A Common Word

In the Fall of 2007 a diverse group of 138 Muslim leaders and scholars signed a statement entitled, “A Common Word Between Us and You” and distributed it to 27 Christian leaders and to “leaders of Christian churches everywhere”. The purpose of the statement was to promote world peace through embracing two theological commitments made by Muslims and Christians.

  1. “love of the One God,”
  2. “and love of the neighbour”

The authors offer numerous citations from the Qur’an and Christian Scripture that point towards these two agreements.

For example,

(from the Qur’an)

  • “So invoke the Name of thy Lord and devote thyself to Him with a complete devotion (Al-Muzzammil, 73:8).”
  • Ye will not attain unto righteousness until ye expend of that which ye love. And whatsoever ye expend, God is Aware thereof. (Aal ‘Imran, 3:92)

(from Christian Scripture)

  • But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. / Then one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, and saying, / “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” / Jesus said to him, “ ‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ / This is the first and greatest commandment. / And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ / On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:34-40)

Following the citations and commentary, the authors offer the following summary:

“Whilst Islam and Christianity are obviously different religions—and whilst there is no minimising some of their formal differences—it is clear that the Two Greatest Commandments are an area of common ground and a link between the Qur’an, the Torah and the New Testament.”

And, highlighting the importance of this project clear, the authors close by writing that,

“Christians and Muslims reportedly make up over a third and over a fifth of humanity respectively. Together they make up more than 55% of the world’s population, making the relationship between these two religious communities the most important factor in contributing to meaningful peace around the world. If Muslims and Christians are not at peace, the world cannot be at peace. With the terrible weaponry of the modern world; with Muslims and Christians intertwined everywhere as never before, no side can unilaterally win a conflict between more than half of the world’s inhabitants. Thus our common future is at stake. The very survival of the world itself is perhaps at stake. “

Since the letter was first published, nearly 100 additional Muslim leaders have become signatories, and many of the Christian leaders it was addressed to have responded individually and collectively. You may have seen the response signed by more than 300 Christian leaders that was published in The New York Times last November.

While the Unitarian Universalist Association was not a specific recipient of the original letter, a response from UUA President William Sinkford’s was gladly received. Among other things, his letter seeks to highlight the inspiration that Muslim/Christian rapprochement can have for the wider interfaith community.

Rev. Eric Cherry