In an interview with MNA, Mohammad Hossein Taheri said the proposal of Iranian President-elect Raeisi about designating Eid al-Adha as “day of interaction among Abrahamic religions” should be put into practice.
On 21 July, Iranian President-elect Ayatollah Seyyed Ebrahim Raeisi felicitated with Cardinal Secretary of State of Vatican City Pietro Parolin on Eid al-Adha in a phone call, saying that the greatest Muslim Eid that originated from Prophet Abraham (PBUH) could be considered as a “day of interaction among the Abrahamic religions” for consultation, reflection, and dialogue among all divine religions.
Emphasizing that the protection of human rights is the basis of Iran’s domestic and foreign policies, the President-elect said that according to the teachings of the Abrahamic religions, Iran and the Vatican must stand with the oppressed people of the world against oppressing powers. As such, he highlighted the importance of consultation and dialogue among the Abrahamic religions for establishing genuine and lasting peace in the world and said that the Islamic Republic, as a religious democracy, welcomes any interaction and dialogue among the Abrahamic religions, especially Christianity.
There is a long history of exchanging views and sometimes holding meetings between the elders of monotheistic religions. Numerous examples can be found in the history of Islam, Christianity, and Judaism in which scholars from each of these divine religions had hold discussions with one another.
Scholars of divine and other religions have long been in contact with one another and the need for dialogue between divine religions has been raised many times by religious leaders, but what is notable about Ayatollah Raeisi’s proposal is that in addition to his religious and seminary status, he will form the thirteenth government of the Islamic Republic of Iran in a few days, and his speeches, in addition to having a religious impact, will also be very influential in the political and foreign policy spheres.
To this end, Mehr News Agency conducted an interview with Hojjatoleslam Dr. Mohammad Hossein Taheri Akordi, author and faculty member of the Department of Religions at the Imam Khomeini Educational and Research Institute, to discuss the proposal of the Iranian president-elect and how Eid al-Adha can be a “day of interaction among the Abrahamic religions”. You can read the full text of the interview below:
Why can Prophet Abraham (PBUH) be considered the center of interaction among monotheistic religions, especially Islam and Christianity?
The Prophet Abraham’s story is told both in the Holy Qur’an and the Torah with only slight differences and he is considered as the first common prophet of Christians, Jews, and Muslims, and as such, they are called followers of the Abrahamic religions.
The story of Prophet Abraham in the Torah begins in the eleventh chapter and continues until the twenty-fifth chapter, and the story of the sacrifice is mentioned in the twenty-second chapter. It is worth mentioning that what is said about Abraham in the Torah is confirmed by Jews and Christians alike and has many similarities with the story in Qur’an. The only difference in the Holy Qur’an is some matters such as who the intended sacrifice was.
Jews and Christians believe that the sacrifice is Isaac, while Muslims, based on verses from the Holy Qur’an, believe that the sacrifice is Ishmael. The story of the sacrifice stated in the Torah and the Holy Qur’an shows Abraham’s absolute faith. For this reason, this divine prophet can be considered as the point of interaction and dialogue between the followers of monotheistic religions, especially Islam and Christianity.
The sincerity and faith of Abraham is the most important point in the story of Sacrifice and one of the common beliefs of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam; Therefore, one of the important points for holding dialogue is to model beliefs, actions, and the principle of monotheism after Abrahamic way of thought.
Given that Prophet Abraham (PBUH) was willing to sacrifice his own son for the sake of God, the question now is whether the followers of the Abrahamic religions are also willing to put God before anything else? And if so, will the people of the world be content with oppression? Would they remain silent in the face of oppression?
The story of Sacrifice is the greatest symbol of servitude to God. Given what has just been discussed, there needs to be a model of behavior among monotheistic religions. The reason the Holy Qur’an repeatedly narrates the story of Abraham, Moses, and Jesus, is because it wants to show us that all followers of monotheistic religions are standing next to and not separate from each other.
Today, the Zionists are making efforts to separate Islam, Christianity, and Judaism from one another, and to say that Islam is a symbol of violence while other monotheistic religions are a symbol of love, beauty, and affection. However, when we refer to the Qur’an, this is not true at all. Because the Holy Qur’an focuses on monotheism and introduces Prophet Abraham as the head of monotheistic servants of God, while putting all three religions on the same path, and introducing Abraham as the Sheikh of the prophets and the flagbearer of monotheism and the head of monotheistic religions.
