John The Baptist Announces A Powerful Prophet
John the Baptist, according to the narratives of the four Evangelists, was a cousin and contemporary of Jesus, being only about six months older than the latter. The Qur'an does not mention anything about the life and work of this Prophet except that God, through the angels, announced to his father Zachariah: "And the angels called out to him when he was standing in the sanctuary worshipping, saying: 'Allah gives you glad tidings of John, who shall confirm a Word of Allah. He shall be a master and caste, a Prophet and from the righteous.'" Ch:3:39 Qur'an. Nothing is known about his infancy, except that he was a Nazareth living in the wilderness, eating locusts and wild honey, covering his body with a cloth made of camel's hair, tied with a leather girdle. He is believed to have belonged to a Jewish religious sect called the "Essenes," from whom issued the early Christian "Ibionites" whose principal characteristic was to abstain from worldly pleasures. In fact, the Qur'anic descriptive term of this hermit Prophet - "hasura," which means "chaste" in every sense of the word - shows that he led a celibate life of chastity, poverty, and piety. He was not seen from his early youth until he was a man of thirty or more, when he began his mission of preaching repentance and baptizing the penitent sinners with water. Great multitudes were drawn to the wilderness of Judea to hear the fiery sermons of the new Prophet; and the penitent Jews were baptized by him in the water of the River Jordan. He reprimanded the educated but fanatical Pharisees and the Priests, and threatened the learned but rationalistic Saduqees (Saducees) with the coming vengeance. He declared that he was baptizing them with water only as a sign of purification of the heart by penance. He promulgated that there was coming after him another Prophet who would baptized them with the Holy Spirit and fire; who would gather together his wheat into his granaries and burn the chaff with an inextinguishable fire.
He further declared that he who was coming afterwards was to such an extent superior to himself in power and dignity that the Baptist confessed to be unfit or unworthy to bow down to untie and loose the laces of his shoes. It was on one of these great baptismal performances of Prophet Yahya (St. John the Baptist) that Jesus of Nazareth also entered into the water of the Jordan and was baptized by the Prophet like everybody else. Mark (i. 9) and Luke (iii. 21), who report this baptism of Jesus by John, are unaware of the remarks of John on this point as mentioned in Matthew (iii), where it is stated that the Baptist said to Jesus: "I need to be baptized by thee, and didst thou come to me?" To which the latter is reported to have replied: "Let us fulfill the righteousness"; and then he baptized him. The Synoptics state that the spirit of prophecy came down to Jesus in the shape of a dove as he went out from the water, and a voice was heard saying: "This is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased."
The Fourth Gospel knows nothing about Jesus being baptized by John; but tells us that the Baptist, when he saw Jesus, exclaimed "Behold the Lamb of God," etc. (John i). This Gospel pretends that Andrew was a disciple of the Baptist, and having abandoned his master brought his brother Simon to Jesus (John i) - a story flagrantly contradicting the statements of the other Evangelists (Matt. iv. 18-19, Mark i. 16-18). In St. Luke the story is altogether different: here Jesus knows Simon Peter before he is made a disciple (Luke iv. 38, 39); and the circumstance which led the Master to enlist the sons of Jonah and of Zebedee in the list of his disciples is totally strange to the other Evangelists (Luke vi 1-11). The four Gospels of the Trinitarian Churches contain many contradictory statements about the dialogs between the two cousin prophets. In the Fourth Gospel we read that the Baptist did not know who Jesus was until after his baptism, when a Spirit like a pigeon came down and dwelt in him (John i); whereas St. Luke tells us that the Baptist, while a foetus in the womb of his mother, knew and worshipped Jesus, who was also a younger foetus in the womb of Mary (Luke i. 44). Then, again, we are told that the Baptist while in prison, where he was beheaded (Matt. xi. xiv), did not know the real nature of the mission of Jesus!
