“Say: Perused ye not the Qur’án?
Read it, that haply ye may find the
Truth, for this Book is verily the
Straight Path. This is the Way of God
unto all who are in the heavens and
all who are on the earth.”
(“Gleanings”, p. 44)
Islám is the Revelation of God which Muhammad brought to the world. The Founder of this world religion was an Arabian, descended from Ishmael, the first-born son of the Prophet Abraham. Whether or not one believes in His Station as a Messenger of God, it is important that we have an accurate picture of His life and teachings. It is important for Westerners to come to accept the great contribution that Islám has made to the world, in science, culture and the evolution of human society. Muhammad gave us the concept of the nation-state, where all citizens were equal before the law and justice prevailed. It should be understood that the battles which were fought during His lifetime were defensive in nature and that violence is condemned in Islám. Muhammad founded a spiritual society in which science and learning prevailed and a tremendous contribution was made to the world through His teachings.
Most importantly, the Revelation of Muhammad renewed the same spiritual teachings which Jesus Christ taught, the same divine virtues and perfections which it is the goal of human life to attain. George Townshend writes:
“To the Christians Muhammad showed the greatest kindness. Insisting that all Muslims should fully accept both Jesus Christ and His Gospel and assuring them in the Qur'án (Sura 5 verse 85) that they would find the Christians nearest of all men to them in affection, He took the Christians under his express protection.” (“Christ and Bahá’u’lláh”, p. 39)
It is only because of the opposition of the clergy that Islám was not accepted by the West. In Christianity, dogma and ritual had become more important than the spiritual teachings which Christ had brought. The worship of one God was obscured by belief in a trinitarian Godhead. Man-made institutions and beliefs destroyed the spirit of Christianity. Therefore, like the Jewish priests in the time of Jesus, the Christian priesthood did not accept the new Revelation.
Townshend writes that “So kindly were the relations between the two Faiths and so strong the spiritual influence of Muhammad that the Christian masses were disposed to accept the Faith of the Arabian Prophet. The Báb indeed says that they were only prevented from doing so by the failure of the clergy ‘for if these had believed, they would have been followed by the mass of their countrymen.’ Had it not been for the unfortunate divisive counsel of these Christian priests, history would have been different indeed.” (Townshend, p. 42)
Bahá’u’lláh says: “Every discerning observer will recognize that in the Dispensation of the Qur'án both the Book and the Cause of Jesus were confirmed.” (“Gleanings”, p. 21)
Muhammad was the son of ‘Abdu’lláh and Áminah. ‘Abdu’lláh’s father, ‘Abdu’l-Muttalib, was a guardian of the Ka‘bah shrine and a host to the pilgrims who came from around the region. The Ka‘bah was an ancient cubic shrine built by the Prophet Abraham. It was near to the spot where an angel revealed to Hagar the well of Zamzam. There the children of Ishmael, the son of of Abraham and Hagar, multiplied and became a great nation. The Ka‘bah became a site of pilgrimage for the descendants of Ishmael, and it was also visited by the Jews. But over the thousands of years that followed, the Arabs adopted the pagan gods and idols of surrounding peoples. Eventually, the Moabite god Hubal was installed in the Ka‘bah, which became the chief idol of Mecca. (see: Lings: “Muhammad - His life based on the earliest sources”, pp. 1-5)
‘Abdu’l-Muttalib was a member of the tribe of Quraysh, which had protected the Ka‘bah since c. 400 AD. The holy well of Zamzam, however, had been lost since the Jurhumites had buried it and filled it with some of the treasure from the sanctuary. They may have hoped to return and recover this treasure, but they never did. ‘Abdu’l-Muttalib, the son of Háshim, was eventually to recover this holy well. Through visions he received during several dreams, he discovered the site of the well and dug it up. A part of the treasure was given to him and the rest was placed in the Ka‘bah. (see: Lings: pp. 10-11)
‘Abdu’lláh was ‘Abdu’l-Muttalib’s favourite son. He had married Áminah (569 AD), the daughter of Wahb, and she became pregnant. But ‘Abdu’lláh was not to live long. He had fallen ill and died at Yathrib. Áminah was pregnant and she realized that there was a light within her. She heard a voice say to her: “Thou carriest in thy womb the Lord of this people; and when He is born say: ‘I place Him beneath the protection of the One, from the evil of every envier’; then name Him Muhammad.’”* (see: Lings: pp. 17-21)
Several weeks later, the child was born. ‘Abdu’l-Muttalib carried his grandson to the Holy Ka‘bah and gave thanksgiving to God. Then he showed Him to his household and returned Him to His mother. Muhammad was entrusted to a woman of the tribe of Bani Sa‘d ibn Bakr. It was a custom of great families to send their children to live with nomadic tribes for some time. Muhammad eventually returned to His mother Áminah where He stayed for three years. When He was six, Áminah took Him to visit His relatives in Yathrib. During the journey Áminah fell ill and passed away. She was buried at Yathrib. Muhammad returned to Mecca. He came under the care of ‘Abdu’l-Muttalib, His grandfather. (see: Lings: pp. 22-27)
‘Abdu’l-Bahá explains the background of the world in which Muhammad appeared (“Some Answered Questions”, pp. 19-23): “The military expeditions of Muhammad, on the contrary, were always defensive actions: a proof of this is that during thirteen years, in Mecca, He and His followers endured the most violent persecutions. At this period they were the target for the arrows of hatred: some of His companions were killed and their property confiscated; others fled to foreign lands. Muhammad Himself, after the most extreme persecutions by the Qurayshites, who finally resolved to kill Him, fled to Medina in the middle of the night. Yet even then His enemies did not cease their persecutions, but pursued Him to Medina, and His disciples even to Abyssinia.”
