You had interviewed Rabbi Gordis on importance of dialogue several years ago, I continue to refer to that article uploaded on the website foundation for pluralism, and now this work of Maulana Nadvi on dialogue is an eye opener. I am pleased that the original is in Urdu; its major consumers. Indeed, the Muslims of the subcontinent will be further served if you could translate a few articles in Urdu, Bangla and other languages.
To be a Muslim is to be a peacemaker, one who seeks to mitigate conflicts and nurtures goodwill for peaceful co-existence. God wants us to live in peace and harmony with his creation; that is indeed the purpose of religion, any religion. Mission statement
How and Why Muslims Should Dialogue With Others
By Maulvi Syed Nikhat Husain Nadwi
(Translated from Urdu by Yoginder Sikand)
There is no room for coercion in Islam. Islam appeals to people’s intellect, their minds, their sense of logic and reasoning in order to stress its claims. This principle can lay the basis for good relations between Muslims and people of other persuasions. Islam is not opposed to Muslims establishing social, economic or educational relations and bonds with others. This is why, from the early days of Islam onwards, Muslims have had these sorts of relations with others. The fundamental basis of such relations, as Islam understands it, is to jointly work against oppression and for establishing justice and peace. A second basis is the Islamic belief that all creatures are members of the family of God, and that, hence, they must be served. The third theological basis of inter-community relations and dialogue in Islam is the duty to respect the rights of all human beings.
Islam insists that there can be no compromise on its ideological principles, such as faith in the one God, prophethood, and the Day of Judgment. Besides this, there can be dialogue and discussion on all issues. Dialogue should also take a practical form, such as Muslims working together with others for constructive purposes, helping them or taking their help. Islam exhorts Muslims to respect others on the basis of their common humanity. It stresses social justice, peace and struggling against oppression, and for this Muslims can indeed join hands with others to work for a better world for everyone. This is a very important form of inter-religious and inter-community dialogue.
When two individuals are together, inevitably they start talking to each other. Without this, they cannot understand one another. If dialogue and interaction are so indispensable at the level of two individuals, how much more important it must be at the level of two or more cultures and religions! Obviously, unless members of different religious or cultural communities dialogue with each other there is no way they can truly understand one other. It is completely unreasonable to expect that cultural and religious communities can live in isolation with each other and not feel the need to understand each other’s beliefs, practices, issues, concerns and problems. Such isolationism will spell doom for the whole of humankind. It is also a form of escapism, and, undoubtedly, a reflection of obscurantism. The future of humankind critically depends on people of different communities understanding each other and jointly struggling for a more just and peaceful world, to work towards ending illiteracy, poverty, war, conflict and disease wherever these may be found.
The fundamental foundation of productive and sustainable dialogue is for religious and cultural groups to first understand each other properly and, on that basis, to come closer to each other. For this purpose, it is necessary to study in detail about other’s cultures and religions, their languages, histories, beliefs, practices and traditions directly, from their primary sources, in an unbiased manner. This should also go along with efforts to devise means to work together with other communities to solve their problems and address their concerns. Only in this way can cultures come closer to each other.
Typically, human beings people do not understand the truth or usefulness of a matter unless they see themselves as benefiting from it. Thus, inter-cultural and inter-religious dialogue must provide tangible benefits to people, such as helping them solve their problems or mitigating or ending their conflicts. No one’s wounds can be healed or their empty stomachs filled simply by preaching to them about philosophical niceties or lecturing to them about ideological issues. This cannot tear down the walls of hatred that divide people. People have to see direct benefits accruing to themselves from dialogue for them to appreciate its importance. Hence, the most productive form of inter-religious and inter-community dialogue is to understand the causes of conflicts and differences between different religio-cultural groups and then involve people from all parties to dialogue together to jointly work out solutions, which will benefit the parties or communities involved in the dialogue. Similarly, they can work together for their common interests, including on economic, political, and social issues. This effort can start at the local level and then go all the way up to the national and international levels, too.
