Peaceful co-existence: Islamic duty, more than a choice

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SHAFAQNA – The concept of peaceful co-existence seem strange to some given the realities in today’s world. Yet, what many fail to see, if not refuse to see, the fact that it is already practiced by many around the world, throughout history. Some of my Muslim brothers would ask me “Why should we seek to coexist with a Christian, a Jew, or a Buddhist, when our Muslim brothers around the globe are being slaughtered?” Some of my Christian friends would ask me, “Why would anyone believe what you say, when we see ISIS coerce others to follow their brand of Islam?” These are all tough questions.

Believe me, I get them a lot. My responses to these questions are straight from the very basic principle of Islam. In Islam, Christians and Muslims are brothers and sisters that should live and work together in peace and harmony. Existing peacefully with religious groups other than Islam is an essential Islamic principle that is clearly stated in many Qur’anic verses. The story of how prophet Muhammad granted a charter of privileges to the Monks of St. Catherine Monastery of the Catholic Church in Mt. Sinai speaks much about this principle.

According to historical records, Prophet Muhammad granted freedom to the monks of Mount Sinai, along with other communities. This was honored by Abu Bakr, ‘Umar, ‘Uthman, and ‘Ali, as well as the Umayyads, and the ‘Abassids. Records also showed that The Covenant of the Prophet Muhammad with the Monks of Mount Sinai is next attested by Muhammad ibnSa‘d al-Baghdadi (784-845), the early Muslim historian and scribe of al-Waqidi (748-822 CE), one of the earliest historians of Islam and biographer of the Prophet, in a document called the “Treaty of Saint Catherine,” which is cited in his Tabaqat or Book of Major Classes. Quoting a part of that covenant as recounted, the Prophet 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).” Clearly, the Holy Qur’an and our Prophet talks about peaceful co-existence. Therefore, anything done in contrary to this is definitely not Islam.

As an advocate and practitioner of inter-religious and interfaith dialogue, I have learned the Holy Qur’an does not separate itself from the Holy Bible both old and new testament, although, many extremists Muslims are told otherwise. Based on the Six Articles of Faith in Islam, Muslims are reminded to value other religious books from the Abrahamic faiths like Torah (the book of Moses (AS), Psalms (the book of David (AS), and Gospels (the book of Jesus (ASA).The Holy Quran has the same importance with these books of revelation. The Holy Quran in Chapter 2:136 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.” I am a Muslim and similar to the Muslim majority on this planet, I believe that Islam base its entirety on the belief in Allah who is All Compassionate and All Merciful. He is the Creator of the earth, the skies, the sun, the moon, the stars, the angel, human beings and the whole universe. He gives life and death. He gives sustenance to all creation. In one way or another, Jews, Christians, or a Buddhist’s belief about God may be slightly different from these. But I do not have any right, nor an obligation whatsoever to force others and impose my beliefs.

When an extremist Muslim or a Christian decides to bomb a religious site or commit mass murder or disrespect other beliefs by saying all sort of negative things about their religion simply because he or she didn’t agree with their teachings, it becomes a source of conflict and a criminal act. In the case of Islam, Muslims who act outside the box of Islam simply show that it contradicts the very essence of Islam which calls for people towards the path of peace, justice, love, dignity, humanity, dialogue and respect to one another. Islam encourages people to do good and avoid evil.

Therefore, Islam came to the world to guide, not to create enmity. The prophethood of Muhammad was a mercy not affliction, humbleness not superiority, equity not differentiation, to all humankind. Lastly, the Holy Quran says in Chapter 49:13, “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.”

We are all one in Allah and we must provide spaces where we can learn each other’s’ religions in a manner where we show respect, tolerance, and acceptance of our differences. Hence, we must continue to work for interreligious and interfaith dialogue and peacefully co-exist.

By MUSSOLINI SINSUAT LIDASAN – The views expressed here are the author’s own.

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