Muhammad in the Bahá'í Faith
Bahá'ís venerate Muhammad as one of a number of prophets or "Manifestations of God", but consider his teachings (as with the teachings of Jesus and Moses) to have been superseded by those of Bahá'u'lláh, the founder of the Bahá'í Faith.
Muhammad in the Bahá'í Faith
Bahá'ís believe in Muhammad as a prophet of God, and in the Qur’an as the word of God. Baha'i teachings 'affirm that Islam is a true religion revealed by Allah'; accordingly, members of the faith can give full assent to the traditional words of the Shahadah. Muhammad is taken to be one of the most important messengers of God as an "independent" manifestation of God. Furthermore, Bahá'ís believe that the Báb, a central figure in the Bahá'í Faith, was a descendant of Muhammad through Imam Husayn, whose coming was foretold by Muhammad. `Abdu'l-Bahá, the son and successor of Bahá'u'lláh, wrote that 'His Holiness the Prophet Muhammad made a covenant concerning His Holiness the Báb and the Báb was the One promised by Muhammad, for Muhammad gave the tidings of His coming.’
In the Bahá'í writings Muhammad is known by the titles the "Apostle of God", the "Seal of the Prophets" and the "Day-Star of Truth". Writing of Muhammad, `Abdu'l-Bahá states that through God’s aid, he was able to unite the warring tribes of the Arabian Peninsula 'to such an extent that one thousand tribes were welded into one tribe'. This, he writes, despite the fact that he (Muhammad) was an illiterate man born into a cruel and barbarous culture. He was nevertheless responsible for producing 'a book in which, in a perfect and eloquent style, He explained the divine attributes and perfections, the prophethood of the Messengers of God, the divine laws, and some scientific facts.’ Abdu'l-Baha believed that one of the proofs that the Qur’an is a product of the divine are the facts about the workings of nature contained therein, facts which he believed were not known in Muhammad’s own time. He claimed, for example, that Sura 36 of the Qur’an depicts a heliocentric understanding of the solar system.
In the Bahá'í Faith Muhammad is regarded as one of the class of 'independent Prophets' – that is, those prophets 'who are followed' and who 'establish a new religion and make new creatures of men'. They also 'change the general morals, promote new customs and rules, [and] renew the cycle and the law.' Along with Muhammad, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, the Báb and Bahá'u'lláh are classed among the ‘independent Prophets’. The religion teaches the unity and the oneness of all the prophets of God. As such, Abraham, Moses, Jesus Christ, Muhammad, the Báb and Bahá'u'lláh are believed to have proclaimed the same message at different times. It is only due to the 'difference in their station and mission' that their 'words and utterances' ever 'appear to diverge and differ.' As with all the Prophets of God, Bahá'ís believe that Muhammad was sinless. Being Holy, prophets are believed to be pure from sin and purged of faults. In response to Sura 48:2 of the Qur'an which, referring to Muhammad, states that God forgives his past and future sins, `Abdu'l-Bahá states that this address was 'in reality for all the people' and is only 'apparently directed to Muhammad'.
The Bahá'í Faith teaches that Muhammad was a man of peace. On the occasions when he did fight, he only did so in order to defend himself and his followers from the hostile pagan Arab tribes who inhabited the Arabian Peninsula in his time. `Abdu'l-Bahá claimed that ‘Muhammad never fought against the Christians’, though this ignores the Battle of Tabouk - a military expedition which, according to Muslim biographies, was launched by Muhammad against the Romans in 630 CE.
`Abdu'l-Bahá taught that some stories about the teachings, deeds and sayings of Muhammad as described in certain hadith which he perceived to be negative, were fabricated due to 'fanaticism', 'ignorance' or 'enmity'. He told that most of those who narrated such stories were either members of the 'clergy', 'antagonistic' or 'ignorant Muslims who repeated unfounded traditions about Muhammad which they ignorantly believed to be to His praise.' Thus, he says, 'some benighted Muslims made His polygamy the pivot of their praises'.
While disregarding some hadith about Muhammad as fabrications and exaggerations with no foundation, `Abdu'l-Bahá accepted the authenticity of others. For example, traditions about Muhammad’s friendly treatment of the Christians of Najran of whom Muhammad is said to have proclaimed: 'If any one infringes their rights, I myself will be his enemy, and in the presence of God I will bring a charge against him.' According to Bahá'í belief, in this time Muslims and Christians lived in harmony with each other, however, 'after a certain time', due to 'the transgression of both Muhammadans and the Christians, hatred and enmity arose between them.'
Seal of the Prophets
In contrast to the Muslims, Bahá'ís do not believe that Muhammad is the final messenger of God, or rather define eschatology and end times references as metaphorical for changes in the ages or eras of mankind but that it and progress of God's guidance continues. Although, in common with Islam, the title the Seal of the Prophets is reserved for Muhammad, Bahá'ís interpret it differently. They believe that the term Seal of the Prophets applies to a specific epoch, and that each prophet is the ‘seal’ of his own epoch. Therefore, in the sense that all the prophets of God are united in the same 'Cause of God', having the same underlying message, and all 'abiding in the same tabernacle, soaring in the same heaven, seated upon the same throne, uttering the same speech, and proclaiming the same Faith', they can all claim to be 'the return of all the Prophets'. Likewise, since they all have 'a definitely prescribed mission, a predestined revelation, and specially designated limitations', they can all claim to be the 'seal of the prophets' for their own epoch. According to this understanding, there is no reason why another prophet cannot follow with a message which is a seal for his own specific epoch.
Bahá'u'lláh cited Sura 5:64 of the Qur'an in arguing that the censure applied to the Jews in that ayah (that they had sought to limit the power of God to do as he wills) was just as applicable to Muslims who held to the doctrine that no prophets could follow Muhammad. He writes that: 'For over a thousand years they have been reciting this verse, and unwittingly pronouncing their censure against the Jews, utterly unaware that they themselves, openly and privily, are voicing the sentiments and belief of the Jewish people'.
Muhammad is seen as ending the Adamic cycle, also known as the Prophetic cycle, which is stated to have begun approximately 6,000 years ago, and the Báb and Bahá'u'lláh as starting the Bahá'í cycle, or Cycle of Fulfillment, which will last at least five hundred thousand years with numerous Manifestations of God appearing throughout that time. In the Kitáb-i-Íqán, Bahá'u'lláh makes a direct link between Qur'an 33:40, about the seal of the prophets, and 33:44, about the promise of the "attainment of the divine Presence" on the day of resurrection, which he interprets as the meeting with the Manifestation of God. The day of resurrection is interpreted as the day of the advent of the Qa'im or Mahdi.
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