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The Religious Others in the Qur’ān and Conversion: Farid Esack on Pluralism and Reza Shah-Kazemi on Interfaith Dialogue


This study examines how two contemporary Muslim thinkers, Farid Esack (1955–) and Reza Shah-Kazemi (1960–), developed their thoughts on non-Muslims through the interpretation of the Qur’ān. Traditionally non-Muslims have been called Ahl al-Kitāb, i.e., People of the Book, or kuffār (sg. kāfir), i.e., infidels, and believed to be inferior to Muslims. In this globalizing world, however, it can be thought that it is an urgent issue to pursue peaceful co-existence among different religions. Esack, a South African scholar and activist, emphasized religious pluralism, while Shah-Kazemi, a London-based scholar with an esoteric tendency, emphasized universalism and inter-faith dialogue. Both of them, however, have tried to understand Non-Muslims by regarding them as “religious Others”, not to think that dawah, calling for conversion, is an imperative, and to aim to establish the ultimate religion of one God for all humankind. It could be said that their thoughts on peaceful co-existence between Muslims and non-Muslims is an effort to surpass the traditional exclusiveness to provide a space for monotheistic believers who put a premium on tolerance of religious Others. But both elaborate their ideas without discussing polytheists, which will be required as the next step in establishing the ultimate religion.


Qur'an, Pluralism, Interfaith dialogue, Others, Conversion