An Open Letter and Call from Muslim Religious Leaders

 An Open Letter and Call

 from Muslim Religious Leaders

  

In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful
On the Occasion of the Eid al-Fitr al-Mubarak 1428 A.H.

  

October 13th 2007 C.E.

  

and on the One Year Anniversary

  

of the Open Letter of 38 Muslim Scholars

  

to H.H. Pope Benedict XVI

  


An Open Letter and Call from Muslim Religious Leaders to:

  


His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI,

  

His All-Holiness Bartholomew I, Patriarch of Constantinople, New Rome,

  

His Beatitude Theodoros II, Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria and All Africa,
His Beatitude Ignatius IV, Patriarch of Antioch and All the East,
His Beatitude Theophilos III, Patriarch of the Holy City of Jerusalem,
His Beatitude Alexy II, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia,
His Beatitude Pavle, Patriarch of Belgrade and Serbia,
His Beatitude Daniel, Patriarch of Romania,
His Beatitude Maxim, Patriarch of Bulgaria,
His Beatitude Ilia II, Archbishop of Mtskheta-Tbilisi, Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia,
His Beatitude Chrisostomos, Archbishop of Cyprus,
His Beatitude Christodoulos, Archbishop of Athens and All Greece,
His Beatitude Sawa, Metropolitan of Warsaw and All Poland,
His Beatitude Anastasios, Archbishop of Tirana, Duerres and All Albania,
His Beatitude Christoforos, Metropolitan of the Czech and Slovak Republics,

  

His Holiness Pope Shenouda III, Pope of Alexandria and Patriarch of All Africa on the
Apostolic Throne of St. Mark,

  

His Beatitude Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians,
His Beatitude Ignatius Zakka I, Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, Supreme Head of the
Universal Syrian Orthodox Church,

  

His Holiness Mar Thoma Didymos I, Catholicos of the East on the Apostolic Throne of St.
Thomas and the Malankara Metropolitan,
His Holiness Abune Paulos, Fifth Patriarch and Catholicos of Ethiopia, Echege of the See of
St. Tekle Haymanot, Archbishop of Axium,

  

His Beatitude Mar Dinkha IV, Patriarch of the Holy Apostolic Catholic Assyrian Church of
the East,

  

The Most Rev. Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury,

  

Rev. Mark S. Hanson, Presiding Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and
President of the Lutheran World Federation,

  

Rev. George H. Freeman, General Secretary, World Methodist Council,

  

Rev. David Coffey, President of the Baptist World Alliance,

  

Rev. Setri Nyomi, General Secretary of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches,

  

Rev. Dr. Samuel Kobia, General Secretary, World Council of Churches,

  

And Leaders of Christian Churches, everywhere….

In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful

A Common Word between Us and You
(Summary and Abridgement)
Muslims and Christians together make up well over half of the world’s population.

  

Without peace and justice between these two religious communities, there can be no
meaningful peace in the world. The future of the world depends on peace between
Muslims and Christians.

  

The basis for this peace and understanding already exists. It is part of the very
foundational principles of both faiths: love of the One God, and love of the neighbour.

  

These principles are found over and over again in the sacred texts of Islam and
Christianity. The Unity of God, the necessity of love for Him, and the necessity of love of
the neighbour is thus the common ground between Islam and Christianity. The following
are only a few examples:

  

Of God’s Unity, God says in the Holy Qur’an: Say: He is God, the One! / God, the Self-
Sufficient Besought of all! (Al-Ikhlas, 112:1-2). Of the necessity of love for God, God
says in the Holy Qur’an: So invoke the Name of thy Lord and devote thyself to Him with a
complete devotion (Al-Muzzammil, 73:8). Of the necessity of love for the neighbour, the
Prophet Muhammad said: “None of you has faith until you love for your neighbour
what you love for yourself.”

