Fellowship of Faiths
The Young Islam, 15th August 1934 Issue (Vol. 1, No. 6, pp. 3–4)
قُلۡ یٰۤاَہۡلَ الۡکِتٰبِ تَعَالَوۡا اِلٰی کَلِمَۃٍ سَوَآءٍۢ بَیۡنَنَا وَ بَیۡنَکُمۡ اَلَّا نَعۡبُدَ اِلَّا اللّٰہَ وَ لَا نُشۡرِکَ بِہٖ شَیۡئًا وَّ لَا یَتَّخِذَ بَعۡضُنَا بَعۡضًا اَرۡبَابًا مِّنۡ دُوۡنِ اللّٰہِ ؕ فَاِنۡ تَوَلَّوۡا فَقُوۡلُوا اشۡہَدُوۡا بِاَنَّا مُسۡلِمُوۡنَ ﴿۶۴﴾
“Say: O People of the Book, come to an equitable word between us and you, that we shall serve none but Allah and that we shall not associate aught with Him, and that some of us shall not take others for lords besides Allah. But if they turn away, then say: Bear witness, we are Muslims” (The Holy Quran, 3:64).
Among the countries of the world the United States of America occupies the topmost position in possessing the luxuries and material equipment of life. To many, it may sound almost astounding to be told that it is not improbable that in the future this very country may out strip all others as regards the moral and spiritual progress of man. We may not deem it impossible. It has often happened in the history of the world that a people who have gone too far in one direction have taken sudden and equally rapid a turn in the opposite.
When a genuine instinct in human nature—a true aspiration of the soul—is ruthlessly denied its legitimate expression, a time must arrive when it would revolt with all its force, Newton’s second law of motion,
“action and reaction are equal and opposite,”
is working with equal force in the moral history of mankind as it does in the physical realm.
The United States of America—a country possessing all the facilities an English-speaking land can offer—is still deprived of a regular missionary work in favour of Islam. Despite this drawback we have of late years been hearing of a Congress in this land called “The Fellowship of Faiths.” An interview with Mr Manilal C. Parekh—an Indian delegate to the Congress—has recently been published in the press. This brings to our mind afresh the commendable aims this organization has in view. As the very name of it suggests, the objects of the Congress are to promote a better understanding among the diverse religious creeds of the world. Elimination of national and racial prejudices is also included in its programme. The importance of these subjects cannot be overrated. If persons of influence and intelligence in every country were to devote themselves seriously to solving these problems it would go a long way towards establishing the much-needed peace and harmony in the agitated world of today.
Unity on a common platform can be achieved through a common purpose in view. It is not known what principles of common consent the Fellowship of the United States has put before, on the basis of which it invites the representatives from different religions. In this connection it may be of interest to discuss this subject from the point of view of Islam.
The religion of Islam is a happy and harmonious blend both of the liberal as well as conservative tendencies. The Quran is so sure and certain of its teachings that it creates an insatiable zest in one’s heart to spread the light of truth it represents. It takes up such an attitude not because of any prejudice or partial leanings but because it is convinced that the impress of veracity is so vivid, so appealing, and is so natural that the majority of mankind if fully cognizant of its message must bow before it.
But on the other hand, Islam is not an exclusive, limited, and narrow a vision that it cannot have any cordial and cooperative relationship on principles of broad agreement with those not accepting its message. In the following words the Quran has given an invitation—an address of welcome for a common end to all:
“Say: O People of the Book, come to a proposition of equal acceptability between us and you, that we shall not worship except Allah, that we shall not associate aught with Him, and that some of us shall not take others for lords besides Allah. But if they turn back, then say: I bear witness that we surrender to Him” (The Holy Quran, 3:64).
Put in simpler words the Quranic call to all religions is: “Come, let us federate for a common end—the worship of one Divine Being.” Islam thus not only invites others to form a league of faiths but it has laid down the foundation-stone, indicating the basic principle on which can be built the superstructure of such a union. Is there any other principle so cardinal, so vital, and at the same time so easily acceptable to all? Is there any other religion which has expressed such a desire for unity and then pointed out the way to achieve it?
Divine Unity is the basic principle of every faith. The One Ultimate Source of Power and Will to whom man must surrender completely is an idea and an ideal where there is no disagreement. Every religion teaches that the highest attainment of man is a complete resignation to His Will. Every true teacher inculcated that the gaze of man be fixed on Him. We are all aiming to unite with the One.
The bond of union that the Quran has pointed out is thus not a loose one but is a link of real affinity among all mankind. In practical life, however, two sources of error stand in the way of man realizing the ideal of Divine Unity in its perfect form. In the first place there are the desires and passions of man. Secondly, his passive and blind submission to the dictates of others. When a person ignores His commandments under the blind sway of his passions, he has taken the latter to be his gods and so has strayed away from the path of perfect surrender. Similarly, when he follows other men contrary to His behests he has again deviated from achieving his ideal. These are the two sources that are the main cause of divergences separating one religion from another. People read in the words of their revealed scriptures meanings fulfilling their own desires and they slavishly adhere to the interpretation by the priestly class. Eliminate these two sources of error and much the greater part of differences and divergences prevalent among various creeds vanishes. It is to the realization of the ideal of Divine Unity in its perfect form that after the words
“that we shall not worship except Allah,”
the Quran has added the two phrases,
“that we shall not associate aught with Him,”
“that some of us shall not take others for lords besides Allah.”
Acceptance of the ideal of Divine Unity in its perfect form entails acceptance of some other fundamental principles in man’s life. The universality of Divine revelation, the brotherhood of mankind without distinction of creed and caste, and the practical realization of the idea of a united humanity through one Book and one Prophet are all corollaries without which the idea of Divine Unity remains imperfect. Divine Unity is the common end we all have in view. It is the main link which can federate all faiths and creeds. Strict adherence to the ideal of Divine Unity in our practical lives may eliminate most of our discords and disunities. And lastly, Divine Unity in its full-fledged form is an ideal indistinguishable from Islam—the religion of Quran. Impregnated with such fundamentals and bearing fruits of blessings of such import to humanity it is not in vain that the Quran has so persistently and emphatically driven home this idea of Divine Unity.
And is the Islamic fraternity itself not a fellowship of faiths? Has Islam not taken its toll from every race and religion and has it not so completely absorbed them all into such a wonderful federation which is to this day the surprise of the world?
Any man entering the fellowship of Islam loses nothing. He believes in the Revealed Books he is already believing just the same. He reveres Prophets not only of his own race and country but of all races and of all nations. More than this, a true Muslim is a better follower of any religious teacher than those who profess to follow him. He has the teachings of every one of them with him in the pages of the Quran and he realizes what each of them meant and in what circumstances each acted.
India is a land unique in being a conglomeration of all religions and races. Would it not be in the fitness of things to have a “Fellowship of Faiths League” on the lines of the USA Congress? Our past experience of holding controversies and debates is not very pleasant. It increases rather than soothes the already existing complexities of the situation. Modern taste does not like such methods. If instead this new method is tried, much good may be expected. Leading persons from every religion be invited to represent their respective faiths in the light of modern needs. Sittings of the League be held annually at different important stations and the papers read there be published for the benefit of the public.
The Ahmadiyya Anjuman Ishaat-e-Islam Lahore is a premier organization devoted exclusively to the propagation of Islamic truths. Would it be too much to expect that this Anjuman would give a lead to the country in this respect?