At the Islamic Unity Society (IUS), we agree that “In unity there is strength” and as such one of the means for us, as people of faith, is to come together and do interfaith work. This is especially true living in a diverse society where we encounter people of different faiths or none.
We asked volunteers why they got involved in IUS interfaith work and here is what they said:
If you ask people who have been involved in interfaith work, they are likely to tell you that it is an educational and an ongoing process. We learn about others; their faith, thinking process, values etc., and in that process we learn about our own self and faith through the dialogue, actions, questions, and interactions that take place, hence it is an ongoing work and also educational.
The interfaith activities such as those conducted by IUS are extremely beneficial and important. Not for the purpose of enforcing our belief on other people, or to compromise our own beliefs by adopting others, but to establish the language of friendship and understanding between different groups using a common general belief of peace and love.
Trust, it is one word, pure and simple. Dialogue, whether it’s between two people of different faiths or the same faith, is about building trust between both parties.
When we talk to each other during good and peaceful times, we will have the readiness, tools, and network to talk with each other when times are bad i.e. relationships are strained, challenges pushing us, external events affecting us etc.
The best example we have is Muhammad (peace be upon him). We too often forget that he did not officially become a Messenger of God until he was aged 40. Until then, he was simply known in the city of Mecca uniquely as As-Sadiq (The Truthful) Al-Amin (The Trustworthy). He sincerely built that relationship with his neighbours, community and society for 40 years, such that they TRUSTED him; without this trust, they would never have accepted his revolutionary message.
We live in an increasingly secular society, where people of all faiths are under constant attack. The new generation is being brought up to think that belief in a Creator is
This mentality gradually permeates into every aspect of life. For example, the recently updated clauses preventing Free Schools and Academies in the UK from “teaching Creationism”
In this regard, it is important to come together as people of faith: we have more in common with each other than we have differences.
Interfaith events which establish a line of communication between people of different beliefs are especially important in this current climate of misinformation where barbaric acts are portrayed in the name of our beautiful religion, it is a means of informally clearing these misconceptions in a friendly educational environment, while also learning about other faiths and clearing any misconceptions that we may hold ourselves.
When my siblings and I were children, my parents would tell us stories of their cities, their upbringing and their friends. A friend my mother had when she was in school was Christian, and she would often tell us about their time together and wonder what had happened to her as they were best friends. These stories triggered my interest to find out more about people of different backgrounds and appreciate their differences.
I believe it is important to be active in interfaith and acknowledge and respect people of different backgrounds, as our thoughts and actions can have an impact, now or in the future, in ways we cannot imagine.
This celebrated letter by Imam Ali (peace be upon him) is one of the best pieces of advice we can follow in our dealings with people.
“Make your heart a throne of mercy towards your people. Show them perfect love and care. Do not stand over them like greedy beasts who feel it is enough to devour them. For they [people] are of two kinds: either your brother in religion or your like in creation. They will commit slips and encounter mistakes. They may act wrongly, wilfully or by neglect. So, extend to them your forgiveness and pardon, in the same way as you would like Allah to extend His forgiveness and pardon to you.” *
This is a view that embraces, respects and shows love for people of all cultures, races, faiths or no faiths and any other denomination as humans we associate ourselves with.
Written by IUS Interfaith volunteers
 Excerpt of a letter by Imam Ali, advising the newly appointed Governor of Egypt, Malik Al-Ashtar, around 656 CE