Christianity Islam

The Com­mu­ni­ca­tor : The Dia­logue at Its Best

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M. Tariq Quraishi

Dur­ing his years at McGill, Dr. Ismail al-Faruqis tal­ent as a dis­putant was rec­og­nized by his peers. His abil­i­ty to pur­sue the oppo­nen­t’s argu­ment to its log­i­cal con­clu­sion was aug­ment­ed by his mas­tery of the rhetoric. The way he con­duct­ed him­self dur­ing his encoun­ters with peo­ple of oth­er faiths can be seen in the fol­low­ing excerpt from his dia­logue with Bish­op Ken­neth Cragg and Father Michael Fitzger­ald at Chem­besy on June 261976.

Fitzger­ald : I would like to ask for clar­i­fi­ca­tion of Dr. al-Faruqi’s state­ment that Islam­ic da’wah is ecu­meni­cal par excel­lence, by virtue of its com­pre­hen­sive recog­ni­tion of all the reli­gions as de jure. In fact, what is meant by all reli­gions ? Hav­ing recourse to Apol­lo and oth­er gods and god­dess­es is a kind of reli­gion, but would Islam rec­og­nize this as well as all oth­er reli­gions as de jure ?

al-Faruqi : Islam rec­og­nizes all reli­gions as de jure, and then it invites the adher­ents of these re ligions to begin the task of crit­i­cism. No reli­gion is ruled out by the Mus­lim a pri­ori. In oth­er words, if I meet some­one who has nev­er heard of Islam and who wor­ships, for exam­ple, an X” or Y”, what­ev­er that may be, I as a Mus­lim am not free to call him a pagan, or to regard him as con­demned by God ; rather, I must talk with him in order to dis­cov­er what his reli­gion is, in the belief that God must in His mer­cy have sent a prophet to him, for the Qur?an says : ?And there is no peo­ple unto whom God has not sent a prophet ? (Q. 35:24)

Believ­ing then that God in His mer­cy must have told him some­thing, I meet with him with a view to being instruct­ed about his faith, and then I in vite him to research his own tra­di­tion in order to dis­cov­er the essen­tial mes­sage that God has giv­en him. And if, in rela­tion to that cen­tral revealed core, the rest of the beliefs and prac­tices of that reli­gion as devel­oped through his­to­ry turn out to be a pack of lies, that would be an empir­i­cal dis­cov­ery for me. But for the Mus­lim this must nev­er be an a pri­ori deci­sion which con­demns a man because he does­n’t believe in my God my way”.

How­ev­er, if I dis­cov­er that reli­gion has been cor­rupt­ed and fal­si­fied beyond recog­ni­tion, then I have a duty to tell him about the Qur’an, God’s final rev­e­la­tion, to present it to him as ratio­nal truth, and invite his con­sid­er­a­tion. If he says, I don’t want to lis­ten”, then either he is malev­o­lent or a fool.

Cragg : What you are say­ing, then, is that God has sent prophets every­where, but ex hypoth­e­si these prophets must be con­sis­tent with Islam.

al-Faruqi : Yes, Islam as reli­gio nat­u­ralis, din al fitrah.

Cragg : But that which in Bud­dhism is anti­thet­i­cal to Islam and to ratio­nal­ism is not sim­ply chaff mixed with wheat, if I may put it that way ; it is the very wheat of Bud­dhism. By your analy­sis here it must then have been a false prophe­cy which brought the Bud­dhist to that belief.

al-Faruqi : I won’t say a false prophe­cy. I would say that a true rev­e­la­tion through an authen­tic prophet has been thor­ough­ly falsified.

Fitzger­ald : But by which his­tor­i­cal cri­te­ria is the true” prophet to be iden­ti­fied ? And where is the true” prophe­cy of which you speak with­in Buddhism ?

al-Faruqi : I don?t know, but it can be researched ; the fact that I assume it to be there at the ori­gin is at least a good step in the direc­tion of ecu­meni­cal tolerance.

Cragg : It seems rather an escape hatch of a the­o­ry, because if a prophet is real­ly a prophet then his mes­sage becomes known, it is bal­agh, com­mu­ni­ca­tion ; and if it has not sur­vived his­tor­i­cal­ly it must be mythical.

al-Faruqi : No. At one time it was known. But then lat­er on it became fal­si­fied as the Hebrew mes­sage became fal­si­fied, and the Chris­t­ian mes­sage was fal­si­fied.Islam­ic Da’wah : Its Nature and Demands. Amer­i­can Trust Pub­li­ca­tions, Indi­anapo­lis, 1986. pp. 11 – 12.Endmark


  1. The mes­sage of Jesus has been retained in the same man­ner as the Qur’an has been retained. It is stud­ied in its orig­i­nal lan­guage, and great care has been tak­en to ensure its accu­ra­cy through­out the ages. If the only ver­sion avail­able nowa­days was the Eng­lish, then I think there would be grounds to say the mes­sage has been taint­ed. But since it is wide­ly stud­ied in the orig­i­nal Greek, I think there are no caus­es for wor­ry about Christ’s mes­sage being lost.

  2. I think there is no con­spir­a­cy” involved with the state­ment that the mes­sage preached by, say Jesus, got cor­rupt­ed over the pas­sage of time. This is a his­tor­i­cal fact, some­thing read­i­ly acknowl­edged by all schol­ars with the excep­tion of the most hard­core con­ser­v­a­tive Chris­tians. Schol­ars only dis­agree over the degree of changes/​corruption. For a long time schol­ars have been try­ing to unearth the his­tor­i­cal Jesus, pre­cise­ly because it is real­ized that over the pas­sage of time the sto­ry of Jesus evolved into some­thing else.

    Sim­i­lar­ly, that the writ­ings with­in the Jew­ish Bible under­went evo­lu­tion and were com­posed from dif­fer­ent sources by unknown authors at dif­fer­ent times, long after the events alleged with­in them, is also pret­ty much acknowl­edged by all schol­ars. Cer­tain­ly, I believe that the basic mes­sage of monoth­iesm is still pre­served in the Jew­ish and even the Chris­t­ian writ­ings, yet the fact that cer­tain changes have tak­en place over the pas­sage of time can­not be denied.

    What about Bud­hism etc ? Do we have the mes­sage of Bud­ha pure unadul­ter­at­ed ? I doubt many schol­ars would answer in the affirmative.

  3. I think the oth­er guy raised alot of good points and that al-Faruqi just made stuff up to hope­ful­ly make the log­i­cal prob­lem that the oth­er guy raised go away. It got cor­rupt­ed. Gee, it seems like God let every­thing get cor­rupt­ed. That’s always the iron clad excuse that they pull of of their pock­et. There is a gap in the log­ic, so a con­sopira­cy the­o­ry is invent­ed to fill the gap. And the sur­pris­ing part, is that peo­ple think al-Faruqi gave a good answer. I guess they have a cewr­tain lik­ing or pre­dis­pos­tion to con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries. That’s about all I can think. Very odd indeed.

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