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Islam and Interfaith Dialogue

A Concept of Humanity

Posted on November 02, 2014


Dialogue, or peaceful negotiation, is the path prescribed by Islam, for Islam is based on the principle of ‘da’wah’- another term for peaceful negotiation. So does Islam push for the notion of interfaith dialogue? If yes, then how can it be achieved?

The Prophet Muhammed (Peace Be Upon Him) started his unique mission in 610 A.D- this mission was to communicate his ideology to people by talking to them, listening to their objections and trying to convince them of his viewpoint by means of conversation. One of the initial Qur’anic verses revealed to him was that the ideology given by Allah (Glorified and Exalted) to the Prophet should be spread by him among the people (93:11). The Prophet’s ideology was based on monotheism, whereas his Arab contemporaries had believed in polytheism. The Prophet would communicate his points to people and listen to their responses- in this way his mission became a practical demonstration of what we now term “dialogue” or “Interfaith dialogue”. To make this dialogue fruitful, the Qur’an lays down certain meaningful guidelines:
"Invite to the way of your Lord with wisdom and goodly exhortation, and argue with them in ways that are best and most gracious." (16:12)

This verse shows that conversation with others should be carried out in the best and most gracious way. After listening to their objections, the point should be made in such a way as appeals to their minds. That is, it should not end in mere debate, but should be result-oriented. The conversation should not appear to be between rivals, but should take a scientific course. The Qur’an makes this quite explicit:
"Good and evil are not alike. Repel evil with that which is best, then he between whom and you was enmity will become as if he were a warm friend.” (41:34)

From this Qur’anic principle, we learn that the beginning of any dialogue should not be marked by any sign of frustration about the possible outcome. The right approach is to display a hopeful attitude and at the very outset to suppress any tone which would suggest low expectations of success. In this regard, another verse of the Quran is as follows:
“Say: “O People of the Book! Come to common terms as between us and you that we worship none but God.” (3:64)

In Islam, the formula for social peace, social harmony and inter-faith dialogue is based on peaceful co-existence as has been given in the following verse of the Qur’an:
“To you then be your way. And to me be mine.” (109:6)
In other words, the principle of dialogue given by Islam is, “Follow one but respect all” or the method of “mutual respect”. As per the teachings of Islam, while respecting others, we have to welcome differences wholeheartedly without any reservation. It is hatred, which has to be eliminated, and not difference of opinion. People may have their differences in belief, religion, culture, etc, but while following their religion, they have to have mutual respect for others and discover a common bond between them, which shows them all to be human beings.

The objective of Islam is to bring about divine revolution, to invite people to the worship of Allah (Glorified and Exalted), to strive for a society in which spiritual, ethical, and human values are cherished. Islam advocates an atmosphere where peace, tolerance, love and well wishing is the order of the day — an atmosphere where controversies are resolved without the use of violence. This is the desired world of Islam and such a world can be established only through peaceful dialogue.