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Addressing Muslims only: Pluralism in Islam as the door of interfaith dialog

Addressing Muslims only: Pluralism in Islam as the door of interfaith dialog

There is only one religion of Islam, but today there are two types of Muslims, free Muslims who uphold the core of Islam or the forgotten Islam and the traditional Muslims who know only the practical Muslim tradition.


The forgotten Islam is what was revealed to the prophet Mohammed in the Quran, in its unique Arabic language and writing. The Quranic Arabic language has its special terminology. If you read the Quran according to its terminology, you will understand Islam as the religion of peace, tolerance, justice, the unlimited freedom of speech and belief and pluralism. They are the same American values.


This forgotten Islam was applied in the time of the prophet Mohammed, but was mostly abandoned since the Arab Muslims have established their mighty empires and religious states confiscating the secular aspects of the religion of Islam. However, there are minorities of Muslims who are keeping this very real forgotten Islam and its high values.


Today, most of Muslims have their own practical traditional Islam and its middle aged culture. Moreover, the most fanatic tradition of the middle ages was revived and applied under the name of Wahabism, giving Islam a notorious name and tarnishing its real values of peace, tolerance, justice freedom, democracy and pluralism.


Pluralism in the forgotten Islam is the real door of the successful interfaith dialog, and the key word here is to discover this Islam and its plurality, otherwise you will go through hopeless talk with traditional Muslims who believe in their innermost feeling that you are infidels and enemies of God. Of course it is not a call to abandon them; rather it is a real sincere hope to reform them from inside Islam, or to teach them this forgotten Islam and its pluralism. It is not to preach Islam among non-Muslims because the Western civilization has already the same values of this abandoned Islam. It is a real demand to preach this forgotten Islam among Muslims themselves to uphold these values as American values or real Islamic values; no difference.

To understand pluralism in Islam we have to understand the meaning of Islam itself and its first value, then in the light of Islam and its first value we can recognize the aspects of pluralism and their objects.

1- Islam and its first value

Sometimes, it’s necessary to forget the Arabic word (Islam), because the fanatic Muslims have given Islam a notorious name. But in any language and in any time, Islam as a religion means submission to the One God, and to be peaceful in dealing with the people. Simply, it is ‘Submission to God and Peace in the world”. This is why God, Allah, has sent the final prophet Mohammed with the Quran to be a mercy for all humankind.  “And we have sent you not but as a mercy for all the worlds.” [The Holy Quran: 21/107]

Islam - as submission to the One God and peace  in dealing with people - is the core of the religion of God which was revealed to all the prophets in many languages in ancient times, then the final divine message was revealed to the seal of the prophets ‘Mohammed’ to confirm the previous divine messages. This final message, ’ the Quran’, was pronounced in the Arabic language.

According to the Quran, God wants all the people to believe in Him alone, the only God, and to submit themselves to Him only, to their real Lord, but He gives them the total freedom of choice to believe or to disbelieve, to obey Him or to disobey Him. They will be questioned by God only on the Day of Judgment concerning their belief and deeds. No one in this world has the authority to judge any one’s belief, because this belongs to God alone on the Day of Judgement.

In his life, Mohammed was commanded to obey and to apply the commandments of the Quran only. (6:50,106) (7:203) (10:15,109) (33:2) (45:18) (46:9).

After the death of Mohammed, his Arabic tribe, {Quraysh} had used the name of Islam to invade and occupy countries in Asia, Africa and in Europe, where the dynasties of {Quraysh} had ruled that middle aged empire for 650 years. During this Arab Muslim Empire, Muslims for many reasons invented their religious traditions, which they ascribed to God and His Messenger.

The hardest line of those middle-aged traditions was the Hanabela Sunni tradition, which has been revived under the new doctrine, named “Al Wahabeyya’ of the Saudi kingdom. It is the practical religion of the current fanatic Muslims. Accordingly, the real commandments and values of Islam were abandoned and free Muslims who uphold them are persecuted and accused of being the enemies of Islam and the prophet Mohammed.