“These Arab tribes were in the lowest depths of savagery and barbarism... Thus many of the men would threaten their wives, saying, “If a daughter is born to you, I will kill you.”... Further, a man was permitted to take a thousand women, and most husbands had more than ten wives in their household. When these tribes made war, the one which was victorious would take the women and children of the vanquished tribe captive and treat them as slaves...
“Again, consider what was the condition and life of these oppressed women! Moreover, the means by which these Arab tribes lived consisted in pillage and robbery, so that they were perpetually engaged in fighting and war, killing one another, plundering and devastating each other’s property, and capturing women and children, whom they would sell to strangers...
“Muhammad received Divine Revelation among these tribes, and after enduring thirteen years of persecution from them, He fled. But this people did not cease to oppress; they united to exterminate Him and all His followers. It was under such circumstances that Muhammad was forced to take up arms. This is the truth: we are not bigoted and do not wish to defend Him, but we are just, and we say what is just. Look at it with justice. If Christ Himself had been placed in such circumstances among such tyrannical and barbarous tribes, and if for thirteen years He with His disciples had endured all these trials with patience, culminating in flight from His native land—if in spite of this these lawless tribes continued to pursue Him, to slaughter the men, to pillage their property, and to capture their women and children—what would have been Christ’s conduct with regard to them? If this oppression had fallen upon Himself, He would have forgiven them, and such an act of forgiveness would have been most praiseworthy; but if He had seen that these cruel and bloodthirsty murderers wished to kill, to pillage and to injure all these oppressed ones, and to take captive the women and children, it is certain that He would have protected them and would have resisted the tyrants. What objection, then, can be taken to Muhammad’s action? Is it this, that He did not, with His followers, and their women and children, submit to these savage tribes? To free these tribes from their bloodthirstiness was the greatest kindness, and to coerce and restrain them was a true mercy. They were like a man holding in his hand a cup of poison, which, when about to drink, a friend breaks and thus saves him. If Christ had been placed in similar circumstances, it is certain that with a conquering power He would have delivered the men, women and children from the claws of these bloodthirsty wolves...
“Briefly, Muhammad appeared in the desert of Hijáz in the Arabian Peninsula, which was a desolate, sterile wilderness, sandy and uninhabited. Some parts, like Mecca and Medina, are extremely hot; the people are nomads with the manners and customs of dwellers in the desert and are entirely destitute of education and science. Muhammad Himself was illiterate, and the Qur’án was originally written upon the bladebones of sheep, or on palm leaves. These details indicate the condition of the people to whom Muhammad was sent. The first question which he put to them was, “Why do you not accept the Pentateuch and the Gospel, and why do you not believe in Christ and Moses?” This saying presented difficulties to them, and they argued, “Our forefathers did not believe in the Pentateuch and the Gospel; tell us, why was this?” He answered, “They were misled; you ought to reject those who do not believe in the Pentateuch and the Gospel, even though they are your fathers and your ancestors.”
“In such a country, and amidst such barbarous tribes, an illiterate Man produced 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.
“Thus, you know that before the observation of modern times—that is to say, during the first centuries and down to the fifteenth century of the Christian era—all the mathematicians of the world agreed that the the earth was the centre of the universe, and that the sun moved... But there are some verses revealed in the Qur’án contrary to the theory of the Ptolemaic system. One of them is “The sun moves in a fixed place,” which shows the fixity of the sun, and its movement around an axis.” [Cf. Qur’án 36:37] Again, in another verse, “And each star moves in its own heaven.” [Cf. Qur’án 36:38] Thus is explained the movement of the sun, of the moon, of the earth, and of other bodies...
“In short, many Oriental peoples have been reared for thirteen centuries under the shadow of the religion of Muhammad. During the Middle Ages, while Europe was in the lowest depths of barbarism, the Arab peoples were superior to the other nations of the earth in learning, in the arts, mathematics, civilisation, government and other sciences. The Englightener and Educator of these Arab tribes, and the Founder of the civilisation and perfections of humanity among these different races, was an illiterate Man, Muhammad. Was this illustrious Man a thorough Educator or not? A just judgement is necessary.”
Two years after the death of His mother, Muhammad’s grandfather died. He was entrusted to the care of His uncle, Abu Talib. As a young man Muhammad married Khadijah, with whom He had six children (2 sons and four daughters). He began to have “true visions” in His sleep which were “like the breaking of the light of dawn.” (2) As a result, He would seek solitude in a cave on Mount Hira. Often, as He approached His hermitage, He would clearly hear the words “Peace be on Thee, O Messenger of God” (1) but no one else was present. (see: Lings: pp. 28, 33-36, 43)
One night towards the end of Ramadan, at the age of forty, an Angel came to Him. He was in the form of a man. The Angel said unto Him: “Recite!” and He said: “I am not a reciter.” As He Himself describes it: “the Angel took me and whelmed me in his embrace until he had reached the limit of mine endurance. Then he released Me and said: ‘Recite!’, and again I said ‘I am not a reciter.’ Then a third time He whelmed me as before, then released me and said:
‘Recite in the name of Thy Lord who created! He createth man from a clot of blood. Recite; and Thy Lord is the Most Bountiful, He who hath taught by the pen, taught man what he knew not.’” (2) (see: Lings: pp. 43-44)
He recited these words and the Angel left Him. He said: “It was as though the words were written on My heart.” (1) He fled from the cave, but when He was half-way down the mountain He heard a voice. It said: “O Muhammad, Thou art the Messenger of God, and I am Gabriel.” Looking into the heavens, He saw the same Angel, no longer in the form of a man and filling the whole horizon. The Angel repeated: “O Muhammad, Thou art the Messenger of God, and I am Gabriel.” Whichever way He turned, there was the Angel. Eventually, the Angel turned and left. Muhammad left and returned to His wife. Recovering from the experience, He returned to the cave. Having stayed the number of days He had intended, He went and circumambulated the Ka‘bah. He received further Revelation and began to speak of it to His close family and associates. (see: Lings: pp. 44-46)
