Seventh Reflection: No Religion is the Last Religion Nader Saiedi
Baha’u’llah writes: Whilst established upon the seat of the “first,” they occupy the throne of the “last.” (The Book of Certitude)
One of the common errors of the followers of almost all religions is that all of them consider their own religion to be the last religion revealed by God. At the same time, almost all religions expect the coming of a Promised One, a messianic figure. But they resolve this contradiction by saying that the promised one would only promote and confirm the previous religion and will not abrogate the laws of the past prophet. But this reduction of religion to a cult of traditionalism--namely, whatever has been the law in the past must remain binding forever—has been particularly rigid among the followers of Islam. On the basis of one statement in the Qur’an, which states that Muhammad does not have a son but he is a Messenger of God and the Seal of prophets (33:40), Muslim clerics concluded that Islam is the last religion, its laws are unchangeable till eternity, and that any deviation from Islamic law is corrupting the world. Baha’u’llah has addressed this question in a number of his books including the Book of Certitude, and the Tablet of Job. The above quotation is from the Book of Certitude. For Baha’u’llah, the very essence and nature of religion is that it is dynamic, dialectical, and progressive. Reducing religion to a dead static object is the ultimate distortion and refutation of religion. In this short paper we discuss Baha’u’llah’s doctrine of the unceasing progressive revelation of God in history. 1. Religion as Dialogue with Humanity Baha’i Faith has radically transformed the very idea of religion. This idea is both a rejection of the clerical static and traditionalistic conception of religion, and a refutation of the atheistic reduction of religion to a purely social and historical institution. Traditionalistic definition of religion sees religion purely as the arbitrary divine will which is absolute and unrelated to conditions of history. Therefore, religion becomes an arbitrary imposition of some absolute laws on humans. Since God is absolute, religion and its laws are absolute. That is why the advocates of this idea find their religion as the last religion. On the contrary, the atheistic sociology of religion reduces religion to a mere expression of social conditions. Such attitude, rejects the idea of a revelation by God, and sees religion as a social and historical construct, different in different societies and different times. The Baha’i idea is entirely different. Religion is both divine and historical. It is in fact a dialogue between God and humanity. Religion is not for God, rather, it is for development of humans and societies. If religion was for God, it could be absolute and unchanging. But if religion is a divine gift to help actualize the potentialities and spiritual perfections of humanity it must be relative, progressive and dynamic. As humans change, their spiritual capacity increases, and the conditions and requirements of time change, the laws of religion must also change.
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