Islam and other Religions: What does the Qur'an say?
by Mohamed Elmasry
Concern for the truth, combined with a personal loyalty to one's faith,
tend to keep the believers of one religion at a distance from those who
adhere to another.
If this distance is rigidly maintained over time, communication usually
breaks down, attitudes become frozen, and some degree of bigotry is
bound to emerge.
Islam is unique among the world's major religions in that the Qur'an
explicitly provides five guidelines for Muslims on how to view other
Throughout history, when Muslims followed these Quranic precepts --
whether they were in a position of authority, or even as a numerically
weaker minority group -- they, as well as members of other religions
living around them, benefited greatly. The degree of compassionate and
just treatment by Muslims to adherents of other religions far exceeded
that meted out by authorities of other religions toward Muslims.
Consider these historical examples:
In the early days of Islam, Muslims were instrumental in helping to
safeguard the distinctive traditions of the Christian Coptic Church in
Egypt from the oppressive practices of the dominant Church of Rome.
Similarly, Muslim Turks are credited in Islamic history with
safeguarding eastern European Protestants and Eastern Orthodox
Christians alike from pressure and persecution exerted by the Church of
The "golden age" of Jewish religious scholarship in pre-medieval Spain
was achieved in an environment of religious freedom supported by the
dominant Muslim society.
In many Arab, Middle Eastern and Asian countries, religious minorities
-- especially Jews, Christians and Hindus -- have flourished under
Muslim rule and, thus protected, their ancient places of worship have
survived to this day.
What are these five divine guidelines that the Qur'an clearly presents
to Muslims for building tolerance and understanding among differing
Everyone's God-given human dignity must be respected, regardless of
their religion, race, ethnic origin, gender, or social status (17:70).
Because everyone is created by God Almighty, the Maker of All, humans
must treat one another with full honour, respect and loving-kindness.
Islam teaches that it is by Divine Will that God's human creation has
followed different religions, or no religion at all ("no religion" is
also a belief system, or faith) (11:118), (10:99), (18:29). But God
Almighty is not pleased when some of His servants (all humans are
servants of the Creator in one way or another) choose not to believe
The Qur'an states clearly that freedom of religion is a God-given
right (18:29), (10:99).
The final judgment of all humanity lies in the hands of the One
Almighty, their Creator, to whom we all return (22:68-69), (42:15).
God loves justice and those who strive to practice it, especially
toward people who are different from them in any way, particularly in
religious belief (5:8), (60:8).
Prof. Mohamed Elmasry
is a professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of
Waterloo and national president of the
Canadian Islamic Congress.
by the same author: