A Call To The People Of The Book: "Let us join forces together"

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We are living in one of the times when the world perhaps stands most in need of peace and friendship. The wars and conflict which made their mark on the 20th century are still going ahead at full speed in the new century, and because of these wars innocent people all over the world are suffering physical and spiritual harm.

Despite the urgent need felt for a strengthening of solidarity and cooperation, some circles are still fomenting conflict, particularly between the world’s two great and deep-seated civilizations “namely the Islamic and the Judaeo-Christian” and this is a matter which needs to be concentrated on. It is clear that a conflict of civilizations of the type desired by these people would represent a catastrophe for mankind. One of the most important ways of preventing such a catastrophe is the strengthening of dialogue and cooperation between the civilizations. What is more, this is not a difficult thing to do, since there are no deep differences between Islam and the Western world, contrary to what some people would have us believe. Quite the opposite, there are a great many common aspects to Islamic civilization and the Judaeo-Christian culture which represents the basis of Western civilization. Taking these common aspects as a basis, it will not be difficult at all to join forces; especially when one bears in mind today’s circumstances.

The Alliance Between the Believers in the One God

It is a fact that a major ideological struggle is continuing in the world, and that the world has been divided into two poles. These two poles do not consist of Muslims or Judaeo-Christians, however. In one camp are those who believe in the existence and oneness of God, and in the other are the deniers; in other words the supporters of religious values on the one hand and the supporters of those ideologies which oppose religious values on the other. It is a fact that those who oppose religious values and those centers of power which oppose moral values have enormous means at their disposal and are acting as an alliance against believing, devout people. The intellectual elimination of this evil alliance, the removal of the negative, destructive effects of atheistic and materialistic indoctrination, and the development of societies in which proper morality, happiness, peace, security and well-being prevail, can only come about if the three major forces in the other camp, Muslims, sincere Christians and devout Jews, join forces in the light of this common objective.

The holy books of all three divine religions describe the essence of Islamic, Christian and Jewish belief, and how they possess common forms of religious observance, common ethical values and common foes. It is the duty of sincere Christians, Jews and Muslims possessed of belief, conscience and common sense to wage a common struggle against wickedness and the wicked, and to support each other in union and togetherness. This togetherness must be built on the principles of love, respect, tolerance, understanding, harmony and cooperation. All must bear in mind the seriousness of the current situation, and must strongly avoid anything that might lead to disharmony, acrimony and division.

There may have been misunderstandings between members of these religions in the past; that is a historical fact. Yet these have not stemmed from the essential natures of Christianity, Judaism and Islam, but rather from mistaken decisions by states, communities and individuals, and generally from economic or political interests and expectations. Otherwise, one of the common aims of all three religions is for all people to live together in peace, security and happiness, and all three religions condemn conflict, which is itself a violation of this principle.

When we look at the New Testament, the basis of Christianity, the Old Testament, which is the basis of Judaism, and the Qur’an, the basis of Islam, we see that the best forms of speech and behavior are recommended in the context of mutual relations. The behavior which believers should adopt towards others is expressed in the Bible in these words:

“Always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else.” (Thessalonians, 1: 5)

Jews are also told to treat people well in the Old Testament:

“Seek good, not evil, that you may live. Then the Lord God Almighty will be with you, just as you say He is. Hate evil, love good; maintain justice in the courts” (Amos, 5: 14-15)

In the Qur’an, our Lord has revealed the importance of proper morality, goodness, and responding to evil with good, in many verses, and has commanded Muslims to treat Jews and Christians, in other words the People of the Book, with good intentions and tolerance. It is openly stated in the Qur’an that the people of the Book, Jews and Christians in other words, are closer to Muslims than unbelievers (in other words pagans or atheists).

The People of the Book share moral criteria, the basis of the word of God, and the concepts of what is forbidden and what is lawful. That is why it is lawful for a Muslim to eat a meal prepared by members of the People of the Book. In the same way, permission has been given for Muslim men to marry women from the People of the Book. These are the foundations upon which warm human relations and a peaceful common life can be built. It is impossible for a Muslim to entertain any other idea when the Qur’an recommends such a moderate and tolerant attitude.

