Dr. Shah-Kazemi opens this article with the narration of Prophet Muhammad's invitation to a group of Christians in 631 CE to perform their rites in his own mosque. This remarkable event was reported by Ibn Ishaq and others. As Dr Shah-Kazemi says "one observes here a perfect example of how disagreement on the plane of dogma can co-exist with deep respect on the superior plane of religious devotion". This is one of a series of acts of the Prophet which indicate the sanctity of religions which preceded Islam. Based on a reading of certain Qur'anic verses on the subjects of salvation, the Umma and religion, the author argues that "the essence of religion is immutable, only its forms vary". He goes on to state that the universal message of the Quran invites the Muslim to manifest respect, tolerance and reverence for that same essence which resides at the core of all the revealed religions of mankind.
This is an edited version of extracts from speeches delivered by Dr Reza Shah-Kazemi at Milad al-Nabi Celebrations held in Atlanta and San Francisco, USA, in 2007. It first appeared in The Ismaili, USA, 2008.
Founding editor of the Islamic World Report, Reza Shah-Kazemi studied International Relations and Politics at Sussex and Exeter Universities before obtaining his PhD in Comparative Religion from the University of Kent in 1994.