The Outlook of Islam on the People of the Book
God calls to the Abode of Peace and He guides whom He wills to a straight path.
Another important topic that has been on the agenda with the acts of terrorism against the United States is the relation between the Western and Islamic world. As is known, by the 90s, some intellectuals were falsely suggesting that a struggle would take place between the West and Islamic world in the near future. This is the basic theme of Samuel Huntington's well-known thesis "The Clash of Civilisations". However, this thesis – better called as "The Clash of Ignorance" by Edward W. Said – rests on an imaginary scenario generated by the exaggeration of the influence of some radical and ignorant factions to be found in these two civilisations. Huntington's idea of "clashes of civilisations" is a theory without any scientific, intellectual or conscientious basis. Various civilisations have always existed in different parts of the world throughout the history and these civilisations interacted with each other socially and culturally, and took part in an "exchange of civilisations." Every race, every nation, every community has a different civilisation and every civilisation has their unique qualities and people get something from all civilisations in line with the principles of mutual understanding and reconciliation.
This idea of conflict was tested in recent history through communism, which culminated in the bloody losses of the 20th century. However, what the world needs at the moment is not war, but total peace.
Moreover, policies which favour conflict can never benefit anyone and besides there can be no clash between Western civilisation and Islamic civilisation, because the beliefs of Judaism and Christianity, the tenets upon which Western civilisation is based, are in perfect harmony with Islam.
In the Qur'an, Jews and Christians are called the "People of the Book". This is because the members of these two religions abide by the Divine Books revealed by God. The outlook of Islam on the People of the Book is extremely just and compassionate.
This attitude towards the People of the Book developed during the years of the birth of Islam according to the principles in the Qur'an. At that time, Muslims were a minority, struggling to protect their faith and suffering oppression and torture from the pagans of the city of Mecca. Due to this persecution, some Muslims decided to flee Mecca and shelter in a safe country with a just ruler. The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) told them to take refuge the Christian king of Ethiopia. The Muslims who went to Ethiopia found a very fair administration that embraced them with love and respect. The King refused the demands of the pagan messengers who had travelled to Ethiopia and asked him to surrender the Muslims to them, and announced that Muslims could live freely in his country.
These Christian attitudes of compassion, mercy, and justice, are referred to in a verse of the Qur'an which states:
... You will find the people most affectionate to those who believe are those who say, "We are Christians." That is because some of them are priests and monks and because they are not arrogant. (Qur'an, 5:82)
When Muslims, Christians and Jews unite around a common word, when they understand that they are friends, not enemies, the world will be a very different, beautiful place.
Common Beliefs and Values Shared by Muslims and the People of the Book
Christian and Muslim beliefs have many aspects in common. Judaism too shares many beliefs with Islam. In the Qur'an, God relates that Muslims share the same faith with the People of the Book and that they say to them "We have faith in what has been sent down to us and what was sent down to you. Our God and your God are one and we submit to Him." (Qur'an, 29:46)
All true adherents of these three great religions:
In one verse, that Muslims make no distinction among prophets is related as follows:
The Messenger believes in what has been sent down to him by his Lord, and so do the believers. Each one believes in God and His angels and His Books and His Messengers. We do not differentiate between any of His Messengers. They say, "We hear and we obey. Forgive us, our Lord! You are our journey's end." (Qur'an, 2:285)
The beliefs of the People of the Book are in harmony with Muslims, not only in terms of faith-related issues, but also of moral values. Today, in a world where such immoralities as adultery, drug addiction and a model of egoism and self-seeking cruelty have grown widespread, the People of the Book and Muslims share the same virtues: Honour, chastity, humility, self-sacrifice, honesty, compassion, mercy and unconditional love.
Even though such concepts like "The End of History" and the "Clash of Civilisations" started to be popular from the 90's onwards, one fact looms in these harsh times; these concepts have no validity whatsoever and they fail to deliver any solutions. Experience has taught us that we cannot build bliss upon the misery of others. This being the case, we need to find the way of binding up these wounds together and "recovering" as soon as possible. One means to this is to understand the value that the Qur'an attaches to the People of the Book.