of the Bahá'í teachings related to these topics.
"O ye who believe! truly the pagans are unclean; so let them not after this year of theirs approach the Sacred Mosque. And if ye fear poverty soon will Allah enrich you if He wills out of his bounty for Allah is All-Knowing, All-Wise."
"They will swear by Allah unto you, when ye return unto them, that ye may let them be. Let them be, for lo! they are unclean, and their abode is hell as the reward for what they used to earn."
"It is not for any soul to believe save by the permission of Allah. He hath set uncleanness upon those who have no sense."
"Consort with all religions with amity and concord, that they may inhale from you the sweet fragrance of God. Beware lest amidst men the flame of foolish ignorance overpower you. All things proceed from God and unto Him they return. He is the source of all things and in Him all things are ended."
"God hath, likewise, as a bounty from His presence, abolished the concept of "uncleanness", whereby divers things and peoples have been held to be impure. He, of a certainty, is the Ever-Forgiving, the Most Generous. Verily, all created things were immersed in the sea of purification when, on that first day of Ridvan, We shed upon the whole of creation the splendours of Our most excellent Names and Our most exalted Attributes. This, verily, is a token of My loving providence, which hath encompassed all the worlds. Consort ye then with the followers of all religions, and proclaim ye the Cause of your Lord, the Most Compassionate; this is the very crown of deeds, if ye be of them who understand."
Ye are the fruits of one tree, and the leaves of one branch. Deal ye one with another with the utmost love and harmony, with friendliness and fellowship.
"It is permitted that the peoples and kindreds of the world associate with one another with joy and radiance. O people! Consort with the followers of all religions in a spirit of friendliness and fellowship. Thus hath the day-star of His sanction and authority shone forth above the horizon of the decree of God, the Lord of the Worlds."
"This day are (all) things good and pure made lawful unto you. The food of the People of the Book is lawful unto you and yours is lawful unto them. (Lawful unto you in marriage) are (not only) chaste women who are believers, but chaste women among the People of the Book, revealed before your time,- when ye give them their due dowers, and desire chastity, not lewdness, nor secret intrigues if any one rejects faith, fruitless is his work, and in the Hereafter he will be in the ranks of those who have lost (all spiritual good)."
"Do not marry unbelieving women (idolaters) until they believe; a slave woman who believes is better than an unbelieving woman even though she allure you. Nor marry (your girls) to unbelievers until they believe: a man slave who believes is better than an unbeliever even though he allure you. Unbelievers do (but) beckon you to the fire. But Allah beckons by His grace to the Garden (of Bliss) and forgiveness and makes His Signs clear to mankind: that they may celebrate His praise."
"O ye who believe! when there come to you believing women refugees examine (and test) them: Allah knows best as to their Faith: if ye ascertain that they are Believers then send them not back to the Unbelievers. They are not lawful (wives) for the Unbelievers nor are the (Unbelievers) lawful (husbands) for them. But pay the Unbelievers what they have spent (on their dower). And there will be no blame on you if ye marry them on payment of their dower to them. But hold not to the guardianship of unbelieving women: ask for what ye have spent on their dowers and let the (Unbelievers) ask for what they have spent (on the dowers of women who come over to you). Such is the command of Allah: He judges (with justice) between you: and Allah is Full of Knowledge and Wisdom."
"...ye are at liberty to enter into wedlock as ye wish, that haply by this means ye may exalt the Cause of God." Thus hath the Nightingale sung with sweet melody upon the celestial bough, in praise of its Lord, the All-Merciful. Well is it with them that hearken."
"They that are endued with sincerity and faithfulness should associate with all the peoples and kindreds of the earth with joy and radiance, inasmuch as consorting with people hath promoted and will continue to promote unity and concord, which in turn are conducive to the maintenance of order in the world and to the regeneration of nations."
"In every dispensation, there hath been the commandment of fellowship and love, but it was a commandment limited to the community of those in mutual agreement, not to the dissident foe. In this wondrous age, however, praised be to God, the commandments of God are not delimited, not restricted to any one group of people, rather have all the friends been commanded to show forth loving-kindness to every community on earth."
"In all religious teachings of the past, the human world has been represented as divided into two parts, one known as the people of the Book of God or the pure tree and the other the people of infidelity and error or the evil tree. The former were considered as belonging to the faithful and the others to the hosts of the irreligious and infidel; one part of humanity the recipients of divine mercy and the other the object of the wrath of their Creator... Bahá'u'lláh removed this by proclaiming the oneness of the world of humanity."
3b. An Introduction to the Bahá'í Faith
From the Soc.Religion.Bahai usenet news service
Some of the basic principles of the Bahá'í Faith are:
"It is not for him to pride himself who loveth his own country, but rather for him who loveth the whole world. The earth is but onecountry and mankind its citizens."
- Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, p. 250
"All these divisions we see on all sides, all these disputes and opposition, are caused because men cling to ritual and outward observances, and forget the simple, underlying truth. It is the outward practices of religion that are so different, and it is they that cause disputes and enmity -- while the reality is always the same, and one. The Reality is the Truth, and truth has no division. Truth is God's guidance, it is the light of the world, it is love, it is mercy. These attributes of truth are also human virtues inspiredby the Holy Spirit."
- 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Paris Talks, pp. 120-1
"Furthermore, know ye that God has created in man the power of reason, whereby man is enabled to investigate reality. God has not intended man to imitate blindly his fathers and ancestors. He has endowed him with mind, or the faculty of reasoning, by the exercise of which he is to investigate and discover the truth, and that which he finds real and true he must accept."
- 'Abdu'l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 291
"He (Bahá'u'lláh) sets forth a new principle for this day in the announcement that religion must be the cause of unity, harmony and agreement among mankind. If it be the cause of discord and hostility,if it leads to separation and creates conflict, the absence of religion would be preferable in the world."
- 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Bahá'í World Faith, p. 247
Bahá'ís view religion as a progressive, evolutionary process which needs to be updated as humanity evolves mentally, socially, and spiritually. Every so often a new Prophet is sent to humanity to update religion to the current needs of mankind. These Prophets bring essentially the same spiritual message to mankind; in a form that meets the needs of the people of Their time. Bahá'ís believe that Bahá'u'lláh has brought an updated message for mankind today.
"There is no distinction whatsoever among the Bearers of My Message. They all have but one purpose; their secret is the same secret. To prefer one in honor to another, to exalt certain ones above the rest, is in no wise to be permitted. Every true Prophet hath regarded His Message as fundamentally the same as the Revelation of every other Prophet gone before Him... The measure of the revelation of the Prophets of God in this world, however, must differ. Each and every one of them hath been the Bearer of a distinct Message, and hath been commissioned to reveal Himself through specific acts. It is for this reason that they appear to vary in their greatness... It is clear and evident, therefore, that any apparent variation in the intensity of their light is not inherent in the light itself, but should rather be attributed to the varying receptivity of an ever-changing world. Every Prophet Whom the Almighty and Peerless Creator hath purposed to send to the peoples of the earth hath been entrusted with a Message, and charged to act in a manner that would best meet the requirements of the age in which He appeared."
- Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, pp.78-9
"Religion and science are the two wings upon which man's intelligence can soar into the heights, with which the human soul can progress. It is not possible to fly with one wing alone! Should a man try to fly with the wing of religion alone he would quickly fall into the quagmire of superstition, whilst on the other hand, with the wing of science alone he would also make no progress, but fall into thedespairing slough of materialism."