  


In the New Testament, Jesus Christ ? said: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord
is One. / And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul,
with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. / And the
second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ There is no other
commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:29-31)

In the Holy Qur’an, God Most High enjoins Muslims to issue the following call to
Christians (and Jews—the People of the Scripture):
Say: O People of the Scripture! Come to a common word between us and
you: that we shall worship none but God, and that we shall ascribe no
partner unto Him, and that none of us shall take others for lords beside
God. And if they turn away, then say: Bear witness that we are they who
have surrendered (unto Him). (Aal ‘Imran 3:64)

  


The words: we shall ascribe no partner unto Him relate to the Unity of God, and
the words: worship none but God, relate to being totally devoted to God. Hence they all
relate to the First and Greatest Commandment. According to one of the oldest and most
authoritative commentaries on the Holy Qur’an the words: that none of us shall take
others for lords beside God, mean ‘that none of us should obey the other in disobedience
to what God has commanded’. This relates to the Second Commandment because justice
and freedom of religion are a crucial part of love of the neighbour.

  

Thus in obedience to the Holy Qur’an, we as Muslims invite Christians to come
together with us on the basis of what is common to us, which is also what is most
essential to our faith and practice: the Two Commandments of love.

In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful,
And may peace and blessings be upon the Prophet Muhammad

  

A COMMON WORD BETWEEN US AND YOU
In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful,

  

Call unto the way of thy Lord with wisdom and fair exhortation, and contend with
them in the fairest way. Lo! thy Lord is Best Aware of him who strayeth from His way,
and He is Best Aware of those who go aright.
(The Holy Qur’an, Al-Nahl, 16:125)

  

(I) LOVE OF GOD
LOVE OF GOD IN ISLAM

  

The Testimonies of Faith
The central creed of Islam consists of the two testimonies of faith or Shahadahsi,
which state that: There is no god but God, Muhammad is the messenger of God. These
Two Testimonies are the sine qua non of Islam. He or she who testifies to them is a
Muslim; he or she who denies them is not a Muslim. Moreover, the Prophet Muhammad
said: The best remembrance is: ‘There is no god but God’….

  

The Best that All the Prophets have Said

  


Expanding on the best remembrance, the Prophet Muhammad also said: The
best that I have said—myself, and the prophets that came before me—is: ‘There is no god
but God, He Alone, He hath no associate, His is the sovereignty and His is the praise and
He hath power over all things’iii. The phrases which follow the First Testimony of faith
are all from the Holy Qur’an; each describe a mode of love of God, and devotion to Him.
The words: He Alone, remind Muslims that their heartsiv must be devoted to God
Alone, since God says in the Holy Qur’an: God hath not assigned unto any man two
hearts within his body (Al-Ahzab, 33:4). God is Absolute and therefore devotion to Him
must be totally sincere.

  


The words: He hath no associate, remind Muslims that they must love God
uniquely, without rivals within their souls, since God says in the Holy Qur’an: Yet there
are men who take rivals unto God: they love them as they should love God. But those of
faith are more intense in their love for God …. (Al-Baqarah, 2:165). Indeed, [T]heir flesh
and their hearts soften unto the remembrance of God …. (Al-Zumar, 39:23).

The words: His is the sovereignty, remind Muslims that their minds or their
understandings must be totally devoted to God, for the sovereignty is precisely everything
in creation or existence and everything that the mind can know. And all is in God’s Hand,
since God says in the Holy Qur’an: Blessed is He in Whose Hand is the sovereignty, and,
He is Able to do all things (Al-Mulk, 67:1).

