تسلّط هذه المقالة الضّوء على بعض النّقاط المهمّة الّتي يتشارك فيها الإسلام مع الدّيانتين السّماويّتين الأخريين: اليهوديّة والمسيحيّة (النّصرانيّة)، وأنّ الميّزة الّتي تفرّد بها الرّسول محمّد – صلّى الله عليه وسلّم- هي أنّه أُرسل للإنسانيّة كلّها كرحمة للعالمين وأنّ سيرته الشّريفة تحفل بالأدلّة على أنّ دين الإسلام هو دين السّلام والتّسامح وضرب الأمثلة على ذلك، مثل تشجيع الرّسول -صلّى الله عليه وسلّم- أصحابه على الهجرة إلى الحبشة والاحتماء بالملك المسيحيّ (النّصرانيّ) العادل، وانتشار الإسلام في جنوب شرق آسيا على أيدي التّجّار المسلمين بحسن خلقهم وتعاملهم الرّاقي، وكذلك مثال التّسامح والتّعايش بين المسلمين والمسيحين (النّصارى) واليهود في الأندلس إبّان الحكم الإسلاميّ.
The Folly! Every man in turn would still
His own peculiar notions magnify!
If Islam mean submission to God’s will,
May we all live in Islam, and all die.
(Wolfgang Goethe, West- Eastern Divan)
Islam is the religion of about 1.8 billion Muslims, constituting the second largest religion in the world after Christianity. It could be an unpopular fact, that it shares empirical cornerstones with its predecessor celestial religions, Judaism and Christianity. In fact, Muslims strongly believe that the three religions meet right in the heart of each; they all propagate to worship the One and Only God, Allah the Almighty. However, this Islamic point of view is based on the divine revelation in the Holy Quran; the pure Judaism of Abraham entails him to be described as a Muslim: “Abraham was not a Jew, nor yet a Christian; but he was an upright man who had surrendered to Allah, and he was not of the idolaters” (3:67). Likewise, the analogy with Christianity is established on Jesus’ conviction and submission to Allah as his Creator, not his Father: “He spoke: Lo! I am the slave of Allah. He hath given me the Scripture and hath appointed me a Prophet” (19:30). Besides, a Muslim’s iman, his true faith is incomplete unless one reveres and believes in all the Prophets, Abraham, Jesus, Noah, Job, Moses and all the other messengers and prophets who were sent with the same message to their peoples.
The main distinction that our Prophet, Muhammad peace be upon him had is that he was sent to all humanity and not only to his immediate community of tribal Arabs. Islam is described as a compassion for the whole world: “We sent thee not save as a mercy for the peoples” (21:107). It is a universal expedition of authentic tolerance and peace to all humanity. No coercion to call the non-Muslims to embrace the religion. (O disbelievers! I worship not that which ye worship; Nor worship ye that which I worship. And I shall not worship that which ye worship. Nor will ye worship that which I worship. Unto you your religion, and unto me my religion.) (109:Surat Al-Kafirun). Hence, it is a fallacy that Islam spread with the power of the sword. Islam inspires its followers to be just and fair with others, to refrain from racism which is condemned as a feature of the Jahilyah, the pre-Islamic epoch. The criterion of distinction is piety, not color. Hence, several important companions of the Prophet were not Arabs, like Salman Al Farisi (the Persian) and Suhaib Al Rumi (the Roman). Furthermore, the Prophet himself got married of the Egyptian Copt, Maria.
Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, is the role model for Muslims. Many of Islamic teachings have been learnt practically from his personality traits, sayings (Hadiths) and actions. If Islam boasts its encouragement of peace and tolerance definitely Muslims had witnessed those values best applied by the Prophet. The biography of the Prophet, peace be upon him is full of such inspiring examples. We may mention some instances: while he was still preaching Islam in Makkah and the leading tribe, Quraish was prosecuting and harassing him and his followers, Prophet Muhammad did not hesitate to send some of the newly converts, men and women to Abyssinia seeking refuge at the court of the Negus, King of Aksum (c. 615 A.D). It was known to them that he was Christian, and above all that he had had a reputation of being very fair and kindhearted. This actually a very clear evidence that Islam cherishes good relations with the non-Muslims. Moreover, after the Negus’ death in his own country, far away from Madinah where the Prophet established the first civil Islamic community, the Prophet gathered his companions to perform a special prayer pleading to Allah to rest the graceful soul in heaven. Actually, this gesture was a due honor for the noble King who supported Islam during a time when such an action was most needed.