- 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p.143
In the Bahá'í Faith, difference of opinion is not squelched, in fact it is encouraged.
"The shining spark of truth cometh forth only after the clash of differing opinions."
- Selections from the Writings of `Abdu'l-Bahá, p.87
However, differences of opinion can be expressed in a way that doesn't humiliate another human being. The Bahá'í principle of consultation requires that an individual be detached from his or her opinions and always be open to the truth, from whoever or wherever it comes from.
"They must then proceed with the utmost devotion, courtesy, dignity, care and moderation to express their views. They must in every manner search out the truth and not insist upon their own opinion, for stubbornness and persistence in one's views will lead ultimately to discord and wrangling and the truth will remain hidden. The honored members (of the consulting body) must with all freedom express theirown thoughts, and it is in no wise permissible for one to belittle the thought of another, nay, he must with moderation set forth the truth..."
- Selections from the Writings of `Abdu'l-Bahá, p.88
"It behoveth the sovereigns of the world -- may God assist them -- or the ministers of the earth to take counsel together and to adopt one of the existing languages or a new one to be taught to children in schools throughout the world, and likewise one script. Thus the whole earth will come to be regarded as one country."
- Bahá'u'lláh, Tablet of Bisharat (Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh, p. 22.)
"Unto every father hath been enjoined the instruction of his son and daughter in the art of reading and writing and in all that hath been laid down in the Holy Tablet. He that putteth away that which is commanded unto him, the Trustees of the House of Justice are then to recover from him that which is required for their instruction, if he be wealthy, and if not the matter devolveth upon the House of Justice. Verily, have We made it a shelter for the poor and needy. He that bringeth up his son or the son of another, it is as though he hath brought up a son of Mine; upon him rest My Glory, My Loving-Kindness, My Mercy, that have compassed the world."
- Bahá'u'lláh, Tablet of Ishraqat (Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh, p.128)
"...again, as to religious, racial, national and political bias: all these prejudices strike at the very root of human life; one and all they beget bloodshed, and the ruination of the world. So long as these prejudices survive, there will be continuous and fearsome wars."
- Selections from the Writings of `Abdu'l-Bahá, p.249
"To accept and observe a distinction which God has not intended in creation is ignorance and superstition. The fact which is to be considered, however, is that woman, having formerly been deprived, must now be allowed equal opportunities with man for education and training. There must be no difference in their education. Until the reality of equality between man and woman is fully established and attained, the highest social development of mankind is not possible."
- 'Abdu'l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p.76
"O Ye Rich Ones on Earth! The poor in your midst are My trust; guard ye My trust, and be notintent only on your own ease."
- The Hidden Words of Bahá'u'lláh,p.41
"We see amongst us men who are overburdened with riches on the one hand, and on the other those unfortunate ones who starve with nothing; those who possess several stately palaces, and those who have not where to lay their head. Some we find with numerous courses of costly and dainty food; whilst others can scarce find sufficient crusts to keep them alive. Whilst some are clothed in velvets, furs and fine linen, others have insufficient, poor and thin garments with which to protect them from the cold. This condition of affairs is wrong and must be remedied. Now the remedy must be carefully undertaken."
- 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 151
"The time must come when the imperative necessity for the holding of a vast, an all-embracing assemblage of men will be universally realized. The rulers and kings of the earth must needs attend it, and, participating in its deliberations, must consider such ways and means as will lay the foundations of the world's Great Peace amongst men. Such a peace demandeth that the Great Powers should resolve, for the sake of the tranquillity of the peoples of the earth, to be fully reconciled among themselves. Should any king take up arms against another, all should unitedly arise and prevent him. If this be done, the nations of the world will no longer require any armaments, except for the purpose of preserving the security of their realms and of maintaining internal order within their territories."
- Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, p. 249
In May of 1844, a young Persian by the name of Siyyid `Ali Muhammad declared that He was the promised Qa'im of Shi'ah Islam. He assumed the title of The Bab (Gate). The Bab's mission was twofold: He first announced to the people of His native land His own station as an independent Messenger and He also prepared the way for the coming of another Manifestation (messenger) of God, a Prophet who would announce His station soon after The Bab.
The next six years marked a dramatic increase in both the number of persons who became followers of the Bab and in the energy spent by the Shi'ah clergy of Iran to stamp out this new religion. Eventually 20,000 Babis would be put to death for their beliefs. The Bab Himself was imprisoned and was executed in July of 1850.
Many Babis were also imprisoned. Among them was Husayn-`Ali, entitled Bahá'u'lláh (The Glory of God) by The Bab. Imprisoned for several months in 1853 in Tehran and then exiled to Iraq, in the city of Baghdad in 1863 Bahá'u'lláh announced to the world His station as the One for Whom the Bab had prepared the way. The majority of the Babis accepted Bahá'u'lláh's claim and became known as Bahá'ís (the followers of Baha).
Shortly after His declaration, Bahá'u'lláh was again banished, even further From His native land: from Baghdad to Constantinople, and then to Adrianople. Finally in 1867, Bahá'u'lláh was exiled for the last time. He was sent to the prison city of Akka (Acre) in Palestine. He would stay in and around Akka until the end of His life in 1892.
Before Bahá'u'lláh passed away, He appointed His eldest son, `Abdu'l-Bahá, to be the center of His Covenant and the interpreter of His writings. `Abdu'l-Bahá was leader of the Bahá'í Faith until His own passing in 1921. Although He is not considered to be a Manifestation of God like the Bab and Bahá'u'lláh, `Abdu'l-Bahá's decisions are believed to have been divinely guided and His writings (along with the Bab's and Bahá'u'lláh's) are considered a part of the Bahá'í sacred scripture. After being released from the prison in Akka, `Abdu'l-Bahá made several journeys to the West, including a trip to America in 1912.
Recent History and Current Status
`Abdu'l-Bahá stated in his Will and Testament that leadership of the Bahá'í community was to be passed on to his eldest grandson, Shoghi Effendi, who became the "Guardian" of the Bahá'í community after `Abdu'l-Bahá died. Shoghi Effendi led the Bahá'ís until his passing in 1957. It was under Shoghi Effendi's leadership that the Bahá'í Faith spread to all corners of the world. Today there are Bahá'ís in over 200 countries and territories and Bahá'í literature has been translated into over 700 different languages.
Consistent with the Bahá'í principle of independent investigation of truth, according to which no individual Bahá'í may offer an interpretation of the Bahá'í Writings by which others are bound, there is no clergy in the Bahá'í Faith. Bahá'í institutions govern the administrative affairs of the Faith. In each locality, nine-member boards known as Local Spiritual Assemblies are elected annually. At the national level are National Spiritual Assemblies, also consisting of nine members, elected annually by representatives of the Bahá'ís in each country. At the international level is the Universal House of Justice, centered in Haifa, Israel (just across the bay from the prison city of Akka, where Bahá'u'lláh and `Abdu'l-Bahá were imprisoned). The Universal House of Justice also consists of nine members and is elected every five years by members of the National Spiritual Assemblies throughout the world. The Universal House of Justice has final responsibility for overseeing the international Bahá'í community.
4. Seal of the Prophets
Beseech God, and let your prayerful attitude and a clean heart guide you to see the meanings in God's words.