  


The words: His is the praise remind Muslims that they must be grateful to God
and trust Him with all their sentiments and emotions. God says in the Holy Qur’an:
And if thou wert to ask them: Who created the heavens and the earth, and
constrained the sun and the moon (to their appointed work)? they would
say: God. How then are they turned away ? / God maketh the provision
wide for whom He will of His servants, and straiteneth it for whom (He
will). Lo! God is Aware of all things. / And if thou wert to ask them: Who
causeth water to come down from the sky, and therewith reviveth the earth
after its death ? they verily would say: God. Say: Praise be to God! But
most of them have no sense. (Al-‘Ankabut, 29:61-63)

  


For all these bounties and more, human beings must always be truly grateful:
God is He Who created the heavens and the earth, and causeth water to
descend from the sky, thereby producing fruits as food for you, and maketh
the ships to be of service unto you, that they may run upon the sea at His
command, and hath made of service unto you the rivers; / And maketh the
sun and the moon, constant in their courses, to be of service unto you, and
hath made of service unto you the night and the day./ And He giveth you of
all ye ask of Him, and if ye would count the graces of God ye cannot
reckon them. Lo! man is verily a wrong-doer, an ingrate.

  

(Ibrahim, 14:32-34)

  


Indeed, the Fatihah—which is the greatest chapter in the Holy Qur’anvii—starts with
praise to God:

  


In the Name of God, the Infinitely Good, the All-Merciful. /
Praise be to God, the Lord of the worlds. /
The Infinitely Good, the All-Merciful. /
Owner of the Day of Judgement. /
Thee we worship, and Thee we ask for help. /
Guide us upon the straight path. /
The path of those on whom is Thy Grace, not those who deserve anger nor
those who are astray. (Al-Fatihah, 1:1-7)

  


The Fatihah, recited at least seventeen times daily by Muslims in the canonical prayers,
reminds us of the praise and gratitude due to God for His Attributes of Infinite Goodness
and All-Mercifulness, not merely for His Goodness and Mercy to us in this life but
ultimately, on the Day of Judgementviii when it matters the most and when we hope to be
forgiven for our sins. It thus ends with prayers for grace and guidance, so that we might
attain—through what begins with praise and gratitude— salvation and love, for God says
in the Holy Qur’an: Lo! those who believe and do good works, the Infinitely Good will
appoint for them love. (Maryam, 19:96)

  


The words: and He hath power over all things, remind Muslims that they must be
mindful of God’s Omnipotence and thus fear Godix. God says in the Holy Qur’an:
… [A]nd fear God, and know that God is with the God-fearing. / Spend your
wealth for the cause of God, and be not cast by your own hands to ruin; and
do good. Lo! God loveth the virtuous. / …. (Al-Baqarah, 2:194-5)…
[A]nd fear God, and know that God is severe in punishment. (Al-Baqarah,
2:196)

  


Through fear of God, the actions, might and strength of Muslims should be totally
devoted to God. God says in the Holy Qur’an:
…[A]nd know that God is with those who fear Him. (Al-Tawbah, 9:36) ….
O ye who believe! What aileth you that when it is said unto you: Go forth in
the way of God, ye are bowed down to the ground with heaviness. Take ye
pleasure in the life of the world rather than in the Hereafter ? The comfort of
the life of the world is but little in the Hereafter. / If ye go not forth He will
afflict you with a painful doom, and will choose instead of you a folk other
than you. Ye cannot harm Him at all. God is Able to do all things. (Al-Tawbah,
9:38-39)

The words: His is the sovereignty and His is the praise and He hath power over
all things, when taken all together, remind Muslims that just as everything in creation
glorifies God, everything that is in their souls must be devoted to God:
All that is in the heavens and all that is in the earth glorifieth God; His is
the sovereignty and His is the praise and He hath power over all things.
(Al-Taghabun, 64:1)

  


For indeed, all that is in people’s souls is known, and accountable, to God:
He knoweth all that is in the heavens and the earth, and He knoweth what
ye conceal and what ye publish. And God is Aware of what is in the
breasts (of men). (Al-Taghabun, 64:4)

  


