Pope Benedict XVI and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, have been sent copies of the document, which focuses on the shared beliefs of the religions, such as the worship of one god, and the requirement to live in peace with one’s neighbours.
The letter says: “Muslims and Christians together make up well over half of the world’s population. Without peace and justice between these two religious communities, there can be no meaningful peace in the world. The future of the world depends on peace between Muslims and Christians.”
The 29-page document argues that the basis for this understanding can be found in the religions’ common principles: “Love of the One God, and love of the neighbour.”
Supporting their argument with quotations from both the Bible and the Koran, the signatories say that Mohammed was told the same truths that had already been revealed to previous Christian and Jewish prophets, including Jesus.
But the scholars also stress that there is more at stake than “polite ecumenical dialogue” between religious leaders.
“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,” the letter says.
The letter says that the Koran entreats Muslims to treat Christians and Jews with particular friendship – but it also warns against aggression from Christians.
“We say to Christians that we are not against them and that Islam is not against them-so long as they do not wage war against Muslims on account of their religion, oppress them and drive them out of their homes,” it says.
Organised by the Royal Aal al-Bayt Institute for Islamic Thought, a non-governmental organisation based in Amman, Jordan, the document comes a year after another open letter to the Pope following a controversial speech in which he quoted a medieval text linking Islam and violence.
The Institute said: “This historic letter is intended by its 138 signatories as an open invitation to Christians to unite with Muslims over the most essential aspects of their respective faiths – the principles of love of one God and love of the neighbour.
“It is hoped that the recognition of this common ground will provide the followers of both faiths with a shared understanding that will serve to defuse tensions around the world.”
More than 130 prominent Islamic scholars have written to Christian leaders around the world, calling for greater understanding between the two religions and warning that the world’s future may depend on peaceful relations between Muslims and Christians.