Relationships between the Followers of Heavenly Religions
His Eminence’s speech at Abu Al-Nour Mosque
in the presence of Dr George Carey, Archbishop of Canterbury, and the delegation accompanying him
29 September 1999 (12/10/1419 AH)
His Eminence Sheikh Ahmad Kuftaro, Grand Mufti of Syria and Head of the Higher Council of Fatwa, gave his weekly lecture at Abunnour Mosque in Damascus. The lecture was attended by Dr George Carey, Archbishop of Canterbury, the delegation accompanying him, the Ambassador of the United Kingdom, some members of the Middle East Council of Churches, some Muslim clerics and a large audience.
After His Eminence welcomed his guests, he spoke in detail about the relationships between the followers of the two heavenly religions: Islam and Christianity.
In the Name of God,
the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful
Great meetings should have a great outcome, which should be on a par with the people holding them. Heavenly religions came to work on educating human beings and preparing them correctly on spiritual, materialistic and intellectual levels to enable them to become the foundation for building modern civilised human societies. That is why religions recommend everything that benefits humans and forbid everything that harms them.
Heavenly religions came in their original form with the aim of freeing people’s minds and developing them into enlightened and open ones. It never came to contradict logic or truth, but rather to develop, support and harmonise with it.
If the peoples of the world are looking forward to achieving world peace, they need to follow the prophets’ messages, which are all based on establishing peace between humans and their Lord and between humans themselves.
Jesus Christ (pbuh) said, ‘Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God.’ Matthew 5:7–9.
Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said, ‘Those who have mercy on people will have mercy from God, the Most Merciful. If you have mercy on those on earth, the One in heaven will have mercy upon you.’ Sunan Al-Tirmithi.
Almighty God describes the mission of Prophet Muhammad saying:
“We have sent you only as a mercy for all the creation.” T.Q., 21:107.
Almighty God also says in the Holy Qur’an:
“God calls to the Home of Peace.” T.Q., 10:25.
Islam has made its salutation a call and prayer for peace and mercy (the Islamic greeting is ‘May God’s peace, mercy and blessings be upon you’), and Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) has called for extending peace.
Both Islam and Christianity call people to compassion, cooperation and love. Jesus Christ (pbuh) said, ‘A new commandment I give you: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.’ John 13:34.
Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said, ‘You will not be a true believer unless you wish for your brother whatever you wish for yourself.’ Sahih Al-Bukhari.
In the first letter of John we read: ‘Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has an eternal life in him.’ 1 John 3:15.
All heavenly messages call for forgiveness, tolerance and opposing injustice. With regard to fighting injustice, Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) narrated that Almighty God says,
‘Oh My servants! I have made injustice forbidden on Myself, and I have made it forbidden on you, so do not wrong one another.’ Sahih Muslim.
Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said, ‘All creatures are God’s dependants; the most loved ones to Him are those who are most helpful to His dependants.’ Musnad Al-Bazzar.
Jesus Christ (pbuh) said, ‘You, my brothers, have been called on by God to be free, but don’t make freedom an excuse to fulfil the desires of the body, but serve one another.’ He also said, ‘He who has two garments, let him give away one to someone who has none. He who has food, let him do the same.’ John
Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said, ‘Whoever goes to bed full while he knows his close neighbour is hungry has not truly believed in me.’ Musnad Al-Bazzar.
In the Gospel of Mathew we read, ‘What would a man gain if he won the world but lost himself?’
In fact, Islam did not come to abolish the religions that came before it, but rather to renew and complete them. Jesus Christ (pbuh) said, ‘Do not think that I have come to abolish the Laws of the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them, but to fulfil them.’ Matthew 5:17.
Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said, ‘The likeness of me and the other prophets before me is that of a man who built a house and beautified it except for a place of one brick in a corner. People went around it and wondered at its beauty but said, “If only this brick were put in its place!” So I am that brick, and I am the final prophet.’ Sahih Al-Bukhari.
Almighty God says in the Holy Qur’an:
“Say, ‘We believe in God, and the revelation which has been sent to us, and what was revealed to Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob and the Prophets among his descendants, and what was given to Moses and Jesus, and what was given to the Prophets from their Lord. We make no distinction between any of them and to Him we submit.’” T.Q., 2:136.
Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said, ‘I am the nearest of all people to Jesus, the son of Mary, both in this world and in the Hereafter. There is no prophet between me and him.’ Sahih Al-Bukhari.
He also said, ‘All prophets are paternal brothers; their mothers (laws) are different, but their religion is one.’ Sahih Al-Bukhari.
Thus, Jesus Christ did not come to abolish the message of Moses, nor did Muhammad come to abolish the message of Jesus Christ. Every prophet came to verify all the prophets before him and to pave the way for the coming prophet. The Holy Qur’an is a combination of all the heavenly messages and a call for belief in all prophets since they all graduated from the same school, and their teacher is one, namely Almighty God.
Religions have come for the well-being of people. A Muslim scholar said, ‘Almighty God has created people to benefit from Him not for Him to benefit from them.’
Almighty God says in the Holy Qur’an, describing the mission of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh):
“And We have sent you only as a mercy for all the creation.” T.Q., 21:107.
The heavenly teachings establish mercy and success for people, so when true faith exists, it is as pure as the drops of rain that give life to humankind. However, if it mixes with the dirt of people, it gives sickness instead of health and death instead of life.
