by Sayyid Muhammad Rizvi
Is IslÄm the only right path? Is as-ÅœirÄtul MustaqÄ«m (the right path) a single phenomena or are there multiple paths leading to the same destination? What happens to the non-Muslims who live a decent life and do not violate the rights of other people? Do they gain salvation, and go to Paradise or not? These are some of the burning questions of the modern era.
The concept of religious pluralism is not new; it has been discussed in one form or another by past philosophers and theologians of various schools. However, with the increased interaction between followers of different religions and inter-faith dialogues, religious pluralism has taken a new life in the stream of current thought.
When the great philosopher, Ä€yatullÄh MurtadhÄ MuÅ¥ahharÄ«, wrote his seminal work, `Adl-e IlÄhÄ« (The Divine Justice) about thirty-five years ago, the debate on religious pluralism had not yet become that popular in Iran.
What you have in your hands is the translation of `Adl-e IlÄhÄ«’s last chapter on “Good Deeds of Non-Muslims”. The more appropriate place to discuss religious pluralism and its related issues would be under the theme of “nubuwwah - prophethood” when discussing the finality of Prophet Muhammad’s (S) prophethood, however the question “What happens to the good deeds of non-Muslims?” is also connected to the theme of Divine justice; and so Ä€yatullÄh MuÅ¥ahharÄ« has answered it at the end of his `Adl-e IlÄhÄ«.
Nonetheless, before discussing that question in detail, Ä€yatullÄh MuÅ¥ahharÄ« has also briefly stated his views on religious pluralism itself. As you will read yourself, he expresses the prevailing view of the Muslim theologians and philosophers that IslÄm is the only right path. However, and more importantly, he cautions the readers not to jump to the conclusion that since IslÄm is the only right path therefore all non-Muslims will go to hell. The exclusivist view of IslÄm being the right path does not automatically and necessarily lead to the belief that all non-Muslims will go to hell.
In the last one and a half decades, the question of religious pluralism has been passionately debated among the Muslims in the West as well as the East. Some Muslim intellectuals have even tried to impose the concept of religious pluralism onto the Qur’Än itself!
I would like to take this opportunity to briefly present this discussion as a preamble to the writing of the great scholar, Ä€yatullÄh MurtadhÄ MuÅ¥ahharÄ«.
While discussing the concept of pluralism in the IslÄmic context, it is important to define the term clearly. Pluralism can be used in two different meanings: “Social pluralism” in the sociological sense means a society which consists of a multi-faith or multi-cultural mosaic.
“Religious pluralism” in the theological sense means a concept in which all religions are considered to be equally true and valid.