There are many Muslims who are interested in how Baha’is really perceive our religion, which is always worth noting considering the amount of inaccurate assumptions in the Arab/Iranian media regarding this.

Baha’is have always had great respect for Islam, and to evidence that we also posted a translation of an article where a Baha’i defends Islam. Marco, the same Portuguese Baha’i who wrote that article, also wrote another interesting one where he shows the differences between Christ and our prophet Muhammad (PBUH), reflecting upon his beliefs as a Baha’i.

Here is the translation of the article:

This is an answer to a Catholic blogger who asked for my opinion on the similarities and differences between Christ and Muhammad. Is was published almost four years ago.

Thursday, 18 of November of 2004

According to the Baha’i teachings, there are three levels of reality: God, the Prophets, and Creation. God is inaccessible and unknowable to Creation. To know the will and the teachings of God, we have to turn to His Prophets, like Abraham, Moses, Jesus, Muhammad, Zoroaster, Krishna, Buddha, the Báb and Bahá’u'lláh.

According to the Bahá’í Faith, God sends periodically Messengers (or Prophets) whose express purpose is to educate mankind and create the conditions for an ever-advancing civilization. These Prophets appear from age to age with teachings adequate to the capacity and necessities of the world’s peoples. We can make an analogy with a school. While attending school, we experience a succession of teachers who teach us different subjects. The content of their lessons and the teaching methods change every year, but their collective objective is to prepare us for graduating from school. Mankind, like students in school, develop and progress through a similar educative process known as progressive revelation. Like any good educational system, a teacher never denies what previous teachers taught, but rather, builds upon that knowledge and prepares the students for coming grades and different teachers. The Prophet-founders of world religions act likewise. They never deny previous Prophet(s) and while expounding Their Message, They also prepare mankind for the coming of yet another Messenger from God. This is the method of God in the past and so it is for the future!

Each Prophet reveals teachings that fall within two general categories: spiritual teachings and social teachings. The spiritual teachings are common to all religions and cover such subjects as the existence of God, life after death, the need to worship God, the need to treat others as we would like to be treated (Golden Rule), the interconnection between each of God’s Prophets and foretelling of the next Messenger. The ethical and social teachings of each prophet vary according to the needs of time and place. For example, Christ forbade divorce because the Hebrews had distorted the law of marriage as established by Moses. Muhammad forbade the eating of pork because of hygienic conditions in Arabia made it dangerous to eat this meat.

Parallels between Islam and Christianity

Under this Bahá’í perspective we perceive that the teachings of the prophet-founders of Christianity and of Islam agree in the basic spiritual teachings and they only diverge with respect to the social teachings. Both religions provided the base of two remarkable civilizations which contributed enormously to the progress of the mankind (the scientific and cultural legacy of each of these civilizations is truly extraordinary).

Both Christianity and Islam teach in the existence of God and in His moral and religious guidance to human beings. For Christians, part of this guidance already existed in the Old Testament and became indispensable to Christian thought. The Arabs who did not become Muslims from a Christian background did not have the Bible as a reference base. The Qurán, therefore, summarizes and revises the ethical and social teachings suitable to that time and place. The New Testament, in like manner, updated the Old Testament. “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth”, for example, is replaced by “Turn ye the other cheek.” Christ maintained this principle throughout His ministry and it was clearly that way as He suffered crucifixion under Roman law.

The basic doctrine of Islam rests in the affirmation of the unity and transcendence of God. God is the Supreme Creator. His nature is described with by the use of attributes such as: “All-Merciful”, “Compassionate”, “All-Knowing”, “Almighty”, “Sublime”, “All-Generous”, “The Forgiver”, “The Listener”. The beginning of each chapter of the Quran hails God by citing several of these attributes. In this way the believer acknowledges the exalted station of God and testifies to the fact that all that he may posses is a result of God’s generosity.

Some 400 years after the crucifixion of Christ at the Council of Trent, Constantine intervened to put to an end the long theological battle over the absolute separate nature of God versus the integrated nature of God, Christ and the Holy Spirit, later known as the dogma of the Trinity. Constantine pronounced the Trinity correct and Christianity has historically maintained this position ever since. This decision created the basis for the biggest theological difference between current Islam (also Judaism) and current Christianity. The Bahá’ís also hold, like the Jews and Muslims, that God is exalted above the description of any of His creatures, even His Manifestations.

Another common characteristic of these two religions as currently practised (which I do not agree with) is the contention that their prophet is the final prophet. Both Muslims and Christians believe that the founding Prophet of their religion was the last and after Him there will be no other Prophets. Christians believe that after Jesus, humanity has been guided and will continue to be guided by the Holy Spirit (manifested in different forms). Muslims believe that Mohammed was the return of Christ and then insist that He is the last by citing and interpreting the expression, “Seal of the Prophets”, defining finality. I believe that Christ and Muhammad were both Prophets; but I also believe that there have been more Prophets since, namely the Báb and Bahá’u'lláh, and more will come. I also believe that humanity will continue to evolve and God will continue to guide us always in the same way.

References to Christ in the Quran

Generally speaking, the antagonism that arises between Christians and Muslims is the result of unfamiliarity in each others scriptures and in the manner that each currently express their religious beliefs. The world of the “terrorist” and “evangelical right” has skewed in almost unalterable ways the general opinions of each toward each other. The
fact that Jesus is mentioned in 15 chapters of the Quran and that His name appears in some 93 verses for a total of more than 6200 references does not alter this antipathy. In this Sacred Book the name of Jesus is mentioned with great reverence and eleven times He is mentioned as the “Messiah”. He is also “Son of Mary”, “a sign for all beings” (21: 91); it is stated that His family was chosen “above of worlds” (3: 30-33) and that He, himself was sent “so that we make of Him a sign for men” (19: 21).

The Quran does not delineate all of Christ’s teachings, nor does it describe the history of the Passion. He his described with special titles, but He is not held as the dogma of the Trinity would suggest, as God incarnate. He is one in a sequence of prophets sent by God to humanity, like Abraham and Moses. (The teachings about the Prophets are a small part of the Quran).

Conclusions

In Islam and in Christianity there were shining times and tragic episodes. There were heroes and fools. There were those who lived the Divine Message until the very last breath. There were also those who remembered only the Messenger and forgot the Message. Invoking Jesus or Muhammad, there were people who committed acts of great bravery and those who committed the biggest atrocities. Jesus and Muhammad managed to transform the souls of millions of people, inspiring the accomplishment of the purest and most noble acts amongst human beings, but Jesus and Muhammad cannot be held guilty for the insane acts committed by people who claim to be their followers.

Today it is impossible to speak of Islam or Christianity as homogeneous religious communities. In both we find the most diverse trends and theological thoughts. In both we find conservative and progressive attitudes. Personally I fear that the tragic awakening of Islamic extremism dims for a long time to come the old glory of the Islamic civilization. As for Christianity, and perhaps because my parents are Catholics, I follow with attention a certain Christian reflection that seems to me to be a sign of renewal. Great thinkers and Christian activists, like Kung, Boff and Samuel Ruiz, have come to give to a new reading to the Gospel to the conditions and needs of world of today.