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Islam and Pluralism

Urdu columnist Zafar Anwar Shakarpuri regards the trend of Inter-Religious Marriages as an epidemic that has already enveloped metro cities and small towns in India and is now spreading towards villages, as village Muslim girls too are eloping with their Hindu boyfriends. He is extremely alarmed at the trend and seeks God’s blessings in warding off this "evil." New Age Islam is publishing his article in original Urdu along with a translation in English by Arman Neyazi.

The state does not interfere with the beliefs of its citizens and each individual is free to practise his/her faith. What the state has done, instead, is to ensure that no religious community is involved in politics. Politicisation of religion is considered the major threat to the Singapore model of religious pluralism. The state monitors and regulates religious freedom on the realistic assumption that religious harmony cannot be taken for granted. It has to be maintained through a diverse range of government inputs including pre-emptive measures to see to it that social cohesion and harmony are not jeopardised. -- Ishtiaq Ahmed

The thrust of Tariq Ramadan’s presentation was a plea for rethinking fundamental categories in both secular as well as Muslim/Islamic thought. Dwelling on the latter, he argued that ‘reform’ (for which he used the terms islah and ihya) in Muslim/Islamic thought on the question of the religious ‘other’ is an indispensable necessity, although many might balk at this. While the Islamic texts could not be changed or ‘reformed’, what could, he said, were our understandings of them on certain matters. This is because religious understandings are a human product and so can change in response to changing social and historical contexts. Religious traditions, he noted, are a ‘moving reality’ and one’s understanding of one’s tradition is—or should be—also dynamic and open to being transformed with shifts in time and context. -- Yoginder Sikand

Kashmir: Kashmiriyat vs. Islamic Fanaticism
Sultan Shahin, Editor, New Age Islam
Kashmir: Kashmiriyat vs. Islamic Fanaticism
Sultan Shahin, Editor, New Age Islam

… Hailing from this background, as Jammu and Kashmiris do, it seems strange that Pakistan thinks it will succeed in foisting on them leaders like Syed Ali Shah Geelani of Jamaat-e-Islami through the terrorist instrument of Hizbul Mujaheden who says that all Muslims must strive for and live in an Islamic state alone. The octogenarian leader of Kashmir’s separatist movement says: Our goal is azadi baraa-e-Islam (freedom for Islam).  Indeed in Geelani's perverse mind, Muslims can only live in an Islamic state. "It's as difficult for a Muslim to live in a non-Muslim society as it is for a fish to live in a desert," he wrote some time ago in his prison memoir Rudad-e-Qaf, thus stirring up a debate on Islam’s compatibility with other faiths.

There are hundreds of millions of Muslims living in non-Muslim majority countries, in peace and prosperity. But Kashmiri leader’s words can only give solace to those in many of these countries who are seeking to foment Islamophobia.  Clearly if Muslims cannot co-exist with people of other faiths, then they would want to convert others to their faith or create trouble in some other way. This is clearly absurd and Muslims have no problem co-existing in multi-religious, plural societies. But Pakistan is prepared to go to any extent to extend its borders on either side. It is prepared to have and indeed succeeded for a time in having a Talibani state in its west to give itself what it called strategic depth. It also sees no harm in seeking to create another Talibani society on its east, and hope to control it in some way.

Of course, it doesn’t matter to the strategists in Rawalpindi’s military headquarters what the impact of its support to Talibanism will be on the Muslim world at large or on Kashmiris. It says it supports self-determination for Kashmir. But what about self determination for the Kashmiris under its own occupation ? Or the Baluchis or Pashtoons or Sindhis, for that matter, who all deserve self-determination?

