Future Horizons and Consolidating Dialogue between Muslims
and the West
His Eminence’s speech
in the ninth conference of
The Higher Council for Islamic Affairs
under the title “Islam and the West: Past, Present and Future”
16 July 1997
In the name of God,
the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful
All praise be to God, the Lord of all worlds. Peace and blessings be upon the Prophet Muhammad, upon his forefather Abraham, upon his two brothers the Prophets Moses and Jesus, upon all prophets and messengers, their families and all their companions and followers.
Honoured audience, may God’s peace, mercy and blessings be upon you all. I thank all those who have convened this conference for the purpose of introducing Islam to the West and discussing the essential issues that Muslims need. I also supplicate Almighty God to give the Egyptian Arab Republic success, prosperity and happiness together with all Arabs and Muslims. Amen.
Honoured delegates, Muslims and Christians constitute half the population of the world. Therefore, they must have a united front to tackle contemporary life’s problems and challenges rather than having two competitive fronts. The spiritual and moral duty requires every Muslim and Christian throughout the world to try all ways and means to generate mutual understanding, rapprochement and cooperation for building the world of the new century, which we are going to witness in a few years. Under no circumstances must we tolerate conflicts and fights because of religious misunderstanding. Muslims and Christians have much in common. This commonality arises because Islam and Christianity come from one source. Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) indicates his special relationship to Jesus Christ saying, ‘I am the nearest of all people to Jesus, the son of Mary, both in this world and in the Hereafter because there is no prophet between him and me.’ Sahih Al-Bukhari.
This special relationship between Islam and Christianity and between the Prophets Muhammad and Jesus is testified by the Holy Qur’an and its principles. Almighty God says:
“And verily, you will find the nearest in affection to the believers those who say, ‘We are Christians.’ That is because among them are priests and monks, and they are not arrogant.” T.Q., 5:82.
Besides Muslims and Christians sharing the same source, they share the same aims, which are derived from both faiths and from the current reality that imposes itself on each sincere person who loves humanity. These common things between Muslims and Christians are, in our view, represented by the following points.
1. Common beliefs
The Holy Qur’an always stresses that all heavenly messages and prophets’ calls come from the one and the same source, namely the heavenly source.
All prophets and messengers came with one heavenly religion, which aims at making humans happy in this world and in the Hereafter. The law or legislation of this one heavenly religion changed with the changing circumstances of nations and peoples, but the pillars and doctrine of this religion were exactly the same and never changed between one prophet and another.
Therefore, we read this fact in the Holy Qur’an when God says:
“He has prescribed for you the same religion which He enjoined on Noah, and which We have revealed to you [O Muhammad], and that which We enjoined on Abraham, Moses and Jesus, saying you should establish religion and make no divisions in it.” T.Q., 42:13.
The noble Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) set an example of the one faith of all prophets and their diverse laws when he said, ‘All prophets are paternal brothers; their mothers (laws) are different, but their religion is one.’ Sahih Al-Bukhari.
Therefore, all prophets and messengers have the same truths concerning belief. They can be summed up in the following items:
a) Belief in the One and Only God who has no partner, the Creator of the whole universe, the Perfect One who has no flaw.
b) Belief in the Last Day, the Day of Judgment and recompense, the day of reward and punishment.
c) Belief in the pure angels.
d) Belief in all prophets and messengers who came to guide people to Almighty God starting with Adam (pbuh) and ending with Muhammad (pbuh).
e) Belief in all heavenly books and messages that were revealed to God’s prophets and messengers.
Almighty God says:
“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 children and 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.
This truth stated by the Holy Qur’an is also very obvious in the current Jewish and Christian scriptures. The Ten Commandments of the Old Testament clearly state the following: ‘I am the lord, your God…. You shall have no other God before Me.’ Exodus 20:2–4. We also read that clearly in the current Christian Bible: ‘The most important of all commandments,’ answered Jesus, ‘is this: Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord.’ Mark 12:29. It is also mentioned in the Gospel of John that Christ said, ‘Now this is eternal life: that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom You have sent.’ John 17: 3.
