Interfaith dialogue as a form of witnessing and Dawah

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Two fundamental beliefs characterise a Muslim. Firstly, the belief in the transcendent and eternal creator. Secondly, the belief that man is a very special creation who has been placed on earth with a special purpose; namely the fulfilment of the Divine Will. This is illustrated by the Quranic term “Khalifatullah”(representative of Allah) and the Biblical term “steward of God”. The only way to fulfill the Divine Will is by worshiping the Lord and following the moral law. This devotion and strong character not only becomes the destination but a destiny. The result of this destiny is salvation in the hereafter.

This then constitutes the core and the essence of Islam. Other Abrahamic faiths will also find resonance in these core beliefs. A true Muslim who loves God and the Messenger (peace be upon him) and who knows salvation can only be achieved through devotion and good work, he is truly God-conscious. The God bound and God-conscious soul feels a gentle urge to take the faith to others.  Allah says “Invite to your Lord’s way wisely; teaching in a pleasant manner, and debating with courtesy” (An Nahl: 125).However, there is no sense of forcing others to accept it or even to listen to him or her! No power and exertion of force are permissible. It is a duty to be fulfilled with love and kindness. The spirit of this witnessing is one of sharing, learning from others and being a pilgrim with fellow believers. This “invitation” and “giving good news” is to be taken with the spirit of meeting fellow humans both Muslims and non-Muslims. It is for building trust and mutual understanding and to remove stereotypes. This spirit of witnessing builds trust and brings people together to work for the common good.

One important requirement of witnessing is having self-esteem and self-confidence, not arrogance. One is proud of their faith and believes they ought to share its fruits with others. This dialogue and witnessing can take three distinct forms:

  1. Ordinary human encounter where believers encounter each other in a variety of places, discussing matters of social concern and sharing common purpose.
  2. Discursive: This is the intellectual and scholarly meetings of the religious experts and scholars.
  3. Interior: Recognising the spiritual and the inner dimension of religion.

What is this witnessing and dialogue?

Witnessing is explained in The Majestic Quran by several terms, for example:

  1. Dawah or invitation.
  2. Tabligh or delivering the message.
  3. Tabsheer or giving good news.
  4. Inzar or warning against wrong actions and their consequences.
  5. Tazkeer or reminding others of their covenant with their Lord.

From these commandments it appears as an obligation on a Muslim to be constantly witnessing and being in dialogue with other people whether believers or non-believers. All these Divine commandments are general, they make no distinction between a Muslim and a non-Muslim. Therefore, Dawah and Tabligh are for all Muslims and non-Muslims alike. However, the content and style of the delivery will be different for each one. The Quran also teaches us how this witnessing must not be coercive; “There is no compulsion in religion” (Al Baqarah: 256).

Witnessing and inviting people to Islam is rationally necessary, why? The devout believer will always be anxious to help others. This sense of responsibility exerts enormous pressure on them to share their vision with all those around them.