Dialogue Between Christianity and Islam
An End of the Crusades
900 Years Are Enough
26-27 November 1995
In the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful
Dear brothers and sisters,
It gives me great pleasure, as it does to our Christian and Muslim friends, to meet here after 900 years from the beginning of the Crusades under the slogan 900 years are enough!
This slogan has been adopted by the best of mentalities, which have been liberated from the chains of imitation, ignorance and malice. It has emanated from hearts that truly feel for the human race and that believe in the One Creator. They have worked for this meeting because they feel compassion for God's creatures, thus they are representing the words of Muhammad (P.B.U.H.) when he said: All creatures are God's dependents. The most lovable to God is he who is most helpful to them!
How could rational people take from this slogan, an understanding of good endeavor, and transform it from theory into practice for all people to meet on a foundation of benevolence, cooperation and love instead of meeting on one of destruction, hatred and malice?
Dear brothers and sisters, our being away from each other and our differences can be compared to that of two brothers who have lost each other for many years. While looking for each other, one of them was in a desert whenein he saw something black far away which he thought was a beast. He raised his weapon and took guard. When he drew nearer he discovered that he was standing face to face with his lost brother. The two hugged each other and shed tears of joy and happiness after that long absence.
Brothers and sisters, our ignorance of each other is a very dreadful thing. Ignorance is the worst ailment of civilization. It is due to misunderstanding and bigotry. Islam has been exposed to this ailment of distortion in three periods; during the period of religious reformation in the sixteenth century when Islam was depicted as a frantic and evil religion. Then in the age of Enlightenment-in the eighteenth century when it was looked upon as a strange and bizarre religion, and at the present time it is looked upon as a religion that should be feared and guarded against. How can we disperse this illusion? The fact is that religions, which have the power to create solidarity between societies, have failed to accomplish their task. The conflict between Islam and Christianity in the Middle Ages cast its dark shadows on the possible co-operation between the followers of these two religions. For nine centuries, as a result of what is called the Crusades, a crack appeared in relations among the Christians themselves and with the Muslims as well.
I have always had the impression during my discussions with the faithful of our Christian brothers, that they are dissatisfied with the way that was adopted to end those old conflicts. However, despite the ceasing of military wars, regrettably, the ideological conflicts continued, and these have been connected with emotional violence which has separated the various societies up till now. So surely there happened in the past not only the misunderstanding of religions but also a lot of misunderstanding among the people in charge of these religions who did not comprehend the very aims of their religions. Thus these people could not direct their nations to study what they or the others had received from the messages of God to the extent that their ideological and instructive influence fell short of taking their followers towards real happiness and gave way to great risks that have been threatening the very existence of the human race.
On considering the reasons for religious quarrels such as the Crusades, any human being freed from bigotry, wonders why and how these religions which essentially and genuinely call for the reformation of man and his co-operation with his fellow beings to reach total happiness for all, have been incapable of curbing destructive wars, e. g. the first and second World Wars and the Cold War, that came in its wake, which afflicted the innocent and guilty alike. They could not distinguish between oppressor and oppressed, the young and old, man and woman. Furthermore, world organizations like the League of Nations later the United Nations, stood helpless and could not repel their evils.
Brothers and sisters, this world cannot bear another decline into conflict, and a third world confrontation will almost certainly destroy humanity and civilization. We are in need of constructing a new road to co-operation and peace that is based on mutual understanding and true intentions. If peace does not exist between religions there will be war between civilizations. Yet there will be no peace between religions if there is no dialogue between them.
Religion, in its ideal and true form, has a lot to give to our world. The religious leadership has a much more creative and responsible role to play if it has a real desire for peace. The spread of drugs and alcoholism, the AIDS virus and other sexual diseases, as well as crime and family disintegration, all came about when the message of faith lost its way between conflicts and illusions that were implemented by bigoted religious leaders.