The word "Seal" (kha'tam in Arabic), in the verse above, has been interpreted over the centuries to mean the: "Last", "Final", "Seal" (as in a stamp sealing closed a document), "Seal" (as in seal of authority, officiating a document), and a few other meanings along similar lines of interpretation. Bahá'ís don't object to these possible meanings, and readily believe in the more common interpretation of: (Seal meaning Last), as Muhammad (PBUH) is repeatedly referred to in the Bahá'í Writings. This may at first appear contrary to believing that there is a new religion, but the visitor is invited to read further.
Followers of all past religions have believed, based on certain verses in their holy books, that their religion would not be followed by any other.
Verses such as this have prevented the Jews from accepting newer revelations:
Another verse in the Old Testament says that the law of the Sabbath shall not be broken.
* * * * *
For our Christian brothers and sisters, it was verses such as these below, which lead them to believe that there would not be any revelation after that of Christ:
These and many other verses (see below) that talk about, how only through Jesus (PBUH) we can know the Father, and how His words will never be replaced, were the reason that Christians would not accept any Messenger after Christ.
Going back to the meaning of the "Seal of the Prophets", this verse, and other verses about the completion of religion in Islam, have been interpreted by the majority of Muslims as indication of the finality, not only of Prophethood, but of all revelation. Other opinions and interpretations, including some by Muslim scholars, have argued that since there are many other verses in the Qur'an which explain the endless nature of the Words of God, in addition to other verses and Hadiths (traditions and sayings of the Prophet), which talk about the return of Jesus and the coming of the Mahdi, these opinions, have argued that there may be other interpretations for these verses. Some of these interpretations are mentioned below.
Some of these verses were interpreted as indicating finality of revelation in the Bible, and some caused the people to fear and suspect future Prophets:
Disclaimer on Interpretation
The meanings are inexhaustible in the words of God. The Holy Qur'an is said to be loaded (pregnant) with meanings (Hammalatu Ma'ani in Arabic). Let your prayerful attitude and a clean heart guide you to see the meaning in God's words.
4a. Oneness of the Prophets
Anas ibn Malik said,
[Bihar'ul-Anwar vol. 7 by Majlesi, cited from Riyaz ul Janan by Fazl'u'llah ibn Mahmood al-Faresi] In this section of the book there are several references based on similar ahadith. Other Shi'ah scholars such as Allamih Kulaini in the book of Kafi and Mohsen Fayz Kashani in Tafseer-e Safi refer to the same set of ahadith with similar interpretations.
Narrated Abu Huraira:
Sahih-Volume 4, Book 55, Number 652:
Salman al-Farsi (RA) narrated that:
Also see point 5 in
the previous section
Bahá'u'lláh on the Oneness of the Prophets
4b. Difference in Station between a Messenger (Rasool), and Prophet (Nabi)
Opinions have differed on whether the word "Rasool" (Messenger
/Apostle), and the word "Nabi" (Prophet), are interchangeable.
Notwithstanding the fact that Muhammad (PBUH) was both a Prophet and a
Messenger, there obviously are differences, at least in definition, between
the two words. Some people argue that the term "Seal of the Prophets"
does not apply to Messengers, while others have argued that all Prophets
by definition, are Messengers as well, which would mean that by sealing
prophethood, messengership is also sealed.
One definition of "Messenger" given, is that a Messenger brings a revelation, a religion. The following verse from the Qur'an is repeated three times, always with the word "Rasool":
Only a few Individuals mentioned in the Qur'an are called Messengers. In chapter 61 of the Qur'an (Al-Saf), in verses 4,5, and 8, the word "Rasool" is used for Moses, Jesus and Muhammad (PBU Them). All Three were law bearing Messengers with Books and Revelation (Deen).
In the Holy Qur'an, we find many more names of prophets mentioned than of Messengers. Some of these names are, Isaac, Jacob, Ismael, Idris, David, Solomon and many many others (PBU Them all). They were all prophets, and non of Them came with a new religion. It is also interesting to read in the following verse that those who obey the Messenger, will be in the company of the prophets and the saints (who also obey the Messenger):
Another definition of the term "prophet" (nabi) is that prophets (such as the minor prophets of Judaism), received their inspiration usually in the form of dreams:
In the same book(Usul al-Kafi), 439-1 states:
More to consider:
Allamih Majlesi in Bihar'ul-Anvar Vol 13, p.323 mentions one of the discourses of Imam Ali. In that discourse Ali says: "I am the Commander of the faithful. I am the King among the pious..... I am the Khatam'u-Vasieen [which can be either taken as "The Seal of the guardians and successors", or, as "The Ornament of the Guardians and successors".] and the heir of the prophets and the representative of the God of the worlds."
This Hadith is referred to as the Hadith Nuraniah as is reported by several people such as Ibn Babyih (Sheikh Sadooq) in "Uyoon'ul-Akhbar Ar-Rida".
This tradition of Imam Ali is a very interesting. One must be fair in
one's judgment. If we are to take, in this tradition, the term "Khatam" as "the Seal", "the ender", "one
who completes", then one is obliged to accept that Ali was "the
seal of the guardians,
and successors", after Muhammad, Who is the Seal of the prophets.
Yet, Shi'ahs believe that after Muhammad there was
supposed to be twelve Imams, only the first of Whom was Ali. So, assuming
that the term Khatam in Khatam'u-Vasieen must
have a similar meaning to the term Khatam in Khatam'u- Nabieen, then one
is to question why were there more Imams after
Ali. How are we to reconcile the existence of the other Imams, Who came
after Ali, based on this interpretation? Let this be
food for thought for the possessors of pure heart and open mind.
The same book quotes from Dorr'ul-Mansoor of Allamih Jallal'u-Din Suyutti, who quotes Ayeshih, the wife of Muhammad, who said: "Say KhatAm-un-Nabeein (i.e. The Ring or Ornament of the Prophets), and never say no prophets shall come after Him (i.e. Muhammad)".
One can find the same references in the commentary of Kashaaf, by Zamakhshari, who says: "Muhammad, the Messenger of God, was called Khatam'u-Nabieen, since, He did not have any male offsprings to inherit prophethood from Him." He goes on and presents a Hadith from Prophet Muhammad who says about His deceased son Abraham (from Marieh, the Egyptian wife of Muhammad): "If my son Abraham was alive, he would have been a Nabi (i.e. He would have become a Nabi after Me.)". However, all of Muhammad's male offsprings die in early childhood, thus, the verse of the Qur'an: "Muhammad is not the father of any man among you...." comes into fulfillment, and Muhammad become Khatam'u-Nabieen, according to the same verse."
Abo'l-Bagha, another trusted Sunni source discusses this issue in his book, "Mofeed", from the same angle, which I will not quote here in order to prevent excessive repetition of the same idea.
