Chapter 2     Chapter 4


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III.

"AN EXCELLENT PATTERN HAVE YE"



      "His morals are the Qur'an," said 'Ayishih of Muhammad. He, like the other Manifestations of God, is a perfect example for men to follow. The Qur'an says: "An excellent pattern have ye in the Apostle of God." (33:21).

      He was stern in punishing criminals, but always forgave personal enemies; for example Habrar, who drove the end of his lance against the Prophet's daughter, as she was mounting her camel to flee from Mecca. She was far advanced in pregnancy; she fell to the ground, and later died from the injury. Habrar threw himself on Muhammad's mercy, and was pardoned. (Ameer-`Ali, op.cit., 178). The God of the Qur'an is a God of mercy; over and over, we hear of His mercy; we are told never to despair of it; God says, "I will answer the cry of him that crieth, when he crieth unto me: but let them hearken unto me, and believe in me." (2:182). We are told that God "hath imposed mercy upon Himself as a law." (6:12).[1]

      He was always thankful. "When the first-fruits of the season were brought : to Him, He would kiss them, place them upon His eyes and say: 'Lord, as Thou hast shown us the first, show unto us likewise the last.'" (Muir, op. cit., 516). Repeatedly, we are directed in the Qur'an to be thankful: "forsooth is God rich without you: but He is not pleased with thanklessness in His servants: yet if ye be thankful He will be pleased with you." (39:9).

      He was immaculate in His person, and loved fragrances; He would use musk and ambergris, and burn camphor on odoriferous wood. It is said that once His revelations ceased, and He remarked to some people who were present, "How can revelations not be interrupted when you do not trim your nails, nor clip your moustache...." ('Ali Tabari, The Book of Religion and Empire, 27). The Qur'an says, "God loveth the clean." (9:109).

      Many of our modern courtesy customs are traceable to Muhammad. He said, "The duties of Muslims to each other are six...When you meet a Muslim, greet him, and when he inviteth you to dinner, accept; and when he asketh you for advice, give it him; and when he sneezeth and saith, 'Praise be to God,' do you say, 'May God have mercy upon thee'; and when he is sick, visit him; and when he dieth, follow his bier." Again He said, "When victuals are placed before you no man must stand up till it be taken away; nor must one man leave off eating before the rest; and if he doeth, he must make an apology... It is of my ways that a man shall come out with his guest to the door of his house...It is not right for a guest to stay so long as to incommode his host." (Cf. Suhrawardy, Sayings). He also directed His followers not to present themselves at mealtime unasked, and not to interfere with the owner of the house in the management of his house. (Cf. Persian Dars-i-Akhlaq).

      Modern societies for the prevention of cruelty to animals owe much to Him. He taught kindness to animals, and said that an adulteress was forgiven her sin because, seeing a dog suffering from thirst, she tied her shoe to her garment and lowered it into a well, to draw up water for the dog.

      He was endlessly patient. ('Abdu'l-Baha once said to my mother: Sabr kun; mithl-i-man bash--Be thou patient; be thou like unto Me.) The Qur'an enjoins patience in over seventy passages. It states: "How goodly the reward


  1. This teaching seems to have freed the Muslims from the burden of conscious and unconscious guilt which weighs so heavily on many Christians



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of those who labor, Who patiently endure, and put their trust in their Lord!" (29:58-59); and "Verily those who endure with patience shall be rewarded: their reward shall not be by measure." (39:13).

      He taught people to love the next world; He said this world was only a vapor in a desert. Again He said, "Verily, the world is no otherwise than as a tree...when the traveler hath rested under its shade, he passeth on." (Cf. Muir, op. cit., 330 n.). As He was dying He told them, "God hath a servant to whom He hath said: Dost thou desire this world or the next? The servant hath chosen the next, and God hath approved his choice, and hath promised to call him into His presence." And one of the believers who was there understood, and wept. (Cf. Tabari, Chronique, III, 208-209).

      He taught them to give alms, this being contrary to their wishes. Persia seemed to me a nation of alms-givers; I will never forget the grace and courtesy with which a friend of ours, a member of Parliament, gave alms to anyone who asked. Muhammad said, "Fear the Fire by giving alms, although it be but one half of a date." ('Ali Tabari, op. cit., 26-27). This Persian boasted that his father and grandfather died poor. Poverty is highly prized by the true Muslims, because Muhammad said "Poverty is My glory." He ate sitting on the ground; His pillow was His arm; He lived in a row of modest rooms, made of sun-dried brick, furnished with leather water-bags, and leather mats stuffed with palm-fibre, and cots of palm-fibre rope. He kindled the fire, swept the floor, patched His own garments and shoes, milked the goats. He said, "I am a servant, I eat and sleep like a servant." (A. Tabari, idem).

