Building Interfaith Bridges

Category: Americas, Faith & Spirituality, Life & Society Topics: Interfaith Views: 4666

Once the American Muslim community rarely ventured out of the confines of Islamic centers, yet interfaith communication has now become an essential part of its activities, at the local and national level. 

This became abundantly clear following the 9/11 attacks, when Muslims realized their larger responsibility of communicating and collaborating with the broader American community. 

Judaism, Christianity and Islam are united in their acceptance of the Abrahamic faith, and consider it as the source of inspiration and guidance for human life. The faith inherited from Abraham has monotheism as its pivotal center. 

The three faiths profess one God as the Creator of the universe and man, who is active in history but separated from it, and is the judge of man's actions, and has spoken to man through the prophets. 

Despite doctrinal differences, this commonality of faith and its correlates is of such importance that Muslims, Jews and Christians could speak together in an atmosphere of understanding and friendship, since they are all "believers in the same God." 

As such, they could join hands to guide and enlighten others on the essentiality of faith, and work united to further the causes of humanity. 

The Quran gives Jews and Christians the honorific title of "People of the Scripture," and Muslims are required to respect their faiths. The Quran admonishes: "And argue not with the People of the Scripture except in a way that is better" (29:46). 

Muslims have a firm belief that the Gospels are a Scripture revealed by God. That Moses and Jesus are God's beloved messengers who endured untold sufferings to disseminate His message. That the mother of Jesus, Mary, was chosen by God to be the most honorable among women. 

Indeed, a chapter of the Quran is named after the Virgin Mary, while none is named after Khadijah, the wife of Prophet Muhammad, or his daughter Fatimah, or his mother, Aminah. 

Furthermore, verses in the Quran describe many of the miracles by Jesus that are not found in the Gospels. 

Following 9/11, as Muslims feared, the biased media, controlled by special interest groups, and the Christian conservatives came out spewing vitriol at them and their faith. This suited the neo-conservatives with their hegemonic designs and establishing a domineering world empire. 

Given this, various Islamic organizations in the United States such as the Islamic Society of North America, the Islamic Circle of North America, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the American Muslim Council, and the Muslim Public Affairs Council met with Christian leaders to arrange interfaith meetings. 

Their efforts materialized when organizations, such as the New York-based National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A., adopted a resolution on Sept. 28, 2001, stating that Christian and Muslim religious workers will work together in monthly meetings to become more sensitive to Muslims and provide accurate information on Islam. 

Following the attacks on Islam and American Muslims by evangelist preacher Franklin Graham and the degrading remarks on Prophet Mohammed by Jerry Vines, former head of the Southern Baptist Church, and televangelists Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell, the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. immediately condemned these statements, saying they were "not only factually untrue and offensive, but also dangerous to the national security of every nation where Christians and Muslims are seeking a peaceful relation." 

 

Siraj Mufti, Ph.D., is a researcher and free-lance journalist.


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  11 Comments   Comment

  1. Kris from Malaysia

    Assalamualaikum wrbt and greetings to all.

    Again I wish to response to Christopher Ward's question. I don't have the answer now Chris.

    But rest assured that I call upon Muslims to agree with interfaith meetings if the aim is to correct misconceptions on all sides, be it Muslims, Jews and Christians.

    Please remember that the Prophet Muhammad ( peace be upon him ) had a sense of respect for the people of the Book during his Prophetic lifetime. In fact at one occassion, the Prophet ( p.b.u.h ) had offered the mosque to be used as a prayer for a group of visiting Christians. Isn't that respect of a high degree ?

    Please Brothers and sisters in Islam, use whatever means available to have a good cexisting relationship between various faith. It would be of no loss to all of us. Yes, I understand the sufferings worldwide. But we have to examine those causes separately then and not use it as a reason to refuse a series of good dialogues.

    Wassalam.

    Regards,

  2. Kris from Malaysia

    Assalamualaikum wrbt and greetings to all.

    I agree with the good intentions to have dialogues with the people of the Book. Never mind, it is expected that they would have their side of their opinions. In spreading the message of the truth, Muslims only need to fear ALLAH and not others.

    Such dialogues should be held in a conducive atmosphere and must not be confrantational. It doesn't matter on their acceptance or non-acceptance of our message. We are there to speak out the truth, at least if GOD ask upon us in the Day of Judgment what have we done to spread HIS Message, at least we will be able to say that we have tried.