As we can see from all the passages quoted above, souls are depicted in the Holy
Qur’an as having three main faculties: the mind or the intelligence, which is made for
comprehending the truth; the will which is made for freedom of choice, and sentiment
which is made for loving the good and the beautifulx. Put in another way, we could say
that man’s soul knows through understanding the truth, through willing the good, and
through virtuous emotions and feeling love for God. Continuing in the same chapter of
the Holy Qur’an (as that quoted above), God orders people to fear Him as much as
possible, and to listen (and thus to understand the truth); to obey (and thus to will the
good), and to spend (and thus to exercise love and virtue), which, He says, is better for

our souls. By engaging everything in our souls—the faculties of knowledge, will, and
love—we may come to be purified and attain ultimate success:
So fear God as best ye can, and listen, and obey, and spend; that is better
for your souls. And those who are saved from the pettiness of their own
souls, such are the successful. (Al-Taghabun, 64:16)

In summary then, when the entire phrase He Alone, He hath no associate, His is
the sovereignty and His is the praise and He hath power over all things is added to the
testimony of faith—There is no god but God—it reminds Muslims that their hearts, their
individual souls and all the faculties and powers of their souls (or simply their entire
hearts and souls) must be totally devoted and attached to God. Thus God says to the
Prophet Muhammad in the Holy Qur’an:
Say: Lo! my worship and my sacrifice and my living and my dying are for
God, Lord of the Worlds. / He hath no partner. This am I commanded, and
I am first of those who surrender (unto Him). / Say: Shall I seek another
than God for Lord, when He is Lord of all things? Each soul earneth only
on its own account, nor doth any laden bear another’s load…. (Al-An’am,
6:162-164)

  


These verses epitomize the Prophet Muhammad’s ? complete and utter devotion
to God. Thus in the Holy Qur’an God enjoins Muslims who truly love God to follow this
examplexi, in order in turn to be lovedxii by God:
Say, (O Muhammad, to mankind): If ye love God, follow me; God will love
you and forgive you your sins. God is Forgiving, Merciful. (Aal ‘Imran,
3:31)

  


Love of God in Islam is thus part of complete and total devotion to God; it is not a
mere fleeting, partial emotion. As seen above, God commands in the Holy Qur’an: Say:
Lo! my worship and my sacrifice and my living and my dying are for God, Lord of the
Worlds. / He hath no partner. The call to be totally devoted and attached to God heart
and soul, far from being a call for a mere emotion or for a mood, is in fact an injunction
requiring all-embracing, constant and active love of God. It demands a love in which the
innermost spiritual heart and the whole of the soul—with its intelligence, will and
feeling—participate through devotion.

None Comes with Anything Better

  


We have seen how the blessed phrase: There is no god but God, He Alone, He
hath no associate, His is the sovereignty and His is the praise and He hath power over all
things—which is the best that all the prophets have said—makes explicit what is implicit
in the best remembrance (There is no god but God) by showing what it requires and
entails, by way of devotion. It remains to be said that this blessed formula is also in itself
a sacred invocation—a kind of extension of the First Testimony of faith (There is no god
but God)—the ritual repetition of which can bring about, through God’s grace, some of
the devotional attitudes it demands, namely, loving and being devoted to God with all
one’s heart, all one’s soul, all one’s mind, all one’s will or strength, and all one’s
sentiment.

  

Hence the Prophet Muhammad commended this remembrance by saying:
He who says: ‘There is no god but God, He Alone, He hath no associate,
His is the sovereignty and His is the praise and He hath power over all
things’ one hundred times in a day, it is for them equal to setting ten
slaves free, and one hundred good deeds are written for them and one
hundred bad deeds are effaced, and it is for them a protection from the
devil for that day until the evening. And none offers anything better than
that, save one who does more than that.

  


In other words, the blessed remembrance, There is no god but God, He Alone, He
hath no associate, His is the sovereignty and His is the praise and He hath power over all
things, not only requires and implies that Muslims must be totally devoted to God and
love Him with their whole hearts and their whole souls and all that is in them, but
provides a way, like its beginning (the testimony of faith)—through its frequent
repetitionxiv—for them to realize this love with everything they are.