There is a mysterious indication hidden in the questions put to the Prophet Yahya by the Priests and the Levites. They ask the Baptist: "Art thou Messiah? art thou Elijah?" And when he answers "No!" they say: "If thou art neither the Messiah, nor Elijah, and nor that Prophet, why then dost thou baptize?" (John i). It will therefore be noticed that, according to the Fourth Gospel, John the Baptist was neither the Messiah nor Elijah, nor that Prophet! And I venture to ask the Christian Churches, who believe that the inspirer of all these contradictory statements is the Holy Ghost - i.e. the third of the three gods - whom did those Jewish Priests and the levites mean by "And that Prophet"? And if you pretend not to know whom the Hebrew clergy meant, do your popes and patriarchs know who "and that Prophet" is? If not, than what is the earthly use of these spurious and interpolated Gospels? If, on the contrary, you do know who that Prophet is, then why do you keep silent?
In the above quotation (John i) it is expressly stated that the Baptist said he was not a Prophet; whereas Jesus is reported to have said that "no men born of women were ever greater than John" (Matt. xi). Did Jesus really make such a declaration? Was John the Baptist greater than Abraham, Moses, David, and Jesus himself? And in what did his superiority and greatness consist? If this testimony of Jesus about the son of Zachariah be authentic and true, then the greatness of the "Eater of the Locusts in the wilderness" can only consist in his absolute abnegation, self-denial, and refraining from the world with all its luxuries and pleasures; his ardent wish to invite the people to penance; and his good tidings about "that Prophet."
Or did his greatness consist - as the Churches will have it - in being a cousin, contemporary and witness of Jesus? The value and greatness of a man, as well as of a Prophet, can be determined and appreciated by his work. We are absolutely ignorant of the number of persons converted through the sermons and purified by the baptism of John. Nor are we informed with regard to the effect of that conversion upon the attitude of the penitent Jews towards the "Lamb of God!"
Christ is said to have declared that John the Baptist was the reincarnation of the Prophet Elijah (Matt. xi. 14, xvii. 12; Luke i. 17), whereas John expressly told the Jewish deputation that he was not Elijah, nor Christ, nor that Prophet (John i).
Now can one, from these Gospels full of statements opposing and denying each other, form a correct conclusion? Or can one try to find out the truth? The charge is exceedingly grave and serious, because the persons concerned are not ordinary mortals like ourselves, but two Prophets who were both created in the womb by the Spirit and born miraculously - one had no father, while the parents of the other were sterile and an impotent nonagenarian couple. The gravity of the charge is even more serious when we come to consider the nature of the documents in which these contradictory statements are written. The narrators are the Evangelists, persons alleged to be inspired by the Holy Spirit, and the record believed to be a revelation! Yet there is a lie, a false statement, or a forgery somewhere. Elijah (or Elias) is said to come before "that Prophet" (Mal. iv. 5, 6); Jesus says, "John is Elijah"; John says, "I am not Elijah", and it is the sacred Scripture of the Christians which makes both these affirmative and negative statements!
It is absolutely impossible to get at the truth, the true religion, from these Gospels, unless they are read and examined from an Islamic and Unitarian point of view. It is only then that the truth can be extracted from the false, and the authentic distinguished from the spurious. It is the spirit and the faith of Islam that can alone sift the Bible and cast away the chaff and error from its pages. Before proceeding farther to show that the Prophet foretold by the Baptist could be none other than Prophet Muhammad, I must draw the serious attention of my readers to one or two other important points.
It may, in the first place, be remarked that the Muslims have the highest reverence and veneration for all the Prophets, particularly for those whose names are mentioned in the Qur'an, like John ("Yahya") and Jesus (" 'Isa"); and believe that the Apostles or Disciples of Jesus were holy men. But as we do not possess their genuine and unadulterated writings we consequently cannot for a moment imagine the possibility that either of these two great Worshipers of Allah could have contradicted each other.
Another important matter to be noted is the very significant silence of the Gospel of Barnabas about John the Baptist. This Gospel, which never mentions the name of Yahya, puts his prophecy about the "more powerful Prophet" into the mouth of Jesus Christ. Therein Christ, while speaking of the Spirit of Prophet Muhammad as having been created before that of other Prophets, says that it was so glorious that when he comes Jesus would consider himself unworthy to kneel and undo the laces of his shoes.
