by Mohamed Fadly
At Georgetown university in Washington, a wonderful experience of cultural talk is going on. A conference among senior Muslim scholars including the Grand Mufti of Egypt, Dr. Ali Gomaa, and Amr Khaled, the famous Muslim preacher who have wide fame among Muslim youth, and senior Christian scholars. Political personalities are attending the conference from among them are Tony Blair, Professor John Esposito and Anwar Ibrahim. This two-day conference will take the "Common Word" initiative to the next stage by focusing on global issues and initiatives for change. Global political and religious leaders, scholars, media, and community representatives will discuss and develop concrete proposals to advance global peace and security between Muslim and Western societies. This bright experience started 3 years ago, when Pope Benedict XVI offered a speech offending Muslims around the world. An action that was faced by a wise reaction from 38 Islamic authorities and scholars from around the world, representing all denominations and schools of thought, joined together to deliver an answer to the Pope in the spirit of open intellectual exchange and mutual understanding. The number expanded a year later to be 138 Muslim scholars, clerics and intellectuals coming together to declare the common ground between Christianity and Islam. All major Muslim countries were represented in the message that is addressed to all Churches and indeed all Christians all over the world. The uniqueness of this initiative is that it depends on the teachings of the two great prophets, Muhammad and Jesus (Peace Be Upon Both of Them).
In a related event at Johns Hopkins University organized by US Institute of Peace, Dr. Ali Gomaa will discuss the challenge of moderation in Islam. Dr. Gomaa has been a regular critic of violence being practiced in the name of Islam, and has written extensively on spirituality, prevention of violence, human rights, women's equality and peacemaking. Dr. Gomaa has a wide fame among Muslims and particularly in Egypt. Following is the Summary of the introduction to the initiative..
Muslims and Christians together make up well over half of the world's population. Without peace and justice between these two religious communities, there can be no meaningful peace in the world. The future of the world depends on peace between Muslims and Christians.
The basis for this peace and understanding already exists. It is part of the very foundational principles of both faiths: love of the One God, and love of the neighbour. These principles are found over and over again in the sacred texts of Islam and Christianity. The Unity of God, the necessity of love for Him, and the necessity of love of the neighbour is thus the common ground between Islam and Christianity. The following are only a few examples:
Of God's Unity, God says in the Holy Qur'an: "Say: He is God, the One! / God, the Self-Sufficient Besought of all!"(Al-Ikhlas, 112:1-2). Of the necessity of love for God, God says in the Holy Qur'an: "So invoke the Name of thy Lord and devote thyself to Him with a complete devotion"(Al-Muzzammil, 73:8). Of the necessity of love for the neighbour, the Prophet Muhammad said: "None of you has faith until you love for your neighbour what you love for yourself."
In the New Testament, Jesus Christ said:"Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One. / And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.' This is the first commandment. / And the second, like it, is this: 'You shall love your neighbour as yourself.' There is no other commandment greater than these."(Mark 12:29-31) In the Holy Qur'an, God Most High enjoins Muslims to issue the following call to Christians (and Jews—the People of the Scripture):"Say: O People of the Scripture! Come to a common word between us and you: that we shall worship none but God, and that we shall ascribe no partner unto Him, and that none of us shall take others for lords beside God. And if they turn away, then say: Bear witness that we are they who have surrendered (unto Him)."(Aal 'Imran 3:64)
The words:"we shall ascribe no partner unto Him"relate to the Unity of God, and the words:"worship none but God", relate to being totally devoted to God. Hence they all relate to the First and Greatest Commandment. According to one of the oldest and most authoritative commentaries on the Holy Qur'an the words: "that none of us shall take others for lords beside God", mean 'that none of us should obey the other in disobedience to what God has commanded'. This relates to the Second Commandment because justice and freedom of religion are a crucial part of love of the neighbor.
Thus in obedience to the Holy Qur'an, we as Muslims invite Christians to come together with us on the basis of what is common to us, which is also what is most essential to our faith and practice: the Two Commandments of love.