By Dr. Raja Muhammad Khan
The first ever Islamic State of Madina, established by the Holy Prophet (PBUH) himself was a classic example of accommodating the interests of the people from all faiths and religions; from Christianity to Judaism and Islam. In the subsequent history of Islam; during the Umayyads in Spain and the Abbasid rule in Baghdad, Christians and Jews were given equal treatment in all sphere of life including education in schools and universities at the state expense. History also witnessed that, “the Muslim empire was a refuge for all those who fled from persecution by the inquisition.” In the over 800 years rule of the Muslims in the Sub-continent, the rights of the non-Muslims were not only protected, but some of them were elevated to the level not held even by ruling Muslim class. Indeed, irrespective of the class, colour, creed, or social status, there is no parallel of Islam with reference to promoting the interfaith harmony.
While conceptualizing, the interfaith harmony means “a cooperative and positive interaction between people of different religions, traditions, faiths, and spiritual or humanistic beliefs,” at the individual and institutional level. Overall the aim of this harmony is to derive a common ground “belief through a concentration on similarities between faiths, understanding of values, and commitment to the world.” The bottom line is the promotion of the understanding between various religions to enhance acceptance of each other. As summarized by Professor Dr. Hans Kung, “There will be no peace among the nations without peace among the religions. There will be no peace among the religions without dialogue among the religions.”
Unfortunately, under the current global scenario, the very concept of interfaith harmony is facing serious threats to its survival. The ongoing global war on terror is one such example. It is generally perceived that, this war is against Muslim extremists. The discriminatory acts taken against Muslims results into enhancement of extremism. Discriminatory treatment with Muslims in the US and West, through individual or group events like; the attempt made by nondenominational church in Gainesville, Florida, to host an “International Burn a Quran Day” on September 11, 2010, seriously hurt the emotions of the Muslims. Although, the US Government foiled the incident, yet, maliciously, the handful people of Christian community associated with the Dove World Outreach Centre believe that, perhaps, the Muslims are responsible for the incident of 9/11. Whereas, the fact remains, that, still there is lot of assumptions, as who planned and executed the unfortunate incident.
As clear from the teaching of Holy Quran, and the life of Holy Prophet (PBUH), Islam as religion does not allow the violence. In Islam, killing an innocent human being is equal to killings of the whole humanity, therefore, how the killings of thousands of the people of WTC could be attributed to Islam or its followers. In this regards, Quran says; “We ordained for the Children of Israel that if anyone slew a person?unless it be for murder or for spreading mischief in the land? it would be as if he slew the whole people: and if anyone saved a life it would be as if he saved the life of the whole people. Then although there came to them Our Messengers with clear Signs, yet even after that many of them continued to commit excesses in the land. The punishment of those who wage war against Allah and His Messenger, and strive with might and main for mischief through the land is: execution, or crucifixion or the cutting off of hands and feet from opposite sides, or exile from the land: that is their disgrace in this world, and a heavy punishment is theirs in the Hereafter.”
The Muslims, however, believe that Islam, Christianity, and Judaism are three forms of the same religion of Abraham. The basic teachings of all these forms are the promotion of peace and love among the human beings. The Holy Quran, the last massage of the God clearly says; “O mankind! We have created you male and a female; and we have made you into nations and tribes so that you may know one another.” The teaching of another Divine Book, the Holy Bible are; “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” Similarly, “The whole of the Torah is for the purpose of promoting peace.” While believing on the teaching of all these Divine Books, one would learn that all give the message of peace and harmony. Since there is no concept of the hate or violence in any of these forms of the basic religion; therefore, waging a war against the Muslims in the garb of terrorism; a term still remaining undefined, is discriminatory and unjust.
In order to remove misgivings of the other faiths, the custodian of two Holy Mosques of Islam, King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz of Saudi Arabia while addressing an Interfaith Conference in the United Nations on November 13, 2008, said that, “Throughout history, preoccupation with differences between the followers of religions and cultures has engendered intolerance, causing devastating wars and considerable bloodshed without any sound logical or ideological justification. It is high time for us to learn from the harsh lessons of the past and concur on the ethics and ideals in which we all believe. Terrorism and criminality are the enemies of every religion and every civilization. They would not have appeared except for the absence of the principle of tolerance.” US President, Barack Obama, while reiterating the King’s assertions, said during his address in the Cairo University on June 4, 2009, that, “We meet at a time of great tension between the United States and Muslims around the world — tension rooted in historical forces that go beyond any current policy debate. The relationship between Islam and the West includes centuries of coexistence and cooperation, but also conflict and religious wars. More recently, tension has been fed by colonialism that denied rights and opportunities to many Muslims.” Admitting the services of Islam and Muslims towards humanity without any discrimination, President Obama said that, “The United States has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquillity of Muslims.”
In fact, the “world is under social, religious and civilization’s wars that ultimately take world away from human values and weakening the social bindings among the all human beings. It has become a huge threat for all human beings lest, these racism, religious; civilizations’ wars devastate the world. Therefore, it is a big need to bridge the social, religious and civil gaps among the human beings so that they come closer to each other and understand the other creeds and religions.” Indeed, Islam is a religion of “moderation and tolerance, a message that calls for constructive dialogue among followers of religions, a message that promises to open a new chapter for humanity in which, God willing, concord will replace conflict.” At this critical juncture of the history, there is need of more interfaith harmony than impairing it.