Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Paragraph 91

Were they to be questioned concerning those signs that must needs herald the revelation and rise of the sun of the Muḥammadan Dispensation, to which We have already referred, none of which have been literally fulfilled, and were it to be said to them: “Wherefore have ye rejected the claims advanced by Christians and the peoples of other faiths and regard them as infidels,” knowing not what answer to give, they will reply: “These Books have been corrupted and are not, and never have been, of God.” Reflect: the words of the verses themselves eloquently testify to the truth that they are of God. A similar verse hath been also revealed in the Qur’án, were ye of them that comprehend. Verily I say, throughout all this period they have utterly failed to comprehend what is meant by corrupting the text.

Here we have the sixth paragraph, of thirteen, concerning the words, "And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet."

To start, this paragraph is giving us an example of an argument that was common at the time, and even today we have heard it referred to by some. The basic question is why have the Christians failed to recognize Muhammad. The response, absurd as it may be, is that the Bible has been "corrupted" and that the Christians don't have the Word of God by which they can begin to recognize Muhammad. Obviously, you know this is not true, for the beauty and wisdom of the Bible testify that it is of God.

What is actually meant by "corruption of the text" is explained in the next paragraph, so we won't go into it here. Instead, we want to look at Baha'u'llah's methodology and see what we can learn from it.

First, when the uncle of the Bab wrote his questions to Baha'u'llah, there was nothing in them about this supposed corruption of the text. Baha'u'llah is answering a question that wasn't even asked.

Why? We may wonder at His reasoning for doing such a thing. But then, when we take into account the historical time and culture in which this was written, He was aware that it would have been a common question that anyone would have asked at this point. He is anticipating the question in the reader's heart and addressing it before it even becomes an issue.

Second, He is re-affirming the validity of the Bible. The very words of the Bible itself, He says, testify to the truth that they are of God.

When talking with people of another faith path, we are, in a very real sense, walking on holy ground. The Universal House of Justice, itself, in the introduction to One Common Faith, refers to the interfaith movement, saying, "Far from challenging the validity of any of the great revealed faiths, the principle has the capacity to ensure their continuing relevance."

This, in one sense, is what Baha'u'llah is doing.

Remember, virtually everything that we have read is coming from that one verse from Matthew 24. The reading of the Qur'an goes hand in hand with the reading of the Bible. They compliment each other. You cannot have one without the other.

Third, Baha'u'llah is showing a tremendous amount of respect. This book, while primarily written for the uncle of the Bab, is also written for all of humanity. And this audience includes people of all faiths. Just imagine that you are a Christian, and you are told by a Muslim, "Oh, it's ok that you missed Muhammad. It's not your fault. Your Bible is corrupt." Where is the respect? Baha'u'llah is reminding us that these holy books, and not just the Bible and the Qur'an, but also the sacred books of all faiths, are considered holy for a good reason. They are transformative. They have a power that has moved and motivated people for many generations. "No other force in existence", we read in One Common Faith, "has been able to elicit from people comparable qualities of heroism, self-sacrifice and self-discipline...Viewed in perspective, the major religions emerge as the primary driving forces of the civilizing process. To argue otherwise is surely to ignore the evidence of history." "The scriptures", they go on, "have not changed; the moral principles they contain have lost none of their validity. No one who sincerely poses questions to Heaven, if he persists, will fail to detect an answering voice in the Psalms or in the Upanishads. Anyone with some intimation of the Reality that transcends this material one will be touched to the heart by the words in which Jesus or Buddha speaks so intimately of it."

If we truly believe that the Bab is from God, and that Baha'u'llah is the Promised One of All Ages, then we must acknowledge the validity of all those sacred Texts of the past. To do that, we have to honour and respect all the various Faiths.

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