Making a relationship can allow people to recognize that there is more to life than just symbols that separate us from different religions, different ethnicities, different races, different colors. Ultimately, we’re all the same and inside each of us faces the same obstacles, we strive for the same things, and we have the same aspirations, to the same degree that we are unified despite our diversity.
By Famidah Dirampaten
(Editor’s Note: Famidah Dirampaten is a candidate for the Master’s of Arts in Religious Studies at the Unification Theological Seminary and is currently based in Doha, Qatar. This is an excerpt of her speech on the Zoom forum Peace Amidst Diversity on July 14, 2021 sponsored by the UTS, the Universal Peace Federation, and the Filipino International Community of America. This is the last of two parts.)
The Qur’an on Pluralism
I would like to share and quote to you directly from what the Holy Quran preaches and says about pluralism, multiculturalism, tolerance and/or diversity.
The Holy Qur’an offers a modern perspective of a multi-ethnic and multi-community world. Some examples of religious, social and political pluralism found in the Holy Qur’an are:
Islam’s Universal call for dialogue for all times.
a.Allah says in the Quran (3:64): “Say: ‘People of the Book’! Come to common terms which are between us”
b. Allah says in the Holy Qu’ran (2:256) “There is no compulsion in religion. Verily, the right path has become distinct from the wrong path.”
c. Allah says in the Holy Qur’an (4:128)“ Reconciliation is the best”
d. The Holy Qur’an (109:6) says, “O Prophet (PBUH), tell the people “To you be your religion, to me be mine.”
Belief in this or that religion is a person’s own concern.
e. That is why the Holy Qur’an (18:29)says: “This is the truth from your lord so let him who wishes believe and let him who wishes disbelieve.”
The verse instructs us that diversity is willed by Transcendent.
f. Allah Says: (6:35) “Had God so willed, He would have united them (human beings) in guidance, so do not be among the ignorant.”
g. Allah says: (5:48) “Unto every one of you we have appointed a (different) law and way of life. If God had willed, He would have made you one community but things are as they are to test you in what he has given you. So compete with each other in doing good”.
h. Allah says in the Holy Qur’an (49: 13): “Verily we created you from a single pair, male and female, and made you into Nations and tribes, so that you may know each other. ”
Islam recognizes diversity of culture and capabilities. Mutual understanding in all forms of human activities is clearly mentioned in the above verses.
Islam cherishes diversity and enjoins the people to compete only in virtuous conduct among themselves even as they live in their own respective socialization of birth, faiths, tribes and nations, forming a diverse multicultural milieu of mankind.#
The Sunnah (Tradition of Prophet Muhammad) on Pluralism
Holding dialogues is the tradition of Holy Prophet (PBUH) and part of Dawa. He had dialogue with people of different faiths. He taught the ethics and principles of dialogue. He gave permission to his companions for dialogue and they held dialogue successfully. There are also many examples in the life of the Prophet in which he communicated, interacted and cooperated with people of other faiths in the social, political, economic and other arenas as well.
Some examples are:
1.The Arabian Peninsula during the time of the Prophet (PBUH) was a region in which various faiths were present. There were Christians, Jews, Zoroastrians, polytheists, and others not affiliated with any religion. The Prophet (PBUH) who founded the classless and universal society of Islam actually brought various nations together and removed their tribal prejudices.
2. He said: “All mankind is Allah’s family; the best among you in the sight of Allah is he who is human towards his family.”
3. Once the Prophet received a delegation of Christians in Madinah from the region of Najran, then a part of Yemen, at his mosque. As the prayer time came, they had no place of their own to worship so he invited them to offer their prayers at Masjid-e-Nabwi, they faced towards the east and prayed. This was a great example of tolerance for all religion. The most significant charter of tolerance was granted by the prophet of Islam to Christians.
4. The Prophet (PBUH) said: “Beware! Whoever is cruel and hard on non-Muslim minorities, or curtails their rights, or burdens them with more than they can bear, or takes anything from them against their free will; I (Prophet Muhammad) will complain against that person on the Day of Judgment.”
The Treaty with Jews and formation of the constitution of Madinah was a good example of peaceful coexistence of Muslims, Jews, Christians and polytheists in Madinah. The important step Muhammad (PBUH) took on arriving in Madinah was to conclude a treaty with the neighboring Jewish tribes for mutual help and defence of the city.
The Charter of Madinah was framed by the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) himself and was called the first Constitution of Islam in the Islamic State of Madina. According to this Constitution the Muslims and nonMuslims (Zimmis) were given equal rights of safety and protection. Even the political terminology used is the same for both.
I hope that I was able to share about my little knowledge which I believe is the right teachings in Islam about tolerance, diversity, pluralism and compassion. I believe that my religion teaches us Muslims to be kind and mericiful.
Everyday, in our daily prayers which we do five times in a day, we often mention and we invoke the greatest attribute and name of Allah in our recitation of the Holy Quran, who is the God of Kindness and Mercy. Arrahman nir Rahiim.
I think this is the essence of the teaching of Islam. One cannot be kind and merciful if one is not tolerant and kind of others whether one belongs to his own fold of faith or not. God is testing us if we are not just good to our own kind but also to those who are different from us.
I think we all need to understand people and cultures better, and religion is without a doubt one of the biggest influences in human culture. Understanding religions of other people and drawing parallels can go a long way in helping to establish dialogue and cooperation between cultures.
Having a deep understanding of other people allows us to place ourselves in their shoes and understand from their perspective. We cannot hate when we understand. Understanding allows us to be respectful of their theology and practices.
Studying various cultures and nations broadens our horizons as well as causes us to reexamine ourselves and our beliefs. And It would help reduce false assumptions about cultures we are often prone to fear.
But education and knowledge are not enough. Information does nothing to change minds, and knowledge cannot reframe perception the way we wish.
Making a relationship can allow people to recognize there is more to life than just symbols that separate us from different religions, different ethnicities, different races, different colors. Ultimately, we’re all the same and inside each of us faces the same obstacles, we strive for the same things, and we have the same aspirations, to the same degree that we are unified despite our diversity.
It’s about relationships. So, how do we use relationships to do away with our prejudices on others, with our anti-Muslim sentiments.
In order to understand each other, we must rely on our stories. It’s storytelling that builds those relationships. And it’s the stories that change people’s minds.
In conclusion, let me thank you again for this opportunity to address this gathering and let me wish all of you success in our future endeavors.
Thank you and wassalam.#