When Muhammad began to teach against polytheism, the people of His clan began to oppose Him. They declared Muhammad to be a dangerous sorcerer. Nevertheless, the Message spread gradually to other surrounding tribes. The Message reached Yathrib and many Jews were interested, but couldn’t accept that a Prophet would not come from the chosen seed of Israel. (see: Lings: pp. 52-55)
Muhammad’s new religion, Islám (‘submission’), continued to spread and it met fierce persecution. Followers were imprisoned and tortured. Some of the Muslims became martyrs. Muhammad advised some to go to Abyssinia where there was sincerity in religion and a just king. This was the first migration in Islámic history. Roughly 80 Muslims went in secret. But it was not long before their kinsmen discovered this. They sent gifts and messengers to the Negus of Abyssinia in order to seek the return of their kinsmen. The Negus decided to question the Muslims. The Negus asked them: “What is this religion wherein ye have become separate from your people, though ye have not entered my religion nor that of any other of the folk that surround us?” Ja‘far, the spokesman of the Muslims, replied: “O King, we were a people steeped in ignorance, worshipping idols, eating unsacrificed carrion, committing abominations, and the strong would devour the weak. Thus we were, until God sent us a Messenger from out of our midst, One Whose lineage we knew, and His veracity and His worthiness of trust and His integrity. He called us unto God, that we should testify to His Oneness and worship Him and renounce what we and our fathers had worshipped in the way of stones and idols; and He commanded us to speak truly, to fulfil our promises, to respect the ties of kinship and the rights of our neighbours, and to refrain from crimes and from bloodshed. So we worship God alone, setting naught beside Him, counting as forbidden what He hath forbidden and as licit what He hath allowed. For these reasons have our people turned against us, and have persecuted us to make us forsake our religion and revert from the worship of God to the worship of idols. That is why we have been happy in thy protection, and it is our hope, O King, that here, with thee, we shall not suffer wrong.” (see: Lings: pp. 79-83)
When this was translated, the Negus asked to hear some of the Revelation of their Prophet. Ja‘far read a passage from the Surah of Mary (Qur’án 19:16-21):
“And make mention in the Book, of Mary, when she went apart from her family, eastward. And took a veil to shroud herself from them: and we sent our spirit to her, and he took before her the form of a perfect man. She said: ‘I fly for refuge from thee to the God of Mercy! If thou fearest Him, begone from me.’ He said: ‘I am only a messenger of thy Lord, that I may bestow on thee a holy Son.’ She said: ‘How shall I have a son, when man hath never touched me? and I am not unchaste.’ He said: ‘So shall it be. Thy Lord hath said: “Easy is this with Me;” and we will make Him a sign to mankind, a mercy from us. For it is a thing decreed.’”
The Negus and his bishops wept, and they wept again when it was translated. The Negus said: “This hath truly come from the same source as that which Jesus brought.” He told the envoys from Quraysh: “Ye may go, for by God I will not deliver them unto you; they shall not be betrayed.” One of the envoys, ‘Amr, spoke deviously to his companion: “Tomorrow I will tell him a thing that shall tear up this green growing prosperity of theirs by the roots. I will tell him that they aver that Jesus the Son of Mary is a slave.” The next morning he told the Negus: “O King, they utter an enormous lie about Jesus the son of Mary. Do but send to them, and ask them what they say of Him.” When sent for the Muslims returned. After consultation together they decided what to say. They could only say what God had told them through Muhammad. They were asked: “What say ye of Jesus, the Son of Mary?” Ja‘far replied: “We say of Him what our Prophet brought unto us, that He is the Slave of God and His Messenger and His Spirit and His Word which He cast unto Mary the blessed virgin.” The Negus, a devout Christian, agreed. He took up a stick of wood and said: “Jesus the Son of Mary exceedeth not what thou hast said by the length of this stick.” His generals snorted. “For all your snorting.” The Negus said to Ja‘far: “Go your ways, for ye are safe in my land. Not for mountains of gold would I harm a single man of you”. Furthermore, he told his attendant, concerning the messengers from the Quraysh: “Return unto these men their gifts, for I have no use for them.”
The news of what the Negus had said spread throughout his land. The people were troubled, fearing that he had left Christianity. The Negus took a parchment and wrote on it: “He testifieth that there is no God but God and that Muhammad is His Slave and His Messenger and that Jesus the Son of Mary is His Slave and His Messenger and His Spirit and His Word which He cast unto Mary.” He put this beneath his gown and met the assembled crowd. He asked them if he had the best claim to be their king. They agreed that he had. They also agreed that they lived well under his reign. “Then what is it that troubleth you?” he said. “Thou hast left our religion,” they said, “and hast maintained that Jesus is a slave.” “Then what say ye of Jesus?” he asked. “We say that He is the Son of God,” they answered. Putting his hand on his breast and pointing to the hidden piece of paper he testified his belief in “this” which they accepted to mean that he was referring to their words. (see: Lings: pp. 83-4)
In 619 AD Khadijah, the Prophet’s wife, died at the age of sixty-five. Muhammad was then nearly fifty. One night, whilst sleeping near the Ka‘bah, Muhammad received a tremendous vision, similar to the Transfiguration of Christ. In this vision He met several of the Prophets in Jerusalem, where He had travelled from Mecca on the back of a mystic beast called Buráq. Two vessels were brought to Him. One contained milk and the other wine. He drank the milk but did not drink the wine. Gabriel said to Him: “Thou hast been guided unto the path primordial, and hast guided thereunto thy people, O Muhammad, and wine is forbidden you.” Then He ascended to Heaven and saw the Divine Lote Tree. He received instructions that Muslims should pray five times a day. (see: Lings: pp. 96, 101-104)
The symbolism of the Divine Lote Tree is used in Islám “to mark the point in the heavens beyond which neither men nor angels can pass in their approach to God, and thus to delimit the bounds of divine knowledge as revealed to mankind.” (Bahá’u’lláh: “Kitáb-i-Aqdas”, Notes: p. 220) The Night Journey is therefore a symbolic event.
