Chapter 4     Chapter 6


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V.

WHAT IS ISLAM?



      Islam is a fuller Revelation from God than any which preceded it. There are a number of prophecies in the Old and New Testament proclaiming the advent of Muhammad:

      Deuteronomy 33:2: "The Lord came from Sinai, and rose up from Seir unto them; he shined forth from mount Paran, and he came with ten thousands of saints..." Paran is a mountain in Arabia, and the Paran references are all to Islam; the other Manifestations in this particular prophecy are Moses, Jesus (Seir being a mountain in Galilee), and Baha'u'llah, the Lord of Hosts. Habakkuk 3:3 speaks of the "Holy One from mount Paran." Genesis 17:20 says: "And as for Ishmael...Behold, I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly; twelve princes shall he beget, and I will make him a great nation." Muhammad descends from Abraham through Ishmael, and the twelve princes are the twelve Imams. Deuteronomy, 18:18 says: "I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee (Moses), and will put my words in his mouth..." This could not refer to the Israelites because it says "brethren," not "seed." John 1:19-21 shows that the Jews were expecting three personages: Christ, Elias, and that Prophet like unto Moses: the Jews having asked John the Baptist if he was Christ, he said no; "And they asked him, What then? Art thou Elias? And he saith, I am not, Art thou that prophet? And he answered, No." Qur'an 73:15 compares Muhammad to Moses: "Verily we have sent unto you an Apostle to witness against you, even as we sent an Apostle to Pharaoh." I John 4:1-3 says: "Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God...." This of course is applicable to Muhammad. Again, Qur'an 61:6 says: "And remember when Jesus the son of Mary said, 'O children of Israel! of a truth I am God's apostle to you to confirm the law which was given before me, and to announce an apostle that shall come after me whose name shall be Ahmad!'" The Muslims read the Paraclete, John 16:7, 14:16, 14:26, and 15:26 (also I John 2:1) as the Periclyte, or Illustrious, which is the meaning of Ahmad.[1] Muhammad said, in an indubitable hadith: "I have five names: I am Muhammad; and Ahmad; and Effacing, by means of which God effaces infidelity; and Gatherer, who will gather people; and Final, that is to say, the last of the Prophets." ('Ali Tabari, op. cit., 42).

      Muhammad, called by Baha'u'llah "God's Well-Beloved," (Shoghi Effendi, World Order of Baha'u'llah, 106), is at one with all the other Manifestations, and therefore we must know Him as well as the others. Baha'u'llah says to the unbelievers, "If ye cherish the desire to slay Muhammad, seize Me and put an end to My life, for I am He, and My Self is His Self." (Gleanings, 101).

      The Supreme Religious Court of Egypt in 1926 officially declared the Baha'is "as the believers in heresy, offensive and injurious to Islam, and wholly incompatible with the accepted doctrines and practice of its orthodox adherents." The text of their decision reads that the Baha'i Faith is a new religion, entirely independent, one of the established religious systems of the world; that Baha'is are no more Muslims than Muslims are Christians or Jews (Baha'i Administration, 3rd Ed., 91 and 111). The opinion the Muslims have of us is such that they are still killing us in the streets of Persia.


  1. See Hastings Dictionary of the Bible, s.v. Paraclete the word has been translated Comforter in the Gospel, Advocate in the Epistle.



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      When I worked on a Persian newspaper, the editor asked about my Baha'i ring; I explained, and he said, "Was there a shortage of religions, that you had to choose that one ?" Today the secularized Muslims, i.e., the younger, educated element, do not care about religion. All Muslims, however, maintain that no new religion would come after Muhammad, since the text of the Qur'an declares that He is the seal of the Prophets (33:40). However, Baha'u'llah explains in the Iqan (161 ff.) What all the Manifestations of God are First and Last, beginning and end--or, as the Revelation says, Alpha and Omega...It is obvious that we should expect no thanks for vindicating Muhammad, either from the fanatical element among the Muslims, who have cast us out, or from the fanatical element among the Christians, who condemn us as spreaders of Islam--but a long injustice has been done to Muhammad, and a Baha'i will always champion the cause of truth, let the chips fall where they may.

      The situation, as we all know, is this: All religions are inwardly one and eternal, but outwardly various and subject to change. The Guardian writes of "successive, of preliminary and progressive revelations...beginning with Adam and ending with the Bab..." (World Order of Baha'u'llah, 103). Today we are living in the promised time of all the ages, the great Day of God.

