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590 A. D..........Plague in Rome. Gregory The GreatGreg. I ("Angles") Chosroes II
619 A. D..........Chosroes II holds Egypt, Jerusalem,Damascus, and had armies on the
628 A. D..........Muhammad addresses (all) the rulersof the earth.
The Spirit of Islam . . . Syed Ameer Ali, W.H. AllenCo., London, 1891 (New ed., Christophers, 1935)
The Sayings of Muhammad, ed. Abdullah Al-Suhrawardy,London, Archibald Constable, 1905
Speeches and Table-Talks of the Prophet Muhammad...Stanley Lane-Poole, London, 1882
Literary History of the Arabs . . . R.A. Nicholson,Cambridge University, 1930
A biologist has said that we are immersed in the habits of our
era, like the glands in their fluids. We are creatures, to a great
extent, of our environment. But there is one Being Who is not the
product of His environment. This is the holy Personage Who appears
among us as the Manifestation of God. He is outside of and free of
custom, tradition, environment. It is only by following Him that
we too are released from the ways of our ancestors and can start
a new way. He is reality -- truth -- and the truth makes us free.
The materialist says man is the product of his times. Therefore
the materialist cannot account for the Prophet of God. All of a
sudden, in Arabia, there rises an Arab Who is not like the Arabs.
He summons the people to go against custom. He smashes their idols.
Think of the effect on them: something they had been taught to
worship, toppling down, broken in pieces. Today, we too are told
to smash idols -- the idols of men's own imaginings. `Abdu'l-Bahá
says that those other idols at least had a mineral existence, while
mankind's present idols are but fancies, and not even mineral.(Some Answered Questions, 171).
Our standard for appraising Muhammad is the Bahá'í Teachings.
Much of the material about Muhammad is written either by Muslims
who have repeated unfounded traditions about Him, or by hostile
Occidentals. We are still victims of centuries of propaganda
against Him. Dante, for instance, placed Muhammad and the Imam 'Ali
in the eighth circle, ninth pouch, of the Inferno. The Middle Ages
called Him "Mahound," a word influenced by the English "hound."
Today -- and I am sure it is in a measure due to fifty-five years of
continuous Bahá'í teaching -- the Protestant Church in North America
is actually telling people to study Islam and other Faiths. A
Collier's Magazine article reaching millions of readers, featured
a clergyman talking to a veteran, and saying that all religions
are one and that the veteran should study them all; the article
specifically included Islam. (Collier's, December, 1947). However,
I felt sorry for the poor veteran because, without the light of the
Bahá'í Teachings, he would find the study of Islam -- or of anyprevious religion -- a bewildering business.
To study Islam we need new books. We need a re-evaluation by
future Bahá'í scholars, of all the available data, in the light of
Bahá'u'lláh's Teachings. The Guardian told a pilgrim that the
Bahá'ís must vindicate Islam in the West; we must convert people,
not to its institutions, now abrogated by The Báb and Bahá'u'lláh,
but to its truth as a further step in Divine Revelation, following
Christianity. We can appreciate our own Faith better if we are
familiar with Islam. The Guardian refers to Islam as "the source
and background" of our Faith (Advent of Divine Justice); he says
we need "a sound knowledge of the history and tenets of Islam" and
must devote special attention to the investigation of those
institutions and circumstances that are directly connected with
the origin and birth of their (the Baha'i) Faith, with the station
claimed by its Forerunner, and with the laws revealed by its
Author." (Idem). There is an interesting point of similarity
between us and the Muslims in that both our sacred writings and
those of Islam are authentic, while scholars do not accept the
authenticity of all the Gospel text. It is also of note that the
New Testament mentions Peter as the successor but gives no specific
laws as to marriage, pilgrimage, fasting and the like; the Quran,
on the other hand, contains a great body of laws but is silent as
to the successorship; while in the Bahá'í Teachings, we have,
specifically established, both the laws and the successorship.Page 2
"Islam" does not derive from Muhammad's name. The word, from the
Arabic root "salima," is variously translated as surrender to God's
Will, and as obedience, peace and salvation, A Muslim is one who
follows Islam; who has surrendered himself to God, is obedient, hasattained salvation.
Islam in the beginning is a story of two cities -- Mecca and
Yathrib, later called Medina. Medina was a rich oasis. It was an
agricultural community; many of its clans were Jews and they
cultivated the extensive palm groves. Medina suffered from malarial
fever and sometimes its ponds and wells were henna-colored from the
droppings of the herds so that even the camels sickened of the
water. The other city was Mecca. It was a city of naked hills; it
had regular, paved streets, fortified houses and a town hall. A
Negro poet of the time wrote that in Mecca there was "not a blade
of grass to rest the eye... no hunting...instead, only
merchants..." There were no trees, no gardens, only a few spiney
bushes. It was so hot that to torture a man they had only to lay
him on the ground. The black flagstones around the Ka'bih had to
be sprinkled for the ritual barefoot processions and they dried at
once. Even the waters of the ancient well of Zemzem -- which
tradition says bubbled up from the sand, under the feet of Ishmael,
when Hagar his mother had set him down in the wilderness -- were
sometimes bitter. Other wells were distant and unsafe. Mecca was
a place of "suffocating heat, deathly winds, clouds of flies."
(Dermenenghem, op. cit., 23). In winter the town was flooded; or
buried in silt; the waters destroyed houses, floated carrion
around, spread epidemics. They say that once the Temple was so deep
in water that a pious man made his circumambulation, Seven timesaround, by swimming.
The Meccans were merchants. Two great caravans left Mecca each
year, one to Yaman, the other to Syria. Ezekiel 27 tells us, as
early as ca. 600 B.C., how Tyre was enriched by Arab merchants. A
writer comments: "The steppes of Central Asia and Arabia were the
ocean of the ancients, and companies of camels their fleets."
(Muir, Wm., The Life of Mohammad, xc). The great caravans included
as many as 3,000 camels and 200 men. The whole town might invest
in them; their coming and leaving was the cause of wild excitement,and announced with the beating of drums.
A writer calls the Arabs the first exploiters of international
trade; Mecca was a crossroads between the Orient and the
Mediterranean world. The Byzantines found indispensable the Arab
caravans of jewels, spices from India, silk from China, skins,
metals, perfumes, gums, dates. (Cf. Dermenghem, op. cit.,24-25).[1a]
After their journeys, the Arabs gambled and drank and speculated.
Streams of wine flowed in the great houses; we hear of a man who
owned two slave-girls celebrated for their voices, whom he called
his two cicadas. He got drunk, and gave another man a black eye;
later he repented, and presented the man with the two singers.
(Ibid., 30). Another Arab gambled himself away to a friend. There
were constant tribal wars, brawls and blood-feuds. The poets
enjoyed prominence as the journalists and historians of the time,
and held annual poetry competitions; famed among the Arabs were
the Seven Golden Odes, poems written in letters of gold on Egyptian
silk. A proverb says: "Wisdom has lighted on three things: the hand
of the Chinese, the brain of the Frank, and the tongue of the
Arab." "The Arabs prized above all else, eloquence; an Arab prayed,
"O God, preserve me from being silenced in conversation." (Dozy,
Reinhart, Spanish Islam, Duffield and Co., N.Y., 1913, 6).____________
1a. In addition to commerce and herding, the Arabs' "national
industry" was the seizing of booty. (Dermenghem, 175). Muhammad
strictly regulated this, the bulk going to charity and army upkeep.Page 3
of profligacy; an Arab poet comments, "Wealth cometh in the
morning, and ere the evening it hath departed." (Ibid., 5).
In Mecca, also called Becca, the leaders lived in the central,
flat part of the city, around the Ka'bih (i.e., in Batha); the
commoners lived surrounding this area, in the sloping streets;
foreigners, slaves, and the rabble lived on the outskirts. Beyond,
in the desert, were the Bedawin, tent-dwellers and nomads.
The most important thing in Mecca was the Ka'bih, or cube: the
oblong stone House which was a center of pilgrimage for all Arabia.
The Arabs were members of innumerable isolated clans, worshipping
different idols, but all would come and gather at the Ka'bih. It
is a structure 55 feet long, 45 wide and something over 55 high.
It has a covering of cloth, which is renewed annually, and did even
in Muhammad's day. Abraham traditionally built the Ka'bih, its site
being granted to Him and Ishmael for a place of worship that would
be monotheistic and universal (Quran 22:27). The Quran says of
it: "The first temple that was founded for mankind, was that in
Becca, Blessed, and a guidance to human beings. In it are evident
signs, even the standing-place of Abraham: and he who entereth it
is safe. And the pilgrimage to the temple, is a service due to God
from those who are able to journey thither." (Quran 3:90-91). The
Black Stone (Hajaru'l-Aswad) is set in the south-east corner of the
Ka'bih wall; it is semi-circular, about six inches in height and
eight wide, and reddish-black in color. We read in the Dawn-
Breakers how The Báb, having first circumambulated the Ka'bih and
performed all the rites of worship, stood before the Black Stone
and declared His mission. The territory around Mecca (Haram) was
and still is sacred. Four months of the year were months of general
amnesty and truce, and it was then that pilgrims made theirjourneys to Mecca and to the merchandise fairs.
