Dialogue in Islam: Qur’an – Sunnah – History
This book is an introduction to the material in Islamic sources relevant
to dialogue. As such, it should first of all be of interest to Muslims, like
myself, born and raised in the West. For us, who live in a society where the
dominant influences come from people of other faiths and backgrounds,
including people of no faith at all, it is important to understand the Islamic
basis for dialogue. It becomes all the more important when we Muslims,
among others, are being targeted by extremists of all kinds who favour
confrontation in place of co-existence, hatred and suspicion in place of good
will and trust. I write this foreword just months after a massacre fuelled by
xenophobic right-ring extremism claimed seventy-seven lives in Norway. In
the face of the rise of such extremism, and of further so-called ‘religiously
motivated’ terror plots in the UK, it is indispensable that people of diverse
cultural and religious backgrounds stand together in solidarity and actively
cultivate relationships of understanding, respect and peace.
Using the name Allah for God in the Bible: A Malaysian Perspective
by Anas Zubedy
Here we go again… Every now and then, this matter will see the light of day. This time around, Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng brought it up in his Christmas message. I personally agree with his sentiment. We should all share the word Allah and make it the universal name for God. As far as the Quran is concerned, this verse explains the universality of Allah clearly.
They are those who have been expelled from their homes in defiance of right, – (for no cause except that they say, “our Lord is Allah”. Did not Allah check one set of people by means of another, there would surely have been pulled down monasteries, churches, synagogues, and mosques, in which the name of Allah is commemorated in abundant measure. Allah will certainly aid those who aid his (cause); – for verily Allah is full of Strength, Exalted in Might, (able to enforce His Will) – Quran 22:40
Then what is the real issue here? As I have written in my book ‘Can we use Allah’ in the Bible?, it is about trust. Below is the excerpt of the conclusion of Chapter 2 from my book that can be downloaded here
“It is clear that it is only permissible to use the term Allah to refer to God in the Bible, it is exactly what the Quran wants us to do. What an irony. I would like to thank my Christian brothers and sisters in their effort to make Allah the universal name of God and wanting the name to be the preferred reference to God in the Bible. But, you must not stop there.
You must also strive hard to ensure that not just the Bahasa Malaysia and Bahasa Indonesia Bibles use the term Allah but all the other translations in the world regardless if they are in Japanese, English, Russian or Hindi uses the same term. Malaysian Christians can lead the world of Christianity to make Allah the universal name of God with the solid support of their Muslim brothers and sisters. Anything that can bring us closer together must be supported. A shared universal name to call our God Allah seems a most appropriate place to start.
Failing to do so will create mistrust because the correct term for God in Malay is Tuhan. The Muslims will question your consistency and sincerity. Because the real issue here is Trust. Not the technicality of the term Allah, Tuhan, Elohim, Elah, etc. This is where we need to focus. This is what we need to pay attention to.
Animal Rights in Islam
by Nilofar Ahmad
MANY Muslims appear to have a callous attitude where dealing with animals is concerned giving the impression that maybe their religion has no consideration for animals.
However, when we examine the Quran and hadith, we are pleasantly surprised to find that the opposite is true. Islam indeed places much importance on animals and on providing for them in a caring manner. There are five surahs whose titles are based on the names of animals.
Besides, the mention of animals is found throughout the Quran. In Surah Al-Anaam it is said, “There is no animal walking on the earth nor a bird flying on its two wings, except that they are (part of) communities like you” (6: 38). God, in His infinite wisdom, has organised even the most humble of creatures, like birds, bees and ants into communities so that they can work, communicate and survive according to strict ethical and organisational rules, without any deviation. All the creatures in the world, including the animals, glorify their Lord and “sing His praises” (17: 44). The living sing with their tongues, while the non-living with the tacit acquiescence of their condition. Prophet Nuh was asked to build a large boat under divine instructions: “Construct a boat under Our supervision and by Our inspiration, and do not address Me about those who are evil. They are sure to be drowned” (11: 38). The ones to be saved from the flood were the believers as well as a pair each of every species of animals:
“… We said, ‘Load aboard (animals), of every pair two, and of your household, leaving out those for whom the final verdict has already been passed. And (load) those who have come to believe” (11: 40). The fact that the command to save the animals came before the command to save the believers, points to the importance of the animals that were on the verge of becoming endangered species at that point in time.
Handling Religious Tensions the Modern Way
by Samir Morcos
This time last year, this author warned of the dire repercussions of religious tensions in Egypt, this bleak forecast coming true in the form of the Nagaa Hammadi incident and subsequent events. In the face of the deterioration in Muslim-Christian relations in Egypt, the political leadership has declared its commitment to reinforcing the principles of the civil state, at the heart of which resides the concept of equal citizenship.
The civil state offers an overarching form of affiliation that brings the people of a single country into an all-embracing national framework in which they are able to live and work together, rather than in isolation from each other in separate groups bound by other forms of affiliation. The civil state thus holds the key to transcending religious tensions.
Last year, Al-Ahram Weekly published a special edition on visions for the new decade (2010-2020), in which I had the privilege to contribute an article on religious tensions in Egypt. In the interests of continuity, I will briefly recap the substance of that article and discuss salient developments that have occurred in this domain over the past year. I will then propose ideas that I believe will help to overcome the problem of religious tensions.
Islam, Muslims and Extremism
Maulana Waris Mazhari (tr. Yoginder Sikand)
Critics claim that Islam conduces to, or explicitly preaches, extremism and mindless violence. Some radical Islamist movements, that are a product of local circumstances as well as certain international political developments, are undoubtedly engaged in extremism in the name of Islam. This is particularly unfortunate in that it gives Islam a bad image as well as provides ample ammunition to Islam’s critics. Lamentably, Muslim leaders, especially the ulema and other religious figures, are so enraged and offended by this unjustified criticism of Islam that they are simply not ready to admit that radical Islamists are indeed misusing the fair name of Islam to engage in extremism, which is readily apparent across the Muslim world and even elsewhere.
It is imperative, however, that serious and committed Muslim scholars and activists critique and condemn the politics of extremism in the name of Islam. What is the best way for them to do so, especially since these radical groups claim to base their ideology, politics, and practice on the Islamic scriptures?
Six Deaths Must Not End a History of Religious Harmony
H A Hellyer
I remember clearly, when I was growing up in Abu Dhabi, the local Anglican bishop being invited to Muslim households for lunch – often on Christmas Day. I recall an Egyptian Muslim lady telling me that as a child she had a Jewish classmate, in a Catholic school, where she was taught Islam by local teachers, and other subjects by nuns. Schools in the Arab world often had a mix of Christian and Muslim children, all having deep loyalty to their countries while maintaining their own religious affiliation.
Indeed, strong Muslim-Christian harmony has long been a feature of the Arab world. So what are we to make of events in Nag Hammadi in southern Egypt last Wednesday night – Christmas Eve in the Orthodox Christian calendar – when six Coptic Christians were shot dead by Muslim gunmen as they left midnight mass?
Muslims Must Condemn Religious Extremists
by Sheila Musaji
I am reading and hearing in the media a barrage of articles and editorials demanding that Muslims take a stand against those who condone or commit acts of violence. I would like to go on record as condemning all religious extremism, bigotry, violence, hatred, and terrorism by both Muslims and non-Muslims. I see no difference between any of these. These merchants of hate no matter what their supposed religious affiliation have more in common with each other than they do with the majority of individuals in their respective religious faiths.
The Voices and Visions Project aims to promote intercultural dialogue and understanding between Muslims and Non-Muslims through podcasts, art exhibits and public discussions.