The Qur’ān and Religious Pluralism

SHARE

SHAFAQNA – Some Muslim intellectuals have attempted to read the theory of religious pluralism into the Qur’ān itself. The most famous argument used by them is that the term “Islām,” in the Qur’ān, should not be taken as a noun but just as a verb.

Sometimes they differentiate between “islam” (the act of submission) and “Islam” (the religion); and say that the main message of God and the basis of salvation is submission to God, and that it does not matter whether the submission takes place through Ibrāhīm, Mūsā, `Isa or Muhammad (as).

This is nothing new; even Āyatullāh Muťahharī, in the present work, writes, “If someone were to say that the meaning of ‘Islām’ in this verse is not our religion in particular; rather, the intent is the literal meaning of the word, or submission to God, the answer would be that undoubtedly ‘Islām’ means submission and the religion of Islām is the religion of submission, but the reality of submission has a particular form in each age. And in this age, its form is the same cherished religion that was brought by the Seal of the Prophets (Muhammad). So it follows that the word ‘Islām’ (submission) necessarily applies to it alone.

“In other words, the necessary consequence of submission to God is to accept His commandments, and it is clear that one must always act on the final Divine commandments. And the final commandments of God is what His final Messenger [Muhammad] has brought.”
“Islām” in the Qur’ān [3:19-20]

When the Qur’ān says, for example:

إِنَّ الدِّينَ عِنْدَ اللٌّهِ الإِسْلاَمُ

“Surely the religion with Allāh is al-Islām,

some Muslim intellectuals say that it does not mean “Islām” the religion that started in the seventh century by Prophet Muhammad (S). They say it means “islām,” submission to God through any of the Abrahamic religions.

In their attempt to read a politically correct idea into the Qur’ān, they even ignore the context of the verse. Let us read the whole passage together:

إِنَّ الدِّينَ عِنْدَ اللٌّهِ الإِسْلاَمُ وَمَا اخْتَلَفَ الَّذِينَ أُوتُوا الْكِتَابَ إِلاَّ مِنْ بَعْدِ مَا جَاءَهُمْ الْعِلْمُ بَغْياً بَيْنَهُمْ وَمَنْ يَكْفُرْ بِآيَاتِ اللٌّهِ فَإِنَّ اللٌّهَ سَرِيعُ الْحِسَابِ

“Surely the religion with Allāh is al-Islām. And those who have been given the Book [i.e., the Christians and the Jews] did not show opposition but after knowledge had come to them, out of envy among themselves. And whoever disbelieves in the verses of Allāh, then surely Allāh is quick in reckoning.”

فَإِنْ حَاجُّوكَ فَقُلْ أَسْلَمْتُ وَجْهِي لِلٌّهِ وَمَنْ اتَّـبَعَنِي

“But if they dispute with you, say: “I have submitted myself entirely to Allāh and (so has) everyone who follows me.”

وَقُلْ لِلَّذِينَ أُوتُوا الْكِتَابَ وَالأُمِّـيِّينَ أَأَسْلَمْتُمْ فَإِنْ أَسْلَمُوا فَقَدْ اهْـتَدَوا وَإِنْ تَوَلَّوا فَإِنَّمَا عَلَيْكَ الْبَلاَغُ وَاللٌّهُ بَصِيرٌ بِالْعِبَادِ

“And to those who have been given the Book [i.e., the Christians and the Jews] and to the idol-worshippers [of Mecca], say: “Do you submit?” If they submit, then they are rightly guided; but if they reject, then upon you is only the delivery of the message. And Allāh sees the servants.

This passage clearly states the following:

“Al-Islām” mentioned in this verse is the message of submission as brought by Prophet Muhammad (S).

The People of the Scripture (i.e., Christians and Jews) are in opposition of this version of submission to God.

The Prophet Muhammad (S) and his followers are followers of the Islām which was brought by him.

The People of the Scripture are being asked to submit to God through Prophet Muhammad (S) even though they already are followers of Prophets Mūsā (as) and `Isā (as).

The same message is given to the idol-worshippers of Mecca.

If the People of the Scripture do not submit (as Prophet Muhammad (S) and his followers have submitted), then they are not “rightly guided”.

So the term al-Islām, in this verse, refers to “submission to God” through His final message brought by Prophet Muhammad (S) and not through previous prophets.

“Islām” in the Qur’ān [3:83-85]

Another passage from the same chapter is also relevant for understanding the meaning of “Islām”:

أَفَغَيْرَ دِينِ اللٌّهِ يَبْغُونَ وَلَهُ أَسْلَمَ مَنْ فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالأَرْضِ طَوْعاً وَكَرْهاً وَإِلَـيْهِ يُرْجَعُونَ

“Is it then other than Allāh’s religion that they seek while to Him submits whoever is in the heavens and the Earth, willingly or unwillingly, and to Him shall they be returned?”

