Even as the Lord of being hath in His unerring Book [the Qur’an], after speaking of the “Seal” in His exalted utterance: “Muhammad is the Apostle of God and the Seal of the Prophets,” hath revealed unto all people the promise of “attainment unto the divine Presence.” …

Nothing more exalted or more explicit than “attainment unto the divine Presence” hath been revealed in the Qur’an. …

And yet, through the mystery of the former verse, they have turned away from the grace promised by the latter, despite the fact that “attainment unto the divine Presence” in the “Day of Resurrection” is explicitly stated in the Book.

Baha’u’llah, The Book of Certitude, Paragraphs 181–182.

This quote changed my life, challenged my thinking, gave me insight. Here’s how:

Calgary in the winterCalgary, 1991. Bone-chilling winter. Freezing cold outside. Not so cold inside. Colder in the basement, though. Way past midnight. Wife, two young sons, fast asleep. Freeze-dried coffee. Stay awake. Keep typing. Finish my Master’s thesis.

Read above passage again. Again and again. Something puzzles me. Got to figure this out: What’s the “latter” verse that Baha’u’llah refers to? Must be important: “Nothing more exalted … hath been revealed in the Qur’an.”

Okay. “Seal of the Prophets” is verse 33:40 in the Qur’an. (The world’s 1.6 billion Muslims revere Q. 33:40.) Definitely the “former verse” Baha’u’llah refers to.

But where’s the “latter” verse? No citation. No footnote. First clue: “Latter” means “later.” After the “Seal of the Prophets” verse, what should I look for? (Baha’u’llah’s next clue: “Day of Resurrection.”)

How many times have I read this text? Lost count. Must study the text again. Drink more Taster’s Choice. Get up. Walk around. Stretch. Sit down. Read again. Concentrate! Q. 33:40. Verses right after. Here’s what they say:

Muhammad is not the father of any one of your men, but the Messenger of God, and the Seal of the Prophets; God has knowledge of everything.

O believers, remember God oft, and give Him glory at the dawn and in the evening. It is He who blesses you, and His angels, to bring you forth from the shadows into the light. He is All-compassionate to the believers.

Their greeting, on the day when they shall meet Him, will be ‘Peace!’

Qur’an 33:40–44. [Arberry’s translation.]

I think I got it! Sudden insight? Did I just discover the “latter” verse that Baha’u’llah refers to? Maybe. The verse qualifies. For sure, Q. 33:44 has “revealed unto all people the promise of ‘attainment unto the divine Presence’.” Okay. Now I found the “latter” verse. Do I understand Q. 33:44? Sort of. (Not quite!)

Some of Q. 33:40–44 is clear: “To bring you forth from the shadows into the light” refers to the Day of Resurrection. “Shadows” suggests death. “Light” implies life. “Meet Him” means “meet God.”

Problem : If God can’t be seen, then what does “meet God” mean?

Note to self : Prophetic code. Got to decode.

Think! Getting close. Thoughts ablaze. Spirit on fire. So I write:

A page of the QuranThis one single verse, Qur’an 33:40, is at the heart of Muslim theology. Carved in exegetical stone, the sense of ultimacy behind the “Seal of the Prophets” cannot be overruled. At most, it can only be reinterpreted. Baha’u’llah does just that.

His exegesis is dramatic: he points his finger just four verses further to Qur’an 33:44, a relatively overlooked verse. Suddenly, the reader is transported from the Last Prophet to the Last Day, from the end of prophecy to the end of time. Within a few lines of revealed Arabic, the vision of Muhammad dissolves into the vision of God. …

The interpretation of “Seal of the Prophets” has traditionally meant the “last of the prophets.” The “presence of God,” in Baha’u’llah’s exegesis, signifies, in effect, the “prophet of the Last Day.”