It is apparent from what has been mentioned at length, that both Shi'ah and Sunni sources agree that:
Let me close this note with the view of Abol-Fada'il-i Golpayegani, a prominent Bahá'í scholar, from a Muslim background, who, in his book Fara'id addresses the question of Khatam'u-Nabieen as follows: "No wonder if the learned of Islam too, argue against the renewal of revelation from God [like their predecessors, Jews and Christians, who are firmly convinced that their respective religions are the final revelation from God], based on such references as: Khatam'u-Nabeein, or such traditions as: "There shall be no prophet after me....", and by doing so become subjected to a test of faith; and join their predecessors [Jews and Christians]. Not realizing that the purpose of Muhammad in using the term Khatam'u-Nabeein was to suggest the progress of the Islamic nation, and unveil the ascendancy of the station of the Imams in comparison to the prophets of Israel. It is clear to those who are familiar with the Scriptures of the past, who are aware of the events which are associated with the histories of the nations of antiquity that the prophets of Israel, such as Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, Ezekiel, Zechariah, etc... one and all prophesied about the future events according to dreams and visions. And they interpreted their vision or dream as a revelation from God. As a result, the book of these prophets became known as the vision of Isaiah, vision of Daniel, vision of Jeremiah, and vision of Ezekiel. By the same token, if we are to examine this issue from a Christian perspective, the Revelation of St. John is in essence the Dream of John. As a result the term Nabi (Prophet) was given to the ones who prophesied based on visions, or dreams. This usage was solidified during the Jewish and Christians dispensations. However, after the appearance of Prophet Muhammad (Khatam'ul-Anbia), the ender of the prophetic cycle, the era of revelation from God "through the medium of dreams and visions" was ended and a new era of "revelation through direct inspiration" had begun. Viewed from this perspective, we can see that the tradition; "There will be no prophets after me..." was a true statement. -Fara'id, p. 311
* Excerpts from an article
written by Kamran Hakim
4c. Renewal of Creation
One way to think of the finality of Prophethood may be, that Muhammad
(PBUH), is the Seal of the Prophets until the Day of Resurrection. Whether
this means the physical end of the world is discussed further under the
topic: Day of Judgment.
The possible nearness of the Hour, may give more validity to the notion that there is no further need for divine guidance since the world is coming to an end very soon anyway.
Others insist that only God knows the time of the end, and it is quite possible that life on this planet may continue for millennia to come. Many of this second group insist however, that the laws of Islam are valid and appropriate for all people, for all times, and all places. When it is pointed out to them that there have not been any societies or countries which practice the Islamic way of life according to the Shari'a (Islamic Jurisprudence) for quite some time now, these people insist that Islam will have a second zenith, even as it had its first zenith during the middle ages when the Islamic Khalifate ruled from Spain to the boarders of China.
* * * * *
* * * * *
4d. Prophethood is not to Continue in the Same Fashion as was During the Judaic Dispensation
Some hadith (tradition of the Prophet) may indicate, that the sealing
of the office of prophethood, is to be understood in the light of the
manner of, how guidance was continued in previous dispensations, and how
that method was changed in Islam.
This issue may be best understood when we study the historical context and the circumstances of the revelation of verse 33:40. Most importantly, the verse itself should not be taken out of the context of the Sura (chapter) which it is a part of.
The Prophet (PBUH), had adopted Zaid ibn Al-Haritha and treated him as His own son and made him part of His household. The people started calling him Zaid ibn Muhammad. Verses 4 and 5 of the same sura, clearly discourage such practice:
As people were using the name Zaid ibn Muhammad, the expectation of some was also that he would become His successor, as had been the case the prophets of the children of Israel.
When Zaid divorced his wife, who later was married to the Prophet (PBUH), many people objected to this and expressed their displeasure that He would marry His "son's" divorced wife, verse 33:40 made it clear that Zaid was neither the Prophet's son nor was he or anyone else to be a prophet after Him.
When chapter 33 is read in its entirety, this issue becomes much clearer.
4e. Passages from Bahá'í Writings on the subject
Notwithstanding the fact that all the Messengers of God were different individuals, Bahá'ís believe that the Reality of all these Messengers is one and the same in the sense that They all came to reveal aspects of the same Truth, and to help us learn about the one and same God. This is an aspect of the concept of the Oneness of God (Tawheed). In this sense, They were all the beginning and the end as Jesus (PBUH) proclaimed that He was the Alpha and the Omega.
5. Completion of Religion
This verse was revealed when the Prophet (PBUH) was on His way back from His last pilgrimage to Mecca (Hujjatu'l Wida'). It is said to be the last verse of the Qur'an to be revealed. It was later included in Suratu'l Ma'ideh (chapter 5) which was originally revealed around the year six or seven AH.
This verse has been referred to as complementary to verse 33:40 which describes Muhammad (PBUH) as being the "Seal of the prophets", in that the two verses support the notion that Islam is the final religion. Verse 33:40 has been addressed in other pages on this site.
As we look at the topic of the completion of religion in the light of the whole Qur'an, we find that religion is described as being completed, in quite a few verses (in addition to verse 5:3).
For instance, we find that God's favor was completed at the time of Abraham, Isaac, and Joseph:
We also find that God completed His favor through Moses:
According to the Qur'an, the completion of the favor is also conditional upon the individual's success in obeying and fearing God:
Some argue however, that while "completion" of the favor may not be unique to Muslims, "perfection" of the religion is.This is a matter of interpretation, and it certainly is the prerogative of the translators to have chosen the word "perfected" for the Arabic word "akmaltu". For Arabs (and others familiar with the language) however, while the word definitely conveys the meaning of perfection, and wholeness, it is also very often used to mean "completion" as we find in verses: 2:185, 2:196, 2:233, and 16:25 among others.
This same theme has also caused followers of other religions to believe that their religion was complete, not only for the duration it was destined, but for all times. For example we see that for the Christians, the favors of God were also completed on humanity through Jesus:
It is also necessary to remember, that both completeness and perfection are among God's attributes, integral to His Essence (magnified be His name). It would be blasphemous to doubt that any of His actions and doings or favors, would be anything but complete and perfect:
Question: If God has always supplied us with all provisions and needs for every journey we have undertaken, does this in any way preclude His aid and assistance in future journeys? Does it preclude the possibility itself of future journeys?
As to the mention of Islam as the chosen religion in the same verse (5:3), it is important to remember that while Islam happens to be the religion of "Muslims", it is also described in numerous verses in the Qur'an as the religion of submission to God, a term much more general, and includes all who submit themselves and will to God.
Let us also take the Qur'an as a whole entity, and remember the verses which explain that there is a set time for every nation and a set book. Let us also remember to examine the verses which tell us that the words of God are endless and can not be encompassed in one book.
Let us not forget either the verses that speak of Messengers to come.
6. Islam. The Religion of Submission to God
This translation of verse [3:85] is by the well known scholar ('Abdullah) Yusuf Ali. In his commentary on this verse (note: 418), Mr. Yusuf Ali writes:
Many verses in the Holy Qur'an explain the meaning of Islam as the one religion of God, revealed to all prophets. Islam is not Muhammdanism. It is the religion of submission to God, though it also is by name, the religion of Muslims.
7. The Best Ummah
Muslims for centuries rightly claimed this distinction. When the rest of the world rejected God's latest Messenger, the Muslims obeyed God and accepted Him. When the rest of the world was in the dark ages, Muslims ruled from the shores of Spain to the boarders of China, during which time, the arts and sciences flourished. and the people enjoyed an atmosphere of relative peace and justice.
Followers of other religions have claimed this same honor as well. The Jews have always called themselves "God's Chosen People". The Qur'an itself speaks of a time when this was the case:
Yet when Jesus (PBUH) came and they refused to accept him, God conferred the honor on the Christians instead:
When Muhammad (PBUH) came in fulfillment of the promises of previous religions, to bring new life and new teachings and bring people together in unity, He was rejected by most of the followers of the earlier religions. Those who followed Him became blessed with the new distinction.