When seeking to initiate inter-religious or inter-cultural dialogue, it is crucial not to start with negative issues, because this is a sure way for dialogue efforts to fail. Rather, the focus should, as far as possible, be on positive issues and a constructive agenda. Likewise, it is not proper to seek to initiate a dialogue by harping on past events or grievances. Instead, the focus must be on the present, for the aim of the dialogue is essentially to improve the present conditions of, and relations between, two or more communities, not to harp on the past.
For such dialogue to succeed, partners to the dialogue must be willing to make sacrifices. They must be tolerant and broad-minded. They must take into account other people’s sensitivities and emotions and always be conscious not to seek to trample on their rights. Successful dialogue requires that partners be genuinely committed to work for peace, freedom, justice and good relations.
Another principle that must always be kept in mind when thinking about or engaging in dialogue is that to consider any other culture bad or to label it so is not proper. Islam forbids Muslims from abusing the deities of polytheists. This is so because this might provoke them to react in a similar way. This Islamic teaching suggests to us that Muslims must not abuse or vilify other cultures or brand them as enemies.
The rapidly changing world of today requires that all cultures must reconsider their ways of relating to each other, and work together for peace and prosperity for all. In our own country, India , home to numerous different religious and cultural communities, dialogue for this purpose is extremely necessary today. Unfortunately, the different religious communities in India know little about each other. This has given rise to numerous misunderstandings, which, in turn, continue to fuel conflict and violence. Very few Indians belonging to one community have studied, in a dispassionate and detailed manner, the religion, customs, beliefs, traditions and world-views of other communities living in the country in order to properly and dispassionately understand them. There are extremely few Muslims who have studied Sanskrit, the language of the Hindu scriptures, so that they could directly read and understand the Gita, the Puranas, the Ramayana, the Vedas and so on. Hardly any Muslims have studied the Pali language in order to read the Buddhist scriptures. There must be almost no Muslims who have directly met and interacted with Hindu, Buddhist and Jain religious leaders. Probably no Muslim has visited, or stayed for a while in, Hindu religious schools and other such institutions and their pilgrimage sites so as to directly understand them.
The same holds true in the case of all the other communities in India . There are hardly any Hindus who have read the Islamic texts, and have met, interacted and exchanged views with Muslim ulema. The distance between Hindus and Muslims has become so wide now that the doors of Hindu gurukuls and Muslim madrasas are closed to other communities, and both of them are characterized by a heightened sense of fear, insecurity and defensiveness.
All this so alarmingly suggests how distant the various communities of India are from each other. In fact, hatred between many of these communities has rapidly escalated in recent years, making the task of dialogue particularly difficult. Yet, dialoguing is an urgent task that must be taken up at all levels and as widely as possible. Dialogue is not the task only of our religious leaders and organizations, although they have a very crucial role to play in this. They must interact with their counterparts in other communities so as to create a climate of trust and dispel mutual suspicions and misunderstandings. This sort of dialogue is indispensable for the peace and prosperity of our common homeland. The different religio-cultural communities of our country also need to dialogue and unite to struggle against the baneful impact of many aspects of the dominant Western culture that is now playing such havoc with our cultures and mores.
Inter-community dialogue is indispensable to promote the unity and prosperity of our country and its traditional cultures. In this regard, I wish to point out that a major hurdle in this regard, and a cause for much acrimony, is the tendency of some people who, just because they are in a minority, insist that they have accepted the country’s political system and Constitution only out of compulsion, and claim that the moment they are able to gather enough power they will refuse to accept the Government and the Constitution of the land. This attitude has, in fact, become a major cause for concern throughout the world. Extremists, no matter what their religious identity, who espouse this view will not hesitate to use every means to capture power in the hope of thereby bringing about the Revolution of their dreams. Naturally, others will not take lightly to this. That is why conflict, force and violence must be avoided. We need to struggle against these authoritarian tendencies, and, through dialogue, work to ensure that all people get the same rights and opportunities to live and prosper. This is the only way out for global, as well national and local, peace, welfare and justice.
(This is an edited version of translation of extracts from Maulvi Nadwi’s Urdu booklet, ‘Muzakirat Ki Zarurat’ (‘The Need For Dialogue’ (New Delhi: Institute of Objective Studies, 2005).
SUCCESSFUL NAATIA MUSHAERA ON 2.21.14
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August 19, 2013| Dallas, Texas
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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.