The plurality of different religions is undoubtedly one of the most important issues that concern people who are interested in religious studies today. Some of the questions they may ask include:
- Which religion is right?
- What do they have in common?
- How should the followers of different faiths behave when faced with the followers of other religions?
- Will all religions lead to eternal salvation?
In this article, we will see how Islam regards other religions and more specifically how it deals with the questions above.
According to the Islamic viewpoint, all Divine religions have been sent to connect human beings to their Gracious Creator, the only one God. Quran says:
“O People of the Book! Come to a common word between us and you: that we will worship no one but Allah, that we will not ascribe any partner to Him, and that some of us will not take some others as lords besides Allah…” (3:64)
As per this verse, Islam holds that all the other Divine religions root in Monotheism. The idea of God is actually so clear in these monotheistic faiths that some religious studies scholars regard it as an essential requirement for them to be included in the category of religions; in other words, those faiths that have no belief in God or practices of worship cannot be called religion at all.
Moreover, though the followers of some other faiths may worship different gods, all the Abrahamic religions assert the unity of God, and that He is the only Creator. This has been mentioned in the holy Quran many times:
“We did not send any apostle before you but that We revealed to him that ‘There is no god except Me; so worship Me.’” (21:25)
The belief in One God is somehow evident in the other religions as well; lots of them admit the fact that they feel there is some being which created the world and life and influences it to some extent. Quran says:
“If you ask them, ‘Who created the heavens and the earth, and who has disposed the sun and the moon?’ They will surely say, ‘Allah.’” (29:61)
This has also been asserted in the verses of Bible and Torah:
“I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. "You shall have no other gods before Me. "You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth.…” (Exodus 20:3) .
Contrary to popular belief, the religion of Islam does not deny the truth of the previous monotheistic religions, rather the religion of God was perfected in Islam through the revelation that was sent to the last messenger of God, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH):
“We have sent down to you the Book with the truth, confirming what was before it of the Book and as a guardian over it…” (5:48)
In fact, Islam has been revealed to purify the previous faiths from distortions and to complete their teachings:
“Today I have perfected your religion for you, and I have completed My blessing upon you, and I have approved Islam as your religion…” (5:3)
The advent of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) with his true religion was also predicted in the Bible:
“When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all truth. For He will not speak on His own, but He will speak what He hears, and He will declare to you what is to come” (John, 16:13) .
Also, Islamic teachings and the holy Quran always emphasize the significance of respecting the freedom and other rights of the followers of the previous religions; Muslims, accordingly, hold the followers of those religions in high regard:
“Do not argue with the People of the Book [the followers of the previous monotheistic faiths] except in a manner which is best, except such of them as are wrongdoers, and say, ‘We believe in what has been sent down to us and in what has been sent down to you; our God and your God is one [and the same], and to Him do we submit.’” (29:46)
In Islam “There is no compulsion in religion” (2:256), and even if one chooses to follow another monotheistic faith other than Islam, he/she has every right to live in peace among Muslims as an honored citizen with all rights and privileges .
“So set your heart as a person of pure faith on this religion, the original nature endowed by Allah according to which He originated mankind…” (30:30)
Muslims believe that the innate religion is something both Muslims and non-Muslims possess by birth; this original religion is what Muslims define as Islam. They also hold that the differences between various religions are due to particular requirements and potentials of societies during the various periods of prophecy:
“We did not send any apostle except with the language of his people so that he might make [Our messages] clear to them.” (14:4)
Consequently, the calls of the prophets were alike since all their invitations originated from a single source and followed a unified line of faith with a single aim, i.e., submission to the Lord of the worlds, which is the real meaning of Islam:
“Indeed, with Allah religion is Islam” (3:19)
In fact, Islam, i.e., submission to Allah is the cornerstone of all religions.
So, Muslims testify to the truth of all God’s Messengers and that they have all agreed with each other, each of them testifying to the truth of the words of the preceding Prophets (AS) and giving the tidings of the Divine appointment of the next Messenger:
“Say, ‘We have faith in Allah and what has been sent down to us, and what was sent down to Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob and the Tribes, and that which Moses and Jesus were given, and that which the prophets were given by their Lord; we make no distinction between any of them and to Him do we submit’” (2:136).
Indeed, with Allah religion is Islam 
Islam is a religion for all human beings of all time:
“We did not send you [Muhammad] but as a mercy to all the nations” (21:107)
This verse clearly indicates the universality of the message brought by Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP).
Although the holy Quran regards belief in the prophets a major basis of a Muslim’s ideology, it maintains that what was revealed to the last Prophet, Muhammad (PBUH&HP), was the most advanced program and the perfect law of the divine religion:
“It is He who has sent His Apostle with guidance and the true religion that He may make it prevail over all religions though the polytheists should be averse” (61:9).
