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Saudi Arabia, and the Islamic-Christian dialogue initiatives

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Muslims all over the globe have deep love, affection and reverence towards the Prophet of God, Jesus Christ, as well as towards his mother, the Virgin Mary, as both display a special and distinct status in the hearts of Muslims. Hence, the Prophet Muhammad said: “I am the worthiest person of (the teachings of) Jesus, the son of Mary.” In this hadith, as in other identical examples in the venerated Sunnah of the Prophet and in the Quran, we find evident reverence and appreciation for Christ and his mother, the Virgin Mary, that do not require any elaboration, explanation or comment.

Islam, through the Quran and the Sunnah of the Prophet, Christ and his virgin mother, and bestowed upon them what it has not bestowed upon other messengers of God. In fact, the Quran considered Christianity the closest religion to Muslims, as it emphasized in the noble verse: {…and you will find the nearest in love to the believers (Muslims) those who say: «We are Christians»} (5:82), not to mention that the Islamic nation will never forget the position taken by Negus, king of Abyssinia -- who was a Christian -- towards the early Muslims who sought refuge in his lands, fleeing the injustice and oppression of the heathens of Quraish, and how he provided them with protection and graciously welcomed them.

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Islam and Christianity stem from the same source

As we are approaching the blessed anniversary of the birth of Jesus Christ, we would like to point out that his message - affirmed by his sayings - does not differ from what is stated in Islam. We find it bizarre that some people imagine that this covenant is bygone, and we believe that this perception is misguided, because Islam did not terminate or prohibit the logic and method of forgiveness, pardon, and tolerance. Rather, we find that what is stated in the noble verse {And not equal are the good deed and the bad. Repel evil by that deed which is better; and thereupon the one whom between you and him is enmity [will become] as though he was a devoted friend} (41:34) comes in the same context as what came in the aforesaid chapter of the Gospel of Luke, especially since the Quran emphasized the importance of forgiveness to the extent that it said {and it is closer to Taqwa (righteousness) that you forgive} (2:234).

Saudi Arabia allows full capacity at Mecca’s Grand Mosque as COVID-19 rules eased. (SPA)
Saudi Arabia allows full capacity at Mecca’s Grand Mosque as COVID-19 rules eased. (SPA)

Islam and Christianity are methods for tolerance and forgiveness

The most common factor that binds Islam and Christianity and draws them together is that they both adhere to the logic and method of forgiveness and tolerance, which was embodied in Jesus, son of Mary, and thereafter in our Noble Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). There is no doubt that adherence to the logic and method of forgiveness and tolerance -- which constitutes the essence and zenith of all Abrahamic religions -- comes from the fact that one of the holy names of God is “the Clement,” and that the rapprochement between religions, especially Abrahamic ones, is an exigent necessity, in order to close the doors in the face of extremists and terrorists who seek to exploit religion and wield it as a tool for achieving ends and goals contrary to all religions alike, such as the terrorist attacks against civilians that strike Western countries under the alleged title of serving Islam, which amount to attacks on our very own religion and an insult to our Islamic morals and values.

In the same vein, we have the attacks that targeted mosques in a number of countries in the name of Christianity, and Christianity has nothing to do with this. Hence, we have to differentiate between the heavenly religions that are filled with the spirit of love, tolerance and forgiveness and those who use them as a banner for committing satanic crimes, and therefore it is imperative that we isolate extremist groups that harm both Islam and Christianity with their despicable deeds.

The Kingdom’s Vision 2030: Establishing communication bridges with religions and the embodiment of the moderate approach

In conjunction with the anniversary of the birth of Jesus Christ (peace be upon him and upon our Prophet Mohammed), we welcome the amazing intellectual, cultural and religious initiatives undertaken by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which have established a firm ground for dialogue and openness, as clearly manifested for the whole world in the Makkah Declaration launched by the Muslim World League -- under the guidance of His Highness, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman -- within the framework of Vision 2030, whether in the sections confined to Muslims or those pertaining to Islamic-Christian dialogue. Such initiatives are a faithful translation of the principles of our true religion, as it is a religion of moderation and open doors for the exchange of visions and ideas with the others, and a religion based on the statehood that provides full dignity to its citizens, and on human fraternity, regardless of the various beliefs and schools of thought, because they all serve the interest of the homeland.

This article was originally published in, and translated from, Saudi newspaper Okaz.

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