Vaishnava-Muslim Dialogue

By Anuttama das and Sanaullah Kirmani - 17.5 2017

Muslim and Vaishnava scholars gather in D.C. for their most recent dialogue (Anuttama Das and Dr. Saunallah Kirmani are seated together on the far right)

We live in a world dominated by reports of religious tension and conflict. The sources of such are long and complex, and not the focus of our paper here. However, no one can deny such tension and conflicts are an ever-present experience for all of us—whether it be through reports of wars in the Middle East, or persecution against minorities in South Asia, or the roll-back religious freedoms in Russia, or the growing presence of extremists on the web, or fears of terror attacks “at home.” We cannot escape or hide from this issue, but, we can respond from a variety of perspectives and choices. Some urge Americans to build walls, either physically or via immigration policies, to keep out unwanted minorities. On the other end of the spectrum, some strive to promote more nuanced and informed political and foreign policy decisions based on a comprehensive understanding of religious impulses, traditions and histories. On the domestic front, some call for increased surveillance of citizens; others call for increased education in our schools and neighborhoods about the diversity of religious communities. These options all have their advocates. Yet, these efforts generally do not directly involve ordinary citizens in planning and executing. Thus, a question arises: What can we do to respond to these global and national problems? Some years ago, we—Anuttama Dasa, Minister of Communications for the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, and Sanaullah Kirmani, Muslim Student Advisor at Towson University (Maryland)—chose the response of formal dialogue. This paper shares some information about the foundations of that choice, its process, its outcomes, and its potential. This being a co-written essay, the reader will find us authors speaking in first-person plural in the Conclusion (as is the case here in the Introduction); however, in the body, we employ a third-person narrative voice that will refer to each of us by given name, as necessary.

Foundations

Each of the authors reached adulthood with an appreciation of religious diversity. Anuttama recalls that, while studying World Religions at high school near Detroit, Michigan, he was surprised to discover that there were profound similarities between the great religious traditions: all seemed to agree there is a higher purpose in life; all argued against mere accumulation of earthly power and treasure; all advocated an existence beyond this temporary life of a few decades of struggle; all called upon their followers to seek pleasures beyond the happiness and distress of material desires; and most, though not all, advocated there is a Supreme Being, or Divinity, with whom human beings are existentially related, and without whom they will forever fail to find peace and satisfaction. A few years later, he adopted the Vaiṣnava faith (or practice), becoming a member of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), or what is commonly referred to as the Hare Krishna community—doing so in large part because of its appreciation for the religious calling of others, and its valuing the sincerity of those involved in diverse religious quests.

Among the many references to substantiate this Vaiṣnava belief Anuttama is fond of this one from the Bhagavad-gītā: “Whenever and wherever there is a decline in religious practice, O descendant of Bharata, and a predominant rise of irreligion—at that time I descend Myself.”1 In his commentary on this verse, Anuttama’s teacher, A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Srila Prabhupāda, the founder-ācārya of ISKCON, shares these thoughts:

Therefore, each and every avatāra, or incarnation of the Lord, has a particular mission…. In each and every incarnation, He speaks as much about religion as can be understood by the particular people under their particular circumstances. But the mission is the same—to lead people to God consciousness and obedience to the principles of religion…2

Thus, Anuttama explains, “Vaiṣnavas understand that God comes into this world many times and in many ways, yet His mission to uplift people with spiritual knowledge and experience remains the same.” He has long found this broadminded view empowering. He explains,

…whenever I attend Methodist services, or Catholic Mass, or an ifṭār, or an event in a synagogue, Buddhist temple, or gurdwārā—as I do from time to time—I am inspired by what I see and experience. God is certainly here too, and these people are certainly trying to seek, understand, and serve Him. Thus, when I became acquainted with Dr. Sanaullah Kirmani, Muslim chaplain at Towson University (Baltimore, Maryland), I was similarly impressed by his faith and commitment to shared spiritual values.

For his part, Sanaullah—a native of India—grew up in a Muslim home that was at the same time filled with a rich mixture of Hindu-Muslim religious and social culture and had spent a good part of his working life in participating in and organizing interfaith dialogues. Given this background, the idea of a formal Hindu-Muslim dialogue was very welcome; but, he recalls, “I was somewhat wary at the same time, because I had experienced a couple of such attempts that had gotten bogged down by the impact of historical and contemporary communal issues.” Indeed, as he became better acquainted with Anuttama he was assured that he was cognizant of such situations as well.

