Taken from the book American Muslim Agenda by Dr. Mike Ghouse
Chapter 16: Islamic Value No. 10
The idea of Pluralism is new to Muslims, but it is not unique to Islam. Quran is about pluralism, and Prophet Muhammad was a living example of it. You will witness the social part of Pluralism and how it works in this chapter, and the religious pluralism in the section on Interfaith relations.
The Center for Pluralism defines pluralism as – an attitude of respecting the otherness of the other and accepting the God-given uniqueness of each one of us. You are who you are, and I am who I am. There is no need for you to change nor do I need to change for you. We accept our differences and live with the least conflicts and build a cohesive world.
Pluralism does not mean compromise, it does not mean accepting the brutalities and atrocities of others and it does not break existing bongs. It means encouraging one to live his life and let others live theirs in the pursuit of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Pluralism is an Islamic value that contributes to building cohesive societies.
The above definition was developed and shaped by many people from Atheists to Zoroastrians and every one in between. In the last 30 years, much of the pluralism work as a discipline is produced by Harvard University in Boston, Pluralism Center in Ottawa and the Center for Pluralism in Washington, DC.
Here is google search on the phrase Pluralism in Islam, as my focus is Islam in this Book. Please visit www.CenterforPluralism.com for pluralism in religion, society, culture, politics and the workplace.
1/1/1980- 12/31/1990 = 1, 090 entries
1/1/1991- 12/31/2000 = 6, 430 entries
1/1/2001- 12/31/2010 = 72,800 entries
1/1/2011- 10/13/2018 = 579,000 entries
When I started writing about Pluralism the Yahoo group of World Muslim Congress, a think tank. I faced a whole lot of opposition then. But as I began discussing with different groups in an educational environment, the fog was clearing.
Each group gets caught in the trends, so are Muslims. Seldom, will you find the “word “Pluralism” in Islamic literature, it was nearly absent except my writings in the 90’s and first decade. Today, Islamic literature has caught on it. Thanks to the widespread education about it. But, like other folks, most Muslims still have not gotten it.
The individuals from the Subcontinent curse it as a failed attempt of the Moghul King Akbar to mix-match religions, and several others were bent on declaring it as Kufr (twisting religion in this context). Let’s focus on understanding it.
Iqra – the first word.
That was the first word asked by archangel Gabriel for Muhammad to utter in the cave during his meditation. Its full meaning is to read, reflect and understand. Yes, let’s learn about Pluralism, understand and reflect upon it.
Pluralism is a natural outcome when people have to work and live with different people. If we have to work with difficult people, we will learn to run away from them or figure out a way to work with them by amending our attitudes. It is embedded in the holy scriptures, but to become a part of our psyche, it will take time. We are learning to acknowledge our flaws and fix them. A few among us get defensive and aggressively silence the ones who want to fix the problems.
Change is coming!
Knowledge leads to understanding and understanding to acceptance and appreciation of a different point of view.
The following individuals are appreciated for being a part of the discussions. Dr. Basheer Ahmed, a renowned psychiatrist and founder of many Muslim organizations in Texas. He and I had extensive conversations, and his critique has helped me learn to express it better. I am also grateful to the talks with Mary Ann Thompson-Frenk, Dr. Imam Zia Sheikh, Deva Ramsaroop, Dr. Harbans Lal, Rabbi Arkow, Rev. Bill Matthews, Swami Nityananda Prabhu, Dr. Amer Suleman, and Kirit Daftary. Then Peggy Larney, Jerry Middents, Muhammad Suleman, Onkar Modgil, Rabbi Haas, Dr. Poras Balsara, Kambiz and Regina Rafraf, and AG Chini in Dallas, and Iftekhar Hai from San Francisco.
In DC, we have begun our dialogue with Rabbi Gerry Serotta, Pastor Jim Eaton, Imam Mohamed Bashar, Dileep Thatte, Bishop Paul Murray, Rabbi Charles Feinberg, Imam Ali Siddiqui and others in Washington, DC.
My humble gratitude goes to Dallas Morning News for taking me on to write at the Texas Faith column for nearly five years and publishing some 250 essays on Pluralism. The Huffington Post also carries over 125 articles on Pluralism.
Since 2001, I have organized several events on Islamic Pluralism including the ones with Imam Zia Shaikh, Dr. Amer Suleman, and Dr. Nauman Anwar of Dallas and Dr. Farooq Hassan of Pakistan. I welcome anyone in the united states to have a conversation about Pluralism in Islam, so Muslims can be informed, citizens.