As we read the rest of verse 3:110 however, we may understand that this honor and distinction of being the best of nations, rather than being an absolute, is conditional on, or associated with a certain code of conduct:
The relative nature of this statement, may be further understood in the light of other verses in the Qur'an such as:
The Muslim Ummah can only continue to claim to be the best of nations if it continues to live by the teachings of God.The purpose of all religion has been to bring people together in love and unity like brothers and sisters. This is stated in beauty and perfection and in the most eloquent speech in this verse:
God makes it very clear that He abhors divisions, conflicts, and hatred. A people divided, can not even claim to be followers of the Prophet (PBUH):
When the Jews were the only ones who believed in the One True God, they were called His chosen people. When the Christians were the only ones who recognized the glory of Christ, they became His beloved. Neither of the two peoples however, continued in their practices, or showed the same devotion and obedience to the teachings as they did in earlier times. For that we read:
God in His mercy, issued warnings to the Muslims, so they wouldn't make the same mistakes:
Moreover, dividing the Ummah (community) into sects is even likened to joining partners with God (shirk), as each sect becomes enamored with its own teachings, and a slave to its own doctrine. God tells us:
How about the political (non-sectarian) disunity and hatred among nations calling themselves Muslim by name, yet because of greed and love for power and wealth, have fought amongst themselves causing wars and bloodshed?:
So, can we say today that as a nation, the Muslim Ummah, has continued to adhere to the laws of God, remaining worthy of the honor of being the best of nations?
Narrated Sahl bin Sad:
Prophet Muhammad said:
Will there be reformers from within the Ummah who will bring back the lost glory, unite the people, and regain the privilege of being the best of nations? God tells us in His Holy Book:
8. God's Covenant
The word covenant is used in different accounts in the Holy Qur'an to describe many kinds of relationships and agreements.
In many verses for example, we read about God's ancient covenant with mankind, that in return for God's protection, favors and guidance, we need to abide by His laws, live according to His commandments and accept and obey His Messengers.
God's Covenant with Mankind:
Part of this covenant is to accept God's Messengers:
Another translation of this verse (by Yusuf Ali) is:
And another translation:
All of these translations convey the feeling of inevitability portrayed in the Arabic "imma ya’ti yannakum", a form of the future tense of the verb "to come" used to impart emphasis.
Does this verse include Muslims? It would seem that the term "children of Adam" should be inclusive of all people.
This covenant is established through allegiance to the Messenger, and through obedience to the Teachings He brings:
God has also made a Covenant with His Prophets:
This covenant with the prophets is explained in this verse:
9. Al-Qiyamah (The Resurrection)
Muslim Scholars speak of three types of resurrection:
It is this third type of resurrection, which is addressed in this page.
The Day of Judgment
The Day of Judgment, Al-Qiyamah, Yawmu’l Deen, (also known as the, Day of the Gathering, Day of Meeting God, the Resurrection, and The Great Announcement), is a major theme, the Grand Promise, addressed not only in the Qur'an, but also in the Scriptures of other major religions. Opinions may have differed on specifics, yet there is a common consensus, that the Day of Judgment is a time of momentous upheaval, and calamity and, to many people, it is the time of the end of the world.
Another notion which many seem to agree on, is that everyone would readily recognize that Day (for how could anyone remain unaware of such a momentous event?)
This is an attempt to examine what different verses in the Qur'an (and some hadith) tell us about Al-Qiyamah. It is also a humble attempt to reconcile what might appear as, differing descriptions of the event (even to the point of contradiction at face value). The focus is on taking the Qur'an in its entirety rather than picking and choosing specific and isolated verses to the exclusion of other verses or ignoring them.
9a. General Signs and Descriptions of the Day of Judgment
From the Qur'an, we may learn that: this event is inevitable, there is a set time for it (no delays), all people would expire (with maybe some exceptions?), then they would be brought back to life (the rise of the dead). We also learn that on the Day of Judgment, God would come with angels at His side, and we would be meeting Him, and judgment would be passed on each individual. We would also have warnings and announcements preceding it, and we learn that Jesus would be one of the Signs of the Hour:
9b. Can People Miss Such an Event?
With all the clear signs, it may be of interest (though hard to believe) to read that many would not even be aware of what would be happening, (as if dead or in deep slumber):
9c. The Resurrection
Let us examine the part about the Rising of the Dead, which was one of the points of contention with the unbelievers at the time of the Prophet, as in the verse:
In order to understand how this would happen, and to answer some questions like: what form would these bodies be in? Would people resemble how they were at the hour of their death or as they were in their prime? Would some be old and feeble during the March, while others may be infants and would need to be carried? And what about bodies that might have through the ages been broken down to their elements, and the elements are shared with other bodies or objects?
Can we find clues in the Qur'an itself? Some verses indicate that maybe the rising of the dead has happened in the past as well:
A similar kind of death, describes the condition of the unbelievers or those who join partners with God (mushrikeen):
9d. The End of the World
As to the issue of the calamitous destruction of the earth and the end of the world, the falling of the stars, and the fires and the floods; we find that there are many verses which have lead to the common belief that the physical world would be destroyed as the believers are taken to live in heaven for eternity, and the ungodly, in hell. However, the need arises to reconcile this belief, with verses which may indicate that, rather than the destruction of this earth, there will be a transformation, and that what we picture as living in paradise or in hell, may not of a necessity have to do with the physical destruction of the earth:
9e. Meeting God on the Day of Judgment
Al-Qiyamah is also associated with the Time of Meeting God according to the following verses:
The question raised here, is: What does this mean? How do we reconcile all these promises, with what Islam tells us about the nature of God?:
Indeed when "His Throne doth extend over the heavens and the earth" [2:255], and He is closer to us than our jugular vein [50:16], meaning that He is everywhere, what are we to think of meeting Him when He comes in "canopies of clouds" [2:210], and where would He be coming from?
When Moses (PBUH) asked God to appear for Him, He "appeared / manifested Himself" (tajalla) to the mountain instead, and the mountain turned to dust for it couldn't withstand this tajalli .
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The Prophet also addresses this in the following Sahih Hadith: "man ra'ani faqad ra'al Haqqa" which means: "If you have seen Me you have seen Haq [God]." This Hadith can be found in Bukhari vol. 4 p. 135, Moslem vol. 7, p. 54, etc...
Notice that the term "Haq", which is both one of the 99 Names of God and an Attribute of God in the Qur'an.
9f. Is There a Set Time for Al-Qiyamah to Happen?
The Qur'an gives us hints about the timing of all this, and about the Closeness of the Hour. Many Muslims have recently been expressing their belief, that these events may in fact come in the not too distant future. Paralleling this, there has been a lot of talk in many of the Christian circles as well, about the coming millennium. What we concentrate on here, are the verses in the Qur'an:
In fact the following verse tells us that: "the beginnings thereof have already come":
In fact, as early as in the days of Moses (PBUH):
In addition to the verses in the Holy Qur'an, there are many traditions and hadiths, and sayings of the Imams (RA), and also, Muslim scholars, which have contributed to our common ideas of the signs of the "Hour". Many of them make us wonder (according to verse 47:18 above) whether these things are already upon us:
The Prophet (SAW) also said:
9g. Some Other Signs Associated with the Day of Judgment
The Return of the Jews to the Holy Land:
Another event that has traditionally been linked to the Day of Judgment, both in the Judeo-Christian traditions and in the Qur'an, is the Return of the Jews to the Holy Land as we may learn from the following verses:
Acceptance of Islam by Followers of Other Religions:
In the opening verses of the chapter 98 in the Holy Qur'an (Al-Bayyina), we read:
One of the more obvious and straightforward possible interpretations of this verse, is that people of the previous religions (prior to Islam), including the Jews and Christians and those who worship multiple gods, would continue in their ways of non-belief and resistance to Islam, until clear evidence is presented to them. This "Clear Evidence" is explained in the next verse as taking the form of a Messenger from God, with books and new laws ( "An Messenger from Allah, rehearsing scriptures kept pure and holy: Wherein are laws (or decrees) right and straight").