Anuttama and Sanaullah first met at an event sponsored by the Interfaith Conference of Washington, D.C., which was held at the Vaiṣnava Temple in Bethesda, Maryland. However, it was during the World Conference on Dialogue Among Religions and Civilizations: “The Contribution of Religion and Culture to Peace, Mutual Respect and Cohabitation”—a gathering of some 300 scholars, activists and religious leaders representing religions and peace organizations from ninety-six countries, held in Ohrid, Macedonia, in October 2007—that these two interfaith activists got to know each other more fully. “We shared not only our DC connections,” Anuttama recalls, “but also our mutual disdain for what was supposed to be a conference of dialogues—but sadly was a litany of monologues.”

Out of that shared angst, Anuttama and Sanullah decided to create a forum for deep dialogue between Muslims and Vaiṣnavas in Washington, D.C.—perhaps at the same time providing a format and example for others to follow. It was obvious to both, that very large meetings were not conducive to dialogue that would be truly satisfying. However, their mutual experience of that large-scale event did give them an opportunity to reflect together on the process and transformative power of dialogue itself. It is during those conversations that Anuttama voiced his interest in organizing a small Hindu-Muslim dialogue in Washington D. C. He had confidence in such an approach, having been instrumental in the founding of the still-ongoing Vaiṣnava-Christian Dialogue in 1997. “Given Anuttama’s enthusiasm, his energy, and—particularly—his faith,” says Sanaullah, “I felt it was worth a try.”

In determining to launch this dialogue, both men were fully aware of the high importance of Hindu-Muslim historical and contemporary relations in the Indian subcontinent; they remain hopeful that through the Washington-based Vaiṣnava-Muslim dialogue, enough trust and understanding might be developed such that the Indian environment could be on its agenda sometime in the future. They were, however, also cognizant that the very fact that Islam and Vaishnavism are two minority religious communities in the USA presents adherents of each with a unique opportunity to distance themselves, at least for a while, from their larger history and to begin to take a fresh look at their spiritual and religious commitments in unison. They, therefore, decided to confine the dialogue to the U.S. context. Now, seven years later, those conversations have become an annual event—a reunion of sorts between Muslims and Vaiṣnava Hindus who seek to understand each other as they share their beliefs, inner journeys, and outer struggles.

The Dialogue

Experts have written extensively about types of dialogue—among them, the dialogue of action, dialogue of life, and dialogue of experts.3 Today, many people advocate the importance of “getting beyond talking” in favor of “doing something together”—such as social service projects and other hands-on events. The authors agree that such interactive and pro-active exchanges are wonderfully helpful, especially for young people. Yet, alongside them—and perhaps even more important—is the need to learn to talk with each other about the deepest issues of our beliefs and the challenges of living our faith. Through that process—which requires careful listening as well as clear talking—deep relationships, lasting friendships, and even love can evolve. Through that process one can learn that—beyond differences in ritual, dress, language, text, and culture—there exists a shared humanity and quest to understand our source and our being.

Anuttama emphasizes and Sanaullah concurs that great teachers and saints from many traditions have come to remind us, in different words and at different times, that this world is not the all-in-all; and, that human efforts to conquer the world and each other are manifestations of ignorance that destine humanity to never ending, self-inflicted sorrow. Thus, the project launched in 2010 has concentrated on exploring and challenging each other respectfully about core theological and social issues. The topics of its meetings have ranged from “The Name of God,” to “Sacred Aesthetics,” and from “Theological Foundations of Dialogue” to “Vaiṣnava and Muslim Approaches to Peace Building and Social Justice.” Each topic, however, had one intention: to help participants understand the Vaiṣnava other, or the Muslim other, as fellow seekers on the path to the Divinity; and, perhaps, to also learn how one can individually be a better Muslim or Vaiṣnava—and a better citizen of a diverse world.

