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Was Being a Baha’i or Latter-day Saint Blasphemy? Part 2

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You folks did an excellent job for this post and in case you haven’t already figured it out, your overwhelming response to “Part 1″ is “Part 2.”

The variety of thought here on the matter of apostasy and blasphemy is so great that it perfectly describes the phenomena of scriptural interpretation. To illustrate this point, I thought I’d quote a few of you from the comments and offer my opinion.

“Again the issue of the contest of authority crops up. Who gets to speak ‘for’ Islam. The reality is that there are many Islams – over time and over geography. Today the Muslim world, whether you are in KSA, Pakistan, Malaysia or Australia, is engaged in this battle.”

Many Islams. I couldn’t agree more. We see this every day in every religion. On September 11th, 2001, how many Muslims told us that the Islam followed by the attackers was not “true” Islam? We still have that problem. In addition, we also have the more liberal reformation movement of Islam going on today (more later). And since Islam simply means, “submission to God,” your method of submission to God and another’s may be quite different. The Qur’an nearly implies an acceptance of this in several verses, where faith in Islam is only qualified by 1) Observing the prayers, 2) Believing in the Last Day, and 3) Paying the Zakat.

  • What is your Islam?

“Arguing that “Seal of all Prophets” = “No More Messengers from God Ever” is an interpretation – a widely-accepted one within Islam, but an interpretation nonetheless and thus other interpretations are possible. People have a pesky habit of insisting that the Scriptures of various Faiths can only mean one thing which quite ties the Hand of God, it seems to me.”

Or…

“I like to think of the passage [Regarding Muhammad as the Seal of the Prophets] as a rejection of prophethood as an institution appropriate to a mature human race. Muhammad ended the institution so that we could rise above such paternalistic rubbish. Good riddance!”

I’m glad someone came out with this, because I’ve spent some time wrestling with this very concept. One reason I left Christianity 10 years ago was because of the idea that I needed someone to “pinch hit” for me before God. We either have a direct relationship with the divine or we don’t. I’m also a big fan of evolution, however I believe that if we are spiritual and physical creatures, that our spiritual nature evolves as well. Here I know I’ll get a little love from the LDS and Baha’is. Perhaps our friend who quoted the above is right. What if Muhammad came and the “seal” here is basically implying that after the Qur’an, we (humanity) should have a pretty good idea of what’s going on. We are now spiritually evolved enough for a one-on-one with the man in the sky and don’t need any other prophets. That’s not to say we’ll no longer have teachers, because otherwise how would we learn anything? What if “seal” just means approval and confirmation of past revelation?

  • How do you feel about spiritual evolution? Are we evolved enough through histories prophets to take the reigns?

“NONE can blame you to believe in anything or do any sort of rituals, BUT after becoming muslim you don’t have the right to convert or accept anything comes out of the islamic Fatwa. Therefore your challenge is at the end of this month when you leave Islam. According to the majority, if shariah laws apply, then they have the right to detain you, ask you to repent (I think for 3 times), after that they have the right to kill you by throwing stones!”

Whoa! What happened to there being “no compulsion in religion”? Oh wait, I get it. Maybe there’s no compulsion in religion to JOIN, but after the membership is signed, there’s no going back. Man, that sounds like a gang initiation, doesn’t it? Blood in, blood out. Harsh, but is there Quranic scripture for that? No, there isn’t. Here’s what I did find:

“If you see those who mock our revelations, you shall avoid them until they delve into another subject. If the devil causes you to forget, then, as soon as you remember, do not sit with such evil people.” Qur’an 6: 68

That sounds a lot like turning the other cheek. Here’s another:

“And so, [O Prophet,] exhort them; thy task is only to exhort: thou canst not compel them [to believe].” Qur’an 88: 21-22

The fact is, you won’t find any verse in the Qur’an about killing those who leave the faith. What you will find is punishment for those who committed treason against the Medinan Constitution. The alliance there had nothing to do with faith and everything to do with common defense. On the other hand, the Sunnah and Hadith (supposed actions and words of the Prophet gathered over time) does condone the death penalty for apostasy. I’m not a big fan of or particularly give much credit to hadith, but that’s just my opinion.

And we have time for one more.

