Interfaith Dialogue

Dr Anindita N. Balslev in conversation with His Holiness Dalai Lama, Maulana Wahiduddin Khan, Dr Karan Singh and Reverend Mpho Tutu
The Four Cliusters of Questions
Anindita N. Balslev

Maulana Wahiduddin Khan I Quarterly Salaam, New Delhi, India I Vol 34, October 2013, No 4 I Page 142-149

Islam and Christianity have a common origin, that is, the Semitic tradition. Both are Semitic religions. Although the advent of Christianity was about six hundred years before that of Islam, but there are great similarities between the two religions. There is common ground between Islam and Christianity. 

I have been asked to give my opinion about ‘inter-dependence in religion’. According to my experience, the word ‘inter-dependence’ is a confusing word as it leads to ambiguity. It is not very clear as when you say ‘inter-dependence’, it means that you are pre-supposing that each religion is true. As per my study, you have to study every religion objectively in your search for truth. One should not live in bias. The better way is not to pre-suppose and be biased and make an objective inter-study of all religions to find truth.

At a seminar on ‘Religion and Humanitarianism’ held under the auspices of the Zakir Husain Institute of Islamic Studies, at the Jamia Millia Islamia, in New Delhi in 1993, one of the speakers, Dr Bishambhar Nath Pandey, recalled how a Hindu procession, led by Swami Satya Dev through Bala Ghat in the Indian state of Madhya Pradeh in 1926, had been planned to provoke Muslims into rioting. The procession with beating drums and slogan shouting, was deliberately organized on a Friday.

Religious differences have always existed between people. That is why interreligious dialogue has been found in one form or the other since ancient times. Fourteen hundred years ago the Prophet of Islam held in Madinah a three-religion conference—in modern terminology, a trialogue—to exchange views on religious issues.

Dialogue, or peaceful negotiation, is the path prescribed by Islam. Islam is based on the principle of dawah, which is another name for peaceful negotiation. Violence is totally forbidden in Islam. There is only one exception to this ban and that is when it is engaged in self-defense. This can take place only at the time of external invasion, and such action is the prerogative of an established government. Non-governmental organizations have no right to wage a war in the name of justice, or even in self-defense.

We are living in an age of information – the age of the knowledge explosion. Today, everyone wants to know more and more about everything, including religion. The result is that, today, on the subject of religion, people are far better informed than ever before.

There is no denying the fact that cultural conflict does exist in reality. However, this is a blessing in disguise. Conflict between different cultures has always existed in human history. The only thing new about this phenomena in our times is that the modern means of communication have greatly accelerated the pace of this process.