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Prophet Muhammad's Model of Interreligious Dialogue Based on Research on the Letter to the Christians

Violence and extremism are of the most important topics in current research on religion and interreligious studies. The New World Order and the global peace, justice, and ethics cannot be understood without accounting for the role of religion and
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  Prophet Muhammad's Model of Interreligious Dialogue Based on Research on the Letter to the Christians Sheikh Taher Amini Golestani, PhD 1   taheramini2010@gmail.com t.amini@iipr.ir   Abstract Violence and extremism are of the most important topics in current research on religion and interreligious studies. The New World Order and the global peace,  justice, and ethics cannot be understood without accounting for the role of religion and religious organizations and among the topics dealing with religion is the matter of violence done by the excuse of religion’s orders. There is increasing research looking at and beyond religious causes of violence, as well as a hope that religion could offer genuinely effective tools to control violence. The question of control of violence is discussed in relation to the spheres of ethics (regulation of effect), theology (the legitimacy of violence), and government (integration via religion). It is shown not only that religion offers possibilities for controlling violence, but also that control of violence via religion. To offer the best example of peaceful negotiations among Muslims and Christian, this article emphasizes on one of the important Islamic proofs narrat ed from Prophet Muhammad (S), called “The The  promise of Muhammad to the Christians till the end of the World” and the impact of interreligious and intercultural role on peace and conflict resolution, as well as the role of global ethics. This letter, per se, and its content which is of numerous key points for strengthening the ties between Christians and Muslims, is not only have been accepted and well documented both among Shi’a and Sunnites but also is widely quoted and referred to in Christian sources. Surely considering this letter, is an invalidating point on the extremist crimes committed in the name of Islam. Keywords: Muhammad, Promise, Interreligious Dialogue, Christians, model.   1 Director and Founder of International Institute for Peace and religions ( IIPR.ir ) in Qom, Islamic Republic of Iran.  1-   Introduction •  No peace among the nations without peace among the religions. •  No peace among the religions without dialogue between the religions. •  No dialogue between the religions without investigation of the foundations of the religions. (Küng, 2007) The history of the past decades contains many examples of human suffering and conflict that may fairly be laid at the feet of certain religious people and their understanding of how religion plays a role in their lives. And yet, religion cannot be avoided in any attempts to pursue peace and social justice among the people of the earth. Religion has failed to disappear as predicted by Marx, Freud, Nietzsche or any of the other Enlightenment theorists who tended to view religion as a crutch that would be thrown away as scientific knowledge progressed. Between just the two major religions we are considering at this article, more than four billion people continue to orient their lives (at varying degrees of depth and commitment) around the meaning they find in Christ or the Qur’an. (Morgan, 2011). In this stream, as noted, Islam and Christianity are two of the most numerous and the most influential of the world religions today. They share many points in common as religions. Most important of all they trace their lineage to one common ancestor, Abraham, who is the Divine Patriarch of the religions, called after him as the Abrahamic religions. Knowing this, for any religious person among these two, it is a must to endeavor for approximation of them more and more, due to the world‘s today‘s situat ion filled with challenge and tension. Based on this mentality, having attracted scholars in the current situation, there are important reasons for Christian theology to deal with Islam. They have something to do with striving for insight and with the belief that Christianity and Islam have to say each other something. Relevant issues are the conception of God, the God-man relationship and the formation of religious identity. Dialogue, or peaceful negotiation, is the path prescribed by Islam. Islam is based on the principle of dawah 2 , which is another name for peaceful negotiation manifests that violence is totally forbidden in Islam. The Prophet of Islam started His mission which was to communicate his 2  invitation  ideology to people by talking to them, listening to their objections and trying to convince them of his viewpoint by means of arguments. In the situation which Many people are under the impression that Muslims are close-minded and unwilling to engage in discussion with people of other faiths, dialogue and effective communications based on tolerance, respect and love, is very constructive; this is while, the holy Qur‘an offers very clear guidelines and encouragement for Muslims to engage in interfaith dialogue. So, as one conflict resolution, for Christians and Muslims in particular, it would seem that there is much room and much need for this kind of dialogue to come to a better mutual understanding and appreciation as demonstrated in Küng‘s  (Morgan, 2011). Review of the foundations of each faith. Starting this process of dialogue from the point of view of a Global Ethic or from the mutual concern for social justice and the promotion of peace seems like a particularly important place to begin because it allows the dialogue to occur between the two faiths at many levels. Before getting down to analyze different parts of the letter, there is a need to shed light on some related terms. 