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Islamic Pluralism Experiences and Realizations By Yusuf Roque Morales

February 28,2010 Asian Academy of Business and Computers Teachers Village Quezon City

Foreword Dedication Introduction Pluralism from an Islamic Perspective Ethics of Islamic Pluralism Islamic Pluralism as an efficient methodology for Muslim Educators Islamic Pluralism as a methodology for Inter-Muslim relations. Pushing the Islamic Spirit in the Context of islamic Pluralism Islamic Pluralism as a methodology for Interfaith Dialogue: active experiences and realizations

Foreword: Bismillah Hirahman Niraheem We are always in a dilemna. Knowing that we are in a globalized world wherein no man is an island, it is understandable that we have to accept he reality that we have to live with others who have beliefs that do not necessarily be the same as ours. This is one are where we may have to live our lives with....others. This book is a compilation of my thoughts and articles on Islamic Pluralism.


This book is dedicated to Allah, His Prophet (Salawatulahi Alayhi), The Ahlul Bayt (AS), the Righteous companions (RTA),the Awliyah of Allah, and most especially to my family who has been an inspiration for me.

May this book see the light of day.

Yusuf Roque Santos Morales 28 February 2010


The issue and Topic of Pluralism within the Islamic Paradigm has always been dealt with with either from a highly improbable literalist perspective or a very impossible dialects.




differences, book Who

Mogahed and Esposito explains in their

speaks for Islam that a number of commonalities between the world and Islam that shatters many myths; a significant number of people from diverse faiths believe that religion ought to be a pillar of society, informed and guided by their scripture and way of life, as religion plays a vital role in the preservation of values both in public life as well as private life, specifically in the domain of the family's values, which is the core unit of every society.

Each religious group actively supports the removal of extremism1. As one may see it, there are two possible approaches to this Topic. The first is to stand here and assert, with all sense of self-righteousness, the truism that Islam preaches Pluralism. This would involve a narration, parrot-like, of the various Qur'anic verses preaching Probity and Accountability as well as Traditions of the Holy Prophet (S.A.W.), anecdotes from the lives of the rightly great guarded Khulafa', the Sahaba, the Tabi'inand

pious rulers like Umar ibn Abdul 'Azeez.

At the end of the day everyone here would clap, cheer, feel good and generally have the satisfaction of having heard a good lecture.

1 Esposito and Moghahed, Who speaks for IslamGallup Press,2007 NY 6

But to do this is to merely engage in an exercise best described as the giving in to the crowds (if you forgive the term) of our collective egos. It states the obvious, avoids the difficult and in no way contributes to the purpose of such a gathering. To say that Islam preaches Pluralism and inter-religious understanding, and to try to prove it to a Muslim audience, is a most ridiculous intellectual exercise. It would create a scenario of Tahseel al-haseel (attaining that which is already attained); for every Muslim surely knows that not just Islam, but every world-view or civilization worth its name, preaches Pluralism and understanding. There is, however, a second approach: more complex, less palatable and certainly more offensive to certain sensibilities. It is an approach which asks a historically valid question which begs eternally to be answered: why is it that inspite of the fact that we all know, academically or intuitively, that Religious intolerance and oppression in all its forms is unIslamic, it remains a pervasive feature permeating in some Muslim communities?

Why have Muslim leaders, including those who have ruled Saudi Arabia Afghanistan and Pakistan in the recent past, not been a paragon of Pluralism and understanding? This in itself is one of the major setbacks in the discussion of this paradigm, however, as there are active advocates of this concept, we may manage to study, elucidate and discuss these ideas from both a theoretical and practical perspective

Pluralism from an Islamic Perspective Islam as a religion intellectual and philosophical is indeed both

in nature, rich in

tradition and deeply rooted in discourse. The nature of this discourse has been both open to a variety of opinions both agreeing and contradicting to the context of Islamic Pluralism. The people were one community(Ummah); then God sent forth the Prophets, Good Tidings to bear and

warning, He sent down with them the Book with the truth, that He might decide the people toucing their differences. (Surah al-Baqarah :213) I would like to quote words from a former Senior Advocate at the Supreme Court of Pakistan, Barrister Abdul Rehaman,During my researches, false ideas about Islam are still popular... and that misunderstanding and misinterpretations has added to the further ignorance about Islam. Essentially a system of peace, Islam presents a nonantagonistic view of all religious systems.2 The Religious and Potential problems Dialogue of Interin



proportion to the exclusivity of the religious doctrine. Exclusivist Religious orientations and belief system can become divisive forces that can aggravate religious conflicts that can rip the fragile national psyche of a nation and in the context of multi-cultural societies retard the emergence of a

2 Rehaman, Abdul. The Peace,Dubai Publishing. 1999 9

national identity of a people. We have seen these things happen countless times. We have seen that not only in the Muslim world alone that whenever religion permeates the national culture, Religious tradition maintains an active interest in issues of national politics and social justice. In the Muslim context the limit of strictly religious values in determining the national policies of a Muslim Nation or state have never been by fully explained generally accepted Muslim

communities, thus creating a gray area in relating to current issues. Currently there has been in existence Muslim nation states that seek to manifest the Islamic or Muslim character of their country and thus in the process may seek to express their particular worldview on particularly religious moral precepts. The Fear of Westoxification (Ghrabzadeghi) still exists around although this is manifested in diverse forms. And since classical Islamic Juridical thought is being taught still up to the present, the dual world-view of Darul Harb and darul Islam is still

being perceived by the Western media as the dominant world-view of Muslims globally. However it would be meritorious to note that although this is true to some extent that due to the existence of groups who try to fossilize Islamic thought, notably there are indeed evidences that indeed even in our own sacred texts, there are divine ordinances that order us to talk or do dialogue with other faiths, and that even the Beloved Prophet Muhammad (Salawatullahi alayhi) has conducted dialogue or has ordered his companions to do dialogue. In the last three decade, religion has reemerged as an important source of moral imperative needed to maintain social cohesion.