The first Islamic value “the total freedom of belief and speech” has been ignored and denied by those fanatics.

2- The First Islamic value: freedom of belief and speech, the freedom to believe or to disbelieve.

Every human soul was designed and inspired by the Almighty God to have two different aspects; the evil and the good together. The human being himself has the ability and the freedom to choose any of the two directions, and according to his freedom of choice he will be a winner or a loser on the Day of Judgment: “By the soul and Him who designed it. He inspired its debauchery and its righteousness. Winner is the one who purifies it. And loser is the one who diminishes it. [91/7 to 10]

It is the will of God to create humankind free creatures in their belief and in their behavior. This Quranic fact is repeated in the Quran several times.

For example in the chapter [6] only you can read these verses:

1-“...Had God willed, He could have guided all of them. [6/35]”,                                                                                                 2-“Had God willed, they would not have worshiped idols. We did not appoint you [Mohammed] as their guardians, nor are you their advocate.” [6/ 107]                                                                                            3-4- “Had your Lord willed, they would not have done it. Then you [Mohammed] shall disregard them and their inventions.”[6/ 112& 137]                                                                                                                   5-“God possesses the most convincing proof; had he willed, he could have guided all of you.”[6/ 149]

As it is the will of the Almighty God, the prophet Mohammed was ordered to leave them disbelieving and disobeying God; practicing their freedom of choice, as it was indicated in these verses. However, the prophet Mohammed was directly ordered not to interfere in their freedom of choice. In this regard God said to his final prophet:         “If your Lord wills, He can make all the people on the earth believe. Would you force the people to believe? [10/99].

If the Prophet Mohammed himself had not any religious authority to force the people to believe, there is no one else in Islam who has this authority.  Islam has neither religious authority nor religious state because the guidance is the responsibility of every human, not the responsibility of the society or the state.

To clear this Quranic fact, God said to the prophet Mohammed:  “Not upon you is their guidance but God guide whom [human] he wills.”[2/ 272] “Verily you guide not whom you like, but God guides whom he wills, and He knows best those who are the guided.” [28/56]

It is a Quranic fact repeated several time to confirm that every one is responsible for his own guidance or misguidance and he has unlimited freedom to choose each way for himself. The Quranic term is repeated several times, for example:

1- “Say: O people, the truth has come to you from your Lord. Thus, whoever is guided is guided for his own good; and whoever goes astray, does so to his own loss. I am not your advocate.”[10/ 108]                                                                               2-“Whoever is guided , is guided for his own good; and whoever goes astray , does so to his own loss. No burdened soul will bear the burden of another soul. We do not punish without sending a messenger.” [17/15]                                                                                     3-“ And [I was commanded] to read the Quran, thus , whoever is guided is guided for his own good, and those who stray, tell them, ‘ I am no more than a Warner.” [27/ 92]

It is the willof God to create mankind with the freedom to believe or not to believe, so God, the Almighty, gives another willto mankind if the human has the will to believe or to disbelieve.  God said: “and say:‘ This the truth from your Lord, then whoever wills to believe let him believe,, and whoever wills to disbelieve let him disbelieve.”[18/29]

Therefore, God said about the Quran: “Say: ‘Believe in it or do not believe.” [17/107]

Accordingly, once the human being begins looking for guidance, or choosing it, or is willing for guidance, God quickly responds to him by the real guidance and increases his guidance. If he chooses to be astray, God abandons him to Satan to mislead him. [Read: 19/75-76] [47/16-17][29/ 68-69][2/ 1 to 10]

There are more than one thousand Quranic verses confirming the unlimited freedom of belief and speech, giving many details in this respect. Actually, the holy Quran in its most verses clears one fact: the belief in the only one God and the Day of Judgment, and the total freedom of humans to accept this fact and do righteous deeds or to deny it and act badly in this life, and then every one will be responsible before God on the Last Day according to his belief and deeds.