The great "Crier" in the wilderness, in the course of his sermons to the multitudes, used to cry aloud and say: "I baptize you with water unto repentance and the forgiveness of sins. But there is one that comes after me who is stronger than I, the laces of whose shoes I am not worthy to untie; he will baptize you with the Spirit and with fire." These words are differently reported by the Evangelists, but all show the same sense of the highest respect and consideration in regard to the imposing personality and the majestic dignity of the powerful Prophet herein foretold. These words of the Baptist are very descriptive of the Oriental manner of hospitality and honor accorded to a dignified visitor. The moment the visitor steps in, either the host or one of the members of the family rushes to take off his shoes, and escorts him to a couch or cushion. When the guest leaves the same respectful performance is repeated; he is helped to put on his shoes, the host on his knees tying the laces.
What John the Baptist means to say is that if he were to meet that dignified Prophet he would certainly consider himself unworthy of the honor of bowing to untie the laces of his shoes. From this homage paid beforehand by the Baptist one thing is certain: that the foretold Prophet was known to all the Prophets as their Adon, Lord, and Sultan; otherwise such an honorable person, chaste and sinless Messenger of Allah as Prophet Yahya, would not have made such a humble confession.
Now remains the task of determining the identity of "that Prophet." This article, therefore, must be divided into two parts, namely:
A. The foretold Prophet was not Jesus Christ; and
B. The foretold Prophet was Muhammad.
Everybody knows that the Christian Churches have always regarded John the Baptist as a subordinate of Jesus, and his herald. All the Christian commentators show Jesus as the object of John's witness and prophecy.
Although the language of the Evangelists has been distorted by interpolators to that direction, yet the fraud or error cannot for ever escape the searching eye of a critic and an impartial examiner. Jesus could not be the object of John's witness because:
(1) The very preposition "after" clearly excludes Jesus from being the foretold Prophet. They were both contemporaries and born in one and the same year. "He that is coming after me" says John, "is stronger than I." This "after" indicates the future to be at some indefinite distance; and in the prophetical language it expresses one or more cycles of time. It is well known to the Sufis and those who lead a spiritual life and one of contemplation that at every cycle, which is considered to be equivalent of five or six centuries, there appears one great Luminary Soul surrounded by several satellites who appear in different parts of the world, and introduce great religious and social movements which last for several generations until another shining Prophet, accompanied by many disciples and companions, appears with prodigious reforms and enlightenment. The history of the true religion, from Prophets Abraham to Muhammad, is thus decorated with such epoch-making events under Prophets Abraham, Moses, David, Zorobabel, Jesus, and Muhammad. Each of these epochs is marked with special characteristic features. Each one makes a progress and then begins to fade away and decay until another luminary appears on the scene, and so on down to the advent of John, Jesus, and the satellite Apostles.
John found his nation already toiling under the iron yoke of Rome, with its wicked Herods and their pagan legions. He beheld the ignorant Jewish people misled by a corrupt and arrogant clergy, the Scriptures corrupted and replaced by a superstitious ancestral literature. He found that that people had lost all hope of salvation, except that Prophet Abraham, who was their father, would save them. He told them that Abraham did not want them for his children because they were unworthy of such father, but that "God could raise children for Abraham from the stones" (Matt. iii). Then they had a faint hope in a Messiah, a descendant from the family of David, whom they expected then, as they do to-day, to come and restore the kingdom of that monarch in Jerusalem.
Now when the Jewish deputation from Jerusalem asked, "Art thou the Messiah?" he indignantly replied in the negative to this as well as to their subsequent questions. God alone knows what rebukes and reprimands they heard from those fiery utterings of the Holy Prophet of the Wilderness which the Church or the Synagogue have been careful not to let appear in writing.
Leaving aside the exaggerations, which have been evidently added to the Gospels, we fully believe that the Baptist introduced Jesus as the true Messiah, and advised the multitudes to obey him and follow his injunctions and his gospel. But he clearly told his people that there was another, and the last, great Luminary, who was so glorious and dignified in the presence of Allah that he (John) was not fit to undo the laces of his shoes.
(2) It was not Jesus Christ who could be intended by John, because if such were the case he would have followed Jesus and submitted to him like a disciple and a subordinate. But such was not the case. On the contrary, we find him preaching baptizing, receiving initiates and disciples, chastizing King Herod, scolding the Jewish hierarchy, and foretelling the coming of another Prophet "more powerful" than himself, without taking the least notice of the presence of his cousin in Judea or Galilee.