Is it not possible that the solution to these problems lies in the manifestation of a faith that includes both the rational and spiritual elements, and, furthermore, in the realization of the truth and genuineness of the Quran and the Gospel and their human objectives? Thus it is a must that these two eternal messages return to their pure and original sources, for they had not been revealed except to represent the brotherhood of the prophets and to establish peace between these two religions and all human beings so that peace may prevail throughout the world. Prophet Muhammad says: We, prophets, are brothers. Our religion is one
Though I have pointed out some negative issues that have stood in the way of a mutual understanding between Islam and Christianity as a result of what has happened in the past, there are also many shared positive attributes which can make us happy and hopeful for the future. To cite examples:
1- Both religions emanated from one source and call for the belief in the One Creating God, therefore we should not be divided because of religion. Jesus Christ says: The eternal life is that they should know You as the only and true God, and know Jesus Christ whom You sent. The Quran says:
The same religion has He established for you as that which He enjoined on Noah-the which We revealed to you and that which We enjoined on Abraham, Moses and Jesus; namely, that you should remain steadfast in religion, and make no divisions therein. T.Q., Sura 42, verse 13.
The Quran also says:
Say: we believe in God, and in the revelation given to us, and to Abraham, Ishmael, Issac, Jacob, and the Tribes, and that given to Moses and Jesus and that given to all prophets from their Lord: we make no difference between one and another of them, and we bow to God. T.Q., Sura 2, The Cow, verses 4-136.
2- Secondly both religions urge their followers to be good citizens in society. Muhammad says: All creatures are God's dependents. The most lovable to God is he who is the most helpful to His dependents. We read in the Quran what God the Almighty says:
The believers must eventually win through, those who humble themselves in prayer, who avoid vain talk, who are active in deeds of charity and who abstain from sex, except with those joined to them in marriage bond... T.Q., Sura 23, The Believers, verses 1-6.
Thus charity, modesty, honesty, and sincerity are all good attributes reflected in society. Jesus Christ says: Love your neighbor as you love yourself.
3- Both religions call their followers to exchange love and affiliation. The Quran says:
And the nearest among them in love to the believers will you find those who say we are Christians. T.Q., Sura 5, The Table, verse 82.
4- Both religions agree that justice and moral integration are the foundation of society. It is an awareness of the existence of God that urges a human being to moral commitments which in turn may curb crime. It is said that a heart without faith is like a court of justice without a judge. In Islamic history Omar Ibn Al-Khattab who was the judge of Madinah, the capital of the Islamic state during the Caliphate of Abu Bakr, asked the latter to allow him to resign his post because one whole year had passed without any case being brought before him. If we ask ourselves why no people went to court, we may say it is because the ideal society had been built on the foundation of faith.
5- Another common reality between the two religions is that they meet on belief in eternal truths: that the world has One Eternal Creator, that the world did not exist at random and without aim, and also the belief in the unseen such as Predestiny, Divine will, Angels, Resurrection, the Day of Judgment, Paradise and Heaven for the benevolent, and Hellfire for the malevolent.
Islam adds to that when the Quran says:
To you we sent the Scripture in truth confirming the Scriptures that came before it, and guarding them. T.Q., Sura 5, The Table, verse 48.
This shows that not only does the Quran affirm the revealed messages from God, but it also asserts human unity under the canopy of one global and ideal nation. In reality this was accomplished when in less than one century half of the ancient world was unified under Islam with only the primitive means available. So how would it be if the present means of media were used to acquaint the world with the divine message that is the essence and completion of all the messages of heaven. God addresses the followers of the Abrahamic religions saying in the Quran:
O people of the book! you have no ground to stand upon unless you stand fast by the Torah and the Gospel. T.Q., Sura 5, The Table, verse 68.
In addition to all this, the Quran presents its second largest chapter under the title of The family of Omran, or in other words, Mary's father and his family. This chapter is full of glorification and veneration of Mary and Jesus. Another chapter is entitled Mary the chaste and pure, with the miraculous birth of Jesus presented in all honor and respect. Therefore, you see that the remedy lies in receiving the correct knowledge of the Quran.
Brothers and sisters, in this way Islam has traversed half the distance on the way to a closeness between Muslims and Christians. Is it not high time that Christianity completed the other half to reciprocate with Islam and likewise offer its recognition, veneration and love?