      As to the question, what is a Muslim? Islam is a clear and fundamentally easy religion to obey. The Qur'an says, "We will teach thee to recite the Qur'an. . .And we will make easy to thee our easy ways." (87:8). And again, "we will lay on them our easy behests." (18:87). It does not confuse its adherents with a complicated theology, and its text is clear on the duties to be performed by them. It has no priesthood, no mediators between the faithful and their Lord; the 'ulama, meaning the learned ones--the qadis (judges), muftis (exponents of the religious law), mujtahids, mullas--are not a priesthood in the Christian sense, but expounders of the law. The Muslims do not worship Muhammad (Who seems indeed to have stressed the human station of the Prophet to compensate for the Christian worship of Jesus). We read that in His lifetime "The meanest slaves would take hold of his hand and drag him to their masters to obtain redress for ill treatment or release from bondage." (Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din, The Ideal Prophet, Woking, 1925; 194). He was at everyone's disposal, "even as the river's bank to him that draweth water from it" (Muir, op. cit., 511); and this loving and trusting attitude continues, but the Qur'an forbade the Muslims to deify Him; He told them He was a "witness, and a herald...and a warner; And one who, through His permission, summoneth to God, and a light-giving torch." (Qur'an 33: 44-45). It is the one, universal God Who is worshipped in Islam; One closer to man" than his neck-vein" (50:15), and aware of all things: "no leaf falleth but He knoweth it." (6:59), and characterized by ninety-names given throughout the Qur'an, and another name, the Greatest Name, not made known at that time (asma'u'l-husna; Qur'an 7:179; 17:110; 59:24). He said, "The idols which ye invoke...can never create a single fly...and if the fly snatch anything from them, they cannot recover the same...." (Qur'an 22:72). Muhammad did not found a new religion, but renewed the one religion brought by successive holy Prophets before Him, and Who were on the same plane as Muhammad Himself (2:130).[2] The soul is immortal and accountable for its actions. The Muslims do not believe in original sin, or vicarious atonement; salvation is not only for Muslims but for the followers of all


  1. The oneness of religions is unequivocally stated: "Verily We have revealed to Thee as We revealed to Noah and the Prophets after Him, and as We revealed to Abraham, and Ishmael, and Isaac, and Jacob, and the tribes, and Jesus, and Job, and Jonah, and Aaron, and Solomon; and to David gave We Psalms." (4:161).



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previous faiths: "Verily, they who believe, and the Jews, and the Sabeites, and the Christians--whoever of them believeth in God and in the last day, and doth what is right, on them shall Come no fear, neither shall they be put to grief. (Qur'an 5:73). (The Qur'an states of unnamed Prophets, "Of other Apostles We have not told Thee." (4:162). A Zoroastrian wrote 'Abdu'l-Baha to ask why Zoroaster was not mentioned by Muhammad; the Master referred him to Qur'an 25:40 and 50:12, "those who dwelt at Rass," explaining that Rass is the Araxes River and the reference is to Zoroaster and others. Cf. Persian Tablets, published text). Islam is against aggression, permitting war only in self- defense and under well-defined conditions: "Fight in the way of God against those who attack you, but begin not hostilities, for God loveth not the transgressors." (2:186). Islam, the religion, was not propagated by the sword; to the charge that Islamic aggression was infused into medieval Christianity, the Muslims reply: "The massacres of Justinian and the fearful wars of Christian Clovis in the name of religion occurred long before the time of Muhammad." (Ameer-Ali, op. cit., 311-314). They contrast the taking of Jerusalem by the Caliph 'Umar, and its conquest six hundred years later by the Christian Crusaders; 'Umar rode into the city with the Patriarch Sophronius, conversing on its antiquities; when the hour of prayer came, he declined to pray in the Church of the Resurrection, where he then happened to be, lest in future the Muslims, claiming a precedent, should infringe the rights of the Christians to their church. This was in 637. The Crusaders dashed the brains of children against the walls, roasted men at slow fires, ripped up others to see if they had swallowed gold, drove the Jews into their synagogue and burnt them, massacred 70,000 people.