“From a Baha’i perspective, of course, Muhammad *is* the Seal of the Prophets in the sense that the age of prophecy has concluded and the long-awaited, promised-by-every-religion age of fulfillment has arrived. But this is not the same thing as saying there will never be another Divine Educator sent by an all-loving God to guide us.”

Okay I lied. Two more!

“If God has used prophets to declare his word to his people ever since the dawn of time, why would he stop? Does God not care enough about the modern world to provide us a mouthpiece? Has the revealed word he left us so far been clear enough so that there is no longer any confusion or dispute about what it means? Are we so good now that we no longer need any direction?”

So many points of view, many of them contradictory, I…I…I feel like a kid in a candy store! Which way do I go!

My personal opinion: I wouldn’t trade my experiences with the Baha’is, the LDS, or any other group for the world. Call it blasphemy, and by the end of August, call it apostasy. If real Islam is an angry mob coming at me with stones for moving on in September, then I’ve wasted my time, because the Islam I’ve encountered has nothing to do with that image. Maybe I just have wool over my eyes, or maybe, because I have the testicular fortitute to dug around a little, I’m actually seeing a little truth. You decide…



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abowen

posted December 7, 2011 at 11:36 am


Waleed,

Thank you so much!



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Waleed

posted December 6, 2011 at 9:54 am


Salaam Andrew,

I realize that you have long finished all twelve months let alone your “Muslim month”, but information never ceases in relevance :P

Regarding Riddah or apostasy, it is true that there is an interpretation that it is a crime punishable by death. However, there has been since the formation of orthodox Islam centuries ago a concurrent viewpoint also based on the hadith that there is no such established hudood or regimented punishment for apostasy.

The reasoning is that the hadith come from a single narration thus not being credible to implement a punishment, contradictory ayats from the Qur’an, as well as the fact that the Prophet never placed a punishment for Riddah even though it happened during the Medina time period where he had the ability to carry out any such sentence if it existed.

IF you are interested here is an in depth post regarding the subject here http://www.reddit.com/r/islam/comments/jxso8/apostasy_and_islam/



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abowen

posted August 23, 2011 at 1:36 pm


Abu,

Not sure I understand your sentence “It will be very clear in the next like. You don’t want to be dithering in that life as well as this.” Could you clear that one up for me? Thanks!



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Abubaker

posted August 22, 2011 at 11:58 pm


Another very nice article. I like your logic you show in all of your articles Alhamdulillah. Also you are able to produce relevant Quranic verses regularly and precisely eventhough i wouldnt expect you to know! In this way i have found not one error in when you make a judgement about any of Gods messages like e.g the no compulsion in religion point.

A similar theme runs throughout your articles.

Keep up the good work!!

and by the way i understand your previous point about being a muslim as in submitting to the unknown and thus more scope. but you gotta make your mind up lol Narrow down the field of religion by separating religion and culture and along with it youl find that Hinduism, Bhuddism, Rastafariams etc wont have to be looked at.

It will be very clear in the next like. You dont want to be dithering in that life aswell as this.

Become a muslim!! ;)



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abowen

posted August 19, 2011 at 8:43 am


Steve,

My pleasure!



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steve mclean

posted August 19, 2011 at 12:13 am


Congrats on an interesting read! Again, the challenge is – what teachings are new in the Baha’i Faith? Do you really know? i appreciate your journalism but Christ said study the Tree and look at the Fruit and the Quran states that people will not listen as they stick their fingers in their ears. The words of the Baha’i teachings will clear away many misunderstandings about all the Faiths as ALL are True! But what a government has been given to us on Mount Carmel. What a great age of unity this is!! thanks for your words!



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abowen

posted August 18, 2011 at 3:48 pm


Lisa,

Oh no! I never delete comments (at least not on purpose). So sorry. Could you repost or would that be too much of a pain?



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Lisa

posted August 18, 2011 at 3:28 pm


Hi Andrew,
Although there is a reference made to the comments I made to the “Blasphemy Part 1″ post, I can’t find it anymore.
What happened? Was it deleted?
Thanks,
Lisa



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Foad Farhoumad

posted August 18, 2011 at 2:16 am


Dear Eileen

There is an Iranian Poet who said in the mid of last century, and I am paraphrasing:    “For those who seek recompense for their deeds , they will surely receive heaven, but for those who seek the love of God, they are in no need of heaven”.   