In and around the Ka'bih in the time before Muhammad -- the Days
of Ignorance (Jahiliyya) -- were 360 idols, equalling the days of
the year. Their chief was Hobal, a bearded man made of red agate,
with one hand of gold, and dressed in multi-colored clothing.
People consulted him about marriage, where to dig a well, and other
problems, using divining arrows. We read of a poet who wished to
avenge the murder of his father, consulting one of the idols with
three divining arrows symbolizing "Proceed," "Abandon," "Delay."
Three times he drew "Abandon." He became furious, broke the arrows
and threw them at the idol, crying "Had it been thy father who was
murdered, thou wouldst not have forbidden me to avenge him." (Dozy,
op. cit., 14. Also Lane-Poole, Speeches and Table Talks.... cxiii.)
Sometimes they would cheat the idols, sacrificing a gazelle when
they had promised a sheep. They did acknowledge a vague supreme
Deity, called Allah; but they joined partners with Him, lesser
deities called al ilahat -- the goddesses; Muhammad's teaching was
La ilaha illa'llah -- There is no ilah but Allah. This reminds us of
Acts 17:23: "Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I
unto you." George Sale in his "Preliminary Discourse" tells of one
tribe who even worshipped a lump of dough, but he says they treated
it with more respect than some Christians do theirs, because theywould not eat it unless compelled to by famine.
Over Mecca and in charge of the Ka'bih ruled the Quraysh, apowerful
2 The Bedawin were scornful of both tillers of the soil and
merchants. "Ah," wrote a Bedawin poet, "if my camel could hear the
tricks of the trade, what a lot she could gain in Mecca byexchanging green grass for dried grass!"
Arab tribe forming a sort of religious hierarchy, whose members
enjoyed such functions as distributing water and food to the
pilgrims, taking charge of the council hall, and raising the banner
in war. Muhammad was a member of this tribe -- closely related to
the oligarchy, His grandfather ('Abdu'l-Muttallib) being the
foremost chief of Mecca, and His uncle and protector (Abu-Talib)
a leader afterward. In tearing down the Ka'bih gods Muhammad was--in their view -- destroying His own family.
Mankind has always surrounded the birth of its Saviors with
beautiful stories. We know of the shepherds and angels on the night
of the Nativity. The Zoroastrians say that when Zoroaster was born
even the trees and rivers rejoiced, and a divine light shone around
the house. On the night Muhammad was born His mother (Aminih) saw
light streaming from Him, reaching up to the stars; the idols of
the Ka'bih toppled over and lay face downward; across the world,
in all the fire temples of the Magians, the fire died on thealtars. (Tabari, II, 234-5). The year was 570.
Muhammad was either posthumous or soon lost His father
('Abdu'llah). A shepherd's wife cared for Him in the mountains
until He was five; this was the custom. He tended sheep. At six,
He lost His mother. His grandfather took Him in; He used to sit by
the old chieftain on a rug spread out in the shade of the Ka'bih.
At eight, He lost His grandfather; His uncle then cared for Him.
Muhammad was poor and practised several trades: He tended herds,
kept a little shop, went on caravan expeditions and to the great
fairs. He became known for the purity of His life and they calledHim al-Amin -- the Trusted One.
There was a prominent and beautiful woman in Mecca, who had been
twice widowed and was now about forty. She was a merchant, and
Muhammad, as her agent, successfully conducted one of her caravans
to Syria. She had refused the leaders of Mecca but now fell in love
with her poor Kinsman, sixteen years her junior. Their marriage is
one of the true - love stories in history; until her death twenty-
three years later, Muhammad married no other, although polygamy was
almost universally practised. We read that there was a great
wedding: some leather bottles of precious grape wine; in the inner
court under the torches, the bride's slave girls danced and sang
to the tambourines; a camel was slaughtered on the door-step and
its flesh divided among the poor...Muhammad and Khadijih had
several children; the sons all died; then she became the mother ofFatimih, the holiest woman in Islam.
Muhammad was now a man of considerable means, but He did not
enter public life. The times were lawless, and except for serving
the poor He kept to Himself. He retired often to a high, cone-
shaped mountain north of Mecca, and stayed in a cave there. From
Mt. Hira He could look out east and south on other mountains, and
elsewhere on bare, blackened hills, grey hills, and white sandy
valleys (Cf. Muir, op. cit., 38). It was on this mountain that He
first saw the Archangel, veiled in light, on a throne of fire, and
because of this greatly troubled and in deep anguish, He went to
Khadijih and she comforted Him. Ever since, Mt. Hira has beencalled Jabal-i-Nur, the Mount of Light.
3. "The Year of the Elephant." The birth took place about 55 days
after the attack of Arabia; Caussin de Perceval calculates August20. Cf. Muir, op. cit., 5.
There was a man named Salman the Persian and he had spent many
years of his life traveling in search of a Prophet. He was born in
a Persian village and as a boy had tended the sacred fire. Then he
left Persia for Damascus, and went from one holy man to another --
four in all. Each one, dying, sent him on to the next one. As the
fourth one died he said to Salman "This is an age of Prophets. AProphet will be sent."
In those days it was not safe to travel, because if you were
caught they sold you into slavery. When Salman was going toward
Arabia they caught him, and sold him to a Jew of Medina. Salman
worked in the palm groves; it was his job to take care of the camel
that turned the wheel which brought water up from the sub-soil for
distribution into irrigation trenches. One day Salman was up at the
top of a palm tree, and he heard his master speaking down below.
His master was saying that a man had arisen in Mecca who was
calling himself a Prophet. Salman began to tremble all over; he
became so agitated that he almost fell on his master's head. He
slid down the tree, and his owner struck him, saying, "What is itto you?"
Bahá'u'lláh tells us in the Iqan: "...when the hour draweth nigh
on which the Day-star of the heaven of justice shall be made
manifest, and the Ark of divine guidance shall sail upon the sea
of glory, a star will appear in the heaven, heralding unto its
people the advent of that most great light. In like manner, in the
invisible heaven a star shall be made manifest who, unto the
peoples of the earth, shall act as a harbinger of that true and
exalted Morn (62)...Likewise, ere the beauty of Muhammad was
unveiled, the signs of the visible heaven were made manifest. As
to the signs of the invisible heaven, there appeared four men who
successively announced unto the people the joyful tidings of the
rise of that divine Luminary. Ruz-bih, later named Salman, was
honoured by being in their service. As the end of one of these
approached, he would send Ruz-bih unto the other, until the fourth
who, feeling his death to be nigh, addressed Ruz-bih saying: "O
Ruz-bih! when thou hast taken up my body and buried it, go to Hijaz
for there the Day-star of Muhammad will arise. Happy art thou, forthou shalt behold His face!" (65).
4 "... there was, immediately before the preaching of Mohammad,
a general feeling that a change was at hand; a prophet was
expected, and women were anxiously hoping for male children, if so
be they might mother the Apostle of God; and the more thoughtful
minds, tinged with traditions of Judaism, were seeking for what
they called the 'religion of Abraham.' These men were 'Hanifs,' or
'incliners'...." Lane-Poole, Speeches and Table Talks of theProphet Mohammad, xxiv-xxv.
In after years, Muhammad said of His wife Khadijih, "When I was
poor, she enriched me; when all the world abandoned me, she
comforted me; when they treated me as a liar, she believed in me."
(Dermenghem, op. cit., 44). An account relates that in the early
stage of the Revelation, when Muhammad was still in anguish at the
phenomenon, He asked Khadijih to wrap Him in His robe,as a kind of
protection, whereupon Gabriel appeared before Him and said, "O
Thou, enwrapped in thy mantle! Arise and warn, and glorify ThyLord!" (Quran 74:1-3 ).
After the surih of The Brightness, which brought Him consolation
and told Him: "Thy Lord hath not forsaken Thee...." He felt
confident of His prophetic mission. The Faithful Spirit taught Him
to pray, perform ablutions, stand and kneel in worship. One day as
He and Khadijih were praying together young 'Ali entered the room.
He saw them bowing down before empty space. He said, "What are you
doing? Before whom are you bowing down?" Muhammad said, "Before
God, Whose Prophet I amn 'Ali accepted the Faith, and in future
he was called "Him whose face was never sullied," because he was
so young when he became a believer that he had never worshipped anidol.
When three years had passed, Muhammad was commanded to preach in
public, and withdraw from the idolaters; the Quran reads: "Profess
publicly then what Thou hast been bidden, and withdraw from those
who join gods to God." (15:94). He invited His kinsmen, the leaders
of Mecca, had a sheep cooked with milk, and after they had eaten
He freely told them what had happened, ending, "Never before has
an Arab bestowed on his people what I now bring you... Who will
act as my brother and helper?" There was icy silence. Abu Lahab,
one of the uncles, shrugged his shoulders. Then young 'Ali cried
out, "I will help you, Prophet of God!" And they all laughed, and
the meeting broke up. (Cf. Dermenghem, op. cit., 73-74).