      Non-Muslims in the conquered countries were equal to the Muslims in all respects, paying a moderate capitation-tax (jizyah) in return for military exemption, and exemption from payment of the poor-rate (zakat), a tax of 2 - 1/2% on total annual income, compulsory for Muslims. We are told (in the useful introduction to the re-edition of Sir 'Abdu'llah Suhrawardy's Sayings of Muhammad, Wisdom of the East Series, E. P. Dutton, M.Y., 1941; 17-46) "When the Roman Emperor embraced Christianity, the population of the whole Roman Empire, including Egypt, was by decree forced to renounce all other religions and adopt Christianity; but it was not until after five hundred years of Muslim rule in Egypt that, as the result of peaceful conversion, the Muslims formed even 50 per cent. of the total population. In Northern India...which has been under Muslim rule for six centuries...there is a Hindu population of 41 millions, against the Muslim population of 7 millions, according to the Census of 1931. The Hindus and Muslims have lived together as fellow-citizens for centuries..."

      Muhammad said, "He who wrongs a Jew or Christian will have Me as his accuser." (Dermenghem, op. cit., 331). "Before the Hejira, the Mussulmans had endured persecution without defence; later they put up a legitimate resistance and when they became victors they practised tolerance... The idolater was not allowed to remain on Moslem soil; but the People of the Book both Jew and Christian, by paying tribute, had a right to protection, could practise their faith freely, and were considered a part of the community." (Idem). In Spain as elsewhere, Ameer-'Ali points out, Muslim rule brought great progress, order, peace and plenty, promotion of freedom and equality, regard of rulers for their subjects. Countries under Muslim rule were exempt from the disastrous consequences of the feudal system and the feudal code; Muslim legislation freed the soil and assured the rights of individuals. Spain had greatly suffered from barbarian hordes, and the people had been weighted down with feudal burdens, while vast areas were deserted; under the Muslims, people and land were enfranchised, cities sprang up,


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order was established, Muslims and non-Muslims--Suevi, Goth, Vandal, Roman and Jew--were placed on equal footing, intermarriage took place. This author says it "would be an insult to common-sense and humanity" to compare the Arab rule in Spain "with that of the Normans in England, or of the Christians in Syria during the Crusades..." (op. cit., 422 ff.). The Arabs colonized the depopulated areas, bringing in large industrious communities from Africa and Asia, including 50,000 Jews, with their families, at one time; the generous offers of the Muslims attracted these peoples.

      The Qur'an forbids drinking, gambling, usury, all forms of vice, and is the first of the sacred Books to put a restriction on polygamy. Muhammad forbids the vengeance of blood and all blood feuds. He prepared the way for the abolition of slavery, encouraging the manumission of slaves by His own example, and greatly ameliorating their lot; slavery as practised in the West is unknown in Islam; slaves, such as the mameluke sultans of Egypt, could become kings. As for women, Muhammad has been called the greatest champion of women's rights the world has ever seen; Islam gives to women the same property rights as her husband; she can inherit and dispose of property, has various alimony and other rights, must be treated with respect. There is no color or race prejudice in Islam--color is "a sign of God" (30:21; 35:25). Islam teaches love of country (nationalism is its great contribution, the Guardian told Emeric Sala). The Muslims have no caste system, and the Hajj brings them all together, as equals. Islam imposes only five obligations on the faithful: They must affirm that there is no God but God and that Muhammad is the Apostle of God; they must pray five times a day; fast one month out of the year; pay the poor- rate annually; make one pilgrimage to Mecca in their lifetime, if they are able. The Muslims pray wherever they happen to be at the appointed hours, facing the Ka'bih; they must be in a state of cleanliness and have performed the ablutions.

      In studying the Qur'an we should remember that no council of scholars has ever translated it into western languages, as was done with the King James and other versions of the Bible, and that the standard English rendering, George Sale's, is based on Maracci's Latin version, made for the purpose of discrediting Islam.

