One of the few religious phenomena I have not been able to explain is this: How is it that the well-known Saba'ltes (Sabians), so predominant in the Arabian peninsula and Mesopotamia, did not embrace Christianity if the Prophet John the Baptist had really and openly declared and presented Jesus as the "more powerful" Prophet than himself, and the Messiah whose shoes he was not worthy to unloose? If, as foretold by John, Jesus was the Prophet of Allah who came to baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire the myriads whom he "dyed" in the water of the Jordan and elsewhere, why did not Prophet Jesus baptize them instantly with the Spirit and with fire and then purge of idolatry all the lands promised by Allah to the seed of Prophet Abraham and establish the Kingdom of God by force and fire? It is absolutely inconceivable that the disciples and the believers in the divine mission of John should not follow Jesus if he had been presented to the public as his Lord or Superior on the spot. The followers of John might have been excused for their refusal to enter into the Christian Church if Jesus Christ had come, say, a century later than the Baptist, but happily such was not the case. They were both contemporaries and born in the same year. They both baptized with water unto repentance, and prepared their penitent converts for the Kingdom of God that was approaching but not established in their time.
The Sabaites, the "Dyers" or "Baptists," were the faithful adherents of John. They may have fallen into error and superstition; but they knew perfectly well that it was not Jesus who was intended in the prophecy of their Prophet. They embraced Islam when Prophet Muhammad came. The people of Harran in Syria are not - as they have been supposed to be - the remnant of the old Saba'ites. In the promised lands only three non-Muslim religions were recognized and tolerated by the Qur'an, namely, Judaism, Christianity, and Sabianism. It is stated that the Harranians pretended to be the remnant of the old Saba'ites, and they were, therefore, permitted to practice their peculiar religion without molestation by the Turkish Government.
The Christian conception of the Holy Spirit is entirely different from the Islamic and the Jewish. The Holy Spirit is not a divine person with divine attributes and functions not belonging to this or that other divine persons of a triple god. The Christian belief that this same holy ghost, the third divine person, descends from his (or her, or its) heavenly throne at the bidding of every priest - in his daily celebration of some sacrament - to consecrate its elements and change their essence and qualities into some supernatural elements is extremely repugnant to the religious sentiments of every Unitarian, whether Jew or Muslim. Nothing could horrify a Muslim's feeling more than the belief that the Holy Spirit - always at the intervention of a priest - changes the water of baptism into the blood of a crucified god and blots out the so-called original sin; or a belief that the magic operation upon the material elements of the Eucharist transubstantiates them into the blood and body of an incarnate god. These beliefs were absolutely opposed to the teachings of the Old Testament and a falsification of the real doctrine of John and Jesus. The Christian assertion that the Holy Spirit at the incantations of a priest, fills certain individuals and sanctifies them, but does not guarantee their impeccability and ignorance, is meaningless. We are told that Hananiah (Ananias) and his wife Shapirah were baptized, which is to say filled with the Holy Ghost. They were thus inspired by the third divine person to sell their field and to place its price in cash at the feet of the Apostle Peter, but at the same time were seduced by the devil to conceal a portion of the money. The consequence was that the unfortunate communist couple were stricken dead miraculously (Acts v).
Think of the belief that the third person of the trinity descends upon men, sanctifies them, and then allows them to fall into error, heresy, and atheism, and abandons them to commit murderous wars and massacres. Is this possible? Can the devil seduce a man filled with and guarded by the Holy Ghost and change him into a demon? The Holy Qur'an is very expressive on this point. Allah says to the devil: "He said: 'This is for Me the Right Path over My worshipers, you have no power over My worshipers, except the sinners who follow you...'" Ch.15:41-42 Qur'an
We cannot believe, nor even imagine for a moment, that a worshiper of God, a righteous believer who has received the Spirit of sanctification, can fall into a deadly sin and perish in Hell. No, a holy person, so long as he is in this material world, is to combat and struggle against sin and evil; he may fall, but he will rise again and shall never be abandoned by the pure Spirit that guards him. True repentance is the work of the good Spirit that lives in us. If a Christian is baptized with the Holy Spirit and fire, in the sense which the book of the "Acts of the Apostles" describes and the Churches accept, then every baptized Latin, Greek, or Abyssinian must not only become a sinless saint but also a linguist and a polyglot prophet!