Pluralism and Interfaith
Interfaith is limited to faith matters of the people.
Pluralism is about all aspects of humanity – religious, non-religious, political, social, cultural and workplace environment. It is for all people who can breathe except for the cannibals, who will eat us before we have a conversation with them.
Interfaith meetings are designed to understand the differences and commonalities, whereas Pluralism is organized to accept those difference as valid differences. In pluralism, we do not make any attempt to convince the other that our system is a better one.
Muslims are involved in Interfaith dialogue for a long time, but deep down, like Christians, they wish to convert everyone, if they cannot, they will lose patience and run, you will never see them again in interfaith meetings. It is both Christians and Muslims who are cut from the same cloth of conversion.
Pluralism will start running in your veins when you strip the thoughts that others need to look at your religion, social system or culture, which is better than others. I am looking for such individuals from Atheist to Zoroastrians to join us in our mission to create a better world.
Pluralism is respecting the otherness of the other, including faith, politics, and culture of others. Admiring the goodness in others without asking them to your copycat.
I am truly blessed with this learning and hope to learn a lot more through discussions.
After rejecting Islam in my teen years, and for the next thirty years, I made several attempts to understand it, and each time, I decided that Islam was not for me. However, I have always respected the otherness of the other and remained a Pluralist, meaning admired the uniqueness of each religion, but did not find a faith that I wanted to be a part of.
During that period, I remained a cultural Muslim, a term I have borrowed from Ray Hanania, a Palestinian Christian but culturally a Muslim in his day-to-day life.
At my home, my Sunni Secular father Abdul Rahman and grandfather (maternal) Shaikh Hussain, a Sunni religious scholar would have extensive discussions with a Shia Scholar Hussain Ali, a Hujjatul Islam, i.e., a debater in Islam. The studies were about religion, and neither one made attempts to convert the other, they just wanted to understand each other. It went on for several years.
During college, I became friends with Fakhru Bhai, a Muslim Scholar, a weaver by trade and my English Lecturer A. Ramachandran, a Hindu Sai Baba Bhagat, and we had several discussions on religion.
Every Wednesday, I visited a Buddhist Monastery, the Mahabodhi Society near Bangalore Central Jail, on Fridays, I went to the Mosque, and on Saturdays, I joined the Bhajan chanting at the Hindu Temple across my home in Yelahanka, a suburb of Bangalore. Occasionally I attended the Church on Sundays.
My father’s Flour Mill saw people from all walks of life. The Sikhs came from the nearby Yelahanka Airforce base to convert their grains into Flour, and the Tribal people and Dalits who busted rocks at Bettahalli also came to the mill, I also saw folks from a tribe called Kandharis that showed by every other year for a few months. My classmate and neighbors were Jains, and one singular lady represented Zoroastrianism came to my mother on every Wednesday mornings and talked with her for hours, and I would catch a word here and there about Zarathustra. By the time I was 18, I was well exposed to most religions except Bahai and Judaism. It was enriching to know that God is worshipped in so many ways!
I was in Saudi for nearly 4 years, and I rose from a Senior Accountant to be the Deputy Controller at Fluor Arabia, a subsidiary of Fluor Corporation. There I dealt with the ethnic coordinators from 44 nationalities from Taiwan, Philippines, Somalia, Chad, to the South Asians and the French, Turkish, Italians and Americans and everyone in between.
It was enriching! I came from a cave and grew into being a universalist, thanks to everyone in the journey.
Islam is not for me.
I am writing this for my fellow Muslims to start seeing how non-Muslims see Islam and work on fixing some of the problems we have, including the ones expressed in the chapter on Interfaith. It will also give you ideas about dealing with the Muslims who have misunderstood the essence of Islam, and fellow humans who misrepresent Islam.
In the year 1998, I attempted to learn about Islam again. My late father in law was considered a Sufi, the man was knowledgeable about Islam. While a lot of verses and chapters had appealed to me, one of the sentences from the Quran bothered me, “Don’t make friends with Jews and Christians.” I had never digested that. So, I asked him, “Baba, does the Quran really say that a Muslim should not make friends with Jews and Christians?” He took me straight to his room, picked up a copy of the Quran, opened chapter 5, and pointed his finger at verse 5:51 for me to read.
Quran 5:51 (Hilali Khan Translation!) ” O you who believe! Take not the Jews and the Christians as Auliya (friends, protectors, helpers, etc.), they are but Auliya to one another. And if any amongst you takes them as Auliya, then inevitably, he is one of them. Verily, Allah guides not those people who are the Zalimoon (polytheists and wrongdoers and unjust.