Since 2010, the Vaiṣnava-Muslim Dialogue has met every spring. Eight-to-ten Vaiṣnavas join with eight-to-ten Muslims from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM on a Saturday, for conversation and a vegetarian lunch. The group comprises men and women ranging in age from late 20s to late 60s. They include Anglo-Americans, African-Americans, and South Asian Americans. Among the regulars are some married couples. A topic is selected one year in advance; two speakers—one from each tradition—are asked to prepare a paper or presentation that will serve to open discussion on the chosen topic. After these two opening presentations, conversation is free flowing. Everyone is welcome to share their reflections on the topic and its relevance to their own experience. To date, the dialogue agenda and presenters have been as follows:

2010: The Name of God

 Vineet Chander and Sohaib N. Sultan

2011: What Do We Love When We Love Our God

 Graham Schweig and Adam Vogtman

2012: What Do We Do When We Love Our God

 Anuttama Dasa and Zeenut Ziad

2013: Sacred Aesthetics

 Graham Schweig and Sanaullah Kirmani

2014: Approaches to Peace Building and Social Justice

 Brian Bloch and Sanaullah Kirmani

2015: Theological Foundations for Interfaith Dialogue

 Anuttama Dasa and Sanaullah Kirmani

2016: Vision of “The Other”

 William Deadwyler and Sanaullah Kirmani

This essay offers specific insights gleaned from two of these sessions.

The Name of God

As Anuttama and Sanaullah planned the initial dialogue, they were impressed by the centrality of God—however conceived—in each tradition and its scriptures. Each of the two group’s religious commitments were centrally important to that group and had to be understood by the other; and that, in turn, could not be accomplished without each side understanding the others relationship and commitment to God. They were aware, however that many a dialogue had floundered at the very beginning because it had begun by discussing the nature of God. The Vaiṣnava-Muslim Dialogue planners did not wish to end up debating the nature of God, yet both still were convinced of the need for their dialogue to begin by talking about God. Fortunately, both Islam and Vaishnavism have a rich tradition centering on the names of God. So this new dialogue began with each side making a presentation on the “Name of God” as it pertains to their particular tradition; this also kept the project scripturally centered. For that inaugural dialogue, papers were offered by chaplains from Princeton University: Sohaib N. Sultan, Director of Muslim Life at Princeton, and Vineet Chander, Director of Hindu Life at Princeton.

In his paper, Chander explained that chanting God’s names is one of the five primary religious activities of a Vaiṣnava Hindu—the other four being to reside in a holy place, study sacred texts, serve saintly devotees of the Lord, and tend to temple worship. He noted that Vaiṣnavas are theists who believe the soul is an eternal servant of Supreme Lord. Thus, Vaiṣnavas call upon the name of God in three distinct, but not unrelated ways or moods:

As a means of petitioning God for salvation;
As a meditative practice of remembering God; and
As an experience of communion with God.

Chander pointed out that Vaiṣnavas recognize a multiplicity of names of God, “each glorifying or illuminating His attributes and divine pastimes.” He argued that such a view leads Vaiṣnavas to be respectful of other traditions that also call upon the name of God in prayer, albeit in a different language and culture. This of course, includes their Muslim colleagues.

For Vaiṣnavas, repetition of God’s name is a daily spiritual practice—so much so that Anuttama’s community has become known by the names of God it recites Hare Kṛṣṇa. These two words, along with Rāma, are the three names of God that are contained in the mahāmantra, or the great prayer of deliverance. Chander described briefly the potency of chanting God’s names: “The Vaiṣnava understanding is that—unlike us—because God is absolute, His name is absolute. On this level the name is not merely a signifier of something apart from itself; the name and the named are one. When His name is evoked, He is actually there.” Knowing that God and His name are identical, the Vaiṣnava calls out to the Lord in the form of His name with this simple thought: “Oh my Lord, oh energy of the Lord, please engage me in your service.”

As a Muslim, Sanaullah found Chander’s characterization of various names of God not only very meaningful, but also quite close to Muslim tradition—especially in that in both religions, the names of God reflect His attributes. In Chander’s description of the three ways in which the Vaiṣnava experience God’s name (listed above), he saw parallels to the Muslim invocation of God’s name during what Muslims call duʿāʾ—supplicatory prayer which includes “petitioning God for salvation;” the Muslim meditative practice of dhikr—remembering and repeating the name of God in order to be close to Him; and to the fact that Muslim salāt (formal prayer five times a day) also brings a person spiritually close to God.