(3) Although the Christian Churches have made of Jesus Christ a god or son of a god, the fact that he was circumcised like every Israelite, and baptized by St. John like an ordinary Jew, proves the case to be just the reverse. The words interchanged between the Baptist and the baptized in the River Jordan appear to be an interpolation or a commonalty for they are contradictory and of a deceptive character. If Jesus were in reality the person whom the Baptist foretold as "more powerful" than himself, so much so that he was "not worthy to kneel and unloose his shoes," and that "he would baptize with the Spirit and fire," there would be no necessity nor any sense in his being baptized by his inferior in the river like an ordinary penitent Jew! The expression of Jesus, "It behoves us to fulfill all the justice," is incomprehensible. Why and how "all the justice" would be accomplished by them if Jesus were baptized? This expression is utterly unintelligible. It is either an interpolation or a clause deliberately mutilated. Here is another instance which presents itself to be solved and interpreted by the Islamic spirit. From a Muslim point of view the only sense in this expression of Jesus would be that John, through the eye of a Seer or "Sophi," perceived the prophetical character of the Nazarene, and thought him for a moment to be the Last Great Prophet of Allah, and consequently shrank from baptizing him; and that it was only when Jesus confessed his own identity that he consented to baptize him.
(4) The fact that John while in prison sent his disciples to Jesus, asking him: "Art thou that Prophet who is to come, or shall we expect another one?" clearly shows that the Baptist did not know the gift of prophecy in Jesus until he heard - while in the prison - of his miracles. This testimony of St. Matthew (xi. 3) contradicts and invalidates that of the Fourth Gospel (John i), where it is stated that the Baptist, on seeing Jesus, exclaimed: "Behold the Lamb of God that taketh away (or bears) the sin of the world!" The fourth Evangelist knows nothing of the cruel martyrdom of John (Matt. xiv; Mark vi. 14-29).
From Muslims and unitarian point of belief, it is a moral impossibility that a Prophet like the Baptist, whom the Holy Qur'an describes, Sayyidan, Master wa Hasuran, chaste, wa Nabiyyan, a prophet, mina from 's-Salihlina, the righteous" should use such a paganish expression about Jesus Christ. The very nature and essence of John's mission was to preach penance - that is to say, every man is responsible for his sin and must bear it, or take it away himself by repentance. The baptism was only an outward ablution or washing as a sign of the remission of sins, but it is the contribution, the confession (to God, and to him who is injured by that sin - if absolutely necessary) and the promise not to repeat it, that can take it away. If Jesus were the "Lamb of God," to take away the sin of the world, then John's preaching would be - God forbid! - ridiculous and meaningless! Besides, John better than anyone else knew that such words from his lips would have caused - as has been the case - an irreparable error which would entirely disfigure and deform the Church of Christ. The root of the error which has soiled the religion of the Churches is to be sought and found out in this silly "vicarious sacrifice" business! Has the "Lamb of God" taken away the sin of the world? The dark pages of the "Ecclesiastical History" of any of the numerous hostile and "heretical" Churches will answer with a big No! The "lambs" in the confessional-boxes can tell you by their groanings under the tremendous weight of the multi-colored sins loaded upon their shoulders that the Christians, notwithstanding their science and civilization, commit more horrible sins, murders, thefts, intemperances, adulteries, wars, oppressions, robberies, and insatiable greed for conquest and money than all the rest of mankind put together.
(5) John the Baptist could not be the precursor of Jesus Christ in the sense in which the Churches interpret his mission. He is presented to us by the Gospels as a "voice crying aloud in the wilderness," as the fulfillment of a passage in Isaiah (xl. 3), and as a herald of Jesus Christ on the authority of the Prophet Malakhi (Mal. iii. 1). To assert that the mission or duty of the Baptist was to prepare the way for Jesus - the former in the capacity of a precursor and the latter in that of a triumphant Conqueror coming "suddenly to his temple," and there to establish his religion of "Shalom" and make Jerusalem with its temple more glorious than before (Hag. ii. 8) - is to confess the absolute failure of the whole enterprise.
