By Hajir Moghaddam
Editor’s Note: The following analysis is offered by one of the site’s readers and is shared as a means of welcoming an informed discussion of this issue. Iran Press Watch will be glad to publish follow-up pieces by its readers as a means of fostering greater Islam-Baha’i interfaith dialogue.
One of the main reasons that Muslims consider Baha’is to be apostates is that Muslims interpret the Qur’an to say that Muhammad is the last Prophet and the Messenger of God to earth. In this regard, certain terms are used which require a careful discussion.
Here is an analysis of these terms from one Baha’i perspective, though it is recognized that other perspectives exist as well.
To Baha’is, the Prophet Muhammad is in a very real sense the Last Prophet and Messenger — Baha’u’llah is what we call a Manifestation of God, who fulfills the role of the Qur’anic “Announcement” and “Sender”. Of course, from the Baha’i perspective, a Manifestation is also seen as One Who is like a mirror who reflects in this world the Will and Attributes of the One Ultimate but Unknowable God.
The Relationship between Messengers (rusul), Prophets (anbiya), the Announcement (naba), and the Sender (mursil)
The chapter about the great news (awful tidings, great event, mighty tidings, mighty event, tremendous announcement, grand news, awesome tidings) begins:
Quran 78:2 Aani alnaba-i alAatheemi: Concerning the Great News
The word used in this verse, naba, relates to the word nabi.
- Nabi (prophet) means “one who informs others”.
- Naba means “news”, “announcement”, “information”.
- Anbiya represents the plural form of nabi.
Anbiya inform others of a coming naba. The Qur’an says that the naba is not the Quran itself but that it will come in the future.
Note that the word rasul relates to the word mursil.
Rasul means “a messenger”, “a bearer of a message”.
- Mursal(een) also means “a messenger”, “a bearer of a message”.
- Mursil means “one who sends”, “a sender”.
- Risalat means “messages”.
- Rusul represents the plural form of rasul.
So a mursil sends a rasul to give risalat. The Qur’an says that risalat of the mursil (Allah) form His kalimat (Word). The Qur’an says that risalat, kalimatu Allah (the messages and words of God) cannot end. The messages (risalat) — by definition the kalimat (words) of God — are inexhaustible. Please see Quran 31:27 “And if all the trees on earth were pens and the ocean (were ink), with seven oceans behind it to add to its (supply), yet would not kalimatu Allahi (the words of Allah) be exhausted (in the writing): for Allah is Exalted in Power, full of Wisdom.”
Putting these together, we see that God sent both Jesus and Muhammad (each one a rasul) to act as a nabi and to inform people of the naba. Therefore the naba which the anbiya (plural of nabi) announced must itself be accompanied with more risalat (messages) that we will hear, which is the gift of the Announcement itself, as its stated in Quran 78:35-36: “No vanity shall they hear therein, nor Untruth:- Recompense from thy Lord, a gift, (amply) sufficient…”
There is no need for any more anbiya (who anticipated the news of the naba) after the naba appeared. However, the risalat (messages) of God continue. Quran 44:5: “A Command from Us. Verily, We are ever mursileen (sending).” Based on this verse, the Sender of messages and messengers (mursil) functions as a rasul since he gives risalat to mankind through a designated Temple. In this sense, the mursil may be understood as the knowable aspect of the Unknowable. So, the mursil, at the time of the naba, sends risalat through someone who is not one of the anbiya.
To summarize, we have four words: nabi, naba, rasul, and mursil.
- Some rusul (plural of rasul) rank as anbiya (prophets) if sent (arsala) before the naba.
- Some rusul are not anbiya if sent after the naba.
- The naba itself is a risalatun.
- Risalat cannot be exhausted.
- The mursil ever sends risalat though His designated temple, even after the naba.