Pluralism in the religious life is a consequence of the freedom of belief.

Mankind is created to be free, and the Creator, the Almighty God called them to choose their belief and the good values to be winners on the Day of Judgment. They have the ability to disbelieve and be astray if they want. God does not want them to disobey Him, but if they do it, they will have to face the consequences on the Day After.                           God says in the Quran: “If you disbelieve, then verily, God is in no need of you, and He does not like for His servants disbelief. But if you are grateful [by being believers], then He pleased for you. No one is responsible for any one’s sin. Then to your Lord is your final return; then He will inform you of every thing you did. He is fully aware of the innermost intentions. “[39/7]

This total freedom in this life makes mankind uphold many different thoughts, many religions and ideologies, and different sects and cults groups inside every religion and every ideology.

It is the Will of the Almighty God.  He says in the holy Quran:          1- “And had God willed, He could have made you one nation.” [16/93]                                                                                                                    2- “And had God willed, He could have made them one nation.” [42/8]                                                                                                                           3- “And had your Lord willed, He could have made the mankind one nation, but they will always dispute, except those endowed with mercy from your Lord, and this is what He created themfor.”[11/118-119]


The aspects of pluralism in Islam and their Islamic objects:

Because of the color and the language, mankind has many different ethnicities and many different cultures. God clears this fact in one verse, as one of His signs: “Among His signs is the creation of the heaven and the earth, and the variations in your languages and your colors. These are the signs for all the worlds.”[30/22]

It is a great sign because all mankind belongs to one father and one mother. We can understand now some of this human ethnic variation as we are entering inside the world of the human cell and cloning. However, God indicates in the Quran that He is the One who chooses for every one of us his physical aspects when he is still in his mother’s womb: “He is the One who shapes you inside the wombs as He will. There is no God but Him. He is the Almighty, the all wise. [2/6].

Dealing with this ethnic and cultural pluralism God says in the Quran: “O mankind, we have created you from[the same]male and female [Adam and Eve] and we made you into nations and tribes in order to recognize each other. Surly, the best among you in the sight of God is the most righteous. God is omniscient, cognizant.”[49/13]

This Quranic verse clarifies the pluralism in Islam and its moral values:

1-This pluralism is created by God and no one else. No one could change or ignore it. We have to deal with it according to the teachings of the Creator, the Almighty God. If we deny His commandments, there will be disorder and chaos on earth. This is fully understood in our human history.

2-According to the Quran; God has predestinated only four things for every human being in this world: his birth, death, the crises and the sustenance. All these dimensions of every human being belong to the One God alone, and to His knowledge and His measure, which are unknown to us. No one can avoid or change those four inevitable things of birth, death, crises, and sustenance. 

God is the only One who shapes our features and our color, defines our parents, and the date and the place of our birth. He is the only One who knows the time and the place of our death or killing, and our age in this life.[7 :11][3: 6][35 :11][41:47][13 :8][3 :154-158][4:78][62: 8][31: 34]. 

During this life, the sustenance for every living being is prepared and guaranteed by God. Through different means, the living beings are themselves included in these means. 

This sustenance means the food and other things that keep the life inside the living being until his death. It includes those means of living and their changes, and the changes that happen to the creature during his life, all of them are written in God’s eternal book before this world. [11: 6][6: 151][17:31][29 :60] 

Every misfortune, sickness illness, infectious disease, accident, calamity, and disaster is predestined by God before this world, so no one can harm or benefit you unless according to what was written before our lives.[9: 51][57: 22-23][64 :11] 

The fatalism in Islam is limited in the realm of these four dimensions only; besides, no one knows the unseen, or what will happen in the future, [10:20] [27:65]7:187-188][6:50][46:9] and every one has the total freedom to do what he wants to do, to think and believe what he wants to believe.