Nevertheless one thing is as true as two and two make four - that the whole project, according to the extravagant view of the Christians, proves a total failure. For, from whatever point of view we examine the interpretations of the Churches, the failure appears to be obvious. Instead of receiving his prince in Jerusalem at the Gate of the Temple clad in diadem and purple, amidst the frantic acclamations of the Jews, the precursor receives him, naked like himself, in the middle of the River Jordan; and then to introduce him, after immersing or plunging his master into the water, to the crowds as "behold, this is the Messiah!" or "this is the Son of God!" or elsewhere "behold the Lamb of God!" would either be tantamount to simply insulting the people of Israel or to blaspheming; or to purely mocking Jesus as well as making himself ridiculous.
The true nature of the austere ascetic's mission, and the true sense of his preaching, is altogether misunderstood by the Churches, but understood by the Jewish priests and casuists who obstinately rejected it. I shall deal with this in my next article, and show that the nature of John's mission as well as the object of Christ's message to the Jews was quite different to what the Churches pretend to believe.
The Prophet Foretold By The Baptist Was Certainly Prophet Muhammad
There are two very significant remarks about John the Baptist made by Jesus Christ, but recorded in a mysterious way. The first remark about the Baptist is that in which John is presented to the world as the reincarnate Eliah (Elijah) the Old Testament.
The mystery with which this appellation is enveloped consists in the significant silence of Christ about the identity of the person whom Eliah (not Elias) was expected to officially announce and introduce to the world as the Last Prophet. The language of Jesus in this respect is exceedingly obscure, ambiguous, and mysterious.
If John was Eliah, as is expressly and fearlessly declared, why, then, is the person whose precursor was Eliah not expressly and fearlessly mentioned?
If Jesus were the "Messenger of the Covenant" and the Dominator [as the Vulgate translates the Hebrew Adon (Mal. iii. 1)], why does he not openly say so?
If he courageously declared that it was not he himself, but another Prophet who was that 'Dominator', it must, indeed, have been a criminal hand which erased and effaced the words of Jesus from the original Gospel.
At all events, it is the Gospels that are responsible for this ambiguity and obscurity. It cannot but be described as diabolical tampering with the text that has misled billions of Christians for so many centuries. Jesus, whatever he believed he represented, ought to have, to say the least, shown himself straightforward, and to have frankly declared: "John is the Eliah who was sent as a precursor to prepare the way for me!" Or if such was not the case, then he could have made the following declaration: "John is the Eliah who was sent to prepare the way for Prophet Muhammad."
Perhaps this is due to the love of Jesus for ambiguity. There are, in fact, several instances - as reported in the Gospels - where Jesus gives an answer or makes a statement which is obscure and entirely unintelligible. Leaving his godhead aside, as a Prophet, no, even as a teacher, he was expected to be a straightforward teacher and leader.
The other remark is shrouded in still a thicker mystery. "No man born of woman was ever greater than John the Baptist," says Jesus, "but the least in the Kingdom of Heaven is greater than John." Does Jesus Christ mean to teach us that John the Baptist and all the Prophets and the righteous men were outside the Kingdom of God? Who is the "least" that was "greater" than John, and consequently than all the people of God preceding the Baptist? Does Jesus mean by the "least" himself, or the "least" among the baptized Christians?
It cannot be himself, because in the time of Jesus that Kingdom was not yet established on earth; if it is, then he could not be the "least" in it since he was its founder. The Churches - rather each Church, orthodox or heterodox, from its own peculiar point of view - have discovered a very abstruse or a very absurd solution for this problem; and that solution is that the "least" Christian washed with the blood of Jesus - either through the Sacrament of Baptism, according to the belief of the Sacerdotalists, or through the regeneration of some kind, according to the superstition of the Evangelicals - becomes "greater" than the Baptist and all the army of the holy men and women, including Prophets Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, Eliah, Daniel, and John the Baptist!
The reason or proof of this marvelous claim is that the Christian, however, sinful, ignorant, low, and poor he may be, providing he has faith in Jesus as his Savior, has the privileges which the holy Prophets coveted to have, but did not enjoy. These privileges are innumerable; purification from original sin through the Christian Baptism; the recognition of the "Holy Trinity" (!!! hasha! astaghfiru 'llah! - Allah forbid and pardon this term); the feeding upon the flesh and the blood of Jesus in the Sacrament of the Eucharist; the grace of making the sign of a cross; the privilege of the keys of Heaven and of Hell delivered to the Sovereign Pontiff; and the rapturous ecstasies of the Puritans, Quakers, Brethren, and all other sects called Nonconformists who, each in its own way, while claiming the same privileges and prerogatives, all agree that each good Christian will become on the Day of Resurrection a pure virgin and present herself as a bride to the "Lamb of God"!