My apprehension was reaffirmed. I said to myself one more time that Islam was not for me.
(Note: I discovered later that it was a political translation. What God says in effect is, that in matters of religion, it makes sense for a Christian to ask a Christian about Christianity, and the Jews about Judaism and Muslims about Islam. I am willing but subject to God-willing, my next book will be including all the mistranslated verses of Quran)
But the temptation to believe that God (he/she/it) is a just guy haunted me. It was one of those days, I heard too much of Islam bashing on TV and Radio, I agreed with a few things, but realized that they were lying on most of the other things about Islam. I had to correct that error and was determined to write and speak about it.
Finding the truth is your own responsibility.
In 1998, as a habit, I flipped through the pages of different holy books, on that day I opened the Bhagavad Gita, closed my eyes and placed my Shahadah (next to thumb) finger on a random page. Then opened the eyes and found a life-changing message, which in effect said, seeing the truth is your own responsibility. Thus, began my search for the truth about Islam.
My first action was listening to the Radio talk shows. There it was, Islam bashing on the Radio and I heard a Muslim clergy defending Islam, but he made it worse. I said to myself, I knew more Islam than that guy. I had to find the truth about Islam, even if Muslims say what it is, the responsibility is still mine to know if that guy knew what he was really talking. The Bible had also corroborated that finding the truth brings relief to one.
Karen Armstrong’s biography on Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was an eye-opener to me. I could relate with Muhammad, a human like me who was committed to finding the truth, understanding the purpose of life and our role in it. He made the decisions that were humanistic. He was not the divine figure dished out to me. He was a human like me.
Thanks to that singular message from Bhagavad Gita and Karen Armstrong’s book Muhammad among others for removing the prejudice towards Islam.
The process of understanding the purpose of religion, and along with it defining an ideal religion began.
Shopping for a religion
It is an oxymoron phrase because all religions are ideal to its followers. Religions and governments are designed (consciously or accidentally) to create cohesive societies, where no human has to live in apprehension or fear of the other. “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” is a well-known phrase in our Declaration of Independence. The phrase gives three examples of the “unalienable rights” which the Declaration says have been given to all human beings by their creator, and which governments are created to protect.” Wikipedia.
Pluralism is an attitude and not theology.
As the societies learn to respect the otherness of the other and accept the God given the uniqueness of each one of us, then conflicts fade and solutions emerge. Thus, societies will focus on improving their standards of living concerning health and effectively managing what surrounds them; life and matter.
If you hire Mr. Spock to study different religions dispassionately, he will examine all and puts a report out that even Trump can understand.
In a nutshell, he sees that almost all people take time to meditate to get off the disturbing thoughts. It is like rebooting the computer when it gets slow with too many programs working in the background. Each individual follows a different ritual from leaning to kneeling to prostrating. Most people read some book, and gather up on in groups in a building, listen to a guy who explains what is in that book. You can see peace formulating on their face (he also notes that some places that guy speaks ill of others and everyone gets on the revenge train). They go back home with a sense of peace.
He thus defines, “Religion is designed to restore balance within an individual and with what surrounds him; life and matter.”
Life and Matter were the two significant products of evolution, creation, or the big bang theory. The theologians and scientists can bang their heads all day long, but as a sociologist, I see the reality of existence, and we have to figure out how to co-exist before our death.
The animals are endowed with tools to fight and kill if they have to for their existence and the resources like space, sustenance, sex, and nurturance. They have horns, fangs, and paws to resolve the disputes. Humans don’t have those, but got something else to prevent killing each other – the ability to dialogue. Pluralism is how do we cultivate that dialogue.
The matter is designed to be in eternal balance. Look at the Universe, the earth perambulating around the Sun, the Moon going around the Earth, the change of seasons, the plant life, etc. Everything runs per a precise program.
So, my friends, on the religious shopping list, I wrote the following criteria:
- The religions must teach equality of all humans.
- The doctrine must be inclusive of all humanity.
- The belief must acknowledge that other faiths are as valid as itself.
- The religion must liberate women from the misogynistic clutches of men
- The religion must respect and accept the uniqueness of each human
I kept studying the Quran.
Surah Rahman, verses 55:4-13. He has created man and has given the ability to articulate his thoughts and put into action, the Sun and the moon run their appointed course, the plants and stars do as they are programmed to do. The entire earth and its elements are made out for your sustenance. He then advises, everything is set in harmony, and don’t transgress.