Religious commitment has not only mobilized peoples sense of outrage in resisting abuses but it also has played a very constructive role in national reconciliation and nation building.


It is indeed in this tradition that we wish to lay a humble wreath of acknowledgement and that we would like to continue in that path of dialogue as well. Because of the rise of the political doctrine of both the clash of civilizations of Huntington and the Preemptive strike doctrine there was a rise of Islamic thinkers who have become alarmist, mistakenly possessing a conceptual continuity with the traditional views on Jihad and the increasing dangerous quandaries today. This has become the oft-cited the West. clash with religiously inspired militancy massed against the liberal and democratic values of

In the conventional view of the academe and the media (largely the media), not only are Muslims engaged in destabilizing the regional security arrangements they are also zealously opposed to








democratic values. This skewed viewpoint has been perpetuated by scholarship that treats Muslim fundamentalism as qualitatively distinct and irreducible to any common ground, representing an image of Islam in abstraction. Add to this the very vocal and visible image of minorities that present this idea. Given the deepening global crisis arising from the misuse of religion by highly vocal minorities, it is indeed important for Muslim thinkers to rediscover and promote a common concern for peace with justice. No Muslim scholar could undermine the existing international order without taking a critical reassessment of the religious and ideological landscape that he lies therein.

After all, in Islam, all human endeavours are distinct aspects of a total dialectic whose aim is the establishment of a global community under God. Therein lies that distinct need for pluralism.

The Basis of Islamic Pluralism Before justifying Islamic Pluralism, we may need to define it. What entirely is Islamic Pluralism? Islamic pluralism is defined as the concept of maintaining ways: 1. sole Islamic Pluralism may describe the Islam's and exclusive source of truth, and thus peaceful relations between different religions, that is manifested in a number of related

worldview that it is not only one's religion as not the recognizes that some level of truth and value exists in at least some other religions. 2. Islamic pluralism often is used as a Basis for dialogue. of unity, At a minimum, or different This leads or co-operation, improved

interfaith promotion




denominations within the same religion This is normally a synonym for religious

tolerance, which is a condition of harmonious co14

existence between adherents of different religions or religious denominations. Beyond church, the particularist temple and domains of the the



ecumenical sensitivity of having pluralism as a common ground has drawn the attention of the people around the world, influencing their lives beyond the confines of their faith communities. It is the non-institutional of pluralism that has attracted a substantial majority of the world population. It manifests the universal social dimension of ones personal and private faith in order to project them in the world. beyond This an furthers inter-human and understanding exclusionary

consequently intolerant institutional religiosity.

Islamic revelation presents a theology that resonates with the modern pluralistic belief that other faiths are not merely inferior manifestations of religiosity, communal



forms to the


individual of

and the



Transcendent in human life. All people are created in same divine nature (fitrah Allah) with a disposition that leads to the knowledge of God, the Creator to whom all worship is due simply because of the creation.3 This universal knowledge of the being in creation holds equally for the believer or nonbeliever, the worshiper of one being or of idols. More important, both a monotheist and an idolater can understand God by inspiring faith in divine mercy and forgiveness, can guide anyone who He wills to save.4

The term pluralism is one of the catchwords of a new order whose diversity of cultures, belief systems and values inspires both exhilaration at the endless shadings of human expression and dread of irreconcilable conflict.

3 Sachedina, Abdulaziz, The Islamic Roots of Democratic Pluralism,Center for Strategic and International Studies,2001, Oxford University press. pp14 4 Ibid p 14 16

This need to acknowledge the existence of the other may be due to the technological advances pushing the world into a global community where unlike before were nations isolated by physical , cultural and ideological boundaries. And this context they have been relatively isolated from one another and previous encounters with diversity were not as always friendly and warmly received. And in the end, conflicts and clashes occur as a result of cultural and civilizational differences, becoming a major source of dehumanizing others. Recognition of religious pluralism within a community of faithful promises to advance the principle of inclusiveness, not which would counsel accommodation, conflict, among competing

claims to religious truth in religiously and culturally heterogeneous societies. This could lead in a way to sense of multiple and unique possibilities for enriching the human quest for spiritual and moral wellbeing. The Quran in recognizance of the universality of man has always been clear in its declaration that:

O Humankind, We have created you male and female, and appointed you races and tribes, that you may know one another. Surely the Noblest among you in the sight of God is the Most Godfearing among you. God is All-knowing and All-Aware. (Surah al-Hujurat:13) The Qur'an has used the word li Ta'arafu (you may know/comprehend) whose root word, arif means to fully understand. For by understanding yourselves only that you can talk with each other.








tradition,we shall look at the context of the Qur'an, being the Primal source of Muslim creed and law. The Muslim pluralist creed is further elucidated in Surah al-Baqarah Ayah 285 which states:


