... the science of peace




The Dialogue with the other: No taboos in dialogue. *

Since Islam calls for self -dialogue on the bases that reason is the groundwork of faith, it is clearly understood that it is a call for thinking loudly and verbally with the other who is in the opposed thoughts and direction as well; thus, This call characterizes the prophet’s mission, who aims at making both individual and social discussions with people, so that the latter could be opened to many serious and crucial issues that are concerned with religion and existence as well. But what happened was that the people didn’t face the thought with thought and the logic with its logic; on the contrary, they didn’t only become sarcastic and oppressors to any new thought, but they also preferred to clutch to their previous and stagnant ideas rejecting at the same time the idea of relating “prophecy” to a human being. On the other hand, ever since the beginning of religion and throughout our reading of the stories of prophets in the Quran, we notice that the concept of debates or discussions is controversial; it is not something new; in fact, there were the apostles who were in continuous polemical issues with the mob, and the demagogues.

In Islam, there are neither restrictions nor sanctifications for the concept of discussion; everything is debatable even the topics that are concerned with the existence of God and the personality of the prophet. We all know that the Quran mentions all the expressions, which the Prophet was accused with. The Quran did not only mention them, but it also dealt seriously and subjectively with them. All the inquiries such as: is the Prophet sane or insane, a magician or a prophet, faithful or liar, is his book human or divine, are raised in the Book {We do know that they say: A mortal taught him}(The Bee: 103).

{And if they are asked: What has your lord revealed? They say: Old fictitious tales!}(The Bee :24). Probably the greatest issue, which the Quran tried to face, is the accusation of the Prophet as an insane. Observe how The Quran argued with this issue: {Say unto them, O Muhammad: I exhort you unto one thing only: that ye awake for Allah’s sake, by twos and singly, and then reflect: There is no madness in your comrade. He is naught else than a warner unto you in face of a terrific doom}. (Saba’a:46).

In this Ayah, Allah (S.W.T) orders the people to be away from that chaotic atmosphere; He asks them to contemplate and think deeply within themselves, telling them that the collective mind, if they have a collective mind, hinders the person from having an independent and purified thought. Allah (S.W.T) advises them to separate into two people or one and then if they think well about the Prophet’s words, thoughts, attitudes, and behavior, they will realize that their prophet is not mad.

As the Quran paves the way to dialogues starting with the Prophet, Muhammad, this confirms that there are no taboos in any kind of dialogue, in any topics related to faith and dogma, and any topics related to politics, social life, and religion as well. For instance, it facilitates the way to discussion through the inquiries raised about the day of resurrection, as it appears in the following Ayahs in Yasine Surah: {And he has coined for us a similitude, and has forgotten the fact of his creation, saying: Who will revive these bones when they have rotted away? Say: He will revive them who produced them at the first, for He is knower of every creation} (77-78).

Furthermore, God allows the dialogue with the devil and when He allowed the angels to ask him about the creation of Adam. The Cow Surah, Ayah 30, reveals this:{ Lo! I am about to place a viceroy in the earth, they said: will You place there in one who will do harm there in and will shed blood, while we, we hymn Thy praise and sanctify Thee?}.

What was, glory to Him, His answer: was it scolding and rebuking? God says: {Surely I know that which you know not,} Accordingly, if Allah, the creator, talked to the devil, to the prophets, to the angels, and to all people can we disdain and look down upon any kind of discourse?

 Indeed, we should never ever feel aloof towards any kind of talk or any type of person; we should be humble and try to understand others so that others could understand us. We assert that people have the right to knowledge, and knowledge has its conditions, which might be variable. So it is the responsibility of those who possess both knowledge and its elements to know how to explain and interpret things to people so as to help them remove all their doubts and reach the real truth.

For this reason, we notice that the Quran threatens all those who know things and attempt at hiding what they know: {those who hide the proofs and the guidance which we revealed, after we had made it clear in the Scripture: Such are accursed of Allah and accursed of those who have the power to curse} (The Cow: 159).

The Basis of dialogue: The freedom of thought and the courtesies of dialogue.

If Islam encourages dialogue through scientific and objective means to reach the truth, then it should be understood that the freedom of the thinker should not be hindered nor should we deform his image and accuse him of atheism and disbelief. For instance, Imam Jaa’far As-Sadiq (a.s) applied the principles of dialogue throughout his career. He used to sit at Al-Qaa’ba in “Masjed Al-Haram” ( in Mecca) and debate with the disbelievers who used to be very sarcastic and aggressive to religion .He used to deal with philosophical and polemical issues when debating with thinkers such as Ibn Al-Moukafaa’ and Ibn Al Wajaa. He was characterized by his quietness and politeness before their aggressiveness and irony, simply because he possessed the basis of dialogue and he knew that it was his duty to clarify things even to the atheists. Therefore, since the dialogue is based on the freedom of thought, the person who is not intellectually free will surely fail in approaching the right while presenting his thoughts and opinions. Accordingly, Islam doesn’t only allow but also accepts all kinds of dialogues with all types of people provided that the person, who is debating, should be ready to any issue that might be raised. The following two Quranic verses show this: {Lo! Ye are those who argue about that where of ye have some: Why then argue ye concerning that whereof ye have no knowledge?} (3:66).