Each one of us has the responsibility to manage that balance, and the Quran called the humans (not Muslims) Ashraful Maqlooqat – that is honored species. Honored, because we are the only species that can manage our environment and survive instead of getting washed away in floods, dried up in the sun, burnt in fires or stamped out with a meteorite hit. Elsewhere in the Quran, he called us (all humanity) the Khalifa, a manager.
God has taken care of the physical portion of the universe. He has precisely programmed the matter to run effectively. The planets run on their appointed orbits. The seasons change based on an exact rotation of the earth. Our body systems are set to function normally.
God chose to assign the responsibility of managing that balance to us. So, he gave us the free will to decide what to eat to let our body function normally. HE went. Further, he gave us the freedom to manage our interactions with fellow humans through dialogue rather than locking in the horns.
If we lose that balance, we bring chaos and insecurities. We have the responsibility to bring stability to our dialogue, in our relations with family members, communities, and the nations.
This is best described by Chief Seattle, a Native American, “All things are connected. Whatever befalls the earth befalls the sons of the earth. Man did not weave the web of life; he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does it to himself.”
Submission to God, what does it mean?
It is not walking with handcuffs to a tyrant, it is freely understanding and subscribing to a system that works.
A majority of Muslims believe that God has created us to worship and pray. However, the deeper meaning of submission to God is subscribing to the system of harmony; the eco-balance and the human balance. Most Muslims are familiar with the narration that God does not need your sacrifices, prayers, or fasting, but he cares about how you treat your fellow beings. Caring for your fellow humans is one of the central values of Islam.
Like a mother cares for her children, a teacher wants her students to do well, and a Chef wants his patrons to enjoy his dishes, God, the creator wants his creation to live in harmony. God loves us all. We are his children (not literal).
Your best employee is the one who protects your business, property and safeguards its value. God is no different, he says the best ones among you are those who learn about each other (Quran 49:13) and care for each other.
Quran 16:93, “For, had God so willed, He could surely have made you all one single community; however, He lets go astray him that wills [to go wrong], and guides aright him that wills [to be guided]; and you will surely be called to account for all that you ever did!
God could have ordered his angels to start producing humans, (this works for those who believe in creation) with exact specifications; all men to be 6′ tall, 3″ high forehead, 200 pounds in weight, 36″ waist… and similarly women to 5.5″ in height and 130 pounds in weight and 32″ waist.
Imagine, if we were all exactly alike, the police would have difficulty in pinning down the wrong guy. The acts of loyalty, faithfulness, and love become robotic.
But what did he do instead? He chose to create each one of us to be unique being with his or her own thumb print, eye print, taste buds, religion buds, and the DNA.
Nothing God has created is alike.
Quran 49:13, “O men! Behold, We have created you all out of a male and a female, (I.e., “We have created every one of you out of a father and a mother.” Implying that this equality of biological origin is reflected in the fairness of the human dignity common to all) and have made you into nations and tribes so that you might come to know one another*. Verily, the noblest of you in the sight of God is the one who is most deeply conscious of Him. Behold, God is all-knowing, all-aware.
- One another – I.e., “know that all belong to one human family, without any inherent superiority of one over another (Zamakhshari). This connects with the appeal, in the preceding two verses, to respect and safeguard each other’s dignity. In other words, men’s evolution into “nations and tribes” is meant to foster rather than to diminish their mutual desire to understand and appreciate the essential human oneness underlying their outward differentiation; and, correspondingly, all racial, national or tribal prejudice is condemned – implicitly in the Qur’an, and most explicitly by the Prophet (last sermon). Besides, speaking of people’s boasting of their national or tribal past, the Prophet said: “Behold, God has removed from you the arrogance of ignorance (jahiliyyah) with its boast of ancestral glories. Man is but a God-conscious believer or an unfortunate sinner. All people are children of Adam, and Adam was created out of dust.” Muhammad Asad.
Based on the repeated assertions of the Quran about the existence of other faiths, and an acknowledgment that Islam is not a new religion. I would take the liberty to extrapolate in the above verse, that God has created us into different nations, tribes, communities, races, and faiths.
Prophet Muhammad strongly advocates of equality of races, gender and by extension beliefs in his last sermon. “All mankind is from Adam and Eve, an Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab; also, a white has no superiority over black nor a black has any superiority over white except by piety and good action.”
Respecting the otherness of the other.
Quran empowers its readers and subscribers with its infinite wisdom on Respecting the otherness of the other.
