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How to Interact with Followers of Other Religions

by Fethullah Gülen on . Posted in Fethullah Gülen's Speeches and Interviews on Interfaith Dialogue

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In the Qur'an God says: This is the Book; wherein there is no doubt; a guidance to those who fear God (2:2). Later it is explained that these pious ones are those: Who believe in the Unseen, are steadfast in prayer, and spend out of what We have provided for them; and who believe in what is sent to you and what was sent before you, and (in their hearts) have the reassurance of the Hereafter (2:3-4). At the very outset, using a very soft and slightly oblique style, the Qur'an calls people to accept the former Prophets and their Books. Having such a condition at the very beginning of the Qur'an seems very important to me when it comes to starting a dialogue with the followers of other religions.

In another verse God commands: And discuss you not with the People of the Book, except with means better (than mere disputation) (29:46). This verse describes what method, approach, and manner should be used. Bediuzzaman's view of the form and style of debate are extremely significant: "Anyone who is happy about defeating an opponent in debate is without mercy." He explains further: "You do not gain anything by such a defeat. If you were defeated and the other was victorious, you would have corrected one of your mistakes." Debate should not be for the sake of our ego, but to enable the truth to come out.

Elsewhere it is stated: God forbids you not, with regard 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 loves those who are just (60:8).

According to some, several verses harshly criticize the People of the Book. In reality, such criticism is directed against wrong behavior, incorrect thought, resistance to truth, the creation of hostility, and undesirable characteristics. The Bible contains even stronger criticisms of the same attributes. However, immediately after these apparently sharp criticisms and threats, very gentle words are used to awaken hearts to the truth and to plant hope. In addition, the Qur'an's criticism and warning about some attitudes and behavior found among Jews, Christians, and polytheists also were directed toward Muslims who still indulged in them. Both the Companions and expounders of the Qur'an agree on this.

God-revealed religions strongly oppose disorder, treachery, conflict, and oppression. Islam literally means "peace," "security," and "well-being." Naturally based on peace, security, and world harmony, it sees war and conflict as aberrations to be brought under control. An exception is made for self-defense, as when a body tries to defeat the germs attacking it. Self-defense must follow certain guidelines, however. Islam always has breathed peace and goodness. Considering war an accident, it established rules to balance and limit it. For example, it takes justice and world peace as a basis, as in: Let not the hatred of others to you make you swerve to wrong and depart from justice (5:8). Islam developed a line of defense based on certain principles that protect religion, life, property, the mind, and reproduction. The modern legal system also has done this.

Islam accords the greatest value to human life. It views the killing of one person as the killing of all people, for a single murder engenders the idea that any person can be killed. Adam's son Cain was the first murderer. Although their names are not specifically mentioned in the Qur'an or Sunna, we learn from the Bible that a misunderstanding between Cain and Abel resulted in Cain unjustly killing Abel in a jealous rage. And thus began the epoch of spilling blood. For this reason, one hadith records the Messenger of God as saying: "Whenever a person is killed unjustly, part of the sin for murder is credited to Adam's son Cain, for he opened to humanity the way of unjust killing." The Qur'an also states that one who kills a person unjustly in effect has killed everyone, and one who saves another in effect has saved everyone (5:32).