Better understanding of Islam, inter-faith dialogue and finding ways to eliminate hostility among people and countries of various religions, could bring peace to this conflict ridden world, said an American Muslim scholar Imam Yahya Hendi on Friday, while talking to mediamen at Meet the Press programme at the Lahore Press Club.
Imam Yahya believed that inter-faith dialogue could bring peace, and hostilities between the Muslim world and the West could be eliminated. He stressed that open debates should also be conducted in Muslim societies for broader Muslim-Christian understanding, and empowering of women. “Both US and the Muslim have to learn a lot about each other. Extremism is a terrible thing, which is being carried out in the name of Islam. Muslims should debate on these issues, which will help in improving the image of Islam among the comity of nations,” he added.
While answering questions, he stated that inter-faith dialogue was extremely important. “When Islam requires us to have good relations with whom we do not share the scripture, then why not good relationship with those who share the same scripture. We must involve ourselves in a dialogue, not only on sect-to-sect level, rather among Muslim countries practising various sects,” he added. He was of the opinion that the Muslim countries should fight for their common cause, that is, eradication of poverty. “According to the UN report, 85 percent of them are Muslims. There is something definitely wrong with them, and they should do something about it,” he maintained.
On bridging gap between the Christians and Muslims, Hendi, who has done masters in Comparative Religions, stated that the chasm could be bridged because both believed in one God, life after death, and share a lot similarities, both in religious and their books. They could be partners to make peace in the world as well. Hendi, though avoided talking about Jehad, said that Islam is a religion of love, peace and tolerance that abhors terrorism and killings of the innocent. “Extremism does not have religion, and Islam does not permit suicidal-killings. According to our faith and belief, it is purely an "illegitimate" (Haram) act, we should fight against it,” Imam Yahya Hendi stressed. Referring to the recent wave of suicide-bombings in Iraq, Hendi said it was primarily designed to target women and children, which is against the injunctions of Islam. However, he termed US attack on Iraq as a terrible mistake, and averred that US might have left Iraq earlier if the suicide attacks would not have taken place.
Hendi appreciated President General Pervez Musharraf's initiative of addressing the Jewish Congress and his effort to mend fences with Israel. He stressed on fostering better understanding between Jews and Muslims. “They can bring peace through dialogue sans killings. The same is true of the Kashmir issue, which should be resolved by India and Pakistan amicably. We have to end wars in the world. If we do not do that, these will end us. Only those who head the arm industry are reaping benefits. Education can help us in eliminating war,” he stated.
He maintained that Hazrat Muhammad (PBUH) befriended Jews, and had better relations with the Christians as well. “One of his wives Marya was a Christian and she remained in her religion till her death. The Prophet bought her Bible as well on numerous occasions,” he stated.
Hendi also maintained that the Holy Quran does not forbid us from befriending Jews and Christians because word ‘Aulia’ means interpreter or protector, while ‘Ashaab’ stood for friends, which have not been used in the Quran in this context. “So Islam forbids us from making them our interpreters and protectors, not friends,” he added.
He lauded Pakistanis for contributing substantially in various arenas in the United States of America. Imam Hendi is the Muslim Chaplain at Georgetown University, and is the Imam of the Islamic Society of Frederick, and is the Muslim Chaplain at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethseda, MD. He also serves as a member and the spokesperson of the Islamic Jurisprudence Council of North America.