Muhammad preached, and the Meccans scoffed. They asked Him to
perform miracles: turn the hills to gold, make a book fall from
heaven, show them Gabriel, bring a well of pure water, prophesy the
approaching price of goods: "Cannot your God disclose which
articles will rise in price?" Muhammad would answer, "I am only a
man like you." (Quran 18:110). "It is revealed to me that your God
is one God: go straight then to Him, and implore His pardon. And
woe to those who join gods with God." (Quran 41:5). The Quran
tells us: "But most of them withdraw and hearken not: And they say,
'Our hearts are under shelter from Thy teachings, and in our ears
is a deafness, and between us and Thee there is a veil." (Quran
41:3-4). They spoke much as the materialists of our own day; the
Quran states, "And they say, 'There is only this our present life:
we die and we live, and nought but time destroyeth us.' " (Quran
45:23). An idolater who owed money to a Muslim told him he would
pay him back in the next world... And Muhammad warned them: "The
likeness for those who take to themselves patrons other than God
is the likeness of the spider who buildeth her a house: But verily,
frailest of all houses surely is the house of the spider," (Quran29:40).
Besides insisting that there was only one God, and telling them
to follow righteousness as they would be called to account in the
next world, Muhammad spoke to them repeatedly about the coming of
"The Hour" and the "Meeting with God." Once He held up two fingers
and said that He and The Hour were as close as the two fingers. The
Quran states: "Aye, they have treated the coming of 'the Hour' as
a lie. But a flaming fire have we got ready for those who treat
the coming of the Hour as a lie." (25:12). Sometimes He called it
"The Inevitable": the chapter of this name in the Quran begins:
"When the day that must come shall have come suddenly, None shall
treat that sudden coming as a lie: Day that shall abase! Day that
shall exalt!" Sometimes He called it "The Blow" or "The Striking":
this chapter begins: "The striking What is the striking? And what
shall make Thee to understand how terrible the striking will be ?
On that day men shall be like moths scattered abroad, and the
mountains shall become like carded wool..." (Surihs 56 and 101).
It was the great Day of God that He warned them of -- our day; to
understand the Quran here it is essential to study the Iqan. In
the surih of The Daybreak, He told them: "and thy Lord shall come,and the angels rank by rank..." (Surih 89).
In later life, as Muhammad was entering the mosque, a disciple
said, "Ah, Thou for Whom I would sacrifice father and mother, white
hairs are hastening upon Thee!" And the Prophet raised up His beard
with His hand and gazed at it; and the disciple's eyes filled with
tears. "Yes," said Muhammad, "(the surih of) Hud and its sisters
have hastened my white hairs." They asked what He meant by its
"sisters," and He replied"'The Inevitable,' and 'The Blow.' "(Rodwell, Quran, 225-226 n.).
The Meccans did not know what to make of Him. For a time they
mocked Him: "Here cometh the son of 'Abdu'llah with his news from
heaven." (Dozy, op. cit., 15). Then, as He continued to warn them,
and to denounce their gods, and as He made some converts, they
tried to bribe Him: "If thou wishest to acquire riches . . . we
will collect a fortune larger than is possessed by any of us; if
thou desirest honors . . . we shall make thee our chief . . ."
(Ameer-'Ali, The Spirit of Islam, 98). He answered, "Do ye indeed
disbelieve in Him . . . do ye assign Him peers? The Lord of the
worlds is He!" They appealed to His uncle and protector, the
head of His clan, and this uncle begged Him to desist from
teaching, as He was bringing ruin on Himself and His family. He
answered, "Were the sun to come down on my right hand and the moon
on my left, and the choice were offered me of abandoning my mission
until God himself should reveal it, or perishing in the achievement
of it, I would not abandon it." (T.W.Arnold, The Preaching of
Islam, 13-14). The Quraysh stopped Him from praying in the Ka'bih,
they pursued Him, they covered Him and His disciples with filth
when they were praying, they incited children and the rabble to
follow and mock them, a woman strewed thorns where He would walk.
Bahá'u'lláh says: "How abundant the thorns and briars which they
have strewn over His path! . . . Such sore accusations they brought
against Him that in recounting them God forbiddeth the ink to flow
. . . or the page to bear them . . . For this reason did Muhammad
cry out: 'No Prophet of God hath suffered such harm as I havesuffered.'" (Iqan, 108-109).
He sent many of His disciples to safety in Abyssinia (615), where
there was a pious Christian king. The king asked why they had fled,
and they answered, "O King, we were plunged . . . in ignorance and
barbarism; we adored idols, we lived in unchastity; we ate dead
bodies, and we spoke abominations . . . when God raised among us
a man . . . he called us to the unity of God . . . to fly vices,
and . . . abstain from evil . . . For this reason our people have
risen against us . . ."(Ameer-'Ali, op. cit., 100) . To kill
Muhammad would have meant a civil war, and so the Meccans tortured
His poor disciples instead. Balal, the Ethiopian, they exposed,____________
day after day, to the desert sun, stretched out with a rock on his
breast. They told him he must renounce Muhammad or die, and he
answered, "There is only one God, only one God." He lived to becomethe first muezzin.
Bahá'u'lláh says of him, "Consider how Balal, the Ethiopian,
unlettered though he was, ascended into the heaven of faith and
certitude . . ." (Gleanings, 83). Muhammad called him "the first
fruits of Abyssinia," just as He called another early disciple "the
first fruits of Greece." It is important to remember that Islam is
a universal religion, meant for the whole world -- not in any sensea restricted or local faith.
The Meccans said, "Know this, O Muhammad, we shall never cease
to stop thee from preaching till either thou or we perish." (AmeerAli, op. cit., 107).
For three years (617-619) they blockaded Him and His kinsmen in
a remote quarter of the town and forbade the other towns-people to
have any dealings with them whatever. Then Khadijih died
(December 619) and five weeks later, Muhammad's uncle and
protector. Since His own people refused Him, He then went to
another city -- Ta'if, a beautiful place about seventy miles
distant, where fruit trees grew -- but the people stoned Him away.
It was when He returned to Mecca that He had the vision of the
Night Journey (Mi'raj, i.e., Ascent), when He rose in spirit
through the seven heavens to the throne of God. Surih 17 of the
Quran is called the Night Journey; in the Iqan Bahá'u'lláh refers
to Muhammad as the ''Lord of the Mi'raj" and says that the mirror
of the heart must be purified to understand its mystery (187).
You would say this was the end of the story of Muhammad: He and
a tiny group, shut away in the sand, alone on the planet, encircled
by men so wild they buried children alive as a point of honor, who
killed casually, and who -- because His teachings meant the
destruction of the national religion and the loss of their own
wealth and power -- had for thirteen long years been waiting to shed
His blood. An enemy of His has written: "We search in vain through
the pages of profane history for a parallel to the struggle in
which for thirteen years the Prophet of Arabia, in face of
discouragement and threats, rejection and persecution, retained
thus his faith unwavering, preached repentance . . . he met
insults, menace, and danger with a lofty and patient trust in thefuture." (Muir, op. cit., 518).
It was now that the tide of history turned . . . The Guardian has
said to a pilgrim that our Cause "is impelled forward through
crises. The spread of the Cause precipitates crisis . . . and the
solution of the crisis through the operation of the Cause
facilitates the spread of the Cause." Bahá'u'lláh says, "I
recognize, O Thou Who art my heart's desire, that were fire to be
touched by water it would instantly be extinguished, whereas the
Fire Thou didst kindle can never go out, though all the Seas of the
earth be poured upon it." (Prayers and Meditations, 150). We who
are believers are working with something unkillable.
What happened in Islam was this: Muhammad had often preached to
other tribes, people who would come to the Ka'bih or the great
fairs. On such occasions, His uncle, the squint-eyed Abu Lahab (he
and Zayd, Muhammad's adopted son, are the only two contemporariesnamed in the Quran) would follow.
2. The Christians of the period used the clapper to call to
prayer, the Jews, trumpets, the Zoroastrians, bonfires, saysDermenghem, 267.
3. Bahá'u'lláh says, "The acts of his honor, Balal, the
Ethiopian, were so acceptable in the sight of God that the 'sin'
of his stuttering tongue excelled the 'shin' pronounced by all theworld (Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, 76).
4. We should remember that, as R. L. Gulick points out in his
Muhammad The Educator (ms. p. 21), "Tribal opinion was of supreme
importance as a regulator of behavior. The worst punishment wasexpulsion from the tribe..."
and cry: "He is an impostor who seeks to lead you away from the
faith of your fathers!" And the visitors would laugh, saying,
"Thine own kindred know thee best. Wherefore do they not believe?"
But there were some men of Medina (Yathrib) who listened to Him.
They were weary of the fighting between rival clans in their own
city, and they asked Him to come and be their Chief. Muhammad sent
His disciples on to Medina. It was the fateful year 622 -- the year
of the Hijra (Emigration) from which the Muslim calendar wasafterward reckoned.
At this juncture the Meccans united to murder Muhammad. They
arranged for members of all the clans to attack Him at once, so
that the blood-guilt would not rest on any one of them. They waited
outside His house, watching as He lay in His cloak on the bed, but
when the dawn came, they saw it was not Muhammad there but 'Ali.
Muhammad had escaped to Medina, which from this time on was calledthe City of the Prophet.
Muhammad entered Medina in triumph; a shaykh put his turban on
the end of a lance for a banner, and a parasol of palm branches was
held over the Prophet's head, while the Helpers (Ansar), the Medina
believers, surrounded Him, brandishing swords and spears. He
dismounted on the outskirts, and turned toward the Point of
Adoration, Jerusalem (later Muhammad changed the Qiblih to Mecca;
the Bahá'í Qiblih is the Shrine of Bahá'u'lláh); He prayed, with
all the multitude; then, the accounts say, He let His camel go free
into the town, and where it knelt, a mosque was later erected. As
He entered, He greeted all the people, even the children.
