The sense of the sacred in traditional Islamic consciousness was essentially inclusive and universal; the loss of this sense in modern Muslim ideological discourse is one of the key factors in explaining the ease with which the religious Other can be vilified and attacked.

This argument is made on the basis of some key and all too often overlooked aspects of the prophetic Sunna, principally, the Prophet's invitation to the Christians of Najran to perform their fully developed Trinitarian Mass in his own mosque; in turn this aspect of the Sunna which demonstrates sensitivity to the holiness of other religious traditions can be seen to be rooted in a similarly under-examined aspect of the Qur'anic discourse vis-à-vis the religious Other. Those most attuned to these dimensions of the Islamic revelation have traditionally been the Sufis; and it is therefore no surprise to observe that the 'Muslim' perpetrators of atrocities against the religious Other in the contemporary period are those most hostile to the Sufi tradition. Undermining the sacred within one's own tradition goes hand in hand with destroying the sacred in the religions of the Other.


Dr. Reza Shah-Kazemi

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. 


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