The Messenger (Muhammad PBUH) believes in what has been sent down to him from his Lord, and so do the believers. Each one Believes in Allah, His Angels, His Books and His messengers.(they say) WE make no distinction between any of His messengers and they say 'We hear and obey.' (Surah al-Baqarah: 285)5 It is part and parcel of being Muslim to accept several general facts: First, that before the advent of Muhammad (PBUH) there were other Prophets sent before him, Second, and that some of these Prophets brought scriptures or revelation as a proof of their tasks. And thirdly it is part and parcel of their faith that they must acknowledge these Prophets saying La nufariqu bayna Ahadin min Rusulih We make no distinction between any of them. What is clear

5 Hilali and Khan,Translation of the Meanings of the Holy Qur'an in The English Language,King Fahd Complex for the Printing of the Holy Qur'an, KSA 19

therefore is that from the very start Muslims are ordered to be open and welcome to other faiths. This ayah merely reinforces in an earlier ayah of the universality of revelation and that God has sent his mercy to all of mankind. As it runs states: The people were one community (Ummah); then God sent forth the prophet, Good Tidings to bear and warning, He sent down with them the Book with the truth, that He might decide the people touching their differences. (Surah al-Baqarah :213)

And of course the universality of prophets sent by God to all nations is mentioned many times in the Qur'an and among them I would cite these from the many l ayahs (verses) from the Holy Qur'an , : And verily We have sent among every Ummah (community/nation)



worship Allah (alone) and avoid (keep away from) Taghout (all false deities/beliefs)6 (Surah an-Nahl: 36) And for every Ummah (a community or nation) there is a messenger; when their messenger comes, the matter between them will be judged with justice, and they will not be wronged (Surah Yunus: 47)7

And we have sent Messengers before you (O Muhammad) of some of them we related you (the Muslims) their story and some of them we have not related. (Surah al-Ghafir: 78)8 What is clear from these verses that God has sent
6 ibid 7 ibid 8 ibid 21

Messengers to all peoples and communities

which means that each community has a distinct part of the truth. According to Prophetic Traditions, God has sent 120,000 prophets and that in that Muslims acknowledge that they have been divinely sent. As a part of the Abrahamic traditions the Qur'an speaks of a group of believers known as Ahlul Kitaab (people of the book) of which the Qur'an speaks of them and at certain times, God revelations in the Qur'an are addressed to them. The Qur'an describes them in a manner as :

And you will find nearest in love to the believers those who say we are Christians that is because among them are monks and priests and they are not Proud (Surah al-Maidah :82)9 The Qur'an also sets a standard on how dealings with People of the Book (Ahlul Kitaab) should be conducted:
9 ibid 22


argue not with the People of the Scriptures

unless it be in (a way) that is better, save with such of them that do wrong: and say: We believe in that which hath been revealed unto us and revealed unto you: Our God and your God is One, and unto Him we surrender. (Surah Ankabut:46)10 And unto thee have We revealed the Scripture with the truth, confirming whatever Scripture was before it, and a watcher over it. So judge between them by that which Allah hath revealed, and follow not their desires away from the truth which hath come unto thee. For each We have appointed a divine law and a traced-out way. Had Allah willed he could have made you one community. But that He may try you by that which He hath given you (He hath made you as ye are.) So vie one with one another in good works. Unto Allah

10 Marmaduke Pikthall, The meanings of the Glorious Qur'an, Tahrike Tarsile Quran,1194,New York 23

ye will all return, and He will then by that wherein ye differ. (Surah Al Maidah :48)11

We could go on and on, describing ayah after ayah that clearly mandates each and every particular rule that tells us that as Muslims, it is but part and parcel of our faith to be pluralism and open to dialogue but then what?What does this mean for us Muslims in today's globalized world?

There are several realizations to this questions. I would like to point out that the major argument for religious pluralism in Islam which is expressed in the Qur'an is clearly based on the relationship between private faith and its projection to the Islamic Polity.

11 ibid 24


It is clear that in matters of private

faith, the position of the Qur'an vis-a-vis other faiths is non-interventionist. In the Public projection of that faith, Islam is based on the principle of peaceful coexistence, the willingness of a community(in a Muslim country) to recognize religiously independent communities to ruin their affairs and peacefully coexist with Muslims. Though this may not find immediate acceptance in todays world but this principle has always existed from the time of our Prophet (SA).

The universal message of the Qur'an

reveals that without subordination to a limited historical context, that the revelation therein accepts religious pluralism as given and even necessary, requiring Muslims to continually negotiate, transform and emphasize the fundamental unity of humankind in its origin and creation by the Divine Being. And despite the fact that there are gloomy predictions being circulated elsewhere in the name of theology and faith in a way that religious ideas are being used to promote hatred, destruction and mutual distrust in human societies the affirmation of diversity is one of the cornerstones in the creation narrative in the Holy

Qur'an, and instead of regarding this diversity as a source of evitable tensions, it suggests that human diversity is indispensable for a particular tradition to define its common beliefs practices, values and traditions for its community life.12 3. community The idea that The people are one is the foundation of a theological

pluralism that presupposes that the divinely ordained quivalence and equal rights of all human beings.This unity may be justified theologically within the activity of the divine; it is best sought in the the sphere of ethics, which actually sustains people of faith. through this innate ethical nature, through Fitra (the primordial nature of every human being) which is given by Allah to all, humankind then acquires the ability to deal with others on the basis of equity and fairness. pluralistic This as a for result would allow the development of a global ethic that can provide the basis mediating inter-religious relationships among peoples of diverse spiritual commitments, enabling them to build a working consensus of values and goals.

