Wa `alaykum As-Salamu wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuh
In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.
All praise and thanks are due to Allah, and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger.
In this fatwa:
1- It is the role of religious leaders, scholars, NGOs, governmental institutions, and even individuals of multi-religious communities to do their best to maintain peaceful coexistence and keep the fabric of society that should be based on mutual understanding and respect of the other.
In his response to your question, Dr. Muhammad Abu Laylah, Professor of the Islamic studies and comparative religions at Al-Azhar University, states:
We would like to express our thanks and appreciation for your deep concern about Islam. Your initiative to illuminate and clear the Hindu-Muslim relations image from distortions and to bring Muslims and Hindus together around the main principles of peace, justice, and human brotherhood is very positive and we consider it as a sign of your gratitude and tolerant attitude toward your fellow citizens.
As you know, when Islam went to India, Muslims showed respect to Hindu beliefs and temples and neither destroyed nor attacked any statue or icons and never burned any of their sacred books.
There are shared traditions between Muslims in India and the Hindus; for example, respect of the family life, respect of the elderly, love and care of others, and being good to guests and neighbors. These and many other things are highly appreciated by Muslims and Hindus.
Moreover, Islam shows respect for other people’s beliefs and it commands its followers to show respect and to honor the human race whatever the differences between Muslims and others.
Islam calls for equality and mutual respect and understanding among people regardless of their religion, race, or position. Therefore, we do have an ample opportunity and common ground to meet.
As regards your note that no one tried to bridge the gap between Islam and Hinduism, I draw your attention that there are some people who are already trying to do that.
For instance, Al-Bayrouni, the first Muslim scholar who learned the Hindu language after traveling to India, wrote a book about Hindu religion and tradition. The book is available in English. Al-Bayrouni has become a phenomenon in modern scholarships and regarding whom conferences and seminars are held in the West.
The role of religious leaders to cooperate for the sake of reaching mutual understanding and thus maintaining peaceful coexistence among all factions of the society and thus guaranteeing prosperity for their nation.
May Allah guide you and us all to see truth as truth and to follow it and to see evil as evil and to shun it.
Responding to your question, Sheikh Muhammad Al-Mukhtar Ash-Shinqiti, Professor of Political Ethics and Religions History at Qatar University, states:
I agree with you that the essence of all faiths is to serve the common good of humankind and to strengthen relations among humans against the various interests that usually sever ties and separate people.
Although some Muslims mistakenly think that Islamic tolerance only extends to the Jews and Christians, but the way Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) led his life was more accommodating to people of other beliefs than that.
The multi-religious society that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) led in Madinah included Jews, Christians, and Magians. Also, during the expansion of Islamic civilization, Muslims lived side by side with their Hindu fellows and they enriched themselves with many aspects of Indian wisdom and civilization.
The best example of this was the encyclopedic work on Indian cultures and customs (Tahqiq ma Lilhind min Maqulah Maqbulah fi Al-`Aql aw Marzulah) done by the Muslim scholar Al-Bayrouni, who lived in the 11th century.
Almighty Allah knows best.
Editor’s note: This fatwa is from Ask the Scholar’s archive and was originally published at an earlier date.