Along with many other issues, the post 9/11 era has become the outset of a new era from the point of view of the three divine religions outlook on one another. The interfaith dialogues and the relations between them have accelerated unprecedentedly. Today, like no other time previously, the members of these monotheistic religions need to highlight the fact that they are not foes but companions, believing in the same values and working for the very same goals.
In this sense we can say that the post 9/11 era has been a time that opened a great many possibilities for coexistence, understanding and mutual cooperation among the three monotheistic religions. More and more Jews, Christians and Muslims are coming forward to speak about the ethical power and integrity of these faiths and become exemplary in showing the piety they inspire.
Before proceeding further with this subject however, one point needs to be addressed and further clarified. Although the term “interfaith dialogue” is frequently employed in this article and many other platforms calling for it, it is intrinsically a misnomer that harbors a fundamental misunderstanding about both the natures of these faiths and the relations among one another, and I will briefly explain why.
Judaism, Christianity and Islam are considered by most to be irreconcilable religions, each with their peculiar traditions and tenets. Therefore, many people believe that some effort and genuine communication is needed to reconcile them whereas the fact remains that Christians, Jews and Muslims are but a single and united nation, one people, bound by a set of common ideas as the descendants of Abraham. As a requisite of being the sons of Abraham, rather than dissimilarities, they share many commonalities on which they can enjoy a common ground for mutual understanding and collaboration towards a single goal.
For instance, moral propriety and virtue are of crucial importance to the three Abrahamic faiths. The religious provisions in their respective Holy Books are a means towards attaining moral perfection in human conduct and society at large. In addition, courage, justice and honesty are three such “core values” common to them all. All these three religions enunciate that these values are central to moral life as experienced by a pious individual, no matter from which faith he may be. In the face of all sorts of hardships and ordeals they encountered, Prophet Moses, Prophet Jesus and Prophet Muhammad all showed the same commitment in reliance upon God –Allah- and, never swaying from truth and justice, always spoke out against wickedness and corruption with all their might.
As another example of their commonality, the three Abrahamic faiths throughout the centuries have the same faith of the Oneness of God. The Jews have a monotheistic interpretation of God as is stated in Isaiah:
“Listen, Israel! Yahweh is our Elohim, He is alone (aÑhad). You shall love Him with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your strength [Deuteronomy, 6:4-6]”. Isaiah made history a divine warning; “Am I not Yahweh? He asked repeatedly, ‘there is no other god beside Me’. No god was formed before Me, nor will be after Me. I, I am Yahweh, there is no other savior but Me [Isaiah, 46:1]”.
St. Paul said: “There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism and one God who is Father of all, over all, through all and within all [Isaiah, 46]”. There are various verses in the books of Christians, Jews and Muslims that “God is alone, no other God than Him [Judith 8:20]” including the Qur’an in which it is related: “Allah, there is no god but Him, the Living, the Self-Sustaining” [Qur’an, 2 -255].
Given the common heritage that these three religions enjoy, rather than engaging in some superficial efforts of dialogue that will not deliver any solid results, the members of the Abrahamic faiths must have a deeper understanding of each other through these basic core values which they share in common and set aside prejudices and unequivocal ignorance against each other. Doctrinal differences should not be a roadblock that prevents the three divine faiths from working together in common cause. Theological debates are best left to salons and drawing rooms among the scholars of Judaism, Christianity and Islam; and such debates must always be conducted in a polite, respectful and thoughtful manner. Bellowing at each other in the streets or hurling insults via the internet does not qualify as “debate” – that is simply the angry voice of mob rule, which has no place in the true practice of Islam, nor Judaism or Christianity (or any other religion for that matter). The Qur’an tells us as Muslims to:
“Call to the way of your Lord with wisdom and fair exhortation, and argue with them in the best way possible.” (Qur’an, 16:128)
In a time when the world community considers aggression, conflicts, outrages, hatred and religious radicalism among the members of the three divine religions to be a contributing factor to the instability of the social order and social disintegration among people, the followers of the three faiths can, and should, play a basic role for establishing security, justice and unity in the world. The only thing needed is to use the advanced communication means this century generously provides and engage in a sincere and inclusive collaboration in shaping a better future for all humanity. We need to remember that it is faith that will save the world.