There was a time when every tribe had what it believed was its own god. When the tribes fought, they felt that their gods fought in the heavens. But monotheism challenged the potential violence of tribalism by teaching that there is only one God, one Creator of ALL of humans – helping us to recognize the oneness of humanity. The Arabic word for God is “Allah.” Just
like in Spanish, it’s “Dios.” Muslims accept all the prophets mentioned in the Bible, and believe that Muhammed was the last in that line of prophets sent by God to enhance the thriving of all on earth. The Quran embraces the teachings of God through Moses and Jesus and sees it as a unified message, spoken in different contexts. Quoting the Torah, Jesus taught his followers to love God and to love neighbor. Likewise, Muhammad taught: “You will not enter Paradise until you believe and you will not believe until you love each other.” Human beings can choose to respond to God’s
commandments. But this must be a free personal choice, as God repeatedly emphasizes in the Quran. “There shall be no compulsion in religion.” “And say, ‘The truth is from your Lord,
so whoever wills, let him believe; and whoever wills, let him disbelieve.'” The Quran further explains: “To each of you We [God] prescribed a law
and a method. Had God willed, He would have made you one nation [united in religion],
but [He intended] to test you in what He has given you; so race to [all that is] good.
To God is your return all together, and He will [then] inform you concerning that over
which you used to differ.” Muhammad believed in religious freedom, having experienced persecution on the basis of religion in Mecca. Upon becoming a community leader in Medina, Muhammad established the Medina Charter: one of the world’s earliest written
constitutions. That Charter recognized specific rights for religious minorities. In both the Charter and in Covenants made by Muhammad, Muslims were taught to respect and actively protect the rights of religious minorities. Today, some Muslim-majority countries need to do a better job of following these teachings that promote religious freedom, and there is a movement to do exactly that. Because as God teaches in the Quran: “O mankind! We [God] created you from a
single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that you
may [get to] know each other. Verily the most honored of you in the sight of God is the most righteous of you.” Our efforts should focus on getting to know
each other, and striving to do good, as the One Creator asks of all of us.