I am sure you get the point, and that is having the love of god, you are already in heaven.
From reading your blog, I see this great love coming forth from you and many others, I am not surprised, because in essence your Catholic background has thought you well. So in reality, because of this love, there is hope in bringing about that heaven on this earth. You have to remember, that this love is what created civilizations, it is this love that cemented the hearts in the past, it is this love that has brought peace here and there. I mention one example, I am sure a lot of you are aware of it, one of the greatest civilization that came about, was the civilization brought by the Moors, in southern Spain, it lasted many hundred of years, because under the mantle of Islam, Jew, Christian and Moslems lived in peace and harmony. Because not only love and respect permeated the people of that time and place, but the sense of  equality  between the three religions was thought and practiced. So,  where ever you reside, you have to remember, Baha’u’llah has raised the mantle of the unity of Mankind for this day, it is everyones obligation, to rise up, and work towards the establishment of this unity. This is the essence of religion, that they have come to bring about unity, if anyone speaks of hatred and division, then it’s better call it vein imagination.  We have to come out of this paralysis thinking that we humans are selfish and war mongers, and  when we make a great effort in bringing out our nobel characters,  that is when  in essence we will be able to bring about that heaven on this earth. God Bless.



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Sam Karvonen

posted August 17, 2011 at 1:42 pm


We have some articulate Muslim brothers and sisters commenting here. :) Thank you for your inputs. As a Bahá’í, of course, I feel obliged to respond to some of the things said.

In brief, the gist of the Bahá’í position is that ‘nabi’ literally signifies “a prophecy-maker” or “a news-bringer” (“a bringer of tidings”). The 78th surah of the Qur’án, the Surah of An-Naba (news, tidings), refers to the Day of Judgment as the very “news” or “the tidings” intended throughout the Qur’án. All the “prophets” or “news-bringers” (nabiyyin) brought to mankind the same “news” (an-Naba) of a future Day of Judgment and Reckoning, as described in the 78th surah. In other words, “nabi” in the Qur’ánic sense, is one whom God has sent to “warn” and “inform” mankind about the future Day of Judgment.

Since the Báb and Bahá’u’lláh announced the arrival of the Day of Judgment, they couldn’t possibly be ‘nabiyyin’, prophets who prophecize about a future Day of Judgment. Muhammad was verily the Seal of the Prophets. Bahá’u’lláh is indeed regarded as the Judge on the Day of Judgment, the one to announce that the Day has indeed arrived after millennia of expectation. Since the Day is at hand, the time of its prophecy is obviously over.

As regards the symbolism of the cataclysmic events to accompany the Day of Judgment, as Bahá’u’lláh says in the Kitáb-i-Iqan (which is basically a tafsir on the apocalyptic prophecies of the Qur’án and the Gospels), were people to persist in their expectation of literal cleavings of mountains, heavens folded in God’s right hand, literal suns darkening, and literal Christs descending upon clouds, they can well keep on waiting until the end that has no end.

This, in short, is the Bahá’í understanding.



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abowen

posted August 17, 2011 at 12:43 pm


Reading is going well, Umm. On part 17!



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abowen

posted August 17, 2011 at 12:40 pm


Eileen,

You kidding? I have time for everyone! What is the link to your site?



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abowen

posted August 17, 2011 at 12:38 pm


No problem Sam!



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Umm Yasmin

posted August 17, 2011 at 9:30 am


I think another major difference in interpretation is over the Day of Judgement.

When you read the whole Qur’an (how are you going with that too Andrew?) it becomes clear the Day of Judgement is a cataclysmic event that is the end of human history and time as we know it. It isn’t the coming of another Rasul.

As Lisa mentioned on Part 1 mentioned – the Day of Judgement is so different to our reality here and now, that whilst we cannot “see” Allah during our normal material, historical existence (although the Prophet, peace upon him, had a visitation with Allah–not Baha’u’llah–when he ascended the heavens in Isra wa Mi’raj) in the Day of Resurrection there will be those blessed with the beatific vision.

“But for him who feareth the standing before his Lord there are two Gardens. Which is it, of the favours of your Lord, that ye deny?” (see Surah 55 for all the rewards the believers receive knowing they will stand before God on the Day of Judgement.)

