Q: At a time when the clash of civilizations theories are being discussed and NATO has declared [the] Islam[ic world] the chief enemy, you call for a world-wide dialogue. What factors urge you to make such attempts?
A: The idea that the world is on the threshold of new clashes is the expectation of those whose power and continued domination depend on continuous conflict. However, as the Qur'an puts it, humanity is a noble creature and in pursuit of good things. While searching for the good and beautiful, we sometimes may encounter undesirable things. What urges me to call for a worldwide dialogue is humanity's innate nobility and beauty.
Q: Are the relevant commandments or rules of the Qur'an or the Prophet important in your initiatives?
A: The Qur'an urges peace, order, and accord. It aims at universal peace and order, and opposes conflicts and dissensions. It is interesting that the Qur'an calls actions acceptable to God "actions to bring peace and order" ('amali saliha). Our Prophet described fighting in the way of God as the lesser jihad, because it is undertaken only to remove obstacles before perfecting men and women morally and spiritually, and to bring about peace and order in human society. The real aim is to perfect people and to bring about peace and order. When this cannot be achieved by such desirable ways as education, and when you are exposed to unjust attacks, only then can we undertake the lesser jihad. We must understand it not as a rule, but as the last resort.
Q: What was the process that finally made it possible for you to meet with the Pope?
A: One cannot achieve something positive in an atmosphere dominated by enmity and through reactionary measures. As social and civilized beings, especially in our day when human values are given prominence even though rather verbally, we can and should solve our problems through dialogue. It is our belief, which also is shared by sociologists and political analysts, that religions will be more influential in the twenty-first century. Islam and Christianity have the largest followings. Buddhism and Hinduism also have considerable followings. Judaism has an influence of its own. If we expect a universal revival toward the end of time, then this requires, as a preliminary condition, that thse great religions cooperate on the essentials that they have in common.
We have no doubt about the truth of our values. We urge no one to join us, and I think that no one conceives of urging us to join their religion. The Qur'an made a universal call of dialogue to the followers of other heavenly religions. Unfortunately, however, the centuries following this call saw conflict and quarrels rather than dialogue and mutual understanding. Our time is the time of addressing intellects and hearts, an undertaking that requires a peaceful atmosphere with mutual trust and respect. At first glance, the conditions of the Hudaybiya Treaty seemed unacceptable to the Companions. However, the Qur'an described it as an opening, because in the peaceful atmosphere engendered by this treaty, the doors of hearts were opened to Islamic truths. We have no intention to conquer lands or peoples, but we are resolved to contribute to world peace and a peaceful order and harmony by which our old world will find a last happiness before its final destruction.