    Wassalam.

    Regards,

    Kris

  3. Andrew from Canada

    Assalam u'alaikum, He made a mistake in the article he said "Muslims have a firm belief that the Gospels are a Scripture revealed by God." this is not true, Muslims accept the Injeel(gospel) revealed to Jesus, we do not accept the Gospels of 4 unknown authors.

  4. Jibreel from U.S.of A.

    Assalamu alaykum,

    I am against this people who call for interfaith meetings and such, for the simple reason that they tend to sugar-coat our deen and sometimes twisting words in order to please the people of the book. It is true that as Muslims we do believe that the injil and Torah were reveled by Allah (SWT), who whould question that, but to say or make it sound like we agree that what the people of the book have today is what was reveled by the Creator, please! They have altered their books. I have seen these interfaith meetings on TV and it involves Muslims attending christian services, which involve shirk, in order for them to see that we are open minded people. One thing is to be open minded, the other to participate in services that involve shirk. So brothers don't compromise your deen in order to please anyone. Since the people of the boook will not be pleased until you believe what they believe.

  5. ahmed asgher from bahrain

    Hi CHristopher Ward: Just as many today argue about whose God is right or worng, in days of Prophet Mohammad p.b.u.h. the same happened, since there were already Christians, Jews and others. So, Allah is instructing His Prophet and thereby the rest of his (Muslim) followers not to argue with The People of the Book except in the best of manners - i.s. hold a constructive talk to find common grounds in the three Abrahamic faiths, as shown by the rest of the injunction - posted by brother Yahya here in the earlier psoting - that God is one and all the 3 religions are from the same source. Now people may have other ideas and that is purely because of their free-will which should be respeted, as the final judge is God. It is like saying all source of daylight is the sun. It matters not if there are those who disagree. The source remains the same and the soul knows yet the body denies it. Peace.

  6. Yahya Bergum from USA

    Christopher Ward, peace be with you. I am about to make a wild guess. I am guessing that you are actually not all that confused about the meaning of Qur'an 29:46. My guess is that you are actually more confused about why Muslims would appear disinclined to be caught by that net by which you had been caught. So then, how close was my guess?

    Please consider Mark 9:41 -- and then perhaps consider why you might feel it is essential for me to believe exactly as you believe. Would it not be enough to remind me to heed the Qur'an, if you happened to agree with something the Qur'an said, even if you were unaware of (perhaps) inviting me to believe as you believe? I am grateful for your attempts at interfaith dialogue.

    [Qur'an 29:46] And dispute ye not with the People of the Book, except with means better (than mere disputation), 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 Allah and your Allah is one; and it is to Him we bow (in Islam)." --- Yusuf Ali

    [Qur'an 29:46] And argue not with the People of the Scripture except in a way that is best, except for those who commit injustice among them, and say, "We believe in that which has been revealed to us and revealed to you. And our God and your God is one; and we are Muslims [in submission] to Him." --- Saheeh International

    [Mark 9:41] "For truly, I say to you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ, will by no means lose his reward." --- Revised Standard Version

  7. shuja moore from u.s.a.

    Just briefly, I want to state that yes, Islam, Christianity, and Judaism, began from the same source, that is the Prophet Ibrahim(as). However, when it comes to the Gospels ,as we know them today, I question the authenticity of these writings as they relate to the actual statements of Isa (as) and as they relate to the actual message of Isa.

  8. Christopher Ward from USA

    1. this commonality of faith and its correlates is of such importance that Muslims, Jews and Christians could speak together in an atmosphere of understanding and friendship, since they are all "believers in the same God."

    I do agree we should speak and not argue together in this atmosphere with friendship. However, I am not sure what "The Quran admonishes: "And argue not with the People of the Scripture except in a way that is better" (29:46)" really means. If the Quran holds the true religion and Christians have been fooled would Muslims not then have to argue with us about God all the time? I am not sure what this quote is suppose to mean. Could anyone explain further?

    2. Following 9/11, as Muslims feared, the biased media, controlled by special interest groups, and the Christian conservatives came out spewing vitriol at them and their faith.

    I completely agree that wether the vitroil is factually correct or not, spewing it is not a Christian thing to do. A fisherman how pounds the water with anger will not catch many fish.

