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THE FORMULA OF CO-EXISTENCE

The multi-religious society is a universal phenomenon, most societies being multi-religious in composition. A question commonly asked is: how to live in a society where believers of different religions are living side by side? The Qur’an was revealed in the first quarter of the seventh century. Some of its parts were revealed in Makkah and some were revealed in Madinah. Both the cities were inhabited by people of different religions, namely Jews, Christians, and Muslims. In this situation the Qur’an offered a very simple formula: For you your religion, for me mine. (109:6)

This Qur’anic formula was based on a simple natural principle, that is, co-existence or mutual respect. This formula can be expressed thus: Follow one and respect all. This formula is the only viable one in any multi-religious society, for it establishes instant peace. By following this formula, every religious group can find its due place without doing others any harm. It is a fact that peaceful co-existence is the only way of existence in this world.

Peace is the need of every religion. No religious activity can be carried out without peace, whether directly or indirectly. This formula, in giving room to all the religions in any society, ensures peace for all of them. In the early history of Islam, there is a very relevant story in the life of the Prophet of Islam that aptly illustrates this principle. The Prophet of Islam migrated from Makkah to Madinah in 622 A.D. at which time there were some Jewish tribes living in Madinah. One day it happened that the Prophet of Islam saw a funeral procession passing through a street in Madinah. The Prophet was seated at that time. On seeing the funeral, he stood up out of respect. One of his companions said, “O Prophet, that was the funeral of a Jew, not a Muslim.” The Prophet replied:

“Was he not a human being?” This means that the Prophet of Islam discovered a commonality between himself and that Jew because both were men and both were created by God. Both had the same common ancestor; both were members of a universal human society. This commonality was enough to provide a basis upon which both could co-exist. This formula of mutual respect is useful for all religious groups. By adhering to it, every religious group can flourish without any kind of confrontation.

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