On the other hand, the Prophet also had a real concern of preaching Islam peacefully, through what we can call by modern terms, diplomatic relations. In the period from 628 to 632 AD, he sent his emissaries with letters of invitation to Islam to some powerful leaders. For example, to the Roman Caesar, to the Persian King, and the Coptic, Byzantine ruler in Egypt.
Such ethics and values are not only praised by Muslims. Several objective, audacious Western scholars whose research, knowledge and quest of the truth helped them arrive at an adequate appraisal of the compassionate, tolerant and moral dimensions in the Prophet’s personality. To name a few of those Orientalists we mention the German philosopher Johann Gottfried von Herder (1744-1803), Germany’s greatest writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749–1832), the outstanding Victorian English writer Thomas Carlyle (1795 – 1881), and the British theologist and historian Karen Armstrong (1944).
Another vivid historical evidence that Islam promotes coexistence and forbearance among nations is how the Arab traders spread Islam in South Asia. The initial aim of those Hadhramis, from the Southern part of Yemen travelling to the countries of the far east was economic. However, their moral conduct and behavior in dealings with the local people, in accordance with Islamic teachings truly succeeded in giving the best impressions about their religion. In the fourteenth Century, many Indonesians for example, in the areas of Java and Sumatra became Muslims. By the following century, even more other islands converted to Islam, too. Today, around nine-tenth of Indonesians are Muslims. Besides, descendants of the Hadhramis traders are part and parcel of the local population and many of them are prominent citizens in leading positions in commerce, education and politics.
Hopefully the following instance is adequately indicative about Islamic tolerance and its inspiration of respecting the others’ freedom of religion. As the sixteenth Century was dawning, namely in 1494, thousands of Jews were fleeing from Spain. They were living in perfect coexistence in Andalusia with all the other ethnic groups. This description is authenticated by a Western testimony of the Islamic graceful concern that all followers of the three monotheistic religions enjoyed societal harmony:
The Muslim period in Spain is often described as a ‘golden age’ of learning where libraries, colleges, public baths were established and literature, poetry and architecture flourished. Both Muslims and non-Muslims made major contributions to this flowering of culture.
Islamic Spain is sometimes described as a ‘golden age’ of religious and ethnic tolerance and interfaith harmony between Muslims, Christians and Jews11 Muslim Spain (711-1492). 04.09.2009. http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/islam/history/spain_1.shtml. Accessed 15.02. 2019.
Unfortunately, the circumstances worsened after ages of peace, prosperity in a thriving Islamic Renaissance under the Arabic Umayyad Caliphate in Southern Spain. After the sun of Islamic Civilization had set there, Muslims and Jews were persecuted by the Spanish Inquisition. When Alhambra Decree was announced by Ferdinand and Isabella, the Jews had to be deported from Spain. By contrast to the Spanish injustice, the Ottoman Sultan, Bayezid II showed an amazing, humanistic endeavor to save the Jewish refugees. He offered them asylum in the Ottoman Empire. Consequently, they had the freedom to settle in Turkey and all the other Islamic countries that were under the Ottoman rule, such as Palestine, Syria and Egypt.
All the beautiful, authentic moral principles and values that Islam shares with the other religions for the well being and stability of the world and humanity is flawlessly, immortally and securely preserved in the Noble Quran. Besides, the Prophet’s sunnah (his sayings) is an invaluable, indispensable source of Islamic teachings. The misguided behavior of some Muslims could be the result of negligence, perseverance or misinterpretation of the scripture. Hence, it is the result of a human error; the religion itself is as pure and clear as it was revealed from Allah by the Archangel Gabriel fifteen centuries ago. It will remain a solid and undeniable truth as long as humanity exists.
Alison Lesley. The Top 4 Religions of The World. World Religion News. 05.04.2018. Accessed 23.03.2018. https://www.worldreligionnews.com/religion-news/top-4-religions-world
Asvi Warman Adam, Thomas R Leinbach and Others. Indonesia. Encyclopedia Britannica. Published 13.03.2019. www.britannica/Indonesia/Religion. Accessed 17.03.2019.
Goethe, Johann Wolfgang. West- Eastern Divan. Trans. Edward Dowden. London and Toronto: Mcmxiv. J. M. Dent & Sons Ltd. University of Toronto Library. Web. Accessed 05.10. 2012.
Role of Merchants in Spreading Islam. 08.06.2012. Da’wa Skills. http://www.dawahskills.com/torchbearers/role-of-merchants-in-spreading-islam. Accessed 17.03.2019.
Muslim Spain (711-1492). 04.09.2009. http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/islam/history/spain_1.shtml. Accessed 15.02. 2019.