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Ghulam Rasool Dehlvi on Qur’anic Approach to Inter-Faith Dialogue

The Holy Quran includes several verses aimed at fostering inter-faith dialogue between the world's various religious communities.

I believe the most redeeming feature of Islam is that it is a religion that is all-inclusive. A Muslim, without differentiating between all of them, is one who believes in God and all his books and messengers. As many world-renowned traditionalists have recorded, one of the brightest aspects of the Prophet ‘s teachings is that he commanded his followers to embrace all other prophets and books.

“All of them have believed in Allah and His angels and His books and His messengers, [saying], “We make no distinction between any of His messengers.”(2:285)

This unique and glorious aspect of Islam is generally overlooked not only by non-Muslims but also by many adherents of Islam. A Muslim does not pick or choose with respect to religion. Rather, he or she is entitled to recognise each of the injunctions of God and follow them. The mere lack of faith in any messenger or book of God, according to Islamic doctrine, is tantamount to heresy. In other words, in the Quranic view, a Muslim who accepts only one or certain parts of God’s mandate is not a Muslim:

“O you who have believed, believe in Allah and His Messenger and the Book that He sent down upon His Messenger and the Scripture which He sent down before. And whoever disbelieves in Allah, His angels, His books, His messengers, and the Last Day has certainly gone far astray.” (4:136)

 Qur’anic Approach to Inter-Faith Dialogue

The Holy Quran has, in reality, put forth an idea of universal religious harmony and inter-faith dialogue in such clear, strong and unequivocal terms. Since the idea of universalism is enshrined in the Quran’s fundamental teachings and basic message, we cannot do away with it any cost. But only when we show genuine acceptance and sincere openness to others do we realise it. The very wider definition of acceptance and big-heartedness is the foundation of the Qur’anic approach to inter-faith dialogue.

The Holy Quran includes several verses aimed at fostering inter-faith dialogue between the world’s various religious communities. In dealing with a multi-religious world, Islam has instructed Muslims to follow peaceful methods and ways. This is exactly why, in the Holy Quran, inter-faith dialogue is so highly emphasised and greatly valued. Some main verses describing the Qur’anic approach to inter-faith dialogue are provided below:


“Call unto the way of thy Lord with wisdom and fair exhortation, and hold discourse with them in the finest manner”. (16:125)

“And do not hold discourse with the People of the Book except in that which is finest, except with those who do wrong. And say: We believe in that which has been revealed to us and revealed to you. Our God and your God is one, and unto Him we surrender”. (29:46)

The ‘People of the Book,’ the Jews and Christians, are specifically listed here, but the boundaries defining this category are flexible and not fixed. Within this category, which thus comes to embrace the whole of humanity, all revealed religions may be put, provided that no human community has been deprived of revelation. The following verses uphold this key premise of dialogue, stressing the inner unity of the message of religion per se, on one hand, and the outer diversity of the forms clothing this unique message, on the other:

• “For every community there is a Messenger” (10:47)

• “For each of you [communities] We have established a Law and a Way. And had God willed, He could have made you one community. But in order that He might try you by that which He has given you [He has made you as you are]. So vie with one another in good works. Unto God you will all return, and He will inform you of that about which you differed”. (5:48)

• “And We never sent a messenger except with the language of his people, so that he might make [Our message] clear to them”. (14:4)

• Truly We inspire you, as We inspired Noah, and the prophets after him, as We inspired Abraham and Ishmael and Isaac and Jacob and the tribes, and Jesus and Job and Jonah and Aaron and Solomon, and as We bestowed unto David the Psalms; and Messengers We have mentioned to you before, and Messengers We have not mentioned to you. (4:163–164)

• And We sent no Messenger before you but We inspired him [saying]: There is no God except Me, so worship Me. (21:25)

• Naught is said unto you [Muhammad] but what was said unto the Messengers before you. (41:43)

“And dispute ye not with the People of the Book, except with means better, unless it be with those of them who inflict wrong (and injury): but say, “We believe in the revelation which has come down to us and in that which came down to you; Our God and your God is one; and it is to Him we bow” (21:46)

“Those who believe (in the Qur’an), and those who follow the Jewish (scriptures), and the Christians and the Sabians,- any who believe in God and the Last Day, and work righteousness, shall have their reward with their Lord; on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve” (1:62)

“To thee We sent the Scripture in truth, confirming the scripture that came before it, and guarding it in safety: so judge between them by what God hath revealed, and follow not their vain desires, diverging from the Truth that hath come to thee. To each among you have we prescribed a law and an open way? If God had so willed, He would have made you a single people, but (His plan is) to test you in what He hath given you: so strive as in a race in all virtues. The goal of you all is to God; it is He that will show you the truth of the matters in which ye dispute”. (6:48)

“Revile not ye those whom they call upon besides God, lest they out of spite revile God in their ignorance. Thus have We made alluring to each people its own doings. In the end will they return to their Lord, and We shall then tell them the truth of all that they did”. (7:108).

“We only send the apostles to give Glad Tidings and to give warnings: But the unbelievers dispute with vain argument, in order therewith to weaken the truth, and they treat My Signs as a jest, as also the fact that they are warned!” (15:56).

“Say: “O People of the Book! Come to common terms as between us and you…..”(3:64)

With such clear, unambiguous, and unambiguous Qur’anic declarations for interfaith dialogue, Muslim clerics around the world are still wavering whether or not to participate in interfaith dialogue, or whether or not to do so in Islamic Sharia is permissible. In order to overcome the challenges and consequences of a global inter-faith dialogue, they have terribly struggled to bring forward a universally coherent formula. The Qur’an has enjoined upon them to bring out the best of their religion that not only the Muslim Ummah can benefit from, but to a greater extent, the entire world could emulate to build a more promising future. But their collective efforts on this ground seem to be abysmally nil.

Nevertheless, some Islamic organisations and Muslim clerics are engaged in global efforts to promote inter-faith harmony, but they seem to be extra-careful in their approach and lay certain methodological conditions before entering any form of religious dialogue, thus impeding the way to a broader and more inclusive notion of inter-faith dialogue, as described in the ideology of the Qur’an.

It is high time that both Ulema and non-madrasa Islamic scholars come up with a crystal clear definition for inter-faith dialogue and outline their pre-conditions, approaches and methodologies in full accordance with the Quranic enunciations for inter-faith harmony.

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