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INTERFAITH AND PEACEFUL COEXISTENCE FROM AN ISLAMIC POINT OF VIEW

In the name of the most high, the restorer of peace and bestowal of understanding. The merciful and he, who created the entire human community from a single soul, spread us in different tribes, regions, races and religion for no reason, other than for us to get to know each other and appreciate him better.

As the Quran says in chapter 49 vs 13, O mankind, we created you from a single pair of a male and female and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know each other. Verily, the most honored of you in the sight of Allah is one who is the most righteous of you and Allah has full knowledge and is well acquainted with all things.

Please, permit me to greet some people in a more special and adoring manner, and who am I greeting? It is those people who are free from hatred, hypocrisy, arrogance and prejudice against one another, those who humble themselves in the presence of truth regardless of what the truth may be, those who do not blindly oppose truth when it requires apprehension and when it ought to be embraced, those who carefully and wisely investigate each problem and having in good conscience evaluated it, follow nothing but the best of it. Those who are true Muslims and true Christians, and those who are indeed the followers of Prophet Mohammed and prophet Isa (Jesus Christ), May the peace and blessings of Allah be with them both.

Let me state that,If we cannot breathe by ourselves, there is oxygen to assist us breath, if we cannot eat by ourselves, there are drips to replace our meal, if we cannot speak for ourselves, there are people who may speak for us and if we cannot stand by ourselves, there are people that may stand on our behave, but if we lack the character to peacefully coexists with our fellow human being irrespective of our faiths, there is no replacement for our inability and lack of character hence, there is no replacement for peace.

For this reason, it is paramount that we all understand that peaceful coexistence among ourselves is irreplaceable and as they say, conflict inhuman existence is inevitable.

We must all understand that conflict is not necessarily a bad thing; in fact, the Chinese define conflict as Danger and opportunity.

The Danger means a possible bad occurrence, but the opportunity means a good chance for progress.

This means that, in conflict, either of these two things may occur, Danger or opportunity, but only the human factor and management would determine the outcome of the conflict. If the conflict is managed positively and sincerely by humans, it becomes an opportunity to transform our relationship and take it to a greater height. No wonder a Yoruba proverb says, Ti a ba ja, Aki re, which means, ''If conflict didn't occur between us, we cannot be best of friends''.

On the other hand, if the conflict is handled negatively with insincerity, the outcome becomes a dangerous event that may leads to pain and sorrow.

Though, the purpose of this piece is to talk about Interfaith and peaceful coexistence from an Islamic point of view, but first, let me attempt in a short way, talk to explain the cornerstone of Islamic teachings and some of its fundamental features.

Islam (meaning “peace or total submission to the will God") was founded by Prophet Mohammed (SAW). An illiterate orphan with the record of humble manners even before his call of prophethood. As it was said, he was the recipient of a series of "visions and revelations" which is an extension of the prophecies of the Old and New Testaments. These collected writings which came to him inform of vision and revelation is 114 "Suras (chapters)" which became the Qur'an, the sacred book of the Muslims.

Salvation and heaven is earned by a Muslim through belief in one God

(Allah) and that Prophet Mohammed is a messenger of God, believe in the angels, the sacred books which the Qur'an is one and the bible also one among others, believe in the prophets of God (of Whom Mohammed was the last, and Isa (Jesus Christ) is one among others with no distinction), the believe in the final judgment on the day of resurrection, and through the faithful practice of prayers, fasting, almsgiving, and once in a lifetime, the pilgrimage to Mecca if possible.

In summary, Islam based its entirety of believe in God on the following teachings:

1. Allah is ONE.2. He has no PARTNER.3. He alone is worthy of worship and none besides Him is worthy of worship.4. Nothing is hidden from Him; He even knows the thoughts that go into a person's mind. 5. He is the most POWERFUL. 6. He has created the earth, the skies, the sun, the moon, the stars, the angel, human beings and the whole universe.

7. He gives life and death. 8. He gives sustenance to all creation. 9.

He does not eat, drink or sleep. 10. He is forever and will be forever. 11. He was not created by anyone. 12. He does not have any parents, wife or children. 13. He does not depend on anybody. All depends on Him. 14. Nobody resembles Allah, and He resembles none. 15.

He is pure from all faults.
But as a Christian, your believe about God may be slightly different from these and you are under no obligation what so ever to believe the above teaching, but despite that, you are required to respect these teachings` and those who believe it. Just as the Muslims are also not under any obligation to believe what the Christians believed in, but also have the duty of respecting what they believe.

When a Muslim or a Christian decided to act outside the box inform of aggression and attack on the others religion, i.e., disrespecting other people's believe, say all sort of negative things about their religion simple because he or she didn't agree with their teachings, it becomes a source of conflict that must be positively handled if it occurs or avoided if possible.