Obviously Pakistan is hardly interested in self-determination for Kashmiris or any other people. This morally bankrupt state is playing another and a very dangerous game. …

Let us hope that at least now the international community comes to realise that rather than helping it in the war on terror, Pakistan’s real agenda is to create Islamist radical states on both its eastern and western flanks. Let us beware that this policy of encouraging Islamic radicalism and exclusivism is also fuelling Islamophobia around the world.  As for Kashmiris, it wold be best for them to focus again on their Kashmiriyat, the gift of Sufis and Rishis, the mystics of the land. Kashmir is too diverse, too multicultural, a land, to imagine turning into a Talibanised state. Clearly Kashmiri people on the Indian side of the Line of control have by and large realised this already and turned away from Pakistan-inspired secessionism and Islamic fanaticism. In the last several elections at both state and central level, they participated enthusiastically and have had their own freely elected governments in the state ad representatives in the central cabinet as well. It is this trend that has probably unnerved Pakistani military strategists into restarting support for cross border terrorism after a brief lull. But hey are apparently finding it very difficult now that Kashmiris have had a taste of what lies on the other side of the border. -- Sultan Shahin, editor, New Age Islam, speaking in Geneva at a seminar on self-determination issues in South Asia, in side-event organized by Inter-Faith International during UN Human Rights Council’s June 2010 session.

Examples of the misused Qur'anic verses include, for example: "Let not the Believers take for allies or helpers Unbelievers rather than Believers" (3:28) and "O ye who believe! Take not the Jews and the Christians for your allies. They are but allies to each other. And he amongst you that turns to them [for alliance] is of them" (5:51).These verses should be seen as providing the necessary support for the survival and cohesion of an early vulnerable community of Muslims–the Prophet Muhammad and his followers who arrived as refugees in Medina–in a potentially hostile environment. In other words, the Qur'an was advising a particular community of Muslims in 7th century Arabia to be wary of entering blindly into political alliances. And indeed they were betrayed at that time by some of their Jewish allies. In fact, these verses were revealed in particular because some Muslims, for personal gain, were keen to establish or keep alliances with non-Muslims at the expense of their co-religionists and the newly formed state. These verses therefore were instructing these early Muslims to be self-reliant and to not depend upon others' protection in order to establish a strong, lasting community. -- Maher Y. Abu-Munshar

He added, “It symbolises communal harmony and brotherhood which are the hallmark of the glorious pluralistic ethos of Kashmir.” The chief minister, while reiterating Kashmir was incomplete without pandits, said a multifaceted programme for their return is already in place and that the government has introduced new initiatives to facilitate their return which include earmarking of posts in the government departments and construction of transit accommodation in the towns of Budgam, Mattan and other places. -- Yusuf Jameel

Had Islam not been central to the creation of Pakistan, Zaid Hamid and Hamid Gul would not have been able to invoke it for garnering support for a Muslim caliphate and they would not have been the darlings of our middle and upper class educated youth, we would not have had the Objectives Resolution as a guiding principle of our constitutions, Ziaul Haq would never have been able to pass retrogressive laws against women and minorities, our intelligence agencies and army would not have been suspected of links with the various jaishes and lashkars — not to speak of their well-documented grooming of the Taliban, our public schools would not have been a tool of retrogressive propaganda and we would not have had tens of thousands of religious seminaries, many of which produce violent jihadists. -- Ilyas Akbar Khan

 

As against power, the Sufis for ages carried on a dialogue with the people of other religious groups, with Jews, Christians, and Hindus in India. While kings and sultans grabbed power causing so much bloodshed, the Sufis followed the Islamic civilisation’s values and pursued the unity of people — Muslims as well as non-Muslims. Ibn Arabi even went to the extent of saying “My Sharia and din is love”.