The truth is that the Christians have not a definite or precise conception about the Holy Spirit filling a baptized Christian. If it is God, then how dare the devil approach, tempt, and seduce the hallowed or rather defied man? And, besides, what is more serious is: How can the devil chase away the Holy Ghost and settle himself in the heart of a baptized heretic or atheist? On the other hand, if the Holy Spirit means the Archangel Gabriel or some other angel, then the Christian Churches roam in a desert of superstition; for an angel is not omni-present. If this Spirit that purifies and fills a baptized Christian is God Himself, for such is their belief in the third person of the Trinity, then all the baptized Christians ought to claim themselves divine or deified!
Then there is a Protestant conception of the Holy Spirit, which (or who (1)) fills the hearts of those who, at the highest excitement and ecstasy during an inflammatory sermon of an ignorant or learned haranguer, believe themselves to become "new-born"; yet many among them slide back and become what they were before, rogues and swindlers!
------------Footnote (1) The Holy Spirit, in all the Christian literature of diverse languages, has not a fixed gender. He, she, it, are all commonly used as the personal pronouns for the Holy Ghost. ------------- End of footnote
Now before I come to explain, according to my humble understanding, the spiritual and fiery baptism, I wish to admit and confess that there are many pious and God-fearing persons among the Jews and the Christians. For however their religious views and beliefs may differ from ours, they love their God and do good in His name. We cannot comprehend and determine the dealings of God with the peoples of different religions. The Christian conception of the Deity is only an erroneous definition of the true God in whom they believe and love. If they extol Jesus and deify him, it is not that they wish to dishonor God, but because they see His beauty in that Ruh-Allah (the "Spirit of God," i.e. Jesus). They certainly cannot appreciate the Messengerhood of Prophet Muhammad, not, because they deny his unparalleled service to the cause of Allah by inflicting the greatest blow on the devil and his cult of idolatry, but because they do not understand as he did the true nature of the mission and person of Jesus Christ. Similar reasoning may be put forward with regard to the attitude of the Jews towards Prophet Jesus and Prophet Muhammad. Allah is Merciful and Forgiving!
The Holy Spirit, with the definite article "the," means a special angelic Gabriel, or any one of the numerous "pure" spirits created by Allah, and appointed to perform some particular mission. The descent of the Holy Spirit upon a human person is to reveal to him the will of Allah, and to make him a prophet. Such a one can never be seduced by the satan.
What is known as "baptism" before the era of Prophet Muhammad is called "Sibghatullah", namely, the religious indelible marking mentioned in the Qur'an which Prophet Muhammad brought is explained to us by the Divine Revelation only in one verse of Al-Qur'an: Ch 2:138
"The (religious indelible) marking (of the believers) of Allah. And who marks better than Allah? And for Him we are worshipers."
Muslim commentators rightly understand the word "Sibghat," not in its literal signification of "dyeing," but in its spiritual or metaphorical sense of "religion." This Qur'anic verse cancels and abolishes the religions of the "Sab'utha" and of the "Ma'muditha" or both the Saba'ites and the Nasara. "Sibghatullah" is the religious indelible marking of the believers of Allah, not with water, but with the Holy Spirit and fire! The religion professed by any of the companions of the Prophet of Allah in the first years of the Hijrat is to-day professed in its entirety by every Muslim. This cannot be said of the baptismal religion. More than sixteen Ecumenical Councils have been summoned to define the religion of Christianity, only to be discovered by the Synod of the Vatican in the nineteenth century that the mysteries of the "Infallibility" and the "Immaculate Conception" were two of the principal dogmas, both unknown to the Apostle Peter and the Blessed Virgin Mary! Any faith or religion dependent upon the deliberations and decisions of General Synods - holy or heretical - is artificial and human. The Religion of Islam is the belief in One God (Allah) and absolute resignation to His Will, and this faith is professed by the angels in the heavens and by the Muslims on earth. It is the religion of sanctification and of enlightenment, and an impregnable bulwark against idolatry. Let us develop these points a little further.