Therefore, Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) called for a review of religion every 100 years when he said, ‘Almighty God sends at the start of every hundred years someone who renews religion for my community.’ Sunan Abu Dawoud. This is a kind of instruction from God and a concern from the Prophet to keep faith pure and intact because time changes the nature of things and often covers their realities.
The mission of the renewers of religion has been defined by Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) when he said, ‘This knowledge will be inherited by the elite of every generation; they will clear it from the distortions of extremists, the misrepresentations of the wrong-doers and the misinterpretations of the ignorant.’ Sunan Al-Baihaqi.
Thus, we, as religious leaders, have a huge responsibility in bringing back to religion its originality, which is loved by humans and harmonises with the mind. We need to perform our duty in restoring religion to its truth and essence, in the same way our prophets did. We should not accept to find one person suffering from hunger while Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said, ‘Whoever goes to bed full while he knows his close neighbour is hungry has not truly believed in me.’ Musnad Al-Bazzar.
It is also not acceptable to have a person staying in ignorance while Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said, ‘None belongs to me except the one who is learned or is a learner.’ Al-Dailami.
It is not acceptable that truth is defeated instead of falsehood, and injustice is the victor while Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said, ‘Shouldn’t we be with the one who has a right? The one who has a right has indeed the right to speak!’ Sahih Al-Bukhari.
Caliph Umar said to one of his governors, ‘How could you enslave people when their mothers gave birth to them as free!’ Kanzul Ummal
Therefore, we, leaders of the world’s religions, need to come together periodically within the framework of an international convention that works on restoring religion to its genuineness because all religions came out of the same spring. We specifically have to do our share in supporting the wronged and oppressed people in the world, especially in protecting Jerusalem and its holy areas, as well as in backing the Palestinian people who have been suffering a great injustice during this century. Their houses are being demolished, their lands are being confiscated, and they have been displaced and scattered all over the world. Almighty God is absolutely not pleased with a world in which the wronged are not supported. If we, leaders of religions, do our job well, the world will enjoy more than peace; it will enjoy brotherhood and mercy.
I hope that this meeting is the good seed that will grow into a tree that has deep roots, high branches in the sky, and fruit of justice, peace, goodness and blessings not only for our people, but also for all people in the world. This would not only help in making peace and ending wars, but also will help humans to get rid of sickness, ignorance, backwardness and all the other problems they are suffering from.
Humanity suffered a lot during the 20th century because of the huge conflicts that led to two world wars, killing tens of millions of people, ruining many cities and important establishments, and developing weapons of mass destruction. Humanity has been torn apart because of contradictions and differences of thought, ethnicity, nationalism, materialism and philosophies.
Religion was not a part of such conflicts. Humans have reached the end of the century to find out that the only thought and belief that suit humanity is the religion that God, the Creator of humanity, has sent for His creation. All heavenly religions come from one source and aim at one goal. The coming century, the 21st, is the century of faith. All leaders of the world and in particular, the religious leaders need to exert sincere efforts to make the coming century one of harmony, dialogue and cooperation among the followers of religions, not one of conflict or contradiction among them.
We have been very happy to hear the ideas that Prince Charles and after him the Foreign Minister, Robin Cook, called for. They both stressed the need to open channels of a new dialogue between Islam and the West, and that western culture owes Islam a debt that should not be forgotten as a great deal of the civilisation in the West was founded thanks to Islam. In addition, they declared that one of the biggest mistakes the West may make is to think that Islamic culture is alien to it. They added that Islamic and Christian cultures are intermingled and have many things in common that should persist. In Britain, there is a prosperous Islamic society, 900 mosques, and more than 2 million Muslims who greatly contribute to the British and Western societies with major roles in cultural, political and economic life. We should not let misunderstanding grow between Islam and the West. In our world of today, we have no choice but to live together in cooperation and peace, in the face of the moral, environmental and economic challenges, and we have a lot to learn from one another.
If such calls and declarations make us pleased and hopeful for a better future for relationships, the great barrier before such hope is the practical policies that are being adopted by Western governments in general in relation to the Muslim world, especially regarding the central issue of Palestine. The Muslim world cannot overlook the ultimate support the West grants to Israel. It can also clearly see the flow of weapons and billions of dollars to Israel, whereas Israel is ignoring tens of international resolutions issued by the Security Council and the United Nations, let alone the insults directed at American and British politicians. This is in addition to the policy of double standards and the unreasonable attitudes against the Muslim people in general. This leads to all the bridges being destroyed that sincere people in the Muslim and Western worlds are trying to build.
We are heralds of peace and tolerance. We want a good life for ourselves and for others, but we absolutely refuse to let our lands be occupied, our rights denied and our holy sites violated. The holy sites of both Muslims and Christians in Jerusalem are being violated daily. Religious Muslim and Christian leaders need to work together so that Jerusalem becomes the city of peace and the capital of its Palestinian people. Religious leaders need to coordinate their efforts so that the values of justice, freedom, and equality prevail among all people of the world to achieve what the heavenly religions came for.
Heavenly religions call for human rights. They are not revealed to take people backwards, but to make them enlightened and happy. So those who call for the opposite are mere liars. If leaders of religions brought back religion to its essence and threw away all that does not belong to it, the world would be united under the banner of faith in Almighty God.
Finally, I would like to warmly welcome again our honoured guest and wish him a pleasant stay in our country.
(T.Q. = Translation of the meanings of the Holy Qur’an)
(pbuh = May Allah's peace and blessings be upon him, and may Allah exalt his mention and raise his position more and more)