The Quran also lays emphasis on pluralism. According to the Quran, Allah could have created one people but He created diversity and plurality so that He can test us and it is better to cooperate with each other in good deeds (5:48). Thus, rather than fighting, one should cooperate for good deeds the basis on which all civilisations are built. -- Asghar Ali Engineer

 
Gandhi is alive
Khushwant Singh

On the front page of Syed Shahabuddin’s weekly The Milli Gazette there was a news item written by its editor Zafarul Islam Khan which I felt should have made headline news of every national daily in all our languages and the top news item of our TV channels. I did not see it appear in any other journal and felt saddened that our media had failed to perform its duty. The article was headlined ‘Sikhs rebuild mosque demolished in 1947’. I give a short summary of its contents. There is a village called Sarwarpur around ten kilometres from Samrala town in Punjab. It had a sizeable Muslim population and a mosque with a dome and minarets. In the communal civil strife which accompanied the partition of Punjab in August 1947 most of the Muslim population fled to Pakistan and the mosque was demolished by rampaging mobs of Hindus and Sikhs. -- Khushwant Singh

The earliest usage of the term dhimma is in the Constitution of Medina. Dating from around 622 CE, it regulates the status of the Jewish clans of Medina (in modern Saudi Arabia) after its conquest by the Prophet Muhammad and states that “The dhimma [the pact guaranteeing security and protection] of God is one”. This implies that all the people of Medina - Jews and Muslims alike - were protected by the new Muslim rulers of the city. The document also acknowledges that Jews and Muslims each have their own religion.

On the whole, the document regulates the status of non-Muslims quite vaguely but in a spirit of equality. As such, it echoes the sura (chapters) in the Qur’an in which reference is made to the status of non-Muslims. These sura are also imprecise and general in formulation, though there is one sura which later became the basis for the legal regulation of the status of non-Muslims. According to sura 9:29, Muslims should fight the People of the Book until they willingly pay a special tax (jizya). -- Nushin Arbabzadah

 
Indian Pluralism, A Model of Successful Co-existence, Recent Challenges
Sultan Shahin, Founding Editor, New Age Islam
Indian Pluralism, A Model of Successful Co-existence, Recent Challenges
Sultan Shahin, Founding Editor, New Age Islam

IN this post-9/11 world characterised by a burgeoning clash of civilisations, multiculturalism and tolerance of religious diversity is under threat practically everywhere in the world. It has virtually ceased to exist in large parts of South Asia. In Pakistan, for instance, a near civil war in raging among religious, sectarian, ethnic and linguistic groups. Poor Pakistanis don’t even feel secure to go to mosques to pray. How does India then thrive in relative peace in the midst of this chaos, despite having the second largest population in the world, an astounding variety of religions, cultures, ethnicities and languages and dialects? [Indian constitution, for instance, recognises 22 languages and the country is home to at least 844 major dialects.] This question has staggered political scientists and sociologists around the world in recent times. …......

 To understand this one has to go to the very roots of Indian way of life, our dharma, that is now known as Hindu religion but it was always a conglomeration of religions, philosophies, including atheism and agnosticism. Yes atheism was as much an integral part of Hindu dharma as was faith in one God or a multiplicity of gods or any particular deity which may have had a following in only one small locality. So one Hindu family could have had a couple of devout believers in one God or several gods or atheists or agnostics, all living together under the same roof, their beliefs causing no hindrance in their lives together. In different parts of India too there were different religions, different scriptures, and people from different parts used to travel carrying their beliefs with them and sharing them with one another.

So when beliefs like Islam or Christianity or Judaism came from foreign lands, they hardly faced any problem in being accepted. In any case the Hindu or more correctly the Indian considered the whole world as a family, a kutumb.  One of the cardinal principles of Hindu philosophy was that there are many ways to the God and ultimately they all lead to the same divine truth. So while Islam’s encounter with some other religions was quite violent, Hinduism provided it with a fertile ground for growth. -- Sultan Shahin, editor, New Age Islam, speaking at Geneva in a United Nations informal seminar on multicultural experiences on 10 June, 2010.

