Islâm and the "Interfaith" Movement
One of the most dangerous ideological threats to Islâm is the growing “Muslim-Christian-Jew” trialogue or the “Interfaith” movement. One of the dangers arising from this movement is the tendency of Muslims to become apologetic towards, or neglect altogether, essential Islâmic teachings which may prove offensive to Jews or Christians. Another danger is the tendency to argue with the Jews and Christians exclusively from the Bible, neglecting the fact that Allâh Ta’âla has decisively refuted these groups and established His proofs against them in the Qur’ân. As Muslims we know that Rasűlullâh ( ) once rebuked ‘Umar ( ) for his referring to the Bible to make a point. However, the greatest danger of this movement is that it is part of a conscious strategy to erode the ‘Izzah (honor, dignity, and superiority) of the Muslims, placing them on the same level as the Jews and Christians; leading the Muslims to accept the un-Islâmic political concepts of equality, liberty, and fraternity.
Hence, the Muslim is led to support the ideological basis for the establishment of the secular nation-state, and by extension, reject three of the pillars of the Islâmic State - Al-’Izzah, Al-Jizya, Adh-Dhimmah. This makes the masses of Muslims less likely to support the reestablishment of the Islâmic State in its pristine purity. This process of a theological stand leading to political consequences is aptly demonstrated in the following quote from Warith Deen Muhammad, leader of the American Muslim Mission, an avid supporter of interfaith dialogue, in his book As the Light Shines from the East:
“There is a pure blood that is shared by Jews, Christians and Muslims; I’m talking about a pure spiritual blood and religious blood that we share. So these Christian principles that I’m paying tribute to today are also Muslim principles, and I’m telling you, we’re not only religious groups, we’re members of one American community. We have an obligation to protect the good interest of all American people.” (Italics ours.)
This statement is an illustration of one of the undesirable outcomes of the interfaith dialogue, namely, extending an alleged spiritual brotherhood to the realm of political action.
In refuting this developing movement, we must emphasize the proper Islâmic stand against this aspect of Christian and Jewish missionary activity (interfaith dialogue); activity which the noted Muslim writer Maryam Jameelah identifies as having the following four objectives:
Muslims should be clear that Muslims, Jews and Christians are not a unified, equal spiritual community. Allâh Ta’âla clearly tells humanity that the only religion acceptable to Him is Islâm. We read in the Qur’ân:
Verily, the religion with Allâh is al-Islâm. (Al-Qur’ân 3:19)
As the remainder of this verse and the subsequent verse makes clear, this statement is made to distinguish the Muslims from the Jews and Christians (Ahl Kitâb). This distinction is further emphasized later in the same chapter where Allâh states:
If anyone desires a religion other than Islâm it will never be accepted from him; and in the Hereafter, he will be amongst the great losers. (3:85)
This explicit statement is further qualified by the hadîth of Prophet Muhammad ( ): “Any Jew or Christian who heard about me and did not believe in me and what was revealed to me of the Holy Qur’ân and my traditions (Sunnah), his ultimate destination will be the Hellfire.”
These narrations clearly undermine a basic tenet of the interfaith movement, namely that Judaism and Christianity are on equal footing with Islâm. This fallacy is further eroded by Allâh Ta’âla’s describing basic tenets of Christianity as Kufr (disbelief). He says in His exalted Book:
Verily, those who say that Allâh is the third partner in a trinity have rejected Faith: There is but One God. (5:73)
Here the Trinitarian belief is described as Kufr, or rejection of faith. Likewise, Allâh Ta’âla condemns the central Christian belief in the divinity of Jesus. He says in this regard:
Verily, those who say Allâh is Christ, the Son of Mary, have rejected Faith. Christ himself said, “Oh Children of Israel, worship Allâh, my Lord and your Lord.” Whoever joins partners with Allâh verily, Allâh has made it forbidden for him to enter Paradise, and his abode will be the Hellfire. Indeed, the wrongdoers will have no one to help them. (5:72)
In this verse, Allâh Ta’âla not only rejects the divinity of Jesus ( ), but He also rejects the faith of anyone who holds Jesus ( ) as being divine. Furthermore, he forbids their entrance into Paradise!
As for the Jews, their implicit denial of accountability in the Hereafter, a factor leading directly to their excessive materialism, is considered blasphemous to any Muslim. This is in addition to their changing Allâh’s scripture, rejecting His prophets, and the other charges which Allâh Ta’âla has condemned them for in the Qur’ân.
