Answered by Ustadh Salman Younas
Question: (a) If perennialism has no place in Islam, should one believe that all people of the book who were given the message of Islam and didn’t accept it, are therefore, not following truth?
(b) Could you please clarify where one draws the line at believing good of all religions and perennialism.
(c) I think every good person will be saved or doomed as per God’s judgement. Is this a perennial belief?
(d) Is it improper to call to Islam by saying every religion contains truth?
Answer: assalamu alaykum
I pray you are well.
(a) The idea that other religious traditions may contain certain elements of truth does not necessarily equate to perennialism.
Perennialism: A Definition
Perennialism is a particular philosophy that views all the major religious traditions of the world as sharing a transcendent truth. Although these traditions differ in a myriad of ways, such as in their rituals or the manner in which they articulate the divine, they are united by a common transcendent core. Consequently, many perennialists argue that all religions possess validity in the eyes of God (although it should be noted that some versions of perennialism identify ‘false’ or ‘aberrant’ versions of certain religious traditions).
This idea of the universal validity of religions is deemed a heterodox viewpoint in Islam, which recognizes the revelation revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (God bless him) as the final message and the only one acceptable to God. This has been discussed by classical scholars throughout the centuries and their is little evidence that they accommodated a viewpoint that recognized the equal validity of other religious traditions alongside Islam. For more, please refer to: Universal Validity of Religions and the Issue of Takfir
In light of the above, believing that Christianity, for example, possesses elements of truth is not perennialism in so far as one can affirm the former while denying the latter. In fact, the primary texts of Islam clearly lend support to the idea that many past traditions were revealed traditions and, while suffering from severe doctrinal corruption, continue to maintain some elements of their original message: the existence of God, angels, prophets, belief in revelation, heaven, hell, rituals, and so forth. Indeed, it is on account of this that Muslims are permitted to marry women from the People of the Book and commanded to still show respect for the revealed scriptures, etc.
(b) In light of the above, one can believe there are some elements of truth in other religions but not that they are valid paths to follow in addition to or aside from Islam. Rather, we believe that Islam abrogated all previous traditions as the sole religion acceptable to God.
(c) There is nothing wrong with this and is in fully keeping with Islam. It is in fact similar to what our teacher, Shaykh Faraz, has mentioned from his teacher, Shaykh Adib Kallas:
We know that those who reject faith are in Hell but it is not decisively established what exactly entails rejection of faith — this is why the scholars of Sunni Islam differed. As for the details, we should concern ourselves with our own fate. Allah will ask us about ourselves, not about what He should do with others.
Consequently, the idea of consigning the knowledge of such matters to God is the way of our scholars. Thus, we affirm those who God has decisively affirmed as being in Hell, such as Abu Jahl or Abu Lahab, and we pass no specific judgment on others, which constitute the overwhelming majority of people.
Here, of course, it needs to be pointed out that there is not always a necessary correlation between soundness of ones religion and salvation. For example, people who have not explored or introduced to Islam may still attain salvation although they were not Muslims. For more on this see:
(d) This is not a problem in da’wa contexts and is an extension of the Qur’anic command to come together on a common word and truth. (3:64)
Nonetheless, in contexts where this may cause confusion to other Muslims regarding the issue of the universal validity of religions, such statements need to be qualified. This would depend on one’s context and audience. Of course, experience shows that a majority of Muslims understand and believe in the exclusive validity of Islam and seem to naturally find the notion of perennialism questionable and contrary to the religion. However, clarity is always better than ambiguity when in doubt.
Checked & Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani