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Muslim-Christian dialogue: An Islamic view

OMG! I am humbled to read the following piece, what a coincidence! The words,
phrases, sentences and ideas are idential to what I have been writing. I would be shocked
if this author has written that Prophet Muhammad was the first interfaith dialoguer and
and that the role of a muslim is to mitigate conflicts and nurture goodwill, and the
purpose of religion is to bring peace and balance within an individual and what surround
him; life and matter. The last paragraph has been part of my writings for the last five

The article lays out the basics of interfaith dialogue, something Prophet Muhammad had
laid it out some 1400 years ago. Yes Sir, Islam is about harmonious co-existence.

Mike Ghouse
Muslim-Christian dialogue: An Islamic view
By Dr. Ahmad Mohamed El Tayeb
president, Al-Azhar University in Cairo

http://newsweek. washingtonpost. com/onfaith/ guestvoices/ 2010/03/muslim- christian_

dialogue_ an_islamic_ view.html

For Muslims, peaceful coexistence is an obligation rather than a matter of choice. Prophet
Muhammad was not only encouraged

to engage the followers of Islam, Judaism and Christianity - the three monotheistic
religions - in meaningful dialogue; he was commanded to do so.

This week in Washington, leaders of different Muslim and Christian faiths came together
to discuss reconciliation between Islam and the Christian West at the Christian-Muslim
Summit. I was honored to be a part of this dialogue and to join a myriad voices, from
eminent religious leaders to the general public, to discuss ways to work together to
promote peace efforts worldwide.

The 2007 open letter signed by 138 Muslim leaders, "A Common Word," has paved the
way towards better understanding of religious diversity amongst Muslims. It opens with a
line that best summarizes the Islamic position on interfaith dialogue: "Call unto the way
of your Lord with wisdom and fair exhortation, and contend with them in the fairest
way." (Ayah 125 of Surat Al-Nahl).

The Qur'anic command is also very clear on this topic: "Say: O People of the Book:
Come to an agreement between us and you, that we worship none but God, and that we
shall ascribe no partners to Him, and that none of us shall take others for lords beside
God. And if they decline (your invitation for dialogue), then say: Bear witness that we
shall (continue to) submit to God in Islam" (Al-Imran: 64). According to the Qur'an,
interfaith dialogue should be proactively initiated by Muslims.
There are two important tenets to emphasize about the Islamic viewpoint on interfaith

• The purpose of interfaith dialogue is not to necessarily conclude with a winner and a
loser or to convert others, but rather to share one's principles. Sincere dialogue should
strengthen a person's faith and at the same time break down barriers.

• Dialogue must not be confined to academic and intellectual circles. Its purpose is to
demystify religious differences to everyday people and to uncover the words of truth that
frequently get buried under human biases and tendencies to follow that which is
convenient. Dialogue can only lead people to examine their religious identities more

With regard to interfaith dialogue and understanding taking place on an institutional

level, al-Azhar University, the oldest, most respected and influential Sunni institution of
higher education in the world, has long been active in reaching out to other religious
communities, both within the Islamic world and on the international stage. This spirit of
dialogue is evident in the fatwas, or rulings, of Al-Azhar Sheikhs, as well as in the
activities of its scholars.

For example, in 1959, the Sheikh of Al-Azhar Mahmud Shaltut issued a fatwa
proclaiming that the school of thought followed by Shiite Muslims is acceptable to
Sunnis, bringing about a new era of dialogue and cooperation between the sects. Pope
John Paul II visited Al-Azhar in 2000 after which a Muslim Catholic commission for
dialogue that continues to meet regularly was founded.

More recently, in 2007, the Grand Mufti of Egypt, the head of Dar al-Ifta, one of the
world's leading centers of Islamic authority, was a primary signatory of the "A Common
Word" initiative which called for dialogue between Muslims and Christians based on the
principles of love of God and love of neighbor. In a series of conferences based on this
initiative, the Grand Mufti and other Muslim scholars from around the world have met
with Christian leaders in the U.S, the UK, and with the Pope at the Vatican, where they
discussed the importance of interfaith dialogue based on authentic scholarship and
brotherly love.

Moreover, Al-Azhar University does not limit its involvement on the issue of interfaith
dialogue to members of different faiths, but engages those within the Muslim community
itself. Last year, Al-Azhar University devoted its annual international alumni conference
to the theme of interfaith dialogue. The conference, which brought together former
students from Egypt and around the Muslim World, explored the sources of inter-
communal tension around the globe and stressed the importance of awareness of the
common values shared by all the great faiths of the world.

It is not religion that is the root cause of world problems, as some people may want to
assert, but rather the misunderstanding of religion that ends up plaguing the world.
Interfaith dialogue can certainly serve to bring about a higher level of understanding of
different religions on a global level, which will also hopefully lead to more tolerance,
acceptance of others, and appreciation for all humanity.

Dr. Ahmad Mohamed El Tayeb is president of Cairo's Al-Azhar University and served as
one of the principals in the Christian-Muslim Summit in Washington on March 1-3,
By Ahmad Mohamed El Tayeb March 4, 2010; 2:37 PM