Muhammad now decided to emigrate from Mecca to Yathrib. Many men from the tribes of Khazraj and Aws accepted Him and pledged to support Him with arms if necessary. When He arrived in Mecca, Muhammad encouraged His followers to emigrate to Yathrib. The Quraysh tried to stop the emigrations. Their efforts were in vain. Many Muslims made the move to Yathrib succesfully. (see: Lings: pp. 106-7, 111-115)
Leaders of the Quraysh now decided that the only way to end this monotheistic movement was to assassinate Muhammad. The Archangel Gabriel came to Muhammad and informed Him of what He should do. At noon Muhammad went straight to the house of Abu Bakr, who was to be His companion during the move to Yathrib. He also went to the house of His loyal nephew, ‘Alí, who was later to become both His son-in-law and appointed heir. He told ‘Alí that Gabriel had informed Him about the plot against His life. The assassins had agreed to wait outside Muhammad’s gate after nightfall. When they had all arrived they heard the voice of women in the house. Not wishing to violate the privacy of women they agreed to wait until the Prophet left His house. Muhammad gave His cloak to ‘Alí and said: “Sleep thou on My bed, and wrap thyself in this green Hadramí cloak of Mine. Sleep in it, and no harm shall come to thee from them.” The Prophet then recited a Surah of the Qur‘án. When He came to the words: “And We have enshrouded them, so that they see not”, He left the house. His assassins saw Him not as He passed by them and continued on His way. A man passed by the Prophet as He walked by. When the man arrived at Muhammad’s house He told the assassins that if they were waiting for Muhammad He was already gone. The assassins were confused. One of them had seen the Prophet enter the building, but no one had left! One of them went to look into the house. He saw someone sleeping in Muhammad’s cloak and reassured the others that the Prophet was still there. Time passed and Muhammad still did not emerge. The conspirators at last gave the alarm. The Prophet had left their midst. (see: Lings: pp. 116-117)
The Prophet had returned to Abu Bakr’s house. There they mounted two camels. Abu Bakr’s son, ‘Abdu’lláh, was behind them. They travelled towards a cave in the Mount of Thawr. But when they had only gone a little way beyond the precincts of Mecca, Muhammad halted His camel and said: “Of all God’s earth, thou art the dearest place unto Me and the dearest unto God, and had not My people driven Me out from thee I would not have left thee.” Abu Bakr’s slave, ‘Ámir ibn Fuhayrah, followed along with a flock of sheep to cover up their tracks. When they reached the cave, ‘Ámir was sent back to pasture his sheep with the other shepherds during the day and bring them back to the cave after nightfall. ‘Abdu’lláh was sent back with the sheep to bring back news. He returned the following night with His sister Asmá’, bearing food. The Quraysh had offered a ransom of 100 camels to anyone who could retrieve Muhammad. (see: Lings: pp. 118)
On the third day voices were heard, which grew louder as they approached. The Prophet said to Abu Bakr: “Grieve not, for verily God is with us.” and “What thinkest thou of two when God is their third?” The steps grew louder and stopped. Then the sounds died away as the people left. The Prophet and Abu Bakr approached the cave’s mouth. There was an acacia tree, the height of a man, that had not been there in the morning. In the gap between the tree and the cave wall was a spider’s web. Furthermore, in the hollow of a rock, a rock dove had made a nesting place, sitting as if she had eggs. Surely no one was within the cave! When ‘Abdu’lláh arrived he brought with him a Bedouin. He had kept the two camels and brought a third for himself. The Prophet and His companions travelled to the shore of the Red Sea. Then they travelled north-west towards Yathrib. They met a caravan on the way. It was Abu Bakr’s cousin Talhah. Receiving new apparel they continued north. The most densely inhabited part of Yathrib was called al-Madínah, which in English is Medina. Yathrib is now known as Medina. He was eagerly expected and greatly welcomed. Even some Jews of Medina came to visit Him out of curiosity. After a couple of days ‘Alí arrived and lodged with the Prophet. (see: Lings: pp. 118-121)
Muhammad arrived in Medina on Monday the 27th of September 622 AD. This emigration to Medina is known as the Hijrah and the Muslim calendar is dated (in English) AH or Anno Hegirae (the Year of the Hijrah). Muhammad made a covenant with the Jews of Medina and they were to be given equal status with the Muslims. The Muslims and Jews would fight as one people against the polytheists. The Jews accepted this agreement, though the Jews did not recognise that God would ever send a non-Jewish prophet. Islám continued to spread throughout the clans of Aws and Khazraj. (see: Lings: pp. 123-126)
It was revealed to Muhammad that the Muslims could use defensive warfare to protect the Faith. It was to be a war of self-preservation until the Quraysh could be at last defeated. In the month of Sha‘bán Muhammad was told to change the direction of prayer from Jerusalem to Mecca.(see: Lings: pp. 136-137)
Bahá’u’lláh explains this change in the Qiblih (the direction in which the face must be turned in prayer):
“When Muhammad, the Sun of Prophethood, had fled from the dayspring of Bathá [Mecca] unto Yathrib, He continued to turn His face, while praying, unto Jerusalem, the holy city, until the time when the Jews began to utter unseemly words against Him—words which if mentioned would ill befit these pages and would weary the reader. Muhammad strongly resented these words. Whilst, wrapt in meditation and wonder, He was gazing toward heaven, He heard the kindly Voice of Gabriel, saying: “We behold thee from above, turning Thy face to heaven; but We will have Thee turn to a Qiblih which shall please Thee.” [Qur’án 2:144] On a subsequent day, when the Prophet together with His companions, was offering the noontide prayer, and had already performed two of the prescribed Rak‘ats, the Voice of Gabriel was heard again: “Turn Thou Thy face towards the sacred Mosque.” [Qur’án 2:149] In the midst of that same prayer, Muhammad suddenly turned His face away from Jerusalem and faced the Ka‘bih. Whereupon, a profound dismay seized suddenly the companions of the Prophet. Their faith was shaken severely. So great was their alarm, that many of them, discontinuing their prayer, apostatized their faith. Verily, God caused not this turmoil but to test and prove His servants. Otherwise, He, the ideal King, could easily have left the Qiblih unchanged, and could have caused Jerusalem to remain the Point of Adoration unto His Dispensation, thereby withholding not from that holy city the distinction of acceptance which had been conferred upon it.” (Bahá’u’lláh, “the Kitáb-i-Íqán”, pp. 49-51)
