By WordForPeace.com Correspondent
“At a time when a complete theology of exclusivism has been propunded in a well-thought-out, well-worked-out manner, it is highly important to highlight the Quranic paradigm of religious pluralism and inclusivism. It is highly important to highlight the Quranic idea that religious pluralism and inclusivism is the desire and design of the Devine.”
These points were made by the classical Islamic scholar, Ghulam Rasool Dehlvi in the National Conference on Pluralism and Peaceful Coexistence in India at Jamia’s Centre for Peace and Conflict Resolution. In his paper, he quoted these Qur’anic verses speaking for Pluralism and Peaceful Coexistence:
لاَ إِكْرَاهَ فِى الدِّينِ قَد تَّبَيَّنَ الرُّشْدُ مِنَ الْغَيِّ
Translation: “There is no compulsion in the religion. The right course has become clear from the wrong.” [2:256]
وَلَوْ شَاءَ رَبُّكَ لَآمَنَ مَن فِي الْأَرْضِ كُلُّهُمْ جَمِيعًا أَفَأَنتَ تُكْرِهُ النَّاسَ حَتَّى يَكُونُوا مُؤْمِنِينَ
Translation: “And if your Lord willed, all those who are in the earth – everyone of them – would have accepted faith; so will you (O dear Prophet) force the people to become Muslims? (10:99)”
إِنَّكَ لَا تَهْدِي مَنْ أَحْبَبْتَ وَلَٰكِنَّ اللَّهَ يَهْدِي مَن يَشَاءُ ۚ وَهُوَ أَعْلَمُ بِالْمُهْتَدِينَ
Translation: “Surely you cannot guide whom you love, but Allah guides whom He pleases, and He knows best the followers of the right way (28:56)”
وَمَا كَانَ لِنَفْسٍ أَنْ تُؤْمِنَ إِلَّا بِإِذْنِ اللَّهِ ۚ وَيَجْعَلُ الرِّجْسَ عَلَى الَّذِينَ لَا يَعْقِلُونَ
Translation: “No soul can believe, except by the will of Allah, and He will place doubt (or obscurity) on those who will not understand.” (10:100)
Mr. Dehlvi said: Much against these clear and categorical Quranic principles, the entire corpus of exclusivist theology was written in Muslim territories against a background of war and strong political tensions. These, at times, found expressions linguistically in the use of medival Islamic terminologies such as Dar-ul-Islam (land of belief), Dar-ul-kufr (land of disbelief) and Dar-ul-Harb (land of war). These exclusivist theological terms and dichotomous Islamist worldviews are reflective of the binary division of the world by those employing them to further their political, imperialist and expansionist objectives.
But this exclusivist theology has always been contested by the progressive Islamic thinkers. For instance, Fathullah Gulen, an Islamic scholar well-known for his theories of dialog and pluralism, theorised: “The modern world cannot be categorized into either Darul Islam, or Darul Kufr or Darul Harb. The entire world is rather, Darul Khidmah (land of service)”.
In India, Islamic scholars like Maulana Hussain Ahmad Madani and Maulvi Chiragh Ali came up with the idea of Darul Mua’ahda (land of peace treaty), Darul Sulh (land of reconciliation) and Darul Amn (land of peace). In contrast, the medieval Islamic terminologies such as Dar-ul-Islam (land of belief), Dar-ul-kufr (land of disbelief) and Dar-ul-Harb (land of war) were coined in Muslim territories took place against a background of war and strong political tensions.
This national conference was held by Jamia Millia Islamia’s Nelson Mandela Centre for Peace and Conflict Resolution, in collaboration with the Interfaith Foundation India organized at the Conference Hall of Fakhruddin T. Khorakiwala Centre for Information Technology to deliberate on the complex relationship between religiosity, identity and politics in historical and contemporary times; and to analyze the various pluralist traditions in different religions.
The theme of the first session was “Philosophy, Religion and Peace” and was chaired by Prof. M.M. Verma, President of the Interfaith Foundation of India, New Delhi. Shri John Dayal, the Secretary-General of All India Christian Council stressed upon the contextual examination of religious identity. In presenting his study of heterodox Buddhist philosophy, Dr Ajay Verma analyzed the Buddhist notion of the rejection of metaphysical basis of objective identities for creating cultures of dialogue. Dr Tanweer Fazal’s thoroughly analytical paper entitled “Does Islam Preach Terrorism?” sought a purposeful analysis that seeks to construct a prognosis cognizant of the temporal aspects of the problem and does not de-historicize Islam and terror like their prevailing conceptualizations. Shri Arif Mohammad Khan concluded the first session by underlining the concept of the universal dignity of mankind in the light of Quran and Sunnah.
The second session was chaired by the eminent legal scholar and author Prof. Tahir Mahmood and its theme was “Pluralism within Indian Democracy.” Prof. Zoya Hasan analyzed the change in the meaning of secularism in the light of contemporary electoral politics in India and its repercussions in the domain of pluralist practices and minority rights. Prof. Meenakshi Gopinath highlighted the efforts of women in peacebuilding and their marginalization. Furthermore, she sought to foreground the role of socialization of women in bringing a different sensibility to the peace table that offers the possibility of moving from “dialogue to ‘multi-logue’ and sustainable campaigning for constructing structural peace. The second session was concluded by Prof. Anand Kumar who emphasized on the relevance of studying Gandhi as a ‘pragmatic-idealistic’ manual for positive and sustainable nation-building.
The Student’s Symposium, the last session of the conference, was chaired by Prof. Tasneem Meenai, Director of the Nelson Mandela Centre for Peace and Conflict Resolution JMI, during which students from several departments and centres of the University presented their research papers to an engaging audience. Prof. Meenai expressed the hope thatIndia’s rich and diverse cultural and religious heritage could be harnessed towards promoting peaceful coexistence.
Prof. S. M. Sajid, former Pro Vice-Chancellor JMI, reminded the audience that the University was born out of the freedom movement of India and is a site that celebrates its legacy and incessantly strives to preserve the same.
The conference concluded with the resolve of both the organizers and the participants towards a long-term and sustained discourse in the direction to bring about meaningful and sustainable change.