As I have always said, Muslims must continue to act show that everything about Islam is circled around calling people towards the path of peace, justice, love, dignity, humanity, dialogue and respect to one another. It enjoyed people to do good and be forbidden from evil. In a nutshell, Islam came to the world to guide not to create enmity; it came as prophethood not dominion, as mercy not affliction, humbleness not superiority, equity not differentiation, satisfaction not greed and sufficiency not luxury.

Let me quote from one of our scholarly teachers, on what the Quran says about the position of Prophet Muhammed and Jesus Christ as well as the Quran and Bible.

Hardly do people know that the Quran does not separate itself from the Bible both old and new testament, although, many Muslims are told otherwise. The Quran actually sees itself in equal footing to other books of revelation like the old and new testaments.

The Qur'an does not separate between Muhammad, Jesus and the other prophets of God, although Muslims see him as somewhat different. They see Muhammad as the "greatest" of the prophets and believe he abrogated the previous prophets. This is not something you will find in the Quran. Indeed, you will see the exact opposite.

The Quran says:
"Say: We believe in Allah and that which is revealed unto us and that which was revealed unto Abraham, and Ishmael, and Isaac, and Jacob, and the tribes, and that which Moses and Jesus received, and that which the prophets received from their Lord. We make no distinction between any of them, and unto Him we have surrendered. “Q2:136

In another verse, it says,
"The messenger believeth in that which hath been revealed unto him from his Lord and (so do) believers. Each one believeth in Allah and His angels and His scriptures and His messengers - We make no distinction between any of His messengers - and they say: We hear, and we obey. (Grant us) Thy forgiveness, our Lord. Unto Thee is the journeying. “Q2:285

In Quran {4:152}, it says,
"And those who believe in Allah and His messengers and do not make a distinction between any of them-- Allah will grant them their rewards; and Allah is Forgiving, Merciful."

So, the Quran doesn't make ANY DISTINCTION between the prophets and it also makes no distinction between scriptures.

When the Christians of the time of Prophet Mohammed approached him to make judgment for them, hoping to get a different judgment based on people who do bad or commit a crime, the following verses were revealed.

Why do they come to thee for decision, when they have the Torah

(bible) before them? - Therein is the (plain) command of God; yet even after that, they would turn away. For they are not (really) people of faith. (Surah 5, Maida, verse 43)

Others verses revealed in this regard are as follow:

Let the People of the Gospel (bible) judge by what God hath revealed therein. If any do fail to judge by (the light of) what God hath revealed, they are (no better than) those who rebel. (Surah 5, Maida, verse 47)

Say: "O People of the Book (Christians)! Ye have no ground to stand upon unless ye stand fast by the Law, the Gospel and all the revelation that has come to you from your Lord...." (Surah 5, Al Ma'idah, verse 68).

So from a Quranic point of view, there is nothing called I believe in Bible but not the Quran. As both scriptures are saying the same thing.

I certainly do not see any difference except the difference in human error and understanding.

If the above is the position of the Qur'an, the holy book followed by the Muslims, why should any Muslims abhor hatred for a Christian? Why should any Muslim find coexisting with a Christian something that is difficult? Why would anyone claim that the Muslims want to coerce others to dump their religion for Islam? Let me place it on the record that, as far as Islam is concerned, Christians and Muslims are brothers and sisters that should live together in peace and harmony.

This position was further supported by prophet Mohammed (SAW) when he granted a charter of privileges to the Monks of St. Catherine Monastery Catholic Church in Mt. Sinai.

Quoting some part of that covenant as reported, Prophet Mohammed was reported to have said, this is a message from Muhammed Ibn Abdullahi, as a covenant to those who adopt Christianity, near and far, we are with them.

''Verily, I the servant, the helper and my followers shall defend them because, they the Christians are MY CITIZENS, and by Allah, I hold out against anything that displeases them.''

''No one of the nation (Muslims) is to disobey the covenant till the last day (end of the world)''.

So, if the Qur'an and the prophet of Allah has made this position, who are we to go against it?

From the above, it is obvious that anything done in contrary to this is definitely not Islam.

What I observed in most of the conflicts that have occurred in the name of religion around the world is that, none of it is actually a conflict based on religious principle. They are mostly conflict of individual anger and character out of personal ego, misunderstanding or pursuit of personal/political interest.

For example, if a Christian and a Muslim engages in a discussion relating to religion, and the Christian out of insensitivity said something that the Muslim consider bad and untruthful about his religion, in his defense, he then reacted to the utterances negatively. This is not because Islam told him to react in such manner, but he did out of his personal character in reacting to all issues be it religion or not.