Dargah Naugazi, an impressive grave 18 yards (16.2 metres) long, named after a pir (saint) called Nuh Aleihi Salaam, is located in a narrow lane. Interestingly, Nuh is believed to be Noah and the grave the famous Ark. Another interpretation is that the mound perhaps was built over the remains of the Ark. The shrine, visited by scores of devotees, has no independent custodian. Ram Milan, a devotee who makes an offering every day, says that for him the dargah is no less than a temple. He experiences a lot of mental peace when he visits the dargah. Ram Milan, like most of Ayodhya's residents, is not interested in the background of the pir. And like the rest, he is not the kind who would willingly desecrate a place of worship. -- T.K. Rajalakshmi    

Photo: Dargah of Sheesh Paigambar

The Prophet was keen on establishing relations based on respect, equality and justice with non-Muslims, and recommended that they be treated well. He said: "He who hurts [non-Muslims] is my enemy until Judgment Day" and "He who killed a person under a treaty shall never go to heaven." This respect is also reinforced in the hadith (sayings and actions of the Prophet Muhammad) by the Prophet's companion Jaber Ibn Abdellah: "A funeral passed by, and the Prophet stood up in respect. We said to him, 'It is a Jewish man's funeral.' He said: 'If you see a funeral, you shall stand up. Is it not a soul?'" -- Hind Al-Subai Al-Idrisi

 

The Mughal period, particularly the reign of Akbar (1556-1605), was perhaps a more enlightened one in terms of state policies vis-à-vis the Hindus. This period saw increasing interaction between Hindus and Muslims at various levels. Following in the footsteps of the Abbasid Caliph al-Mamoon (786-833), Akbar arranged for the translation of numerous books on the religion, culture and history of the Hindus. This proved to be a major milestone in promoting a more objective understanding of the Hindus among Muslims, and a significant step in facilitating dialogue between the two.

The Revolt of 1857 that marked the formal end of the Mughal Empire witnessed impressive efforts to unite Hindus and Muslims to combat the encroaching British. Were it not for the tragic Partition of India, it is possible that major progress could have been made to improve Hindu-Muslim relations through dialogue. It should have been among the topmost priorities of our leaders after Independence to bring Hindus and Muslims closer together, but this did not happen. On the contrary, the gulf between them only further widened and the conflicts between them are becoming ever more deadly. -- Maulana Waris Mazhari

 

Exclusive to NewAgeIslam.com

Editor, www.NewAgeIslam.com Sultan Shahin participated in a discussion on Islamophobia in Geneva where Mr. Elam made this presentation and debated with Mr Hani Ramadan, among other intellectuals and experts on Islam.

The huge wave of Islamophobia rolling over Switzerland should be compared to other forms of racism prevailing in this country especially with Judeophobia, with its long history. It would be wrong to speak in this context about an equation, although there are crucial similarities and common roots and traits.

Xenophobia in Switzerland was and still is an essential part of the dominating rural sub-cultures according to which even the inhabitants of the next village were and sometimes still are considered to be foreigners. Not to speak about recent strong animosities between the various language regions and between Protestants and Catholics. On the other hand, there were and are strong cosmopolitain tendencies even in the countryside. Accordingly, many students in Zurich at the beginning of the last century were Jewish Russian women, and radical leftist Russian politicians like Vladimir Lenin and Mikhail Bakunin found refuge in the Helvetic Confederation. And my catholic spouse comes from a village and not only she but all her 7 siblings married foreigners. -- Shraga Elam

It is no one’s business to question the taboo on the idea of representation in Islam, but Husain’s appropriation and celebration of the freedom to represent within the Hindu traditions, classical and folk, is a way also of intervening and questioning the hijacking of Islam by those who represent the al- Qaeda’s brand of intolerant Islam, which prohibits all forms of creativity, whether it is art, music or cinema. Questioning Husain’s right to interpret and represent Hindu gods and goddesses is symptomatic of the confusion that has existed within Hindu nationalism since the nineteenth century.

The Hindu nationalist attempt to paint the entity called Hinduism in monochromatic colours and to compel compliance on the basis of a distorted version of a unified faith makes its family resemblance to more fanatical versions of Islam more evident than it realises or is ready to admit. Husain on the other hand has the best of both worlds.