As mentioned above, the interfaith movement has had dire political consequences. It is these consequences which distinguish the current Muslim-Christian-Jewish trialogue from the scholarly debates common at the various centers of learning existing when the Islâmic polity was at the peak of its power. These debates, initiated by Muslim scholars, were aimed at demonstrating the superiority of Islâm. The current interfaith trialogue has as its primary objective the neutralization of the Muslim’s political consciousness.
To understand this better, let us first reflect on what might be behind Jews and Christians desiring a dialogue with Muslims, by pondering the following saying of Allâh Ta’âla:
Never will the Jews or the Christians be satisfied with you until you follow their way. (2:120)
In the twentieth century, their way has been epitomized by the secular nation-state, with its ideological pillars: Equality, liberty and fraternity. In essence, all of the citizens of the secular state are equal (citizens or nationals) before the law with full and equal rights and liberties (in theory). As we will show, this is an un-Islâmic concept. If through the interfaith movement a spiritual equality can be achieved between the “Children of Abraham”, then political equality would be a mere formality. Such a development would undermine the very basis of the Islâmic State. To reiterate, such an equality has no basis in Islâmic teaching. Consider what Allâh says in Sűrah Tawbah:
Fight those who believe not in Allâh nor the Last Day, nor hold as forbidden that which has been forbidden by Allâh and His Messenger, nor acknowledge the religion of Truth, (even if they are) from the People of the Book (Jews and Christians) until they pay the Jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves humbled (subordinate to the Muslims). (9:29)
This subordinating of the Ahl Dhimmah is an Islâmic political reality which is totally ignored by the adherents of the interfaith movement, even by the Muslims among them. Just as the âyât (verses) which we quoted earlier describe the spiritual inferiority of Ahl Kitaab, the above âyah describes their social and cultural inferiority. These are crucial Islâmic concepts which no Muslim can afford to ignore. The following message from Khalîfah ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab (radiyallahu ‘anhu) shows how seriously the early Muslims took these matters. Listen to his words:
“Do not exchange correspondence with the Dhimmis (Jews and Christians living under a contract of protection in Muslim lands) in case friendship should grow between you and them. Do not call them by their formal names. They must be kept in their place, but not wronged. Command their women not to tighten their waistbands, and not to let their forelocks hang over their faces. Also they should be made to stand in the marketplace so that they can be distinguished from Muslim women. If they refuse, they had better embrace Islâm, willingly, or unwillingly.”
This passage, from the pen of our beloved Khalîfah ‘Umar ibn al-Khattâb ( ), will strike many of us as strange, because we have been so far removed from the reality of Islâmic political dominance. However, this is the reality, whether we like it or not. Islâm is meant to dominate. Allâh Ta’âla says:
It is He who has sent His Messenger with Guidance and the religion of Truth, that it may dominate over all other religions, even though the idolaters may hate it. (61:9)
Furthermore, Allâh Ta’âla informs humanity that dignity, honor, and superiority are for this Ummah. He says:
Dignity, honor, and superiority (al-’Izzah) is for Allâh, His Messenger, and the Believers. However, the hypocrites know it not. (63:8)
Unlike the alleged superiority of the Jews, Aryans or other racists, the superiority of the Muslims is conferred by Allâh, because the Muslims have agreed to uphold the Standard of Islâm. This honor is extended to all human beings who accept to choose belief, regardless of their racial or ethnic background. Allâh proclaims in Sűrah Âli ‘Imrân:
You (Muslims) are the best of communities raised up for mankind (because) you enjoin the right, forbid the wrong, and you believe in Allâh. (3:110)
This honor has been conferred upon the Muslims, not the Christians, nor the Jews. Contrary to this distinction which has been conferred upon the Muslims, in the very first sűrah (chapter) of the Qur’ân (al-Fâtihah), the Jews are referred to as Maghdűb ‘Alayhim (those who have earned the wrath of Allâh), and the Christians are referred to as Ad-Dâlleen (those who have gone astray). It is crucial that Muslims understand this and shun any attempts to bring Islâm down to the level of Judaism or Christianity.