  

God says in one of the very first revelations in the Holy Qur’an: So invoke the
Name of thy Lord and devote thyself to Him with a complete devotion (Al-Muzzammil,
73:8).

  


LOVE OF GOD AS THE FIRST AND GREATEST COMMANDMENT IN
THE BIBLE

  


The Shema in the Book of Deuteronomy (6:4-5), a centrepiece of the Old
Testament and of Jewish liturgy, says: Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is
one! / You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and
with all your strength.

  


Likewise, in the New Testament, when Jesus Christ, the Messiah, is asked
about the Greatest Commandment, he answers:
But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they
gathered together. / Then one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question,
testing Him, and saying, / “Teacher, which is the great commandment in
the law?” / Jesus said to him, “ ‘You shall love the LORD your God with
all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ / This is the first
and greatest commandment. / And the second is like it: ‘You shall love
your neighbour as yourself.’ / On these two commandments hang all the
Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:34-40)

And also:
Then one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together,
perceiving that he had answered them well, asked him, “Which is the first
commandment of all?” / Jesus answered him, “The first of all the
commandments is: ‘Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one.
/ And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your
soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first
commandment. / And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your
neighbour as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than
these.” (Mark 12:28-31)

  


The commandment to love God fully is thus the First and Greatest
Commandment of the Bible. Indeed, it is to be found in a number of other places
throughout the Bible including: Deuteronomy 4:29, 10:12, 11:13 (also part of the Shema),
13:3, 26:16, 30:2, 30:6, 30:10; Joshua 22:5; Mark 12:32-33 and Luke 10:27-28.
However, in various places throughout the Bible, it occurs in slightly different
forms and versions. For instance, in Matthew 22:37 (You shall love the LORD your God
with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind), the Greek word for
“heart” is kardia, the word for “soul” is psyche, and the word for “mind” is dianoia. In
the version from Mark 12:30 (And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart,
with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength) the word “strength” is
added to the aforementioned three, translating the Greek word ischus.

  


The words of the lawyer in Luke 10:27 (which are confirmed by Jesus Christ
in Luke 10:28) contain the same four terms as Mark 12:30. The words of the scribe in
Mark 12:32 (which are approved of by Jesus Christ ? in Mark 12:34) contain the three
terms kardia (“heart”), dianoia (“mind”), and ischus (“strength”).

  


In the Shema of Deuteronomy 6:4-5 (Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the
LORD is one! / You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your
soul, and with all your strength). In Hebrew the word for “heart” is lev, the word for
“soul” is nefesh, and the word for “strength” is me’od.
In Joshua 22:5, the Israelites are commanded by Joshua to love God and be
devoted to Him as follows:
“But take careful heed to do the commandment and the law which Moses
the servant of the LORD commanded you, to love the LORD your God, to
walk in all His ways, to keep His commandments, to hold fast to Him, and
to serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul.” (Joshua 22:5)

  


What all these versions thus have in common—despite the language differences
between the Hebrew Old Testament, the original words of Jesus Christ ? in Aramaic,
and the actual transmitted Greek of the New Testament—is the command to love God
fully with one’s heart and soul and to be fully devoted to Him. This is the First and
Greatest Commandment for human beings.

  


In the light of what we have seen to be necessarily implied and evoked by the
Prophet Muhammad’s blessed saying: ‘The best that I have said—myself, and the
prophets that came before me—is: ‘There is no god but God, He Alone, He hath no
associate, His is the sovereignty and His is the praise and He hath power over all things’
xvi, we can now perhaps understand the words ‘The best that I have said—myself, and the
prophets that came before me’ as equating the blessed formula ‘There is no god but God,
He Alone, He hath no associate, His is the sovereignty and His is the praise and He hath
power over all things’ precisely with the ‘First and Greatest Commandment’ to love God,
with all one’s heart and soul, as found in various places in the Bible. That is to say, in
other words, that the Prophet Muhammad ? was perhaps, through inspiration, restating
and alluding to the Bible’s First Commandment. God knows best, but certainly we have
seen their effective similarity in meaning. Moreover, we also do know (as can be seen in
the endnotes), that both formulas have another remarkable parallel: the way they arise in
a number of slightly differing versions and forms in different contexts, all of which,
nevertheless, emphasize the primacy of total love and devotion to God xvii.