Brothers and sisters, it behooves those clergy who are brave, wise, unbiased and who believe in reform to be courageous enough to study the Book of God: the Quran, in which they will find all the solutions as clear as daylight. They will find how the Quran calls for the message of Jesus Christ and the prophets of the Torah. It even defends and supports them. But it shouldn't occur to you that this call aims at stripping the Christians from their Christianity, as this has never been the aim of the Quran since the dawn of Islam.
Muhammad's messenger to Mukawkis, Egypt's Roman governor, clarified that fact when he said to him: We do not forbid you from Christianity, but we command you to follow it. When Ali, Muhammad's fourth Caliph, asked someone about his faith, he said: I am Christian. Ali retorted: I am Christian too! Having left the main subject for a while to eliminate any doubt or suspicion, I want to reiterate that those courageous clergy, knowing the aim of God on this earth, must work together in harmony, to subdue all hostilities and nullify all possible reasons of war, malice and conflict.
Brothers and sisters, Jesus Christ also gives us such a clear and beautiful solution, as bright as the sun at midday. When he was asked by someone what he should do to inherit eternal life, Jesus said: You have to love your Lord with all your heart and soul, all your power and mind, and you must love your neighbor as you love yourself. Muhammad, the last prophet who engineered the laying down of the final stone of the structure of religion and completed the construction of unity of faith through the belief in the One Creating God and who created an ideal nation for all people to follow its example, says: He is not a believer in me for one hour who goes to bed with a full stomach, knowing that his neighbor is hungry. We all know that when an animal in the forest attacks another animal, it is only to fill its own stomach, but the egotism of human beings is never satisfied.
Brothers and sisters, the opportunity is ripe to use the merits of our age in which our world has diminished into a global village, with all the speed of communication, information networks and TV through satellites in which man is investing all his knowledge and the fruit of his labor to know what is awaiting him in the future. So there should be:
1- Persuasion and encouragement to know the various facts and to create intimacy and love between people and to stop the spread of malice and disunity among individuals and nations.
2- A search for truth and knowledge and to end all superstitions in order to correct the concept of God among all people and to assert that God is not dead. Atheism is the sure outcome of a shaky concept of religion. Each person has to know that his or her interest lies in following the true and pure law of God.
In order to achieve this we have to:
a- Raise enlightened clerics who can work for renewal, and accomplish the interrelation of the two messages in order to return to true Islam and Christianity, to bring back spiritual and secular people to the religions of heaven, which are spiritual and rational in their essence and which call for Right and Justice under the Quranic slogan:
Invite all to the way of your Lord through wisdom and beautiful preaching. T.Q., Sura 16, The Bees, verse 125.
and the slogan advocated by Jesus Christ: Love for your human brothers what you love for yourself, and the slogan raised by Muhammad who says: I have been sent as a teacher, a guide and to perfect high ethical values.
b- We have to be keen on teaching people that there is a Day of Judgment, which is inevitable, and on which the oppressor will pay full account for his oppression, and the benevolent will be rewarded for his good deeds. God says in the Quran:
Then shall anyone who had done an atom's weight of good see it! And anyone who had done an atom's weight of evil shall see it. T.Q., Sura 99, verses 7-8.
c- We have to infuse the disobedient and sinful people with hope in order to make them contrite and gain God's pleasure and heaven, which is spacious enough to hold all, and is provided for those who believe in God, in the hereafter and who do good works. It cannot be attained through mere wishfulness.
d- We have to form a committee from both parties whose job is to formulate its declarations and recommendations and propose the means to enact them.
e- We have to arrange for regular meetings to study the progress achieved in the implementation of these recommendations and resolutions and surmount the obstacles facing them.
Finally, dear brothers and sisters, as Europe, represented by you, has extended its hands to Muslims to bring about the slogan NINE HUNDRED YEARS OF WAR, SEPARATION AND ANIMOSITY ARE ENOUGH, the Muslims, me being one of them, extend their hands to yours and promise with their brothers, the Christians, to spread the message of truth, goodness, virtue and eternal peace for our peoples and for all humanity. God alone is the best to help.
Peace be upon you, and the mercy of God, the Exalted, be with you.