The time came for major battle between the forces of Islám and paganism. The Quraysh sent out an army to rescue a caravan of goods from an imminent Muslim attack. At dawn on Friday the 17th of March 623 AD (17 Ramadan 2 AH), the Quraysh marched up the hill of ‘Aqanqal. When the Prophet saw them, He prayed: “O God, here are Quraysh: they have come in their arrogance and their vanity, opposing Thee and belying Thy Messenger. O Lord, grant us Thy help which Thou didst promise us! O Lord, this morn destroy them!” Muhammad passed in front of His army, with an arrow in His hand. “Stand in line, O Sawád,” He said to one who was too far forward. He gave him a slight prick in the belly. “O Messenger of God, Thou hast hurt me,” he said. “and God hath sent Thee with truth and justice, so give me my requital.” “Take it,” said the Prophet, who laid bare His own belly. Sawád kissed the spot where he was meant to prick Muhammad. “What made thee do this?” asked Muhammad. “O Messenger of God, we are now faced with what Thou seest; and I desired that at my last moment with Thee — if so it be — my skin should touch Thy skin.” The Prophet blessed Him. (see: Lings: pp. 140-146)
After Badr the Prophet’s nephew ‘Alí married His daughter Fátimih, who was then about twenty years old. The marriage was blessed by Muhammad and it was from this marriage that the holy Imáms and successors of Muhammad would come. Ultimately, the Báb, Who was the promised Qá’im of Islám, was also a descendant of this marriage. Another of Muhammad’s daughters, Umm Kulthúm, married ‘Uthmán. He had been married to Ruqayyah, one of Muhammad’s daughters who was now deceased. Muhammad Himself took another wife, named Hafsah. He now had three wives. (see: Lings: pp. 163-165)
In the month of Ramadán 625 AD Fátimih gave birth to a son. Muhammad named His grandson al-Hasan (‘the beautiful’). Several days after the moon reached its full was the anniversary of the Battle of Badr. Muhammad received a sealed letter from His uncle ‘Abbás. It said that an army of three thousand was soon to march against Medina. Seven hundred wore mail and there were two hundred horses. The camels were as many as the troops, and there were transport camels carrying howdahs for their women. At this point, the Quraysh had set out. Muhammad Himself wore His turban around His helmet and donned His breastplate. Under this He wore a coat of mail belted with a leather sword-belt. He girt on His sword and wore a shield on His back. He rode His horse Sakb and He hung a bow over His shoulder. This was to be the Battle of Uhud. Muhammad was slightly wounded during this battle. (see: Lings: pp. 173-185)
Not long after the New Year of 626 AD, Fátimih gave birth to a second son. Muhammad named His grandson al-Husayn (‘the little Hasan’). Around the same time, Muhammad’s latest wife, Zaynab, who was called “the mother of the poor” died. He had only been married to her for eight months. He buried her not far from his daughter Ruqayyah. Abu Salamah, a devoted Muslim, died also. He had prayed: “God grant Umm Salamah after me a man who is better than me, one who will cause her no sadness and no hurt.” Four months later Muhammad asked for her hand. They were married. (see: Lings: p. 206)
At the end of the Battle of Badr, Muhammad had accepted the challenge that both sides meet again at Badr. The Prophet set out with an army of fifteen hundred men on camels and ten horsemen. However, the men of Quraysh did not show up. The Prophet returned and they had a month of peace in Medina. (see: Lings: pp. 207-208)
In 627 AD the Quraysh again prepared for battle. This time they made an alliance with the Jews of Bani Nadír. Their goal was to annihilate Islám in one fell swoop. The allies had a force of ten thousand and a troop of three horse. Moreover, they could rely on the the Bani Ghatafán to provide another troop of the same strength. The Muslims began to build a trench around various parts of Medina. The Prophet Himself worked on the trench, which took six days to complete. News arrived that the Quraysh were approaching. The Prophet encamped with His men, who numbered three thousand. The Quraysh were surprised to find a broad trench and a line of archers on its edge. The Jews of Bani Nadír hoped to get the Jews of Medina to break their pact with the Muslims and use this to their advantage. Seeing the formidable force of the Quraysh, the Bani Qurayzah, the Jews of Medina, renounced their pact with Muhammad. But the Quraysh could not prevail against the trench and they waited many days. Then the weather became cold and wet and a fierce wind came with torrents or rain. A tempest raged all over the plain and the wind rose to a tremendous force. Of the invaders, soon not one tent remained and all of their fires were put out. Nevertheless, the tents of the Muslims were unharmed, being somewhat sheltered. The Quraysh abandoned their mission and returned. The Prophet had once again prevailed. (see: Lings: pp. 215-228)
One night Muhammad had a dream in which He was on pilgrimage to the Holy House in Mecca. The Prophet and over a thousand other pilgrims went in the direction of Mecca. The Quraysh did not want to allow this and a treaty was eventually made between both parties. They would allow them to go on pilgrimage the following year and there would be ten years of peace. (see: Lings: pp. 247-253)