God cannot be seen. The “Presence of God” must be “seen” in the absence of a visible God. The “Presence” is visible; God is not. The “Presence of God” is not God in person but rather the “Person of God.” The Bab is such a “Presence.” Correspondingly, Qur’an 33:40 is Muhammad; Qur’an 33:44 is the Bab. Exegetically, Qur’an 33:44 is therefore the most crucial of all the verses in Baha’u’llah’s argument. – Symbol and Secret, pp. 194–195.

All Muslims believe that Muhammad is the “Seal [Last] of the Prophets,” precluding any further Prophets. Yet this Baha’i interpretation of the “Seal of the Prophets” and the “Meeting God” references in the Qur’an shows that divine revelation continues, always providing humanity with new guidance and hope.

The opinions and views expressed in this article are those of the author only and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of BahaiTeachings.org or any institution of the Baha’i Faith.

6 Comments

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  • Mustapha Benhsina
    Jul 14, 2016
    After a careful study of the Holy Scriptures of Islam, This Is precisely what led me straighly to the Faith of Baha'u'llah.
    You have summed it up brillantly dear friend.
    God bless You.
  • Christopher Buck
    Jul 14, 2016
    Dear Mr. al-Hariri: Thank you for your comments. I respect your views as a Canadian Muslim. It's good to have dialogue, in order to promote a better understanding of Muslim and Baha'i perspectives. It's perfectly fine to agree to disagree. The overarching goal, after all, is to promote peace and prosperity in this troubled world of ours, or, at the very least, reduce suffering and hardship. Faiths can be friends. There can, and should, be peace among religions. That said, let me clarify what I understand to be the Baha'i position on this issue: The Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon ...him, was the "Seal" or last of the Prophets and Messengers. This refers to what Baha'is refer to as the "Prophetic Cycle." Let me state the obvious: Prophets prophesy. Then, sometime in the future, these prophecies come true. Prophecies are fulfilled. When that happens, Baha'is refer to this as the "Cycle of Fulfillment." I'm sure you'll agree that there will come a period of time when prophecies come true. As you know, the holy Quran is full of prophecies regarding the Last Day, the final “Hour." Baha'is believe that the "Cycle of Fulfillment" has begun. As you also know, the holy Quran promises the eschatological "meeting" or attainment to the presence of God. The Baha'i understanding of this prophecy is simply that, since God cannot be seen, this prophecy refers to a representative of God. Baha'is believe that Bab ended the "Prophetic Cycle" and inaugurated the "Cycle of Fulfillment" in symbolic fulfillment of the prophecies of the Quran and the sacred books that preceded it. So, I think you'll agree that the Quran speaks about events of the the Last Day, the final “Hour." Obviously this future time comes after the Prophet Muhammad. Whatever you call this period of time, it will be a time of fulfillment of the prophecies of the Quran. There will be revelations from God. No doubt about that. Even Jesus will return, according to well-attested Hadith. What this all means, of course, is a matter of interpretation. This article simply presents one understanding of what all this means, from a Baha'i perspective. I hope this clarifies what this article tries to promote by way of mutual understanding and respect the course of interfaith dialogue. Peace be with you.
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  • Melissa Hughes
    Jun 08, 2014
    In Arabic, 'Seal of the Prophets' is 'Khātam an-Nabiyyīn'. In this phrase we find the Arabic word for lesser prophet (nabi) rather than the word for Messenger of God (rasul). Muhammad is indeed the last of the Messengers of God who would prophecy of the Promised One, but not the last Messenger of God Himself, as His own words predicting the coming of the Promised One testify.
  • Carol Kilpatrick
    Oct 02, 2013
    Thank you. I have been searching for some explanation. I need as much info on this topic as possible to try to explain this to a soon to be family member. This so very interesting and and I've noticed the term Seal of the Prophets has a meaning of finality - like no more prophets- and we need to expand our understanding of these verses in the Qra'an. It is certainly a previously said an eye-opener.
  • John Butler
    Oct 02, 2013
    This is quite revealing and opens to me a further undertanding of the Seal of the Prophets and now I also understand the reference to the Bab... Many thanks for sharing. It certainily is an eye opener....