      The Muslim Paradise and Hell are to be taken as symbols, not in the literal sense. The Qur'an tells of "The parable (mathal) of the Garden which the righteous are promised" (13:35). The descriptions are figurative, just as Jesus the Christ was speaking figuratively when He said to His disciples, "I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom." (Matt. 26:29). Muhammad tells of "the meadows of Paradise" (42:21); He says Paradise has "storied pavilions beneath which...the rivers flow." (39:21). He speaks of the gardens of delight, and the cup that shall not oppress the sense, of the houris with faces fair as ostrich eggs, of the ever-blooming youths going round about with goblets, of lote-trees and acacias, of soft green cushions and delicate carpets. (Cf. 55,56, 37). He says of the believers in Paradise, "No vain discourse shall they hear therein, nor any falsehood, but only the cry, 'Peace! Peace!'" (56:24-25),

      The Qur'an--the Book to be Read--is like the ocean, always new and always changing. It cannot be presented in brief--you cannot summarize the Atlantic. I have only suggested a few ripples. One further aspect of the Qur'an I would like to mention: its completely realistic view of humanity. (This fact of Omniscience being onto us is not without humor).


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      The Qur'an states that man "hath been created weak" (4:32) and "hasty" (70:19, 17:12); that woman is "forever contentious without reason." (43:17). It reminds man that he was made of a drop of "sorry water" (32:7) and repeatedly warns him, in the circumstances, against pride: "Walk not proudly in the land, for thou canst not cleave the earth, neither shalt thou equal the mountains in stature," (17:39). The true Muslims are humble, known by the dust on their foreheads--"their tokens are on their faces" (48:29)--from bowing down in prayer. In prosperity, an individual forgets God, returning quickly to Him when in trouble: "When We are gracious to man, he withdraweth and turneth him aside; but when evil toucheth him, he is a man of long prayers." (41:51). A believer whose custom it was to slip discreetly away from over-long meetings, was somewhat dismayed to come upon this: "God knoweth those of you who withdraw quietly from the assemblies, screening themselves behind others." (24: 63) .

      What was He like, this Man Who, thirteen hundred years ago, said, "We shall hurl the truth at falsehood, and it shall smite it, and lo! it shall vanish." (21:18). The Imam 'Ali, who loved Muhammad, remembered Him as follows: "He was of the middle height, neither very tall nor very short. His skin was fair but ruddy, His eyes black; His beard, that surrounded all His face, luxuriant. The hair of His head was long and fell to His shoulders; it was black. His neck was white...His gait was so energetic you would have said He was wrenching His foot from a stone, yet at the same time so light He seemed to float...But He did not walk with pride, as the princes do. (Elsewhere we read that He sometimes walked very rapidly, and that He never turned, even if His mantle caught in a thorny bush). There was such sweetness in His face, that once you were in His presence you could not leave Him; if you were hungry, it fed you just to look at Him...When they entered His presence, the afflicted forgot their anguish. Whoever saw Him declared that he had never found, before or afterward, a man of such entrancing speech. His nose was aquiline, His teeth somewhat far apart. Sometimes He would let His hair fall free, sometimes He wore it knotted in two or four strands. At sixty-three...age had whitened but some fifteen of His hairs..." (Tabari, Chroniques, III, 202-203).

      Fanny Knobloch, a distinguished early Baha'i pioneer, once told me that if she ever were found worthy to enter Paradise and consort with the Prophets of God, she wished to be with Muhammad because she had fought His battles against the Christians for so many years. Undoubtedly, in the realms of the placeless, He knows that we Baha'is are trying to redress the wrongs that have been done Him for thirteen centuries. These verses, which He brought His followers, apply to us as well:

"Verily, in the creation of the Heavens and of the Earth, and in the succession of the night and of the day, are signs for men of understanding heart; Who standing, and sitting, and reclining, bear God in mind, and muse on the creation of the Heavens and of the Earth. 'O our Lord!' say they, 'Thou hast not created this in vain. No. Glory be to Thee! Keep us, then, from the torment of the fire...O our Lord! we have indeed heard the voice of one that called. He called us to the faith-- 'Believe ye on your Lord'--and we have believed. O our Lord! forgive us then our sin, and hide away from us our evil deeds, and cause us to die with the righteous. O our Lord! and give us what Thou hast promised us by Thine Apostles, and put us not to shame on the day of the resurrection. Verily, Thou wilt not fail Thy promise.' And their Lord answereth them, 'I will not suffer the work of him among you that worketh, whether of male or female, to be lost...And they who have fled their country and quitted their homes and suffered in My Cause, and have fought and fallen, I will blot out their sins from them, and I will bring them into gardens beneath which the streams do flow...They shall abide therein forever.'"(3: 197 ff.).


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