Islam and the Bahá’í Faith
Baha'is 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.
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:
"And (as for) those who strive hard for Us, We will most certainly guide them in Our ways; and Allah is most surely with the doers of good." - [Qur'an 29:69]
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:
"Beware of false prophets ... Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them." - (Matt. 7:15-20)
Similarly, we see in the Holy Qur'an:
"Seest thou not to what God likeneth a good word? To a good tree; its root firmly fixed, and its branches reaching unto heaven: yielding its fruit in all seasons." - [Qur'an 14:24]
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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:
"When it is said to them: "Come to what Allah hath revealed; come to the Messenger": They say: "Enough for us are the ways we found our fathers following." what! even though their fathers were void of knowledge and guidance?" - [Qur'an 5:104]
"When they do aught that is shameful, they say: "We found our fathers doing so"; and "Allah commanded us thus": Say: "Nay, Allah never commands what is shameful: do ye say of Allah what ye know not?" - [Qur'an 7:28]
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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:
"How far from the grace of the All-Bountiful and from His loving providence and tender mercies it is to single out a soul from amongst all men for the guidance of His creatures, and, on one hand, to withhold from Him the full measure of His divine testimony, and, on the other, inflict severe retribution on His people for having turned away from His chosen One!" - [Baha'u'llah, Book of Certitude, p.13]
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:
"Is it not enough for them that We have sent down unto Thee the Book?" - [Qur'an 29:51]
"We did send messengers before thee, and appointed for them wives and children: and it was never the part of a messenger to bring a sign except as Allah permitted (or commanded). For each period is a Book (revealed). Allah doth blot out or confirm what He pleaseth: with Him is the Mother of the Book. : Whether We shall show thee (within thy life-time) part of what we promised them or take to ourselves thy soul (before it is all accomplished),- thy duty is to make (the Message) reach them: it is our part to call them to account." - [Qur'an 13: 38-40]
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, Baha'u'llah, wrote over a hundred volumes in both Persian and Arabic, of what Baha'is 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.
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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:
"He (alone) knows the Unseen, nor does He make any one acquainted with His Mysteries,- : "Except a Messenger whom He has chosen: and then He makes a band of watchers march before him and behind him," - [Qur'an 72:26-7]
"This is part of the tidings of the things unseen, which We reveal unto thee (O Messenger!)" - [Qur'an 3:44]
"We did send messengers before thee, and appointed for them wives and children: and it was never the part of a messenger to bring a sign except as Allah permitted (or commanded)." - [Qur'an 13: 38]
When we study Baha'u'llah'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.
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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 Baha'u'llah, 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 Baha'i 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.
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Continuing with the Holy Qur'an , we read in the opening verses of Chapter 98 (Al-Bayyina):
"Those who reject (Truth), among the People of the Book and among the Polytheists, were not going to depart (from their ways) until there should come to them Clear Evidence,- An Messenger from Allah, rehearsing scriptures kept pure and holy: Wherein are laws (or decrees) right and straight." - [Qur'an 98:1-3]
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 Baha'i 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).
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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 Baha'u'llah 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 Baha'u'llah 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.
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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 Baha'u'llah, we find recorded in great detail (particularly due to the proximity in time), in many books by both Baha'i and non-Baha'i authors. Again, the reader is encouraged to read about Baha'u'llah 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:
"Then did We send up after them Musa and Haroun to Firon and his chiefs with Our signs, but they showed pride and they were a guilty people. So when the truth came to them from Us they said: This is most surely clear enchantment!" - [Qur'an 10:75-76]
"And when there came to them the truth they said: This is magic, and surely we are disbelievers in it." - [Qur'an 43:30]
"And when men are gathered together they shall be their enemies, and shall be deniers of their worshipping (them). And when Our clear communications are recited to them, those who disbelieve say with regard to the truth when it comes to them: This is clear magic. Nay! they say: He has forged it. Say: If I have forged it, you do not control anything for me from Allah; He knows best what you utter concerning it; He is enough as a witness between me and you, and He is the Forgiving, the Merciful." - [Qur'an 46:6-8]