The Only Thing in Which We Should Compete as Muslims, Jews & Christians

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If you’re familiar with the Bible and interested in peace with your Muslim neighbors, you need to familiarize yourself with the Quran. In the West, the least understood of the Holy Books is the Quran.

The Quran tells us that the origin of all revealed books is God Himself, and therefore, it says that the message communicated through them is essentially the same. It says: “He has ordained for you the same faith He commanded Noah, and what We have revealed to you, and what We commanded Abraham and Moses and Jesus: “You shall uphold the faith and do not break up into factions[1].” (42:13)

Once you start becoming familiar with the Quran, you will notice that it does not describe itself as a book to compete with the Torah and the Gospels. It often confirms them as books of guidance and enlightenment (5:46, 48). It is, in fact, a commentary on both. This point is missed by many western scholars.

A close look at The Quran, and one will find it trying to be inclusive. It says: “Truly those believers in this message, as well as the Jews, the Christians, and the Sabeans, whoever believes in God and in the Last Day and does righteous deeds will have their reward from their Lord, and will not have fear, nor will they grieve.” (2:62)

Considering this and other Quranic statements, I conclude that the problems between Jews, Christians, and Muslims mainly exist because of interpretations of the texts rather than their underlying meanings.

However, even teachings common to these three religions found in their holy books can still divide the followers of these three religions. Let’s take the two great commandments as an example:

From the Bible — “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthews 22: 37-39)

The first commandment is talking about loving God. Now, many interfaith meetings are constantly taking place around the world, with people discussing theological issues from their own faith point of view. Too often they focus on differences, and this is the main reason they don’t make much progress. They debate whether they worship the same God rather than focusing on learning from each other better ways to love God. God did not ask us to debate who is God, He simply asked to love God.

Issues of faith are not necessarily logical. They can’t always be the subject of productive debates. If I hear you saying that you love God, I should accept that you love God, the Creator, the only One that exists. Let me accept that you will worship God the best way you know, while I’m worshipping God the best way I know.

The issue of the first commandment aside, let’s consider the second commandment, teaching us to love our neighbor, something we all sit with in our churches, synagogues and mosques.

According to Jesus, we are all neighbors. (Luke 10:25-37) We need to learn again that our diversity is a source of our strength. It can be a major impetus for creativity in many fields. We need to learn from the Quran, as well as reason, that if God had wanted, He could have made all of us a single community, but instead He is testing us by means of what He has revealed to us. (Quran, 4:58)

Therefore, striving to live peacefully together is an act of worship and learning to celebrate our differences is a blessing. “Homogeneity is a recipe for sterility, whereas diversity raises the intelligence and virtue of groups. It does so because each community can act as a role model for particular skills and human virtues for others to emulate, and that is a reciprocal process; it works both ways. It is through such reciprocal engagement that the core values upheld by one nation, society or community can be tested and held to account[2].”

If we love for others what we love for our self, then we should not oppress, as we do not like ourselves to be oppressed. We should regard bad for others whatever we regard as bad for ourselves. Accept from others which we would like others to accept from us. We shouldn’t say to others what we do not like to be said to us.

The adoption of this simple code of conduct as taught by all scriptures can go a long way in healing the strained relationship between people of various faiths. The Quran goes a step further. Where Jews, Christians and Muslims are divided and cannot resolve their differences, the Quran prescribes an appropriate arena for competition: We are to compete in charitable deeds. The Quran says: “To every community, there is a direction to turn to, so compete to do good deeds.” (2:148)

Social justice is a wonderful arena for competition, as Micah 6:8 encourages us to do: “O people, the LORD has told you what is good, and this is what He requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.”

This Biblical/Quranic challenge is the one we should all accept. Even the methodology of that dialogue is explained in the Quran: “Invite (all) to the way of your Lord with wisdom and beautiful exhortation and argue with them in ways that are best.’ (16:125)

Let us compete with one another in the care for the poor, the widows, the orphans, the oppressed and the marginalized. (Quran, 2:177; 4:36, 75, 135) These principles are emphasized in all scriptures; they are essential in God’s message to humanity.

In today’s United States, I call for the establishment of a family of believers, where we all love God and we all practice loving other members of the family.

This is what I learned from Jesus and what I learned from the Quran. To me this is true religion.

[1] All Qur’an translations in this article are from my book The Qur’an a Contemporary Translation.

[2] Jeremy Henzell-Thomas in a message to me.

About Safi Kaskas
Safi Kaskas is an administrator in the managerial sciences with over 40 years of broad-based experience in strategic planning, leadership and business ethics with an emphasis on strategic management in the corporate and academic worlds. In addition to his focus on strategic management sciences, Dr. Kaskas has studied Abrahamic religions and lectured throughout the US and Saudi Arabia on subjects related to Islam, interfaith and reconciliation between Evangelicals and American Muslims. You can read more about the author here.
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