Accordingly, it will not be accepted by Allah to remain on the previous incomplete paths after the revelation of the Holy Quran:
“Should anyone follow a religion other than Islam, it shall never be accepted from him, and he will be among the losers in the Hereafter” (3:85).
The verse above does not, however, mean that the followers of other faiths will be all losers. Quite the opposite! There are believers who have not had a chance to reach the completed and updated truth, or those who are exposed to intense propaganda against Islam and think it is impossible that such a religion (distorted image of Islam) might be the right way to salvation, or even those Christians, Jews or any other believers who have searched enough and have been convinced, based on reasons, that their beliefs are right (even if their reasons seem invalid and wrong in the eyes of Muslims); what do you think Quran says about them?
“Indeed, the faithful, the Jews, the Christians and the Sabaeans—those of them who have faith in Allah and the Last Day and act righteously—they shall have their reward from their Lord, and they will have no fear, nor will they grieve” (2:62).
Finally, going through the Quranic verses about religions and their messages, we may conclude that Islam encompasses all the other divine revelations; the ones that have been distorted throughout history, or simply do not sufficiently meet people’s needs any longer; Islam is, in fact, the final, authentic, complete, and updated message of God that draws a perfect picture of man and the base for his reformation that will ultimately lead to his salvation.
“Muhammad is not the father of any man among you, but he is the Apostle of Allah and the Seal of the Prophets, and Allah has knowledge of all things” (33:40).
Based on some Islamic narrations, God has sent as many as 124000 prophets to humankind throughout history in different lands; the first of whom was Prophet Adam (AS), and the last divine prophet was Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).
What do you think was the primary purpose for which the prophets were raised? God says in the Holy Quran:
“O Prophet! Indeed, We have sent you as a witness, as a bearer of good news and as a warner. and as a summoner to Allah by His permission, and as a radiant lamp” (33:45-46)
“Certainly We sent Our apostles with manifest proofs, and We sent down with them the Book and the Balance, so that mankind may maintain justice;” (57:25)
According to the verses above and many other verses in the Quran [i], prophets were all sent to awaken the inner prophet within each person (i.e. people’s reason), guide them to the right path and invite them to monotheism (worshipping the only One God), which would ultimately lead to their well-being and salvation here in this world and also the hereafter. In fact, no one can deny the effective role prophets had in different aspects of people’s lives in history, as Will Durant puts:
“There is no significant example in history, before our time, of a society successfully maintaining moral life without the aid of religion. France, the United States, and some other nations have divorced their governments from all churches, but they have had the help of religion in keeping social order” .
Now you might wonder, “if God is One and all the prophets were sent to bring us closer to Him, then why would He send different religions?”
From the Quranic point of view there is No such thing as different religions, but rather “all Prophets irrespective of the fact whether they had or did not have an independent code of law, had the same mission and preached the same message” . Quran says:
“Indeed, with Allah religion is Islam, and those who were given the Book did not differ except after knowledge had come to them…” (3:19)
So, why would God send as many as 124000 prophets?
The answer is God’s message had to be renewed and developed according to the requirements of the time, the environment and also the people to whom God’s prophets were sent. Based on the stage of human development in each time and environment, a preaching or law-giving prophet [ii] would come to restore the divine message which had previously been changed, destroyed or distorted by people.
As stated above, people’s intellectual immaturity was the main reason why God renewed his message and developed it over time. However, by the advent of Islam and revelation of the holy Quran, humanity had passed the period of its childhood and had become mature enough to preserve its intellectual heritage, i.e., the religion of God. One thing that proves human’s maturity at the time of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) is that literacy had become more common among people.
That is why the Prophet’s (PBUH&HP) main miracle is not of anything physical, material and time-dependent, instead, it is a book which is made of words understandable for people of all times. In other words, God, then, guides people and shows them His signs using words (Quran) not by events like parting the sea (led by prophet Moses) or healing the blind or the sick (led by prophet Jesus). God’s message, accordingly, was revived through the revelation of the holy Quran and hence, Muhammad (PBUH&HP) was the last prophet of God.
It is noteworthy that the majority of divine prophets were the preaching ones who would interpret and spread the teachings of the law-giving prophets. But now that God has provided all requirements for humans to achieve their individual and social perfection giving them His book of guidance and wisdom to think, and people have reached a higher intellectual stage and become mature enough to interpret God’s message [iii], there won’t be a need for a new prophet.
At this age of knowledge, the religious scholars are capable of applying the general principles of Islam to the requirements of the time and place and deducing the rules of religious laws :
“The scholars are the inheritor of prophets” Imam Sadiq .