Quran 109:6, Lakum deenukum waliya deen (Arabic)
Unto you, your moral law, and unto me, mine! (Asad)
Unto you your religion, and unto me my faith. (Pickthall)
To you be your Way and to me mine. (Yusuf Ali)
For you is your way of life, and for me is my way of life. (Dr. Laleh Bakhtiar)
You follow your religion, and I follow mine. (Sarwar)
“Therefore, you worship whatever you desire, and I will worship none but God” (Bijan Moeinian)
Do you see the foul translation by Bijan Moeinian? None of the six verses in that chapter even allude to the idea that my faith is superior or better than yours as evidenced by many translations.
To fully comprehend this powerful verse about “Respecting the otherness of others,” please revisit the chapter Civil Dialogue in Islam. It also reminds me of a British pop song “You go your way and I’ll go mine” by Tina Charles.
Prophet Muhammad literally practiced the idea of “Respecting the otherness of the other.” The peace treaty of Mecca known as Suleh Hudaybiyyah is a great example.
Prophet Muhammad’s team and the Quraish team agreed upon all the terms of peace, and the document was prepared and presented for signature to Prophet Muhammad and Suhayl ibn Amr who was representing the Quraish community.
Suhayl objected to the signature item. He said the signatory is Muhammad and not Prophet Muhammad. He is no prophet.
Imagine the anger it may have generated in Hazrat Ali and Hazrat Umar, “How dare you say Muhammad is not the prophet?”
Suhayl said I know Muhammad, son of Abdullah, and I don’t recognize him to be a Prophet.
Prophet Muhammad, the pluralist, recognized the generation of conflict, he was a born peacemaker, and mitigating conflicts and nurturing goodwill ran through his veins.
He asked Ali to rewrite the signature line as Muhammad bin Abdullah, and Ali did not want to do that.
Muhammad probably explained to him, look, Ali, you believe that I am the Prophet, but Suhayl does not see it that way. Let’s respect the otherness of his other belief, and the Prophet got the line changed, and thus, the peace treaty was signed.
It is a powerful example of respecting the otherness of the others. It is comfortable to speak about the different models of the prophet than writing in a limited number of pages.
A big surprise for Muslims
A few Muslims may be shocked to learn how deeply pluralism is entrenched in Islam. They are afraid to acknowledge it and insist on claiming Islam is the only way acceptable to Allah. Islam is one of the many ways. Please know that, unless specified otherwise, all translations are taken from Muhammad Asad’s work.
[2:62] “Surely, those who believe, those who are Jewish, the Christians, and the converts; anyone who (1) believes in GOD, and (2) believes in the Last Day, and (3) leads a righteous life, will receive their recompense from their Lord. They have nothing to fear, nor will they grieve.”
[5:69] “Surely, those who believe, those who are Jewish, the converts, and the Christians; any of them who (1) believe in GOD and (2) believe in the Last Day, and (3) lead a righteous life, have nothing to fear, nor will they grieve.”
[22:17] “Those who believe, those who are Jewish, the converts, the Christians, the Zoroastrians, and the idol worshipers, GOD is the One who will judge among them on the Day of Resurrection. GOD witnesses all things.”
My fellow Muslims have not paid attention to the above verses, which are repeated in several chapters and several times, and a few of them are listed below. The fact that Islam is not an exclusive path to salvation or peace of mind is welcome. Let me assert, I am a Muslim, and the faith does to me what I want it to do for me, as your religion does to you. But, I will never claim Islam is the only way, Period.
“The above passage – which recurs in the Qur’an several times – lays down a fundamental doctrine of Islam. With an unparalleled breadth of vision. The idea of “salvation” is here made conditional upon three elements only: belief in God, belief in the Day of Judgment, and righteous action in life (Asad).” It is all about accountability of one’s action towards building a cohesive society. If all people spoke the truth, it takes the worry off the minds of people in judging people…….
Pluralism is merely an attitude of respecting the otherness of others and accepting the God-given uniqueness of each one his creation. Islam respectfully acknowledges the other faiths by name, at least five prevalent at the time of its origins: Judaism, Christianity, Paganism, Zoroastrianism, and Sabeans (generic). Quran clarifies that each faith was designed for people to walk on the path of righteousness while acknowledging the legitimacy of other religions.
When Hinduism, Zoroastrianism or Judaism evolved there was no other religion for them to acknowledge other faiths, during Christianity, other faiths existed, and during Islam, at least five beliefs lived.
Fanaticism has always been a part of humanity. However, it does not come from religion.
