The Inter-Religious Symposia (IRS), which hopes to increase the understanding of other religious traditions, held its first meeting on the 5th of November 2018 to discuss how Muslims view Jews and Christians. It was attended by Rabbi Mark Solomon of the Edinburgh and Leicester Liberal Jewish Communities; Dr Mark Whittingham, the academic director at the Centre for Muslim-Christian Studies at the University of Oxford; and Dr John Chesworth, the co-ordinator of the Christian-Muslim Relations research project at the University of Birmingham. Representing Al-Mahdi Institute were Dr Wahid Amin, Dr Hashim Bata, Mr Riaz Walji and Shaykh Arif Abdulhussain who presented the first paper, ‘The Muslim Perception of Jews and Christians.’
According to Shaykh Arif, the earlier Quranic verses revealed before the hijra speak favourably of the people of the book, affording them a high status and salvation. The latter verses, post-hijra, describing the regulations pertaining to Jews and Christians are context bound and relate to specific historic instances, for example the plots against the Prophet. Any negative Muslim attitudes at present towards the people of the book are a consequence of factors such the hadith literature, jurisprudential rulings and tense socio-political relations. However, the Muslim outlook ought to be shaped in accordance with the earlier verses, which delivered the essential message.
The paper was followed by a lively roundtable discussion, where both representatives of the Christian and Jewish faiths pointed out that core aspects of their beliefs had been misrepresented in the Muslim tradition. The next IRS meeting will discuss the Christian perspective of Muslims and Jews.