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In light of this, it would seem to be the same heresy to assert that one religion or another is somehow against God or Allah, or that the adherents of either religion are themselves un-Godly or outside of Allah's will and design. All peoples and all thoughts that these people hold, in other worse, must be seen as part and parcel of the same eternal and all encompassing divine being that is the source and substance of all creation, and thus the supposed divisions and differences between the adherents of Judaism and of Islam must be recognized as superficial and ultimately insignificant in face of the larger theological and divine cohesion that exists between them (Firestone 2008). Coming together for interfaith dialogue and action is a natural and holy endeavor within this perspective.
This is not to say that there are not differences in the theologies and beliefs of Islam and Judaism, of course, and there are in fact certain beliefs and conceptions that are significantly and fundamentally different (Firestone 2008). These differences do not make the mutual existence and prospering of the adherents of these two religions an impossibility, however, and there have been many periods and places of peaceful coexistence based on the foundational similarities of the pursuit of knowledge and the emphasis on proper behavior that is common to both Jews and Muslims (Firestone 2008). Building on these basic and extensive similarities rather than focusing on the differences in belief and practice as barriers to interfaith dialogue will lead to more effective and united interfaith dialogues that occur from the perspective of a truly shared origin and purpose, not simply borne out of the pragmatism and practical benefit of modern cooperation and tolerance.
Islam and Christianity
Many of the roots that are common between Judaism and Islam are also shared by Islam and Christianity, though this is more true of the histories shared by these two newer religions than their theologies (Chittister et al. 2007). The same histories of Abraham and tales of Genesis are foundational elements of both Christianity and Islam, even if Christianity is ultimately more concerned with belief than behavior in some of its central tenets (Firestone 2008). There are also other fundamental similarities between certain aspects of Islam and Christianity that make the bonds between these two religions and peoples even tighter.
Both Mohammed and Jesus spent periods of time alone in the wilderness before developing and delivering their ultimate views of truth and faith to their followers (Ayoub & Omar 2007). This shows a basic similarity in key points in the narratives of the Christian and Islamic religions, where revelations were arrived at and/or cemented during periods of isolation for the central human figures of these religions, through their direct and personal relationships with God/Allah (Ayoub & Omar 2007). This has several profound implications on both the shared narratives and the shared perspectives of Christianity and Islam, which are solid grounds for building interfaith dialogue and increasing the cooperation and collaboration between these religions. These fundamental similarities can also be used in a direct manner to overcome the barriers to interfaith dialogue that exist in the modern world. Such as disputed territories and less religious and historically-based conflicts.
Just as Judaism and Islam share a common view of God/Allah is individual, eternal, and all encompassing, Islam and Christianity share the concept of a very individual and personal connection with God/Allah to be achieved through introspection, solitude, and reflection (Ayoub & Omar 2007). This level of reflection and the feelings of personal guidance that it can contribute to can help to build bridges of shared introspection and the openness of being able to truly listen to and commune with what the external and internal divine impulses are (Ayoub & Omar 2007). The common solitude of both Jesus and Mohammed can thus resonate through their followers to this day in a way that enhances their mutual growth.
The barriers to interfaith dialogue that exist between Christians and Muslims today are almost entirely political and economic in nature, and though these barriers and the forces behind them cannot be discounted they can be put aside when it comes to issues of faith and the many common goals that these religions share. Many leaders and prominent figures in Islamic countries see the United States as both a religious and a political enemy, attempting to assert control over the Middle East region and in other parts of the world for its own economic purposes, and also carrying a rather arrogant and intolerant form of Christianity. While this view is just as inaccurate and non-representative as is a view of all Muslims as extremists, it has profound effects on the ability to engage in interfaith dialogue and limits the cope of that dialogue; re-emphasizing actual theological beliefs and narrative similarities rather than focusing on current political realities and suppositions will be far more conducive to enhancing such dialogue.
Interfaith Dialogue as a Whole
All three of the world's major monotheistic religions have a great deal of their histories and their basic theologies in common. The belief in a single divine entity (despite the belief in the Trinity and the divinity of Jesus by many Christian sects, which is not wholly incompatible with certain constructions of monotheism), the all-encompassing nature of that entity, and the division of mankind into various peoples that were required to live up to the greatness they had been promised are part of Christian, Jewish, and Muslim narratives and beliefs. This common ground should provide a very stable foundation for interfaith dialogue.
This does not mean that there are not very real and very significant barriers to the development of truly productive and actionable interfaith dialogue in the current era. The fact that religion has become so prominent in the world's affairs yet again is really a reflection of the lack of compromise and cooperation between the increasingly loud and influential voices of extremists of all religious stripes, and extremism by definition provides less common ground with any other viewpoints. By turning back to the true fundamentals of their religions, however, leaders and adherents in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam can find that a great deal of their faith teaches the unity and respect for all of God/Allah's creations, including all mankind. This does not necessarily mean that all viewpoints and beliefs have to be seen as equally valid and equally correct, but that all human beings are being guided by the same essential force or hand and thus that whatever they think must be correct for them at the current time.
In a world that is being drawn increasingly closer together whether it likes it or not, learning to come purposefully closer together in a more harmonious and mutually beneficial way is certainly a worthwhile endeavor. By examining the basic philosophies of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam it can be seen that the tenets of these religions can be much better fulfilled through such a coming together than through increased animosity and aggression. It is hoped that the above outline of interfaith similarities…[continue]
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