So the Meccans were cheated of their prey. The despised outcast,
the One they had called a crazed poet, a madman, a liar, was now
the Head of a State. And now all Arabia rose against Medina; the
Meccans rallied the tribes, including a "fifth column" within
Medina itself. The battle was on, between idolatry and true
worship, between Hobal and the Omnipotent Lord, between freedom anddeath.
`Abdu'l-Bahá says in Some Answered Questions: "If Christ himself
had been placed in such circumstances . . . 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 only upon himself he would have forgiven them . . . but if
he had seen that these cruel and bloodthirsty murderers wished to
kill, to pillage, and to injure all these oppressed ones . . . it
is certain that he would have protected them, and would have
resisted the tyrants . . . To free these tribes from their
bloodthirstiness was the greatest kindness, and to restrain them
was a true mercy." (24-25). "The military expeditions of Muhammad
. . . were always defensive actions . . ." (22).
The Prophet of God now had ten more years to live. They were
years of intense activity . . . At the Battle of Badr, the Meccans
were put to flight. They rose again, 3,000 strong, and attacked
Muhammad with His thousand men at the hill of Uhud, three miles
from Medina. Muhammad did not love war, but He had no choice. He
was so gentle and mild that His enemies called Him womanish. When
He fell at Uhud, a disciple asked Him to curse the enemy; He
answered, "I have not been sent as a curse to mankind, but as an
inviter to good and as a mercy." (Maulana Muhammad 'Ali, Muhammad
the Prophet, Ahmadiyya Anjuman-i-Isha 'at-i-Islam, Lahore, India,
1924; 262). It was at Uhud that the idolatrous women marched to
battle, beating their timbrels and singing: "We are the daughtersof the morning star; soft are the carpets we
5. Cf. Luke 22:36: "Then he (Jesus) said unto them. But now, he
that hath a purse, let him take it, and likewise his scrip: and he
that hath no sword, let him sell his garment and buy one."Page 10
tread . . . our necks are adorned with pearls, and our tresses are
perfumed with musk. The brave who confront the foe we will clasp
to our bosoms, but the dastards who flee we will spurn -- not for
them our embraces!" It was here that these women mutilated the
dead, and that Hind, notorious wife of Muhammad's chief enemy, Abu
Sufyan, ripped out the liver of a Muslim hero and devoured it. It
was this battle that the Muslims lost, because the archers who were
holding the Meccan cavalry in check disobeyed Muhammad and left
their positions to look for booty. Muhammad was wounded in the
mouth and on the temple, and reported killed. 'Ali wept in despair
when he saw Him, and brought water in his shield, saying, "Wash the
blood from Thy face, O Apostle of God, that Thy men may know Thee
. . ." (Chronique de Abou Djafar Mohammed-ben-Jarir Ben Yazid
Tabari, tr. by M.H. Zotenberg, Paris, 1871; III, 33). Then 'Ali
raised up the Prophet's banner and rallied the defeated Muslims.
The idolaters' victory was costly; they dispersed for a time but
in 627 they came again, 10,000 strong, and besieged Medina. On the
advice of Salman the Persian, a stratagem previously unknown in
Arabia was now used: a trench was tug around the city. The Prophet
Himself worked with the others at digging the trench. An account
Says He "seized a pickaxe . . . and with it he struck a flint which
had defied those who were digging; a spark came out of it, and he-
-peace be with him -- said 'In this spark I saw the cities of
Chosrau (King of Persia.)' Then he struck another blow, and another
spark came out; and he said 'In it I saw the cities of Caesar.
Verily God will give them to my nation after me.'" ('Ali Tabari,
The Book of Religion and Empire, tr. by A. Mingana, Manchester,
University Press, 1922; 44). There was a fifteen day siege, but the
trench saved Medina and a Storm put the enemy to flight. Islam hadconquered.
After the battle, Muhammad went to His daughter, Fatimih, "and
she began to weep and to kiss his mouth; and he said to her: 'O
Fatimih, why art thou weeping?' And she said 'O Apostle of God, I
see thee shabby, weary, and clothed in worn out garments.' And he
said 'O Fatimih, God has revealed to thy father that it is He who
places dignity or lowliness in every house, be it of clay or of
hair; and He has revealed to me that my lowliness will be (until
it reaches where night has reached).' " (i.e., soon over). (Idem).
Bahá'ís will remember the agony of the young `Abdu'l-Bahá on seeing
His Father as He was brought out of the Black Pit (Siyah- Chal).
The old blood-tie was now replaced throughout Arabia by a new,
much wider loyalty. For the first time, hundreds of hostile Arab
tribes were now united under one banner -- Islam. Muhammad took Mecca
(630), making an entry so peaceful as to be unparalleled in
history, and telling the Meccans: -- "I say to you what my brother
Joseph said to his brothers: 'No blame be on you this day. God will
forgive you, for He is the most merciful of those who show mercy
(Quran 12:92).' " And He struck down the Ka'bih gods, saying:
"Truth is come and falsehood is gone. Verily, falsehood is a thing
that perisheth." (Quran 17:83). The Arabs now came into the
religion of God by troops. As each tribe accepted, Muhammad sent
them a teacher of Islam, telling him: "Deal gently with the people,
and be not harsh; cheer them, and condemn them not . . . the key
to heaven is to testify to the truth of God and to do good works."
(Ameer-'Ali, op. cit., 208). Muhammad also sent out missives and
embassies declaring Islam to rulers of the day, the King of Persia,
the Negus of Abyssinia, Heraclius the Greek emperor, the ruler of
Egypt, the governor of Yaman, the chief of the Bani Hanifa. The
King of Persia, enraged at seeing Muhammad's name before his own
on the letter, tore it up. Muhammad said, "God will tear up hiskingdom in the same way."
Then Muhammad fell ill. He had an intense fever. A disciple laid
his hand on Muhammad's forehead and said, "How fierce is the fever
upon thee!" "Yea, verily," said Muhammad, "but I have been during
the night season repeating in praise of the Lord seventy surihs,
including the seven long ones." The disciple said, "Why not rest
and take thine ease, for hath not the Lord forgiven thee?" "Nay,"
replied Muhammad, "wherefore should I not yet be a faithful servant
unto Him?" (Cf. Muir, op. cit., 488). As He grew worse, He asked
if there was any gold in the house; on being told there was, He
insisted that His wife 'Ayishih give it away to the poor, and could
not rest until she had done this. He said, "It would not have
become me to meet my Lord, and this gold still in my hands." While
He lay dying, He called for pen and ink to write His will, but
'Umar said, "Pain is deluding God's Messenger; we have God's Book,
which is enough." They disputed at the bedside, whether to bring
the pen and ink, and He sent them away. He was praying in a whisperwhen He ascended. (June 8, 632).
"His morals are the Quran," said 'Ayishih of Muhammad. He, like
the other Manifestations of God, is a perfect example for men to
follow. The Quran says: "An excellent pattern have ye in theApostle 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
Quran 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 "hathimposed mercy upon Himself as a law." (6:12).
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 Quran to be thankful: "forsooth is God rich without you: but
He is not pleased with thanklessness in His servants: yet if ye bethankful 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 Quran says, "Godloveth 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 intoa well, to draw up water for the dog.
He was endlessly patient. (`Abdu'l-Bahá once said to my mother:
Sabr kun; mithl-i-man bash -- Be thou patient; be thou like unto Me.)
The Quran 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 manyChristians
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 Quran says, "We will
teach thee to recite the Quran. . .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 Quran 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." (Quran 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 Quran, and another name, the
Greatest Name, not made known at that time (asma'u'l-husna; Quran
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...." (Quran 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). 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 butfor the followers of all
2. 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).Page 14
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. (Quran 5:73). (The
Quran states of unnamed Prophets, "Of other Apostles We have not
told Thee." (4:162). A Zoroastrian wrote `Abdu'l-Bahá to ask why
Zoroaster was not mentioned by Muhammad; the Master referred him
to Quran 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 togetheras 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,Page 15
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 Quran 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 ofcleanliness and have performed the ablutions.
In studying the Quran 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 Quran 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!'n(56:24-25),
The Quran -- 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 Quran I would like to mention: its
completely realistic view of humanity. (This fact of Omnisciencebeing onto us is not without humor).
The Quran 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 Hishairs..." (Tabari, Chroniques, III, 202-203).
Fanny Knobloch, a distinguished early Bahá'í 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 Bahá'ís are trying to redress the wrongs that have been done Him
for thirteen centuries. These verses, which He brought Hisfollowers, 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.'n(3: 197 ff.).Page 17
Enemies of Islam have often said that Muhammad copied the Quran
from the Christian and Jewish Scriptures. This is impossible.
Muhammad knew only Arabic. He had never seen The Bible. "The
earliest official Arabic translations of the Old and New Testamentswere made centuries after Mohammed's death."