The Prophet wrote to the rulers of the surrounding lands, letting them know of the Advent of a new Day and new Dispensation. He wrote to Byzantine Emperor Heraclius, the Negus of Abyssinia, Khusraw Parvíz (Chrosroes II) of Persia, the ruler of Egypt (Maqawqis), the Ghassánid prince in Damascus and the Prince of Yamámah. The most succesful is said to have been to Mundhir Ibn Sáwí, who held Bahrayn on behalf of the ruler of Persia. This may have been during the sixth year of the Hijrah. (see: Balyuzi, “Muhammad and the Course of Islám”, pp. 114-117)
The Muslims had a great victory over the city of Khaybar in the north. There were other expeditions. When the time came, there were two thousand pilgrims who set off for Mecca. As the treaty stipulated, the Quraysh withdrew to the surrounding hills as the pilgrims arrived. The Prophet led the procession. They made their necessary circumambulations and sacrifices of animals. The Prophet’s head was then shaved. Muhammad then returned to the Holy House, intending to enter it, even though it had idols inside. The chiefs of the Quraysh had locked the door and refused to open it, since it was not part of the treaty. The pilgrims spent three days in the city. The Quraysh then demanded that they leave, and they did. (see: Lings: pp. 263-269, 274, 281)
It came to pass that there was some fighting between the two sides, in which the Quraysh helped their allies against some allies of Muhammad. The Prophet determined that the truce had been broken and an army was prepared that numbered nearly ten thousand. It was the largest to ever set forth from Medina. On their way they were joined by the Bani Sulaym, a troop of cavalry that was nine hundred strong. There was some fighting when they reached Mecca, but the Quraysh were no match for this army. The Prophet went to the black stone on the Ka‘bah and touched it with His staff, while saying: “Alláh-u-Akbar, Alláh-u-Akbar (God is Most Great, God is Most Great).” This was taken up accross Mecca until He bid them be silent with His hand. Then He circumambulated the Holy House seven times. He now rode around the Ka‘bah and said, while pointing to the 360 idols which surrounded it:
“Truth is come and falsehood is vanished. Verily, falsehood is a thing that vanisheth.” (Qur’án 17:83)
Each idol fell onto its face as He pointed at it. The Prophet and several companions entered the Ka‘bah. All the idols were effaced, but a picture of an old man, said to be Abraham. He stayed a while and then standing on the threshold He said: “Praise be to God, who hath fulfilled His promise and helped His slave and routed the clans, He alone.” Muhammad then asked the people of Mecca: “What say ye, and what think ye?” They replied: “We say well, and we think well: a noble and generous Brother, Son of a noble and generous Brother. It is thine to command.” He gave orders that the largest idol, Hubal, should be broken to pieces and all of them burned. He also proclaimed that all who possessed idols in their houses must destroy them. He withdrew to the hill of Safá and people came to Him in their hundreds to enter Islám. (see: Lings: pp. 293-303)
The Prophet left this world on Monday, the 12th of Rabí‘ 11 AH (8th of June 632 AD). Abu Bakr was proclaimed leader of the Muslims and Caliph (‘viceregent’). ‘Alí, the nephew and son-in-law of the Prophet, accepted Abu Bakr as Caliph to maintain unity between the Muslims, although ‘Alí himself was the successor chosen by Muhammad. (see: Lings: pp. 343-344, 346) The followers of the descendants of ‘Alí are known as the Shí‘ah Muslims. The followers of the Caliphs after ‘Alí are known as the Sunní Muslims. The latter group is by far the largest.
Muhammad taught, above all else, the Oneness of God. “SAY: He is God alone: God the eternal! He begetteth not, and He is not begotten. And there is none like unto Him.” (Qur’án 112) He is the same God worshipped in all religions. Muhammad taught the succession of the Messengers of God, from Adam to Himself, including: Noah, Abraham, Moses and Jesus Christ. He promised a Day of Judgement and Reckoning, and a Resurrection. There are subsidiary teachings (laws) in Islám, which comprise salát, an obligatory prayer to be said five times a day; sawm, fasting during the lunar month of Ramadán; hajj, pilgrimage, once in a lifetime, if it can be afforded, to the city of Mecca, the main rights being performed on the 10th of Dhu’l-Hijjah (the last Muslim month); zakát, payments to a Common Treasury. Shí‘ahs add the payment of khums (one fifth), which are offered to the Imám, or through his deputies. Jihád, defensive warfare, is also a subsidiary teaching. It was as legitimate as Britain defending itself against Germany during the World Wars, and does not imply violence in the name of religion. Furthermore, religion should never be imposed on anyone. (see: Balyuzi, pp. 155-159) The Qur’án (2:257-259) clearly states:
“Let there be no compulsion in Religion. Now is the right way made distinct from error. Whoever therefore shall deny Thagout and believe in God — he will have taken hold on a strong handle that shall not be broken: and God is He who Heareth, Knoweth. God is the patron of believers: He shall bring them out of darkness into light: As to those who believe not, their patrons are Thagout: they shall bring them out of light into darkness: they shall be given over to the fire: they shall abide therein for ever.”
Thagout was a pagan idol. Verse 172 of this Súrah of the Qur’án describes the Faith of Muhammad:
“There is no piety in turning your faces towards the east or the west, but he is pious who believeth in God, and the last day, and the angels, and the Scriptures, and the Prophets; who for the love of God disburseth his wealth to his kindred, and to the orphans, and the needy, and the wayfarer, and those who ask, and for ransoming; who observeth prayer, and payeth the legal alms, and who of those who are faithful to their engagements when they have engaged in them, and patient under ills and hardships, and in time of trouble: these are they who are just, and these are they who fear the Lord.”