State

He remains a Muslim in the sense that would make every civilised and reasonable Muslim proud, and he has fashioned himself also as an illustrious pauranik in the best sense that can be conveyed by that term. The sangh parivar, on the other hand, lives in this vast sea of confusion, mouthing platitudes that are foreign, colonial and, worst still, Victorian. – Jyotirmaya Sharma

Photo: Husain’s work is rooted in the pauranik tradition which celebrates interpretation and improvisation

But here's the thing: young Muslims understand the piquant situation they are in. After all, there is truth to the charge that an earlier generation of Muslims asked for a separate homeland and got it. They know they belong to a proselytising religion; they are aware of the flourishing myth that Islam gives no quarter to 'kafirs'. They know that Islam is misunderstood by non-Muslims and often misinterpreted by their co-religionists. They're self-conscious about the controversy regarding Muslim polygamy, the stereotypes about jihad, the promised hooris in heaven, the hideous penal practices of certain 'Muslim' states, the barbaric instances of inhuman behaviour by the likes of Mullah Omar in Afghanistan, the blasphemous justification of such behaviour by invoking the Nizam-i-Mustafa.

He knows that the violence practised by extremists makes the task of explaining Muslim belief and practice hard. With suicide bombers in the headlines, who cares to know that suicide is forbidden in Islam? Verse 195, The Cow, and verses 29-30,the Women, clearly state: "And spend of your substance in the cause of Allah, and make not your own hands contribute to your destruction; But do good." Every Muslim theologian will tell you that suicides are haram. Who wants to know that in practice having more than one wife is impossible because the conditions laid down for marrying again are so exacting, when people see manifestly imperfect Muslim men marrying again. Which non-Muslim will feel the resonance of Islam's assertion that all men are equal, when he or she can see Muslim states where Muslims are more equal than others, and Muslim men more equal than women? ...

Each one of them is aware of the numerous handicaps he faces, the hurdles, the prejudices he is likely to encounter, the shortcomings in his own community, its inherent backwardness, poverty, lack of modern education, lack of a youthful leadership. And yet he wants to overcome all this and be part of this great nation that his parents chose to stay behind in, to be share in the promise Nehru held out on the midnight of 15 August 1947: he wants to be part of this nation's tryst with destiny. What we owe him is trust, due process and the benefit of the doubt: so that when the horror of something like Pune happens, he can spontaneously share the revulsion of his fellow citizens without the insidious taint of guilt by association. -- Najeeb Jung

Photo: The writer, who is vice chancellor of Jamia Millia Islamia University, with his students.

What is the motivation of those carrying out the uprising, what is their ultimate goal, and from whom do they receive support? Party Secretary Wang believes that the separatists are “religious reactionaries” that want to establish an “Islamic kingdom.” However, there is ample evidence that the leaders of the rebel movement are not simply religious fanatics, but Pan Turkic nationalists.

The support for the movement comes from neighbouring Turkic-speaking countries. Despite the pledge by the governments of Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan to not support the Xinjiang separatist movement, supporters of the movement openly operate from these countries. Uygurs living in Turkey also support the movement. In March 1998, a demonstration in front of the Chinese embassy in Istanbul called for “freedom for East Turkistan” (SCMP March 10, 1998). During the many demonstrations over the past few years in Xinjiang, slogans calling for the CCP and the PLA to get out of Xinjiang, and the establishment of “Xinjiangstan” are common. The common denominator is not Islam, but Pan-Turkic nationalism. One common slogan was “sha han mie hui” (kill the Chinese and destroy the Hui [a Muslim Chinese minority]). Murat Auezov, the former Kazakh ambassador to Beijing, said the Uygurs are “struggling to preserve their cultural identity against an officially sanctioned mall influx of Han Chinese into their region.” Auezov underlined the international dimensions of the anti-Chinese uprising when he said the “Central Asian region is an organic whole. If the Uygurs lose their traditions this is a terrible loss for all the Turkic-speaking peoples” (Jones 1997).