(II) LOVE OF THE NEIGHBOUR
LOVE OF THE NEIGHBOUR IN ISLAM

  


There are numerous injunctions in Islam about the necessity and paramount
importance of love for—and mercy towards—the neighbour. Love of the neighbour is an
essential and integral part of faith in God and love of God because in Islam without love
of the neighbour there is no true faith in God and no righteousness. The Prophet
Muhammad ? said: “None of you has faith until you love for your brother what you love
for yourself.”And: “None of you has faith until you love for your neighbour what you
love for yourself.”

  

However, empathy and sympathy for the neighbour—and even formal prayers—
are not enough. They must be accompanied by generosity and self-sacrifice.

  

God says in
the Holy Qur’an:
It is not righteousness that ye turn your facesxx to the East and the West;
but righteous is he who believeth in God and the Last Day and the angels
and the Scripture and the prophets; and giveth wealth, for love of Him, to
kinsfolk and to orphans and the needy and the wayfarer and to those who
ask, and to set slaves free; and observeth proper worship and payeth the
poor-due. And those who keep their treaty when they make one, and the
patient in tribulation and adversity and time of stress. Such are they who
are sincere. Such are the pious. (Al-Baqarah 2:177)

  


And also:
Ye will not attain unto righteousness until ye expend of that which ye love.
And whatsoever ye expend, God is Aware thereof. (Aal ‘Imran, 3:92)
Without giving the neighbour what we ourselves love, we do not truly love God
or the neighbour.

  


LOVE OF THE NEIGHBOUR IN THE BIBLE

  

We have already cited the words of the Messiah, Jesus Christ ?, about the
paramount importance, second only to the love of God, of the love of the neighbour:
This is the first and greatest commandment. / And the second is like it:
‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ / On these two
commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets. (Matthew 22:38-40)

  

And:

And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’
There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:31)

  


It remains only to be noted that this commandment is also to be found in the Old
Testament:
You shall not hate your brother in your heart. You shall surely rebuke
your neighbour, and not bear sin because of him. / You shall not take
vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but
you shall love your neighbour as yourself: I am the LORD. (Leviticus
19:17-18)

  


Thus the Second Commandment, like the First Commandment, demands
generosity and self-sacrifice, and On these two commandments hang all the Law and the
Prophets. 

(III) COME TO A COMMON WORD BETWEEN US AND YOU

A Common Word
Whilst Islam and Christianity are obviously different religions—and whilst there
is no minimising some of their formal differences—it is clear that the Two Greatest
Commandments are an area of common ground and a link between the Qur’an, the Torah
and the New Testament. What prefaces the Two Commandments in the Torah and the
New Testament, and what they arise out of, is the Unity of God—that there is only one
God.

  

For the Shema in the Torah, starts: (Deuteronomy 6:4) Hear, O Israel: The LORD
our God, the LORD is one! Likewise, Jesus ? said: (Mark 12:29) “The first of all the
commandments is: ‘Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one”. Likewise,
God says in the Holy Qur’an: Say: He, God, is One. / God, the Self-Sufficient Besought of
all. (Al-Ikhlas, 112:1-2). Thus the Unity of God, love of Him, and love of the neighbour
form a common ground upon which Islam and Christianity (and Judaism) are founded.

