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Dialogue is Evidence on Freedom of Religion in Islam

Part One: Freedom of Religion in Islam

Chapter 2  : Dialogue is Evidence on Freedom of Religion in Islam.

 

1- Imagine that there was a good leader, whose people demonstrated against him. Yet he chose to use dialogue and persuasion with them instead of force. This means that he followed the approach of justice in governing his land. In the meantime he didn’t compel his people to obey him and left them free. Imagine this sort of rulers in our miserable Muslim World.!.

When we read the Holy Quran we find that God the creator of the universe doesn’t want to force people to believe in Him, His books, and messengers. Because God created people with free will, He conducts a dialogue with them to convince them to believe in Him as the only one God, not to enforce them to believe in him that way. The insincere religious leaders in Our Muslim World are humans like us but they make themselves higher than God. They reject having a dialogue with the intellectuals, and find it enough to issue decisions of condemning them because they have opinions that are different than theirs.

It would take a long time if I presented every means of dialogue in the Holy Quran, so I will go through quick hints:

1-      God has sent the Quran as an intellectual Holy message: (We have sent it down as an Arabic Qur'an, in order that ye may learn wisdom) (12/ 2 ) (We have made it a Qur'an in Arabic, that ye may be able to understand (and learn wisdom).) (43/ 3). Quran is to guide the humans to the straight path. This guidance is based on reason and free thinking.

2-      So, using mind, thinking and contemplating are necessary to read the Quran and to be a good believer. God urges people to reflect upon Quranic meanings, saying: (Will they not then ponder the Qur'an? If it had been from other than Allah they would have found therein much incongruity) (4/ 82 ) (Do they not then reflect on the Quran? Nay, on the hearts there are locks ) (47 / 24 )

3-       God usually in the Quran urges humans to think and consider his creation to confirm the belief in Him alone as the only One God! or ( Allah), saying :.( It is He who sends down rain from the sky: from it ye drink, and out of it (grows) the vegetation on which ye feed your cattle. With it He produces for you corn, olives, date-palms, grapes and every kind of fruit: verily in this is a sign for those who give thought. He has made subject to you the Night and the Day; the sun and the moon; and the stars are in subjection by His Command: verily in this are Signs for men who are wise. And what He has created in the earth of varied hues most surely there is a sign in this for a people who are mindful.) (16 / 10 - 13). If man consider all of this he has to believe in the One God, Allah, so, God says (Is then He Who creates like one that creates not? Do you not then mind?) ( 16 / 17).

God Almighty honors human mind, the resource of free will, when He asks it to judge. At the same time, insincere religious leaders in Muslim World ask us to stop thinking and stop discussing their thoughts and creeds.

5 - God has sent rational proofs that He is the only God, saying:” If there were other gods with God, the universe system would be corrupt”( If there were, in the heavens and the earth, other gods besides Allah, there would have been confusion in both! but glory to Allah, the Lord of the Throne: (High is He) above what they attribute to Him!) (21/ 22).  The unity of creation in the universe proves that God is one with no companions; otherwise there would be a dispute. And because there is no dispute, God is only one. This is presented in God’s saying: “say: if there had been other gods with Him, -as they say, - behold, they would certainly have sought out a way to the lord of the throne! Glory to Him! He is high above all that they say! Exalted and great beyond measures!”. (17/ 42- 43) . If there were many gods, each has his own creatures, there would be a competition and a split that would lead to another different universe, God Almighty says: “No son did God beget, nor is there any god along with him: if there were many gods, behold, each god would have taken away what he had created, and some would have lorded it over other! Glory to God! He is free from the sort of things they attribute to Him”.( 23/ 91).

God Almighty proves that He is the one God, with rational proofs, convincing and replying to some people who think that there are many gods along with God. God granted people the freedom of thought and creed; otherwise He wouldn’t allow them to believe in these thoughts that offend His glory. And He gave them freedom in his religion; he wouldn’t have a dialogue with them or ask their minds to find out the corruption of these thoughts.

6- God did not hesitate to humble His Glorious Self to have a dialogue with human mind in order to make them understand and seek a proof. For example, some of the people of the book had some thoughts concerning Abraham, so God sent a reply saying: “Ye people of the book! Why dispute ye about Abraham, when the law and the gospel were not revealed till after him? Have ye no understanding? Ah! Ye are those who fell to disputing even in matters of which ye had some knowledge! But why dispute ye in matters of which ye have no knowledge? It is God Who knows, and ye who know not!”( 3/ 65- 66.)

It is the best honor given to people’s freedom. God Almighty sent verses in order to answer some thoughts of his creatures and convince them, while He could destroy the earth and the heavens. Yet some creatures give themselves privileges beyond our imagination, and refuse to answer other people who have different opinions and find it enough to declare them renegades and disbelievers deserve death. The comparison is horrible; God answers the allegations of some of his creatures with rational proofs, and insincere religious leaders in Muslim World find themselves higher than any discussion with people just like them.

