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Holy Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.) and Religious Pluralism

By: Sayyid Muhammad Rizvi
Those Muslim intellectuals who preach about religious pluralism in Islām seem to be oblivious of some historical facts of Islāmic history and the Prophet’s life. If Judaism and Christianity are concurrently valid paths of submission to God, then why did the Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.)work so hard to convey his message even to the Jews and the Christians? If they were already on the Right Path

#348;irat Mustaqīm), then why did the Prophet (S.A.W.) feel it important to invite them to Islām?
After the peace treaty of Hudaybiyya in 6 A.H., the Prophet of Islām (S.A.W.)sent emissaries to various rulers and tribes around and beyond the Arabian Peninsula with a distinct purpose of inviting them to Islām. According to historians, around 25 letters were sent by the Prophet (S.A.W.)to various rulers and tribes.[1]
Among those who were sent to the Christian rulers and tribes, we see the following names: Dihyah al-Kalbī sent to Heraclius, the Emperor of Byzantine; `Amr bin Umayyah Zamrī to the Negus, the King of Abyssinia; Hāťib bin Abī Baltā‘a sent to the Muqawqis, the King of Egypt; and the tribes of Ghassan and Ĥanīfah (in northern Arabia). Three letters are important and relevant to our discussion.

In his letter to Heraclius, the Byzantine Emperor, the Holy Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.)wrote:
“… Peace be upon him who follows the guidance.
I invite you to accept Islām. Accept Islām and you will prosper and Allāh will give you double rewards. But if you refuse, then the sin of your people also will fall upon your shoulders.
O’ People of the Scripture, come to the word common between us and you that we shall not worship anything but Allāh, and that we shall not associate anything with Him, nor shall some of us take others for lords besides Allāh. But if you turn back, then say: Bear witness that we are Muslims.”

In the letter to the Negus, the King of Abyssinia, the Holy Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.)wrote:
“… Peace be upon him who follows the guidance.
Praise be to Allāh besides whom there is no other god, the Sovereign, the Holy One, the Preserver of Peace, the Keeper of the Faithful, the Guardian.
I bear witness that Jesus, son of Mary, is indeed a spirit of God and His word, which He conveyed unto the chaste Mary. He created Jesus through His word just as He created Ādam with His hands.
And now I call you to Allāh who is One and has no partner, and to friendship in His obedience. Follow me and believe in what has been revealed to me, for I am the Messenger of Allāh. I invite you and your people to Allāh, the Mighty, the Glorious.
I have conveyed the message, and it is up to you to accept it.
Once again, peace be upon him who follows the path of guidance.”

In the letter sent to the Muqawqis, the King of Egypt and a Coptic Christian, the Holy Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.)wrote:
“…Peace be upon him who follows the guidance.
I invite you to accept the message of Islām. Accept it and you shall prosper. But if you turn away, then upon you shall also fall the sin of the Copts.
O’ People of the Scripture, come to a word common between us and you that we shall worship none but Allāh and that we shall ascribe no partner unto Him and that none of us shall regard anyone as lord besides God.
And if they turn away, then say: Bear witness that we are Muslims.”[2]
Even the arrival of the delegation from Christian Najranis and how the Prophet (S.A.W.)invited them to Islām and, finally, the mubāhala with them is in the same spirit of inviting the Ahlul Kitāb to Islām.
All these letters and the meeting with Najranis prove beyond any doubt that if the Ahlul Kitāb (the People of the Scripture) were on Ŝirāt mustaqīm - on the right path that leads to salvation - then the Prophet (S.A.W.)would not have invited them to Islām.

Important Caution
At the conclusion of this introduction, I would like to reiterate the caution that believing in Islām as the only valid path of submission to God does not automatically and necessarily lead to the belief that all non-Muslims will go to hell. Neither does this exclusivist view of Islām as the only sirāt mustaqīm prevent us from promoting tolerance and peaceful co-existence among the followers of various religions, especially the Jews and the Christians.
While talking about polytheist parents, Almighty Allāh says:
“And if they insist on you to associate with Me (someone as on object of worship) of what you have no knowledge, then do not obey them, however interact with them in this world kindly …”[3]
Thus, a Muslim has to resist the un-Islāmic influence of non-Muslims, but still be kind to them. In other words, although your paths in the hereafter will be separate, that does not prevent you from being kind, merciful, and just to non-Muslims in this world.
Notes:
[1] Muhammad Ibrāhīm Āyatī, Tārīkh-e Payghambar-e Islām (Tehran: Tehran University Press, n.d.) p. 480-482.
[2] Ibid, p. 483- 494.
[3] Al-Qur'ān, Sūrat Luqmān (31), Verse 15

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