  

This could not be otherwise since Jesus said: (Matthew 22:40)“On these two
commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” Moreover, God confirms in the
Holy Qur’an that the Prophet Muhammad brought nothing fundamentally or essentially
new: Naught is said to thee (Muhammad) but what already was said to the messengers
before thee (Fussilat 41:43). And: Say (Muhammad): I am no new thing among the
messengers (of God), nor know I what will be done with me or with you. I do but follow
that which is Revealed to me, and I am but a plain warner (Al-Ahqaf, 46:9). Thus also
God in the Holy Qur’an confirms that the same eternal truths of the Unity of God, of the
necessity for total love and devotion to God (and thus shunning false gods), and of the
necessity for love of fellow human beings (and thus justice), underlie all true religion:

  

And verily We have raised in every nation a messenger, (proclaiming):
Worship God and shun false gods. Then some of them (there were) whom
God guided, and some of them (there were) upon whom error had just
hold. Do but travel in the land and see the nature of the consequence for
the deniers! (Al-Nahl, 16:36)

  


We verily sent Our messengers with clear proofs, and revealed with them
the Scripture and the Balance, that mankind may stand forth in justice….
(Al-Hadid, 57:25)

Come to a Common Word!
In the Holy Qur’an, God Most High tells Muslims to issue the following call to
Christians (and Jews—the People of the Scripture):
Say: O People of the Scripture! Come to a common word between us and
you: that we shall worship none but God, and that we shall ascribe no
partner unto Him, and that none of us shall take others for lords beside
God. And if they turn away, then say: Bear witness that we are they who
have surrendered (unto Him). (Aal ‘Imran 3:64)

  


Clearly, the blessed words: we shall ascribe no partner unto Him relate to the
Unity of God. Clearly also, worshipping none but God, relates to being totally devoted to
God and hence to the First and Greatest Commandment. According to one of the oldest
and most authoritative commentaries (tafsir) on the Holy Qur’an—the Jami’ Al-Bayan fi
Ta’wil Al-Qur’an of Abu Ja’far Muhammad bin Jarir Al-Tabari (d. 310 A.H. / 923
C.E.)—that none of us shall take others for lords beside God, means ‘that none of us
should obey in disobedience to what God has commanded, nor glorify them by
prostrating to them in the same way as they prostrate to God’. In other words, that
Muslims, Christians and Jews should be free to each follow what God commanded them,
and not have ‘to prostrate before kings and the like’xxi; for God says elsewhere in the
Holy Qur’an: Let there be no compulsion in religion…. (Al-Baqarah, 2:256). This clearly
relates to the Second Commandment and to love of the neighbour of which justicexxii and
freedom of religion are a crucial part.

  

God says in the Holy Qur’an:
God forbiddeth you not those who warred not against you on account of
religion and drove you not out from your homes, that ye should show them
kindness and deal justly with them. Lo! God loveth the just dealers. (Al-
Mumtahinah, 60:8)

We thus as Muslims invite Christians to remember Jesus’s words in the
Gospel (Mark 12:29-31):
… the LORD our God, the LORD is one. / And you shall love the LORD
your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and
with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. / And the second,
like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ There is no
other commandment greater than these.

  


As Muslims, we say to Christians that we are not against them and that Islam is
not against them—so long as they do not wage war against Muslims on account of their
religion, oppress them and drive them out of their homes, (in accordance with the verse
of the Holy Qur’an [Al-Mumtahinah, 60:8] quoted above). Moreover, God says in the
Holy Qur’an:

  


They are not all alike. Of the People of the Scripture there is a staunch
community who recite the revelations of God in the night season, falling
prostrate (before Him). / They believe in God and the Last Day, and
enjoin right conduct and forbid indecency, and vie one with another in
good works. These are of the righteous. / And whatever good they do,
nothing will be rejected of them. God is Aware of those who ward off (evil).
(Aal-‘Imran, 3:113-115)

Is Christianity necessarily against Muslims? In the Gospel Jesus Christ says:

  


He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me
scatters abroad. (Matthew 12:30)

  