Do you not think, then, that the Christians are right to believe that the "least" among them is "greater" than all the Prophets? Do you not think, then, that a sturdy Patagonian monk and a penitentiary Parisian nun are higher than Adam and Eve, because the mystery of the Trinity is revealed to these confused people and not to our first parents who lived in the Paradise of Allah before their fall? Or, don't you think that this sort of belief is most unbecoming and undignified in these lofty times of advanced science and civilization? To claim that an English prince or an orphan black child is "greater" than John the Baptist because they are Christians is, to say the least, abominable!
Yet all these diverse beliefs and creeds are derived from the New Testament and from the words put into the mouth of Jesus and of his Apostles. For us, Muslims, however, there are a few scintillating sparkles left in the Gospels; and they are enough for us to discover the truth about the real Jesus and his cousin, Yohannan Ma'mdana (John-Baptist).
JOHN THE BAPTIST FORETOLD PROPHET MUHAMMAD
1. According to the testimony of Prophet Jesus, no man born of woman was ever greater than John the Baptist. But the "least" in the Kingdom of Heaven is greater than John. The comparison made by the "Spirit of Allah" (Ruhu 'llah, i.e. Jesus) is between John and all the preceding Prophets as the officers and administrators of the Kingdom of Heaven. Now in chronological order the last Prophet would be the least of them all, he would be their junior and their youngest. The word "zira" in the Aramaic, like the Arabic "saghir," signifies "little, small young." The Pshittha Version uses the word "zira or "z'eira" in apposition to "rabba" for "great, old." Every Christian will admit that Jesus is not the "last" Prophet, and therefore he cannot be the "least." Not only were the Apostles themselves endowed with the gift of prophecy, but also many other holy men in the apostolic age were favored with it according to (Acts xi. 27, 28; xiii. 1; xv. 32; xxi, 9, 10, etc)!
And as we cannot determine which of these numerous Church Prophets was the "last", we are naturally forced to seek elsewhere a Prophet who is indisputably the Last and the Seal of the Prophetic List. Can we imagine a stronger and more brilliant evidence in favor of Prophet Muhammad than the fulfillment, in his holy person, of this wonderful prophecy of Jesus Christ?
In the long list of the prophetic family, certainly the "youngest," the "least" is Prophet Muhammad; he is the "Benjamin" of the Prophets; yet he is their Sultan, their "Adon" and their "Glory." To deny the prophetical and apostolical character and nature of Prophet Muhammad's mission is a fundamental denial of the whole Divine Revelation and all the Prophets who preached it. For all other Prophets put together had not accomplished the gigantic work which the Prophet of Mecca did alone in the short period of but twenty-three years of his mission.
The mystery of the pre-existence of the spirits of the Prophets has not been revealed to us, but every true Muslim believes it. It was that pre-existing spirit that by the power of the Word of Allah "Kun" ("Be!") a Sarah, a Hanna, and a Blessed Virgin Mary gave birth to Isaac, to the Baptist, and to Jesus. There are several other names as recorded in the Old Testament - for instance, Samson, Jeremiah.
The Gospel of Barnabas reports Jesus as speaking of the Spirit of Prophet Muhammad which he declares to have been created before everything else. Hence the Baptist's witness about the Prophet whom he foretold: "He who comes after me has become before me, for he was before me" (John i. 15).
It is useless to interpret these wonderful words of the Baptist about Prophet Muhammad as referring to Prophet Jesus as the author of the Fourth Gospel attempts to do.
There is a remarkable chapter about John the Baptist in the well-known book of Ernest Renan on La vie de Jesu. Long ago I carefully read this work. If the learned French writer had the least consideration for Prophet Muhammad's claim in the world of Prophets, I am sure his profound investigations and comments would have led him entirely to a different conclusion. He, like all other dissident and Biblical critics, instead of finding out the truth, criticizes religion adversely and leads his readers to skepticism.
