Inter-faith amity not at cost of Islamic basics

In the last one decade, especially in the years since 9/11 Muslims everywhere started many interfaith initiatives to exchange views with non-Muslims. In India this Muslim-Hindu initiative was centuries old when countless Sufi saints initiated this process. In the times of the Saljuq Turk Sultans in Delhi this interfaith process was very successful. Later in the Mughal era this process continued. Regrettably in that era, while most Sufis remaimned true, a few Muslim Sufis crossed the line and became deviant interfaith activists. In their zeal to bring Hindus and Muslims together they agreed to some practices that were violation of the basics of Islam. Thus, in his zeal, emperor Akbar started a new religion, Deen-e-Ilahi, a mixture of Islam and Hinduism. That was shirk, as clearly spelt out in Quraan. Dara Shikoh who initiated many good interfaith practices went too far when he started taking part in Hindu worships, and tried to propagate that Rama and Krishna were actually prophets sent by Allah, even though he could not provide any evidence of it from any authentic Islamic scriptures.

In our times too, this same phenomenon of overzealous interfaith Muslim activists is continuing in India and in US __ both countries where Islam is being degraded by its enemies. The Muslims in both countries who began efforts to have interfaith dialogues made a good start. But unfortunately some of these activists are laymen when it comes to the Islamic scriptures. No Muslim can be a good interfaith activist until he first acquires a good understanding of Islam by a thorough study of Islamic scriptures and fiqh (not just rudimentary reading of Quraan), just as no one can be a doctor without studying medicine in an organized maner. Unfortunately some Muslim interfaith activists are choosing to take shortcuts around the learning process, and after just an elementary literal reading of Quran, pronounce that they understand Islam perfectly.

These quack Islamic doctors are going around misquoting verses from Quran or quoting verses selectively and out of context to prove their preconceived theories. They first come out with a maxim that they think will make them look good in the eyes of Hindus in India; and Jews & Chtistians in America. Then they find some verse in Quran that they doctor to fit their preconceived theory. Presto! they find a formula for Muslim-non-Muslim harmony. The problem is that in the process they violate the basics of Allah’s deen, that countless prophets have preached starting with Adam Alaihussalam. In fact from the day human life came in to existence only ONE and SAME message of Allah has been preached by ALL prophets. Of course many followers of these prophets deviated from that message and came up with new forms of the original message. Many started indulging in idol worship and other sacreligious practices. Thus much deviation and corruption of Allah’s message has occurred.

No compromise on basics
Quran tells it all and prophet Mohammad told all of this to Muslims in the form of Islam. He also warned of further corruption and deviation in Islam while he instructed Muslims to not degrade the other faiths in order to maintain peace. Regrettably some interfaith Muslims are using Mohammad’s message of peace into making compromises in the basics of Islam. They misquote the Quranic verse “For you is your religion and for me is my religion”, to propound that Quran acknowledges that all religions are equivalent paths to God. But in Quran this verse is immidiately preceded by the verse telling Muslims that some people will refuse to accept the message of Islam and become militant and in that case Muslims should desist from arguing with them and say that, since you are not going to accept our message and we are not going to accept your deviant religion, “to you is your religion and to us is our religion”.

For many Muslims like me our Iman (belief) in Quran and genuine Hadeeth is not just an intellectual exercise. It is our entire life. From the time that we were children we have enjoyed the Rahmat of Allah and His help in most areas of our lives. Starting with humble beginnings under difficult circumstances we acquired good education and then availed of good socioeconomic and intellectual opportunities; faced great difficulties, and thrived only because of Allah’s mercy and help. We encountered many problems that looked insurnountable; we persevered and sought Allah’s help. Lo, the help came from nowhere and we kept moving forward. So here it is, our faith in Iman is based on our own personal experiences, not just because someone told that to us.

Of all the elements in Quran the most basic is where Allah tells mankind to think for themselves; see how the world goes around from day to day; how many phenomenon happen in the universe; think how it is happening. Right there, it is proof that it is the God of Quran (and its predecessor scriptures of God) that makes things happen and helps humans overcome their problems and thrive.

Thus when most Muslims like me come across the overzealous interfaith Muslim activists who are willing to compromise some elements of Islam in their misunderstanding of what is tolerance and pluralism, it really bothers us. We who have survived and thrived against many heavy odds by utilizing the message of Quran, and want to have the same benefit in the hereafter, simply can not afford to let others put doubts in our Iman and dent it; because that will destroy both worlds for us and our children and their children and so on. So we follow Quran’s guidance: “Hold on to the rope of Allah”.

The interfaith phenomenon is very useful. But what it means is that we be respectful and tolerant of other religions while continuing to propound the basic message of Quran and Islam. It does not mean that we incorporate some practices that are prohibited in Islm just to appear tolerant and to get along better with people of other religions and people of no religion. In fact these overzealous interfaith Muslim activists cause harm to the very process of interfaith by strengthening the hands of the extremist Muslims who frown on any interfaith efforts. And of course they upset the observant Muslims by trying to put dents in their Imaan and dilute their aqeeda. Regrettably a few Muslims think that such flirtation with shirk is in fact an element of being intellectual. They should remember that like other things, in being intellectual also one cannot transgress the basics. All of us should remember that before Iblis became satan he was the most intellectual and favourite angel of Allah; but that he crossed the limit that led to his demonization.

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 1-15 February 2010 on page no. 2

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