 7- God didn’t hesitate to record his enemies’ opinions despite its futility and though those opinions were mere swears and offenses. Pharaoh said he didn’t know any god but himself for Egyptians, “Pharaoh said: oh chiefs! No god do I know for you but myself” (28/ 38). He said also he was the highest God of Egyptians, “I am your lord, most high”. (79/ 24). God could keep these sayings secret, yet some of these sayings were told ages before the revelation of the Quran, and we knew about them through Quran. The favorite hobby of the insincere political and religious leaders in Muslim world is to ban books and writings. The world witnessed massacres- during middle ages and in our third world which lives its middle ages- of books, writings and authors. Yet God Almighty recorded all his enemies’ opinions even those which offended His sacred entity. And these sayings became verses of the holy Quran that we read, and through its recital we worship God. It was natural for God to answer with a proper reply, and said He Almighty created man from a tiny clot, then that man turned into an enemy of God. But God allowed this enemy to say freely what he wants. God didn’t ban His enemy’s sayings, but recorded them. There are dozens of verses that tackle the same subject.

After this statement of Quran, we have to inquire if seizing books and views agrees with Islam?!

Decency of dialogue in Quran

 

1-      During the darkness of Middle Ages, verses of Quran were sent with the best ways of dialogue with antagonists who had opposed Islam. When we think about these verses and look at ourselves, we feel sorry for what some of us, who bear the banner of Islam, do. They impose their own religious opinions suppress others’ rights to declare theirs. Moreover, they persecute them and proclaim them disbelievers who must be killed. If they thought about verses of Quran, they would find out that they were repeating the deeds of the tribe of Qureish at the time of the prophet

2-       The Quranic principle of dialogue is based on wisdom, good preaching and answering enemy’s offenses in the best way. God Almighty says: “invite all to the way of thy Lord with wisdom and graceful preaching, and argue with them in ways that are best and most gracious”.( 16/ 125). God ordered his messenger to invite people to embrace Islam through wisdom, graceful preaching, and to debate with his enemies not in the good way, but in the best way. That was an obligation on the high ranked prophet, thus, it would be more proper for Muslims to bear others’ insults and answer them with the best ways.

3-      God Almighty expresses this in a lovable way saying: “who is better in speech than one who calls men to God, works righteousness, and says: I am of those who bow in Islam? And not alike are the good and the evil. Repel (evil) with what is best, when lo! he, between whom and you was enmity would be as if he were a warm friend. And no one will be granted such goodness except those who exercise patience and self-restraint, - none but persons of the greatest good fortune “(41/ 33- 35). God considers man of best words as who invites others to believe in God, represents a good example to others in good deeds, declares his surrender to God, and answers with the best ways of patience, forgiveness and meaningful words when people debate with him, or offend him during dialogues. Therefore the enemy would have to apologize and turns into a good friend. This degree of ethical heights in invitation for God can’t be reached but by who suffered patience for God’s sake. This person is considered to be having a” great good fortune”. These are the general principles of decent dialogue: Inviting people to God with wisdom, good preaching, and answering insults with the best of deeds and words.

4-      Quran could only say this, but for the importance of the issue in Islam, which is based on freedom of choice, verses of Quran dealt with detailed stories suggesting decent dialogues. God forbids insulting the enemy or mocking his beliefs and sacred properties in order that he does not insult back the Almighty God, God says: “Revile not ye those whom they call upon besides God, lest they out of spite revile God in their ignorance. Thus have We made alluring to each people its own doings. In the end will they return to their Lord, and We shall then tell them the truth of all that they did ".(6/ 108).

5-      In this part of the verse: “Thus have We made alluring to each people its own doings. In the end will they return to their Lord, and We shall then tell them the truth of all that they did ". (6/ 108), God clarifies the significance of this; that who misled, was not forced, but he chose and defended the way. God in turn beautified dark way for him, and eventually he would turn back to God in the Hereafter. Actually man starts with choosing the way he finds comfortable for him, whether true or false. Then God’s will come to indulge each one more in his chosen way. God says: “Say: "If any men go astray, (Allah) Most Gracious extends (the rope) to them, until, when they see the warning of Allah (being fulfilled) - either in punishment or in (the approach of) the Hour, - they will at length realize who is worst in position, and (who) is weakest in forces! Allah increaseth in right guidance those who walk aright, and the good deeds which endure are better in thy Lord's sight for reward, and better to resort to” ( 19 / 75 – 76 )  Man starts with choosing his way, then God advance believers in guidance and disbelievers in darkness. In other words, God adorns for believers and disbelievers their chosen ways. God says about believers: “But God has endeared the faith to you and has made it beautiful in your hearts, and He has made hateful to you unbelief, wickedness, and rebellion”.( 49/ 7), and says about disbelievers: “as to those who believe not in the hereafter, We have made their deeds pleading in their eyes; and so they wander in distraction”.( 27/ 4)