I am happy to say that it is my privilege, by the Grace of Allah, to solve the problem, to ring up the curtain of mystery which has covered the true sense and meaning of "the Least in the Kingdom of Heaven!"
2. John the Baptist recognizes Prophet Muhammad as superior and more powerful than himself. That significant expression made to the Jewish multitudes, "He that cometh after me" reminded their Scribes, Pharisees, and lawyers of the ancient prophecy of their great ancestor Prophet Jacob, in which that patriarch uses the unique title of "Shilokhah" for the "Rasul Allah," the epithet frequently used by Prophet Jesus for the Messenger Muhammad as preserved in the Gospel of Barnabas. At the time of writing my article on the "Shiloh" (l) I said that the word might be a corruption of "shiloukh" or "Shilokhah," (2) which means the Messenger of Allah, but I did not then recollect that St. Jerome, as well, had understood the Hebrew form in that sense, for he has translated it as "qui mittendis est."
------------Footnotes: (1). Cf. Islamic Review for September, 1928, p. 313 et seq. (2). The Oriental Hebrews and Assyrians pronounce the word "Shilokha" or "Shiloakh." It is very difficult to write or transliterate the Semitic languages in the Latin characters. ------------- end of footnotes
We have only an epitome of John's sermon in a few lines, written not by himself but by an unknown hand - at least not in his own original tongue - and much tampered with by transcribers and redactors who had already made his disciple Jesus an idol or a god. But when we come to compare this sermon preached in the wilderness of Judea and on the shores of the Jordan with the marvellous grace, elegance, eloquence, and power so manifest in every verse and page of the Holy Qur'an, we understand the sense of the words, "He is more powerful than I !"
When I picture to myself the ascetic Baptist preaching aloud in the wilderness, or on the banks of the Jordan, to the masses of the Jewish believers, with a theocratic history of some four thousand years old behind them, and then make a brief review of the quiet, orderly, and dignified manner in which Prophet Muhammad proclaimed the celestial verses of the Qur'an to the unbelieving Arabs; and, finally, when I examine and behold the effect of the two teachings upon the hearers and the final result, I understand the magnitude of the contrast between them, and of the significance of the words "He is more powerful than I ! "
When I contemplate the seizure and imprisonment of the helpless Baptist by Herod Antipas (l) and his cruel decapitation - or when I peruse the confused, but tragic, biblical accounts of the flagellation of Jesus (or Judah Ishariot) by Pilate, his coronation with a crown of thorns by Herod, and the catastrophe upon the Calvary - and then turn my eyes upon the triumphal entry of the great Adon - the Sultan of the Prophets - into Mecca, the total destruction of all the ancient idols and the purification of the Holy Ka'ba; upon the thrilling scene of the vanquished deadly enemy headed by Abu Sufyan at the feet of the victorious "Shilokha" - the Prophet of Allah - begging his clemency and making the profession of faith; and upon the glorious worship, devotion, and the final sermon of the Seal of the Prophets in these solemn Divine words: "Al-yauma akmaltu lakum dmakum." "This day I have perfected your Religion and completed My favor to you. I have approved Islam to be your Religion..." Ch.5:3 Qur'an then I fully understand the weight and value of the Baptist's confession, "He is more powerful than I!"
-----------Footnote: (1). There is anachronism in the account of John's martyrdom concerning the family of Herod the Great in the Gospels (Matt. xiv, etc.), the reader can consult the Antiquities of Joseph Flavius. ------------ end of footnote
3. "The Coming Wrath." Have you ever met with a sensible, judicious, and convincing interpretation of this phrase in any of the numerous commentaries on the Gospels? What does John mean, or wish his audience to understand, by his expression: "Behold the axe is already set at the root of the tree"? Or his remark: "He holds the van in his hand to purge out his threshing-floor"? Or when he reduced the title "Children of Abraham" to nothing?