The message of the Quran is universal. According to the Quran, God Almighty rewards any righteous believer irrespective of the name of the religion. When Hinduism, Zoroastrianism or Judaism evolved there was no other religion for them to acknowledge, during Christianity, other faiths existed, and during Islam, at least five beliefs existed.
Prophet Muhammad may be the first individual to hold interfaith dialogue, as he had the opportunity to deal with several faiths. Jesus, Krishna, Zarathustra, and Moses did not have that luxury. Buddha had that opportunity, and I don’t know the extent of dialogue he had, but I know he went away from everyone to receive the nirvana under the Banyan tree.
The message of the Quran is universal. According to the Quran, God Almighty rewards any righteous believer irrespective of the name of the religion.
[1:1] In the name of GOD, Most Gracious, Most Merciful
This above verse is a dominant verse in all the 114 chapters of the Quran, and the very first verse in 113 sections highlighting the most critical aspect of God over anything else.
The Quran teaches us the correct concept on pluralism.
[2:136] Say, “We believe in GOD, and in what was sent down to us, and in what was sent down to Abraham, Ismail, Isaac, Jacob, and the Patriarchs; and in what was given to Moses and Jesus, and all the prophets from their Lord. We make no distinction among any of them. To Him alone we are submitters.”
According to the Quran, all human beings are born free, and equal in dignity and rights:
[17:70] We have honored the children of Adam, and provided them with rides on land and in the sea. We provided for them good provisions, and we gave them greater advantages than many of our creatures.
The Quran gives everyone the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion:
[2:256] There shall be no compulsion in religion: the right way is now distinct from the wrong way. Anyone who denounces the devil and believes in GOD has grasped the strongest bond; one that never breaks. GOD is Hearer, Omniscient.
[17:33] You shall not kill any person – for GOD has made life sacred – except in the course of justice. If one is killed unjustly, then we give his heir authority to enforce a judgment. Thus, he shall not exceed the limits in avenging the murder, he will be helped.
Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms without distinction of any kind:
Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing:
[2:143] We thus made you an impartial community, that you may serve as witnesses among the people, and the messenger serves as a witness among you.
The Quran gives everyone the right to own property alone as well as in association with others:
[2:05] As soon as he leaves, he roams the earth corruptingly, destroying properties and lives. GOD does not love corruption.
[4:29] O you who believe, do not consume each other’s properties illicitly – only mutually acceptable transactions are permitted. You shall not kill yourselves. GOD is Merciful towards you.
No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honor and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks:
The Quran teaches us not to distinguish among any of God’s messengers.
[2:285] The messenger has believed in what was sent down to him from his Lord, and so did the believers. They believe in GOD, His angels, His scripture, and His messengers: “We make no distinction among any of His messengers.” They say, “We hear, and we obey. * Forgive us, our Lord. To You is the ultimate destiny.”
[3:84] Say, “We believe in GOD, and in what was sent down to us, and in what was sent down to Abraham, Ismail, Isaac, Jacob, and the Patriarchs, and in what was given to Moses, Jesus, and the prophets from their Lord. We make no distinction among any of them. To Him alone we are submitters.”
[4:152] As for those who believe in GOD and His messengers, and make no distinction among them, He will grant them their recompense. GOD is Forgiver, Most Merciful.
[22:40] They were evicted from their homes unjustly, for no reason other than saying, “Our Lord is GOD.” If it were not for GOD’s supporting of some people against others, monasteries, churches, synagogues, and masjids – where the name of GOD is commemorated frequently – would have been destroyed. Absolutely, GOD supports those who support Him. GOD is Powerful, Almighty.
[42:13] The Quran acknowledges the common thread in all the divine messages when it says: “The same religion He has established for you as that which He enjoined on Noah – the which We have sent by inspiration to thee – and that which We enjoined on Abraham, Moses, and Jesus: Namely, that you should remain steadfast in religion, and make no divisions therein: to those who worship other things than Allah, hard is the (way) to which you call them. Allah chooses to Himself those whom He pleases, and guides to Himself those who turn (to Him).
Here is a 17 minutes video about Pluralism in Islam
Further verses are acknowledging the otherness of others.
Quran 5:44, “We have sent down the Torah, containing guidance and light. Ruling by the Jewish prophets, as well as the rabbis and the priests, as dictated to them in GOD’s scripture, and as witnessed by them. Therefore, do not reverence human beings; you shall reverence Me instead. And do not trade away My revelations for a low price. Those who do not rule following GOD’s revelations are the disbelievers.”