قُلْ آمَنَّا بِاللٌّهِ وَمَا أُنْزِلَ عَلَيْنَا وَمَا أُنْـزِلَ عَلَى إِبْرَاهِيمَ وَإِسْمَاعِيلَ وَإِسْحَاقَ وَيَعْقُوبَ وَالأَسْبَاطِ وَمَا أُوتِيَ مُوسَى وَعِيسَى وَالنَّبِيُّونَ مِنْ رَبِّهِمْ لاَ نُفَرِِّقُ بَيْنَ أَحَدٍ مِنْهُمْ وَنَحْنُ لَهُ مُسْلِمُونَ

“Say: “We believe in Allāh, and what has been revealed to us, and what was revealed to Ibrāhīm, Ismā’īl, Ishāq, Ya`qūb, and the Tribes; and what was given to Mūsā and `Isā and to the prophets from their Lord. We do not make any distinction between (the claim of) any of them, and to Him do we submit.”

وَمَنْ يَبْتَغِ غَيْرَ الإِسْلاَمِ دِيناً فَلَنْ يُقْبَلَ مِنْهُ وَهُوَ فِي الآخِرَةِ مِنَ الْخَاسِرِينَ

And whoever desires a religion other than Islām, it shall not be accepted from him, and in the hereafter he shall be one of the losers.”

This passage clearly explains basic beliefs of Allāh’s religion:

Among those basic beliefs is the requirement to believe in “what has been revealed to us” (i.e., the Qur’ān that has been revealed to Muslims).

“Islām – submission” only follows when one accepts all the prophets and does not differentiate in the truth of any one of them, including Prophet Muhammad (S).

“Islām” and “Imān “in the Qur’ān [2:135-137]

The following passage in Chapter Two of the Qur’ān further clarifies the meaning of “islām–submission” as well as “imān–belief”:

وَقَالُوا كُونُوا هُوداً أَوْ نَصَارَى تَهْتَدُوا

“And they say: “Be Jew or Christian and you will be guided aright.”

قُلْ بَلْ مِلَّةَ إِبْرَاهِيمَ حَنِيفاً وَمَا كَانَ مِنَ الْمُشْرِكِينَ

“Say: “Nay! (we follow) the religion of Ibrāhīm, the sincere, and he was not one of the polytheists.”

قُولُوا آمَنَّا بِاللٌّهِ وَمَا أُنزِلَ إِلَيْنَا وَمَا أُنزِلَ إِلَى إِبْرَاهِيمَ وَإِسْمَاعِيلَ وَإِسْحَاقَ وَيَعْقُوبَ وَالأَسْبَاطِ وَمَا أُوتِيَ مُوسَى وَعِيسَى وَمَا أُوتِيَ النَّبِيُّونَ مِنْ رَبِّهِمْ لاَ نُفَرِّقُ بَيْنَ أَحَدٍ مِنْهُمْ وَنَحْنُ لَهُ مُسْلِمُونَ

“Say: “We believe in Allāh, and what has been revealed to us, and what was revealed to Ibrāhīm, Ismā’īl, Ishāq, Ya`qūb, and the Tribes; and what was given to Mūsā and `Isā and to the prophets from their Lord. We do not make any distinction between (the claim of) any of them, and to Him do we submit.”

فَإِنْ آمَنُوا بِمِثْلِ مَا آمَنتُمْ بِهِ فَقَدْ اهْـتَدَوا وَإِنْ تَوَلَّوْا فَإِنَّمَا هُمْ فِي شِقَاقٍ فَسَيَكْفِيكَهُمْ اللٌّهُ وَهُوَ السَّمِيعُ الْعَلِيمُ

“If they (i.e., the Jews and the Christians) then believe as you believe, then they are rightly guided; but if they refuse, then they are only in great opposition; and Allāh will suffice you against them. He is the Hearing, the Knowing.”

These two verses clearly define the “imān – faith and belief” of the Muslims as opposed to that of the Jews and the Christians. Central to the imān of the Muslims is belief in the revelation of all the prophets, including the revelation to the Prophet Muhammad (S). They clearly say that if the Jews and the Christians “believe as you believe,” only then will they be rightly guided.

Sūratul Baqarah (2), Verse 285 also confirms this meaning of “imān”:

آمَنَ الرَّسُولُ بِمَا أُنْـزِلَ إِلَيْهِ مِنْ رَبِّهِ وَالْمُؤْمِنُونَ كُلٌّ آمَنَ بِاللٌّهِ وَمَلاَئِكَتِهِ وَكُتُبِهِ وَرُسُلِهِ لاَ نُفَرِّقُ بَيْنَ أَحَدٍ مِنْ رُسُلِهِ

“The Messenger (i.e., Muhammad) has believed in whatever that has been revealed to him from his Lord; and the believers all believe in Allāh, His Angels, His books, and His messengers. (And they say:) “We do not differentiate between (the claim of) any one of His messengers.”

A note on “we do not differentiate between any one of the messengers” or “we do not make any distinction between any one of them”: it does not mean that all the prophets and messengers of Allāh (S) are of the same rank and status.

We have already mentioned that there are five prophets who rank highest in the spiritual hierarchy. Rather, this means that we do not make any distinction in the truth of any of the prophets; all are equally true in their claim.

This is unlike the Jews who accept all the prophets but reject `Isā (as) and Muhammad (S) or the Christians who accept all the prophets but reject Muhammad (S).

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here