Syed Ilham Jafri
Some days ago, I attended an online session organised by Indian Pluralism Foundation and had the chance to hear the author of The Humanity of Muhammad: A Christian View, Dr. Craig Considine, speak. I was wondering how a practicing Roman Catholic Christian could be someone to write on topics concerned with Islam. But on hearing him I really appreciated his ability and commitment. It should be noted that Dr. Considine is a faculty member at Rice University, Houston (USA) and has written a lot on Islam and is actively engaged in developing interfaith dialogue internationally. He also has an active presence on Youtube.
In his talk, Dr. Considine reflected on the pluralism of religions. Pluralism refers to energetic engagement with diversity. Interfaith pluralism entails engaging with each other, not merely tolerating each other. Dr. Considine explained the procedure required to accelerate pluralism among adherents of different faiths. It should start with dialogue—not on theological, but on social, humanitarian aspects. At first, each other’s trust should be won. Then one can quote religious texts and find those points on which communities could agree. This is a gradual process, that proceeds by working on individuals.
Explaining the reason behind his intention to write on the humanity of Prophet Muhammad, Dr. Considine mentioned the Prophet’s love for the stigmatized, his compassion for those on the periphery of society, his quality of reaching out and making connections with the people as some things that inspired him to write in the Prophet’s praise. The Prophet’s actions for the right to freedom and the rights of women need to be appreciated unanimously, worldwide, he noted. The Prophet created a ‘civic nation’ in Medina, he said, like that found in the founding documents of the USA. In a civic nation, people are united not by blood or ancestry but by a common set of values that is protected by law.
There are many incidents through which we can observe that Prophet Muhammad contributed to interfaith pluralism, said Dr. Considine. For instance, some Christians, around 70-80 in number, from Najran, were invited to Madinah. The Prophet allowed the Christians to pray inside the mosque. This was a historic moment.
Dr. Considine pointed out that knowledge must be supplemented with human interaction, not every time physically, but spiritually. Our role in life as humans, he stressed, is to make the world a better place to live.