Quran 5:46, “After them, we sent Jesus, the son of Mary, confirming the previous scripture, the Torah. We gave him the Gospel containing guidance and light, and establishing the previous scriptures, the Torah, and augmenting its guidance and light, and to enlighten the righteous.
Quran 5:47, “The people of the Gospel shall rule following GOD’s revelations therein. Those who do not rule following GOD’s revelations are wicked.”
Quran 5:48, “Then we revealed to you this scripture, truthfully, confirming previous scriptures, and guarding them. You shall rule among them following GOD’s revelations, and do not follow their wishes if they differ from the truth that came to you. For each of you, we have decreed laws and different rites. Had GOD willed, He could have made you one congregation? But He thus puts you to the test through the revelations He has given each of you. You shall compete in righteousness. To GOD is your final destiny – all of you – then He will inform you of everything you had disputed.”
Indeed, the Quran continually calls on the readers (it is not Muslim specific) to avoid judging another people’s faith.
Quran 5:49, “You shall rule among them following GOD’s revelations to you. Do not follow their wishes, and beware lest they divert you from some of GOD’s revelations to you. If they turn away, then know that God wills to punish them for some of their sins. Indeed, many people are wicked.”
Quran 22:67, “For each congregation, we have decreed a set of rites that they must uphold. Therefore, they should not dispute with you. You shall continue to invite everyone to your Lord. Most assuredly, you are on the right path.”
Quran 2:112, “Indeed, those who submit themselves unconditionally to GOD alone, while leading a righteous life, will receive their recompense from their Lord; they have nothing to fear, nor will they grieve.
Quran 2:113, “The Jews said, “The Christians have no basis,” while the Christians said, “The Jews have no basis.” Yet, both of them read the scripture. Such are the utterances of those who possess no knowledge. GOD will judge them on the Day of Resurrection, regarding their disputes.”
One of the most common stupid statements some of the religious men and women make is this, “Our religion is the only religion that teaches the value of life,” and to beef it up, they add a lie, yes, it is a lie, “Other religions don’t teach this.” Let me assure you, it is not the religion, any religion for that matter, it’s the loose mouth of the clergy.
Quran 3:199, “Surely, some followers of the previous scriptures do believe in GOD, and in what was revealed to you, and in what was shown to them. They reverence GOD, and they never trade away GOD’s revelations for a low price. These will receive their recompense from their Lord. GOD is the most efficient in reckoning.
The bottom line for God is just this – he has given us the freedom to think, believe, speak, and act. He expects us to be righteous – and what I honest? It is the acts that keep the harmony of his creation intact. Name of the religion is immaterial, but the actions mean everything. Once again, I urge my fellow Muslims to understand the Quran and see everything in it as a sever critique, that is when your faith gets concreted with common sense.
Why Islam for me?
I was shopping for a religion that respected the otherness of others, cared for fellow humans, and had systems to build cohesive societies where no human had to live in apprehension or fear of the other. Where no one had to feel insecure about his or her race, faith, ethnicity, gender, or other uniqueness. A religion which was built on feeling, believing and treating fellow humans as equals.
I chose Islam, not because it is better or superior to any faith, but because it fits in the criteria of the religion I was shopping for and much of my focus of the study was Islam. We chose things in life because we learn about them, get to know them and like them. Some of us never get to see another faith, and they are happy with it, and why not? Personally, my comfort zones are in the Unitarian Universalist, Bahai, and Buddhist traditions sans rituals, and Atheism with spirituality. Other faiths are equally good, but I did not spend much time learning them. I could have been a Hindu, Jew or a Christian if knew the religion as they do. The story is the same whether it is our clothing, vehicles, homes, movies and even the spouse! We chose we because we knew or like them.
Please note that no religion is superior, they are all excellent system that works for its followers.
Here is a clue to learn about a religion, any religion.
By allowing myself to hear and ‘welcome’ criticism of Islam, Allah, Prophet, and Quran, I have learned more about Islam first hand. I am glad I dumped much of the traditional scholars take on Islam, which was not the Islam Prophet Muhammad Practiced.
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) preached systems that respected the otherness of other religions. He was a mercy to fellow humans, and by God, he was a kinder and gentler soul to fellow humans. When a Hadith says, Muhammad cursed the wrongdoers, I don’t believe it, he would not do that. I know him as a person. The Hadith is fake, and I reject it.
The acceptance of the other faiths.
Quran 10:47, “Now every community has had an apostle; and only after their apostle has appeared [and delivered his message] is judgment passed on them, in all equity; and never are they wronged.”