If it be objected that the Prophet of God traveled to Syria in
His earlier years, and that there, as well as in Arabia, there were
both Jews and Christians (such as 'Abdu'llah ibn Salam -- Waraqa --
the Nestorian monk Buhayra - who understood and recognized Muhammad
on the basis of their Scriptures) who could have relayed
information to Muhammad, this of course is true. The Quran itself
makes references to such sources -- e.g., Surih 10:94: "And if thou
art in doubt as to what we have sent down to thee, inquire at those
who have read the Scriptures before thee." But we should explain
that merely knowing of various religious teachings does not makeone a Prophet of God.
It is important to understand that anyone could have compiled
some former teachings in a book, but that only a Manifestation of
God could create a living religion that swept across the world and
influenced millions of human beings down the centuries .
Furthermore the historical material is only one aspect of the
Quran. Muhammad could never have copied the laws which He
inaugurated and the many other teachings He brought -- from the Old
and New Testaments, because they were not there.[1a]
The great miracle of Islam is that an illiterate man gave theArabs their first Book.
As Muhammad approached forty, He would retire to a cave on Mt.
Hira to be alone and meditate. Finally He was absent for a long
period, and since He had taken very few provisions with Him,
Khadijih was much troubled. She sent a slave to the mountain, and
he stood at the cave and called, but only his own voice echoed
back. When Muhammad returned, He was exhausted. An apparition had
come to Him, an angel, saying: "Read!" Muhammad had said, "I cannot
read." Again the presence cried, "Read!" and then a third time, and
Muhammad said, "What shall I read ?" And the being said, "Read,
in the name of thy Lord who created; Created man from clots of
blood...Thy Lord is the most Beneficent, Who hath taught the use
of the pen; Hath taught man that which he knoweth not." These are
the opening lines of the first surih of the Quran according to
Rodwell's arrangement. The Quran means the Reading, or the Book
to be Read. A surih is a chapter of the Quran -- the word is also
used of a row of stones in a wall, or a rank of soldiers, or thingsin a series.
Muhammad began to fear He was possessed of a jinn, or was going
mad. He was in despair. Sometimes measured phrases burst from Him.
He went to Khadijih, and she consoled Him: "...are you not the Amin
(the Trusted One)...? How can God allow you to be deceived whenyou do not
1a. There is only one direct quotation from The Bible in theentire Quran: Surih 21:105 quotes Psalms 37:29.
deceive? Are you not a pious, sober, charitable, hospitable man?
Have you not respected your parents, fed the hungry, clothed the
naked, helped the traveller, protected the weak? It is not possible
that you are the plaything of lying demons and malicious jinns."
She talked with her cousin Waraqa about this; he was a Christian,
versed in the Scriptures, and he was overjoyed: "Holy, holy, verily
this is the Namus-i-Akbar, who came to Moses. He will be the
prophet of His people. Tell Him this. Bid Him be of brave
heart." For some time Muhammad continued to fear Himself the
victim of a hallucination. He returned to the mountain, and no
voice came. He was utterly despondent, and longed for death. Then
once again Gabriel appeared, and brought Him great consolation -- a
surih of the Quran called The Brightness: "By the noon-day
Brightness, And by the night when it darkeneth' Thy Lord hath not
forsaken thee, neither hath He been displeased. And surely the
future shall be better for thee than the past, And in the end shall
thy Lord be bounteous to thee and thou be satisfied. Did He not
find thee an orphan and gave thee a home ?...And found thee needy
and enriched thee....as for the favors of thy Lord tell themabroad."
The angel Gabriel is the Holy Ghost, the intermediary between God
and Muhammad; in Christianity it is symbolized by a dove; in the
Bahá'í Dispensation, the spirit of God within Bahá'u'lláh is
personified by a Maiden, as the Guardian explains in the book God
Passes By (p. 118, 121, etc.). The Trinity according to our
teachings is the unknowable Lord, the Perfect Man, and the HolySpirit.
The Quran was not revealed to Muhammad all at one time. It came
to Him over a period of about twenty-three years, that is, from the
time He was forty until His ascension in Medina in 632. Sometimes
the voice was silent. Sometimes its on-rush was so great that a
vein would swell on Muhammad's forehead, and His sweat would pour
down. Once, we read, He was riding on a camel when the revelation
came to Him with such intensity that the camel was forced to its
knees. These physical effects of the revelation upon Him account
for the enemies of Islam referring to Muhammad as an epileptic.
Modern scholarship has refuted this. No one in the disturbed
physical condition of epilepsy could have endured Muhammad's
thirteen years of agony in Mecca, His arduous desert campaigns, and
His onerous and complex duties as Head of the Muslim State.
Furthermore, then as now, inspired utterance is distinguishable
from pathological expression -- The Bábbling of a sick man could
never create a Book that has attracted and inspired the mostbrilliant minds of many centuries.[3a]
Bahá'u'lláh says, "...the unfailing testimony of God to both the
East and the West is none other than the Quran." (Iqan, 210). The
Guardian tells us that the Quran, "apart from the sacred
scriptures of The Bábi and Bahá'í Revelations, constitutes the only
Book which can be regarded as an absolutely authenticated
Repository of the Word of God." (The Advent of Divine Justice).
Bahá'u'lláh writes of the "mighty Quran" (Son of the Wolf, 112)
and says "Hearken unto that which the Merciful hath revealed in the
Quran..." (Ibid.., 82). He says that Muhammad "came unto them with
a Book that judged between truth and falsehood with a justice which
turned into light the darkness of the earth, and enraptured the
hearts of such as had known Him..." (Ibid., 81). You must not be
afraid of not being able to understand the Quran; Bahá'u'lláhsays, "Were it beyond
3a. Dermenghem, op. cit., 249: "His creative ability and the
vastness of his genius, his sense of the practical, his will, his
prudence, his self-control and his activity -- in short the life he
led -- make it impossible to take this inspired mystic for avisionary epileptic."
the comprehension of men, how could it have been declared as a
universal testimony unto all people?" (Iqan, 210). He says, "The
understanding of His words and the comprehension of the utterances
of the Birds of Heaven are in no wise dependent upon human
learning. They depend solely upon purity of heart, chastity of
soul, and freedom of spirit." (Ibid., 211). And The Báb has said,
"Should a tiny ant desire in this day to be possessed of such power
as to be able to unravel the abstrusest and most bewildering
passages of the Quran, its wish will...be fulfilled, inasmuch as
the mystery of eternal might vibrates within the innermost beingof all created things."
The Quran is divided into 114 surihs, which in turn are divided
into "verses" -- the Arabic word for these is "ayih," a term
signifying any revealed verse or other sign or miracle of the
Manifestation of God. Muhammad had nothing to do with this
division, or with the chapter titles, which latter are taken from
the first important word, or from something else in the text. Every
surih except the ninth is prefixed with the words, "In the name of
God, the Compassionate, the Merciful," a verse which Muhammad
constantly used. As Bahá'u'lláh frequently says, God in the Quranis preeminently the "All-Merciful."
Some surihs are prefaced with detached letters of the alphabet --
e.g., the surih which Muhammad is said to have called "the heart
of the Quran," and which is read to the dying in Muslim countries,
is named the Ya Sin, because it begins with these letters. We read
in God Passes By ( 140) that Bahá'u'lláh when in Baghdad revealeda commentary on these letters.
The Quran is from the literary standpoint most beautiful. It is
the standard Arabic Text, and is written in the dialect of the
tribe of Quraysh, to which Muhammad belonged. Imam 'Ali was the
great authority on the Quran; he said, "There is not a verse in
the Quran of which I do not know the matter, the parties to whom
it refers, and the place and time of its revelation, whether by
night or by day, whether in the plains or upon the mountains."
I read in the Persian Bayan that 'Ali would keep the fragments of
the Quran in the fold of his robe. The verses were written down
at the moment of revelation or soon after, on palm leaves, leather,
stone, the shoulder-blades of sheep; furthermore, the Arabs had
wonderful memories, and many learned it by heart. What we have
today is a gathering-up of all the verses into one text; to this
day, in spite of all the schisms in Islam, there is only one
Quran, and scholars say "There is probably in the world no other
work which has remained twelve centuries with so pure a text."
The oldest copies now extant probably belong to the third century
of the Hijra, and a few may belong to the second. Muir,
certainly no friend of Islam, tells us that "we may upon the
strongest presumption affirm that every verse in the Kor'an is the
genuine and unaltered composition af Mohammad himself, and conclude
with at least a close approximation to the verdict of Von Hammer:
That we hold the Kor'an as surely Mohammad's word, as the
Mohammadans hold it to be the word of God." (Op. cit., xxviii).
(The few variations are mostly vowel points and diacritical signs,invented at a later date).