The spiritual indelible marking is the direct work of Allah Himself. As a fuller or a laundress washes the linen or any other object with water; as a dyer tints the wool or cotton with a tincture to give it a new hue; and as a indelible marking blots out the past sins of the true penitent believer, so does Allah Almighty mark, not the body, but the spirit and the soul of him whom He mercifully directs and guides unto the Holy Religion of Islam. This is the "Sibghatullah," the marking of Allah, which makes a person fit and dignified to become a citizen of the Kingdom of Allah and a member of His religion. When the Angel Gabriel communicated the Word of Allah for the first time to Prophet Muhammad, he (Prophet Muhammad) was invested with the gift of prophecy. His spirit was purified and magnified with the Holy Spirit to such a degree and extent that sever times the Angel Gabriel opened his chest and heart and washed it, thereby removing any bases for the whispering of satan. Once when he was a child playing in the desert, and one in Ka'ba before his ascent, and to the extent that when he in his turn pronounced that Word to those whose spirit Allah pleased to guide were also purified, marked. They, too, thus became holy officers in the new army of the faithful Muslims. This spiritual marking does not make the Muslims prophets, sinless saints, or miracle-mongers. For after the Revelation of the Will and Word of Allah in the Holy Qur'an there is the end of the prophecy and of revelation. They are not made sinless saints because their piety and good works would not be the outcome of effort and struggle against evil, and therefore not justly meritorious. They are not appointed to become workers of supernatural miracles because they have a firm and sound faith in their Creator, Allah.
Further, this "Sibghatullah" makes the true Muslims grave, constant in their duties to Allah and towards their fellowmen, especially towards their families. It does not move them to the folly of believing themselves holier than their co-religionists, and so to arrogate the post of pastorship to themselves over others as if they were their flocks and herds. Fanaticism, religious conceit, and the like are not operations of the Holy Spirit. Every Muslim receives at his creation the same "Sibghatullah," the same religion and spiritual religious indelible marking, and has to run the race of his short earthly life to the best of his ability and effort in order to win the crown of glory in the next world. Every Muslim needs only education and religious training in accordance with the wisdom of the Word of God. But he needs not the intercession of a priest, sacrament, or saint. Every enlightened believer can become an Imam (leader of prayer), missionary, preacher according to his learning and religious zeal, not for vain glory or lucrative gain.
In short, every Muslim, whether at his birth or at his conversion, is marked spiritually, and becomes a citizen of the Kingdom of God, a free man, and possesses equal rights and obligations, according to his ability, virtue, knowledge, wealth, rank.
St. John the Baptist ascribes this spiritual and igneous marking to the Great Prophet of Allah, not as a divine being, God, or son of God, but as a holy agent, and as an instrument through which this divine marking was to be operated. Prophet Muhammad delivered the Message of Allah which was His Word; he led the prayers, administered the Divine service, and fought the holy wars against the unbelievers and the idolators to defend his cause. But the success and the victory achieved was God's. In the same way John preached and baptized, but the contrition, penance, and the remission of sins could only be done by God. The Prophet John's prediction that "he who comes after me is more powerful than I; he will baptize (mark) you with the Spirit and with fire" is quite intelligible, because only through Prophet Muhammad this spiritual marking was given and performed.
It is to be remarked that the form and material of this marking is altogether Divine and supernatural. We feel and see the effect of an invisible but real cause which accomplishes that effect. There is no longer water as the material, nor a marker to officiate at the ritual or the form. It is Allah who, through the Spirit, works it out. The materials of the "Sibghatullah" in the words of the Marker are the Holy Spirit and fire. The form exclusively belongs to Allah. We cannot attribute to the Almighty any form of operation except His Word "Kun" - "Be!" - and His command is obeyed or created. The result is that a Muslim becomes sanctified, enlightened, and an equipped soldier to fight the Satan and his idolatry. These three effects of the "Sibghatullah" deserve a serious consideration and study. Their exposition is but brief.
1) The Holy Spirit, whether the Archangel Gabriel or another of the created Superior Spirits, by the command of God sanctifies the spirit of a Muslim at his birth or conversion - as the case may be; and this sanctification means:
- Engraving a perfect faith in the One true God. The "Subghatu 'I-Lah" makes the spirit of a true Muslim believe in the absolute Oneness of Allah, to rely upon Him, and to know He alone is his Master, Owner, and Lord. This faith in the true God is manifest in every person who professes himself a Muslim. The mark and the evidence of this ingrained faith in a Muslim shines brilliantly when he affirms, "Ana muslim, Alhamud li 'l-Lahi ("I am Muslim; praised be Allah!"). What is more impressive and singularly obvious a sign of a Holy belief than the hatred and repugnance which a Muslim feels against any other object of worship besides God? Which of the two is holier in the Sight of Allah: he who worships his Creator in a simple building of the Mosque, or he who worships the fourteen pictures and images representing the scenes of the crucifixion in a building whose walls and altars are adorned with the idolatrous statues, its ground covering the bones of the dead, and its dome decorated with the figures of angels and the saints?
