Guardianship and guidance
We have sent down this Book to you with the truth for all mankind. So, he who comes to guidance does so for himself, and he who goes astray does so for his own loss; on you does not lie their guardianship.
We need to be guardians of those who physically need us, such as small children or friends who are ill. But once thy are no longer physically dependable, their inner growth and existential health is something they have to strive for themselves. For in the path of spirituality it is even more true than in others: we cannot help those who do not wish to be helped.
And even when we try to help, we won’t be the ones who truly produce any benefit. We can only point a finger in the right direction, we can only explain our views of certain principles, we can only open the door. Walking through it is entirely up to the one who finds himself on the crossroad or choice.
The true guardians in matters of faith are the prophets and the sages - and, of course, God himself. Words of inspiration and guidance have been written down all through the centuries. So anyone who acts as if there is no help around actually chooses not to let himself be guided. Those who honestly search for words of wisdom will most certainly find them for divine wisdom isn’t as hidden as some people claim.
The divine wisdom itself will guide the honest seeker one way or the other. It is not up to us to force a seeker in a particular direction for that would mean we do not believe that the divine suffices in itself. There is no need therefore to strictly adhere to one single interpretation of one particular book in order to find the divine. Nobody should think that he has to constantly protect others from going down the wrong path. Different paths can lead to the same goal, different interpretations can lead to the same conclusion and different aspects of existence can bring us closer to God. Whether we come closer to the divine through knowledge, experience, beauty or service, the divine itself will be the guardian of the honest seeker.
What Christians can learn
The Qur’an expresses the idea that Truth has come to all mankind. Moreover, when it refers to ‘the book’, it does not only refer to the Qur’an itself but rather to ‘the divine wisdom’ as it subsides within God. Hence it also calls Jews and Christians people of ‘the book’ since they have partaken in the revelation of the divine wisdom. It begs the question why Christ, according to so many Christians, would be the only way to God. Of course Christianity upholds the principle of trinity – in a different way than it has been comprehended by most Muslims, though that’s a different topic – but if Christ, as a person of the trinity is the way to God, then it is as much as saying: God is the way to God. However, if we speak of the historic Jesus who spoke and acted as a prophet, we should not forget that he always pointed towards the Father. It is the divinity of the trinity which should be our focus, not the historicity of Jesus.
If the historicity of the Jesus figure would be over important, then all those who haven’t heard of him or who were born in a different tradition would by definition be doomed. That would contradict a God who wishes to be known and it would deny a divine wisdom that has always revealed itself to those who were open in their hearts.
The question therefore seems whether Christians need to bring others to Christ or to God? Their own path might have led to a very deep and personal contact with Christ, but if Christ is a revelation, he’s a revelation of God, not of Jesus.
Questions for Muslims
I came across quite some Muslim missionaries in my life. Some were real missionaries travelling to different parts of the world, others were simply people I’ve encountered who zealously tried to convince me of the truth and singularity of Islam. But are such missionizing efforts not modes of thinking that one has to be the guardian of all the lost souls in the world? The Qur’an is clear however: lost souls chose to be lost. And those that are seekers can only be gently supported on their path.
As far as I can see then, the concept of dawa can not mean to try and convince all unbelievers to come to Islam. So I wonder whether it shouldn't mean ‘to spread the divine wisdom of the books by living an exemplary honest life and by serving those who ask for our support’.