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Common Word, Common Lord

Common Word, Common Lord

The Power of Peaceful Dialogue

In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful 

I recently received an email with the subject, “An Honest Question.” It read:

Dr. Hassaballa:

I have discovered your blog, and greatly appreciate what you say.  You seem very thoughtful, and I particularly applaud your condemnations of violence — even if your choice of words sometimes leaves me wondering exactly what you mean, or how complete the condemnation really is.  In any event, I have a well-meaning question (an honest one, no setup intended) about how far your view of egalitarianism between Christians and Muslims actually extends. 

In the current world political climate, I can envision a time when Muslims, through proselytizing or otherwise, might gain majorities in one or more of the current Western democracies.  In the event Muslims were to gain control of the American government — far-fetched, perhaps, but not an impossibility — how would my rights and freedoms as a Christian be affected?  For example, would a Muslim-controlled government preserve and ensure fully equal rights — of all kinds, including all religious expression, evangelization, activity, and speech — for Muslims and non-Muslims alike?  Or should the Christians expect some form of dhimmitude to be implemented, even if the majority views the resulting stratification as benevolent and merciful (which, I imagine, the impacted minority would not)?  In a related vien, would a Muslim-controlled government preserve and further the elevated position (i.e., with sharia clearly subordinated) of the current U.S. Constitution?

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I agree that parts of the Qur’an seem to urge benevolence or mercy toward Christians — although other provisions seem to urge something quite different, and harmonizing the conflicting provisions is difficult at best.  What I don’t see anywhere, however, is a clear assurance of either (a) full equality for Christians,  or (b) at least a dhimmitude-like benevolence toward people not “of the book” (e.g., atheists) under any Qur’an-based Islamic rule.  That lack of clarity, plus history (at least since the 1300s or so), makes me think that that a Muslim rule would assure neither of these states; that Christians would find themselves as second-class citizens with fewer-than-equal rights; and that complete unbelievers, or apostate Muslims, should, perhaps, be concerned for their freedom or lives.   Am I wrong on any of this?  If so, please show me, if you can find the time. 

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He then ended the message with: “I don’t want to fight, and am not interested in a debate, by email or otherwise.  I have no axe to grind.  I only seek truth and clarity, for my own information and use (and, perhaps, some peace of mind).”

To be honest, I was surprised by his question. I was not angry by any means, but just surprised at the fact that he would think that we Muslims have some sort of “hidden agenda.” But, I sensed that he was truly sincere in his questioning, and I truly appreciated that.

This was my response:

I appreciate your questions. I pray this finds you in the best of health and spirits. First, I am surprised by your wonder about my condemnations of violence. When I say “innocent” I mean just that: all non-combatants. I do not parse my words or mean something I don’t say. No “hidden meaning.” I have heard this before…and I am still surprised when people think that my definition of innocent is something other than innocent. I just want that to be clear.

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As far as your question about Muslims in power…I don’t think that situation will ever occur. As an American, the law I follow is the U.S. Constitution. I am not waiting to supplant that law with “Sharia.” That is simply a fallacy that Islamophobes want you to believe. In fact, let me tell you this: America, the current Constitutional system, is the most “Islamic” government on the earth today. America follows Islam’s principles more than any other Muslim country on earth. I truly believe that. 

That is why I am so blessed to be an American Muslim. In a truly Islamic system, citizens are citizens, irrespective of their religion. Islam upholds freedom of religion and consciousness. In fact, I have learned that some classical Scholars consider the building of Churches in a Muslim country to be part of the maintenance of the earth. The way Islam has been presented by various so-called “Muslim” governments is quite distorted. 

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Anyway, this is a very long and broad topic, but I just want to tell you…the overwhelming majority of American Muslims are nothing to fear. They care about and love this country as much as everyone else. 

Sorry it took me so long to respond…
Yours in His love, 
Hesham Hassaballa
He then replied:
Thank you for such a thoughtful, kind response.  I am glad that folks like you care enough to write, and email, about these very important issues.  I also respect your faith and obvious commitment to a way of peace. Thanks again.

He then gave me permission to write about it here. The most important point about this situation is the fact that we both reached out to each other to attain mutual understanding. He took the time to write to me and ask a sincere question on his part, and I took the time to respond to his question. And at the end, we both came away closer together, as both people of faith and brothers in country.

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And herein lies the power: peaceful dialogue to understand one another. It is very likely that neither of us shall change our faith tradition, but the point of our discussion is not to convert, but to understand, to reach out to one another and learn about the feelings of the other. And both of us are all the stronger because of it.

I could imagine someone responding to such a question from a reader with disdain and anger, or simply ignore it altogether. But, then nothing good comes out of it. Indeed, there are some who reach out to me for no other purpose than to attack me and my faith. My only response to them is “Peace,” as the Qur’an commands:

“For, [true] servants of the Most Gracious are [only] they who walk gently on earth, and who, whenever the ignorant address them, reply with [words of] peace;” (25:63)

But for anyone who asks a sincere question, seeking only to gain understanding and mutual peace, my inbox is always open. And we will both be better because of it. I am truly grateful to the Precious Beloved for this man’s question, and if I am ever questioned again, I pray that the Lord grants me the wisdom to answer in the best possible manner.

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