    What needs to occur is a peaceful council in which Muslim and Christian leaders get together face to face and talk out their differences. There are many questions each side has and many misconceptions that can truly only be solved in this manner.

  9. Yahya Bergum from USA

    Allah (subhanahu wa ta'ala) ---- i.e., God ([whose alone is the Glory]) ---- knew what the Trinitarian Christians had, by that point in time, come to believe was the Gospel when, in Qur'an 5:47, Allah (i.e., God) told the Christians to judge according to the Gospel. Incidentally, in the Yusuf Ali, Pickthall and Saheeh International translations of the Qur'an, Qur'an 5:47 is in the present tense -- only in the Shakir translation is Qur'an 5:47 in the past tense -- indicating that, in at least three well-respected English translations of the Qur'an, Christians should (still) be doing do this. Note also that, in Qur'an 4:171, Allah (i.e., God) told the Christians to stop being Trinitarians.

    Now then, with all due respect, Matthew 18:18 appears to be telling Christians that at least some of the Christians have (or perhaps once had) the authority to change Allah's (i.e., God's) rules, as the occasion would appear to warrant. Also, Matthew 28:9 reports that at least a few of Christ's disciples worshipped Jesus Christ (upon whom be peace) without being admonished for having done so. Actually, Muslims might be surprised by just how many Christians have expressed mixed emotions concerning those verses.

    Note that I myself had previously read the New Testament before ever studying the Qur'an. I am especially therefore not in a position to know what is best for Muslims who have not done similarly. My suggestion would be to perhaps tell Christians that Muslims have been warned about fundamental differences between the Gospels and the Qur'an (differences which do indeed appear to exist). Beyond that, I would simply suggest that Muslims avoid offending Christians by presuming to know what they themselves have never actually read -- insha'Allah (i.e., God willing).

    Assalamu alaikum (i.e., peace be with you -- i.e., Peace be unto you -- i.e., Shalom Aleichem).

  10. Ahmad Wahid Zaman from USA

    I almost always read scholarly articles written by Dr. Siraj Islam Mufti for the purposes of benefit of Muslims and other peoples of this globe. This article is no exception to that. I like to comment only on one point, which I strongly believe a innocent mistake by Dr. Mufti. Dr. Mufti wrote, "Muslims have a firm belief that the Gospels are a Scripture revealed by God.". This is a very serious mistake and misunderstanding on the part of Muslims in general and Dr. Mufti in particular. In the Holy Qur'aan, God mentions that He (God) has revealed to prophet Jesus only (Isa, peace be upon him) the "Injil (means good news) and Taurat (Torah, law) to prophet Moses (peace be upon him). But it is almost an unanimous agreement among Bible scholars that the New Testament of the Christian Bible do not contain the revealed words of God to Jesus (peace be upon) rather it contain Gospels of Mark, Luke, Mathew and John and others which are the stories of those anonymous authors (mostly) about Jesus (peace be upon him). There are some sayings of Jesus here and there in the four gospels and others books of New Testament. And importantly, when Qur'aan mentions about "Injil"(gospel) it always describes in singular term never in pleural terms (gospels) which the New Testament really is. So, the Gospels of New Testament are light years away from the "Injil" or "Gospel of Jesus" as described by Qur'aan. I think Muslims must take special precautions while talking about this matter. Because this is the area where Muslims are deceived by Christian missionaries due to ignorance of Muslims. Same holds true for Taurat (Torah) revealed to prophet Moses, peace be upon him). Taurat as described by Qur'aan is the law given to prophet Moses, not the " Five Books of Moses or Pentateuch" as present in the Old Testament portion of Bible. So, I will request our Muslim brothers and sisters to take special precautions when dealing with this subject matters.

  11. Yahya Bergum from USA

    In the second paragraph, might I respectfully suggest saying something more like "communicating with and encouraging the broader American community" in place of saying "communicating and collaborating with the broader American community?" With all due respect, the suggestion of "collaborating" possibly derails an otherwise fine article. Even "cooperating" would seem a better choice, given the current political climate.

    Also, I would suggest that the significance for Christians of "the table" (Quran 5:112-115) is not so much that it is a miracle not reported within the four Canonical Gospels but rather, in my opinion, that it is a warning about asking and receiving something extraordinary from Allah (i.e., God) and then casually slipping back into error again.

    Assalamu alaikum / Shalom Aleichem / Peace be unto you.