Commonalities in Religions

by | Jul 13, 2018 | Islam

There are many religions in the world today. Among the religions there are similarities and differences.  Religions differ in their world views, beliefs in the Ultimate Reality, nature and role of human being in the world, and the concept of salvation. Religions, however, seem to agree on the core values for human beings. It is good to appreciate the commonalities and build our societies on these values while respecting the variety of cultures and traditions. We are living today in what is called as ‘global village.’ Rapid means of communication and transportation have reduced the distances. People of diverse races, colors, cultures and traditions are now neighbors. It is important to emphasize the core values of our religions, not to create one syncretistic religion or to minimize the desire of each community for its own self-identity and expression, but to build a world society of justice, peace and decency. It is rightly said that we should appreciate the commonalities and respect the differences.

One of the most important core value and teaching of all religions is justice and treating others as we want to be treated by them. This rule is also known as ‘the Golden Rule of Reciprocity.

Buddhism: “Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful.”

Christianity: “All things whatsoever you would that men should do to you, do you even so to them, for this is the law and the prophets.”

Confucianism: “If there is one maxim that ought to be acted upon throughout one’s whole life, surely it is the maxim of loving-kindness. Do not unto others what you would not have them do unto you.”

Hinduism: “This is the sum of duty: do nothing unto others what would cause you pain if done unto you.”

Islam: “No one of you is a believer until you wish for your brother (in another report for others) what you wish for yourself.”

Judaism: “What is hateful to you, do not unto your fellow man. This is the whole Torah; all the rest is commentary.”

Taoism: “Regard your neighbor’s gain as your own gain, and your neighbor’s loss as your own loss.”

Zoroastrianism: “That nature alone is good which refrains from doing unto others what it would not do to itself.”

This is the common heritage of all people. This one golden rule, if applied seriously, would change the world. There are many other moral values that are common among religions and some secular traditions. These are:

Truthfulness, sincerity, honesty, fulfillment of promises, faithfulness, gratitude, modesty, purity,  cleanliness, patience, steadfastness, courage, freedom, charity, mercy, kindness, friendliness, love and harmony between spouses, care of family members, honor of elders, kindness to children, good relations with neighbors, peace, justice, forgiveness, humbleness.

We can quote copiously passages from our religious texts that emphasize and elaborate each one of these values. People of diverse faith and cultures must dialogue and try to understand each other. Tolerance must be practiced on the levels of individuals, groups as well as states. Tolerance should be between the members of the same community and same religion and it should be also emphasized between the people of different faiths and cultures.  We do have differences in our religions but we must try to understand each other. As we learn about our own faith traditions and communities, we should also learn about others. Someone rightly said, “Understanding others changes us.” By understanding we learn the areas of commonalities as well as differences.  We can learn the nature of differences and the context and extent of differences. We must look what kind of dialogues could be of value, and what issues are most in need for respectful dialogue in these times. What concerns for the well-being of others should drive our efforts to reach common ground for action. Each group must encourage and facilitate shared responsibility to create a more sensitive and welcoming environment for our diverse groups. Genuine, sincere and humble dialogue is most productive. The language of superiority is most unhelpful.  It breaks down trust and communication.

People must be free to express their ideas and feelings. They should have full right to differ and disagree, but they must express themselves with truth and decency.  Demonization of others, false propaganda and deliberate distortion of others views and traditions would not promote pluralism or good neighborhood.  They would rather create alienation and anger.  The media is a powerful tool and it can help in building bridges of understanding and co-existence between various religious and cultural communities. Media and entertainment industry should be careful not to feed people by misinformation and propaganda against other religions and cultures.  As we do not want others to misrepresent us, we should also not misrepresent others.  Freedom of expression should not be a license to spread lies. Other cultures and religions should not be misrepresented.  Media outlets should be held responsible not to propagate or perpetuate hate against any group of people and their recognized faiths and traditions.

In the global village, the neighbors cannot live in peace when some neighbors try to exploit and dominate others.  Justice, fair dealings, live and let live can work much better rather than the push for control and power.  All human beings should be treated with respect and dignity.  No race should enslave the other races, no country and culture should dominate the whole globe.

The gap between the have and have-not should be reduced.  We must see that all human beings have the opportunity to live with dignity. Deprivation and poverty are main contributing factors for much of the discontent and violence today in our world. Governments are willing to spend billions on weapons and military buildup, but very little for the economic well beings of the poor people of their own countries and the globe.

We should promote ethical and moral behavior in our communities and neighborhood. Honesty, truthfulness, courtesy and kindness should be emphasized.  Strong and good families and religious groups can play important role in this regard. We must promote good family values and must remove pornography and indecency from our societies. We must encourage and support an educational system that promotes openness, dialogue and guards against fanaticism. Our students should be taught that there could be various perspectives and one should be open to other points of view. We should also promote human rights of all people, more political freedom, open debates, participatory democracies and representative governments.

The Author
Muzammil H. Siddiqi

Muzammil H. Siddiqi

Dr. Muzammil H. Siddiqi was born in India in 1943. He received his Islamic education at Darul Uloom Nadwatul Ulama, Lucknow, India. Siddiqi graduated from the Islamic University of Madina in Saudi Arabia in 1965 with a higher degree in Arabic and Islamic Studies. He received an M.A. in Theology from Birmingham University in England (1969) and a Ph.D. in Comparative Religion from Harvard University in the USA. (1978) He is presently the Imam and Religious Director of the Islamic Society of Orange County, Garden Grove, California, the Chairman of the Fiqh Council of North America (FCNA),  and an Adjunct Professor of Islamic Studies at Chapman University, Orange, California.