Saturday, March 13, 2010

Ninik Wafiroh: What Do Al-Quran and Bible Say about Interfaith Relationship?

Actually, this note is for my interfaith dialogue class. I think that the articles are interesting, so I want to share my opinion regarding the articles in this space.

Discussion for today is quite interesting for me since we attempt to connect the interfaith dialogue to the Holy Books. I do believe that introducing interfaith dialogue with using Holy Books will be more effective to encourage people. Some people still think that they will follow whatever their Holy Books say. If Holy Books do not mention about such a point, they are reluctant to follow. Therefore, persuasion with using Quran and Bible, I think, will hook in the core.

I am a Muslim, and I graduated from Tafsir and Hadits major when I was in undergraduate level. However, I am still surprise when I read the article from Issa J. Boullata, “Fa-stabiqu ‘l-khayrat: A Qur’anic Principle of Interfaith Relations.” Actually, the tafsir that he uses in his articles are famous tafsir among Muslims, but the interpretation of the theme is rarely addressed. Usually the term Fa-stabiqu ‘l-khayra is only used for the fair competition. It is hardly found for interfaith relationship.

The main ayah that Boullata notes is surah al-Maidah, ayah 48. The full translation for it from Yusuf Ali is :

To thee We sent the Scripture in truth, confirming the scripture that came before it, and guarding it in safety: so judge between them by what Allah hath revealed, and follow not their vain desires, diverging from the Truth that hath come to thee. To each among you have we prescribed a law and an open way. If Allah had so willed, He would have made you a single people, but (His plan is) to test you in what He hath given you: so strive as in a race in all virtues. The goal of you all is to Allah. it is He that will show you the truth of the matters in which ye dispute.


Basically, Boullata describes that there are two main arguments about Fa-stabiqu ‘l-khayra, particularly in the word li-kull-in. First argument is that the term refers not only for single religion but also all people from different religious communities. It indicates that every religion has a different law. In contrast, second argument argues that it is specific only for Muhammad’s community and it is closing the opportunity for other communities or other religions. In this case, I share argument with Boullata that actually Quran accepts the existence of other faith. Indeed, it opens the door to make interfaith dialogue. Allah in some ayah strongly says that the differences among people have the purpose to enrich people in order to know each other. Thus, we cannot deny the different faith among people and we have to admit that Allah creates us differently to learn each other.

Like Quran, Bible, particularly in Old Testament, gives the great story of the relationship between Israel and Canaanite. It indicates that Bible receives the different faith. Indeed, Jesus learned from Canaanite woman. I think that it is not a simple case. From what Jesus did, we are able to figure out that Jesus taught us to admit other faith and we have to learn from them not to fight each other.

Both cases are extremely strong arguments for interfaith dialogue. However, in reality, they are rarely to be used to promote interfaith dialogue.

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