The above discourse is not intended to make Muslims bitter or antagonistic towards those Jews or Christians who are not actively opposing or combating Islâm. Allâh Ta’âla admonishes the believers in Sűrah Mumtahanah:
Allâh forbids you not, concerning those who fight you not in your religion, nor drive you out of your homes, that you deal with them kindly and justly; verily Allâh loves those who are just. (60:8)
This verse establishes that our treatment of non-transgressing unbelievers should be kind and just. However, Muslims should be cautious when considering this verse. Concerning the Ahl Kitâb, kind and just treatment does not imply absolute equality with the Muslims. These non-transgressing elements from among the unbelievers are the people of Da’wah, or those who are to be invited to Islâm in the best possible ways. Allâh clearly states:
Call to the way of your Lord with wisdom and beautiful, convincing arguments; and argue with them in ways that are best. Your Lord knows who has strayed from His Path, and He knows those who are guided aright. (16:125)
Again, the power and beauty of this verse should not lead the Muslim to disregard the Islâmic methodology, nor to abstract the process of Da’wah from the comprehensive Islâmic scheme. Da’wah is the first of three steps in dealing with the unbelievers, including Ahl Kitâb. After the Da’wah (call) comes the Jizya (protective contract and tax), and then if these two are refused, Ghazwa (war). Advocates of interfaith dialogue, including the Muslims among them, welcome the first step (Da’wah), but are averse towards the latter two. However, this is part of the Islâmic methodology.
This orientation is beautifully illustrated in the text of the letter which Rasűlullâh ( ) sent to Hiraql, the leader of the Romans (Christians): “In the Name of Allâh, the Beneficent, the Merciful. From Muhammad the Messenger of Allâh, to Hiraql, the Emperor of the Romans. Peace be upon him who follows the guidance. After this I extend to you the invitation to accept Islâm. Embrace Islâm and you will be safe (from being fought against by the Muslims). Allâh will give you a double reward. However, if you turn away, upon you will be the sin of your subjects, (whom you misguide). ‘Say: O People of the Scripture. Come to a common word between us and you: that we shall worship none but Allâh, that we shall ascribe no partners unto Him, and that none of us shall take others for lords beside Allâh.’ And if they turn away, then say: Bear witness that we are Muslims.’ (3:64)”
This ayah is often separated from the larger hadîth as part of an effort to justify interfaith dialogue. This is done through misunderstanding of the term kalimatin sawâ’in (a common word). This is the word of Tawhid (Allâh’s Oneness) which all of the Prophets taught. The Jews and Christians, who have deviated from this word in its purity, are being invited back to it; it isn’t something which they continue to share with the Muslims. This is made clear in the remaining part of the verse where Allâh explains in detail what this common word is, namely: To worship Allâh alone; to join nothing as a partner along with Allâh; and not to take other human beings as lords other than Allâh. This very invitation emphasizes Allâh’s displeasure with the Jews and Christians! In it, the Christians are being invited away from their worship of Jesus and/or his mother ( ), and both the Jews and Christians are being invited away from their worship of their religious authorities, who declare for them what is lawful or unlawful without consideration for the revelation of Allâh. This latter point is further emphasized in Sűrah Tawbah:
They (the Jews and Christians) take their priests and rabbis as lords besides Allâh, and likewise Christ the Son of Mary; Yet they were only ordered to worship one true god, there is no deity except Him. High is He above the partners they associate with Him. (9:31)
If this is the case, how has the Da’wah of the one true Faith become an interfaith trialogue? Furthermore, how can the above-quoted verse be used to rationalize such a trialogue?
Muslims must realize that Islâm is under attack. This attack has its military, political, and ideological dimensions. Anything which distorts or dilutes the pure message of Islâm, especially something which originates in the anti-Islâmic camp, has to be viewed as part of the ideological war against Islâm. This is how Muslims should see the contemporary interfaith movement.
Muslims have not initiated this interfaith trialogue. Therefore, we don’t know where it is designed to lead us. We do know that every Muslim land which has opened its doors to interfaith dialogue has witnessed a tremendous increase in Christian missionary activity and an uncritical acceptance of friendship with the capitalistic “Christian” nations of the West. We as Muslims should see an instructive lesson in the Jewish-Christian dialogue that was initiated by the Jews in this century. This movement has served only the interest of the Jews, the party that initiated the dialogue. First of all, they have gotten the Vatican to drop the Catholic belief that the Jews were the Christ-killers. Furthermore, they have been able to win the Christian world over to support the cause of Zionism, and to implicitly or explicitly recognize the creation of the Zionist State of Israel. The Jews made these gains because they have been able to determine the methodology and goals of this dialogue. We ask, are Muslims who participate in such dialogues able to do the same?
As Muslims, we know that this movement has been used to drive yet another divisive wedge into the body of the Ummah. Before we Muslims can even begin to think of dialoging with our potential enemies, let us sit down and dialogue with each other. Any other way than this will pull us further from the methodology of Islâm, only contributing to our ruin!