The Christian on the other hand, Instead of trying to seek knowledge about the issue in another faith or present his question in a friendly manner that would encourage smooth discussion, he or she may also resort to derogatory statement, insult and personal attack. This is not because Christianity permits him to do that, but because he lacks manner, character and clear communication skills. Despite the fact that Islam and Christianity didn't ask both the Muslim and the Christian to act negatively, the human nature part of them does over take their religious consciousness some times. So, what has basically been happening mostly have nothing to do with religion by itself, but human character which we must continue to encourage restrain from violence conduct.

My advice to all is that, let us endeavor to always use the best form of manners in speaking with each other, and let's indulge in the use of good words in speaking about each other's faith and person. Even if we share a different view to an issue, let us conduct ourselves in the best way and communicate our message without insult or prejudice. Let us desist from hypocritical manner which usually brings confusion and dispute. This is the only way to guarantee peace and unity.

We must also endeavor to resist the temptation of engaging in bitter word exchange, violence or anything capable of causing unrest in the society.

About people claiming to be from a sect, a portion of a religion and pushing strange ideas forward in the name of their religion. Let me state it clearly, the Quran recognizes faith not based on sect. It says regarding faith:

Q2.62. Those who believe , and those who follow the Jewish (scriptures), and the Christians and the Sabians,- any who believe in Allah and the Last Day, and work righteousness, shall have their reward with their Lord; on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve.

5.69. Those who believe, those who follow the Jewish (scriptures), and the Sabians and the Christians,- any who believe in Allah and the Last Day, and work righteousness,- on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve.

Whoever works righteousness, man or woman, and has Faith, verily, to him will we give a new Life, a life that is good and pure and we will bestow on such their reward according to the best of their actions.

The Quran is nonsectarian. It does not believe in religious dogma. It recognized faith as a human condition. The Quran does not discriminate based on sect, race or tribe. It discriminates based on faith in God and the here after.

Prophet Mohammed (SAW) in his effort to guide against hatred and other form of negative things that may breed confusion says as follows:

"God the Dignified has no mercy for one who has no mercy for others."

Reported by Jarir Ibn Abdullah and recorded by Imam Bukhari and Muslim. (#227)

"None of you is a true Muslim until he desires for his brother that which he desires for himself." Reported by Anas Bin Malik and recorded by Imam Bukhari and Muslim. (#183)

"Help your brother whether he is an oppressor or an oppressed person.

A companion asked: 'Messenger of God (it is true) I will help him if he is an oppressed person, but please tell me how I am to help him if he happens to be an oppressor.' The Holy Prophet answered: check him from doing injustice. Because preventing him from committing aggression is a help to him." Reported by Anas Bin Malik and recorded by Imam Bukhari. (#237)

"Among the Muslims most perfect, as regards his faith, is one whose character is excellent, and the best among you are those who treat their wives well." Reported by Abu Hurairah and recorded by Imam Tirmidhi. (#278)

"Make things easy and convenient and don't make them harsh and difficult. Give cheers and glad tidings and do not create hatred."

Reported by Anas Bin Malik and recorded by Imam Muslim. (#637)

"God, the Most Exalted, has revealed to me that you should show courtesy and be cordial with each other, so that nobody should consider himself superior to another nor harm him." Reported by Ayaz bin Himar and recorded by Imam Muslim.

"God the Most High has revealed to me that you should adopt humility, so that nobody oppresses another, nor one should hold himself above another." Reported by Ayaz bin Himar and recorded by Imam Muslim.

(#602)
"Let him who believes in God and the Last Day either speak good or keep silent, and let him who believes in God and the Last Day be generous to his neighbor, and let him who believes in God and the Last Day be generous to his guest." Reported by Abu Hurairah and recorded by Imam Bukhari and Muslim. (#15)

“Strongest among men in enmity to the Believer (Muslims) will thou find the Jews and Pagans; and the Nearest among them in love to the Believers will thou find those that say: "We are Christians" : because amongst these are men devoted to learning .And men who renounced the world, and they are not arrogant" Quran 5:82

The above words from prophet Muhammed are to guide every Muslim in his or her conduct to avoid deviating from the ways of God.

Finally, let me advice all Muslims and Christians that, what actually create discord and bring violence on religious matters is not the religious teachings, but the lack of character and manners within both religion. Even if you respect the other person's religion, but talk about it without character and manners, the outcome of such situation is counter reaction. This is in the nature of every human except few that God has guided against their own anger. For this reason, let us all adjust our characters and manner to promote peace and unity.

Thank you and May God grant us the understanding and wisdom to coexist in peace.

Abdulrazaq O Hamzat is a human right Ambassador, transformational Speaker and Initiative Creator

[email protected]

Disclaimer: "The views/contents expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of Abdulrazaq Oyeabnji Hamzat and do not necessarily reflect those of The Nigerian Voice. The Nigerian Voice will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article."

Articles by Abdulrazaq Oyeabnji Hamzat