Soon after the ascension of Muhammad many reciters of the Quran
were killed in battle; it was therefore thought necessary to
compile the entire Quran into one; the task was given to the
Prophet's amanuensis, Zayd ibn Thabit. Therefore, although withmisgivings and doubting the
5. Muir, Sir Wm, The Life of Muhammad, Edinburgh rev. ed, 1923,xx iv n.
propriety of the work, Zayd searched out the entire Quran and
compiled it, simply putting the long surihs first, regardless of
chronology. As a matter of fact, the short surihs at the end,
telling of the coming of the Day of God, were revealed at the
beginning. (The English version of J.M. Rodwell attempts to restore
the true chronology). Zayd's text continued to be standard during
'Umar's caliphate, but it was found that variations had crept in
to many copies; the men of Syria and 'Iraq had different readings,
and the caliph 'Uthman therefore had all the versions compared with
Zayd's original, Zayd and three coadjutors being appointed to do
the work. Transcripts of this recension were sent out to all the
cities, all other copies were burnt, and what we still have is this
recension of the third caliph's. Zayd's original compilation was
made within two or three years of Muhammad's ascension, and there
is no question as to its accuracy; 'Ali, the Imam, was there, and
many of the devout who knew the Quran by heart, and besides the
transcripts of the separate portions were in daily use.[7a]
There is to my knowledge no satisfactory translation of the
Quran into English. Some day a Bahá'í group of scholars may
perhaps make one. Able Christian writers have translated the Quran
but their hostility always creeps in. Of the equally able Muslim
translators, not one has had the necessary literary skill to convey
the Text to us, and this also applies to the work of Christian
converts to Islam The translators I use are Sale ( 1734), who is
scholarly and accurate; Rodwell ( 1861), whose work is the most
literary in quality and easy to read; Maulana Muhammad-'Ali, who
includes both Arabic and English texts and a learned and helpful
commentary; and a two-volume version by A. Yusuf 'Ali, also a bi-
lingual text, mechanically the most legible and accessible of all.
In Persia the Quran is in constant use. It is often seen with
a lacquered cover, and an illuminated opening page, and may be
carefully wrapped in a hand-woven cloth. When you move to a new
house, the Quran is taken there first, to bless it. When you leave
on a journey, someone holds the Quran over you and you pass back
and forth under it to ensure safety. My Muslim aunt read her Quran
faithfully, every day. She longed for us to be Muslims, instead of
Bahá'ís. She often thought she was ill, and would summon us to her
deathbed. At one of her numerous deathbeds, she took her large
Quran and banged me on the head with it, as a sort of baptism.
When you wish for guidance in Persia, you open the Quran and
read wherever your eye falls. This is also done with the Odes of
Hafiz. A friend of ours, married but romantically inclined, was
once going on a journey. He decided to ask Hafiz if he would meet
an attractive woman on the trip. He opened the book of Odes and his
eye fell on this verse: "You have found your pearl; seek no more."
In addition to the Quran, the revealed word of God, there is a
great body of hadith, i.e., recorded traditions of what Muhammad
did and said; also, to the Shi'ah Muslims -- that section of Islam
from which The Báb arose -- there are the recorded traditions of the
holy Imams. Hadith means relation of something that happened; it
is from the root hadatha -- to happen. Another word used instead of
hadith is sunna -- which means the way or custom (of the Prophet).After Muhammad's ascension, a new generation
7a. The Treaty of Versailles required Germany to restore one of
these 'Uthman Qurans Earnest Carroll Moore, The Story ofInstruction, 256.
was eager to learn all they could of Him from His old Companions
(the Muhajirin, Emigrants, His companions from Mecca, or the Ansar,
Helpers, His Medinite followers). We hear of a conversation that
took place in the mosque at Kufa: "didst thou really see the
Prophet, and wert thou on terms of familiar intercourse with
him?...And how wert thou wont to behave towards the Prophet?n
"Verily, we used to labour hard to please him." "Well, by the
Lord...if I had been but alive in his time, I would not have
allowed him to put his blessed foot upon the earth, but would have
borne him on my shoulders wheresoever he listed." (Muir, op. cit.,
xxx). Each hadith had its isnad -- its ascription, or chain of
guarantors leading back to its source (Cf. Alfred Guillaume, The
Traditions of the Prophet, Oxford, 1924; 20). A basic European
authority on hadith literature is Ignaz Goldziher. The "Sahih" of
al-Bukhari is now available in English and French). Men called
"Collectors" spent their whole lives traveling from city to city,
looking for vestiges of memories of the Prophet. The earliest of
the six standard Sunni collections were compiled under the
caliphate of al-Ma'mun (813-833 A.D.); the four canonical Shi'ah
collections somewhat later. The collector al-Bukhari, after years
of journeying, collected 600,000 traditions, and concluded that
only 4,000 of these were authentic. There are 1,465 collections of
traditions extant. The authenticity of a tradition was decided on
the basis of the character of the men in its chain of guarantors.
Muslim law is to a considerable extent founded on the hadith; so
is Muslim practice; for instance we hear of a pious man who would
not eat watermelon -- he knew watermelon was not forbidden, but he
could not discover what the Prophet did with the seeds. Here aretypical hadith:
"The world is sweet in the heart, and green to the eye...then
look to your actions, and abstain from the world and itswickedness."
"To every young person who honoureth the old, on account of
their age, may God appoint those who shall honour him in hisyears."
"The most excellent of alms is that of a man of small means,
which he has earned by labour, and from which he giveth as much ashe is able."
"He is of the most perfect Muslims, whose disposition is mostliked by his own family."
"He who asketh the help of God in contending with the evilpromptings of his own heart obtaineth it."
"The ink of the scholar is more holy than the blood of themartyr."
"Kindness is a mark of faith; and whoever hath not kindnesshath not faith."
"Verily, God is mild, and is fond of mildness, and He givethto the mild what He doth not give to the harsh."
"Desire not the world, and God will love you; and desire notwhat men have, and they will love you."
"The most excellent Jihad is that for the conquest of self."
"Death is a bridge that uniteth friend with friend.""Trust in God, but tie your camel."
"No man hath drunk a better draught than anger which he hathswallowed for God's sake."
"Paradise is nearer to you than the thongs of your sandals;and the Fire likewise."
Muhammad's prayer, after being stoned out of Ta'if was this:
"O Lord! I make my complaint unto Thee, out of my feebleness,and the
8. The general term for the Prophet's Companions is Ashib, theirsuccessors being the Tabi'un.
vanity of my wishes. I am insignificant in the sight of men, O Thou
most merciful! Lord of the weak! Thou art my Lord! Forsake me not.
Leave me not a prey to strangers, nor to mine enemies. If Thou art
not offended, I am safe. I seek refuge in the light of Thy
countenance, by which all darkness is dispelled, and peace cometh
in the Here and the Hereafter. Solve Thou my difficulties as it
pleaseth Thee. There is no power, no strength, save in Thee."____________
9. See The Sayings of Muhammad, compiled by Sir 'Abdu'llahSuhrawardy.
Islam is a fuller Revelation from God than any which preceded it.
There are a number of prophecies in the Old and New Testamentproclaiming 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 Bahá'u'lláh, 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." Quran 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, Quran 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. 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." ('AliTabari, op. cit., 42).
Muhammad, called by Bahá'u'lláh "God's Well-Beloved," (Shoghi
Effendi, World Order of Bahá'u'lláh, 106), is at one with all the
other Manifestations, and therefore we must know Him as well as the
others. Bahá'u'lláh 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 Bahá'ís "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 Bahá'í Faith is a new religion, entirely
independent, one of the established religious systems of the world;
that Baha'i's are no more Muslims than Muslims are Christians or
Jews (Bahá'í Administration, 3rd Ed., 91 and 111). The opinion the
Muslims have of us is such that they are still killing us in thestreets of Persia.
1. See Hastings Dictionary of The Bible, s.v. Paraclete the word
has been translated Comforter in the Gospel, Advocate in theEpistle.
When I worked on a Persian newspaper, the editor asked about my
Bahá'í 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 Quran declares that He
is the seal of the Prophets (33:40). However, Bahá'u'lláh explains
in the Iqan (161 ff.) that 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 Bahá'í 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 Bahá'u'lláh, 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
Quran..." (Advent of Divine Justice, 41); and to obtain "a sound
knowledge of the history and tenets of Islam..the source andbackground of their Faith.." (Idem).
The Christians do not seem to understand that the Quran 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 Quran 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).'" (Quran 2:130; see also 3:78; 4:151; 5:73). The Quran
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!" (Quran 4:169). But Muhammad insists on belief in Jesus,
and `Abdu'l-Bahá'í shows how the Quran adds much information on the
life of Jesus, not given in the Gospel story (Promulgation of
Universal Peace, I, 196). The Quran 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-Bahá
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 (Spiritof Islam,
176). As for His relation to the people of the Old Testament,
the Quran compares Muhammad to Moses (73:15), and Muhammad says
the Quran confirms the Book of Moses: "But before the Quran was
the Book of Moses, a guide and a mercy; and this Book confirmeth
it...." (46:11). Elsewhere in the Quran 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 heturns 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,____________
2. See The Oath of Muhammad to the Followers of the Nazarene, tr.
by Anton F. Haddad, 1902; Published by Bahá'í 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 thisoath until the Day of Resurrection...."
'Woman, begone; take away the straw; there is fire yet."' (Ibid.,332).
The Quran 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 youfain 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
Quran 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
Quran: "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 theBahá'í world, was established.
Again, enemies of Islam say that Muhammad degraded women; but
western scholars have known for a long time that the Quran 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 Quran 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,Page 27
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 preparedforgiveness 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 Quran 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); 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 Quranto tyrannise over consciences.
3. The Imam 'Ali said: "The blood of the dhimmi is as the bloodof the Muslim." Ameer-'Ali, Spirit of Islam, 268.
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 offeringto 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 beliefis not a modern invention -- we owe it to Islam.
