“Fratelli Tutti”: A Young Muslim’s Perspective

The times in which we are living call for a great deal of mutual respect, fraternity, and love. Therefore, Pope Francis’ Encyclical Letter Fratelli Tutti holds major significance in the current scenario. By this document, the Holy Father teaches us the concrete and perceptible ways to build up a just and peaceful world, through respect for the human rights of all people and service towards common good. Peace (sulh), together with justice (adl), is central also to the message of Islam (Qur’an, 3:83; 4:58; 5:8; 10:25; 16:90; 41:11; 42:15; 57:25). As a Muslim, I am inspired by Fratelli Tutti, which is addressed to all people of good will irrespective of their faiths, and in this article I share some thoughts from my angle, based on the Qur’an and the Traditions of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).

All religions teach human values founded on love. They promote fraternity, love, selflessness, solidarity, charity, tolerance, mutual respect, non-violence, truth, forgiveness, and mercy. To sum up in one word, they teach “humanity”. Drawing inspiration from the Qur’an, I affirm that Muslims’ Holy Book teaches us that the universe we live in is characterised by harmony and peace. When the Almighty created the heaven and the earth, He ordered things so that each part might perform its function peacefully without clashing with one another.

Further, the Qur’an clearly lays down that “Humanity is but a single Brotherhood: so make peace with your brethren (Qur’an, 49:10)”. We learn from the Traditions of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) that he taught his companions to maintain peace and good relations with neighbours who did not share their faith convictions. He instructed them that peace is precious like other significant spiritual exercises like charity, prayer, and fasting. Quarrels rooted in selfishness would destroy mankind, thus taught Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).

In another Tradition, he said that “Kindness is a mark of faith, and whoever is not kind has no faith”. Also, if we go into the true spirit of Islam, we will find that it is a faith that highly favours forgiveness and dislikes the act of revenge. Our beloved Prophet said that “No mercy will be shown to those who show no mercy, and no forgiveness will be given to those who cannot forgive others” (Sahih Muslim, Book 30, Hadith 5737).

Serving humankind is the very essence of Islam. Be it providing help in ameliorating the sufferings of distressed people, educating and training, social or material services. In Chapter 3 of the Qur’an, it is clearly stated that “You are the best people ever raised for the good of mankind because you have been raised to serve others; you enjoin what is good and forbid evil” (Imran, 3:110). It also directs mankind to do the service selflessly without any show-off. It has also been instructed in the Holy Book that all mankind must feed the needy, the orphans, as well as the prisoners, as Pope Francis has said in Fratelli Tutti: “Hunger is a crime as food is an inalienable right”. Similarly, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) repeatedly called for fulfilling the duty of feeding the poor and, in generally, carrying out charitable works, as one of the best traits of Islam.

The Holy Father Pope Francis emphasizes that peace among religions is possible, and it is therefore necessary to guarantee religious freedom, which is a fundamental human right for all believers. Today, we are living in the globalization era, where communities comprising of people from diverse ethnic, religious, and cultural backgrounds reside together. Every day we interact with the followers of different faiths as neighbours, colleagues, classmates, friends, and so on. Thus, we experience different facets of different systems of faith as part of our daily life. It has become very common. The issue of religious freedom and inter-religious relations is extremely significant, and it has a rational and reasonable link between the basic human rights and individual freedom of choice. Therefore, it is interesting to know the Islamic view about other religions and their followers.

Being a universal religion, Islam advocates a harmonious association among the people belonging to different religions, cultures, and civilizations for the peaceful co-existence and progressive development of all human beings. Islam as a complete way of life preserves the beliefs and practices of every individual, and maintains a peaceful relationship between the followers of one faith and another. It constitutes a practical model for resolving religious hatred, and promoting peace and justice among people of diverse ethnic, religious, and cultural backgrounds.

Religions are meant to build bridges not walls among people. If the teachings of the Qur’an and the Prophet (PBUH) regarding religious freedom and interreligious relationship are followed in their true sense and spirit, conflict, hatred, and mistrust will be reduced, while peace, harmony, and co-existence will be established in multireligious and multicultural societies. The Qur’an says that there is no compulsion in religion (2:256). Your faith is for you and mine is for me (109:6).

Pope Francis further says erroneous interpretations of religious texts cause terrorism. Religious scholars and political leaders with vested interests misinterpret religious texts to suit their interest, causing war and violence. A terrorist belongs to no religion, and a true believer cannot be a terrorist. The Qur’an says, “Kill an innocent, one kills the entire humanity but when one saves an innocent, he/she saves the entire humanity” (5:32). There are no exceptions or limitations to this statement. It is unfair that an act of few puts an entire community in jeopardy and suspicion. Terrorism is a criminal act that has a political motive. It has nothing to do with religion.

This very popular quote from the Gospel is parallel with the saying of the Prophet (PBUH), whereby one must love for their brother what they love for themselves (Bukhari and Muslim). This is indeed a golden rule that you treat others the way you want to be treated. Pope Francis points out that “indifference” to the plight of others is a plague that destroys humanity. Most people are reluctant to speak against the sufferings in the society. Pope Francis calls us to practice benevolence, to truly pursue the good of others and solidarity, to fight for justice in all circumstances of our lives.

As a young Muslim, I am overjoyed to learn to know that the inspiration for the Encyclical Letter Fratelli Tutti comes from the “Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together”, which Pope Francis signed on the 4th of November, 2019 in Abu Dhabi, along with the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Ahmed Al Tayyeb. Dialogue promotes learning with one another and from one another. Pope Francis emphasizes that dialogue must be resorted to as a way of common cooperation. The time we are living in today does not require confrontation or controversy but dialogue. The good people are in majority and there is power in goodness. We must keep that in mind. I thank the Holy Father for this truly inspiring document and I earnestly desire this document be reached not only to Muslims in South-Asia but Muslims all over the world.