Given the deep cultural, linguistic, and historical roots of Pal Turkic nationalism, once the Central Asian became independent, we should not be surprised that ethnic nationalism in Xinjiang was invigorated. Historically Xinjiang was a central battle ground in the “great game” of nation-states. Now again in the Twenty-first Century, Xinjiang may be a battle ground on which an ethnic nationalist movement seeking to exercise its right national self-determination will wage war against a Chinese regime that no longer recognizes such a right.  – Eric Hyer

Photo: Uygur Muslim girl, Xinjiang.

In many countries with multi-religious structure the right wing among religious majority community has been suppressing voice of reason successfully. The moderates are being silenced through creating mass hysteria. There is great need for civil society to play its role and support enlightened policies. Most of the moderate intellectuals have no time or interest to study the issue in depth and become victims of high pitched propaganda.

 We need what we call public intellectuals who raise voice of reason and take public stand even risking their own reputation, or even career. Most of our moderate intellectuals argue why we should bother about such things and give way to such extremist forces. We should always be ready like Bertrand Russell, Jean Paul Sartre or Noam Chomsky to fearlessly criticize the powers that be in keeping with their conviction. What is the use of conviction which does not inspire you to speak out irrespective of consequences? Be it controversy about Allah or burqa or crime of Zionists or rigidity of orthodoxy. They alone can save democracy -- Asghar Ali Engineer

Dr. Naik – the western media exaggerates news of a 60 year old Arab marrying a 16 year old girl but plays it down when a 60 year old man in America rapes a 10 year old girl.

Reply – What exactly are you trying to compare here Dr. Naik? Rape is a crime and rape of a minor is a crime that is unpardonable and unacceptable in any civilized society. It is punishable under the law. But marriages like the one mentioned by our “scholar” is nothing but legally sanctioned rape of a minor. And this type of rape has the blessings of the Sharia in all Islamic countries. 

Dr. Naik – People in the west eat pork and hence behave like pigs. Pigs are the only animals in the world that invite their friends to have sex with their partners. Westerners also do the same.

Reply – Dr. Naik should know that barring a few species that mate for life all animals are promiscuous for the simple reason that their sole purpose is to procreate and not propagate Islam. And to think that this man claims the Koran to be scientific!  -- Sanjay Khanna

 (A couple of sentences from Mr. Khanna’s last reply quoted above have been deleted, as they appeared to be unnecessarily provocative. Mr. Khanna claims to be making “unbiased attempt to dissect” Dr. Naik’s scholarship. But anyone who has learnt about Islam only from one source – the well-known anti-Islamic website faithfreedom.org  - can hardly remain unbiased. So his observations should be taken with a pinch of salt.

However, he raises some valid and disturbing questions about Dr. Naik’s scholarship and many Muslims’ unquestioning acceptance of him as a messiah. It is imperative that Muslims start questioning what Dr. Naik is all about and what he is actually trying to do behind the façade of “moderate” Islam. Indeed, the fundamental question that arises in this context is: Can Saudi, Wahhabi, Ahl-e-Hadees brand of Islam be allowed to be called moderate? Editor)

So horrendous is the discrimination that Indians are arrested without cause and released only when no charges can be framed against them; over 90 per cent deaths in police custody are of Hindus. Every week, 1.3 persons on average are shot by the police; 95 per cent are Hindus. A staggering 70 per cent of Indian Malaysians have been reduced to hardcore poor, poor or working class, with 90 per cent being in the daily or monthly wage-earning category. As the racism and religious persecution is all state-sponsored — ordinary Hindus have no problems with ordinary Malay Muslims — there is a strong case for the Government of India to take up the human rights violations and religious freedoms of these besieged Hindus.

