November-December 2007 
Year 14    No.126
Love thy Neighbour

From Muslims, with love

Muslims tell Christians they share in a common god’s command to love their neighbours, suggest joint endeavour for global peace

(Text below is from the the newly created website,

On October 13, 2006, one month to the day after Pope Benedict XVI’s Regensburg address of September 13,
2006, 38 Islamic authorities and scholars from around the world, representing all denominations and schools of thought, joined together to deliver an answer to the pope in the spirit of open intellectual exchange and mutual understanding. In their "Open Letter to the Pope", for the first time in recent history Muslim scholars from every branch of Islam spoke with one voice about the true teachings of Islam.

Now, exactly one year after that letter, Muslims have expanded their message. In "A Common Word between Us and You", 138 Muslim scholars, clerics and intellectuals have unanimously come together for the first time since the days of the prophet to declare the common ground between Christianity and Islam. Like the "Open Letter", the signatories to this message come from every denomination and school of thought in Islam. Every major Islamic country or region in the world is represented in this message, which is addressed to the leaders of all the world’s churches and indeed to all Christians everywhere.

The final form of the letter was presented at a conference in September 2007 held under the theme of "Love in the Koran" by the Royal Academy of The Royal Aal al-Bayt Institute for Islamic Thought in Jordan, under the patronage of King Abdullah II. Indeed, the most fundamental common ground between Islam and Christianity, and the best basis for future dialogue and understanding, is the love of god and the love of the neighbour.

Never before have Muslims delivered this kind of definitive consensus statement on Christianity. Rather than engage in polemic, the signatories have adopted the traditional and mainstream Islamic position of respecting the Christian scripture and calling Christians to be more, not less, faithful to it.

It is hoped that this document will provide a common constitution for the many worthy organisations and individuals who are carrying out interfaith dialogue all over the world. Often these groups are unaware of each other and duplicate each other’s efforts. Not only can "A Common Word between Us" give them a starting point for cooperation and worldwide coordination but it does so on the most solid theological ground possible: the teachings of the Koran and the prophet and the commandments described by Jesus Christ in the Bible. Thus despite their differences, Islam and Christianity not only share the same divine origin and the same Abrahamic heritage but the same two greatest commandments.

(Text of the open letter signed by 138 Muslims from around the world.)

‘A Common Word between Us and You’

Muslims and Christians together make up well over half of the world’s population. Without peace and justice between these two religious communities there can be no meaningful peace in the world. The future of the world depends on peace between Muslims and Christians.

The basis for this peace and understanding already exists. It is part of the very foundational principles of both faiths: love of the one god and love of the neighbour. These principles are found over and over again in the sacred texts of Islam and Christianity. The unity of god, the necessity of love for him and the necessity of love of the neighbour is thus the common ground between Islam and Christianity. The following are only a few examples:

Of god’s unity, god says in the holy Koran: "Say: He is god, the one/ God, the self-sufficient, besought of all!" (al-Ikhlas, 112:1-2). Of the necessity of love for god, god says in the holy Koran: "So invoke the name of thy lord and devote thyself to him with a complete devotion" (al-Muzzammil, 73:8). Of the necessity of love for the neighbour, Prophet Muhammad said: "None of you has faith until you love for your neighbour what you love for yourself."

In the New Testament, Jesus Christ said: "Hear, O Israel, the lord our god, the lord is one/ And you shall love the lord your god with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength. This is the first commandment / And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these" (Mark 12:29-31).

In the holy Koran, god most high enjoins Muslims to issue the following call to Christians (and Jews – the people of the scripture): "Say: O people of the scripture! Come to a common word between us and you: that we shall worship none but god, and that we shall ascribe no partner unto him, and that none of us shall take others for lords beside god. And if they turn away, then say: Bear witness that we are they who have surrendered (unto him)" (al-Imran, 3:64).

The words: we shall ascribe no partner unto him relate to the unity of god and the words: worship none but god relate to being totally devoted to god. Hence they all relate to the first and greatest commandment. According to one of the oldest and most authoritative commentaries on the holy Koran, the words: that none of us shall take others for lords beside god mean ‘that none of us should obey the other in disobedience to what god has commanded’. This relates to the second commandment because justice and freedom of religion are a crucial part of love of the neighbour.

Thus in obedience to the holy Koran, we as Muslims invite Christians to come together with us on the basis of what is common to us, which is also what is most essential to our faith and practice: the two commandments of love.



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