Particularly moving for Sanuallah as a Muslim was Chander’s assertion that “the defining characteristic of a Vaiṣnava—and the metric for gauging spiritual advancement in Vaishnavism—is the intensity and depth of his or her relationship with the name of God. In a very real sense, the name of God is the ‘litmus test’ for one’s very identity as a Vaiṣnava.” For Sanaullah, of great importance for the growth and future success of the newly founded dialogue was Chander’s effort to explain to the group the importance of the name of God in Vaishnavism—as he did in the following paragraph of his paper:

To understand the importance of the name of God in Vaiṣnavism, we need only ask who is a Vaiṣnava? The hallmark of Vaiṣnavism, the largest denomination or tradition within Hinduism is its worship of a singular Deity, identified by names such as Viṣṇu (from which “Vaiṣnava” is derived), Kṛṣṇa, or Rāma, as the original and supreme God. In sharp contrast to other Hindu traditions, which champion a monism in which the goal is for the worshipper and the object of worship to become one and the same, Vaiṣnava theology holds that both God and His creation are distinct and real. For a Vaiṣnava, God is eternally God, all living beings are eternally servants of God, and the perfection of life is to re-awaken this service relationship with Him. It is the name of God that becomes the primary means by which Vaiṣnavas access this relationship.

In his paper, Sohaib Sultan stressed that, in Islam, there are many names for God—a fact of significant interest to some of the Vaiṣnava participants. Sultan explained that there are two main categories of those names: one category addresses God’s majestic aspects; the other, God’s beauty. Sultan wrote:

In examining and reflecting upon these attributes we learn more about the meaning of Allāh. For instance, under the Majestic, God’s attributes include “The Proud,” “The Creator,” “The King,” and so on. Under the Beautiful, God’s attributes include “The Generous One,” “The Loving,” “The Patient One,” and so on.

He explained further: “Now, one may ask how two such different attributes can exist in One. It is like the ocean that is majestic and powerful, and even intimidating, when seen as a whole body. And, yet, that same ocean is delightful, beautiful, and close when its gentle waves come around our ankles.”

Upon reflection, Anuttama recalls: “Seeing that my Muslim friends describe what Vaiṣnava texts explain in a parallel way about God’s aiṣvarya feature (majestic, all-controlling) as well as His mādhurya feature (sweetness, and intimate) was something new for me, and one of many ‘aha’ moments of interfaith revelation during our years of dialogue.” For his part, Sanaullah asserted the importance for the continuation and success of the newly-founded dialogue of Sultan’s explanation of the meaning of Muslim; as Sultan put it:

A Muslim literally means, in Arabic, one who surrenders, one who simply lets go. Theologically, this surrender is to God, the creator and sustainer of all that exists. Spiritually, it is surrendering and letting go inwardly of one’s ego, one’s lower desires, to be in connection with the greatest One, and thus to be in sync with the rest of the created universe, which is already in a state of surrender before God. Ethically, then, Muslim means to conform to the teachings, commandments, and preferences of divine will in our outward behavior.

Many of the participants in the inaugural dialogue were pleased to learn that a process as core to their own tradition as remembering God’s names in prayer and study was similarly essential in their dialogue-partners’ community. “Perhaps,” Anuttama suggests, “we must have thought, these Vaiṣnavas (or these Muslims) are not so strange after all!” The papers by Chander and Sultan certainly were important to the success of the inaugural dialogue in that they furthered participants’ understanding of both Islam and Vaishnavism as daily-functioning faith traditions, and helped all to see that by dialoguing together they were in fact praising and serving God. But, equally significantly, these papers fostered the future of the dialogue in that they led directly to three subsequent topics: What Do We Love When We Love Our God (2011), What Do We Do When We Love Our God (2012), and Sacred Aesthetics (2013).

Theological Foundations for Interfaith Dialogue

After several years of pleasant and productive conversations, it was decided that the 2016 session should consider what gives us the right to enter into dialogue. That is, within each of our traditions, what is the theological foundation for interreligious dialogue? Papers by Anuttama Dasa and Sanaullah Kirmani provided the framework for this conversation.

In his paper, Anuttama looked at dialogue from a series of theological viewpoints, concluding each section with a question for his fellow Vaiṣnavas. Here are those questions:

If, as our Vaiṣnava teachings advocate, we are from the same spiritual source or Supreme Lord, and if we are connected eternally to other souls, why don’t we seek opportunities to dialogue with others about these essential truths?
If, as our Vaiṣnava teachings advocate, all beings share the same ultimate goal in life, why not converse and dialogue about this for our mutual benefit?
If, as our Vaiṣnava teachings advocate, God is so merciful, and offers so many spiritual processes to draw us closer to Him, should we not be open to dialogue with others following a different path? Perhaps we can learn from them, share our own insights and uncover more mysteries about our Lord and His ways of delivering us.
And finally, since the Lord is present and approachable in others’ worship of Him, should I not learn to see the good within that understanding of the Divine, and be open to a dialogue that may increase my own understanding?