 

In dialogue: Approving and recognizing religious freedom for opponents

 

1-      Quran forbids debating with misled people who reverse situations and see true as false and false as true. God Almighty says to his prophet Mohammad: “Is he, then, to whom the evil of his conduct is made alluring, so that he looks upon it as good, (equal to one who is rightly guided)? For Allah leaves to stray whom He wills, and guides whom He wills. So let not thy soul go out in (vainly) sighing after them: for Allah knows well all that they do! “(35/ 8).

2-      Dialogue should be conducted through wisdom and rational means. Quran includes examples on the dialogue God had with his creation that practiced his right of refusing rational pretexts and logical proofs, and would be responsible before God on his choices in the Hereafter. And thus the one who invites people for truth should leave his opponents and abandon them politely. God says to his prophet as a constitution for him and to any other who invites for God: “And have patience with what they say and leave them with noble dignity”. (73/ 10). And says: “Hold to forgiveness; command what is right; But turn away from the ignorant”. (7/ 199).

3-      Turning away from the ignorant in religion means to leave him to the way he chose and liked, and to leave him as well till the day of the judgment. God says to the prophet: “Therefore turn away from them and wait, surely they too are waiting   “  (32/ 30  ).  “Therefore shun those who turn away from Our message and desire nothing but the life of this world. That’s as far as knowledge will reach them”. (53/ 29).

4-      God orders to leave disbelievers assure their religious freedom and their responsibility on this freedom before God in the Hereafter. God says: “say to those who don’t believe: do what ever you can, we shall do our part. And wait ye! We too shall wait”.( 11/ 121- 122). And He says: “say: o my people! Do whatever ye can: I will do my part, soon will ye know who it is whose end will be best in the hereafter, certain it is that the wrong doers will not prosper”.( 6/ 135). and says: “say: O my people! Do what ever ye can, I will do my part, but soon will ye know, who it is whom comes a penalty of ignominy, and on whom descends a penalty that abides”( 39/ 39- 40).

5-      Leaving disbelievers alone, which confirms their freedom of choice and their responsibility for it, bears signs of frightening that reflects a hope to guide them. If there wasn’t hope, focus would be on leaving disbelievers with best ways in dealing. God say: “and certain it is that either we or ye are on right guidance or in manifest error! Say: ye shall not be questioned as to our sins, nor shall we be questioned as to what ye do. Say: our Lord will gather us together and will in the end decide the matter between us and you in truth and justice, ”(34/ 24- ) When hope to guide is lost, and the other side sticks to his position, the answer should be: “Either we or you are on right guidance or misled” do not say to him :“You are infidel, go to hell”. It should be said to him “you are not responsible for our criminality and we are no responsible for your acts”. Similarly it would be said in Quran: “you wouldn’t be reckoned for our crimes, and we wouldn’t be reckoned for your crimes”. However, the decent dialogue of the holy Quran refuses this behavior. Instead, it is said “God will gather us in the Hereafter and will judge between us” not “we are people of Heaven and you are people of Fire”. This is what should be said to those who are opposing religious opinions and persecuting the peaceful believers.

6-       This decent behavior and speech is not considered duplicity or false method. However Quran deemed it to be real emotion that comes from heart and bears grace and forgiveness. This emotion rises from the belief that the opponent has done wrong to himself and he will get severe torture in the Hereafter, because he failed in the exam and misused the freedom God granted him. Faithful man should forgive his enemy if he imagines the atrocity of torture in the Hereafter. This is not a rational effort to explain or prove issues. Yet it is reflecting upon the meanings of the clear and overt verses of Quran. God says about the Hereafter: “And the Hour is surely coming, when this will be manifest, so overlook, any human faults, with gracious forgiveness” (15/ 85). God recommended not just forgiveness but gracious forgiveness. God says: “God has knowledge of the prophet’s cry: oh my Lord! Truly these are a people who will not believe! But turn away from them and say: peace! But soon shall they know!”( 43/ 88- 89). So we should forgive people with different views and creed and say: “peace, you will know” when we lose hope to convince them. God says ordering faithful believers: “tell those who believe, to forgive those who do not look forward to the days of God, it is for Him to recompense for good or ill each people according to what they have earned. If any one does a righteous deed, it endures to the benefit of his own soul, if he does evil, it works against his own soul, in the end will ye all be brought back to your Lord”( 45/ 14- 15).


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