There is no teaching in the Quran that says Muslims must convert every non-Muslim, look down on the faiths of others or kill non-believers, the former grand mufti of Egypt, Sheikh Dr Ali Gomaa, said yesterday.
Drawing on his deep knowledge of Islamic teachings, he emphasised the need for dialogue between members of different faiths, saying this must be done sincerely and with the utmost respect for the views of all.
"Inter-faith dialogue need not conclude with a winner or loser," he said, adding that as a Muslim, he was particularly sensitive to what he called the "weaknesses and flaws of Muslims themselves".
"Indeed, all Muslims must engage in serious and honest self- examination if they are sincere about bettering themselves, and returning to the Creator with a sound heart and clear conscience," he said.
One of the most respected religious authorities in the Muslim world, Sheikh Gomaa, 62, held his audience of 550 spellbound as he delivered a 35-minute speech in Arabic, which was translated into English.
The well-known advocate of religious moderation was Egypt's grand mufti between 2003 and last year. He was the distinguished speaker at the launch of the Studies in Inter-Religious Relations in Plural Societies Programme yesterday at the Marina Mandarin Singapore.
In his address titled Reclaiming Our Common Humanity - The Role Of Religion Amidst Pluralism, Sheikh Gomaa shared his insights into how trust among those from different religions needs to be continuously built.
He urged his audience to approach inter-faith dialogue in an atmosphere of respect. Dialogue, he said, was not about competition.
The need for dialogue and respect for other religious beliefs is taught in the Quran, he added.
"The Quran states, 'God has created us into nations and tribes so that we may learn about each other'," he said. The world's beauty, he added, lies in its pluralism.