Today we see that people from every imaginable religious background, --whose ancestors had for more than thirteen centuries resisted Islam--, have as they accept the Bahá'í Faith, finally come to accept the Qur'an as the true word of God and Islam as His religion, and would give their lives for the love of the Prophet (PBUH), thus fulfilling the promise in the opening verses of Chapter 98.
9h. Calls, Announcements and Warnings. The Trumpet Blasts
These momentous and earth shaking events, which in many ways are calamitous (specially for the unbelievers), are to be preceded by warnings and announcements and soundings of the trumpet:
Who would be this Caller, and where is this place that is quite near?
Part of the warning is to bring people back to the religion of God, to the Straight Path*, after they have divided themselves into factions and sects which, "disown each other and curse each other" [29:25].
The Straight Path, which is narrower than a hair and sharper than a sword is explained in this verse:
It may be of interest that in the very first sura of the Qur'an (the opening chapter, Al-Fatiha), the word "Deen" which translates to religion, creed, faith, is used to tell us about the "Day of Judgment" (Yawmul Deen).
A warning to precede the penalty, is indicative of God's mercy and justice:
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Another way to see this may be argued, that if we have eyes to recognize the calamities and the suffering, and the disunity and contention all around us, we might ask ourselves if there has been a warning that we neglected to heed.
Dates in Prophecy
While prophecies have not been in themselves sufficient proof for all people, as each individual sees in them what he/she wants to see, the prophecies associated with the time (date) of the coming of the Promised One may be of interest to some readers.
In the book of Najm'us-Saghib, Haji Mirza Husayn-i Noori a Shi'ite scholar and commentator writes:
In the Qur'an some verses indicate that sometimes, by a day, a 1000* years is meant:
Other verses in the Qur'an indicate that a day could be 50,000 years, but so far in history, religions have come at a more frequent rate, and while the essential teachings of all religions are eternal in nature, other laws concerning social relations have usually required changes on a more frequent basis.
The Shi'ite Muslims believe that divine guidance continued through the twelve Imams. The twelfth Imam whom they believe to have gone into "occultation" only to return at the end of time as the Mahdi, (or Al-Qa'im, or Sahibul Zaman), disappeared in the year 260 A.H. Based on the hadith above, and many other sayings of the Imams and some verses of the Qur'an, some Muslim scholars, and some schools of thought such as the Shaykhis, speculated that the year 1260 A.H. would be the year of the coming of the Promised One.
As stated earlier, prophecies don't mean much for those who don't believe (or want to believe). It is equally true that anybody can come up with virtually any set of numbers, still for the interested reader a few more time prophecies are examined.
Regarding the verse:
Some interpret this verse as: keep up the tenets/laws/ shari'a (represented here by "prayer") until the "darkness of the night", ("Ghasaqul-layl" in Arabic). The Abjad* value of "Ghasaqul-layl" is 1260.
Another verse in the Qur'an which may hint to the time of the coming of the Mahdi is verse 32:5
One of the Muslim scholars (Maulana Muhammad Ali) comments on this verse:
But a calculation of the Abjad value of "Al-Amr" comes up with the number 272. Most sources tell us that Muhammad(PBUH) was born in 570 A.D. These sources also state that He was forty years old when He received first Revelation (610 AD). Sources such as encyclopedias tell us that Hijra (migration to Madina, beginning of the Islamic calendar) started in 622 (i.e. Revelation was 12 years before Hijra). So if one subtracts 12 from 272 one ends up with 260. The Affair, thereafter reverts to the Hand of God "in a day the measure of which is a thousand years as you count". (1260?)
It may also be of interest to observe that the number 1260 is mentioned in the Bible as well, as in Zoroastrian prophecies.
Some other Islamic traditions containing references to the year 1260 A.H.
Among the many references in the works of Muhyi'd-Din Al-Arabi, are the following: "The ministers and upholders of His Faith shall be of the people of Persia." "In His name, the name of the Guardian precedeth that of the Prophet." "The year of His Revelation is identical with half of that number which is divisible by nine ." ( i.e. 1260)
In a tradition ascribed to the Imam Ali, the Commander of the Faithful, it is likewise recorded: "In Ghars the Tree of Divine guidance shall be planted." (Ghars which means planting, is numerically equivalent to 1260 in the Abjad system).
Imam Ja'far, son of Muhammad, when questioned concerning the year in which the Qa'im was to be made manifest, replied as follows: "Verily, in the year sixty His Cause shall be revealed, and His name shall be noised abroad."
This is in the eighth chapter of the Book of Daniel.
Based on this (and other chapters of the Bible, and other prophecies), several Christian groups and denominations waiting for the second coming of Christ, calculated the date of the Return of Christ to the year 1844 A.D.
10. Rejection of the New Religion
It has always been the wont of people to reject the new Messengers of God, and the Religions they bring. This has happened to every Messenger:
It should be worthwhile to contemplate on the reasons why this has been the case, notwithstanding the clear evidence presented by the Messengers, and notwithstanding the fact that in most cases, the followers of the earlier religions, were fully expecting the coming of the new Messenger, and were ardently praying to God to hasten His advent.
When we study the sacred books of all religions, and specially the Qur'an (and also to some extent the history books), we begin to see patterns and find clues to the reasons for such rejection and opposition. Hopefully, becoming aware of these reasons, and understanding them, would help us avoid making the same mistakes, which we condemned the generations of old for.
The point which needs to come across, is that we should not let such fears prevent us from searching for the true Messenger. We should not "throw the baby, out with the bath water" as the saying goes.People have rejected the Prophets and Messengers of the past when they (the people) failed to pass God's tests of their belief, (and failed to even recognize that they were being tested):
At the time of Noah (PBUH), people (including members of His own family) were tested in their belief, when time after time, the promised flood did not come and was delayed. This kind of test, of delay, or non-fulfillment of promise or prophecy (known as bidA' in Arabic), caused many followers of many Prophets to waver in their faith and to reject the Prophet or Messenger of their time.
At the time of Moses (PBUH), people failed a different test when they did not want to accept Him because He had killed a man prior to receiving the Revelation of God. When Moses came unto Pharaoh to deliver the divine Message, Pharaoh said to Him:
At the time of Jesus (PBUH), the greatest test was that His mother was not married at the time she carried Him. And one test at the time of Muhammad (PBUH), was when some people stopped following Him when He changed the direction of the Qiblah.
Could God not have prevented Moses from killing a man. or brought up Jesus of a known father, or sent the floods on time for Noah's people? Yet, if it were made easy to recognize the Messenger and to believe, how then are the sincere who strive in the path of God, to be distinguished from the unbelievers?