Although not everyone receives the beatific vision, as the Qur’an says:

“Those who conceal Allah’s revelations in the Book, and purchase for them a miserable profit – They swallow into themselves naught but Fire: Allah will not address them on the Day of Resurrection, nor purify them.”

Actually, I hadn’t thought about it before, but Baha’u’llah *did* address non-believers in his mission, so that’s another reason why the Day of Judgement prophecies don’t apply to him.

In 2011, however, things are same-old, same-old: oppression in Syria; war in Afghanistan; famine in Somalia; riots in England – all of which is a jihad for us to struggle against!



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Eileen

posted August 17, 2011 at 3:14 am


You probably get a zillion comments and don’t have time to read them all but I wrote pretty extensively about this on my blog. I was raised Catholic, converted to Islam in college and now am wavering between being agnostic and Baha’i. I haven’t declared as a Baha’i, so I don’t consider myself one. I have spent the last 15 years of my life doing what are you are in several months. I can’t wait to read all of this, but if you have time my series is on my blog and I would love to talk to you.



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Foad Farhoumand

posted August 17, 2011 at 2:11 am


Andrew, quit playing with my posts. LOL.



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Foad Farhoumand

posted August 17, 2011 at 2:07 am


Andrew, what happened to the other post?



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Foad Farhoumand

posted August 17, 2011 at 2:03 am


I meant to say a Nabieh into a Rassul .



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Foad Farhoumand

posted August 17, 2011 at 1:41 am


Forgive me Isa, I was giving examples, forgive me if I left out some others, and on top of the names you mention minus a few, there have been so many other messengers and prophets in the history of humanity, that we don’t have records of them. Mohammad, has mentioned an X amount  of them in the Quran if I am not mistaken.  Can’t remember if it was in the hundreds or thousands, you can make it clear for us. 
As Andrew has correctly put it, a messenger can be a prophet but a prophet cannot be a messenger. 
Dear Isa, my question to you, which prophet came after Moses that brought a book of laws? No one has the right to change the laws of God, unless they are the next messenger. King David did not bring a book of laws. The reason the Jews had a great problem with Jesus, was because he changed the laws of Moses, and he certainly could do that. A Rassul is a Rassul, let’s not try to make it into a Nabih, this is a well know fact in the Islamic theology, and there is no grey matter here.
Please let me know what Mohammad says about the # of prophets that there have been?



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Sam Karvonen

posted August 16, 2011 at 6:21 pm


Here’s the website in full. For some reason I wasn’t able to paste properly just now:

http://bahai-library.com/articles/jbs.5-3.fazel.html

Thanks for the great debate, Andrew! And let the friendly banter continue. ;)

Sam



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Sam Karvonen

posted August 16, 2011 at 6:09 pm


The Bahá’í understanding is a tad more sophisticated than that, my dear Isa Idris.

Al-Qur’án 013.038 “For every age there is a Book.”

The Prophet nowhere says that for every age there is a Book, “except for the future ages.” He simply associates each/every period/age with a Book, whether we like it or not. Yes, he mentions previous revelations earlier in the same verse and then states the beautiful divine principle as quoted in the above: the principle of continuous revelation: for every age there is a Book. Many a mainstream Muslims would interpret this verse differently (in reference to only past revelations) and thereby deviate from its exact wording. Such a deviation is of course very understandable given the fact that interpreting otherwise would challenge a highly cherished belief in the cessation of prophetic revelation with Muhammed. It’s quite that simple.

Everyone who understands classical Arabic would for instance see the obvious future tense of the following corrected translation of the first four ayat of the Surih Al-Bayan (098, Clear Evidence). The past-tense-mistranslation is found in almost every translation of Al-Qur’án, where the incorrectly rendered version translates as past tense or ambivalent tense something that is clearly a future tense in Arabic. This widespread deviation from the original Arabic has been made in consultation with certain scholars to dilute its uncomfortably clear reference to a future Messenger (rasul) and a future Book (or rather Books):

“The unbelievers among the people of the Book, and the polytheists, shall not waver until the Clear Evidence comes to them, a Messenger from God, reciting pure pages wherein are valuable Books. Nor were the people of the Book divided until after the Clear Evidence came to them.”

