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.
Now that we have gone through the axiom of monotheism and accepted it as a logical and rational principle, we should note that this belief is much more complicated than it seems. In order to reach a firm belief in the existence of God and His Oneness, one has to follow each of its stages.
These degrees include “unity of the essence of Allah”, “unity of the attributes of Allah”, “unity in what Allah does” and “unity in worship”. The first three of these belong to the realm of theoretical monotheism, while the last one is among practical monotheism. Here we will have a brief look at each of these steps.
This stage of monotheism is defined as believing that God is One and Unique in His essence. The very first thing that one assumes regarding Allah is that of His Self-dependence; He is a being who is not dependent on any other beings in any way, while everything depends on Him and seeks His help.
Secondly, one has to believe in His Creatorship; that He is the creator and the ultimate source of all the existing things, all things are from Him, and He is not from anything. Accordingly, He is called the First Cause. The unity of essence, thus, means that this being is not multiplicable, and there is nothing like it. Since the self-existing truth is one, then this world has only one source and one end; it has neither originated from various sources nor will return to various ones, the whole universe has one center, one pole, and orbit.
It is defined as the recognition that the essence and the attributes of Allah are identical and that His various attributes are not separate from each other. While the Unity, in essence, refers to God’s Oneness, denying the existence of any peer or like for Him, the Unity in attributes means the negation of any kind of multiplicity or plurality within His essence.
All the attributes implying perfection and beauty belong to Him, and they are not at all separate from Him. The separation of the essence from the attributes and their separation from each other are the characteristics of a limited being, while God is infinite and such characteristics cannot be ascribed to Him. Accordingly, Allah has attributes which are unlimited – like His own self – and identical with His essence.
The Unity of His work is to recognize that the world with all its systems is the work of Allah alone and has originated from His will only. Nothing in this world has occurred on its account and independent from God; every agent, cause or power owes its existence and effect to Him.
As He has no partner in His essence, He has no peer in what He does either. While human beings, as one of these agents and causes, have control over their own actions and can influence their destiny, they are not at all out of God’s will and supervision; otherwise, we should consider them as God’s partners, which will ultimately deny God’s unity in essence.
Reaching this stage is when one only worships God and has prepared himself for praying Allah, the One. Based on Islamic doctrine, the act of worship has its own degrees, the clearest of which is the performance of the rites for Allah’s glorification and exaltation.
According to Holy Quran, worship is not limited to the actual performance of prayer but includes any form of spiritual orientation and idealization; the person whose purpose and motivation in life only satisfies his own whim has, in fact, led his spiritual direction toward it and thus worshiped it instead of God. So, the unity in worship is to see Allah as the only one who is fit to be worshiped and obeyed unconditionally and regard Him as the only purpose and direction of one’s conduct.
The first three degrees are all theoretical and a matter of creed - they should be recognized and acknowledged, and require rational thinking- while the fourth one is practical and a necessity for all of our actions.
Moreover, theoretical monotheism gives an insight to perfection while practical monotheism is the actual movement toward it; it is only seeing God’s Oneness and finding knowledge about it while practical monotheism is experiencing and feeling these beliefs tangibly in all walks of life.
In other words, theoretical monotheism provides the basis and foundation of practical monotheism; on the other hand, without bringing those beliefs into action, they would become deficient and imperfect.
Allah Almighty is the all-knowing all-wise creator. He has considered a unique way of perfection for every creature and then guided it to reach its excellence (20:50). Human beings, as autonomous creatures, are in real need of divine guidance to know how to live a perfect and purposeful life. According to Islamic beliefs, the Quran is the divine revelation to Prophet Muhammad PBUH&HP that contains necessary guidelines for human beings: "As We sent to you an Apostle from among yourselves, who recites to you Our signs, and purifies you, and teaches you the Book and wisdom, and teaches you what you did not know." (2:151). The question is that, is the Quran Allah's words? Let's see why the answer is: Yes.
If the Quran was Prophet Muhammad's PBUH&HP words, his PBUH&HP narrations should have been of the same eloquence and beauty of the Quran. But that's not the case. The Quran is unique in style, expression system, and arrangement. And that's why no one has been able to bring even a chapter (Surah) similar to that of the Quran. As the Quran says: "And if you are in doubt concerning what We have sent down to Our servant, then bring a Surah like it, and invoke your helpers besides Allah, should you be truthful." (2:23). Although the prophetic narrations are articulate and eloquent, some of them have been imitated and distorted, unlike the Quran .
If the Quran were Prophet Muhammad's PBUH & HP words, it would have been logical for him to claim that these eloquent words were his. Consequently, he could have promoted his position, fascinated his opposers, and gathered more followers. But, he never intended to be considered and praised as a superior power. On the contrary, in one instance, someone came to him and was uneasy because of his magnificence and grandeur, he said: "Calm down! I am not a king" .
In some of the Quranic verses, the objections and disagreements of Prophet's PBUH&HP opposers are answered. If the Quran was Prophet Muhammad's PBUH&HP words, all these verses should have been quickly revealed right after an objection was raised, or when he was insulted or oppressed. But, this was not always the case .
For example, the Qiblah at the time of Prophet Muhammad PBUH&HP was originally the Noble Sanctuary (Al-Aqsa Compound), similar to Judaism. That was a reason for Jews to mock Muslims and say that Muslims follow them; hence, they are superior. Prophet PBUH&HP waited 16 months for the divine revelation to let him change the Qiblah while he was disturbed by Jew's words. It was after such a long delay that he received a response: "turn your face towards the Holy Mosque, and wherever you may be, turn your faces towards it!" (2:144). If the Quran was Prophet Muhammad's PBUH&HP words, he could have changed the Qiblah much sooner and suffer less.
In some of the verses of the Quran, Prophet Muhammad PBUH&HP is warned. In Surah Tawbah, he is told that: "May Allah excuse you! Why did you grant them to leave [to stay behind] before those who told the truth were evident to you, and you had ascertained the liars?" (9:43), or in another Ayat: "A prophet may not take captives until he has thoroughly decimated [the enemy] in the land." (8:67). Is it logical at all that someone blames himself and makes it public?
Prophet Muhammad PBUH&HP was not literate, and this is stated in the Quran and historical records. "You did not use to recite any scripture before it, nor did you write it with your right hand, for then the impugners would have been skeptical." (29:48). So, how can someone illiterate bring such eloquent words?
This holy book was revealed for 23 years. And something astonishing about the Quran is that there is no contradiction among the verses of it. If it was a human's words, there surely existed contradictions and errors in the Quran because human beings are forgetful, and for example, they forget what they told two years ago. But, this is not true about the Quran.
- Allah's words
- M. H. Hakimi, et al. "Al-Hayat," vol. 2, Translation: A. Aram, Iran, 1986.