by. Musdah Mulia
Islamic tradition has a glorious history of interfaith dialogue. Prophet of Islam, Muhammad (pbuh) has set many examples of dialogue, both verbal and written. The prophet (pbuh) entered into a dialogue both with the followers of revealed religions and idol worshippers.
The prophetic dialogue was also accompanied with the establishment of a tradition of cooperation on common human grounds with followers of other religions. To institutionalize this cooperation, the prophet (pbuh) concluded written agreements with followers of different religions which can serve as models of cooperation and coexistence for the pluralist societies of today. We witness the first ever instance of the Prophet’s activism for cooperation with others in acts of goodness and to undo excesses and injustice, in Mecca, when he was yet to be bestowed with the prophethood. He (pbuh) became part of this agreement, called ‘Hilful Fudūl’, and accorded so much importance to it that even after he was granted prophethood.
After migrating to Madina, the Prophet (pbuh) in order to establish peace, stability and a civil society based on human rights, concluded a deal with the Christians, Jews and mushrikīn (idol worshippers) which is recorded in history as mithāq-e-Madina (Madina Pact). The most striking feature of the Pact that has a very meaningful relevance to our own socio-political situation in this era of globalization. He has accepted all the religious entities represented in the Pact as forming one single Ummah (people).
The Madina Pact accepts religious freedom as a core value and right and guarantees equal rights and obligations of all the participants in the Pact in matters of the State. This also establishes the principle that the religious differences of a society or people do not put any obstacles in the affairs of the state and its defense against any external enemy.
The Pact of Hudaibiyah also forms a great landmark in the Islamic tradition of interfaith dialogue. This Pact which was concluded with the Muslims, doing it seemingly lying down, paved the way on one side for the suspension of hostilities against Muslims and for opening interaction and negotiations with different religious groups on the other. These negotiations facilitated the processes of mutual understanding and coexistence becoming a reality as well as created conditions for an unobstructed propagation of Islamic teachings.
The fourth most important initiative taken by the Prophet (pbuh) having utmost relevance in the context of the present interfaith dialogue is his Last Sermon which was addressed not only to the Muslims but also for all human beings. It is very interesting to note that The Sermon is containing the basic principles of human rights in Islam in the most lucid language. The Last Sermon, the khutba hujjat al-widā, not only constitutes the first ‘Charter of Human Rights’ but also provides a firm ground for peaceful coexistence and promoting interfaith dialogue.
All these four models of the Prophet’s (pbuh) acts of peacebuilding through interfaith dialogue, Hilf ul-fudūl, Madina Pact, Pact of Hudaibiyyah, the Last Sermon, contain a very clear guidance that can help us in the process of initiating a model of interfaith dialogue in the present day pluralist societies, a dialogue that will have a set destination, clear principles and strategies, gentle and persuasive language, leading to the establishment of a universal human fraternity where human beings will be free from all form of discrimination and violence based on creed, colors, race and religion.