Under the patronage of King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, Bahrain Dialogue Forum “East and West for Human Coexistence” was launched today with the participation of many representatives of religions from different countries. Pope Francis is also bringing his message of dialogue with the Muslim world to the kingdom of Bahrain for the next few days.
At the same time Christians and Jews need to learn that the Qur’an is a major supporter of Religious Pluralism as being God’s will.
Since all monotheistic scriptures come from the one and only God, we should view other scriptures as potentially enriching our understanding and appreciation of our own scripture. But in the middle ages almost all readers thought of revelation as a zero sum sport like tennis rather than a multiple win co-operative sport like mountain climbing.
In a zero sum game any value or true spiritual insight I grant to another scripture somehow diminishes my own. This was the result of the influence of Greek philosophy’s emphasis on the logic of the excluded middle. Something is either true or it is false. There is no other option. If two propositions contradicted one another, one or both of them must be false.
This would mean that if my religion is true, yours must be false. In modern terms, light could not be both a particle and a wave at the same time. Yet we now know that light is indeed both a particle and a wave at the same time.
This medieval situation did not improved much in modern times. In the last two centuries university academics have written many studies of comparative religion which they claim are objective and not distorted by their religious beliefs.
Unfortunately, academics who treat other religions academically usually do not believe that other scriptures are actually Divinely inspired. Indeed, many academics do not believe that even their own sacred scriptures are Divinely inspired.
They use the same kinds of explanation to understand a revealed religion that they would use to explain secular history and literature. As a rabbi I follow a different model, one I learned from prophet Muhammad.
For example, the Mishnah (an early third century compilation of the oral Torah, states, “Adam was created as an individual to teach you that anyone who destroys a single soul, Scripture imputes it to him as if he destroyed the whole world.” (Mishnah Sanhedrin 4:5) And the Qur’an states,”one who kills a human being, unless it be for murder or for spreading mischief in the land, would be as if he slew the whole people, and if any one saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of the whole people” (Qur’an 5:32)
Academics explain the similarity of the two statements by assuming that since the Jewish statement is several centuries earlier than the Qur’an, Muhammad must have heard it from a Rabbi or other educated Jew in Medina.
But I believe Muhammad is a prophet of God who confirms the Torah of prophet Moses. Muhammad has no need to learn this statement from another human being. Academics might reply that the statement is not found in the written Torah; it appears in the oral Torah written by the Rabbis in the Mishnah more than 1000 years after Moses.