In the previous instalment (number 5) we discussed the promotion of harmony and mutual respect between religions.
In the light of the previous chapter, it may be questioned what is the wisdom of sending one religion after another with the same teaching. Moreover, it may be surprising why Islam claims, in relative terms, to be more perfect and universal than previous religions if they all had the same unchanging universal teaching, applicable to human beings of all times.
1) In answer to the first question, the Holy Koran draws the attention of mankind to the unquestionable historical fact that the Books and Scriptures revealed prior to the Koran have been interpolated. Their teachings have been corrupted by a gradual process of amendment or because new elements have been introduced by interpolation to such an extent that the validity and authenticity of such Books and Scriptures have become doubtful and questionable.
Obviously, the responsibility of proving that no change has taken place in the Scriptures rests with the people belonging to such religions. As far as the Koran is concerned, it occupies a unique and distinct position among all religious Books and Scriptures. Even some of the staunchest opponents of Islam who did not believe the Koran to be the Word of God have had to confess that the Holy Koran, without a shadow of a doubt, remains the same unchanged and unaltered Book that Muhammad (lpbD) declared to be the Word of God.
There is on the other hand every kind of assurance, external and internal, that we possess the very text which Mohammed himself contributed and employed (p. xxvii).
We can affirm, with the utmost assumption, that every verse of the Koran is the genuine and unaltered composition of Muhammad himself. (p.xxviii) [Life of Mohamed by Sir William Muir. London 1878].
Minimal errors of copying may exist, but Osman's Koran contains nothing but genuine elements, though sometimes in a very strange order. The efforts of European scholars to prove the existence of later interpolations in the Koran have failed (Prof. Noldeke. Encyclopaedia Britannica; 9th edition, in "Quran").
It is an entirely different matter of controversy who the author of the Book was. Nevertheless, the same Book whose divine authorship is confronted by other Peoples of Books, remains a testimony to the fact that not only the Torah and the Injeel (the Old Testament and the Gospels) were revealed in part by God Himself, but also other Books belonging to different religions in other parts of the world had their origin, no doubt, from God Himself: the contradictions found in them today are of human origin. Undoubtedly, the attitude of the Koran is by far the most realistic and conducive to peace among religions.
2) As to the second question, the Holy Koran draws our attention to the process of evolution in every sphere of human society. New religions were needed not only to restore the fundamental teachings of the old religions that had been mutilated by the hands of man, but also, as society developed, more teachings were needed to be added to the previous ones to keep pace with progress.
3) This is not all. Another factor to be taken into account in this process of change was that of secondary teachings related to the time, which were revealed in order to meet the demands of a particular people or time. This means that religions were not only constituted of unalterable nuclei of principles but also possessed peripheral, secondary and even transitory teachings.
4) Last but not least: man was not educated and trained in the divine instructions in a single stretch, but was formed gradually, step by step, until he reached a stage of mental maturity at which he was deemed fit to receive all the fundamental principles that were necessary for his guidance. According to the Koranic statement, an inseparable secondary teaching, based on permanent principles, was also revealed as part of a final, perfect and complete religion, which was Islam. All that was of a purely local or temporary character was abrogated or omitted; all that was necessary hereafter was provided for and maintained (see Holy Koran Q. 5:14-16).
This is, in essence, the Islamic concept of religious universality, which Islam claims to possess. It is for man to investigate and judge the comparative merit of the various claimants.
We return again to the question of religions that have set themselves the goal of global influence. Clearly Islam possesses such an ambition. By prophecy, the Holy Koran declares that Islam is destined to emerge one day as the only religion of mankind.
ہُوَ الَّذِیۡۤ اَرۡسَلَ رَسُوۡلَہٗ بِالۡہُدٰی وَدِیۡنِ الۡحَقِّ لِیُظۡہِرَہٗ عَلَی الدِّیۡنِ کُلِّہٖ وَلَوۡ کَرِہَ الۡمُشۡرِکُوۡنَ
It is He Who sent His Messenger with guidance and the Religion of truth, to make it prevail over all religions, even though He is hated by those who associate gods with God. (Q. 61: As-Saff: 10).
Despite its commitment to the promotion of peace and interfaith harmony, Islam does not discourage the competitive dissemination of messages and ideologies in an effort to gain influence over others. Indeed, it proposes as a noble goal the pursuit of the predominance of Islam over all other faiths, a goal to be pursued by the faithful of Islam.
Speaking of the Holy Founder of Islam (lpbD), the Holy Koran states:
قُلۡ یٰۤاَیُّہَا النَّاسُ اِنِّیۡ رَسُوۡلُ اللّٰہِ اِلَیۡکُمۡ جَمِیۡعَۨا الَّذِیۡ لَہٗ مُلۡکُ السَّمٰوٰتِ وَالۡاَرۡضِ ۚ لَاۤ اِلٰہَ اِلَّا ہُوَ یُحۡیٖ وَیُمِیۡتُ ۪ فَاٰمِنُوۡا بِاللّٰہِ وَرَسُوۡلِہِ النَّبِیِّ الۡاُمِّیِّ الَّذِیۡ یُؤۡمِنُ بِاللّٰہِ وَکَلِمٰتِہٖ وَاتَّبِعُوۡہُ لَعَلَّکُمۡ تَہۡتَدُوۡنَ
Say to them: "O mankind! Verily I am a Messenger sent down to you all by Allah, to Whom belongs the kingdom of the heavens and the earth. There is no god but He. He gives life and causes death. So believe in Allah and in His Messenger, the Unlettered Prophet, who believes in Allah and in His Words; and follow him, that you may be guided aright". (Q.7: Al-Araf: 159)
However, to prevent and avoid friction and misunderstanding, Islam prescribes a set of clear rules of conduct that guarantee equal treatment, absolute justice, freedom of expression and the right to dissent, equal for all.
Instruments of competition: no coercion
How can a religion claim to be universal, international or global, and yet not give rise to conflict?
No religion with a universal message and global ambitions to unite humanity under one banner can even momentarily entertain the idea of using force to spread its message.
The sword can conquer territories but not hearts.
Force can bend heads but not minds.
Islam does not permit the use of force as an instrument for the propagation of its Message. It declares:
لَاۤ اِکۡرَاہَ فِی الدِّیۡنِ ۟ۙ قَدۡ تَّبَیَّنَ الرُّشۡدُ مِنَ الۡغَیِّ
There is to be no compulsion in religion. Verily, what is right has been differentiated from what is wrong... (Q. 2: Al- Baqarah: 257).
Therefore there is no need for coercion. Let man determine where the truth lies.
(lpbD) - Peace and blessings of Allah be upon him.
(To be continued in the next installment further developing the theme of instruments of competition: non-coercion).