According to the Quran, no one is responsible before God for these four predestinations, but every one is responsible before God for all his deeds beyond this limit, where he has the total freedom to obey or not, to believe or not, to do good deeds or bad deeds.

A believer recognizes his freedom of choice, and at the same time, believes that God does not break His promises. This is a Quranic fact, repeated in the Quran, [2:80] [3:9] [13:31] [22:47] [30:6] [20:39]. Therefore, anyone can decide to be in paradise if he chooses to believe in God alone and in the last day, and maintain the good deeds. This decision is up to the human, not to God, and God will fulfill His promise.

No one can escape from these four inevitable predestinations during this short lifetime, but he can find the best in the eternal paradise if he secedes to believe in the One God and maintain the good deeds. Not all humans are healthy, wealthy, beautiful and smart. Many humans are ashamed because of their color, poverty, ugliness, disability and handicap. All of these aspects are just temporary but very painful. However, if you decide to be a winner in the last day, you will have the best situation. About colors in the day after it will be either a white shining bright color for the winners according to their good deeds in this world, or a black dark fearful color for those who lost and are thrown in the hell fire. All the suffering of all the human beings in this life does not equal one minute in the hell fire for only one of them, what about the eternal agony there?

This makes the human being consider his serious responsibility which matches the other side of his total freedom of choice.


3- All of us belong to one father and one mother in spite of these differences in color and culture. Therefore, we are brothers, sisters and equals as human beings regardless of color, race, money, power and gender.

4- Being different nations and different people and tribes gives us the opportunity to recognize each other, not to fight each other or to hate each other. To recognize each other we need peace and its culture of peaceful coexistence. Peace is the only way that makes us understand each other better. Peace is the meaning of Islam in terms of dealing with each other.

5- To recognize each other means to understand one of the signs of our Almighty God inside us.  As He is the only One who creates us and there is no God except Him. Therefore, we should submit our soul to Him alone by our own choice. Submission is the other meaning of Islam in terms of dealing with God.

6- This Quranic verse clarifies the difference between two important values; equality and justice. Sometimes extreme equality establishes injustice. Suppose all of us are equal in this life and equal also in paradise of the Day of Judgment, regardless of our different deeds in this life? Then it will be wrong to have equality between the righteous and those who went astray, or between the criminal and his victim. God says: “Shall we treat those who believe and do righteous works like those who corrupt the earth? Shall we treat the righteous like the wicked?” [38/28]                               

 In the real Islamic jurisprudence, equality is supported by justice. Here in this verse, we are equal in this world as human beings regardless of the difference of color, race, culture, family, money, gender or anything else. But we are not equal in terms of our good or bad deeds and behavior. The delinquent is not equal to the diligent in the same work, and the criminal is not equal to his victim in court. This is in our life. The real justice will be on the Day of Judgment where the Almighty God will judge the human beings according to their deeds and beliefs, not according to their race, culture and wealth. God says in this verse: “The best among you in the sight of God is the most righteous.”

7- In terms of righteousness, God only is the One who will identify those righteous people, because He is only the One who knows the innermost secrets of every human being, so the verse says: “the best among you in the sight of God is the most righteous. God is omniscient, cognizant.”

8- It is up to God alone on the Day of Judgment to identify the righteous among humankind according to their real belief and righteous deeds. The believer in this world is prevented from claiming this character to himself, or to make it business and religious trade. God says: “Do not exalt yourselves; He is aware of the righteous.” [53/32].

 The guidance is a special relationship between the real believer and His Almighty God, and this believer does not ask people for favors or benefits for his own belief, because every one is required to be righteous too, and it is a free option  for all the people to be righteous or not. Thus, from this very beginning, God prevents this religious trade to confirm Islam as a secular religion. The religious state is usually full of hypocrisy, which conceals inside it corruption and wickedness.

