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<2000 : Coexistence and tension : Speech by Lina Homsi>
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Coexistence and Religious Unrest

Muslim-Christian relations: One Muslim Woman's Views, by Mrs. Lina Homsi

The Gracious Qur'an reverences all the prophets and Jesus (upon whom peace) is one of them. The heavenly apostolates are considered by Islam to express one religion that calls for faith in God and in his angels, his books and his prophets. This call does not change from one apostolic dispensation to the next. All the prophets are brothers as God said in his gracious book: “The religion we have prescribed for you is what we decreed to Noah. What we have revealed to you is what we decreed to Abraham and Moses and Jesus. That is: Prosper religion and do not quibble about it...” (vs. 13 of Surah-as-Shurah ). Muhammad (God's grace and peace be upon him) said, “The prophets are brothers, sons of one father. Their religion is one although their religious prescriptions might vary.” Therefore, a Muslim's Islam cannot be fulfilled if he or she does not believe in all the heavenly apostolic dispensations. And Jesus (upon whom peace) is one of the prophets in that sequence.

For that reason Muslim-Christian dialogue is a great duty. It was practiced by the gracious prophet, Muhammad (upon whom peace) when he received Christian delegations from Najran and from Ethiopia in his mosque. They prayed their Christian prayers in his mosque, and he himself was the companion and servant of the Ethiopian delegation. When one of his companions wanted to take over that duty from him, he said to them “Permit me this. These are my honored friends and I want to show them honor.”

History speaks of the great tolerance in interaction between Muslims and Christians. What comes to my mind here is the story of the people of Samarkand. Their country was conquered by Qutaybah bin-Muslim al-Jahili in the days of al-Walid 'Abd-ul-Malik. After a period of time, they sent a delegation to complain that Qutaybah bin-Muslim, when he conquered their country, had done so with deception. In spite of the fact that a treaty had been in force between them and him, he made war upon them without warning them that their treaty was being suspended. In other words, this was a breach of faith. 'Umar bin-'Abd-ul-'Aziz then corresponded with the high judge of Samarkand, instructing him to investigate the matter. The judge's ruling went against Qutaybah. The upshot was that the Muslims set about withdrawing from that country because their conquest had not been achieved without Qutaybah's treachery. The Muslims, indeed, set about packing up their belongings in preparation to depart from the conquered country. When the people of Samarkand saw Muslim justice in action, even when the ones being punished were Muslims and they, non-Muslims, were the vindicated, they changed their minds. The end result was that many of the people of Samarkand became Muslims. Outstanding among the folk of that country, among others, are al-Bukhari, al-Farabi, and Ibn-Sina.

Therefore, our current problem is that many Muslims do not relate to true Islam save in name only. The same is true for many Christians. This has opened the door to the spread of religious enmity between the two religious communities. Religion itself is innocent of this. As the poet said:

Religion cried out to God for help and said,
“The worshippers have done me wrong, you see.
They name themselves by me, but truth to tell,
I know not one, and they do not know me.”

What should Muslims and Christians do now? Let them return to the tolerant teachings of their religion. Let the Muslims seek inspiration from God's word in the gracious Qur'an: “Do not debate with the People of the Book save by way of that which is best.” (vs 46 in Surah-al-'Ankabut ). Let their model be the life of the Prophet Muhammad (upon whom peace) and of his companions in the manner in which they interacted peacefully with their brother and sister Christians. The same applies to Christians. Let them return to the teachings of Christ (upon wom peace) as in his saying, “Blessed are the peace-makers for they shall be called children of God,” and his saying, “Whoever strikes you upon the right cheek, turn to him your left cheek also.”

Mrs. Lina Homsi is professor of Islamic Law and Comparative Religion in the College of Islamic Da'wah, and teaches Religious 'Usul in the Academy of Abu-n-Nur in Damascus, Syria.

Translation by Lew Scudder

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