12 Surah al-anbiyaa:92 and Surah al-Hujurah:14 26

The Ethics of Islamic Pluralism One of the major questions that each religious group faces is how does their religion determine the fate of other faiths?. If Salvation is only limited to the people of their faith? What happens to great men and women who engage in service of humanity but belong to other faiths? One of the greatest dangers of religion has been that it is invoked as a justification for crimes against others which has created immense suffering on account of a bigoted theology that does not acknowledge the right of the other. This myopic perception of others has been the unwanted suspect that continues to wreak havoc on all religious communities and that it continues to burn bridges of understanding between people and faiths in many corners of the globe. To contrast this, there is a need for Religion to be used either as a paradigm to understand others or to make humanity bend in the direction of showing justice to his fellowmen.

One must strive to live in the divine purpose of faith and life, which is the worship of God, and the core struggle of human nature; that is to strive for closer adherence to the law of Love and justice in ones relationships with mankind.. This is the irreducible something that all religions possess. And it is this principle that we need to imbibe within ourselves. One must understand that diversity must be accepted not only as a fact but a guiding principle. Consequently, in order that this may stand on stable and not fragile ground, this not be merely a political accommodation between religious and political/state elites but by these principles that are crystalized and recognition by followers of different faith traditions.

Islamic Pluralism as an efficient methodology for Muslim educators Indeed as the first words from the Holy Quran was Iqra'ah , roughly translated as read or recite. a manifestation to instruct or teach.

The Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) has said , Al-Ulama al-warasatul al-Anbiya'ah (the learned are the successors of the prophets. What could be deduced from the Holy

Prophet's words is that indeed the learned, the ones who teach, has a divine task of passing knowledge, whether this may be secular, religious or technical, and as such are facing a divine mandate to perform. However ideological righteousness, in the myriad where opinionated of conflicting of selfand views

paradoxes, highly


perceptions as well as propaganda-infused material has been used in teaching there has been a strong need to follow an educational philosophy that would allow Muslim educators to use all the tools of pedagogy, as well as various paradigms in education in order to fully maximize their teaching as well as ensure that their students achieve their full potential. Sayyidna Ali (karamallahu wajhah), the fourth Khulafa al-Rashidoon has said, do not raise your children the way you were raised, as they live in a

different world today. And as such, points out that indeed teachers must find new ways that may not contradict Islamic Education but in fact enhances it. It is here where Islamic Pluralism finds an impetus to guide Muslim teachers. The Philosophy `fact' is no of pluralism Yet, in if Educational educational


Philosophy is representing and explaining the basis of teaching pedagogy and Philosophical foundations, why is there such a diversity of representations and explanations ? In this article let us consider the Islamic philosophical basis of Islamic pluralism that will explain the existence of both competitive and compatible alternatives.Let us see an integrative approach for understanding Islamic pluralism by adopting it in Education. The challenge is to explain "how can a diverse, well confirmed, but irreducible set of theories be used collectively isolation?" to Let achieve us a more the complete for understanding than any of the theories taken in consider reasons reductionism and defend an alternative based on the


integration explanations.





As an educator, one must learn to integrate concepts as well as identify ideas that although intrinsically coming from other belief systems but are productive and be assimilated into both the pedagogy and methodology of education. When one looks at the myriad of opportunities available for the Muslim educator to access knowledge, it would seem unfair for the Muslim teacher not to acknowledge these sources disregard the authors or advocates of these principles or concepts that he may have come across. Indeed by acknowledging the source of his teaching methodologies and pedagogies can he further enhance them We must always remember that in education there are always multiple methods and methodologies that can be used to harness and develop a more detailed and insightful understanding of what it means to learn.


Integration of commonly shared values and the philosopy of integration in Education which is in reality a manifestation of Islamic Pluralism has advatages that outweigh the disadvantages. And as such schools are the most logical and effective treatment for students better perception and respect for the other people. There is always the fear among us to tread on uncertain ground, to touch the sacred and the profane as well as the fault marks in one's faith both as a person as well as an educator. It is this that points out that we as educators must be grounded in Islamic Pluralism as a basis of our educational Philosophy. It is the non-institutional character of

Pluralism that has attracted a substantive majority of the worlds population because it manifests the universal social dimension of ones personal and private life in order to project them to the world13. As a result in furthers inter-human understanding that goes beyond a level of exclusivity and intolerance for others.
13 32








Pluralism as a concept has gradually been accepted and accepted in the educational pedagogy of the west. And as such, it s only a matter of time that this Philosophy permeate all others. But worthy of note is that Islamic pluralism as a concept has long existed before any of todays Giants and scholars of education ever exdisted or even spoke of Pluralism and as such, it is our intellectual heritage that as educators, we take this and imbibe into our educational philosophy. When this is translated into action by

educators, this would translate into a mutliplicity of learning and experiences for his students considering the diversity of cultures, belief systems, values as well as technological advances that continually push the world to become a more globalized community. Kallen (1957) defines Pluralism from a cultural persepective to be both a working hypothesis and an ideal affirming the primacy of differences as well the right to differences. Kallen's guiding metaphor for pluralism was that each group or unit is an orchestra









contributing its own unique tone and timbre.14 Efforts allowing students to cross ideological, cultural and personal barriers are the best ways to create a process of integration and conscientization, and that these elements would allow a person to be more conscientious of what others feel and think and adopt a more open approach to other peoples beliefs and perceptions with a tone of respect rather than disgust.