I will not detain you on the vagaries of the commentators, for they are reveries which neither John nor his hearers had ever dreamed of. Could John ever teach those haughty Pharisees, and those rationalistic Saduqees (1) who denied the corporeal resurrection, that on the day of the last judgment Jesus of Nazareth would pour down upon them his wrath and burn them like the fruitless trees and like the chaff in the fire of Hell? There is not a single word in all the literature of the Scriptures about the resurrection of bodies or about Hell-fire. These Talmudistic writings are full of eschatological material very similar to those of the Zardushtees, but have no distinct origin in the canonical books. The Prophet of repentance and of good tidings does not speak about the remote and indefinite wrath which certainly awaits the unbelievers and the impious, but of the near and proximate catastrophe of the Jewish nation. He threatened the wrath of Allah awaiting that people if they persisted in their sins and the rejection of his mission and that of his colleague, the Prophet Jesus Christ. The coming calamity was the destruction of Jerusalem and the final dispersion of Israel which took place some thirty years afterwards during the lifetime of many among his hearers. Both he and Jesus announced the coming of the Great Prophet of Allah whom the Patriarch Jacob had announced under the title of Shiloh, and that at his advent all prophetic and royal privileges and authority would be taken away from the Jews; and, indeed, such was the case some six centuries later, when their last strongholds in the Hijaz were razed to the ground and their principalities destroyed by Prophet Muhammad. The increasingly dominating power of Rome in Syria and Palestine was threatening the quasi-autonomy of the Jews, and the emigration current among the Jews had already begun. And it was on this account that the preacher inquires, "Who has informed you to flee from the coming wrath?" They were warned and exhorted to bear good fruits and good harvest by repentance and belief in the true Messengers of God, especially in the Rasul Allah, who was the true and the last powerful Commander.
------------Footnote: (1). This Hebrew name is wrongly written "Saducees." ------------- end of footnote
4. The Jews and the Christians have always charged Prophet Muhammad of having established the religion of Islam by force, coercion, and the sword. The Muslim modernists have always tried to refute this charge. But this does not mean to say that Prophet Muhammad never wielded the sword. He had to use it to preserve the Name of Allah. Every patience has limits, every favor has an end. It is not that the Patience or Favor of Allah is finite; with Him all is settled, defined and fixed. The chance and the time graciously granted by Allah to the Jews, to the Arabs, and to the Gentiles lasted for more than four thousand years. It was only after the expiry of this period that Allah sends His beloved Prophet Muhammad with power and sword, with fire and spirit, to deal with the wicked unbelievers, with the ungrateful children of Prophet Abraham - both the Ishmaelites and the Israelites - and to deal with the power of the devil, once for all.
The whole of the Old Testament is a tale of theocracy and of idolatry. Now and then a little sparkle of Islam - that is, the Religion of Allah - glittered in Jerusalem and in Mecca; but it was always persecuted by the power of the devil. The four diabolical Beasts had to come and trample under their feet the handful of believers in Allah. Then comes Prophet Muhammad to crush and kill the Venomous Serpent and to give him the opprobrious title of "Iblis" - the "Bruised" Satan. Certainly Prophet Muhammad was a fighting Prophet, but the object of that fighting was victory not vengeance, defeat of the enemy and not his extermination, and, in a word, to establish the Religion of Islam as the Kingdom of God upon the earth. In fact, when the Crier in the desert shouted, aloud, "Prepare the way of the Lord, and make straight His paths," he was alluding to the Religion of the Lord in the form of a Kingdom which was drawing nigh. Seven centuries before, the Prophet Isaiah had cried out and pronounced the same words (Isa. xl. 1-4); and a couple of centuries later Allah Himself paved the way for Cyrus by raising and filling up every valley, and by lowering every hill and mountain, in order to make the conquest easy and the march rapid (xlv. 1-3). History repeats itself, they say; the language and its meaning is the same in both cases, the former being a prototype of the latter. Allah had smoothed the path for Cyrus, subdued his enemies to the Persian conqueror because of His House in Jerusalem and His chosen people in the captivity. Now again He was repeating the same providence, but on a larger and wider scale. Before the preaching of Prophet Muhammad, idols and falsehood disappeared; before his sword empires tumbled down; and the children of the Kingdom of Allah became equals and formed a "people of the Saints of the Most High." For it is only in Islam that all the believers are equal, no priest, no sacrament; no Muslim high as a hill, or low like a valley; and no caste or distinction of race and rank. All believers are one, except in virtue and piety, in which they can excel each other. It is only the religion of Islam that does not recognize any being, however great and holy, as an absolute mediator between Allah and man.