      The Guardian directs the believers to "approach reverently and with a mind purged from pre-conceived ideas the study of the Qur'an..." (Advent of Divine Justice, 41); and to obtain "a sound knowledge of the history and tenets of Islam...the source and background of their Faith.." (Idem).

      The Christians do not seem to understand that the Qur'an teaches belief in all the Prophets of God. When I went to Persia I found my Muslim relatives were more fanatical Christians than my Protestant Christian relatives. The Qur'an teaches acceptance of all the Manifestations up to and including Muhammad, and establishes them on the same plane: "Say ye: 'We believe in God, and that which hath been sent down to us, and that which hath been sent down to Abraham and Ismael and Isaac and Jacob and the tribes: and that which hath been given to Moses and to Jesus, and that which was given to the prophets from their Lord. No difference do we make between any of them: and to God are we resigned (Muslims).'" (Qur'an 2:130; see also 3:78; 4:151; 5:73). The Qur'an teaches the virgin birth of Jesus; it has a complete Surih--the 19th--devoted to Mary. It does not hold with the notion of three Gods (4:169; 5:77) or that Jesus the Messiah is the son of God: "God is only one God! Far be it from His glory that He should have a son!" (Qur'an 4:169). But Muhammad insists on belief in Jesus, and 'Abdu'l-Baha' shows how the Qur'an adds much information on the life of Jesus, not given in the Gospel story (Promulgation of Universal Peace, I, 196). The Qur'an also states that of all people the Christians are "nearest in affection" to the Muslims, "because they are free from pride. And when they hear that which hath been sent down to the Apostle, thou seest their eyes overflow with tears at the truth they recognize therein..." (5:85-86). 'Abdu'l-Baha says, "Muhammad never fought against the Christians; on the contrary, he treated them kindly and gave them perfect freedom...In the edicts which he promulgated it is clearly stated that the lives, properties, and laws of the Christians and Jews are under the protection of God..." (Some Answered Questions, 25-26). Ameer-`Ali points out that Muhammad's Charter to the Christians gave them rights that they did not enjoy under their own sovereigns (Spirit of Islam,


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176).[2] As for His relation to the people of the Old Testament, the Qur'an compares Muhammad to Moses (73:15), and Muhammad says the Qur'an confirms the Book of Moses: "But before the Qur'an was the Book of Moses, a guide and a mercy; and this Book confirmeth it...." (46:11). Elsewhere in the Qur'an He says His is the same Faith as those gone before: "To you hath He prescribed the Faith which He commanded unto Noah, and which we have revealed to thee, and which we commanded unto Abraham and Moses and Jesus, saying, 'Observe this faith, and be not divided into sects therein."' (42: 11).

      There are many unfounded charges brought against Muhammad and we must know how to refute them. They are generally of an emotional nature, centering on women and on war; the inquirer's thinking is at once blocked by the emotional content of the accusation, and he turns away.

      The first thing said is that Muhammad had several wives. We should explain that when Muhammad came into the world He found polygamy generally practised. Muhammad did not invent polygamy. Parviz, a contemporary king of Persia, had 12,000 wives. Tabari tells how, each year, the king would despatch three messengers throughout the realm, to replenish the (already somewhat cramped) harem. These envoys did not, like Hollywood talent scouts, send back descriptions of the ladies they discovered; on the contrary, each of them set out with a description, and it was his job to find girls who conformed to it. (Chroniques, II, 312 ff.).

      The Jewish law set no limit to the number of wives a man might have. The holy Prophets of the Old Testament, such as Abraham, had more than one wife. As for Christianity, Jesus does not establish monogamy nor forbid polygamy. The early Christian clergy often had more than one wife at one time. W.E.H. Lecky says, "A tax called 'Culagium,' which was in fact a license to clergymen, to keep concubines, was during several centuries systematically levied by princes." (History of European Morals, II, 330). "An Italian bishop of the tenth century epigrammatically described the morals of his time, when he declared, that if he were to enforce the canons against unchaste people administering ecclesiastical rites, no one would be left in the church except the boys; and if he were to observe the canons against bastards, these also must be excluded." (Idem). Eventually, asceticism was forced on the priests, some being obliged to discard their legal wives. "St. Gregory the Great describes the virtue of a priest, who, through motives of piety, had discarded his wife. As he lay dying, she hastened to him to watch the bed which for forty years she had not been allowed to share, and, bending over what seemed the inanimate form of her husband, she tried to ascertain whether any breath still remained, when the dying saint, collecting his last energies, exclaimed,