This approach and philosophy can be best described in the words of Wilber and the Integrationist (pluralist) movement: To integrate and to bring together, to join and to link, to embrace not in the sense of uniformity, and not in the sense of ironing out all the wonderful differences,15

14 15 34

Then how to we translate Islamic pluralism as an Educational Philosophy? In a way this means that we learn to see and research and combine concepts as well as dilineate other concepts that must be taught although, we may personally have biases against these concepts but in a way, we teach them in the best manner possible allowing our students to explore the various mazes of human knowledge, understanding and Philosophy, guided by the Islamic Philosophical bases in our faith, we show them the sources of knowledge, the processes of gaining knowledge as well as the methods of gaining knowledge. Remember that even the universal message of the Qur'an reaveals that without subordination to a limited historical concept, that revelation theirein respects pluralism as given and even nescessary, requiring Muslims to continually negotiate, transform and emphasize the fundamental unity of mankind in its origins, and that human diversity is indispensable for human development and progress.


Developing Islamic Pluralism as an educational Philosophy to be used by our educators will in a way boil down to students. In the end it will allow educators formulate their own methods in teaching, allowing them to reflect on questions as to what they want to create inquiry or interest. Would they want to let students develop a genuine interest in understanding of the interior meaning the process of making;or generate interest in what is happening;Or generate interest for the students to examine these issues or create interest to make others study;or generate interest in learning about an individual's beliefs, actions or focusing on more complex interactions in meaning or making in systems. By reflections in these questions,Educators can help students develop skills in the process of inquiry in order to contribute to the furthering of knowledge as well as the development of a welleducated individual.

On a final note, I would like to sum it up in the following concepts:


Truth and knowledge is a universal legacy, and

as the Prophet has said, "All beneficial knowledge is the lost property of believers"; it is also our sacred duty to impart this beneficial knowledge if not enhance it. Islamic Pluralism in a way is a suitable basis for enhancing Educational Philosophy as it allows the process of recognition, conscientization, integration and fusion of productive concepts into teaching pedagogy fr the productive use of mankind Truth, knowledge, wisdom and illumination is the universal property of mankind, and as scholars,in the true meaning of heirs to the Prophets, we must impart these to the world. And as such, Indeed Islamic Pluralism as an

Educational Philosophy is more than attuned to todays educational situation, it is one of the best models in Educational Philosophy.

Islamic Pluralism as a methodology for Inter-Muslim relations


Looking at intra-faith Muslim dialogues. Is Islamic Pluralism an answer? In the age of globalization and the nearness of each civilization to each other, we have noted that after decades of strife, internecine cultural conflicts and much even after Samuel Huntington posited the to understand of the importance of theory of Clash of Civilizations, there has been understanding one's neighbor, whether he is within the ambit of Islam, or outside it. Many would always point a finger toward undersolved conflicts in Pakistan, Egypt, Yemen and even Afghanistan where the role of religious and political leaders hae been overlapped and the conflicts continue to be mired in tension and violence. Some say that dialogue in such cases must follow two tracks: one aiming to create an environment of understanding and religious harmony, while the other would be resolving these issues at the political level.16
16 Almohoudi, Fahad, Saudi's Push for Religious dialogue, Common Ground News Service, 21 July 2009 38

Understanding that in many countries, there is already a significant number of Muslim communities following different schools of thought; Sunni, Salafi, Sufi, Deobandi,Ithna Ashari, Ismaili and other minority schools, this becomes a unique challenge to any particular community as well as to leaders, whether situated in a Muslim or a secular state. The practice of Takfir and inability to accept and respect the perception coming from another school of law has always been the danger to this. Eventually becoming the fuse of sectarian conflicts around the globe. And thus a state of religious tolerance, a condition of harmonious co-existence of between adherents of different schools of thought is required to further human understanding beyond an exclusionary and intolerant religiosity17.
17 Morales, Roque Santos, Using the tools of islamic Pluralism and Moderation as tools for interfaith dialogue and a basis for subculture of today's Muslim youth. Conference paper, 2009 National Conference on new Thinking, new concepts of interfaith dialogue in the Philippines: Spotlight on the youth. Novermber 26-28,2009, DLSU Manila 39

This paradigm if merely allowed to be in the hands of the religious clergy would funnel either animosity or lip-service, as these religious propagators must push this further to the people so that it would trickle down18. But for such to happen, much effort is needed, training the Ulema, as well as the Muslims to be involved in such an endeavour would take the time and would need to be done in a much sooner time enabling to cover more ground in the process. Concepts like non-declaration of takfir, mutual respect, understanding and recognition of differences in thought and madhahib and masa'el in order to they may know each other. The highlighting of the commonalities of schools of thought must also be emphasized. All Muslims share the same pillars of Islam, articles of faith as well as in the unity of Islam and thus such a unity can push or prod them together

