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For over 1400 years, Muslims have believed that Jesus foretold the coming of a messenger after him, to be named Ahmad—undoubtedly a reference to Muhammad:
And when Jesus the son of Mary said, O children of Israel, verily I am the apostle of God sent unto you, confirming the law which was delivered before me, and bringing good tidings of an apostle who shall come after me, and whose name shall be Ahmad. – Suratu’s-Saff, Qur’an 61:6.
For just as long, Christians have denied that any reference to Muhammad existed in the New Testament, to which Muslims have responded that the Christians must have excised the pertinent prophecies from their text. This ancient dispute has widened the gulf between the Christian and Muslim worlds.
Some attempts have been made to harmonize the Greek of “the Comforter” promised in the Gospel of John and the First Epistle of John (2:1) with the Arabic rendering of that word. But the Greek word parakletos (in English, paraclete) means “advocate” while Ahmad means “praised.”
The Greek word that comes closest—periklytos—means “much praised.” This explanation appeals to some Muslims, convinced from their traditional understanding of certain Qur’anic verses that the verses of the Christian scriptures were falsified or “lost” in order to prevent the recognition of Muhammad. This is such a preposterous claim in the eyes of Christians that it is a non-starter as a lead-in to demonstrate the natural historical sequence of Muhammad following Jesus as his return and his successor.
However, one previously ignored word may well considered as a link between Christianity and Islam. Baha’u’llah wrote that:
… the Christian and Jewish peoples have not grasped the intent of the words of God and the promises He hath made to them in His Book, and have therefore denied His Cause, turned aside from His Prophets, and rejected His proofs. – Baha’u’llah, Gems of Mysteries, p. 6.
He then wrote:
I shall now relate certain passages revealed in the Books of old, and mention some of the signs heralding the appearance of the Manifestations of God in the sanctified persons of His chosen Ones. – p. 7.
Baha’u’llah first cited the Gospel of Matthew by saying “This is the text of that which was revealed aforetime in the first Gospel, according to Matthew, regarding the signs that must needs herald the advent of the One Who shall come after Him …” – Ibid.
Immediately after the oppression of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: and then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet. – Mathew 24:29-31.
Baha’u’llah also cited the Gospel of Luke:
There shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars, and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; and the powers of heaven shall be shaken. And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. And when these things begin to come to pass, know that the kingdom of God hath drawn nigh. – Luke 21:25-28.
Both of these Gospel passages predict that the “Son of man,” interpreted by Christians to mean the return of Jesus Christ, will return “with power and great glory.” The original Greek terms used for “great glory” in both of these gospel accounts variously mean “praise, honor, glory, splendor, renown.” Christian translators and commentators have traditionally rendered the word in the context in which it is found in both of these gospel texts as denoting “glory.”
The Hebrew term kavod has often been translated into Greek as doxis, and both words share this meaning of “glory.” They also share intimations of splendor, honor, and brilliance, all terms associated with the appearance of the divine in the desert of Sinai, to Moses, and to some of the prophets, especially Ezekiel. So “glory” fits the meaning of the Greek in these verses.
But as there are other meanings of this word, it is tempting to consider how it might be related to the seemingly unfulfilled prophecies about the coming of Muhammad. It is entirely to be expected that the return of Jesus Christ would be met with paeans of praise, from his followers and from the whole earth. The Arabic triliteral root of Ahmad–H-M-D—means every word that derives from that root is related to “praise.” That includes Ahmad, which means “highly praised” and Muhammad, which means “praiseworthy.”
Could it be that Muslim scholars were not familiar enough with the original Greek of the gospel accounts to recognize the possibility that the promised Ahmad of the Qur’an and the name of their prophet Muhammad had been there all along, in “the clouds of heaven with power and great glory”?
Could it be that Christian scholars did not want to point out these similarities between Greek and Arabic nomenclature, for fear that their co-religionists might desert the fold and embrace Islam? Whatever might have been the obstacles of a previous age, now that humanity is turning towards mutual understanding, we all have good reason to consider new ways of interpreting these old words.
If a case can be made for Jesus having foreseen and foretold the coming of Muhammad, this could begin to heal wounds that have separated and made enemies of the two largest communities of faith on the planet. It could even bring people to the recognition of the essential oneness of all prophets and their Faiths, fulfilling Baha’u’llah’s own words:
If thou be of the inmates of this city within the ocean of divine unity, thou wilt view all the Prophets and Messengers of God as one soul and one body, as one light and one spirit, in such wise that the first among them would be last and the last would be first. For they have all arisen to proclaim His Cause and have established the laws of divine wisdom. They are, one and all, the Manifestations of His Self, the Repositories of His might, the Treasuries of His Revelation, the Dawning-Places of His splendour and the Daysprings of His light. Through them are manifested the signs of sanctity in the realities of all things and the tokens of oneness in the essences of all beings. Through them are revealed the elements of glorification in the heavenly realities and the exponents of praise in the eternal essences. From them hath all creation proceeded and unto them shall return all that hath been mentioned. And since in their inmost Beings they are the same Luminaries and the self-same Mysteries, thou shouldst view their outward conditions in the same light, that thou mayest recognize them all as one Being, nay, find them united in their words, speech, and utterance. – Baha’u’llah, Gems of Divine Mysteries, pp. 33-34.