How do you respond to other religions that claim to be the only path to salvation?

06/08/2013 8:10 AM

06/08/2013 8:11 AM

Paths to salvation are many

A.M. Bhattacharyya, Hindu faith adviser of the Greater Kansas City Interfaith Council:

Hinduism tells us that there are many paths to God. “Truth is one, wise men say it in many ways,” says Hindu scripture, Veda.

At different periods of history, men with exceptional power of inquiry were able to grasp the profound sense of the sacred. Thus, different religions were founded based on the teachings preached by these god-men.

Though their paths are different, the goal is the same. There is a prayer hymn in Hindu scripture that says, “Just as different streams, having their sources in different places, all mingle their water in the sea; so, oh Lord, the different paths which men take through different leanings, various though these may appear, straight or winding, all lead in the end to Thee.” (Shiva-mahimna Stotra).

If someone claims that his religion is the one true religion and the only pathway to God, this is because the person perhaps has failed to grasp the true spirit of other faiths. Or, he may have the motivation of proselytizing the people of other faiths.

If we look at history, we see that such claims caused divisions, even conflicts between people of different faiths. So, my response will be that instead of claiming that my path is the only path to salvation, let us learn to share, respect and appreciate other faiths to expand and deepen our own awareness.

Islam offers choice

Islam recognizes the existence of all religions, and the Qur'an teaches Muslims to be tolerant and live in harmony with followers of other faiths. For example, verse 99 of chapter 10 says: “If it had been the God's will, they would all have believed — all who are on earth! Would you (O Mohammad) compel mankind against their will to believe?”

Islam allows people to make their own choice and encourages them to study and learn as much as they need to about a religion; and after determining that a particular religion offers answers to all questions in a satisfactory way, then and only then they should embrace it.

Of all the monotheistic faiths, Islam is the youngest. When its message was being conveyed to the people of Medina, where Prophet Mohammad (peace be on him) was forced to migrate, Christians asked why should they accept it.

The prophet never forced anyone, acted with utmost patience, and always presented his message in a polite and respectful way, abiding by the following divine command that was given to him: “Let there be no compulsion in religion. Truth has been made clear from error. Whoever rejects evil and believes in God has grasped the most trustworthy handhold that never breaks. And God hears and knows all things.” (Qur'an 2:256).

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