Yet another reason that caused the rejection of the Messengers, was that it was hard for the people to see someone from amongst themselves, like themselves in many ways, someone they have known since childhood, without earthly authority or wealth or special powers, lay on them such an extraordinary claim:
Not only that, but laws and rituals cherished by people for a long time were changed and abrogated much to the dislike and resentment of the people, leading them to revile and persecute and even kill many of God's Messengers and Prophets:
All believers should recognize that "Verily God doeth whatsoever He willeth, and ordaineth whatsoever He pleaseth.", and yet all His laws and ordinances are only for our own protection and benefit, and when he changes them, He does so for our own good, as he stands in no need for any of His creatures.
One of the most serious causes ever for such rejection, vilification and persecution of these Essences of purity, and Conveyers of God's Will, has been the rejection and the opposition of the priests, the clergy, and the divines of the previous religions, to the new Light and the new Message. Whether for power or for lust for leadership, or out of ignorance and failure to understand the verses of God, they always condemned the new Messenger, heaped atrocities upon Him, and did all that was in their power to discredit Him and cause Him pain and suffering. Their positions of leadership on the one hand, and the ignorance of the masses, their blind loyalty and obedience on the other, caused the multitudes of people to fall into the abyss of disobedience to God, and like unsuspecting sheep allowed themselves to be lead to the wilderness of error:
The priests and clergy took upon themselves the interpretation of the allegorical (mutashabihat) among the verses of God even though it is clearly forbidden to do so:
They misunderstood the meanings and caused the people to go astray. It was the priests of pharaoh's court who fought Moses, and the rabbis who rejected Christ and conspired to have Him killed. It was the priests of the Ka'bah, the scholars and missionaries of Christianity, and the rabbis who stood against the truth of Islam reaching the congregations, by their preaching against it and distorting its teachings in their books. How careful must we be today, not to fall in the same traps and make the same mistakes, specially when we learn of the warnings by the Prophet (PBUH):
Related to this, is the issue of imitating the parents and the forefathers, and adhering to a particular religion solely through inheriting it.
Sincere followers of any religion should be able to truthfully answer questions like these: " Would we have still found and followed this religion, had we been born to different parents in a different part of the world? Would I have been a follower of this religion, if I had been taught differently all my life, or if I never had a chance to hear about it? Does God's mercy include followers of other religions who never had a chance to hear about my religion?
People rejected the Messengers for many other different reasons. They objected to things which did not fit their own standards. They argued about words and grammar, weighing the Book of God with their own balance when in reality everything should be weighed according to It. They objected when the signs were not literally fulfilled according to their limited understanding. The Jews rejected Christ when He did not rule with a rod of iron or come from an "unknown place" like they had been expecting. They mocked Him with a crown of thorns because they were expecting a king to lead them into salvation and victory against their enemies.
People rejected the Messengers when they didn't understand their parables and metaphors or their references to spiritual realities, like references to Their relationship to God, such as when Jesus (PBUH) claimed to have come from heaven, or the references in some hadiths to Muhammad's (PBUH) Light being the first thing that God created, or His night journey to the seven heavens, ...etc.
Indeed many are the objections of the people and their reasons for rejecting the Messengers and Prophets of God. The sincere seeker of the truth would do well to consider the answers to two questions:
Investigation and Search
There may be as many reasons for choosing one's religion or creed as there are people on this planet. For some, it may be a personal attraction to the social teachings of a specific religion, or to the rites and rituals. For others, the reason may be rational arguments and proofs, and for others still, a heartfelt conviction as a result of a feeling which they know is true, or a vision or a dream. All roads can lead to God. We all come from God, and unto Him do we return [2:156, 96:8, 53:42]. Each individual may choose their own road, and what might constitute proof for some, may be of no interest to others. No matter which criteria we apply however, to be honest to oneself, an individual needs to apply the exact same criteria to other religions, as they would to their own.
One particular way, or reason for choosing religion, may not be pleasing to God however: and that is to blindly imitate and follow in the footsteps of others; or to merely inherit the religion without consciously choosing it for oneself:
Points to Reflect on Concerning Claims and Proofs
Maybe one point we can start from, is the notion that God in His mercy, would not send a Messenger to people without proofs, or without credentials and testimony. He would not expect people to obey any claimant that comes along, nor would He punish them for not following a Messenger, without first supplying them with the proofs they need:
It should therefore be only natural for people to expect, or to look for proofs before they would consider any claim.
In fairness, we should examine (at least in part), the reasons which drew people in the past to accept and believe in the Prophets and Messengers we have come to know, and Whose authority we recognize. We should also remember that They were all initially rejected and denied, and therefore we should also examine the reasons for such rejection and denial, but that is a different (though related) issue.
On the one hand, we should be able to recognize that just as the sun stands in no need of proof other than itself, so it is that, when we get to know about the life and deeds of the Prophets and Messengers of God, we recognize that Their Proof lies also in Themselves. On the other hand, because of our preconceived ideas, we do need some proofs even before we allow ourselves to learn about Them . So what are some of the criteria we employed in accepting the Messengers of the past?
One of the traditional proofs, has been the Teachings, (Sayings or Writings) brought to us by the Founders of past religions. What we may call the "Book". According to the Holy Qur'an, it is all the proof that's needed:
Although unlettered in the sciences of religion and theology, and with only the basics of education in calligraphy and sports required of the children of nobility in early nineteenth century Persia, Bahá'u'lláh left a legacy of tens of thousands of pages for the interested investigator to examine.
During the forty years of imprisonment and exile, Bahá'u'lláh, wrote over a hundred volumes in both Persian and Arabic, of what Bahá'ís consider to be divine revelation. Many of His Writings have been translated to over eight hundred different languages. Many of these are available in bookstores and over the Internet for the interested reader to examine.Another criterion or clue, which may help in the search, has to do with knowledge of the unknown. The Qur'an tells us that the knowledge of the unknown is confined to God, though He also confers this knowledge on His chosen Messengers:
When we study Bahá'u'lláh's life, and His Writings, we see that, not only did He fulfill prophecies concerning the Promised One of all religions, but He foretold numerous future events on various subjects ranging from historical events which have in fact already come to pass, such as the fall of kings and emperors (who at the time, were at the height of their power and glory), to scientific discoveries and inventions which we now have come to witness. These are recorded in His Writings of the second half of the nineteenth century, samples of which are also available on the Internet.
Besides looking for the truth in the words and actions of one who claims to be a Messenger of God, we can also see if this person fulfills prophecies in the previous religions. It is part of God's covenant with the Prophets that the people are told to expect a Prophet or Messenger to follow, and are given the tools to examine and verify His claims.
Before Moses (PBUH) was born, the pharaoh was warned by the priests, and that's why he ordered the killing of the new born males among the Hebrews. When Christ (PBUH) was born, the Magi had been searching the skies for signs of His coming because it was promised in their own religion that He would come. John the Baptist also knew of the nearness of His appearance and gave his own life to prepare the people for His coming. As to the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), right before His appearance, Ruzabeh the Persian (Salman Al-Farisi) was in the service of four consecutive teachers, each upon the hour of his death, sent him to the next until the last one told him that after taking care of his burial, Salman should set his foot toward Hijaz, giving him the glad tidings that finally, he would behold the face of the Beloved in that blessed land.
