Abdu'l-Baha's Commentaries on the Qur'an

By Vahid Rafati

First presented at the Irfan Colloquia Session #104
Centre for Bahá'í Studies: Acuto, Italy
July 9–12, 2011
(see list of papers from #104)

    In Islamic civilization, no books can be found with more influence and vitality than the Quran. The book that has been the source of everything in that civilization. The book that has fascinated thousands of believers throughout the centuries. The book that has been the main source of knowledge, understanding, and inspiration for Islamic philosophers, theologians, religious thinkers, poets, and even anybody and everybody in Islamic lands. The book that more than any other book has been the source of research by non-Muslim orientalists. The book that has been translated into hundreds of languages and has been the most well-known work in human society.

    The Revelation of the Báb started with a commentary that he wrote on the sura of the cow and continued with his commentary on the sura of Joseph and yet continued with a number of major works that he wrote on some of the principal thoughts and concepts in the Quran. Although not in existence, the Báb has been reported to have written commentaries on the entire Quran while he was in Maku. It is therefore obvious that the revelation of the Báb is strongly and deeply involved with the Quran and a new understanding of its message.

    Although Bahá'u'lláh is not known to have written an independent commentary on the quran, a superficial survey of his works clearly demonstrates that Quranic terminology, concepts, images, personalities have been occupying central themes in many of his works. In his early works, such as Seven Valleys, Four Valleys, Hidden Words, all the way to his last works such as his Epistle to the Son of the Wolf and his Will, Quranic verses and expressions are vividly present. His Book of Certitude (Kitab-e Iqan), among other themes, includes extensive coverage of new insight that he has offered on understanding of the most important ontological and scatological concepts in the Quran, such as the meaning of Resurrection, Bridge, Hell, Paradise, Sun, Moon, the Last Day, and the Day of Judgment.

    During his Akka years, he wrote his commentary on the sura of the Sun (tafsir vash-shams), which is one of the major works that he has written on the Sura of the Sun.

    The most important aspect of Quranic interpretation in the writings of Bahá'u'lláh deals with the claim of his prophethood according to the quranic expectations. It is clear that the Quran maintains that the prophet Muhammad was the Seal of the Prophets, and therefore no other prophets were expected to come him. In numerous places in his works, Bahá'u'lláh clearly accepts the finality of the prophet Muhammad as a prophet or messenger of God. Finality, however, in his mind, is valid according to the Seycallic understanding of the universe. In this sense, although the prophet Muhammad is the final prophet, his prophethood only marks the finality of the prophethood within the Adamic cycles, after which a new cycle is expected to be opened. The Báb, according to this understanding, is the beginning of the new cycle followed by Bahá'u'lláh. To establish and support this argumentation, Bahaullah in his numerous writings refers to the Quran to show that although finality of the prophethood is strongly established in the Quran, the Quran at the same time strongly suggests that a new cycle will follow the Adamic cycle in which the prophet is the final and the Quran is the last book. To explain the argumentation, Bahá'u'lláh very often refers to the concept of Ayyamu-llah (Days of God). According to Bahá'u'lláh's understanding, Days of God, which are supposed to come, are the days of the new manifestation of God.

    The Quran prophesized that the great announcement (naba-e Azim) will appear. According to Bahá'u'lláh's understanding, naba-e azim is a direct prediction to a new announcement that will occur as a result of the proclamation of the new manifestation of God. The Quran proclaims there will be a "day on which men shall stand before the Lord the worlds." (83:6). In a number of his works, Bahá'u'lláh refers to this verse as a direct reference to his advent and to his message being the fulfillment of the Quranic prophesies. The Quran speaks of the Muhammadan community (umma) as a "Middle Umma". By making reference to this verse (2:143), Bahá'u'lláh in his Surat-ol Sabr raises this issue that if the Mohammdan community is the Middle Community, there will be a possibility for another religious community to follow it. To this fact testifies the Quranic verse 7:34 and 10:49, that "for every nation there is a doom, so when their doom is come they shall not remain behind the least while, nor shall they go before". And further to this point, we read in 13:38 that "for every term there is an appointment."

    The argumentation of Bahá'u'lláh is well rooted in general sense of the Quran, which testifies to the continuity and change that are the characteristics of the universe.

    Another mighty concept of the Quran about which numerous verses can be found in the Quran is the concept of Meeting with God. (Laqa-ullah). According to the writings of Bahá'u'lláh, meeting with God can not be materialized in the physical sense and therefore it should be understood as meeting with the Manifestation of God.

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