As Sanaullah confirms, the Muslim participants were struck by the honesty and depth of these questions. They were also moved by Anuttama’s own positive responses. As Anuttama explains: “my answer to each of these questions was an emphatic yes. Based on Vaiṣnava theology, dialogue becomes a means of understanding others, a means of understanding God, and a means of pleasing God. To not dialogue, I argued, is to not fully understand the breadth of Vaiṣnava thought.” Anuttama concluded his paper by asserting:

In particular, the Vaiṣnava believes that there is one Supreme Lord; that all souls share the same ultimate goal—love of God; that there are many avatars and representatives of the Lord that have taught different, yet authorized ways of approaching Him; that God reveals Himself and is adored in different moods by different devotees; and that our ācāryas have found benefit from, and appreciation for, other traditions. All of these can serve as great inspiration to dialogue.

The Muslim participants were particularly appreciative of the Vaiṣnava emphasis on the notion of God’s mercy overall, but especially its role as a motivation to dialogue with people on a different path, finding it quite close to their own understanding, as Muslims, of God’s mercy and care for all—very similar to their Islamic understanding of the relationship between God’s mercy and God’s exhortation that we enter into dialogue with the other.

Since the aim of the 2016 session of Vaiṣnava-Muslim dialogue was to look for scriptural guidance on Hindu-Muslim dialogue, Sanullah’s paper presented a Qurʾānic argument, which may be summarized as follows:

According to Islam, all humankind is subject to God’s judgment on the day of recompense (Judgment Day) for according to the Qurʾān: “Then it will be for Us to call them to account.” (Q. 88:25–26).5
In addition to being the, “Master of the Day of Judgment” (Q. 1:4), God is also the “Most Gracious Most Merciful” (Q. 1:3).6
God’s Grace and Mercy would, however, be contravened if humankind were to be judged without being provided information as to the basis of that judgement and instruction about what leads to felicity on earth and earning of God’s good graces in the hereafter.
In consonance with the above, it is clearly stated in the Qurʾān, “We would never chastise [any community for the wrong they may do] ere We have sent an apostle [to them]” (Q.17:15).7
Therefore, “To every people (was sent) an apostle: when their apostle comes (before them), the matter will be judged between them with justice, and they will not be wronged” (Q. 10:47).8
Since, according to the above, no community is left without an apostle or a prophet who brings guidance from God, then the Hindu (Vaiṣnava) community has also received guidance from God. In what format is that guidance present and available is another question. According to the Qurʾān: “O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other (not that ye may despise each other).” (Q. 49:13).9
And further, “Those who believe (in the Qurʾān), those who follow the Jewish (scriptures), and the Sabians, Christians, Magians, and Polytheists,—Allāh will judge between them on the Day of Judgment: for Allāh is witness of all things” (Q. 22:17).10

Thus, Muslims are informed in the Qurʾān that God’s purpose in creating “nations and tribes” is for them to “know each other;” judgment as to their beliefs is to be withheld, since that function belongs to God. Sanaullah saw in that “a formula for dialogue,” an assertion that, “in fact, dialogue with Hindus (Vaiṣnavas) is to be no different from the Muslim historical pattern of dialoging with other communities of faith who received guidance from God, namely the communities of Jews and Christians.”11

Certainly, some Vaiṣnava participants found it inspiring that, on the basis of the Qurʾān—particularly, verse 22:17 and a traditional Muslim understanding of it—a Muslim, while certainly convinced about Islam, nevertheless, has to be nonjudgmental about the salvation of a follower of any other tradition per se, for that judgment belongs to God alone.12 As Anuttama understands his co-presenter’s argument, “It is the case, therefore, that, on the basis of the above Qurʾānic passage, no one ‘nation’ may claim to be the exclusive recipient of God’s communication in the form of guidance through a Prophet, since all without exception have received such.” In his own reflections on the 2016 session, Sanuallah affirms this:

By implication, therefore, for Muslims, dialogue is not only permitted, but may also be construed to be a pious act—that is, an act of actualizing in one’s activity in the world the will of God for humankind to “know each other.” Dialogue, as an activity that promotes the knowing of one another, is a celebratory and thanksgiving act for God’s creative activity in creating so many “nations and tribes.”13

Upon reflection, says Anuttama, the ways in which the 2016 session highlighted parallels between the Vaiṣnava and Muslim traditions—especially the mandates within each to reach out to people of other faiths—“gave me pause, and further convinced me that dialogue is not only a Vaiṣnava ‘thing to do;’ it is a Muslim ‘thing’ as well. Indeed, its seems to be the godly ‘thing to do.’” For his part, Sanaullah concurs.

