Just as past scripture tells of a future Messenger—the Torah of a ‘Prophet like Moses’ (Deuteronomy 18:18) and the New Testament of a coming ‘Spirit of truth’ (John 16:13), the Qur’an prophesies a future ‘meeting’ with the Divine. By this, Baha’is believe, we must understand a new manifestation of God.
According to the Qur’an, God transcends all the conditions of the physical world. An explicit verse states: “there is nothing whatever like unto Him.” – 42:11, Yusuf Ali. Another says, “No vision can grasp Him, but His grasp is over all vision.” – 6:103, Yusuf Ali.
To every discerning and illumined heart it is evident that God, the unknowable Essence, the divine Being, is immensely exalted beyond every human attribute, such as corporeal existence, ascent and descent, egress and regress. Far be it from His glory that human tongue should adequately recount His praise, or that human heart comprehend His fathomless mystery. He is and hath ever been veiled in the ancient eternity of His Essence, and will remain in His Reality everlastingly hidden from the sight of men. ‘No vision taketh in Him, but He taketh in all vision; He is the Subtile, the All-Perceiving.’ No tie of direct intercourse can possibly bind Him to His creatures. He standeth exalted beyond and above all separation and union, all proximity and remoteness. No sign can indicate His presence or His absence; inasmuch as by a word of His command all that are in heaven and on earth have come to exist, and by His wish, which is the Primal Will itself, all have stepped out of utter nothingness into the realm of being, the world of the visible. – p. 98.
Thus, when the Qur’an speaks of God appearing to the world on the ‘Last Day’, it is not God Himself, the divine Essence (dhāt) that appears. It is rather an intermediary—recognition of whom is equivalent to recognizing God. Just as God revealed to the Prophet Muhammad:
Whosoever obeys the Messenger, thereby obeys God; and whosoever turns his back—We have not sent thee to be a watcher over them. – Qur’an 4:80.
You did not slay them, but God slew them; and when thou threwest, it was not thyself that threw, but God threw, and that He might confer on the believers a fair benefit; surely God is All-hearing, All-knowing. – Qur’an 8:17.
And according to both Sunni and Shi‘i traditions, the Prophet Muhammad said:
Whosoever seeth Me hath indeed seen al-Ḥaqq (‘the Truth’—a name of God). – Sahih al-Bukhari vol. 9, hadith 125.
When we compare the verses and authentic traditions, which teach that we will see God on the ‘Last Day’—as clearly as we see the full moon, according to some reports—with the verses teaching that God is exalted beyond all physical conditions, the inevitable conclusion is that God will appear again to the world through a new prophet, a new manifestation. Future revelation is not just possible—as Qur’an 7:35 shows—it is certain.
Thus, we have good reason to regard Muhammad as ‘sealing’ the past prophets in the same way that the mission of Christ “sealed up the vision and prophecy” (Daniel 9:24). Christ confirmed and fulfilled the teachings of the prior prophets, but did not end divine revelation for all time.
This matches precisely what Baha’u’llah reveals in the Book of Certitude, his major theological work:
And yet, through the mystery of the former verse [Qur’an 33:40], they have turned away from the grace promised by the latter [Qur’an verse 33:44], despite the fact that ‘attainment unto the divine Presence’ in the ‘Day of Resurrection’ is explicitly stated in the Book. It hath been demonstrated and definitely established, through clear evidences, that by ‘Resurrection’ is meant the rise of the Manifestation of God to proclaim His Cause, and by ‘attainment unto the divine Presence’ is meant attainment unto the presence of His Beauty in the person of His Manifestation. For verily, ‘No vision taketh in Him, but He taketh in all vision’. – pp. 170-171.
So far in this series of articles I have based my reasoning almost entirely on the Qur’an itself. In the next installment, we will turn to some prophetic traditions or aḥadīth widely thought to validate the mainstream Islamic understanding of ‘the Seal of the prophets.’
It turns out that they, too, can complement and reinforce the Baha’i message.