1-1.   Religion and globalization In the conditions of the modern process of globalization, we have become much closer to each other. And due particularly to this development, the dialogue between nations, cultures, and religions is becoming more significant. By developing this dialogue, by supporting it, we can facilitate the definition of the sources serving to create terrorism, and, by doing this, we can destroy its very roots. Unfortunately, today, in some cases, terrorism hides itself under the screen of religion and different spiritual developments. It nevertheless should not deceive us into diverting our attention from its actual meaning. There was a period when terrorism tried to obscure its real intentions by using the beautiful slogans granted to humankind by the great French Revolution. The commissars implementing “the red terror”  (Tecan, 2010), into life were executing this under the flags of communist ideology. Today, the terrorist forces, in order to achieve their  provocative political targets, are using values that are sacred for all of us and are trying to justify terror to protect the interests of certain groups. While hiding under the cover of various religions, terrorism very skillfully is trying to hide its destructive purposes. No cover, no excuse or pretense should mislead us, since one can easily disclose the real face of terrorism under all false covers. 2-1.   Islam and faith-based terrorism In his response to Huntington’s ‘clash of civilizations’ article (1993),  Edward Said (2001) replacing the term of “Clash of Ignorance” ( Said, 2001) argued that not only political leaders, but even academics can fall into the trap of simplification by basing their arguments on a perception of static, rather than dynamic relations between social and religious groups. He points out that the use of labels for groups, rather than groups themselves, are driving factors of conflict. For him, the political and academic discourse on relig ious identities that distinguishes between ‘the West’ and ‘Islam’  promotes and amplifies conflict. (Saied, 2001). The escalation of violence carried out in the name of Islam must be attributed to a combination of factors where contextual variables, individual psychologies and opportunity structures in a society are central (Hafez, 2003). Looking at entire processes rather than examining individual factors, ideas or actors appears to be more productive in capturing the shifting role of religion, band of Islam more specifically, in the current challenges of conflict and terrorism that the international community faces. 3-1.   Islamic Views of Peace and Violence Contrary to stereotypes of Islam, Islam advocates numerous nonviolent and peacebuilding values and expects Muslims to live by them. These values are supported by the Quran and the Hadith (the Prophet’s sayings) . One of these values is the duty to pursue justice (Quran 5:8). Another is the necessity of doing well by struggling against oppression and helping those who are in need. A third such value is that all humans are God’s creat ion, have sacred lives, and thus are all equal (7:11). Islam grants no special privileges based on race, ethnicity, or tribal  affiliation. Moreover, all Muslims are to respect and preserve human life (5:32). Islam also calls for the quest for peace, which is a state of physical, mental, spiritual, and social harmony (5:64). Other verses stress the importance of tolerance and kindness to other people (16:90). Looking at the life of the Prophet, one notes his use of nonviolent methods to resist those who persecuted him; the Prophet never resorted to violence or force. Peace making and negotiation are considered more effective than aggression and violent confrontation. In fact, the Arabic meaning of the word Islam itself connotes peace. Another virtue in Islam is forgiveness (23:96). Muslims are urged to live in harmony and peace with all fellow humans. 2.   The Letter (the Promise of Muhammad (S) to Christians) There are three versions of the letter which all have one same spirit of peaceful coexistence within. The first and second ones are very similar to each other almost the same but in translation a bit different. The third one which is narrated by Sunnites references which is of shorter text has also the same contain elements. In the following sections we will narrate all three. 1-2.   The Letter in Makatib al-Rasul (Letters of the Prophet) In Makatib al-Rasoul, translated as “Letters of the Prophet”, a famous well documented Shi’a book for the letters sent to Sultans, Kings and important personalities of the time, compiled by late Ayatollah Ahmadi Miyanaji (1926-2000) 3 , a letter is narrated from the holy prophet of Islam (s) to the (Nestorian) Christians of St. Catharine in the north of Egypt. This letter which verbalized by Prophet Muhammad (s) and is written down by Imam Ali (a) 4  in the month of Muharram, in the year 624 (A.D. or the 3rd year A.H.) contains important notions addressing almost all Christians showing affection and friendship. The letter is as follow: 3   Makātīb al - rasūl (  بيتا موسر ) is a book by Ayatollah Ahmadi Miyanaji consisting the letters and written documents ascribed to the Holy Prophet (s). Apparently, the idea for such a book came to the author's mind as he was amending a book by al-Fayd al-Kashani, known as Ma'adin al-hikma fi makatib al-a'imma. 4   The first infallible Imam of Shi’a Muslims and the fourth caliph in Sunnites perspective.  
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