In the Arabic original of the first verse, a Clear Evidence with pages and books “shall come” (future tense). On the other hand, the fourth verse refers to another Clear Evidence which has already come. This would be a flagrant contradiction unless the Prophet is in fact making a reference to two Clear Evidences, one of Muhammad and another one in the future by “a Messenger from God reciting pure pages where in are valuable Books.” Interestingly enough, the Prophet brought just one Book and referred to his Book singularly in the Qur’án. Bahá’u’lláh brought many Books. For a more academic Bahá’í discussion on the Arabic meaning of these verses and the the use of the terms rasul and nabi in the Qur’án, please refer to the following website:

bahai-library.com/articles/jbs.5-3.fazel…



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abowen

posted August 16, 2011 at 4:41 pm


Isa,

Nice counterpoint! And don’t think of these “theological arguments” as something negative. I’m here to initiate conversation, not hide the details. Thank you for this insight. What it really comes down to is whether or not we believe what the Qur’an says. All else is noise.



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Isa Idris

posted August 16, 2011 at 3:26 pm


This is a common argument in Baha’i apologetics, i.e. “Nabi vs. Rasul”, but it doesn’t really work once you dig into the Qur’an more and realize that certain people described as “Rasul” (who are supposed to be “law-giver” messengers who brought a new religion), were actually working within the “dispensation” of Moses (pbuh.)

So, if every Rasul is supposed to be a Moses, a Jesus, a Muhammad, a Bab’, etc, then what was God thinking when He designated someone like Jonah, Elijah, Jethro, Ishmael, Noah, Eber, Lot, as “Rasul?” :-)

Jethro, Elijah, and Jonah were Rasuls within the Jewish religion. They didn’t bring their own holy book. They didn’t start a new religion. Yet, Allah (swt) called them “Rasul.”

On the flipside, King David was called a “Nabi”, but he wrote a book of revelation called the Psalms. The only point I am making is that there are some crossovers between these two terms, and that you can’t simply separate them into neat categories to make a convenient point in favor of a post-Islamic religion.

At any rate, Muhammad (pbuh) is called a Nabi and a Rasul in the Qur’an, so even by going along with the apologetic argument that a “Rasul is a Nabi, but a Nabi is not also a Rasul”, the statement calling Muhammad the “Seal of the Nabi” effectively also “Seals the Rasuls”, because a Rasul is also a Nabi according to this argument. So, the only way that the Nabi could be “sealed” is if the Rasuls are also sealed, because the Nabi station comes as a package deal of being a Rasul.

I really don’t like delving into theological arguments, so that is all I will say on this matter. People can believe what they want, but I think a counterview is needed to balance it out a bit.



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abowen

posted August 16, 2011 at 12:18 pm


Foad,

Indeed, the Arabic word for apostle (messenger) is Rasul, while the word for prophet is nabi. On the contrary, Muhammad is referred to as a prophet in many cases. In this way, every messenger is a prophet, but not every prophet a messenger.

Head ache? Seriously? I do this for fun, pal. No head aches here! I present all of these points for the benefit of readers to explore.



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Foad Farhoumand

posted August 16, 2011 at 12:08 pm


Dear Andrew, in Islam, the word for prophet is different than for messenger of God. A prophet comes under the shadow of the messenger of God. Messengers are law givers, like Moses, Zoroaster, Christ, Mohammad, Buddha, Krishna, Bab and Baha’u’llah. Prophets, don’t bring laws, and don’t start a new religion, these are such as Ezekiel, Daniel and so fort, who came under the shadow of Moses. Mohammad did not say Khatemo Rassul, he said khatemo Nabih. Mohammad was not a prophet, he was a law giver. Moslems, call Mohammad, Rassulallah, means messenger of god not prophet. There is a reason Mohammad brought an end to prophethood, and that’s an explanation by itself, for next time, before you get a head ache.



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abowen

posted August 16, 2011 at 11:36 am


Thanks Umm!



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Umm Yasmin

posted August 16, 2011 at 11:31 am


I commend you akhee (my brother) because there are many people in the world who have opinions on Islam and Muslims, but very few actually take the time to walk a mile in our moccasins! I am sure that at the end of the month the Muslims you have been praying with at the beautiful masjid you described will wish you the very best on your journey. No stones in sight – I am sure!



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