One of the critical things I have heard some Baha’is say about the Church of the Latter Day Saints and Jehovas Witness, is that their religion is filled with failed prophecies, and if they came from God they would get their predictions straight. That is a very reasonable criticism. However, one of Baha’u’llah’s most important works (The Book of Certitude/Kitab-i-Iqan) touches on this very theme of a “failed prophecy.”
“Among the Prophets was Noah. For nine hundred and fifty years He prayerfully exhorted His people and summoned them to the haven of security and peace. None, however, heeded His call. Each day they inflicted on His blessed person such pain and suffering that no one believed He could survive. How frequently they denied Him, how malevolently they hinted their suspicion against Him! Thus it hath been revealed: “And as often as a company of His people passed by Him, they derided Him. To them He said: Though ye scoff at us now, we will scoff at you hereafter even as ye scoff at us. In the end ye shall know.”[Qur’an 11:38.] Long afterward, He several times promised victory to His companions and fixed the hour thereof. But when the hour struck, the divine promise was not fulfilled. This caused a few among the small number of His followers to turn away from Him, and to this testify the records of the best-known books.” (Kitab-i-Iqan, pg. 7, my emphasis)
Baha’u’llah is setting the precedent for the possibility that a prophecy may not come true, not only “in the manner that people expect it”, but a bonafide unfulfilled prediction.
“And now, consider and reflect a moment upon the waywardness of this people. What could have been the reason for such denial and avoidance on their part? What could have induced them to refuse to put off the garment of denial, and to adorn themselves with the robe of acceptance? Moreover, what could have caused the nonfulfilment of the divine promise which led the seekers to reject that which they had accepted? Meditate profoundly, that the secret of things unseen may be revealed unto you, that you may inhale the sweetness of a spiritual and imperishable fragrance, and that you may acknowledge the truth that from time immemorial even unto eternity the Almighty hath tried, and will continue to try, His servants, so that light may be distinguished from darkness, truth from falsehood, right from wrong, guidance from error, happiness from misery, and roses from thorns. Even as He hath revealed: “Do men think when they say ‘We believe’ they shall be let alone and not be put to proof?” (Kitab-i-Iqan, pg. 8-9, my emphasis)
What I am gathering from this lesson is that God sometimes intentionally inspires prophets to predict a happening, and then causes that prediction to not be true, in order to test believers resolve. I must admit that I do find this precedent strange, as the whole point of believing someone has the gift of absolute prophecy, is that they prophecize absolutely…Not sometimes, not mostly correct, but always correct. It even says in the Torah that a prophet should be put to death if his prophecies turn out to be incorrect, as that means God is not speaking through him. This is the very reason why the Jehovas Witnesses are mocked at by other denominations, atheists, agnostics, former Witnesses, etc. They have been predicting the end of the world for nearly a hundred years, and it still hasn’t happened. Some Baha’is have also jumped on this bandwagon, seeing their religion is more tolerant, liberal, and open minded anyway; but by doing so they open themselves up to ridicule as the Prophet Baha’u’llah has clearly set a precedent which allows for a prophecy to go unfulfilled in order to test people’s faith.
When fundamentalist Christian leaders fail a prediction, some of these Baha’is laugh and mock them because it didn’t come true, and yet one of their most holy books says the same thing about Noah (not only that, but that he was doing this for 900 years.) Perhaps this is a common case of “it’s different when we do it” that we all fall prey to at one time or another. Or perhaps it’s because they think the same thing can’t be pinned down on our faith. I’m sure if you look hard enough, you will find at least unfulfilled prediction or prophecy. What this lesson might really be teaching (I’m about to get uber controversial for a moment), is that a prophet is not ultimately infallible and that not every single word they utter or write, comes directly from God. I know that brings up more questions than before, because then we would have to ask ourselves “which words came from God, and which came from himself, or which came partially from God and partially from himself.” I have no interest in such speculations myself, but it does make me wonder.
Then there is this passage from the Kitab-i-Iqan,
“For instance, a certain man, reputed for his learning and attainments, and accounting himself as one of the pre-eminent leaders of his people, hath in his book denounced and vilified all the exponents of true learning. This is made abundantly clear by his explicit statements as well as by his allusions throughout his book. As We had frequently heard about him, We purposed to read some of his works. Although We never felt disposed to peruse other peoples’ writings, yet as some had questioned Us concerning him, We felt it necessary to refer to his books, in order that We might answer Our questioners with knowledge and understanding. His works, in the Arabic tongue, were, however, not available, until one day a certain man informed Us that one of his compositions, entitled Irshadu’l-‘Avám, could be found in this city.” (Kitab-i-Iqan, pg. 184-185, my emphasis)
Does this imply that Baha’u’llah would not have “knowledge and understanding” of the book in question, without first reading through it? If so, then how could he be the all-knowing prophet that we Baha’is love and adore? My whole point in writing all of this is just to show that all religions have some questionable content on the surface level, and even maybe below that, but if you are going to criticize other religious movements for their perceived inaccuracies, then be prepared to meet the same kind of treatment from others.