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How Do Muslims Relate to Other Faiths?

Let me come to an important issue that doesn’t only relate to the tragic events of 9/11 but it’s an important topic in its own right, and I’ve been talking about these issues even long before 9/11.

What does Islam teach its adherences as to how they can relate to other communities?

And here the evidence comes straight from the Quran itself.

In the first place, the Quran insists that there is one generic religion that was preached by all of the prophets, the message of monotheism which did not start with Abraham, before him was Noah, and before both with Adam himself who is regarded actually as the first prophet.

What is the essence of that message?

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It’s the literal meaning of Islam, not the limited meaning, because we said Islam is achieving peace through submission to Allah and all of the prophets taught precisely the same thing.

No wonder we find the Quran calls Abraham, other prophets and followers of Jesus, Muslims. They are all called Muslims. People who submitted to Allah in order to achieve that peace on the various levels.

So the core teaching in essence is the same. In fact the Quran depicts the various prophets in history not as competing or fighting with one another, unfortunately as some of their followers are doing, but in fact as one brotherhood of prophets, various links in the same chain of revelation extending from the first to the final prophet.

So believing and respecting all of them is not a statement of political correctness. It is a statement of belief according to the Quran, without which a Muslim cannot claim to be a Muslim.

In fact, within the general acceptance of all of the prophets, five stand out as the greatest of the great, or Ulu al-`Azm. And these are no surprise to a Jew, Christian, Muslim or even a historian.

The greatest five influential religious figures or prophets in history obviously are Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad (may the peace and blessing of Allah be upon them all).

But the Quran doesn’t just speak about the similarity in theology or basic teachings of the prophets, it goes beyond that to operationalize the nature of that relationship. And here is one of the key references of the Quran that I love to make a couple of comments on it. That is in Chapter 49, verse 13 and the translation of its meaning is that God speaks to Mankind.

In often times you find that in the Quran Allah speaks directly and it begins by saying “O Mankind”, that’s rather interesting because when the Quran addresses Muslims pertaining to their duties, for example like fasting, charity, pilgrimage, it says “O believers” meaning believers in Islam.

Beauty in Diversity

Yet in this verse, like nearly 200 other verses in the Quran, it begins with “O Mankind”, Muslims, non-Muslims and all human beings: it is the Lord of all speaking to all. That’s significant. And usually these verses are the ones that deal with the bonds of humanity.

And then it goes on, “We created you”- we here is the royal we- “from a single pair of a male and female”, some translated it as a male and a female, but if you take a single pair of a male and female, the clear implication here is that all human beings belong to the same family. You hear people talking about the white race, the black race, this race and that race.

The Quran also brings to our attention that beyond those races, there is one race, the human race that all descend from the same set of parents, diverse as it may be.

And then it says “We made you into nations and tribes”, Why? “That you may get to know and recognize one another”. A deliberate diversity and unity in diversity.

That is articulated in another verse in the Quran in Chapter 30, in verse 22, a beautiful one explaining the origin of languages and complexion:

Of the signs (of the power and wisdom) of Allah is the creation of Heavens and earth and the diversity of your languages and your complexion”.

It’s a deliberate creation, which makes life more interesting. It is like a bouquet of flowers where the white flower is beautiful in its own right, and so is the yellow, the red and the pink, .. you name it, more beautiful are all of them together. If they were all the same, life would be boring. There is deliberate creation of diversity. It’s beautiful.

Then it ends by providing the sole criterion accepted by Allah for mankind, for a human being to be a better human being: “The most honored of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous”, an open competition to which any one can sign without any barrier of wealth, color, ethnicity, or even religion, because sometimes the Quran also condemns false and empty religious claims which are not supported by righteousness.

This is a beautiful reference about this broader bond of human brotherhood.

About Jamal Badawi
Dr. Jamal Badawi is a professor at Saint Mary's University in Halifax, Canada, where he currently teaches in the areas of management and religious studies. He is the author of several works on various aspects of Islam.