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November 2, 2011

Islam and other Religions

Islam and other Religions

Non-monotheistic religions

The Islamic view of non-monotheist religions differs among scholars and varies according to time and place. For example, the relationship of Islam with Hinduism and non-monotheist religions varied greatly according to the religious outlook of individual rulers. In India, the Mughal emperor Akbar, for example, was very tolerant towards Hindus, while his successor Aurangzeb was less so. This variability persists today; while fundamentalists are often less tolerant, liberal movements within Islam often try to be more open-minded.

Islam's view of Jews and Christians

The Qur'an uses the term People of the Book to include all monotheists, including Jews, Christians and Muslims. According to Islam, all nations were given a Messenger and guidance from Allah.

Muslims believe that Judaism and Christianity started out with the same message as Islam, but that eventually, due to their abandonment of adherence to strict monotheism, the followers of Moses earned God's anger (by worshipping the Golden Calf, mentioned in the Biblical account of Moses, and later Ezra) and the followers of Jesus went astray (by worshipping him). "And when Allah saith : O Jesus , son of mary! Didst thou say unto mankind : Take me and my mother for two gods beside Allah? he saith : Be glorified It was not mine to utter that to which I had no right . If I used to say it , then Thou knewest it . Thou knowest what is in my mind , and I know not what is in Thy mind . Lo! Thou , only Thou art the Knower of Things Hidden." [Surah 5:116]

It is popularly held by the vast majority of Muslims that the Holy Tawrat (revelation given to Moses) and the Holy Injil (revelation given to Jesus Christ) have been corrupted over time and that the present day Bible and Torah share little or no resemblance to the original message. According to Islam, Muhammad was sent during a time of spiritual darkness and once the Qur'an was finally established, all past revelations were abrogated, making the Last Testament not only for the Arab nation but for all mankind until the Day of Judgement.

Some parts of the Qur'an attribute differences between Muslims and non-Muslims to tahref-ma'any, a "corruption of the meaning" of the words. In this view, the Jewish Bible and Christian New Testament are true, but the Jews and Christians misunderstood the meaning of their own Scripture, and thus need the Qur'an to clearly understand the will of God. However, other parts of the Qur'an make clear that many Jews and Christians used deliberately altered versions of their scripture, and had altered the word of God. This belief was developed further in medieval Islamic polemics, and is a mainstream part of both Sunni and Shi'ite Islam today. This is known as the doctrine of tahref-lafzy, "the corruption of the text". Either way the Quran clearly states that the necessary information which was written in the previous scriptures can also be found in the Quran: "And We have sent down to you (O Muhammad) the Book (this Qur’aan) in truth, confirming the Scripture that came before it and Mohaymin (trustworthy in highness and a witness) over it (old Scriptures). So judge among them by what Allah has revealed" [Surah 5:48]

Historically, Islamic scholars have agreed that the Qur'an gives "People of the Book" special status, allowing those who live in Muslim lands (called dhimmi—protected people) to practice their own religions and to own property. People of the Book were not subject to certain Islamic rules, such as the prohibitions on alcohol and pork. Under the Islamic state, they were exempt from the draft, but were required to pay a tax known as jizyah, part of which went to charity and part to finance churches and synagogues. (They were, however, exempt from the zakat required of Muslims.) This agreement has in the past led to Islamic countries practicing religious toleration for Christians and Jews, although they were never accorded the full status enjoyed by Muslims.

Exclusivistic thought in Islam

One part—often seen as the largest or at least currently the most vocal—focuses on the differences takes an exclusivistic and aggressive approach to the differences between Islam and the Judeo-Christian community. Like in other faiths, this can lead to parts of the Muslim community holding beliefs like the necessity of bringing them back to the "Straight Path" by persuasion, or even force, and then acting them out.

Inclusivistic thought in Islam

Another part—often with a lower-profile, if not currently an outright minority—of Muslims focus on the similiarities and believe that people of faith in Islam, Christianity, and Judaism all serve the same God, and cite verses such as the following:

"We believe in Allah, and in what has been revealed to us and what was revealed to Abraham, Isma'il, Isaac, Jacob, and the Tribes, and in (the Books) given to Moses, Jesus, and the prophets, from their Lord: We make no distinction between one and another among them, and to Allah do we bow our will (in Islam)." (Surat Al Imran; 3:84).

" Those with Faith, those who are Jews, and the Christians and Sabaeans, all who have Faith in Allah and the Last Day and act rightly, will have their reward with their Lord. They will feel no fear and will know no sorrow." (Surat al-Baqara; 2:62).

" The Messenger believes in what has been revealed to him from his Lord, as do the men of faith. Each one (of them) believes in Allah, His angels, His Books, and His Messengers. "We make no distinction (they say) between one and another of His Messengers." And they say: "We hear, and we obey, (we seek) Thy forgiveness, our Lord, and to Thee is the end of all journeys." (Surat al-Baqara; 2:285).
" Call to the way of your Lord with wisdom and fair admonition, and argue with them in the kindest way. Your Lord knows best who is misguided from His way. And He knows best who are guided." (Surat an-Nahl; 16:125).

" ...You will find the people most affectionate to those who have faith are those who say, 'We are Christians.' That is because some of them are priests and monks and because they are not arrogant." (Surat al-Ma'ida; 5:82).

" Only argue with the People of the Book in the kindest way - except in the case of those of them who do wrong - saying, 'We have iman in what has been sent down to us and what was sent down to you. Our God and your God are one and we submit to Him." (Surat al-`Ankabut; 29:46).

One verse of the Qur'an says "God forbids you not, with regards to those who fight you not for [your] faith nor drive you out of your homes, from dealing kindly and justly with them; for God loveth those who are just." (Qur'an, 60:8), which is interpreted as a clear admonition not to be disrespectful or unkind to non-Muslims. According to a hadith, Muhammad said to his people "The one who murders a dhimmi [non-Muslim under protection of the state] will not smell the fragrance of Paradise, even if its smell was forty years travelling distance" [Sahih Ahmed].

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