{And among mankind is he who disputes concerning Allah without knowledge of guidance or a Scripture giving light.} (22: 8).

What the Quran aims at revealing is the truth of those polemists whose inner conceit and arrogance blind them from admitting the fact of their lacking the power to convince, a fact which resulted from their incompetence. Therefore, we notice that their argument turns out to be hollow and irritable. And if we attempt at understanding the Islamic texts, we notice that Islam focuses on the point that the issue we raise should pour in the channel of righteousness; he who engages in a dialogue must be honest in keeping himself within the boundaries of truth. In other words, Islam doesn’t allow the “fruitless polemic”, a dialogue that turns out to be just a show for presenting or exposing the rhetoric speakers: {We only send the Messengers to give glad tidings and to give warnings: But the unbelievers dispute with vain argument in order there with to weaken the truth, and they real My signs and warnings as a jest.} (The cave, 56), and in His description to the Jewish methods in dialogue, God says: {And Lo! There is a party of them who distort the Scripture with their tongues that ye may think that what they say is from the Scripture, when it is not from the Scripture. And they say: It is from Allah, when it is not from Allah, and they speak lies concerning Allah knowingly}. As a matter of fact, such people are not searching for the truth and they look for the means that help them in defeating the other party without any serious concern to whether they are right or wrong.

Thus, their argument turns out to be a battlefield waiting for the winner; it won’t be an argumentative battle for reaching the truth anymore. Furthermore, some believe that although the Holy Book rejects such means of argument, it at the same time, allows them for the Islamic benefits... Indeed, this saying is not only rejected but it is also not permissible. If we observe the previous Ayah, we can clearly notice how the Quran forbids any argument that misleads and resorts to false means. So, no matter what kind of conflict there might be, resorting to any unjust means to confirm just means is prohibited, otherwise we are indirectly admitting the legal and lawful existence of injustice. Imam As-Sadiq (a.s). for instance advises his student not to mix the true with the false, the right with the wrong, and added that little of righteousness may satisfy in the encounter or conflict against the lot of falsehood.

In conclusion, Islam strongly rejects all the dirty polemic means either in its assertion of the right or in attempts to weaken the polemist.

The methods of Dialogue:

After a thorough reading to the Quranic verses, we observe the representation of two different styles for a thoughtful dialogue and for various conflicts as well:

A- The cruel style, which depends on the basis of challenging the other opponent and accordingly it generates hatred, enmity and misunderstanding among the polemists. Thus, this style keeps away all means of communication and understanding to what might be common among the parties.

B- The tractable or the flexible style:

It is a style that depends on the basis of love and flexibility in arguing or dealing with the other, starting from the Islamic view which calls for kindness upon dealing with any person or with any issue. This view considers only the issue of openness and receptiveness to the other so that we could approach him from a righteous point view and convince him with ours. Furthermore, to achieve our aims, we should resort to all kinds of soft expressions, and flexible means which pave the way to approaching the right. In fact, Islam focuses on this style for two main purposes:

1-      Reaching the proper knowledge.

2-      Approaching the right stance.

As is revealed in the following Ayah, Islam adopts and calls this style by the expression: that is the best preaching. And who is better in speech than him who prays unto his lord does right, and says: Lo! I am of those who surrender (unto Him); the good deed and the evil deed are not alike.

{Repel the evil deed with one, which is better, then lo! He between whom and thee there was enmity (will become) as though he was a bosom friend. But none is granted it save those who are steadfast and none is granted it save the owner of great happiness.}(Fusilat: 33-35).

Here, the “good deed” means the flexible style, and the “evil deed” means the cruel style. As a matter of fact, the Quran didn’t only distinguish between the two styles, but it also repelled the cruel one and adopted the peaceful one. Moreover, the Holy Quran attempts at showing the positive results of the peaceful style; one of its advantages is that it helps in converting the infidels into believers, and the enemies into friends. However, the Quran doesn’t forget to remind us of keeping our patience, awareness, solid personality and openness as the most important qualities in our argumentative and challenging battlefield: these verses confirm the above mentioned ideas: {call unto the way of thy Lord with wisdom and fair exhortation, and reason with them in the better way.} (The Bee: 125).

{And argue not with the people of the Scripture unless it be in (a way) that is better, save with such of them as do wrong; and say: We believe in that which hath been revealed unto us and revealed unto you; our God and your God is one, and unto Him we surrender} (The Spider: 46).

The first Ayah calls for a peaceful dialogue. This requires the choice of the best styles in convincing the opponent, whether in words the polemist uses, or in the expressions he resorts to preaching. Needless to say that the preacher should be skillful in the polemist style he follows. As to the second Ayah, it represents a call for conversing points the heavenly religions meet on. This reveals that Islam is the religion that accepts and acknowledges the existence of the One God, all the heavenly messages, and the heavenly messengers as well, a fact that gives Islam the greatest value.

* By  The Religious Authority Sayyed Muhammad Hussein Fadlullah   :http://www.bayynat.org

* Copy Rights; http://www.islamology.com


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