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Common Goals and Principles of all Religions

 

 

That all religions have similar principles and goals is stated elsewhere in the Quran as follows: “Surely those who believe, and those who are Jews, and the Christians, and the Sabians, whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day and does good, they have their reward with their Lord, and there is no fear for them, nor shall they grieve.” — 2:62

… What this verse means is that in order to reach the state of “having no fear nor grieving”, or salvation, it is necessary to follow certain principles, and that state cannot be reached by merely calling oneself Muslim, Jew or Christian, as is claimed by followers of the respective faiths. Those principles are belief in God, belief in the ultimate accountability for one’s actions, and the doing of good. 
 

 

If you believe in God but the concept of God in your religion is of one who has chosen your race or tribe as its exclusive favourite then your capacity to deal justly with people of other nations and do good towards them may be diminished as you regard them as inferior. If you believe in the Last Day but your religion also teaches that your sins have already been forgiven for belonging to that religion, then the belief in the Judgment may be undermined and cease to act as a deterrent to wrongdoing and incentive to doing good to others.

 

At the present time, this announcement needs to be broadcast widely. Allah is not the “God of the Muslims”, the description that we read and hear daily in all kinds of media coverage of Islam. Allah is presented in the Quran as the Lord and God of all human beings. 

 



       

Islam on the Common Goals and

 

Principles of all Religions

 

 

Khutba on Friday 31st August 2007, London

 

Dr. Zahid Aziz

 

The first verse from the Holy Quran that I wish to explain in this khutba is the following:

“And everyone has a goal to which he turns (himself), so vie with one another in good works.” — 2:148.
Since this verse occurs in the Quran where the subject being discussed is the change of the direction that Muslims face in prayer (qibla) from Jerusalem to the Ka‘ba at Makka, it has been interpreted as meaning that “everyone”, that is to say, people of various religions, turn to face some direction or other in prayer, and that Muslims turn to face the Ka‘ba. However, this interpretation does not show the connection with the words which follow: “so vie with one another in good works”. Another interpretation is that various nations set for themselves different goals, but the one that Muslims should put before themselves is that of vying with one another, or trying to excel each other, in the doing of works of goodness and charity.

The meaning of these words may be made clear by referring to another verse within which it is stated:

“For everyone of you We appointed a law and a way. And if Allah had pleased He would have made you a single religious community (umma), but that He might try you in what He gave you. So vie with one another in good works. To Allah you will all return, so He will inform you of that in which you differed.” — 5:48

Here, before the instruction to “vie with one another in good works”, people are told that for everyone, i.e. every nation, religious teachings were sent by God. In the earlier verse (2:148), before this instruction it was said that everyone has a goal to which he turns himself. Therefore, by everyone’s goal is meant the goal set before them by their religion. And as the goal set by every religion for its followers is the doing of good, these verses tell people to vie with one another, or to try to outdo one another, or to excel one another, in the doing of good works. The latter verse also explains that the existence of different religions is a matter of trial for the followers. To succeed in that trial they must all try to do good works. Those fail in that trial, as we will show further on, who consider themselves “saved” ones or God’s favourites merely because of belonging to their particular faith.

That all religions have similar principles and goals is stated elsewhere in the Quran as follows:

“Surely those who believe, and those who are Jews, and the Christians, and the Sabians,1 whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day and does good, they have their reward with their Lord, and there is no fear for them, nor shall they grieve.” — 2:62

In connection with this verse, the question has been raised that if followers of earlier religions can receive salvation (this being expressed in the words “there is no fear for them, nor shall they grieve”) then what was the necessity of Islam coming into the world and why does Islam call upon people to accept it? What this verse means is that in order to reach the state of “having no fear nor grieving”, or salvation, it is necessary to follow certain principles, and that state cannot be reached by merely calling oneself Muslim, Jew or Christian, as is claimed by followers of the respective faiths. Those principles are belief in God, belief in the ultimate accountability for one’s actions, and the doing of good. These principles are accepted by Jews and Christians as well, and therefore they are obliged to try to see where they can find these principles in their most perfect form and how they can act on them in the best possible way. To whatever degree people follow these principles, to that extent they reach the state of salvation.

