Interfaith dialogue as a form of witnessing and Dawah

Dr Musharraf Hussain, OBE

Chief Executive of Karima Inistitute



Two fundamental beliefs characterise a Muslim, firstly the belief in the transcendent and eternal creator. Secondly the belief that man is a very special creation who has been placed on earth with a special purpose; namely the fulfilment of the divine will. This is illustrated by the Quranic term Khalifatullah (representative of God) and the Biblical term “steward of God”. The only way to fulfill the Divine will is by worshiping the Lord and following the moral law. This devotion and strong character not only becomes the destination but a destiny. The result of this destiny is the salvation in the hereafter.

This then constitutes the core and the essence of Islam. Other Abrahamic faiths will also find resonance in these core beliefs. A true Muslim who loves God and the Messenger (peace be upon him) and who knows salvation can only be achieved through devotion and good work, he is truly God conscious. The God bound and God conscious soul feels a gentle urge to take the faith to others. However, there is no sense of forcing others to accept it or even to listen to him or her! No power and exertion of force is permissible. It is a duty to be fulfilled with love and kindness. The spirit of this witnessing is one of sharing, learning from others and being a pilgrim with fellow believers. This “invitation” and “giving good news” is to be taken with the spirit of meeting fellow humans both Muslims and non-Muslims. It is for building trust and mutual understanding and to remove stereotypes. This spirit of witnessing builds trust and brings people together to work for the common good.

One important requirement of witnessing is having self-esteem and self-confidence, not arrogance. One is proud of his faith and believes he ought to share its fruits with others. This dialogue and witnessing can take three distinct forms:

1. Ordinary human encounter where believers encounter each other in a variety of places, discussing matters of social concern and sharing common purpose.

2. Discursive: This is the intellectual and scholarly meetings of the religious experts and scholars.

3. Interior: Recognising the spiritual and the inner dimension of religion.

What is this witnessing and dialogue?

Witnessing is explained in the Quran by several terms. For example:

1) Dawah, invitation; “And invite to the way of your Lord with wisdom and beautiful admonition and reason with them in a beautiful manner” (An Nahl: 124).

2) Tabligh or delivering the message.

3) Tabsheer or giving good news, cheering others up.

4) Inzar or warning against wrong actions and their consequences

5) Tazkeer or reminder; man is forgetful he needs to be reminded of his covenant with the Lord.

From these commandments it appears as an obligation on a Muslim to be constantly witnessing and being in dialogue with other people whether believers or non-believers. All these Divine commandments are general, they make no distinction between a Muslim and a non-Muslim. Therefore dawah and Tabligh are for all Muslims and non-Muslims alike. However the content and style of the delivery will be different for each one. The Quran also teaches us how this witnessing must not be coercive; “there is no compulsion in religion since truth has been made distinctly clear from falsehood” (Al Baqarah: 256).

Witnessing and inviting people to Islam is rationally necessary, why? The devout believer will always be anxious to help others. This sense of responsibility exerts enormous pressure on him to share his vision with all those around him or her.

Note: The views expressed are those of the author and may not necessarily reflect that of ImamsOnline.



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