Therefore, the Holy Qur’an always invites the people of the Scriptures (Jews and Christians) to meet and agree with Muslims on the grounds of this common heavenly foundation: belief in the One and Only God. It says:
“Say, ‘O people of the Scriptures! Come to a common [and equitable] proposition between you and us that we worship none but God, that we associate no partners with Him, and that none of us shall take others as lords besides God.’ Then, if they turn away, say, ‘Bear witness that we have submitted ourselves to God.’” T.Q., 3:64.
The equitable proposition here is the pure oneness of Almighty God, and this is the first common principle that all heavenly messages advocated. There is another common principle — belief in all of God’s messengers. The Holy Qur’an says:
“The Messenger believes in what has been revealed to him from his Lord, and so do the believers. They all believe in God, His angels, His scriptures and His messengers. They say, ‘We make no distinction between any of His messengers.’” T.Q., 2:285.
The Holy Qur’an has not come to destroy the messages of the previous prophets. On the contrary, it considers that the foundations of faith were laid down by all of God’s prophets and messengers. 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.
This truth, namely every prophet recognising the prophets before him, was stated by Jesus Christ when he said, ‘Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law of the prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfil them.’ Matthew 5:17.
This is a clear declaration by Jesus Christ (pbuh) that he came to confirm the belief in the messages of previous prophets and messengers.
A third common principle is belief in the Last Day, the Day of Judgment. This is another truth that both the Holy Qur’an and Bible share. On that day all people will be brought to account and then rewarded or punished. Almighty God says:
“And fear the Day when you will all be returned to God; then every soul will be paid in full what it has earned, and they will not be wronged.” T.Q., 2:281.
This was the last verse revealed to Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). Almighty God also says:
“So whoever does an atom’s weight of good will see it, and whoever does an atom’s weight of evil will see it.” T.Q., 99: 7–8.
We also read in the Gospel of John about the end of believers and disbelievers. It says, ‘They will come out [from graves]. Those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned.’ John 5:29.
2. Honouring Jesus Christ and his family
The Holy Qur’an honours and exalts Jesus Christ, his virgin mother, and his family to a great degree. Indeed, the respect given to Jesus Christ and his family in the Holy Qur’an is undoubtedly greater than that stated in the current Torah and Gospel. In the Holy Qur’an there is a chapter with the title The Family of Imran, which is the name of Jesus Christ’s family. It is the second longest chapter in the Holy Qur'an. Another chapter has the title Mary, Jesus Christ’s mother, whereas the Holy Qur’an does not mention the name of Prophet Muhammad’s family or mother. So, there is no chapter with the title The Family of the Hashimites or Amina bint Wahab (Prophet Muhammad’s mother). The Holy Qur’an mentions Jesus Christ’s family starting with his maternal grandmother, that is, Imran’s wife. It describes her as a humble believer who made a vow that if she got pregnant she would dedicate the child to serve God’s House. Almighty God says:
“Remember when Imran’s wife entreated: ‘My Lord, I have vowed to dedicate to Your service that which is in my womb, so accept it from me. Indeed You alone hear all and know all.’” T.Q., 3:35.
Then the Holy Qur’an describes Jesus Christ’s mother as having the ever noblest attributes: the pure, the lofty, and the exalted one. Almighty God says:
“And remember when the angels said, ‘O Mary! Verily, God has chosen you, purified you and chosen you over the women of all peoples. O Mary! Keep to Your Lord’s obedience humbly and devoutly, prostrate yourself to Him and bow down [in worship] with those who bow down.’” T.Q., 3:42–43.
He also praises her in another chapter saying:
“And another example set for the believers is Mary, the daughter of Imran, who guarded her chastity, so We breathed into her body of Our spirit (through Gabriel), and she believed in the words of her Lord and His scriptures, and she was of those who keep to their Lord’s obedience devoutly and humbly.” T.Q., 66:12.
Moreover, the Holy Qur’an clarifies the truth of the honourable character of Jesus Christ, the son of Mary, and it draws attention to the great honour and miracles that Almighty God has endowed him with. This truth is represented in the following.
Jesus Christ, the son of Mary, was a created human being and a servant of God. God says:
“Then she pointed to him, but they replied, ‘How can we talk to one who is an infant in the cradle?’ He said, ‘I am indeed the servant of God! He has given me the Scripture and made me a prophet.’” T.Q., 19:29–30.