In the case of Bahá'u'lláh, His Herald was the Bab. The Bab, and 20,000 of His followers, within the span of six years, gave their lives as a testimony to the truth of the dawning of the Day of the coming of the Promised One of all religions. Their stories can be read in the pages of the book The Dawn Breakers.
Other prophecies from previous religions, which are fulfilled in the Bahá'í Faith are numerous and many and are beyond the scope of this site (at this time). They range from fulfilling exact dates foretold in the Holy Books, to descriptions of the places, physical attributes, genealogy, years of ministry and other events which would take place, such as that of the return of the Jews to the Holy Land.
Continuing with the Holy Qur'an, we read in the opening verses of Chapter 98 (Al-Bayyina):
One of the more obvious and straight forward possible interpretations of this verse, is that people of the previous religions (prior to Islam), including the Jews and Christians and those who worship multiple gods, would continue in their ways of non-belief and resistance to Islam, until clear evidence is presented to them. This "Clear Evidence" is explained in the next verse as taking the form of a Messenger from God.
Today, people from every imaginable religious background whose ancestors had for more than thirteen centuries resisted belief in Islam, have as they accept the Bahá'í Faith, finally come to accept the Qur'an as the true word of God and Islam as His religion, and would give their lives for the love of the Prophet (PBUH).Another proof invested in the Messengers of God, is the creative power of the words issued from Their blessed mouths. By this is meant that, certain concepts which were not formulated before they were brought into being through the Word of God, take a life of their own and become realities. Concepts such as global society, world citizenship, equality of the sexes, racial equality, (all common and household words and concepts, very familiar to us now as we approach the closing years of the twentieth century), were very radical and new in the middle of the nineteenth century Middle East, when Bahá'u'lláh proclaimed them as truths for all people to recognize.
Related to this theme, is the concept of the infusion of new life during the coming of the Divine Springtime in a way analogous to the physical spring. When the snow melts, and the heavy rains fall, destructive floods come rushing down and wash away what is in their path, but then the plains and the meadows become full of verdant growth and beautiful flowers. Another analogy is to compare the new religion, to the rising of the sun of a new day. When the sun of the new day rises, it sheds it's warmth and light and life giving energy on all things alike. Even the plants which are indoors or in the shade partake indirectly of its bounties. Similarly we see in history that the rise and fall of the great human civilizations seems to have followed, or paralleled the rise and fall of the religions which influenced them.
Today, there can be no denying the unprecedented changes, sometimes glorious and sometimes catastrophic, the likes of which have never been witnessed, in all the kinds of societal, economic, technological, scientific, moral, and political aspects of our lives. The changes we've experienced in such a short time since the last century, are like nothing that has ever been recorded in our collective history. It behooves any just and fair minded seeker to find out for their own curiosity, the cause of such changes.
All past religions had the potential to unite the world. For countless centuries however, and for the majority of the people, going on a few days' journey to the next city or village on horse back, was the extent of their travel and knowledge of other cultures and societies. The oneness of mankind would have been an ideal, or a concept for the books or the imagination. When the time came in God's plan for the coming together of all nations, and Bahá'u'lláh proclaimed that "the world is but one country, and mankind its citizens", we were then given the tools wherewith to bring this to reality. For example, in addition to, and to a higher degree of change than the industrial revolution ever brought to our world, the new communication revolution is making the world smaller every day. Evidences of the coming together of nations in commerce and science and education, are manifest and clear. Their inter-dependence in the field of economy is obvious, and our awareness of what goes on around the world just as it happens, is unprecedented. It may be of interest to the reader to know that the very first telegraph ushering this revolution, was sent by Mr. Morse on the day of the Declaration of The Bab in May of 1844. Its text was: "What hath God wrought?" The world has never been smaller than it is today.
Going back to the notion that a Messenger's proof is "His own Self", we see that, just like for people who are endowed with sight, the sun stands in no need for further proof, so should it be for a true Messenger of God.
The life and times of Bahá'u'lláh, we find recorded in great detail (particularly due to the proximity in time), in many books by both Bahá'í and non-Bahá'í authors. Again, the reader is encouraged to read about Bahá'u'lláh and ascertain for themselves what kind of a man He was, whether or not He lived by the teachings He brought, whether His knowledge was earthly and acquired, or innate and inspired. Thousands of people, foe and friend alike, met Him and their impressions are extensively documented. All who met Him had strong impressions. Those who loved Him spoke of His compassion and love, His fairness and courage, His suffering, simplicity of life, abandonment of all earthly comfort and wealth, and His awe-inspiring majesty. His enemies who went to see Him and failed to recognize His station, still came back with fantastic tales and extraordinary theories of sorcery, and of psychological manipulation:
The Relationship between the Messengers and God
While all humans are created noble:
Prophets are not like you and me. About Muhammad (SAW), we read:
The Prophets represent God on this earth:
Prophets are paternal (?) brothers:
Would this explain the meaning of the spiritual "Sonship"
of Christ? And all Messengers?
11. Proof and Prophecy
Bahá'ís and Muslims both believe in the Oneness of God, and so it should not be surprising for believers in the oneness of God to see the commonality of many of God's teachings in most religions. All religions came to help us learn about God, and about His Will and Plan. They all came to teach us how to live with one another in peace and brotherhood, and how to better ourselves.
One theme that is common among most religions is the promise of redemption, renewal of religion and salvation, through the coming of a Promised One, to "fill earth with justice as it has been filled with tyranny", (or in Christian terminology, to establish God's Kingdom on earth, as it is in heaven). Each group has called this Promised One by a different name: "Al- Mahdi" (the Guided One), "Al-Qa'im" (the One who Rises), "Sahibul Zaman" (Lord of the Age), Lord of Hosts. Muslims are also promised the return of Jesus (PBUH), as do Christians also await the second coming of Christ. Other religions also await their own Promised One, Whom they know by other different names.
All religions also, warn of false prophets. They warn of the "Dajjal" (the Liar, the one who misguides). They warn of the anti-christ (see below).
So how does one distinguish between the truth and falsehood? Are we left on our own to find out? Would it be better to play it safe and reject all claimants?
What should be obvious is that, the very fact that we are warned of false prophets, should tell us that the True One is surely to come, (albeit it would not be easy to recognize Him). Otherwise, if we weren't admonished to believe in such glad tidings, or if the signs and proofs were to be so clear and obvious, the false ones wouldn't think that they had a chance to impersonate Him falsely. They wouldn't even try, because we would not be expecting anyone to come in the first place.
God says that as long as we make an effort to seek His guidance, His mercy will protect us from being misguided by others:
When Christ warned His disciples about false prophets, He (PBUH) also provided them with a criterion to help them distinguish between the truth and the sayings of those false prophets:
Similarly, we see in the Holy Qur'an:
AntichristThis may be a surprise to many, but these quotes below are the only references in the New Testament to the antichrist. A careful look reveals that these verses don't talk about a specific Evil Individual or Entity, but rather calls an antichrist anybody (and all) who deny the divine origin of the Christ Spirit and His Message: John I (2:18-23): Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time. They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us. But ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things. I have not written unto you because ye know not the truth, but because ye know it, and that no lie is of the truth. Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son. Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father: (but) he that acknowledgeth the Son hath the Father also. John I (4:1-3): Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world. John II (1:7) For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist.
12. Seeking the Truth
Independent Investigation. A Prerequisite for All Seekers of Truth
The following verses need no comment or introduction: