Interfaith Dialogue a Moral Duty to Finding Common Ground
It is this open, free, and dignified dialogue that allows the followers of various religious traditions to affirm their diversity and discuss their similarities and differences, and it is what Islam requires from its followers. Muslims have a moral and religious obligation to engage in interfaith dialogue with other communities of faith, and they must do that by maintaining ethical standards required by the Qur'an, including the directive to "argue with [the followers of the revealed books] in ways that are best and most gracious."
Interfaith Dialogue a Moral Duty to Finding Common Ground
Extreme voices in the three religions that claim the monotheist heritage of Prophet Abraham--Judaism, Christianity, and Islam--are busy sowing the seeds of confrontation and hate. They have recently taken the advantage of the politically rooted tensions between western and Middle Eastern countries to develop misunderstanding and mistrust among the followers of these religions.
Quoting selectively from Islamic sources, they have painted Islam as an intolerant religion that urges its followers to hate people of other faiths. This depiction belies both the historical record of Muslims dealing with the followers of other faiths, and, most importantly, the Qur'anic message itself. Although historical Muslim societies were imperfect, there are plenty of examples to show that Islamic values inspired Muslims to develop multi-religious societies in which people of diverse religious backgrounds lived in considerable harmony. The tolerance of Medieval Muslim Spain and the invitation extended to Jews expelled from Jerusalem to return to the city upon the defeat of the Crusaders are two shining examples.
The Qur'an reiterates a fundamental truth taught by all the prophets who were sent by God to guide human endeavors. It asserts that true and honest living is the assured way for spiritual and social harmony, and for protecting the long term self interests of every human being.
The Qur'an further asserts that humans are fallible and can never be free of error in understanding and judgment. Human knowledge is imperfect, and subject to bias and error. Knowledge of intentions and inner thoughts are beyond human capacity, and so is the knowledge of the final destiny of individuals. People of faith must show humility and put their trust in divine wisdom and the absolute justice of God, and must focus on doing what is right and just, instead of sitting in judgment on the eternal salvation of others. The Qur'an is clear that only God knows who is true and sincere in worship and service, and who has gone astray.
"Your lord knows best who strays from his way: He knows best who they are that receive His guidance." (6:117)
"And we granted them clear signs in matters (of religion): it was only after knowledge had been granted to them that they fell into schisms, through insolent envy among themselves. Verily your lord will judge between them on the Day of Judgment as to those matters in which they set up differences." (45:17)
The duty of the faithful is, therefore, not to judge others and look down on those who have different understanding and faith, but respect their choices and try his or her best to live an upright life and manifest the values of his and her faith through good work and good deeds.
"To you we sent the scripture in truth, confirming the scripture that came before it, and guarding it in safety: so judge between them by what Allah has revealed, and follow not their vain desires, diverging from the truth that has come to you. To each among you have we prescribed a law and an open way. If Allah had so willed, he would have made you a single People, but (his plan is) to test you in what he hath given you; so strive as in a race in all virtues. The goal of you all is to Allah; it is he that will show you the truth of the matters in which you dispute." (5:48)
The Qur'an came to confirm the truth revealed in early scriptures, and the people of the book, the followers of the revealed scriptures, have a special place in the Qur'an, particularly those who carry the Abrahamic legacy. Significant portions of the Qur'an focus on the story of the Biblical prophets and their followers, the Jews and Christians. It presents their stories as the story of the journey of faith, reminding the followers of the last revelation of the ups and downs in the struggle of the early communities of faith.
Some commentators have stressed the down side of that story by focusing on the Qur'anic critique of the People of the Book. The Qur'an has pointed out several excesses and mistakes committed by the followers of the Biblical prophets, and warned the followers of Prophet Muhammad against committing similar excesses.
Yet the Qur'an is also full of stories of great struggles and shining examples of the followers of early prophets whose commitment and devotion were crucial for establishing the Monotheistic traditions and translating divine guidance into social practices: The strong faith of Saul (Talout) and those who stood firmly with him (2:249); the devotion of the people of the Trench who remained true to their faith in the face of a horrifying aggression committed by ruthless enemies (85:1-11); and the unwavering commitment of the followers of Christ to the ethical code and compassionate spirit he brought to humanity (61:14). Prophet Muhammad repeatedly emphasized that his mission confirmed those of early prophets. He directed early Muslims to seek refuge in Abyssinia, pointing out that the country was ruled by a just Christian King. This was the beginning of an excellent relationship and strong alliance between Muslims and Christians in Abyssinia that lasted for a thousand years.
Therefore, Muslim attitude toward the followers of other religions, particularly the People of the Book, should not be one of self-righteousness and pride, but one of compassion, mutual respect, and concern for the wellbeing and welfare of other communities. The Qur'an encourages Muslims to cooperate for the common good and to search from a common ground, based on mutual respect and help.
"Say: O People of the Book! Come to common terms as between us and you: that we worship none but Allah; that we associate no partners with Him; that we erect not, from among ourselves, Lords and patrons other than Allah." If then they turn back, say: "Bear witness that we (at least) are Muslims (bowing to Allah's Will)." (3:94)
The common ground Muslims are asked to seek with the followers of other religions is a society in which people are free to worship God. In such open society Muslims must display positive attitude and unwavering respect of the followers of other faiths. Dealing with respect and positive engagement does not mean that differences in doctrine and interpretation do not matter. Rather, it means that those differences must be addressed through free and open dialogue.
It is this open, free, and dignified dialogue that allows the followers of various religious traditions to affirm their diversity and discuss their similarities and differences, and it is what Islam requires from its followers. Muslims have a moral and religious obligation to engage in interfaith dialogue with other communities of faith, and they must do that by maintaining ethical standards required by the Qur'an, including the directive to "argue with [the follower of the revealed books] in ways that are best and most gracious."
SUCCESSFUL NAATIA MUSHAERA ON 2.21.14
45 PICTURES AT: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mikeghouse/sets/72157641382648224/
August 19, 2013| Dallas, Texas
Text/Talk: (214) 325-1916
Mirza A Beg
PLANNED MUSLIMS RESPONSE TO QUR'AN BURNING BY PASTOR JONES ON 9/11/13 IN MULBERRY, FLORIDA
We as Muslims plan to respond to pastor Terry Jones' planned burning of 3000 copies of Quran on September 11, 2013 in positive terms.
Our response - we will reclaim the standard of behavior practiced by the Prophet concerning “scurrilous and hostile criticism of the Qur’an” (Muhammad Asad Translation Note 31, verse 41:34). It was "To overcome evil with good is good, and to resist evil by evil is evil." It is also strongly enjoined in the Qur’an in the same verse 41:34, “Good and evil deeds are not equal. Repel evil with what is better; then you will see that one who was once your enemy has become your dearest friend.”
God willing Muslims will follow the divine guidance and pray for the restoration of Goodwill, and on that day many Muslim organizations will go on a “blood drive” to save lives and serve humanity with kindness.
We invite fellow Americans of all faiths, races, and ethnicities to join us to rededicate the pledge, “One nation under God”, and to build a cohesive America where no American has to live in apprehension, discomfort or fear of fellow Americans. This event is a substitute for our 10th Annual Unity Day Celebration (www.UnitydayUSA.com) held in Dallas, but now it will be at Mulberry, Florida.
Unwittingly Pastor Jones has done us a favor by invigorating us by his decision to burn nearly 3000 copies Quran on September 11, 2013. Obviously he is not satisfied by the notoriety he garnered by burning one Qur'an last year.
As Muslims and citizens we honor the free speech guaranteed in our constitution. We have no intentions to criticize, condemn or oppose Pastor Terry Jones' freedom of expression. Instead, we will be donating blood and praying for goodness to permeate in our society.
We plan to follow Jesus Christ (pbuh), a revered prophet in Islam as well as Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) – that of mitigating the conflicts and nurturing good will for the common good of the society.
We hope, this event and the message will remind Muslims elsewhere in the world as well, that violence is not the way. Muslims, who react violently to senseless provocation, should realize that, violence causes more violence, and besmirches the name of the religion that we hold so dear. We believe that Prophet Muhammad was a mercy to the mankind, and we ought to practice what we believe and preach. We must not insult Islam by the negative reactions of a few.
We can only hope it will bring about a change in the attitude of the followers of Pastor Jones, and in the behavior of those Muslims who reacted violently the last time Pastor sought notoriety – We hope this small step towards a bridge to peaceful coexistence would propel us towards building a cohesive society.
Like most Americans a majority of Muslims quietly go about their own business, but it is time to speak up and take positive action instead of negative reaction. May this message of peace and goodwill reverberate and reach many shores.
Lastly, we appreciate the Citizens of Mulberry, Florida, Honorable Mayor George Hatch, City Commissioners, police and Fire Chiefs for handing this situation very well. This will add a ‘feather of peace’ in the City’s reputation. We hope Mulberry will be a catalyst in showing the way in handling conflict with dignity and peace.
We thank the Media for giving value to the work towards peace rather than conflict.
The people in Dallas are making an effort to understand and clean their own hearts first, when we are free from bias, it would be easy to share that with others. Islam teaches us in so many ways to "respect the otherness of others" and it is time we find simple practical ways of doing it.