As Muhammad lay dying, He called for materials to write. He said,
"Fetch Me hither ink and paper, that I may record for you a writing
which shall hinder you from going astray forever." But 'Umar said,
"Pain is deluding Him. We have God's Book, which is enough." So
the companions wrangled at the deathbed, whether to bring the
materials and write the words, and Muhammad sent them away.
At the taking of Mecca, surih 110 of the Quran had been
revealed; Muhammad regarded it as the warning of His own death; it
states: "When the help of God and the victory arrive, And thou
seest men entering the religion of God by troops; Then utter the
praise of the Lord, implore His pardon; for He loveth to turn in
mercy." Tradition says that when it was revealed He called Fatimih
and said, "My daughter! I have received intimation of My
approaching end." And Fatimih wept. And he said, "Why weepestthou....? Be comforted...."
The Hidden Words is the Hidden Book of Fatimih -- the words which
Gabriel brought to mitigate her anguish: for she had seen her
Father's death, and, forty days after the Prophet had ascended, the
schism in Islam beginning before her eyes. Those unknown words
addressed to Fatimih were believed by Shi'ah Islam to be in the
possession of the Promised One Who would come from the line of her
descendants; and they were called "Hidden" because all down thecenturies their content was unknown.
Muhammad had unmistakably appointed His successor, but nothing
had been written down. The Quran, so detailed in other things, issilent here.
When the Prophet was returning from His Farewell Pilgrimage to
Mecca, He had the caravan halt; He told the concourse of people to
gather in the shade of some thorn trees, and had them build a
pulpit of saddles, near the Pool of Khumm. Then He raised 'Ali up
and said, "Whoever hath Me as his Master, hath 'Ali as his
Master...I have been summoned to the gate of God, and I shall soon
depart...to be concealed from you." Then He spoke of two treasures
He would leave them: "The greatest treasure is the Book of
God...Hold fast to it and do not lose it and do not change it. Theother treasure is the line of My descendants."
The great tragedy of Islam is that three men, one after the
other, took over the headship of the Faith for a period of twenty-
four years, and that all this time the Imam 'Ali was forced to
stand aside. He must have suffered untold agonies as He watched the
irreparable damage being done, knowing all the time in His heart
that He was the intended of God -- the Imam, the one who stands
before the people, the divinely ordained, divinely inspired.
Muhammad was dead. The people could not accept this. They had seen
Him in the mosque, only a little time before; His voice still
echoed there. 'Umar came into the room and lifted the sheet which
covered the Prophet; then he stood at the street door and
proclaimed to the people that Muhammad had only swooned away; 'Ali
simply looked at 'Umar and wept; Abu Bakr entered, lifted the
striped sheet, and kissed the dead face. And he said, "Sweet Thou
wert in life, sweet in death." Then he hurried to the mosque and
remonstrated with 'Umar and said, "Let him then know, whosoeverPage 30
worshippeth Muhammad, that Muhammad is dead; but whoso worshippeth
God, let him know that the Lord liveth." And while 'Ali, the
appointed Imam, was grieving over the body of His Beloved, and the
funeral washings had not yet been made, 'Umar and Abu Bakr were
seeing to their appointment as caliph (successor). In the mosque,
the leaders of the various groups were proposing 'Ali and others
as successor, when 'Umar settled the matter by swearing allegiance
to Abu Bakr, who had himself proposed 'Umar; each seems to havebeen in collusion with the other, against 'Ali.
The Prophet was washed for burying by 'Ali, without removal of
His garment, while some held the water vessels; then He was wrapped
in three shrouds, two of white material and one striped, and
covered with fragrant ointments; then the grave was dug in the same
room of 'Ayishih's house where the deathbed had been. The people
came to pray beside the Body, as it lay by the grave, and when all
this was done, a few of them lowered it down: 'Ali was the last to
climb up out of the grave, before it was filled with earth. (Cf.M. Tabari, III, 217 ff.).
For two years and three months, Abu Bakr was caliph. Before his
death, he made them all agree to accept 'Umar as caliph, although
some objected to him as rude and harsh. Meanwhile the Empire was
forming; the Romans are beaten, under Heraclius; the Persians were
beaten; Jerusalem surrendered; the people were thronging into the
Faith. 'Umar was assassinated, put to death by a slave who had an
Abyssinian sword with two blades, the handle being in the center,
that would strike two ways at once; this did for the caliph, but
even when he was dying from his wounds, he shut 'Ali out of office,
by appointing a council of six, 'Ali being one, to deliberate as
to the successorship. For three days these deliberated in a
guarded room, and then through various political machinationsmanaged to appoint 'Uthman.
When something is wrong in principle, it soon begins to show in
practice -- to become manifest in the outside world. It was with
'Uthman that the disobedience to Muhammad began to show flagrant
consequences, so that the believers finally rose up in wrath
against the caliph. 'Uthman, old and feeble, was of 'Umayyad stock,
of the family that had for generations been opposed to the stock
of Muhammad. He had been backed for office by Abu Sufyan, the
'Umayyad -- a man forgiven by Muhammad, but the Prophet's arch-enemy,
who led the Meccan armies against Him and who was the husband of
Hind, the woman who tore out the vitals of a dead Muslim hero at
Uhud. I once read of ancient Tibetan play, in which the believers
had got ready the sacrifice and placed it on the altar, whereupon
a raven flew down and stole the sacrifice. This is what happened
in Islam: the raven stole the sacrifice...It is said that one day
'Uthman sat by a well, toying with the Prophet's signet ring, which
had been worn by his two predecessors, slipping it on and off
again, when it fell into the well and was never found again.
Whether the incident is true actually or only in symbol makes no
difference...'Uthman began to exhaust the public treasury in favor
of his own relatives, saying it was a duty to give to the poor;
'Ali commented, "You could have given them one thousand or two
thousand dirhems instead of fifty thousand." (M. Tabari, III,
592-593). He began to appoint throughout the Empire, his people,
the 'Umayyads, to office, putting the power in their hands. The
first two caliphs had frequently consulted 'Ali; "Most of the grand
undertakings initiated by 'Umar for the welfare of the people were
due to his counsel. (For he was) Ever ready to succour the weak
and to redress the wrongs of the injured..." (Ameer-'Ali, A Short
History of the Saracens, 53). 'Uthman did not consult him. The____________
1. Returning from 'Umar's deathbed council, 'Ali' told 'Abbas:
"This man has taken away the power from the Bani Hashim He has
established a group who are linked one with the other." Tabari',III, 549-550
accounts show 'Uthman weak and whining, always doing the wrong
thing and then appealing to the peoples' sympathies in weak self-
justification, always vowing to reform and then continuing on as
the tool of his vazir, Marvan, a man who had been exiled by
Muhammad; that 'Uthman fasted and read the Quran continually is
not impressive in view of his actions. Soon a Second-Advent-of-
Muhammad movement sprang up in Egypt (35 A.H.), and one of their
tenets was the rightfulness of 'Ali as Chief of Islam. Tabari
gives the whole story. And all these years, to preserve unity,
'Ali stood aside; he had spent his life in teaching the people and
in intellectual pursuits, for he was an outstanding scholar and
writer. Now that the believers rose up to champion his cause he
disdained to seize the office by force; he did his best to maintain
order and did not take the believers' side against the established
caliph. On the contrary, since 'Uthman was the duly-constituted
ruler, he bolstered him up and told him how to regain his lost
prestige, by public apology and reform; 'Uthman would promise to
follow 'Ali's advice and then, shifting and vacillating, would do
the opposite. Always, with these leading contemporaries, hatred of
'Ali's excellence seems to have been the hidden motive. Once
'Uthman begged 'Ali to say that a certain appointee of his was no
worse than one of 'Umar's; 'Ali answered, 'Umar had his foot on
his agents' necks -- you give them free rein. Mur'aviyyih (son of
Hind and Abu Sufyan, and now, by the grace of 'Uthman, governor of
Syria) was more afraid of a slave of 'Umar's than of 'Umar
himself -- you let him do what he wants and will brook no
complaints." (M. Tabari, III, 587 ff.). Believers from other
countries were crowding to Medina to protest against the
scandalous rule of 'Uthman's appointees; to give only one example
of what was going on, the caliph's half-brother, appointed (in the
best twentieth century tradition!) governor of Kufa, went to the
mosque and led the congregational prayer while drunk, and only
escaped being stoned by running back to his palace, chanting as
he went, "Where wine and song abound, there you will find me !"(Dozy, op. cit., 30) .
'Uthman begged 'Ali to make the protestants go away; 'Ali
persuaded them to leave and then, when the danger was passed,
'Uthman went to the mosque and told the people they had gone
because their complaints had been proved baseless. At this, all
over the mosque, voices cried out, "Repent, 'Uthman!" In the end
there was civil war; fighting in the streets, and around 'Uthman's
house; and although 'Ali and his sons fought to defend the old
weakling, the mob broke in and killed him. According to Ibn
Battuta, in the 14th century, at Basra, you could still see
exhibited a Quran with 'Uthman's blood splashed on the page he
was reading when they killed him. For many days, no one would even
allow him a bier for burial; they finally carried him to the graveon one of the ruined doors of his house.