  1. See The Oath of Muhammad to the Followers of the Nazarene, tr. by Anton F. Haddad, 1902; Published by Baha'i Board of Counsel, N. Y. Written by `Ali and signed by twenty-two leading companions of the Prophet this was issued to the monks of St. Catherine at Mt. Sinai; for Arabic version, see Sunnajatu't-Tarab by Naufal Effendi Naufal: "This letter is directed to the embracers of Islam...as a Covenant to the followers of the Nazarene ..who disobeys that which is therein will be regarded as one who has corrupted His Testament, rejected His Authority, despised His Religion, and made himself deserving of His Curse... Whenever monks, devotees and pilgrims gather together...Verily we are back of them and shall protect them, and their properties..." Exempted from all but a voluntary tax "they must not be offended, or disturbed, or coerced or compelled." Their judges and monks are to be free, no churches are to be plundered, no poll taxes are to be imposed on those whose occupation is worship (judges, monks) "Verily I shall keep their compact in the East or the West, in the North or the South, for they are under My protection and the testament of My safety, against all things which they abhor " The wealthy and able were to pay the about 12 dirhems a year poll tax, but none were to be obliged to carry arms, "for the Muslims have to fight for them " "Do not dispute or argue with them " No Christian woman is to marry a Muslim without her consent; she is not to be prevented from going to her church for prayer..." The Muslims must protect them and defend them against others. It is positively incumbent upon everyone of the Muslim nations not to contradict or disobey this oath until the Day of Resurrection...."



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'Woman, begone; take away the straw; there is fire yet."' (Ibid., 332).

      The Qur'an teaches monogamy. The text states: "marry but two, or three, or four: and if ye still fear that ye shall not act equitably, then one only." (4:3); elsewhere the text states that such equitable action would be impossible: "And ye will not have it at all in your power to treat your wives alike, even though you fain would do so...." (4:128).

      The fact that Jesus did not marry was obviously not intended as an example to mankind, since this would mean our extinction. The Qur'an states of the Christians, "...as to the monastic life, they invented it themselves. The desire only of pleasing God did we prescribe to them..." (57:27). The whole tenor of Islam is to live in the world but not of it, and to practise abstinence and frugality; a hadith, sums this up: A goat had been killed in Muhammad's Household, and He asked, "What remaineth of it?" His wife 'Ayishih answered, "Nothing but its shoulder remaineth; for we have sent the rest to the poor and neighbors." Muhammad answered, "The whole goat remaineth save only the shoulder...."

      As for Muhammad's own marriages, He was a celibate until twenty- five, had lived in strict monogamy until He was past fifty; He then married, in some cases to provide for them, a number of His follower's widows, for the male Muslims were being killed in battle; in other cases, His marriages were political, establishing alliances with other tribes; He had also two Jewish wives and one Christian, thus establishing inter- Faith marriages. The list of those who became the Prophet's wives varies somewhat, but the number totals about thirteen. Muhammad was the Head of a State, a powerful Ruler, Whose followers would gladly give Him anything He asked, even life; He could easily have followed custom by taking any number of wives, and by living in indulgence and luxury like the wealthy Meccans. Instead, He was, all the days of His life, so frugal and abstinent, giving everything away to guests and to the poor, that His wives protested against the poverty of His Household; He then gave them their choice of continuing to share His poverty or going their way. This is the text of the Qur'an: "O Prophet! (The Angelic Presence addresses Muhammad throughout in the second person, often prefacing a commandment with "Say:") say to thy wives, if ye desire this present life and its braveries, come then, I will provide for you, and dismiss you with an honorable dismissal." (33:28). We read that when His daughter Fatimih was married to 'Ali, the only dowry that the Prophet could give her as "a bed woven with twisted palm-leaves, a pillow of skin stuffed with palm-tree fibers, an earthen pot, a waterskin, and a basket containing some raisins and dates." ('Ali Tabari, The Book of Religion and Empire, 25). Fatimih's hands were sorely hurt from the handle of the flour mill, when grinding the grains for flour; she asked if she could not have a serving woman, but the Prophet said no, "Because, my little daughter, I have not in my house a place to contain all the Muslim women of whom you are one; therefore remember and thank God frequently." (Idem)..To sum up, polygamy was greatly restricted as the result of Islam, and the basis for true monogamy, which will be one of the blessings of the Baha'i world, was established.

