Salam Alaikum. Peace be upon you. It’s a pleasure for me to be here and to talk about the topic of religion which is essential for our interreligious faith discussion tonight. Foremost the topic questions are not ordinary and do require series of deep thinking that I’ll try to respond to simply with the little that I know and understand. Whatever mistake I make should be from me and whatever truth should be from God. Religions aren’t new to humanity, as a matter of fact, they took different shapes and formed societies, tribes and nations throughout the times. They often played an essential role in promoting certain ideals and theories. Being a Muslim, I’d expand on some facts that relate to my faith: Islam came in an era where the most powerful enslaved the least powerful, where the needy were getting poorer, where men used to hide from shame for being given daughters instead of boys, where those female born babies would most likely get buried alive, where tribal wars would start for the stupidest of reasons and last for a sickening period of time.., where justice was a concept defined by a set of wealthy powerful people who dictated the rules of their surroundings and defined the variables according to their own interest. In the midst of this social injustice came the message of Islam, calling the people for a total submission to a higher more ranked power, that of God, for them to experience and taste the glory of divine justice. Islam, unlike many other religions, didn’t take its name after the person who carried it nor after the country or the ethnicity of the people sent within, it was named Islam in a strong indication to “submission”. In other words it was named after an “action”, hence it is the religion of actions, deeds and communication. At the same time it acknowledges the existence of previous faiths.
I want to start with a verse from the Quran which you can find in Sura al Baqara. 2:30. “Remember (when) your Lord said to the angels: ‘I am setting on the earth a governor.'” The human being in the Islamic tradition is a vicegerent of God. Therefore I have a certain responsibility towards God´s creation and it´s me who decides if I want to take over this position. This responsibility includes how I have to deal with my fellows. And it´s not addressing a certain group of Muslims but all human beings on earth. Islam calls for a global citizenship by defining the role of human beings on earth as: cultivating earth, worshiping God and taking the role of God’s administration on earth. It then breaks down each of these three concepts by listing a set of laws, regulations and a so-called divine constitution whose application promises rewarding while disapproving its commands, and offers a fair “divine” trial. What makes Islam’s jurisdiction a peaceful venue of leadership is its open-door forgiveness policy as God makes it clear in Islam that repentance from sins is welcome at anytime from any person, regardless of the race, the language, the status or the concerned person. This also makes Islam a religion of equality and a huge advocate for human rights which might seem quite ordinary in our time, but its teachings came 1400 years ago where the law of economics, divorce, trade and hunting didn’t have international advocates and human right watchers. As the Quran teaches us, we as Muslims do have sympathy toward all humanity, animals, plants, nature without any discrimination of faith, race, country, colour or anything else. We are taught to have love for every creature and the universe since all are created by Almighty God.
If one is not a believer, we might show mercy to help him or her see the facts of the intelligent creation of God. God explains in the Quran that he caused the different nations with different beliefs only for them to compete in doing good deeds that bring them closer to God, but not to stay in conflict or hatred. The Quran says: “… If Allah had willed, He would have made you one nation (one belief), but that may test you in what He has given you; so compete in good deeds; then God will inform you about that in which you used to differ” [Quran, chapter 5, verse 48] In addition, the Quran’s Golden Rule says: “There is no compulsion in religion…” [Quran, Chapter 2, Verse 256] The Koran is explaining the existence of different nations with the following verse: “O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. Indeed, Allah is Knowing and Acquainted.” 49:13 Al Hujurat
In these verses, God reminds the people of their purpose to serve as eager creatures of exploring the wonders of this world by getting to know one another, making friendships and looking for common grounds. He makes it clear that the role of ethnicity and discrimination are invalid in the name of Islam as he says “the most noble of you is the more righteous”. “Allah”, “God”, “Dieu”, “Illohim,” these are names God has given Himself. We often hear of wars in the name of religion; Crusaders, Muslim extremists, Jewish and Hindu radicals etc. what makes things worse is those sides having a total conviction that they’re following the truth and that God is most likely on their side. In fact these people didn´t get the message of their faiths which is not the support of violence. The messenger Muhammad (Pbuh) says: “Religion is dealing with people.” Faith is the mutual respect to other nations.
Islamic tolerance towards other religions
Many mistakenly believe that Islam does not tolerate the existence of other religions in the world especially when we take a look at the current situation of the Arab world. I want to explain a foundation the Prophet Muhammad himself laid in dealing with people of other faiths. An example of religious tolerance for people of other faiths is found in the constitution which the Prophet laid in Medina, the so called Charta of Medina. The Messenger set the example for the type of relationship Muslims should maintain with other religions such as Christianity and Judaism by legislating laws of tolerance and lenience that until today are still unheard of in a world full of prejudice and extremism.
When the prophet arrived in Medina, he found Jews and polytheists living there and he never once considered formulating a policy to clash with them. Instead, he graciously accepted their presence and suggested a covenant be drawn up with each of the groups to be applied equally to each party on the basis that each had the right to practice his own religion. This contract speaks of the desire of Muslims to achieve sincere relations with the Jews of Medina, to spread tranquillity throughout all of its quarters and to put a stop to those who plot to spread sedition, no matter what their religion. Furthermore, Islam considered Moses to be the prophet of the Jews, a spiritual brother of Muhammad and a partner with him in the call of God. Thus, the Muslims, responding to the call of their religion, believe in Moses just as they believe in Muhammad and they view the Torah, which was revealed to Moses, to be a part of Islam. Just as Muslims considered Christianity to be a divine religion of monotheism whose message was brought by the human prophet, Jesus, the son of Mary. This conception is actually a part of Islam.Indeed, Islam, Christianity, and Judaism are divine religions. God ordered Muslims to believe in all other prophets and divine religions as a part of his faith. Therefore, Muslims have to respect them all and not try to make conflicts or clash with them. Say: “O people of the Book! Come to common terms as between us and you: that we worship none but God” 3:64 (Sura al-Imran) This clearly indicates that Islam is looking for the consensus with other religions.
To sum up, I think that being a global citizen is a God-given right because God created the world for all human beings. I see that the land of God is one and possibilities are endless unless we decide otherwise. As Dalai Lama said: “Every religion emphasizes human improvement, love, respect for others, sharing other people’s suffering.” On these lines, every religion has more or less the same viewpoint and the same goal.