In the Qur’an, God tells Muslims to speak to the People of the Book in the best possible manner. The most important shared element between the People of the Book and believers is without doubt their faith in God:

Only argue with the People of the Book in the kindest way saying, "We believe in what has been sent down to us and what was sent down to you. Our God and your God are one and we submit to Him." (Qur’an, 29: 46)

A Call to Devout Jews

The problem between Jews and Muslim most in need of urgent resolution today is that of Palestine. The Palestinian problem, which has caused terrible harm to both sides and which the existing policies are unable to resolve, began when Zionism, a non-religious ideology, entered the region. Before that time, Christians, Muslims and Jews had been able to live together in peace and security in these lands, regarded as sacred by all three religions. This fact is today being openly expressed by many Muslim and Jewish men of religion, thinkers and politicians.

Zionism aims to expel all non-Jewish people from their homes by means of terror and violence, and even killing if necessary, in the name of building a Jewish state in Palestine. It is a racist, chauvinistic and occupationist ideology. From the time of its inception to the present it has influenced a great many people from the Jewish and Christian worlds, sometimes by adopting a false religious mask. In particular, a number of Zionists among the founders of the state of Israel made this ideology the official ideology of the state of Israel, and ensured that the influence of Zionism lasted right up to the present day. Today, however, Jewish citizens in favor of peace and a great many Jews living in other countries now oppose Zionism, and loudly criticize Zionist policies. Experience has taught them that, contrary to the propaganda put out in the early days of Zionism, it favors the use of violence, represents a clear threat to peace and security and has led to great harm being suffered by Jews as well as Arabs. History shows that until Zionist ideology is abandoned, Jews – and therefore their neighbors and the region as a whole – will never find peace.

Those who see the true face of Zionism and grasp its true aims understand the dimensions of this threat much clearer. Those who fall under its spell, however, either from a lack of knowledge or from indoctrination, knowingly or unknowingly come to represent an element in a most dangerous game. Heading the list of those measures which need to be taken to bring about peace in the Middle East, which will be an important step in ensuring world peace, are the unveiling of the true face of Zionism, the making of efforts to free those who have fallen under this twisted ideology’s influence from the error of their ways, and intensive cultural activities to that end. These works, undertaken by sincerely believing Jews, Christians and Muslims will bear fruit in a very short time. Showing those who are still under the influence of Zionism that they are in error and calling them to the true path is a responsibility of all those who wish to see peace prevail on earth.

There is absolutely no doubt that the Jews, who are descended from the family of the Prophet Jacob, have a perfect right to live in the lands of the Israeli prophets, their ancestors, and to worship as they choose in all the holy places in these lands. However, it is very wrong to attempt to build complete political hegemony over those lands, to use violence against people who have lived on that land for thousands of years to that end, to try to force them from their homes and to seek to destabilize the whole of the Middle East in order to keep that occupation in place.

Jews who sincerely believe must bear in mind the commandments in the Old Testament regarding "not killing," "not engaging in injustice when one is in power," "not seeking revenge" and "not spilling the blood of the innocent," to take their place in the front rank of the cultural and intellectual struggle against Zionism and ally themselves with Christians and Muslims of good conscience in this area. The Qur’an contains many verses concerning the life of the Prophet Moses and the struggle he and the sincere Jews with him waged against Pharaoh. Like all the other prophets, the Prophet Moses is a sacred and holy personage for Muslims. The Torah revealed to him is a book which contains divine commandments (even if it was corrupted at a later date). In the Qur’an (5: 44), God reveals that He "sent down the Torah containing guidance and light," and states that "the Prophets who had submitted themselves gave judgment by it for the Jews." Again in that same verse, we are told that Jewish rulers need to govern by means of the Torah. In the light of the statement in the Torah that "lest innocent blood be shed in the midst of your land which the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance, and thus guilt of bloodshed be upon you" (Deuteronomy, 19: 10), Jews with a sincere faith need to do all in their power to prevent the bloodshed caused by Zionism in the Middle East.