The words apostle, prophet, messenger get entangled in definitions, so, I would use the more generic word, Peacemakers, to include a broad range of individuals whose goal is to bring order to the society and keep peace and harmony.
“This verse stresses (a) the continuity of religious revelation in mankind’s history and the fact that in the long run no community, period or civilization (which latter is one of the meanings attributable to the term ummah) has been left without prophetic guidance. And (b) the doctrine that God does not punish “a community for its wrongdoing so long as its people are still unaware [of the meaning of right and wrong]: for all shall be judged according to their [conscious] deeds.” Muhammad Asad.
All things material and social have a built-in capacity for self-correction or destruction, it is an exercise of free will. In Bhagavad Gita, Lord Krishna says, when things go out of control in the society, that is no one trusts each other, and everyone lives in apprehension, then someone from among them emerges to restore the righteousness (aka Dharma).
Quran 16:36, “And indeed, within every community and at every time in human history, we have We raised up an apostle [entrusted with this message]: “Worship God, and shun the powers of evil!” (Asad: It is to be borne in mind that, in Quranic terminology, “worship of God” invariably implies the concept of man’s sense of responsibility before Him: hence, the above commandment comprises, in the most concise formulation imaginable, the sum-total of all ethical injunctions and prohibitions, and is the basis and source of all morality as well as the one unchanging message inherent in every true religion.)
And among those [past generations] were people whom God graced with His guidance, just as there was among them [many a one] who inevitably fell prey to grievous error. (one whose heart “God has sealed” in consequence of his persistent, conscious refusal to submit to His guidance ) go, then, about the earth and behold what happened in the end to those who gave the lie to the truth! “
Quran, 14:4 (Asad), “AND NEVER have We sent forth any apostle otherwise than [with a message] in his own people’s tongue, so that he might make [the truth] clear unto them; (Since every divine writ was meant to be understood by man, it is obvious that each had to be formulated in the language of the people whom the particular prophet was addressing in the first instance. The Qur’an – notwithstanding its universal import (cf. note 126 on 7:158) – is no exception in this respect) but God lets go astray him that wills [to go astray], and guides him that wills [to be guided] -for He alone is almighty, truly wise ( man’s “going astray” is a consequence of his own attitudes and inclinations and not a result of an arbitrary “predestination” in the broader sense of this word).
Quran 34:28, “NOW [as for thee, O Muhammad,] We have not sent thee otherwise than to mankind at large, to be a herald of glad tidings and a warner; but most people do not understand [this],”
Quran asserts that no faith or individual is superior. Let me add a note that, several traditional Muslim scholars have narrowly interpreted the verses to mean, “Islam is the only religion acceptable to God.” Islam in this context is a generic word to say a social system to create cohesive societies and not Islam as identified as a politically identifiable unit. Thanks to Rabbi Gerry Serotta for rectifying the misunderstood belief that Jews are the chosen people, it means they are selected to do a specific task, like Tikkun Olam, i.e., restore the harmony in the society, and not the arrogance that they are superior.
Arrogance among Jews, Muslims and others who interpret their religions narrowly, and not as a universal system is still there. Imagine the compound effect if all Muslims and all Jews believed that their faith is exclusive and superior? There would have forced conversions. Neither faith believes in compelling others to think against their will.
Quran 2:136 (Asad), “We believe in God, and in that which has been bestowed from on high upon us, and that which has been bestowed upon Abraham and Ishmael and Isaac and Jacob and ,their descendants, and that which has been vouchsafed to Moses and Jesus; and that which has been vouchsafed to all the [other] prophets by their Sustainer: we make no distinction between any of them (“we regard them all as true prophets of God). And it is unto Him that we surrender ourselves.”
Islam is about respecting the dignity of every human. Islam is about being truthful, justice, reliability, caring, respectful, just fair, merciful and trustworthy.
Islam is not about governance, ruling, conquering or converting others. The conqueror Kings may have called themselves Muslims, Christians, Jews, Hindus or others. In reality, they were greedy men hell-bent on extending their powers and accumulating wealth. They had nothing to do with the religion.
Islam is about finding peace within and with others.
Islam is about mitigating conflicts and nurturing goodwill.
Over the years, I have taken on the Islamophobes, and ex-Muslims who have an ax-to-grind but was able to get them to see the Islam they did not know before, even though they did not agree, but they understood there are two Islams.
My faith works for me as other people’s faith works for others, just as equally. My hope does not have to be superior to others nor other religions have to be inferior to mine, to me is my faith to them is their faith.
If it is not common sense, then it is not Islam. Indeed, Islam is deeply rooted in pluralism.