The religious state does not tolerate the religious pluralism in its realm. Actually, the real Islamic state is a secular state which upholds human rights, pluralism, freedom, democracy, peace, tolerance, justice and equality. There is a huge contradiction between the Islamic state and the religious state. Do you want evidence? This question that you know the answer to: Could the Saudi Kingdom tolerate this article which is full of Quranic verses? Another question is more danger and its answer is well-known too: Which state is nearer to Islam and whish state is against the Islamic Jurisprudence: The U.S or the Saudi Kingdom?

 Religious Pluralism inside the one religion of Islam

According to the Quran, all the holy messages of all the prophets confirm the two meanings: submission to the one God and peace on earth. So it is one religion named in the Arabic language “Islam”, but it had different words which had the same meanings during the time of the ancient prophets.

Therefore, all the prophets were described as Muslims in the Quran, and it was the same holy revelation for all of them from Noah until Mohammed [4 /163 ], and from the one religion of God came the general basis of jurisprudence for all the prophets.[ 42/ 13].

As the pluralism of human colors and cultures comes from the same origin, Adam and Eve, there are some differences that come from the one religion of Islam. It is one real religion, but it has some different ways in its holy divine messages. These different ways inside the one religion establish the religious plurality in Islam.

Generally, God says: “For each congregation we decreed religious duties which they must do.” [22/67]. It means that there are different ways of worshipping and performing religious duties from Noah to the final prophet.

This includes the last holy message from Moses to Mohammed.

During the talk about the Quran and the people of scripture, known now as the Jews and the Christians, God said to the Prophet Mohammed and all Muslims and the Jews and Christians: “We have decreed statutes and methods for each of you.  Had God willed, He could have made you one nation. But He thus puts you in test, according to what He has given you. So, you should compete towards the good deeds. To God is your ultimate return, then He will inform you of every thing you disputed” [5/48]

Here there is pluralism inside the real holy messages, but this pluralism is to make Muslims and Christians and Jews compete against each other in the way of righteousness, not in the way of fanaticism and bigotry. For example, in establishing peace and advocating the high values and saving the needy and the poor.

Generally, competition in Islam is controlled by cooperation in doing the good deeds only as God says: “And you shall cooperate with one another in righteousness and pity, but do not cooperate in sin and aggression.” [5/2]


Although they belong to the one religion - named Islam in the Arabic language, but means submission to the one God and peace on the earth in all ancient prophets – the followers of every holy message keep their own name to confirm this pluralism. God says: “Surely, those whobelieve, those who are Jewish, the Christians and the converts, any of them who believe in God and the last day, and lead a righteous life, shall have their reward with their Lord, and they have nothing to fear, nor will they grieve.” [2/62] ,                 “ Surely, those who believe, the Jews, the Converts and the Christians, any of them who believe in God and the last day, and lead a righteous life, will have nothing to fear , nor will they grieve.” [5/69].

Surely, it is simple to say that whoever believes in God and the last day and is righteous will be in paradise, but to confirm this plurality, God mentions those different sects and cults who belong to the same one religion of submission and peace.

Those different sects and cults have different houses in which they worship God. According to the Quran, all these religious houses should have respect and immunity. God says: “If it were not for God’s setting up of some people against others, synagogues, churches, houses of prayers and mosques; where God’s names is commemorated frequently; would have been destroyed” [22/40].

This verse talks about Jihad in Islam indicating one of it purposes, not only to defend yourself, but also to defend all the houses of prayers for all the believers regardless of their different names.

These are the aspects of pluralism in the forgotten Islam, which is fought and excommunicated and banned by the fanatic Muslims. The fanatic Muslims are some millions among all the one billion of the Muslim majority. The problem is how to teach this silent Muslim majority this forgotten Islam. This is the mission of the Center of Islamic Pluralism, American Interfaith Institute, and the noble intellectual Jews and Christians.

The views and opinions of authors whose articles and comments are posted on this site do not necessarily reflect the views of IQC.