18 ibid 40




discourse among


different schools of though in Islam Pushing the Islamic spirit in the context of Islamic Pluralism There has always been a dilemna among Muslim scholars when dealing with other Muslims who possess differences with belief systems and are diverse in culture. This has always created conflict and misunderstanding, like the riots and rivalry in India and Pakistan which has gone to inconsiderable extents of violence. This disturbing tendency of measuring ones faith by vigorous rejection of another's belief is indeed one of the most pressing issues of the Ummah, needing to be confronted by a counter current of the spirit of respect and tolerance of the other. For many Muslim theologians, this personality that has permeated Muslim states actually represents an obstacle to Islamic ethics and values. Seeing how


difficult it is to sustain civil, political and religious rights in the Muslim states. As a result, an increasing number of Muslim scholars across the world are calling for alternative systems that can foster an Islamic vision of society and simultaneously accommodate our increasingly pluralistic societies. They believe that pluralism and the universal democratization of human rights are at the heart of the Qur'an. There are diverse opinions about the nature, shape and purpose of an Islamic state, ranging from the conservative to the very progressive. However, Islamic states as we know them today have largely failed in creating political systems that respect such ideas19. They see the vision that pluralism comprises elements of assimilation, integration and acceptance of differences, a syncretism that accepts in the words of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW), mercy in differences of the ummah
19 Dana, Isabelle,Common Ground News Service

(CGNews), 5 January 2010,


In effect, looking into more of the Islamic spirit of the Ummah than the Islamic state. For unless this Islamic spirit is felt by the Ummah and its leaders, an Islamic state will not evolve in itself into its desired form. Tunisian writer and intellectual, Mohamed Talbi, calls on Muslim societies to abandon the Islamic state paradigm and instead strive for a global ummah, a global community that shares the core values of freedom and justice. To him, Islam is embodied in the concept of "differences within unity", namely pluralism20. He writes, "I am a Muslim atom within a human molecule. My ummah is humanity, and I do not make any distinction between confessions, opinions, colour or race; all human beings are my brothers and sisters." This time of globalisation represents to him a rare opportunity to work towards this ideal.

20 ibid 43

Farid Esack is another Muslim scholar, from South Africa, who argues against an Islamic state in today's world: if Islam's message is to fight for oppressed communities, then Islamic states as we currently know them are anything but Islamic. He came to this conclusion as a result of his personal experiences-first, as a student in Pakistan when he witnessed the persecution of poor and marginalised non-Muslim communities and, later, as an activist in South Africa, when he experienced solidarity with people from all faiths against apartheid. A close ally of former South African president Nelson Mandela, Esack also proposes a different form of Islamic influence embodied in a global ummah that does not simply tolerate differences but also unites humankind beyond race and religion for a specific purpose: justice. Esack believes that the ummah cannot be defined by kinship but by acts of faith: the real ummah is a united interreligious struggle against oppression in all its forms.






intellectual who had to flee Khartoum for following the open religious doctrine of Mahmoud Taha, a Sudanese theologian and political figure who advocated political and liberal religious reform, is convinced that an Islamic state is doomed to failure and that secularism-rooted in freedom of religion, ethics and morality, and rights and duties-is by far the best system for Muslims throughout the world. This form of secularism would have to be inclusive of different worldviews and could only be built through the dialogue and exchange of a global civil society. The importance of the ummah over the Islamic state demonstrates a shift from the state-the political apparatus-to individuals and communities who become

active Islamic

agents ideals in

responsible their




societies . This interesting proposition, rooted in an Islamic worldview, could be a more fluid and suitable framework for our globalized world. This in itself manifests the more open discourse to accepting internal differences in the Ummah.

21 ibid 45

Islamic Pluralism as a methodology for Interfaith Dialogue: active experiences and realizations The common usage of the word interfaith Dialogue has in a way repeatedly used to denote any activity where there is dscussion of religious experiences, comonalities, as well as living in the midst of diversity. The aim of this paper, however, is not to reinvent the wheel of interfaith dialogue but to share experiences in using a new tool adapted in order to further ones activities in the pursuit of mutual understanding, learning and travelling along the path, as a member of the Naqshabandi Sufi Tariqah, as well as an active member of the Anjuman Ahmadiyyah Isha'at Islami Lahore, a religious society that aims to propagate a peaceful and interactive Islam that draws from the experiences of islam as well as the Awliyah and the reformer of the 19th Century in Asia, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad.Being a scholar known to espouse intellectual exchange as well as inter-religious understanding, I was invited to deliver a series of talks on Interreligious dialogue, among them were three


topics respectively, Islamic Pluralism as a tool for understanding backdraft in others, Moderation and in Islam, A and reflection, Pillars

Fundamentals of Islam as well as simmillarities and differences of islam and christianity.