If you believe in God but the concept of God in your religion is of one who has chosen your race or tribe as its exclusive favourite then your capacity to deal justly with people of other nations and do good towards them may be diminished as you regard them as inferior.

If you believe in the Last Day but your religion also teaches that your sins have already been forgiven for belonging to that religion, then the belief in the Judgment may be undermined and cease to act as a deterrent to wrongdoing and incentive to doing good to others.

Thus the above verse teaches that it is indeed the principles which various religions have in common that lead to salvation, but to follow and act upon them with full effect requires having the right concepts about those principles.

The above explanations are confirmed by the following verses:

“And they say: None shall enter the Garden except he who is a Jew, or the Christians. These are their vain desires. Say: Bring your proof if you are truthful. Rather, whoever submits himself entirely to Allah and he is the doer of good (to others), he has his reward from his Lord, and there is no fear for such nor shall they grieve.” — 2:111–112

The claims of followers of earlier religions about their respective faiths are cited here, that only followers of their particular religion will find salvation and enter the garden of the next life. Their assertions are rejected as “vain desires”, based only on wishful thinking and selfish desires, without any proof. But the counter-claim of the Quran is not: no it will not be you Jews and Christians, but we Muslims who will enter the garden! Again the Quran mentions the principles that anyone must act upon: “whoever submits himself entirely to Allah and he is the doer of good (to others)”. The original words for “whoever submits himself entirely” do not use the noun “Muslim” but rather use a verb to refer to what a true Muslim ought to be doing, that is, submitting to God, and not only that, but submitting entirely.

This is further corroborated in another place:

“It will not be in accordance with your vain desires nor the vain desires of the People of the Book. Whoever does evil, will be recompensed for it and will not find for himself besides Allah a friend or a helper. And whoever does good deeds, whether male or female, and is a believer — these will enter the Garden, and they will not be dealt with a whit unjustly.” — 4:123–124

Salvation is not attained according to anyone’s wishful, idle thinking, whether it is “you” (Muslims) or the followers of earlier scriptures. Whoever in practice does evil will meet his recompense, which none but God can avert. It is attained by whoever does good, stemming from his or her belief in doing good.

Another verse relevant in this connection, addressing the Holy Prophet, is as follows:

“To this then go on inviting, and be steadfast as you are commanded, and do not follow their low desires, and say: I believe in what Allah has revealed of the Book, and I am commanded to do justice between you. Allah is our Lord and your Lord. For us are our deeds; and for you your deeds. There is no contention between us and you. Allah will gather us together, and to Him is the eventual coming.” — 42:15

He is told — and this applies to every Muslim — to continue inviting people to Islam and be steadfast in this work. He must stick to that task regardless of adversities. Then he is instructed not to follow the low desires of those to whom he preached. We often see that religious leaders, in a bid for popularity, pander to the ignorance and prejudices of the general masses. Rather than correcting them, they encourage them to continue in the path of their low desires.

Then the passage tells the Holy Prophet to do justice between the people whom he is inviting to Islam. Treating others with fairness and justice, as to how right or wrong they are, is required. We then must say to others that “Allah is our Lord and your Lord”. At the present time, this announcement needs to be broadcast widely. Allah is not the “God of the Muslims”, the description that we read and hear daily in all kinds of media coverage of Islam. Allah is presented in the Quran as the Lord and God of all human beings.

The above verse goes on to say that, when inviting others to Islam, we should tell them that all people will be judged in the end by their actions. In fact, this is a shared belief as they also believe the same. So Muslims offer them peaceful, civilized discussion by saying: There should be no contention, no disputation or quarrel between us. Let God be our Judge when He gathers us together.

The same kind of peaceful discussion is referred to in another verse as follows:

“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 set up any partner 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.” — 3:64

Again, these are common, shared principles between Muslims and the followers of the earlier religions, but if the latter are really to be true to them then they will find them expounded most perfectly in Islam.

Thus the approach towards other religions taken by the Quran is the most peaceful one that there could possibly be. It invites them to examine the basic common principles, see where these are found in their best form, and to try to attain the common goals set by all religions, rather than fighting over which label it is best to apply to oneself.

 

1. The Sabians represented a religion between Judaism and Christianity.

 

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