In another verse we read:
“He (Jesus) was no more than a servant whom We favoured and made an example to the Children of Israel (i.e. his creation without a father).” T.Q., 43:59.
The miraculous birth of Jesus Christ with a mother, but with no father is only because he is a sign to people. Almighty God says:
“Verily Jesus, in the sight of God, is like Adam; He created him of dust, then said to him, ‘Be!’ and he was.” T.Q., 3:59.
This Qur’anic fact, namely Jesus Christ being the servant of Almighty God, is obvious in the current gospels. Jesus Christ says, ‘Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom You have sent.’ John 17:3.
The Holy Qur’an testifies that Jesus Christ was a good role model and had an excellent example of faith, worship and sincerity to God. God says about him:
“He (Jesus) said, ‘I am indeed the servant of God! He has given me the Scripture, made me a prophet and made me blessed wherever I am. He prescribed prayer and charity for me as long as I live, to be kind to my mother as well and did not make me arrogant or miserable.” T.Q., 19:30–32.
The Holy Qur’an praises Jesus Christ when calling him God’s word and a spirit from Him. This indicates additional honour to him. Almighty God says:
“Verily, the Messiah, Jesus the son of Mary, was no more than God’s Messenger and His word which He bestowed on Mary, and a spirit from Him.” T.Q., 4:171.
Jesus, the son of Mary in the Holy Qur’an was a prophet and messenger sent by God like other prophets and messengers. He called to the oneness of God, the Creator and to rectify the deviation of people from their religion after having distanced themselves from God’s Law. Almighty God says:
“We favoured some of those messengers over others. God spoke directly to some of them, elevated some others to high ranks of honour, and gave Jesus, the son of Mary, clear signs and strengthened him with the Holy Spirit.” T.Q., 2:253.
The Holy Qur’an praises the book that He revealed to Jesus Christ (pbuh), namely the heavenly Gospel. It describes it as guidance, light and admonition. Almighty God says:
“And We caused Jesus, the son of Mary, to follow in their tracks, verifying what was there before him of the Torah; and We gave him the Gospel, with guidance and light in it, also confirming the Torah, and guidance and an admonition to the pious ones.” T.Q., 5:46.
The Holy Qur’an mentions Jesus Christ’s miracles. They are seven in the Holy Qur’an: speaking to people in his cradle; healing those who were born blind; healing lepers; bringing the dead back to life; making the shape of a bird out of clay, then breathing life into it by God’s leave; foretelling some unseen things; and having a table spread sent down from heaven in response to his supplication. Not all these miracles were mentioned in the current Gospels. So, what an honour the Holy Qur’an has bestowed upon Jesus Christ!
The Holy Qur’an does not only praise Jesus Christ, his family, his Scripture and his call, but it also praises the disciples who are Jesus Christ’s followers, and it calls them the helpers. Almighty God says:
“O you who believe! Be the helpers in working for God’s cause, as Jesus, the son of Mary said to the disciples, ‘Who are my helpers for God?’ The disciples said, ‘We are the helpers for God.’” T.Q., 61:14.
The Holy Qur’an describes these disciples saying:
“And We put compassion and mercy in the hearts of those who followed him.” T.Q., 57:27.
3. Common good morals
As long as the source of the heavenly religions is one, good manners and moral teachings must also be the same. Every prophet urged his people to do good in all its forms and directions and warned of evil in all its shapes and shades. Therefore, we find moral codes and high manners in common between Muslims and Christians. They both seek to bring humans together under the banner of love, cooperation and brotherhood. We can mention some of these good morals that both Jesus Christ and Islam spoke about.
- Human dignity and mercy. Almighty God says:
“O people! We created you from a single pair of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes that you may know one another. Verily, the most honoured of you in the sight of God is the most pious of you.” T.Q., 49:13.
Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said, ‘O God, please make me live poor, die poor and be gathered with the poor ones on the Day of Judgment.’ Al-Tabarani.
In the Gospel, Jesus Christ said, ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.’ Matthew 5:3.
- Spreading love and benevolence among people. Almighty God says:
“And do good for God loves those who are benevolent.” T.Q., 2:195.
He also says:
“And give relatives their due, and also the poor and the traveller in need.” T.Q., 17:26.
Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said, ‘None of you is a true believer unless he desires for his brother what he desires for himself.’ Sahih Al-Bukhari.
The Gospel says, ‘A new commandment I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.’ John 13:34. It also says, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and love your neighbour as yourself.’ Luke 10:27.
- Forgiveness. It is one of the great morals that the Holy Qur’an urges us to follow in many verses. It praises the believers saying:
“Those who spend in both prosperity and adversity, who restrain their anger, and who forgive people, and God loves those who do good.” T.Q., 3:134.
It also says:
“A good deed and an evil one cannot be equal. Repel the evil deed with one which is better, then he, between whom and you there is enmity, will become an intimate friend.” T.Q., 41:34.
In the gospel we read, ‘You have heard that it was said, “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” But I say to you, do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on your right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if someone shall compel you to go a mile, go with him twain. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.’ Matthew 5:38–42.
- Abstaining from fornication and commitment to chastity and modesty. Almighty God says:
“And do not approach fornication, for it is a major sin [of indecency] and an evil way.” T.Q., 17:32.
Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said, ‘Eyes commit adultery by looking.’ Sahih Muslim.
In the Gospel we read that Jesus Christ said, ‘You have heard that it was said, “Do not commit adultery.” But I say to you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully, he has already committed adultery with her in his heart.’ Matthew 5:27–28.
- Honesty and Trustworthiness. Almighty God describes the believers saying:
“And those who faithfully observe their trusts and their pledges.” T.Q., 23:8.
Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said, ‘Hand in the trust to the one who has entrusted it to you and do not betray the one who has betrayed you.’ Sunan Al-Tirmithi.
In the Gospel we read, ‘Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go and be reconciled with him; then come back and offer your gift.’ Matthew 5:23–24.
- Keeping the tongue safe from sins. Almighty God says:
“Tell My servants to say what is best, for Satan sows dissension among them; indeed Satan is an open enemy to humankind.” T.Q., 17:53.
Warning of the evils of the tongue, Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said, ‘Are not people thrown into Hellfire on their noses only because of the consequences of their tongues’ utterances?’ Sunan Al-Tirmithi.
In the Gospel we read that Jesus Christ (pbuh) said, ‘Again, anyone who says to his brother, “Raca (worthless),” is answerable to the supreme judicial council. But anyone who says, “You fool!” will be in danger of the fire of hell.’ Matthew 5:22.
If anyone wants to count the moralities in common between Islam and Christianity, he will find them so many. The Ten Commandments may be the clearest example of the shared good morals between Islam, Christianity and even Judaism. Almighty God says:
“Say, “Come! I will recite to you what your Lord has prohibited you from: do not join anything in worship with Him; be good and dutiful to your parents; do not kill your children on account of poverty, for We provide sustenance for you and for them; do not approach indecent and shameful deeds, whether open or secret; and do not take life, which God has made sacred, except for a just cause. Thus He commands you, so that you may understand.’” T.Q., 6:151.
We find these commandments obvious in the Gospel of Luke where Jesus Christ addresses one of his disciples asking, ‘Why do you call me good? None is good, except one, that is, God. You know the commandments: do not commit adultery; do not murder; do not steal; do not give false testimony; honour your father and mother.’ Luke 18:19–21.
We find these very commandments in the book of Exodus: ‘You shall have no other gods before Me. Honour your father and mother. You shall not kill. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not steal. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour. You shall not covet your neighbour’s house or his wife.’ Exodus 20:3–17.
4- Peace and human brotherhood
This is an obvious issue in the Holy Qur’an and Sunnah (words, acts and life of Prophet Muhammad). Almighty God sums up the mission of His messenger, Muhammad, in a few clear words. He says:
“And We have not sent you save as a mercy for all creation.” T.Q., 21:107.
Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) told us about himself saying, ‘I am only a gift of mercy from God.’ Mustadrak Al-Hakim.
He even calls himself the Prophet of Mercy. Therefore, this mercy that Almighty God characterises his Prophet with is not a specific but rather a comprehensive one that includes all humans regardless of their religion, colour and nationality. God created them so that they show His glory and not a reason that vindicates discrimination. God says:
“And among His signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the diversity of your languages and colours. Verily in that are signs for people who have knowledge.” T.Q., 30:22.