      Again, enemies of Islam say that Muhammad degraded women; but western scholars have known for a long time that the Qur'an grants to women rights which no previous religion had given them; to prove this, you have only to compare the texts of the various Faiths. Furthermore, the Qur'an gives the sexes full spiritual equality: "Verily the Muslims of either sex, and the true believers of either sex, and the devout men and the devout women, and the men of truth, and the women of truth, and the patient men and the patient women,


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and the humble men and the humble women, and the men who give alms and the women who give alms, and the men who fast and the women who fast, and the chaste men and the chaste women, and the men and the women who oft remember God: for them hath God prepared forgiveness and a rich recompense. (33:35).

      Another false charge is that Islam was spread by the sword. The Muslims point to the way Christianity was spread, from the Church- sanctioned slaughters of Charlemagne to the massacre and enslavement of the American Indians; Ameer-`Ali states that "The followers of the 'Prince of Peace' burnt and ravished, pillaged and murdered promiscuously old and young, male and female, without compunction, up to recent times..." (Spirit of Islam, 180-181). He notes that Calvin burned Servetus for his opinions on the Trinity, and the Protestants applauded. (Ibid., 302). The Qur'an says, "Let there be no compulsion in religion." (2:257) "What! wilt thou compel men to become believers? No soul can believe but by the permission of God..." (10:99-100). He always enjoined clemency, when He sent out expeditions against hostile tribes: "...molest not the harmless, spare the weakness of the female sex; injure not the infant...or those who are ill...Abstain from demolishing the dwellings of the unresisting inhabitants; destroy not the means of their subsistence...." (Ameer-`Ali, op.cit., 180). The conquered populations were given their choice of accepting Islam or paying a moderate capitation-tax (jizya) which incidentally released them from the military service compulsory for Muslims. The non-Muslim subjects were called dhimmis, protected persons of other faiths (ahlu'dh-dhimma);[3] the second caliph even refers to them in his will and testament when he recommends them to his successor: "I commend to his care the dhimmis, who enjoy the protection of God and of the Prophet; let him see to it that the covenant with them is kept...." (T.W. Arnold, The Preaching of Islam, 3rd ed., 57). The many references to leading persons of other faiths at the Muslim courts, and the long history of Islamic polemical writing, are sufficient proof that non-Muslims flourished under Muslim rule. T.W. Arnold, (op. cit., 143 f.) gives the following:

      One of the Spanish Muhammadans who was driven out of his native country in the last expulsion of the Moriscoes in 1610, while protesting against the persecutions of the Inquisition, makes the following vindication of the toleration of his co-religionists:
'Did our victorious ancestors ever once attempt to extirpate Christianity out of Spain, when it was in their power ? Did they not suffer your forefathers to enjoy the free use of their rites at the same time that they wore their chains? Is not the absolute injunction of our Prophet, that whatever nation is conquered by Musaknan steel, should, upon the payment of a moderate annual tribute, be permitted to persevere in their own pristine persuasion, how absurd soever, or to embrace what other belief they themselves best approved of ? If there may have been some examples of forced conversions, they are so rare as scarce to deserve mentioning, and only attempted by men who had not the fear of God, and the Prophet, before their eyes, and who, in so doing, have acted directly and diametrically contrary to the holy precepts and ordinances of Islam which cannot, without sacrilege, be violated by any who would be held worthy of the honourable epithet of Musulman....You can never produce, among us, any bloodthirsty, formal tribunal, on account of different persuasions in points of faith, that anywise approaches your execrable Inquisition. Our arms, it is true, are ever open to receive all who are disposed to embrace our religion; but we are not allowed by our sacred Qur'an to tyrannise over consciences.


  1. The Imam `Ali said: "The blood of the dhimmi is as the blood of the Muslim." Ameer-`Ali, Spirit of Islam, 268.



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Our proselytes have all imaginable encouragement, and have no sooner professed God's Unity and His Apostle's mission but they become one of us, without reserve; taking to wife our daughters, and being employed in posts of trust, honour and profit; we contenting ourselves with only obliging them to wear our habit, and to seem true believers in outward appearance, without ever offering to examine their consciences...."


      Arnold adds, "This very spirit of toleration was made one of the main articles in an account of the 'Apostacies and Treasons of the Moriscoes,' drawn up by the Archbishop of Valencia in 1602 when recommending their expulsion to Philip III, as follows: 'That they commended nothing so much as that liberty of conscience in all matters of religion, which the Turks, and all other Muhammadans, suffer their subjects to enjoy."

      We hear a great deal these days of the Four Freedoms--freedom from want and fear, freedom of speech and belief; freedom of belief is not a modern invention--we owe it to Islam.

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