Love for the Prophet Jesus

One of the most important elements which fuses Christianity and Islam together is the love that members of both religions have for the Prophet Jesus. The Qur’an describes how all the prophets transmitted divine messages to people, the good tidings and warnings they uttered, and the way that they served as role models for societies. For this reason, Muslims believe in all the prophets and make no distinctions between them. In the same way that they believe in the Prophet Mohammed, Muslims also believe in the Prophet Jesus, and harbour intense love and respect for him. The Prophet Jesus is described as "the Messenger of Allah and His Word" (Qur’an, 4: 171) in the Qur’an, and we are told that he was made "a Sign" (Qur’an, 21: 91) for mankind. The Qur’an provides important information about his struggle, miracles and life. Jesus the messiah is praised in these terms in one verse:

When the angels said, "Mary, your Lord gives you good news of a Word from Him. His name is the Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary, of high esteem in this world and the hereafter, and one of those brought near." (Qur’an, 3: 45)

Muslims believe that the Bible is a divine book God revealed (and that although it was subsequently distorted by men it still contains a number of divine commandments). They know that God revealed the Bible to Christians, as a guide, with elements that distinguish between right and wrong, the lawful and unlawful. In fact, the properties of the Bible as given to the Prophet Jesus are described thus in one verse of the Qur’an:

And We sent Jesus son of Mary following in their footsteps, confirming the Torah that came before him. We gave him the Gospel containing guidance and light, confirming the Torah that came before it, and as guidance and admonition for those who do their duty. (Qur’an, 5: 46)

It is also emphasized in the Qur’an that Christians enjoy a special friendship with Muslims in comparison to other believing communities. This is how one verse reveals how and why Christians are the closest people to Muslims:

” You will find the people most affectionate to those who believe are those who say, "We are Christians." That is because some of them are priests and monks and because they are not arrogant. (Qur’an, 5: 82)

The first examples of this closeness and warm relations were experienced in the time of the Islamic Prophet Mohammed, may God bless him and grant him peace. At the direction of the Prophet Muhammad, a number of oppressed Muslims migrated to Abyssinia, ruled by the Christian King Negus, where they lived in peace and security. Good relations between Muslims and Christians, constructed on the basis of mutual tolerance, respect, cooperation and freedom of worship, religion and belief, were established in the early years of Islam. During that same period, elements of social life such as marriage, trade and neighborliness were established in such a way as to set an example to all Muslims and Christians.

Furthermore, the divine texts of both religions contain the principle not of "regarding all those not of oneself as an enemy," but approaching all those not of oneself in a friendly manner and allying oneself with them in goodness. Important passages on this subject are to be found in the Gospels according to Saint Mark and Saint Luke. The Prophet Jesus stated that "whoever is not against us is on our side" (Mark, 9: 40), when warning his disciples not to treat anyone who was not one of them coldly. These statements in the Bible must guide Muslims’ and Christians’ attitudes. Muslims think differently from Christians on certain matters, but they are in no way "opposed" to them. On the contrary, Muslims represent a society who love, accept and eagerly await the return to earth of the Prophet Jesus, in the same way as Christians.

Conclusion

Jews, Christians and Muslims who believe in and serve God – albeit with different laws – are all charged with competing to do good deeds, spreading proper morality, and engaging in an intellectual struggle to build a model of the ideal society, a tolerant, humane one which respects freedom of thought and attaches importance to human rights. In other words, Christians and Muslims are called to live together in the manner revealed by God, and to compete in inviting others to the path of pleasing morality and goodness and to avoid evil. God has revealed in one verse how members of different religions need to compete in the performance of good deeds:

“We have appointed a law and a practice for every one of you. Had God willed, He would have made you a single community, but He wanted to test you regarding what has come to you. So compete with each other in doing good. Every one of you will return to God and He will inform you regarding the things about which you differed. (Qur’an, 5: 48)

Those who believe in God and the Day of Judgment, who observe their religious duties and sincerely strive to do good will, God willing, achieve salvation and well-being. These tidings are revealed in the Qur’an:

Those who believe, those who are Jews, and the Christians and Sabaeans, all who believe in Allah and the Last Day and act rightly, will have their reward with their Lord. They will feel no fear and will know no sorrow. (Qur’an, 2:62)

Based on all of this, Muslims must approach the People of the Book with respect, love and understanding, and tell them of the Qur’an’s call for a "rallying to a common formula" in the best manner possible. It is this call which is the secret behind an alliance between Islam, Judaism and Christianity:

Say "People of the Book! Let us rally to a common formula to be binding on both us and you: That we worship none but God; that we associate no partners with Him; that we erect not, from among ourselves, Lords and patrons other than God. (Qur’an, 3: 64)

The aim of this call is for all believers to come together in the light of common objectives; to fight atheism, hostility towards religion and social and moral degeneration; and to join hand in hand to spread proper moral values in the world. This call is issued to all sincere and tolerant Muslims, Christians and Jews who possess good conscience and moral values and who support peace and justice.

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