Therefore, the Prophet (pbuh) informed us of the loss of those whose hearts are void of love, dignity and mercy for all humans. He said, ‘Any servant of God who has no mercy for humans in his heart is a failure and loser.’ Tarikh Ibn Asaker.
Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) laid the foundation for a universal charter of how people should deal with one another all over the world. He said, ‘Those who have mercy on people will have mercy from God. If you have mercy on those on earth, the One in heaven will have mercy on you.’ Sunan Al-Tirmithi. He also said, ‘The one who does not have mercy on people, will not have mercy from God. The one who has no mercy is wretched.’ Sunan Al-Tirmithi. It is related that he also said, ‘All creatures are God’s dependants; the ones most loved by Him are the ones most helpful to His dependants.’ Musnad Al-Bazzar.
Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and Muslims after him applied these principles. We see them clearly in his words, ‘Anyone who sleeps with a full stomach, knowing that his neighbour is hungry, has not truly believed in me.’ Musnad Al-Bazzar.
Moreover, the Holy Prophet showed mercy to his enemies who fought against him. It happened that a year of famine and drought struck the region of Quraish (the Prophet’s tribe) and its disbelieving people. The poor and the weak were about to perish, so the Holy Prophet (pbuh) sent a lot of money to Abu Sufyan, the pagans’ leader in Makkah, to help those poor pagans, and he did not ask them for anything in return. Ibn Asaker.
These human tokens of spreading peace and brother¬hood among people are clearly understood by Jesus Christ (pbuh). In his Sermon on the Mount, he said, ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God.’ Matthew 5:3–9.
Honoured delegates, what we have seen of the things in common between Muslims and Christians urges us all to have a common consciousness and shoulder the serious responsibilities that the following question asks: What does humanity need today?
First, and on the basis of things in common between Muslims and Christians, humanity truly and desperately needs to spread true faith, which agrees with the intellect and constitutes identical twins with science; they support each other and seek to construct a happy and comfortable life for humanity. On the other hand, destruction of humanity happens when faith is presented away from logic and reason, in a disgusting and repulsive way that sound minds reject.
Furthermore, when religion is displayed as fanatic, egocentric and egoistic and when it disregards the presence of others and rejects tolerance with them, it will absolutely finish and will never be able to confront the challenges of the world today with all its progress, technology, problems and disasters. True religion is the one that appeals to both mind and heart. Anything that contradicts this state is false even if it claims the name of religion.
Who hates beautiful flowers and their fragrances? Who rejects civilisation and progress? Who calls truth falsehood? The one who says so is an unjust person. On the other hand, do shrivelled-up and broken flowers appeal to anyone? Does anyone accept to be married to a dead bride? They present a rotten, stinking dead woman claiming her to be a bride! A sound mind rejects false pearls!
Second, it is obligatory for all Muslims and Christians all over the world to unite and stand firm in one steadfast front so as to solve contemporary world problems. This will be achieved through the following:
a) Seeking to achieve security and peace in all parts of the world. They can never be achieved unless truth and justice get number one priority with no prejudice or preference to anyone and with no bias to one people at the expense of others. Actually, duty compels us to confine the sinful aggressor and deter him from his oppression, persecution and tyranny.
b) Seeking to provide a dignified life for all humankind by assuring a supply of basic needs such as food, shelter, health and honourable jobs, and not allowing some people to waste or squander the world’s resources, be it in the East or West merely to fulfil their lusts and desires. We must also tackle the destruction, burning or drowning of the world’s resources by some greedy people who fear that high prices might fall and consequently their excessively huge profits decrease. We also must stop the waste of resources caused by manufacturing weapons of mass destruction.
c) Seeking to confront the moral and social diseases that affect most societies in the world, and most importantly diseases caused by fornication, dissoluteness, porno¬graphy and drug abuse. We must also fight both organised and unorganized crime.
d) Seeking to protect life on our globe by looking after our environment.
Honoured audience, as a matter of fact, these responsibilities need sincerity and bravery so that each individual can partake in preserving humanity.
Finally, I pray to Almighty God for our good and happiness. Surely, He has power over all things. All praise and thanks be to Him, the Lord of all worlds.
(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)