VIEW OF OTHER RELIGIONS
Muslims believe that respect for freedom of religion and conscience is a basic Islamic principle, and we believe that diversity, including religious diversity, is part of the Creator’s divine plan. Moreover, we believe that the salvation of all people, Muslims included, lies with the Creator alone.
The Qur’an refers to the followers of the previous Abrahamic holy books as “People of the Book,” which is generally interpreted to mean Jews and Christians. They are called People of the Book because Muslims believe their scriptures originally came from the Creator; “book” in the Qur’an is often a reference to scripture. The Qur’an gives the People of the Book special status by declaring their meat lawful for Muslims and by allowing Muslims to marry women from them. As it does with Muslims, the Qur’an describes some as pious and righteous adherents to their religions, while pointing out that others fail to follow the commandments that were sent to them. The Qur’an also takes issue with some of the beliefs of Judaism and Christianity, such as the Christian belief in the Trinity.
The Arabic word kafir (plural kuffar) is commonly translated as the word “disbeliever” or “unbeliever”. In the Qur’an, kafir usually refers to a person who not only rejects the beliefs of Islam but also takes a hostile stance toward Muslims and their religion; it is used primarily to refer to the Makkans who attacked and fought against the Muslim community. In modern Arabic, kafir is often used to mean simply “non-Muslim,” without any necessary negative connotation.
We strongly believe that people of other faiths should be treated with love and respect, affirming the Islamic principle respect for freedom of religion and conscience.
The Qur’an explicitly forbids hatred towards, subjugation of, or forcible imposition of religion on any person or people when it states “there is no compulsion in religion” (2:256) and describes religious pluralism as part of the Creator’s plan. The existence of old churches, temples, and synagogues throughout the Muslim world in places like Egypt, Turkey, Palestine, Jordan, Syria, India, and Bosnia and the presence of minority religious populations in those areas demonstrates that this command was historically followed by many Muslim societies.
While the majority of Muslims believe in the five holy books or scriptures mentioned in the Qur’an as original revelations to the prophets (the Scrolls as revealed to Abraham; the Torah as revealed to Moses; the Psalms as revealed to David; the Gospel as revealed to Jesus), they do not believe that they have been preserved in the original form or language in which they were first revealed. However, we believe that the Qur’an contains the same principles included in these previous scriptures.
Muslim historians and scholars have described the history of the Qur’an and the efforts of Muslims since the early days of Islam to preserve the Qur’an in its original pure form. During the Prophet Muhammad’s life, scores of people memorised, recited, and wrote down the Qur’an. Shortly after the death of the Prophet Muhammad saws, the Qur’an was compiled into a unified standard form and transcribed by experts who carefully verified every verse by matching it against both the written word and memorised verses. The completed transcript was then copied and distributed across the growing Islamic empire. These copies served as the basis for all copies of the Qur’an written or printed since. Today these earliest written versions of the Qur’an are similar to contemporary copies of the Qur’an.
While translations of the Qur’an may vary due to linguistics, all copies of the Qur’an in Arabic contain identical language. This standardisation, coupled with the millions of people who continue to memorise the entire Qur’an, ensures the text’s authenticity.