Well, it was 'Uthman who gave the play to the 'Umayyad caliphs,
who, `Abdu'l-Bahá teaches us, are the Beast in Revelations, that
warred on God's two Witnesses, Muhammad and 'Ali (Some Answered
Questions. 53 ff.). "The beast that ascendeth out of the bottomless
pit shall war against them, and shall overcome them and kill them --
this beast means the Bani-Umayya who attacked them from the pit
of error, and who rose against the religion of Muhammad and against
the reality of 'Ali -- in other words, the love of God." (Ibid., 60).
The leaders and populace now swore allegiance to 'Ali, saying:
"The world is without a spiritual Head, and none hath more rights
to this office than thou." And so at last, after a quarter of a
century, the rightful successor of Muhammad was allowed to perform
his function of Guardianship (vilayat) -- for the Imams were
Guardians -- but it was too late. `Abdu'l-Bahá, in His commentary on
the eleventh and twelfth chapters of the RevelationPage 32
of St. John, explains what happened to the Faith of Muhammad.
'Ali, who would never for an instant compromise with evil, at
once deposed the unworthy 'Umayyad office holders, so that
Mu'aviyyih rose against him with Syrian armies. Meanwhile 'Ayishih,
widow of Muhammad, who had long hated 'Ali (and devotion to 'Ali
was the test of faith then, just as devotion to Shoghi Effendi is
the test of faith today) rallied her forces against him. "When
Ayishih wanted something done," says a modern writer, "it was
carried out regardless of ethics." (Bodley, R.V.C., The Messenger,
349). She rode to battle against 'Ali in a red pavilion that was
strapped to the back of camel; soon the pavilion was stuck through
and bristling with lances and arrows, ten thousand Muslims had
perished, and 'Ali, who had implored peace, won the day. But there
were other battles and betrayals and finally the first Imam wasmartyred in the mosque at Kufa, iu 661.
Even yet in Persia, if men have a hard job to do or a heavy load
to carry, they band together and shout, 'Ya 'Ali!" He was the
Guardian (Vali), and the Lion of God. Muhammad, embracing him after
the Farewell Pilgrimage, said, "He is to Me what Aaron was to
Moses....God be a friend to his friends and a foe to his foes; help
those who help him and frustrate the hopes of those who betray
him." (See Dwight M. Donaldson, The Shi'ite Religion). `Abdu'l-Bahá
says, "Muhammad was the root, and 'Ali the branch, like Moses and
Joshua." (SAQ, 57). 'Ali was also called the Hand of God. He was
the cousin, the adopted son, and the son-in-law of the Prophet. He
was the first male believer, having accepted Islam as a child. He
was the husband of the great Fatimih (the marriage took place in
624) whom the Muslims call Our Lady of Light, and they two were
the parents of the next Imams, Hasan and Husayn. Remember that
Bahá'u'lláh is to Shi'ah Islam the return of Husayn (God Passes
By, 94), and that The Báb is of the seed of Fatimih.
He was a man broad and powerful, of the middle height, of ruddy
complexion, of a thick and comely beard. He was utterly devoted to
Muhammad, simple in tastes, strictly honest; when he was caliph,
if he had business of state to perform at night, he would light a
candle; then as soon as the work of the state was done, and he was
at leisure, he would blow it out and sit in the darkness, rather
than use the peoples' candle. When he prayed he was so rapt that
once, an arrow having lodged in his foot at war, they waited till
he was at prayer to withdraw it, knowing that then he would not
feel the pain. Daring in battle, he has been called chivalry's beau
ideal; it was he who took the Prophet's place when Muhammad escaped
from Mecca, lying on the Prophet's couch, wrapped in His green
cloak; He fought with Muhammad at Badr, he received sixteen wounds
at Uhud, he engaged in single combat at the Battle of the Trench,
he carried away the banner at Khaybar; but braver than all this,
he stood aside for a quarter of a century from his rightful
place, in order to protect the Faith. He was a very perfect, gentleknight.
After 'Ali, Mu'aviyyih the Umayyad was caliph, and after him,
his notorious son Yazid. The center of government shifted away from
Medina to Syria. When the Medinites found Yazid drunk andincestuous, a lute
2 'Ali was frequently appointed by Muhammad in His own place:
when some Bedawin were wrongfully killed, it was 'Ali who was sent
to make reparations; he wrote the Charter to the Christians of
Najran; when Muhammad once left Medina, He left 'Ali' as khalifa,
saying, "O 'Ali, art thou not content that thou art to Me what
Aaron was to Moses?" When the munafiqun (hypocrites) said that 'Ali
had stayed behind because he was afraid of combat, whereupon 'Ali
rode after the Prophet and told Him and He said "Kadhdbabu -- they
lied." Then, according to Ibn Hisham, He said, "Wa lakinni
khallaftuka lamma turikta vara'i; fa'rjaf'khlifni fi abli wa
ahlik." It was 'Ali who was commissioned to read the Declaration
of Discharge, forbidding the idolaters to practise their heathen
rites at the Ka'bih. Cf. Ameer-'Ali, Spirit of Islam, 97, ff. (rev.ed., 1922).
player, frequenting brigands and playing with hunting dogs, never
at prayer, they littered the mosque at Medina in their wrath,
calling for his deposition. Then he sent an army and sacked the
City of the Prophet; seven hundred who knew the Quran by heart
were killed at the sack of Medina, and eighty aged Companions of
the Prophet; horses were stabled in the mosque that Muhammad had
built, in the space between the Prophet's tomb and His chair -- a
spot which He had called the Garden of Paradise. The men were
killed, the children enslaved, the women violated by the caliph's
soldiers. The Helpers, Medinite followers of Muhammad, escaped as
they could to join the army of Africa, later (712) passing over to
Spain. In the 13th century a traveler to Medina asked if any
descendants of the Helpers remained; one old man and one old woman
were pointed out. (Cf. Dozy, 60ff.). During the period of 'Umayyad
domination, the holy city was given over to packs of dogs and wild
beasts. The 'Umayyads ruled for a hundred years with sword and
poison, until a man called the Blood Pourer destroyed them.
The term Shi'ah began to be adopted after Mu'aviyyih seized power;
it refers to the adherents, or party, or family, of 'Ali. The Imam
of the Shi'ah is sacred, immaculate (ma'sum), divinely-appointed,
divinely guided. He is a spiritual leader. The caliph of the Sunnis
is a temporal ruler, chosen by the peoples' leaders and acclaimed
by the people. 'Ali was the expounder of the Faith; he had the
inward knowledge and the inward light; his assassination changedthe history of Islam.
All the Imams were put to death except perhaps the last, who died
as a child, in 260, and was succeeded for sixty-nine years by four
successive "Gates" (abvab-i-arba'ih), who were known as his
intermediaries. Then there was utter silence in Islam till the rise
of The Báb in 1260 (the surih of Adoration states: "From the Heaven
to the Earth He governeth all things: hereafter shall they come up
to Him on a day whose length shall be a thousand of such years as
ye reckon." (32:4). Hence the importance of the "Year Sixty.") The
Muslims (Shi'ahs) claim the Twelfth Imam did not die, but
disappeared into an underground passage at Surra-man-Ra'a, and now
lives in one of the mysterious cities of Jabulqa or Jabulsa, to
come forth at the time of the end and inaugurate the millennium.
When I was in Persia I heard them chanting from the minarets, "O
Lord of the Age (Sahibu'z-Zaman), hasten Thy coming; the world hath
fallen away -- set Thy foot in the stirrup!" They even struck silvercoins in His name.
Dying, 'Ali appointed his son Hasan as Imam, and he was poisoned.
Then Husayn, the third Imam, with a little band of followers,
including women and children, was betrayed by the men of Kufa, who
had sworn allegiance to him and asked him to come to them and be
their ruler. He and his party were surrounded in the sand and cut
off from the river so that they would die of thirst; singly and in
bands, his men were butchered. Husayn's horse was felled. Weak from
thirst, Husayn sat on the ground; soldiers came up to kill him,
but none dared; his little son was crying, so he took it in his
arms: an arrow killed it. He laid it on the earth, saying, "We are
from God and to Him do we return." Then he rose, and went toward
the Euphrates, and bent down to drink; an arrow struck him in the
lips and the blood streamed out. The soldiers surrounded him and
slowly shot him down, till from many wounds he fell and died. They
rode their horses over his body and severed his head and put it up
on a lance. As the enemy general reported to the caliph, "Their
bodies were dishonored and naked, their clothes mixed with the
sand, their faces stained with the earth, and the winds blew upon
them..." When the head of Husayn, grandson of Muhammad, was broughtin to Kufa, the
governor there struck the mouth with his cane; there was an old
Muslim present and he wept, and cried out, "Alas, on these lipshave I seen the lips of the Prophet of God."
Gibbon comments on this crime that stirred up the conscience of
the Muslim world to such a point that the Persians still, two
months out of the year, wear mourning clothes for Husayn -- "In a
distant age and climate, the tragic scenes of the death of Husaynwill awaken the sympathy of the coldest reader."
Bahá'u'lláh teaches us in the Iqan (129): "Should We wish to
impart unto thee a glimmer of the mysteries of Husayn's martyrdom,
and reveal unto thee the fruits thereof, these pages could never
suffice, nor exhaust their meaning." And again He says: "My
persecutors decapitated Me, and, carrying aloft My head from land
to land paraded it before the gaze of the unbelieving multitude,
and deposited it on the seats of the perverse and faithless."(Gleanings, 89).