Personally I believe that it is pluralism as a paradigm is one of the best tools for interreligious dialogue as it as a concept allows other belief systems to co-exist and respect each other. For those who are not familiar with the concept allow me to describe it in brief as was detailed in my presentation conference . What entirely is Islamic Pluralism? Islamic pluralism is defined as the concept of maintaining ways: peaceful relations between different religions, that is manifested in a number of related







22 Islamic Pluralism as a tool for understanding others, conference paper presentation,Theories and Practices of Interfaith Dialogue in The Philippines,April24-26, Dela Sale University ,Manila 47

Islamic Pluralism may describe the Islam's worldview that it is not only one's religion as not the sole and exclusive source of truth, and thus recognizes that some level of truth and value exists in at least some other religions. Islamic pluralism often is used as a Basis for interfaith promotion dialogue. of unity, At a minimum, or different This leads or co-operation, improved




denominations within the same religion This is normally a synonym for religious tolerance, which is a condition of harmonious co-existence between adherents of different religions or religious denominations.......This understanding beyond furthers an inter-human and exclusionary

consequently intolerant institutional religiosity. Islamic revelation presents a theology that resonates with the modern pluralistic belief that other faiths are not merely inferior manifestations of religiosity, but variant forms of individual and communal responses to the presence of the Transcendent in human life. All people are created in same divine nature (fitrah Allah) with a disposition that leads to the knowledge

of God, the Creator to whom all worship is due simply because of the creation23. This universal knowledge of the being in creation holds equally for the believer or non-believer, the worshiper of one being or of idols. More important, both a monotheist and an idolater can understand God by inspiring faith in divine mercy and forgiveness, can guide anyone who He wills to save24. This paper describes the experieneces and learnings that I have gained from both the process of the seminars we have lectured in Government agencies, the as well as the the different interaction that I have had with the different youth, sectors I have talked with as well as the people there, whom I dedicate this paper. This book is also dedicated to the Scholars, the awliyah as well as the Mujadidoon.

23Sachedina, Abdulaziz, The Islamic Roots of Democratic Pluralism,Center for Strategic and International Studies,2001, Oxford University press. pp14 24 Ibid p14 49

The series of activities that I was invited to lecture was the Youth leadership summit, which is a 4-day stay-in seminar that has the same workings of other trainings, workshops, group dynamics, teach-ins as well as contests. But the meat of this activity was to create a rather new persepective of attaining peace and order, it also encourages them to rediscover their skills and talents to become better leaders of society. As of the moment we have successfully conducted i three areas, Awang, North Cotabato, Tubod Lanao del Norte and polomoloc South Cotabato, as of this wroting we are aiming to conduct in Zamboanga, Basilan,Sulu, Tawi-Tawi and Davao. It was an interagency project by both the government, Local Government Units, the AFP CSO's. For a young group of Community leaders, The seminar was quite unique in the sense that it incorporated community nationalism, building. patriotism as well as Interfaith concepts were and several NGO and

incorporated to ensure that the community spirit transverse the bounds of tribe, race, religion and culture. This was where I was coming at. My role was to ensure that they learn the value of interfaith and

interreligious dialogue. It was here that I decided to use the paradigm of Islamic pluralism, teaching both as a paradigm to be emulated by Muslims as well as making the christians and Lumds understand that there ias way to talk and still keep the peace. Being a young group that was of mixed persuasions and religious orientations, it was quite a challenge how to create a presentation that would catch their attention. Muslims and Christians coming from either very conservative families others who are familiar with both city and rural lives. It was actually a challenge how to present to them. Most of the apprehensions that they faced was: "How do we embrace the faith of the others?" "Its easy to embrace our friendship with them but are they welcome in embracing our diffrences in Religion?", "would they welcome us if we ask them sensitive questions?" How are we simmillar and how are we different?". "how do we embrace diversity?" What were the initial issues and impressions that the young people were concerned about? Among the things they were concerned were the following:


indeed the seminar organizers were conscious of gender sensitivity such as the proper billetting of the genders;familiarity with the different traditions of Muslims and Christians, among them prayer and dietary issues for Muslims so as not to offend the other people who were participating in the seminar, doubts about the ability , sincerity and capacity of the organizers,if organizers;who they were would the ask good the hep of guys?Christians?

Muslims? Their belief systerms;who were the real terrorists and why does the war in Mindanao doesnt stop? Normally the first day was getting to know each other and camp rules. The second day was the inputs day, normally islam woyld be the first set of topics to ensure that misconceptions and clarifications would be done in the first day. Whenever I would come into a room I would always try to do a little assesment and personal question stuff that would make them more comfortable listening, preparing a powerpoint presentation as well as dressing up comfortably.


Seeing a Islamic scholar dress in a casual manner was the first surprise they got, getting a very simple down to-earth lecture that delved more in to the practical side than the theoretical side made them more comfortable to listen and ask questions. Although on other places I would only deliver two lectures as the others were prepared by other scholars. Honestly, from the faces and smiles I saw, they were all hopefull of some solution to the conflict that afflicted their families and their lives, and that solution lay ahead of those who were lecturing before them. Tough luck, because honestly, the solution actually lay before their eyes. When I delivered a talk on "Pillars and Fundamentals of Islam", I sincerely believed that it was not the Muslims that I should focus my talk into, as every Muslim knows about these things, I was structuring the lecture on how to present the general concepts and ideas why these issues and concepts were created as guidance for Muslims as well as the

philosophical foundations for Muslims being requireed to believe in them., The next topic that I delivered, was "Simmillarities Christian and differences were of Muslims to hear and that Christians," funny as it would appear, a lot of children surprised Muslims loved, respected and cherished the Biblical prophets. This was a revelation for them. Since Young Muslims were not that open to talking or discussing theological concepts with their Christian friends, its was big relief for them to hear how to break chunks of religious ideas into down to earth ideas that could be digested by both Muslims and Christians alike.

