John the Baptist : biography
John in the Qur’an
In the Qur’an, God frequently mentions Zechariah’s continuous praying for the birth of a son. Zechariah’s wife, mentioned in the New Testament as Elizabeth, was barren and therefore the birth of a child seemed impossible.Lives of the Prophets, Leila Azzam, John and Zechariah As a gift from God, Zechariah was given a son by the name of "John", a name specially chosen for this child alone. In accordance with Zechariah’s prayer, God made John and Jesus, who according to exegesis was born six months later,A-Z of Prophets in Islam and Judaism, B. M. Wheeler, John the Baptist renew the message of God, which had been corrupted and lost by the Israelites. As the Qur’an says:
John was exhorted to hold fast to the Scripture and was given wisdom by God while still a child. He was pure and devout, and walked well in the presence of God. He was dutiful towards his parents and he was not arrogant or rebellious. John’s reading and understanding of the scriptures, when only a child, surpassed even that of the greatest scholars of the time. Muslim exegesis narrates that Jesus sent John out with twelve disciples,Tabari, i, 712 who preached the message before Jesus called his own disciples. The Qur’an says of John:
John was a classical prophet,Abdullah Yusuf Ali, The Holy Qur’an: Text, Translation and Commentary, Note. 905: "The third group consists not of men of action, but Preachers of Truth, who led solitary lives. Their epithet is: "the Righteous." They form a connected group round Jesus. Zachariah was the father of John the Baptist, who is referenced as "Elias, which was for to come" (Matt 11:14); and Elias is said to have been present and talked to Jesus at the Transfiguration on the Mount (Matt. 17:3)." who was exalted high by God, for his bold denouncing of all things sinful. Furthermore, the Qur’an speaks of John’s gentle pity and love for all creatures and his humble attitude towards life, for which he was granted the Purity of Life:
John is also honored highly in Sufism as well as Islamic mysticism, primarily because of the Qur’an’s description of John’s chastity and kindness.Encyclopedia of Islam, Yahya ibn Zakkariya, Online web. Sufis have frequently applied commentaries on John’s passages on the Qur’an, primarily concerning God-given gift of "Wisdom" which he acquired in youth as well as his parallels with Jesus. Although several phrases used to describe John and Jesus are virtually identical in the Qur’an, the manner in which they are expressed is different.Whereas the Qur’an itself gives blessings of peace to John (Quran 19: 15), Jesus, in contrast, gives himself the blessings of peace. (Qur’an 19: 16-33)
There are numerous quotations in the writings of Bahá’u’lláh, Founder of the Bahá’í Faith mentioning John the Baptist. He is regarded by Bahá’ís as a lesser Prophet. Bahá’u’lláh claimed that his Forerunner, the Báb, was the spiritual return of John the Baptist. In his letter to Pope Pius IX, Bahá’u’lláh wrote:
"O followers of the Son! We have once again sent John unto you, and He, verily, hath cried out in the wilderness of the Bayán: O peoples of the world! Cleanse your eyes! The Day whereon ye can behold the Promised One and attain unto Him hath drawn nigh! O followers of the Gospel! Prepare the way! The Day of the advent of the Glorious Lord is at hand! Make ready to enter the Kingdom. Thus hath it been ordained by God, He Who causeth the dawn to break."
However, Bahá’ís consider the Báb to be a greater Prophet (Manifestation of God) and thus possessed of a far greater station than John the Baptist.
Gnostic and anthroposophic views
In Gnosticism, John the Baptist was a "personification" of the Old Testament prophet Elijah. Elijah did not know the True God (as opposed to the Abrahamic God), and thus had to be reincarnated in Gnostic theology. As predicted by the Old Testament prophet Malachi, Elijah must "come first" to herald the coming of Jesus Christ. Modern anthroposophy concurs with the idea that the Baptist was a reincarnation of Elijah, (cf. Mark 9:11-13), Matthew 11:13-14, Luke 7:27 although the Gospel of John explicitly denies this (John 1:21).Sergei Prokofieff, The Mystery of John the Baptist and John the Evangelist Turning Point of Time: An Esoteric Study, Temple Lodge Publishing 2005, ISBN 1-902636-67-8