One of the worst problems is forced conversions to Islam, which has become particularly acute since 2001, despite the provision for freedom of religion entrenched in Article 11 in the Malaysian Constitution. A recent case that has shaken the country involves a 27-year-old Tamil Hindu, Bangaramma, who was converted as a minor in a Government orphanage and registered as a Muslim without her knowledge. She continued to regard herself as a Hindu, worshipping and marrying a Hindu in a temple, according to Vedic rites. -- Sandhya Jain

Describing the fourth century Hindu deities found in the Bujang Valley, Malaysia’s richest architectural site, Anthony Spaeth wrote in Time that “the official literature does its best to downplay, even denigrate, the Indian impact on the region”. Spaeth thought “an Indian Malaysian visiting the Bujang Valley might come away feeling demeaned rather than proud — and that would be no accident”.

About 40 per cent of Malay words, including the all-important ‘bumiputera’ (son of the soil), the political concept that sustains Malaysian nationalism, are borrowed from Sanskrit. The nine Malay sultans who take turns to be king are descended from Indian royalty. Their rituals are recognizably Brahmanic.

It could explain why Hindu temples and Indian Malaysians are targeted for attack. Malaysia is trying to erase its past.--Sunanda K Datta-Ray

Prime Minister Najib Razak condemned the attacks on the churches, but he supports the ban on Christians using the word ‘Allah’ in Malay and is appealing the High Court decision. “We...have the right to use the word ‘Allah’,” said Rev Lawrence Andrew, the editor of the Herald, the newspaper of the Catholic Church in Malaysia, whose use of the word in its Malay-language edition triggered the crisis. … Of course it was. Arabic-speaking Christians predate the rise of Islam by 300 years, and what else were they going to call god? The word ‘Allah’ is a contraction of the Arabic definite article al- and the noun ‘ilah, which means god. In parts of ancient Arabia it once referred to the creator-god (who was not the only god), but for a very long time it has meant the one god.

This Arabic word was imported into the Malay language by converts to Islam, which arrived in the region several centuries before Christianity. All ethnic Malays are considered to be Muslim under Malaysian law, but there are numerous Malay-speakers, especially in northern Borneo, who are Christian and not ethnically Malay. They also use the word Allah for god. What’s the harm in that? Why are Malaysia’s Muslims so paranoid? The real paranoia, alas, is ethnic. -- Gwynne Dyer

Jesus in the Koran

In fact, this Islamo-Christian connection is not too surprising. You just need to read the Koran to see why. The Muslim scripture is full of praises to Jesus, who is defined as a prophet, and his mother, Mary. The “Chapter of Mary” speaks in detail about the virgin birth and other miracles of Jesus. In another chapter, Muslims are told to take his disciples as examples to follow. In one verse of the Koran, Jesus is even referred to as "the Word of God," a term which has a curious resemblance to the introduction of the Fourth Gospel.

To be sure, the Koran rejects that Jesus is God, and denounces the doctrine of the Trinity. This is the deepest theological gap between Islam and mainstream Christianity. Yet still, the fact remains that Muslims are the only faith community on Earth who, besides the Christians, revere Christ.

This theological connection is leading some Muslims to take fresh perspectives on the birthday of Christ as well. One such figure, the Sufi-minded Niyazi Öktem, a Turkish professor of law, has been arguing that Muslims can well celebrate Christmas in a spirit similar to the “mevlid kandili,” or, the celebration of the birth of Prophet Muhammad. -- Mustafa Akyol

The peace pilgrimage was planned from Ayodhya and was to end in Ajmer for symbolic reasons. Ayodhya is, on one hand, a Hindu holy city as well as a city of composite culture. In Ayodhya there are religious places of Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists and Jains. It is as much city of temples as city of Sufi mausoleums and mosques. Historically it has had large Muslim population. Some Muslims believe two prophets Hazrat Shish and Hazrat Nuh are buried there. The Naugazi qabar (a very long shaped grave) is said to be of Hazrat Nuh, the 2nd major prophet in Qur’an.