Prophet Abraham (PBUH) is the pillar of unity among the monotheistic religions, and if the followers of this divine prophet wish to be like him, they must act sincerely and faithfully like him. In that case, many examples of killings, scams, domestic abuse, child abuse, etc. will not happen.
Given these explanations, one can interpret the proposal of Ayatollah Raeisi to the Cardinal Secretary of State of Vatican that followers of the Abrahamic religions could consider Eid al-Adha as “the day of interaction among the Abrahamic religions” that all monotheistic religions can look up to Prophet Abraham as a model of faith who is sincere in both beliefs and actions. His willingness to sacrifice his child is the epitome of sincere and faithful behavior. Abraham’s faith and action can be the best model for today’s human lifestyle.
The way to peace in the world is to overcome the oppressors. What role can the Vatican play in achieving this? What kind of cooperation can the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Vatican have by standing together?
If there is to be a monotheistic government in the world, there must be monotheistic human beings in order to spread divine government and justice everywhere, and because Muslims and Christians believe in the coming of a savior, they must work together to unite the believers across the world. For example, if the followers of the Pope and the Vatican, which are more than one billion in number, and the Muslims, who have a population of more than one billion, stand side by side, they can easily overcome oppression, condemn any injustice and advocate corrective behavior.
Isn’t the Vatican looking for good deeds today? Can’t monotheistic religions preach those good deeds? Today, Pope Francis is a very moral and mystical figure who has a good relationship with people and pays special attention to strengthening the foundation of the family, childbearing, fighting against abortion, homosexuality, and having a kind behavior; Is this practice and approach of the Pope contrary to the principles of Islam? Or is it exactly the same as Islamic commands? Monotheistic religions have many commonalities with each other, all of which can be the criterion of unity among the believers of the world.
It is a good thing that Pope Francis visits Shia Marja Ayatollah Sistani, but we need to move beyond politically aimed interactions that are restricted to meetings, letters, and messages. The followers of the monotheistic religions should model their behavior after Prophet Abraham so that any oppression happening anywhere in the world would be condemned and its damages on other communities be mitigated.
Today, for example, the Yemeni people are besieged by the oppression of Global Arrogance, and many innocent people are being massacred in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine, and Myanmar. Regardless of their religion and beliefs, all must be aided because they are all monotheists. It is necessary for followers of monotheistic religions to show this faithful behavior in action.
The Islamic Republic of Iran and the Vatican can cooperate in various fields, such as holding joint scientific courses and conferences, meetings and discussions on ethical and doctrinal issues, engaging in economic activities and donations, holding cultural tourism in order to become more familiar with the commonalities and reducing the gap between Muslims and Christians can all lead to world peace.
Followers of monotheistic religions can unite against their common enemies, including the seculars, the Zionists, the materialists, and so on, and form a united front against them.
Using the Vatican’s moral capacity and influence to solve many of the world’s problems, such as lifting sanctions and countering terrorist acts, is crucial. Fortunately, most Vatican bishops and priests do not view Muslims, especially Shias, as terrorists. I say this as evidenced by years of having talked to and been among them, and I fully believe in it. As a matter of fact, many Catholic priests and bishops consider Christian Zionists, who are in power as the Republican Party in the United States and were involved in strengthening and creating the former Taliban and ISIL, to be the cause of terrorism; Therefore, the Pope and the Vatican can contribute in the moral field with the aim of solving some of the current problems. It is true that the Vatican does not have much political power in the world today, but it has great moral influence among the world’s religious people and the Catholics.
When the Islamic Republic took over the US embassy because of evidence of espionage and sabotage, the Pope wrote a message to the late Imam Khomeini calling for the release of the hostages; In response, Imam Khomeini made an important point by saying that he had expected the Pope to send a message when the Pahlavi regime was killing the Iranian people. Imam Khomeini was stressing the fact that the church should not be in the service of colonialism, but should maintain its independence as a religious institution and act according to the same monotheistic beliefs.
Today, the Vatican government is expected to defend the Islamic Republic against allegations of terrorism and not to remain silent in the face of the cowardly sanctions that have led to the deaths of many children and patients due to the sanctions on medicine. Looking back at the history of Iran, we clearly see that Iran has not attacked any country in the last 200 years and has always been attacked and put under sanctions during these years. Instead, the country has always been ready to aid others in need. Although the Vatican does not have the power to lift sanctions, it is expected to stand by the Iranian people and provide faithful assistance and tell the world about the actual image of Iran.
