Islam divides world religions into two broad classes:
- Revealed religions
- Man-made religions
The revealed religions are those about which there is evidence in the Holy Quran that they were revealed by God (Allah). But as the time went on, people interpolated the scriptures, thereby changing the very essence of religion. Judaism, Christianity and, of course, Islam are the three revealed religions, according to Islam. However, there are other religions which Islam does not categorize as revealed. These religions are, according to Islam, formulated by man himself. Hinduism, Sikhism, Buddhism, Confuciusism, etc., are a few of them.
Furthermore, there is another common misconception that Islam is a new religion. Islam has existed in society since time immemorial. The first man, according to Islam and other revealed religions, was Adam and he was a believer. All the Prophets mentioned in the Holy Quran were believers and belonged to the revealed religions.. From Moses and Jesus to Aaron and Abraham, all the Prophets belonged to the revealed religions. Prophet Muhammad is recognized as the Final Messenger of Islam, a believer and follower of the faith.
There Is No Compulsion In Islam
Though Islam is missionary in nature, the religion never legislates force as a means of conversion. Islam is an open invitation to all of mankind and people are free to either accept it or reject it. Allah says:
“Let there be no compulsion in religion: Truth stands out clear from Error: whoever rejects evil and believes in Allah has grasped the most trustworthy hand-hold, that never breaks. And Allah hears and knows all things. ”
This is the base of unfaltering peaceful co-existence of Islam with other faiths.
Islam, Christianity and Judaism
Christianity and Judaism are mentioned at several places in the Quran. The followers of these three revealed religions are collectively referred to as “People of the Book”. Jews and Christians were given two enlightening books: the Torah and Gospel respectively. They were revealed by Allah upon two of His mightiest messengers: Torah was revealed to Moses and Gospel was revealed to Jesus. There are many similarities between Islam, Judaism and Christianity. The concept of God is the same in all the three religions. The Omniscient, the All-Powerful, the All-mighty God belongs to all the three. However, there are some critical differences between these religions. But, that does not mean that Islam is at war with these religions over these differences. Never! The Quran offers a good solution to such concerns:
“Say: ‘O People of the Book! come to common terms as between us and you: That we worship none but Allah; that we associate no partners with Him; that we erect not, from among ourselves, Lords and patrons other than Allah.’ If then they turn back, say you: ‘Bear witness that we (at least) are Muslims. "
In Islam there is no room to wage war against people of other faiths even if they disagree with certain points of view. Yes Muslims can argue, reason and debate with followers of other faith, in fact Islam highly encourages it with the condition that it has to be done “in a graceful manner”.
Thus in spite of creedal differences, Islam can co-exist in harmony and peace with Judaism and Christianity. In fact, history is full of instances where Muslims lived with Jews and Christians peacefully. The Prophet Muhammed also allowed the Jews and Christians of Medina to follow their faith with full dignity.
There is a concept of Dhimmi in Islam. Dhimmis are those non-Muslims who live in a Muslim majority state, run under Islamic law. They are those who are protected by Islam. No one is allowed to harm them. No one can seize their property. They have the full right to exercise their religion by paying a small tax to the Islamic government.
Islam And Other Religions
As far as those religions are concerned regarding which the Quran and Sunnah is silent, a comparative study is very helpful for understanding the religions with mutual respect and insight. Be it Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, or any other major world religion, we find that the basic moral guidelines are the same as that of Islam. Hinduism instructs it followers not to rob, Islam requires the same. Buddhism tells its followers not crave for the wealth of this world; Islam also says the same. Sikhism says that there is only one God; Islam also says that there is none worthy of worship except the One True God. Basic postulates of morality are the same in all religions. However, it is in the details that some differences may arise. These differences can easily be sought out by studying the various religions, finding their common elements and studying them in detail to draw parallels and common ground.
The bottom-line is: Islam has co-existed peacefully with other religions throughout its history and can continue to do so. Muslims have proved it through centuries that they can live harmoniously with people of other faiths. It is essential to understand that there is much common ground to be sought between Islam and other religions of the world.