It is clear from what has been discussed above that the intellectual maturity of human has played an essential role in the finality of prophethood in several ways:
It has enabled man to receive his evolutionary program all at once and not by stages,
It has enabled him to keep the celestial Word of God (Quran) unaltered,
It has enabled him to interpret the revealed word of Allah, preach and propagate the teachings of religion and apply the religious principles to all the changing circumstances .
The last mentioned task is now performed by religious experts (Mujtahid) and is named Ijtihad meaning striving and making an effort to deduce the divine laws of Islam from the reliable sources and proofs.
The finality of prophethood does not mean that humanity is now able to dispense with religion. It is the need for prophets and the revelation of God that has ceased to exist, which is only because God’s message has been immune to any sort of alteration or distortion since the advent of Islam:
“Indeed We have sent down the Reminder, and indeed We will preserve it” (15:9)
This message is indestructible, and all people of next generations can have a recurring experience when dealing with it, irrespective of time.
However, God has never left the earth devoid of His guidance, and Imams as the successors of the Holy Prophet (PBUH&HP) have played the main part in maintaining humans’ spiritual connection with God from then on.
[i] “Certainly We raised an apostle in every nation [to preach:] ‘Worship Allah, and shun fake deities.’ Among them were some whom Allah guided, and among them were some who deserved to be in error. So travel over the land and observe how was the fate of the deniers” (16:36). Also see: (7:59, 7:65, 7:85 and 7:73)
[ii] The messengers of God where either law-giving, who would be sent with a noble message and guidance and whose number did not exceed the fingers of one hand, or preaching who would spread and propagate the teachings of the law-giving ones.
[iii] "We ought to present you with the principles and you ought to arrive at specific conclusions from them." Imam Sadiq (AS) 
[iv] the holy Quran, the tradition of the holy prophet and 12 infallible Imams (Sunnah), consensus (Ijma`), and reason (`Aql)
- Mand and Universe
- Wasail al-Shia, Bab 6, Hadith 51, 52
- al-Kafi, vol. 1, p. 32, Hadith 2
One of the issues emphasized in Islam, and the Quran is contemplation and reflection. Human beings are created to worship Allah almighty, yet praising Him is not restricted to religious rituals and practices. According to Imam Hasan Al-Askari (AS), worship is contemplating on Allah Almighty's affairs . It means being mindful of the signs of Allah Almighty, pondering about them, and realizing how powerful He is. Some of these signs are mentioned in the Quran (2:164), of which some have been discovered as scientific facts many centuries after the revelation of the Quran. Here, we review some of these facts.
In Surah Saffat, it is stated that: "Indeed We have adorned the lowest heaven with the finery of the stars." (37:6). The lowest heaven means the nearest sky that we observe from the earth. The Quran introduced this fact, while in that era, the accepted hypothesis was that the fixed stars existed only in the highest sky (the 8th sky, according to Claudius Ptolemy's hypothesis). Nowadays, it is also known that as light passes through pockets of the earth's atmosphere, it is affected by winds in the atmosphere and by areas with different temperatures and densities. It is, therefore, diffracted (bounced around), causing a quick apparent dimming and brightening when looking from the ground. This phenomenon perfectly fits the term "lower heaven," while out of earth's atmosphere, it doesn't happen.
In Surah Waqi'ah, it is said that: "So I swear by the places where the stars set! And indeed, it is a great oath, should you know." (56:75-76).
Today, we know that each star holds a proper position in the sky, and its path and orbit depends on gravity. The velocity of each is also specific. Although exact calculation about the stars too far away is not possible, the measurements done for the stars of the Milky Way Galaxy confirms these facts.
In 1512 AD, the astronomer Nicholas Copernicus put forth the theory that the sun is at rest near the center of the universe and that the earth, spinning on its axis once daily, revolves annually around the Sun . This belief that the sun is motionless was not acknowledged by astronomers until the 20th century. That's while in the Quran, it is mentioned that: "And the sun runs on to its place of rest. That is the ordaining of the All-mighty, the All-knowing." (36:38).
This Quranic account of the sun's motion is consistent with modern Astronomy because the mentioned Copernicus's theory is not valid anymore. Instead, it has been well-established that the sun is not stationary, but is moving in its orbit around the center of Milky Way Galaxy.
Today, it is known that the gravitational forces hold the celestial bodies apart from each other, hence, preventing their collision . This fact was explicitly stated in the Quran: "It is Allah who raised the heavens without any pillars that you see" (13:2), and: "He created the heavens without any pillars that you may see" (31:10). According to these verses, there exist invisible supports that raise the heavens. These supports are now referred to as the gravitational and other unseen forces in the universe .
Some of the astronomical facts discussed in the Quran and were discovered later on by scientists were described above. There remain still other points presented in the second part of this topic. Follow us to find out more.
- Muhaddith Nuri, "Mustadrak al-Wasa'il," vol. 11, p. 183.