George Townshend wrote that “No Christian student reading Muhammad's teachings can miss the fact that His ethical system corrected many of those corruptions which had crept” into Christianity. “For instance Muhammad preached an emphatic monotheism in place of a trinitarian Godhead. He left no room for that sacerdotalism which had so enervated and distorted the spirit of the Gospel. He encouraged and promoted in the strongest way the pursuit of science and in which had become anathema to Christian orthodoxy; He is believed to have said that the ink of the scholar was more holy than the blood of the martyr and to have bidden believers to go as far as China for knowledge if necessary. Instead of endorsing celibacy He honored marriage, home life and home duties and by the stress He said on the oneness of all believers and the paramount duty of brotherly loyalty He showed His horror of schism.” (“Christ and Bahá’u’lláh”, p. 41)
Muhammad prophesied that in the latter days the Mahdí would arise. He said: “The Mahdí will be of My stock and He will be broad of forehead and aquiline of nose. He will fill the earth with right and with justice even as it hath been filled with wrong and oppression. Seven years will He reign.” (3) He also promised that Christ would return. Furthermore, He predicted that the followers of Islám would follow the Jews and Christians in the path of degeneration. (see: Lings: pp. 332-333) Sunní Muslims expect the coming of the Mahdí and the Return of Christ, while Shí’ah Muslims expect the coming of the Qá’im and the return of Imám Husayn. The Mahdí and Qá’im who came in the latter days was the Báb. He was a descendant of the Prophet on both sides of His ancestry, and was Himself a Messenger of God. The return of Christ and of Imám Husayn was Bahá’u’lláh. In the time that the Báb and Bahá’u’lláh came, Islám had indeed become degenerated.
Bahá’u’lláh makes this momentous claim:
“O Jews! If ye be intent on crucifying once again Jesus, the Spirit of God, put Me to death, for He hath once more, in My person, been made manifest unto you. Deal with Me as ye wish, for I have vowed to lay down My life in the path of God. I will fear no one, though the powers of earth and heaven be leagued against Me. Followers of the Gospel! If ye cherish the desire to slay Muhammad, the Apostle of God, seize Me and put an end to My life, for I am He, and My Self is His Self. Do unto Me as ye like, for the deepest longing of Mine heart is to attain the presence of My Best-Beloved in His Kingdom of Glory. Such is the Divine decree, if ye know it. Followers of Muhammad! If it be your wish to riddle with your shafts the breast of Him Who hath caused His Book the Bayán to be sent down unto you, lay hands on Me and persecute Me, for I am His Well-Beloved, the revelation of His own Self, though My name be not His name. I have come in the shadows of the clouds of glory, and am invested by God with invincible sovereignty. He, verily, is the Truth, the Knower of things unseen. I, verily, anticipate from you the treatment ye have accorded unto Him that came before Me. To this all things, verily, witness, if ye be of those who hearken. O people of the Bayán! If ye have resolved to shed the blood of Him Whose coming the Báb hath proclaimed, Whose advent Muhammad hath prophesied, and Whose Revelation Jesus Christ Himself hath announced, behold Me standing, ready and defenseless, before you. Deal with Me after your own desires.” (Bahá’u’lláh: “Gleanings”, pp. 101-102)
The Prophet Muhammad spoke quite highly of Moses and Jesus Christ and revealed in the Qur’án are many stories about Them. The relationship between Islám and Christianity is similar to the relationship between Christianity and Judaism. Christ came to fulfill the Law of Moses when the Jews were in the clutches of the Romans and Muhammad brought the Qur’án in a time when Christianity had fallen into the Dark Ages. The relationship between the Bahá’í Faith and Islám is also similar. The Báb and Bahá’u’lláh came in a time when the splendour of Islámic civilisation had vanished, and the Islámic world was ruled by currupt tyrants. The principles of Islám had lost their meaning. There are several parts of the Bible which predict the coming of Muhammad.
“The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be.” (Genesis 49:10)
Some have suggested that “Shiloh” refers to Muhammad, just as Christians believe that the “Emmanuel” mentioned in Isaiah (7: 14) is Jesus Christ. Muhammad was not of the line of Judah, but was descended from Abraham through Ishmael. Jesus was of the line of Judah.
Similarly, Muhammad is also the return of Christ. He is the same Sun of Truth, although He does not have the same body as Jesus. Bahá’u’lláh explains:
“Every discerning observer will recognize that in the Dispensation of the Qur'án both the Book and the Cause of Jesus were confirmed. As to the matter of names, Muhammad, Himself, declared: "I am Jesus." He recognized the truth of the signs, prophecies, and words of Jesus, and testified that they were all of God. In this sense, neither the person of Jesus nor His writings hath differed from that of Muhammad and of His holy Book, inasmuch as both have championed the Cause of God, uttered His praise, and revealed His commandments. Thus it is that Jesus, Himself, declared: "I go away and come again unto you." Consider the sun. Were it to say now, "I am the sun of yesterday," it would speak the truth. And should it, bearing the sequence of time in mind, claim to be other than that sun, it still would speak the truth. In like manner, if it be said that all the days are but one and the same, it is correct and true. And if it be said, with respect to their particular names and designations, that they differ, that again is true. For though they are the same, yet one doth recognize in each a separate designation, a specific attribute, a particular character.” (Bahá’u’lláh: “Gleanings”, p. 21-22)
According to the Gospel of St. John (16:13-14), Jesus spoke of the coming of one who would “not speak of Himself; but whatsoever He shall hear, that shall He speak: and He will show you things to come. He shall glorify Me: for He shall receive of Mine, and shall shew it unto you.” The Qur’án glorified Christ (Qur’án 2:81): “...and to Jesus, Son of Mary, gave we clear proofs of His Mission, and strengthened Him by the Holy Spirit.” (Qur’án 5:109): “O Jesus! Son of Mary! call to mind My favour upon Thee and upon Thy mother, when I strengthened Thee with the Holy Spirit, that Thou shouldst speak to men alike in the cradle, and when grown up.” (Qur’án 44:63-64): “And when Jesus came with manifest proofs, He said, ‘Now am I come to you with wisdom; and a part of those things about which ye are at variance I will clear up to you; fear ye God therefore and obey Me. Verily, God is My Lord and your Lord; wherefore worship ye Him: this is a right way.’”
