New Age Islam
Thu Dec 07 2023, 10:35 AM

Interfaith Dialogue ( 15 May 2013, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Shared Values among Religions and the Call for Interfaith Dialogue



By Ghulam Ghuas, New Age Islam

Islam encourages peaceful coexistence among all religions. All the oriental faiths have the same prescription. But the misinterpretations and unempirical observations of religions lead to the exasperation of conflicts and wars. We repeatedly see some so-called leaders of religions incite fanaticism, extremism, aggression, hate and xenophobia – even legitimise violent and bloody conflicts. The misuse of religions is often stimulated to actualise power-political dreams. We can witness barbaric acts often made in the name of religion in human history consecutively from past to contemporary.

We have made great achievements in science yet paradoxically failed in the protections of weak nations. Arms and ammunition are manufactured that are not only capable of destroying the weak nations but even the entire humanity. Thus we are unable to resolve the war within and outside Islam. As a result, religious intolerance has caused immense injury and merciless killing of human beings. Particularly, Iraq, Afghan, Syria, Palestine and Pakistan etc are such top listed names where evils of terrorism, religious extremism, and genocide of Shiites, Ahmadis, and religious minorities as well as destruction of Islamic cultural heritage are at its peak.

This debate needs to be dealt with carefully defeating the destructive elements of religions.  Moreover, the peace-building elements among religions should be fostered. In other words, religious representatives ought to perform their moral authority in the peacemaking. The rest of people, in return, must take cognizance of the religious factors to cooperate with religious leaders in interpreting peace.

The diversity of religions across the world demands tolerance and respect to the other from everyone. A close study of the holy Quran and Hadith fulfils that demand.

The holy Quran says “And had Allah so willed, He would surely have made you one single community; instead, (He gave each of you a Law and a way of life) in order to test you by what He gave you. Vie, they one with another in good work. Unto Allah is the return of all of you; and He will then make you understand the truth concerning the matters on which you disagreed.” (5:48)

Many wonder how we could develop tolerance and peace when there were so many differences among religions in matters of faith. This was the concern already resolved in the life of the prophet pbuh.

Allah Almighty says “To those who do not believe the way you do, (o, prophet pbuh) tell them, “O disbelievers, I do not worship those whom you worship, Nor are you worshippers of Him Whom I worship, Nor am I a worshipper of those whom you have worshipped, Nor are you worshippers of Him Whom I worship. For you is your religion and for me is mine.”(1-6: 109). It was and is surely the most secular thought, the world had ever seen.

As far as the Muslim world is concerned, they should remember the following verses.

“There is no compulsion and coercion in regard to religion”. (2:256). Muslims believe in all of the prophets and are strictly prohibited from showing any point of disrespect to any prophet or religion which he taught to his followers. This verse commands Muslims not to use coercion in the religion. That is to say that Muslims are not allowed to establish forcibly their religion on the earth. The very principle was highlighted in the practice of the Prophet Muhammad pbuh. This great verse guarantees freedom of worship to all religious communities. It is in tune with the Quranic spirit where God says that He has made people into nations and tribes so that they can know and deal with each other in an equal temper of kindness and generosity.

Therefore, the mainstream Muslims accept other religions as the faith of the fellowmen no matter how incorrect they may seem to them from the Islamic point of view.

We are also well acquainted with the incident when a delegation of a different faith came to the prophet’s mosque in Madina. Before meeting the prophet pbuh they wished to offer their own prayers in that mosque while the Muslim prayer time was running out. The prophet said that they should pray first and Muslim prayers could wait. Similarly on other occasion the prophet showed respect to the funeral procession of a non-Muslim and rose on his feet telling his companions (sahabas) that in matters of etiquette faith does not make a difference.

There are several verses in the Bhagvad Gita where Krishna instructs Arjun to fight the enemies even though they were his relatives. Fight for Dharma is thus promoted and such fight is what is termed in the Qur'an as Jihad, but today it is totally misunderstood or misinterpreted. The fundamental values do not vary in religions. Those who believe in God cannot desire injustice as the Creator orders them to be kind to others.

Islam makes it obligatory for every Muslim to respect other religions. Muslims too, feel that Islam should be understood and respected by the others. It is the basic purpose of human creation that itself has been amply clarified by God in the holy Quran (verse 11.7). He says that he created the heaven and the earth so that he might try the human beings as to which one of these is best in conduct. God’s purpose is to promote a mutual human competition for doing good works so that human beings can make this world a ground for peace and tranquillity.

When Poverty, starvation, unjust treatment, discrimination and corruption are displayed towards a particular group in a locality, they become fertile grounds for the rise of extremist religious tendencies. At such times, Knowledge of other religions and values are important aspects and need to be torched by all. The true spirits of all religions call for equality and justice. So they can fight together against all kinds of oppression, whether economic, social or political.

Today the majority judge others by notions and not by knowledge. Frequently our understandings are beyond the truth and reality. Many even are not aware of the fundamental principles of their own religions. As a result, misunderstandings lead us to misdeeds. So, interfaith dialogue makes us understand ourselves as well as others.

Thus today the need to resolve the pressing issues of global concern is paramount. It is imperative that interfaith cooperation is developed to promote the principle of peace. It is very important for all religious people to recognise each other as partners, not adversaries in faith.

Therefore let us focus on the interfaith aspects of all faiths. Allah almighty exhorts the mankind to invite each other to join hands, shoulder to shoulder in pursuit of “Kalimatain sawaaim baeenana” i.e. truth and commonality. Every being is God’s creature. His or her faith is a matter that lies in between the creator and the individual. Let us also build bridges and know all about each other through meaningful dialogues and fruitful interactions.  Hence we will be able to oppose all shapes of inhumanity and work for peace, justice and brotherhood.

All sensible people ought to avoid clashes. They should call for a dialogue establishing inter-cultural and inter-religious peace-building instead. They can also promote shared values between Muslims and non-Muslims; such as the facts that everyone wants to be happy that all of us are interconnected members of all communities. Peace among nations cannot exist unless there is peace among religions. Similarly peace among religions can not last long unless there is authentic interfaith dialogue.


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