For he who is not against us is on our side. (Mark 9:40)

  

… for he who is not against us is on our side. (Luke 9:50)

  


According to the Blessed Theophylact’sxxiii Explanation of the New Testament, these
statements are not contradictions because the first statement (in the actual Greek text of
the New Testament) refers to demons, whereas the second and third statements refer to
people who recognised Jesus, but were not Christians. Muslims recognize Jesus Christ as
the Messiah, not in the same way Christians do (but Christians themselves anyway have
never all agreed with each other on Jesus Christ’s nature), but in the following way:
…. the Messiah Jesus son of Mary is a Messenger of God and His Word which he cast
unto Mary and a Spirit from Him.... (Al-Nisa’, 4:171). We therefore invite Christians to
consider Muslims not against and thus with them, in accordance with Jesus Christ’s ?
words here.

  


Finally, as Muslims, and in obedience to the Holy Qur’an, we ask Christians to
come together with us on the common essentials of our two religions … that we shall
worship none but God, and that we shall ascribe no partner unto Him, and that none of
us shall take others for lords beside God … (Aal ‘Imran, 3:64).
Let this common ground be the basis of all future interfaith dialogue between us,
for our common ground is that on which hangs all the Law and the Prophets (Matthew
22:40).

  

God says in the Holy Qur’an:
Say (O Muslims): We believe in God 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. / And if they
believe in the like of that which ye believe, then are they rightly guided.
But if they turn away, then are they in schism, and God will suffice thee
against them. He is the Hearer, the Knower. (Al-Baqarah, 2:136-137)

  

Between Us and You
Finding common ground between Muslims and Christians is not simply a matter
for polite ecumenical dialogue between selected religious leaders. Christianity and Islam
are the largest and second largest religions in the world and in history. Christians and
Muslims reportedly make up over a third and over a fifth of humanity respectively.
Together they make up more than 55% of the world’s population, making the relationship
between these two religious communities the most important factor in contributing to
meaningful peace around the world. If Muslims and Christians are not at peace, the world
cannot be at peace. With the terrible weaponry of the modern world; with Muslims and
Christians intertwined everywhere as never before, no side can unilaterally win a conflict
between more than half of the world’s inhabitants. Thus our common future is at stake.
The very survival of the world itself is perhaps at stake.

  


And to those who nevertheless relish conflict and destruction for their own sake
or reckon that ultimately they stand to gain through them, we say that our very eternal
souls are all also at stake if we fail to sincerely make every effort to make peace and
come together in harmony. God says in the Holy Qur’an: Lo! God enjoineth justice and
kindness, and giving to kinsfolk, and forbiddeth lewdness and abomination and
wickedness. He exhorteth you in order that ye may take heed (Al Nahl, 16:90). Jesus
Christ ? said: Blessed are the peacemakers ….(Matthew 5:9), and also: For what profit
is it to a man if he gains the whole world and loses his soul? (Matthew 16:26).

  


So let our differences not cause hatred and strife between us. Let us vie with each
other only in righteousness and good works. Let us respect each other, be fair, just and
kind to another and live in sincere peace, harmony and mutual goodwill.

  

God says in the
Holy Qur’an:
And unto thee have We revealed the Scripture with the truth, confirming
whatever Scripture was before it, and a watcher over it. So judge between
them by that which God hath revealed, and follow not their desires away
from the truth which hath come unto thee. For each We have appointed a
law and a way. Had God willed He could have made you one community.
But that He may try you by that which He hath given you (He hath made
you as ye are). So vie one with another in good works. Unto God ye will
all return, and He will then inform you of that wherein ye differ.

  

(Al- Ma’idah, 5:48)

  


Wal-Salaamu ‘Alaykum,
Pax Vobiscum
.

  


© 2007 C.E., 1428 A.H., The Royal Aal al-Bayt Institute for Islamic Thought, Jordan.

  


See: www.acommonword.org or: www.acommonword.com