If interactions between religious leaders and scholars of Islamic religions are strengthened in this regard, can it be considered a new event?
Leaders of monotheistic religions have been holding dialogues with each other for a long time, and more than a dozen Shia scholars, many of them contemporary, have been in contact with leaders of other religions through letters, messages, travels, and meetings. For example, Ayatollah Mesbah goes to the Vatican to visit the Pope and talk to him.
Throughout history, there have been good relations between Islamic scholars and other religious leaders, and many trips have been made to strengthen these ties. But I believe that in this era, we must move beyond the level of politics and discourse, because meetings alone will not solve any problem, rather the outcome of these meetings must be put into practice. If a Muslim, Christian, Jew, or any other human being is oppressed, all followers of religions should stand up to defend the oppressed or help the affected people in events such as wars, floods, earthquakes, etc. We as human beings and the faithful should not divide others into good and bad people and denounce racism.
Today, the Yemeni people need food and water, but the followers of the monotheistic religions should not say their problems aren’t relevant to them because they do not believe in the same religion. When the people of Syria, Iraq, and Palestine are massacred, the Pope is expected to stand by them, as Christ always stood by the oppressed people. Even from a Christian point of view, Christ was crucified because he stood by the people against the oppressors of his time.
It may be said that the scholars and leaders of monotheistic religions do not have any power today, but it should be noted that if everyone unites and acts together and according to the teachings of prophets Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad, they will certainly gain political power in the future.
What can Ayatollah Raeisi, as the President of Iran and the proponent of this idea, do to strengthen interfaith relations?
Dialogue is becoming a principle today, and the dialogue of life is the expression of a kind of dialogue that has existed throughout history. For example, Christians and Jews who have lived happily among Muslims in Iran for centuries are the representation of the dialogue of life itself, in which all followers respect each other, do not violate each other’s rights, and enjoy freedom and security. By the same token, it is expected that Muslims live freely in Europe, without being forced to remove their hijab, for example.
Therefore, Ayatollah Raeisi is expected, as a religious scholar, mujtahid, and member of the Assembly of Experts, who will soon take over the executive responsibility of the country, not to be content with a mere phone conversation but to take practical steps to strengthen the relations between monotheistic religions and unity between Muslims and Christians. It should also be noted that politicians should not be at the forefront of this, but religious people who are engaged in dialogue and religious behavior, because the purpose of dialogue is not to take political action or change the government, but to strengthen religious behavior and unity among followers.
For example, Imam Khomeini would send people to the houses of Christians on Christmas Day in Nofel Loshato to give out sweets on the occasion. This religious behavior can only be performed by people of faith and action.
Groups of religious people with monotheistic beliefs and devout behavior should travel to all parts of the world and find people like themselves and start a movement. At present, there are many NGOs in the world run by religious people, all of whom should gather and form a united front called the “Party of God” consisting of Christians, Jews, Muslims, and all free people of the world to stand strong against the “Party of Satan”, the arrogant and the colonialists.
World peace is achieved when the followers of monotheistic religions, much like Abraham, deprioritize their own interests in order to work together and aid others’ for the sake of God. What is important here is to create a faithful, kind, and empathetic lifestyle among the people of the world; a world free of oppression, sanctions, and killing.
Islam and Christianity as two great examples of monotheistic religions have a common root and can be influential on a global scale by following the example of the faith and behavior of Prophet Abraham. Muslims believe that prophets Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad (PBUH) were each a great prophet, and since their behavior is faithful and based on the behavior of Abraham, they should serve as a model for the people of the world. We need to spread this across the world. Strengthening a faithful and moral religious lifestyle based on monotheism and helping one’s fellow man should be the focus of all human behavior, in the hope of achieving world peace with the coming of Hazrat Mahdi and Jesus Christ and the elimination of all aspects of oppression in the world.
The proposal of the President-elect of Iran, Ayatollah Raeisi, to designate Eid al-Adha as the “day of interaction among the Abrahamic Religions” can be considered as the first step in the direction of any positive action that can bring humanity one step closer to everlasting peace and tranquility.