 Ajmer is a Muslim holy city where there is mausoleum of famous sufi saint of Indian subcontinent Hazrat Moinuddin Chishti. But Ajmer is also a city of composite culture as there are holy places belonging to Sikhs, Hindus (Pushkar) and Parsis. Even otherwise the Dargah of Hazrat Moinuddin Chishti is visited by members of all religious communities, not only Muslims.

The way peace marchers were received throughout the root made it obvious that common people are for peace and harmony and not for conflict and blood shedding in the name of religion, it is only unscrupulous politicians who grossly misuse religion to make us fight for grabbing our votes and coming to power. I strongly feel such yatras for direct contact to people should be more frequently organized. Rath yatras are not the monopoly of communal forces alone.  -- Dr. Asghar Ali Engineer

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    ( By GRD )
  • Does Quran 7:157 condemn those who do not believe in the Prophet to hell? Al-A'raf (The Heights) - 7:157 الَّذِينَ يَتَّبِعُونَ....
    ( By zuma )
  • Islam is not a religion of peace. The watered down version of islam taught by corrupt scholars will ...
    ( By Irshad )
  • Cogent article! Our youth seem to find some of their emotional needs met by the call of the ISIS. ...
    ( By Ghulam Mohiyuddin )
  • Enclose herewith the Quran verse for my first comment: Yunus (Jonah) - 10:37 [read in context] وَمَا كَانَ هَـذَا الْقُرْآنُ أَن....
    ( By zuma )
  • Quran 2:89 mentions the revelation of God can be used to confirm whatever truth in the past: Al-Baqara....
    ( By zuma )
  • The refutation of the extract from 20th paragraph of the comment from Sultan Shahin above it confirms the truth....
    ( By ZUMA )
  • "It is only Muslims who can be illegal. There is no way to read the Constitution that can ....
    ( By Ghulam Mohiyuddin )
  • Jews and Muslims in America have found remarkable bonds of empathy that are in direct contrast....
    ( By Ghulam Mohiyuddin )
  • Such a mullah-led nation cannot succeed in the modern world.
    ( By Ghulam Mohiyuddin )
  • "It is about time though, that we . . . . expose the hypocritical and sinful use of religion...
    ( By Ghulam Mohiyuddin )
  • Hats Off has nothing left except lies. lies and more lies! Instead of getting highly slanted information...
    ( By Ghulam Mohiyuddin )
  • all over europe and the americas, the leftist libtards are bending over backwards....
    ( By hats off! )
  • These shows need a villain and at this time a Muslim terrorist is a convenient villain, although most....
    ( By Ghulam Mohiyuddin )
  • just as islam denigrates the kuffar, he is free to denigrate all those.....
    ( By hats off! )
  • it is amazing to see you "refuting" the literal meaning of such a simple....
    ( By hats off! )
  • This series provided an effective counter-narrative blow against....
    ( By Shadab Misbahi )
  • I have not used any inappropriate word, I fee he was Munafiqe....
    ( By Aayina )
  • God would never ask us to kill anyone. He is the Creator of both....
    ( By Ghulam Mohiyuddin )
  • For Hats Off, no judgement is just unless it is anti-Muslim! How many Buddhist structures.....
    ( By Ghulam Mohiyuddin )
  • Thanks for sharing such informative and well defined scholarship. '
    ( By Malik Aadil )
  • no judgement is just until it is in favor of islam and muslims. the fact that....
    ( By hats off! )
  • Newageislam.com is doing the same work
    ( By GGS )
  • Good question Neyazi Sahib. Muslims must come forward and sack these elect their good representatives in AIMPLB
    ( By GGS )
  • Owaisi brothers are BJP 2.1. How do people and organisations....
    ( By Ayaan Neyazi )
  • Alliance between Zionist entity and Saudi Arabia is well known to mainstream...
    ( By GGS )
  • Majority of Indians want there to be peace and coexistence around them....
    ( By GGS )