- The sanctification by the Holy Spirit and fire which God works upon the spirit of a Muslim is that He impregnates and fills it with love for, and submission to, Him. An honorable husband would rather divorce his beloved wife than see her sharing his love with any other man. The Almighty will cast away any "believer" who associates any other object or being with Him. The Muslim's love for Allah is not theoretical or idealistic but practical and real. He will not hesitate for a moment to expel from his house his wife, son, or friend if he should blaspheme the Holy Name or Person. A pagan or a person of an other religion may show a similar furious zeal for his object of worship. But that love which is shown for the One True God is Holy and sanctified; and such love can only exist in the heart of a Muslim. Those auspicatory and doxological formulae "Bismi 'l-Lahi" and "Alhamdu li 'l-Lahi," which mean, respectively, "In the Name of Allah" and "Praised be Allah" at the beginning and the end of every action or enterprise, are the most sincere expressions of the purified Muslim spirit impressed and inebriate with the "Love of God" that transcends and excels every other love. These ejaculations are not artificial or hypocritical expressions in the mouths of Muslims, but they are the prayer and the praise of the indelibly marked spirit that resides in his body. And if a Christian and a Jew are imbued with the same faith and devotion, and if their soul does effuse those expressions that the spirit of a Muslim does, then he is a Muslim though he knows it not.
- The indelible marking of sanctification which the "Sibghatullah" inspires in the spirit of a Muslim, besides faith and love, is a total submission and resignation to the Holy Will of Allah. This absolute submission emanates not only from belief and love, but also from a holy fear and from a deep respect so latent in the soul and spirit of every true believer.
Such are the principal characteristics of the spiritual indelible marking, and nowhere are they manifest but among the adherents of Islam. John the Baptist, Jesus Christ and his apostles believed in, loved, and feared the same Allah as every Muslim does according to the degree of the Divine Grace and Mercy. The Holy Spirit, or as known in Islam as the Purified Spirit, meaning Angel Gabriel himself, who, also holds the rank of Messenger, is also too a creature and loves and fears Allah whom you and I do.
2) The second sign of the spiritual indelible marking is enlightenment. The true knowledge of Allah and of His Will, so much as men are enable to possess, can only and exclusively be seen in Muslims. This knowledge sparkles dazzlingly in the countenance and the general behavior of every Muslim. He may not comprehend the Essence of God, just as a child cannot understand the nature and the qualities of his parents; yet a baby recognizes its mother among all other women. The analogy is by far below the reality, and the comparison infinitely inferior between an enlightened good Muslim in relation to his Creator and a baby crying after its own good mother. Every Muslim, however ignorant, poor, and sinful, sees the signs of Allah in every phenomenon of the nature. Whatever befalls him, in happiness or misery, Allah is in his mind. The Muslim call to prayer is a living witness of this enlightenment. "There is no object of worship besides Allah," is an eternal protest against all those who associate with Him other objects unworthy of worship. Every Muslim confesses: "I bear witness that Allah is the only Being worthy of worship."
In this respect I may hint at the fact that the human soul is quite different from the human spirit. It is this holy spirit that enlightens the soul and implants in it the knowledge of truth. It is again the evil spirit that induces the soul to error, idolatry, and ungodliness.
3) The "Sibghatullah" is that Divine marking with fire which arms and equips the Muslim to become a bulwark against error and superstition, chiefly against idolatry of every kind. It is this mark of fire that melts the soul and spirit of a Muslim, thus separating its golden substance from the rubbish and ordure. It is the Power of God which strengthens and consolidates the connection between Him and the believing worshiper, and arms him to fight for the religion of God. The fervor and the zeal of the Muslim for Allah and His Religion is unique and holy. The savages also fight for their fetishes, the heathen for their idols, and the Christians for their cross; but what a contrast between these unworthy object of worship and the God of Islam!
In conclusion, I must draw the attention of my Muslim brethren to think who they are; to remember the favors of Allah; and to live accordingly.