Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Hashim Kamali: Quranic Recognition of Truth of Revealed Faiths

Dr. Hashim Kamali
The Qur'anic recognition of the truth and essential unity of the revealed faiths is not confined to Christianity and Judaism but extends to all the Prophets preceding Moses and Jesus and their teachings. Thus, it is stated that belief in all of them is an integral part of the Muslim faith: 

Say: We believe in God and in what has been revealed to us and what was revealed to Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, and the tribes, and in the scriptures that God sent to Moses and Jesus, and the Prophets. We make no distinction between them (111:84) 

      Affirmative references to others revealed religions is one of the major themes of the Qur'an. These recur in several places in the Book and they consistently confirm that Islam does not deny the followers of other faiths the freedom, both within and outside the territorial domain of Islam, to choose, retain and practice the religion they wish to follow. This is precisely the conclusion that commentators have drawn from the totality of the Qur'anic evidence. Referring to these verses, Fathi Uthman writes that 'Islam rejects compulsion even if it be the only way to Islam itself... for worshipping God and the enforcement of His law cannot be properly achieved unless man is free from fear ..

The Qur'an is most explicit on the dignity and nobility of man, both individually and collectively, and it repeatedly expresses the theme that a person's dignity is intimately related to his or her freedom -particularly freedom of conscience. In sum, the Qur'an is consistent in its affirmation of the freedom of belief and it fully supports the conclusion that the objectives of the Shari ah cannot be properly fulfilled without granting people the freedom of belief, and the liberty to express it. 

Another pertinent Qur'anic theme is the affirmation that religion is a matter of individual conviction and belief, and that persuasion and advice are the only ways through which others may be invited to embrace Islam. The passages that are quoted below also cast light on the function of the Prophet, and the methods which he was to follow in his summons to the new faith. 
If they embrace Islam, they are rightly-guided, but if they turn their backs on it, then your only duty is to convey [the message]. (111:20)  

Remind them, for you are one who reminds; you are not a warden over them. (LXXXVIII:21-22) 
And if they turn away, We have not sent you as a guardian over them. Your duty is but to convey the message. (XLII:48)

Obey God and obey the Messenger and beware. But if you turn back then know that Our Messenger's duty is but to proclaim clearly [the message]. (V:92. See also V:99 to the same effect.) 

      Yet another Qur'anic theme which occurs in a number of passages is that invitation to the faith must be wisely made with courteous advice, and that it must be based on sound reasoning and eloquent persuasion. The message here once again precludes resorting to compulsion in the promotion and propagation of Islam. Moreover, it is to be understood that anything which dilutes the self-evident meaning of the Qur'an on these points, whether in the name of jihad or enlightenment, is unacceptable and should be strongly discouraged. For jihad is abused when it is pursued in such a way as to impede the Qur'anic principle of the freedom of belief. 

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Dr Mohammad Hashim Kamali is Professor of Law at the International Islamic University Malaysia where he has been teaching Islamic law and jurisprudence since 1985. Among his other works published by the Islamic Texts Society is Principles of Islamic Jurisprudence.

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