Letter from Muslim Religious Leaders to Christian Religious Leaders.
On the occasion of Eid, al-Fatir 1428 A.H. / October 13th 2007 CE (the end of Ramadan) a group of significant Muslim Religious leaders, scholars and people of political significance within the Islamic world, sent a letter to the leaders of the Christian world including the Pope, the leaders of the various orthodox communities and the Archbishop of Canterbury (Head of the Anglican Communion world-wide). Common Era is the way in which a common system of dating, based essentially on the approximate birth of Christ, is acceptable to other religions. A.H. in Latin is anno Hegirae and is the source of dating in the Muslim world. It refers to Muhammad’s move from Mecca to Medina. The letter is long, including signatories it runs to twenty-nine or so printed pages. What does it say and how does it say it?
This is a remarkable document for it consists of a considered and forceful statement— textually based in the Hebrew Scriptures, the Christian Scriptures and the Koran— of the common ground between (in particular) Christianity and Islam. It insists that Muslims and Christians worship the same God (Jesus is a significant prophet in Islam). It is entitled ‘A Common World Between Us' . The two clear points of contact are the commandment to love God and the commandment with respect to ‘love of the neighbour’. Each of the designated commandments is described in the terms in which they are states in the Koran and in the Bible. In addition there is a Koranic call to ’come to a common world’, here interpreted as the need for the two great world religions to share an understanding and a set of related practices that will exhibit peace and love of neighbour in the context of a globalized world.
This is a hugely important document in which scholars and educated leaders, (some like the Sultan of Sokoto in Nigeria with significant political roles) of the Islamic world are effectively re-claiming the Islamic tradition of faith, scholarship and enlightenment . Such a call for the public revival of hundreds of years of such scholarship and the re-start of an enlightened dialogue was made here in Duluth by Ahmed Samatar when he addressed the Alworth Institute last April on the subject of 'Muslims and the West in the Age of Globalization'. This is such a document. It is not a sectarian document, nor is it the product of one tradition. Its signatories include a range of Muslim communities including Shias and Sunnis.
The document recognizes the together Muslims and Christians make up more than half of human kind. It makes it clear that ‘If Muslims and Christians are not at peace, the world cannot be at peace’. Within a globalized world, war hurts everyone, the document argues, and ‘our common future is at stake’. And to the warmongers, where-ever they are, they say that we are all at risk ‘if we fail to sincerely make every effort to make peace and come together in harmony’. The targets, within the Muslim community but also elsewhere, are unspoken but the implications are transparent. It is now up to the leaders of Christianity to take up the challenge of inter-faith dialogue that the Pope called for recently.