Also, in the Revelation of St. John it is writen (11:3):
“And I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and three-score days, clothed in sackloth.”
According to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá (“Some Answered Questions”, pp. 48-49): “These two witnesses are Muhammad the Messenger of God, and ‘Alí, son of Abú Tálib... The meaning of “a witness” is one by whose testimony things may be verified. The commands of these two witnesses were to be performed for twelve hundred and sixty days, each day signifying a year. Now, Muhammad was the root, and ‘Alí the branch, like Moses and Joshua. It is said they are “clothed in sackloth,” meaning that they, apparently, were to be clothed in old raiment, not in new raiment; in other words, in the beginning they would possess no splendour in the eyes of the people, nor would their Cause appear new; for Muhammad’s spiritual Law corresponds to that of Christ in the Gospel, and most of His laws relating to material things correspond to those of the Pentateuch. This is the meaning of the old raiment.”
And (Rev. 11:9): “And they of the people and kindreds and tongues and nations shall see their dead bodies three days and a half, and shall not suffer their bodies to be put in graves.”
‘Abdu’l-Bahá explains (SAQ, pp. 52): “As it was before explained, in the terminology of the Holy Books three days and a half signify three years and a half, and three years and a half are forty and two months, and forty and two months twelve hundred and sixty days; and as each day by the text of the Holy Book signifies one year, the meaning is that for twelve hundred and sixty years, which is the cycle of the Qur’án, the nations, tribes and peoples would look at their bodies — that is to say, that they would make a spectacle of the Religion of God: though they would not act in accordance with it, still, they would not suffer their bodies — meaning the Religion of God — to be put in the grave. That is to say, that in appearance they would cling to the Religion of God and not allow it to completely disappear from their midst, nor the body of it to be entirely destroyed and annihilated. Nay, in reality they would leave it, while outwardly preserving its name and remembrance.”
In the Bible it says (Cf. Num. 14:34): “The day of the Lord is one year.” Twelve hundred and sixty years are mentioned in the above quotes. This means that twelve hundred and sixty years from the beginning of the Muslim era, or in the year 1260 AH, the cycle of the Muslim Dispensation would end. The Islámic year 1260 AH corresponds to the year 1844 AD, the year in which the Báb declared His Mission.
Furthermore, it says in Revelation of St. John (11:11): “And after three days an an half the Spirit of life from God entered into them, and they stood upon their feet; and great fear fell upon them which saw them.”
‘Abdu’l-Bahá explains (SAQ, pp. 54): “Three days and a half, as we before explained, is twelve hundred and sixty years. Those two persons whose bodies were lying spiritless are the teachings and law that Muhammad established and ‘Alí promoted, from which, however, the reality had departed and only the form remained. The spirit came again into them means that those foundations and teachings were again established. In other words, the spirituality of the Religion of God had been changed into materiality, and virtues into vices; the love of God had been changed into hatred, enlightenment into darkness, divine qualities into satanic ones, justice into tyranny, mercy into enmity, sincerity into hypocrisy, guidance into error, and purity into sensuality. Then after three days and a half, which by the terminology of the Holy Books is twelve hundred and sixty years, these divine teachings, heavenly virtues, perfections and spiritual bounties were again renewed by the appearance of the Báb and Jináb-i-Quddús.” (4)
The Revelation of St. John also describes three woes and it says (Rev. 11:14): “The second woe is past; and behold the third woe cometh quickly.”
‘Abdu’l-Bahá explains (SAQ, pp. 56): “The first woe is the appearance of the Prophet, Muhammad, the son of ‘Abdu’lláh—peace be upon Him! The second woe is that of the Báb—to Him be glory and praise! The third woe is the great day of the manifestation of the Lord of Hosts and the radiance of the Beauty of the Promised One. The explanation of this subject, woe, is mentioned in the thirtieth chapter of Ezekiel, where it is said: “The word of the Lord came again unto me, saying, Son of man, prophesy and say, Thus saith the Lord God; Howl ye, Woe worth the day! For the day is near, even the day of the Lord is near.”
“Therefore, it is certain that the day of woe is the day of the Lord; for in that day woe is for the neglectful, woe is for the sinners, woe is for the ignorant. That is why it is said: “The second woe is past; behold the third woe cometh quicklly!” This third woe is the day of the manifestation of Bahá’u’lláh, the day of God; and it is near to the day of the appearance of the Báb.”
The Qur’án, the Holy Book of Islám, says (2:1-4):
“No doubt is there about this Book: It is a guidance to the God-fearing, who believe in the unseen, who observe prayer, and out of what we have bestowed on them, expend for God; And who believe in what hath been sent down to thee, and in what hath been sent down before thee, and full faith have they in the life to come: These are guided by their Lord; and with these it shall be well.”
Notes (1) to (4):
1: From Wüsterfeld’s edition of Sirat Rasul Allah, a life of the Prophet by Muhammad ibn Ishraq. (see: Lings, Key to References)
2: From the Islamic traditionist Muhammad ibn Isma‘il al-Bukhari (see: Lings, Key to References)
3: From Muslim ibn al-Hajjaj al-Qushayri (see: Lings, Key to References)
4: Hájí Mullá Muhammad-‘Alíy-i-Bárfurúshí, one of the chief disciples of the Báb and one of the nineteen Letters of the Living
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