Conclusion

Thus the Vaiṣnava-Muslim Dialogue, meeting annually near Washington, D. C., has established itself as a viable model, taking its place alongside such similar enterprises as the Vaiṣnava-Christian Dialogue (founded in 1997)14 and the Building Bridges Seminar (a Christian-Muslim Dialogue founded in 2002).15 During the years of our Vaiṣnava-Muslim Dialogue, we have sadly seen tension rise between many religious communities around the world. We believe, however, that the political conflicts, ethnic biases, and ignorance that feed such tensions are not based on genuine understanding of our religious similarities or differences. It remains for thoughtful people to build bridges of understanding, and demonstrate to the world what some of us in the Vaiṣnava and Muslim communities have learned: God does want us to know each other, and to learn from each other.

To do so is both challenging and enriching. Such dialogues offer a chance to rebuild communities of peace and mutual respect in the United States and around the world. To not do so means to allow ignorance of “the other” to fill the void. That is a dangerous option; and it is becoming more obvious day-by-day that to not build communities of understanding means to destine ourselves, our children, and our planet to conflicts too vast and too deadly even to contemplate.

Thus we opt for dialogue, seeing it as an aspect of God’s mercy. We believe that to engage in dialogue itself is to praise and serve God. The fact that, throughout the history of this dialogue, each session has been hosted by the Vaiṣnavas has meant, as one Muslim participant has observed, that the participants have always had a calm, comfortable and relaxed tension free environment to conduct our dialogue—an environment in which the group could take up both agreeable and conflictive issues. Because the dialogue has met consistently, and because the participant-roster has been relatively stable over the years, it has been possible to build trusting relationships—a fact affirmed by occasional Muslim and Vaiṣnava guests. The dialogical atmosphere has indeed been open and supportive; yet it has, as well, been nevertheless inquisitive, and given to deep critical questioning when the occasion demands. Participants have learned that without critical engagement, the group will not be able to advance its dialogic and “God-praising” goal of achieving deeper and deeper appreciation and understanding—not only of traditions of Vaiṣnavism and Islam—but of each other as valuable human beings.

It is safe to say that, for most of its participants, this Vaiṣnava-Muslim Dialogue has been transformative. We, the founders, are hopeful that our dialogue will grow in depth and understanding as we take on increasingly complex topics in theology and Hindu-Muslim relations.

Footnotes

1

A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami, Bhagavad-gītā As It Is (Los Angeles: Bhaktivedanta Book Trust International, 1972), Chapter 4, Text 7 Translation.

2

A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami, Bhagavad Gita As-It-Is, Chapter 4, Text 7 Purport.

3

One of the most influential articulations is the document The Attitude of the Church Towards the Followers of Other Religions: Reflections and Orientations on Dialogue and Mission, issued by the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, Pentecost 1984. http://www.pcinterreligious.org/dialogue-and-mission_75.html. Last accessed: 22 October 2016.

4

For the 2017 dialogue, in planning stages as this essay was written, “The Self or Soul” is the designated topic.

5

Yusuf Ali translation.

6

Yusuf Ali translation.

7

Muhammad Asad translation.

8

Yusuf Ali translation.

9

Yusuf Ali translation. “Humankind” is intended here. The parenthetical phrase “not that ye may despise each other” is an editorial embellishment added by the translator.

10

Yusuf Ali translation.

11

Sanaullah Kirmani’s presentation for the 2016 Dialogue drew heavily on an essay he had published previously. See Sanaullah Kirmani, “Interreligious Dialogue and the Journal of Ecumenical Studies: Reflections of a Muslim.” Journal of Ecumenical Studies, Vol.49, no.1 (Winter 2014),142–45.

12

This point, made by Kirmani in his oral presentation at the 2016 Dialogue, is also made in his JES article.

13

Again, in his oral presentation for the 2016 Dialogue, Kirmani here drew upon his JES article previously cited.

14

See Journal of Vaishnava Studies 20:2 (Spring 2012) for twenty-three essays on this topic and related matters.

15

See Lucinda Allen Mosher, “Getting to Know One Another’s Hearts: The Progress, Method, and Potential of the Building Bridges Seminar” in The Character of Christian-Muslim Encounter: Essays in Honour of David Thomas, edited by Douglass Pratt, John Hoover, John Davies, and John Chesworth (Brill, 2015).