When I delivered the talk "Moderation in Islam, a backdraft in reflection" I realized that indeed although there were Muslims and that my main target audience was to make Christians understand Muslims, it appeard that I also had to explain these concepts to Muslims as well who were supposed to espouse this concept. Because, the very concept of being moderate and not to be extreme in








contraditions was an experience not only confined to Muslims themselves, it was an experience and paradigm that spread to other religions as well. This was mutually agreed upon by Christians and Muslims as well. For them, the concept of moderation as the best manifestation of faith was such a very attractive idea, that one can be Christian/Muslim and be cool at the same time without compromising their religion. Whenever I would deliver my talk on Islamic Pluralism as a tool for understanding others,it always makes them realize that indeed this is a new paradigm shift in dealing with each other, that indeed there are possibilities of making this happen and indeed it is a very practical solution for them, to mutually respect and accept each others views and opinions, whether they may agreee with each other or not. Initially they were at a loss how to accept the idea of agreeing to agree and agreeing to disagree. I explained that it is like an issue of having simmilar things you like and some things that you dislike in people, only in this situation these are

concepts and not people that you may not agree with, but you may still respect and agree with other things that a person may believe in.

Inputs given during the seminar:

Fundame ntals of Islam

General concept
It is a guide to the belief system of Muslims and a guide for them as a way of life

Philosophical value why it is taught

It shows them both how to deal with both the intrinsic and extrinsic issues as a Muslim.It shows how proximate their belief system is to Christianity

Common alities of Islam and Christiani ty Moderati on In Islam

It shows how proximate their belief system is to Christianity, it also showed that Muslims and Christians have a lot in common. To expalin the theological basis of Moderation Moderation allows people enough space to interact with society withour having to be afraid of the theological limitations that is imposed


and the danger of extremism as a sign of deviance and misunderst anding of the Teachings of Islam
Islamic Pluralism as a basis for understa nding others

upon a believer. It ensures that he knows that he is acting along the rules set by religion.

This concept provides the theological basis for interfaith dialogue as well as the philosophic al basis for dealing with people who differs in beliefs and perception s.

It enables Muslims to be participative and interactive with people of other religions without being in the mindset that they are the only ones worthy of salvation.

At the end of the presentations, both Muslims and Christians realized that both as individuals and Community leaders, they have a lot to share, understand and relate with each other. The inputs

gave them a more bigger persepective on how to deal with people from another religious orientation and have a long and lasting friendship with them. In fact it has made them realize that at the end of the day, they may have to subsume , peripheral issues and focus more on the welfare of the communities they serve for the better interest and welfare of all. What was also good, was that Teachers from Tubod, lanao del Norte also requested for such a training and orientation, I was able to conduct a summarized presentation like this for some teachers of Polomoloc South Cotabato and They really appreciated the cultural and religious sensitivities that I was able to highlight and make them understand these issues. Personally I have realized a lot of things myself. First, the paradigm of interreligious dialogue must not be confined to either the religious people or clergy and separated from the regualr masses. It must be understood that the religious people/clergy must bring and explain actively to their jama'ah/flock the need of interreligious dialogue as

well as undertake community wide steps to ensure the success of these endeavours. I have realized that both Chistian and Muslim religious scholars need to inculcate this concept among their very own clergy/lay people. As most of the young people who have fears regarding this concepts normally attribute their justifications from their very own scholars and clergy regarding the inapplicability of inter-religious dialogue. Perhaps in Metro Manila this may not be that case, but in isolated areas, this has been mostly the case as I had experienced in all of the three areas that I have done my trainings. And thus I believe that efforts must be done so that these concepts trickle down to these areas and be eventually be a paradigm that would be shared by all. It is important that in order for the younger people to adopt the paradigm of Interfaith dialogue, particularly adopting the tools of Islamic pluralism, the religious people must have an active part in understanding and cultivating this intellectual legacy that is manifested in both the Qur'an and hadith. For it is the opinion of the key formators of these youth

that may eventually be impressed in their minds; and if the formators themselves are not open to these paradigm shifts, then indeed we need to do extra efforts to be able to let them embrace this paradigm. Such a subculture in out youth may indeed be the impetus of a renewed thrust for Peace. Who should we be involving in this paradigm shift? Other than the youth themselves, we must involve the community leaders, the teachers who are with them them during the day, as well as the scholars who advise them on religious matters. By involving these three key groups, with support from both the local government and national initiatives, rest assured this paradigm of Islamic Pluralism being adopted by Muslims as well as pluralism from a Christian persepective would be embraced as a way fo life ensuring mutual respect and peace for the coming times. The Author would also like to acknowledge and thank the Inter-Agency task force that organized the Youth leadership summit, jointly headed by Sec. Mesa






Mohammad Camid of the National Youth Commission, for allowing me to be part of that activity as well as use the inpuits from the seminar/trainings as the basis of my conference paper. References:


Islamic Pluralism as a tool for understanding of Interfaith Dialogue in The

others, conference paper presentation,Theories and Practices Philippines,April24-26, Dela Sale University ,Manila

Sachedina, Abdulaziz, The Islamic Roots of Pluralism,Center for Strategic and


International Studies,2001, Oxford University press





Leadership Caravvan,




AFCOC,September 15,2009 Postscript: What the Qur'an pushes forward as a paradigm is plain and simple; Islamic Pluralism is a process by which it could provide both a ethical,theological and spiritual basis for dialogue, mediation and the

forging of inter-religious relationships to build a global community of diverse spiritual traditions.