Abstract

abstract:

This paper seeks to introduce the general reader to the history of Muslim–Buddhist dialogue, reviewing early instances of interreligious conversation between the two traditions, while also offering a speculative reflection on the Lotus Sutra from an Islamic perspective and highlighting some points of contact between the spirituality of this Buddhist text and the overarching transformative vision of the Qur'an. The author questions the conventional understanding that Islam effectively ignores all religions apart from Judaism and Christianity, noting, for instance, that according to Muhammad Assad, the term kafir—ordinarily translated as "infidel"—actually refers to anyone rejecting spiritual truth, and as such it could not be automatically applied to anyone outside the three Abrahamic traditions. The author also surveys a number of early studies of Buddhism written from an Islamic perspective, such as the work by Abd al-Karim al-Shahrastani (1086–1153 CE), concluding with a striking quote by the mystic Rumi (1207–1273), who claimed that the path to the Mecca and the path to the Buddhist monastery were one and the same. The first section of the paper concludes with the observation that contemporary Islamic scholarship on Buddhism is almost exclusively based on Western sources and on a Western understanding of the religion, while failing to engage original Buddhist texts or to develop a fully Islamic perspective.

In the second section of the paper, the author discusses the Lotus Sutra as a source for wisdom that can be fruitfully read by Muslim scholars and practitioners alike. Relying on the classical Qur'anic notion that all nations received prophets before the coming of Muhammad, the author views the sutra as a channel of divine wisdom, highlighting the parallelism between certain claims of the Mahāyāna tradition—such as the belief in the Buddha nature—and some lesser-known Islamic traditions, such as the belief in the light of Mohammed (nur-Muhammad). The author expresses the hope that Islamic–Buddhist dialogue will foster greater interreligious understanding, while underscoring that he does not espouse a perennialist or pluralist theology of religions.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-9472
Print ISSN
0882-0945
Pages
pp. 79-104
Launched on MUSE
2020-12-15
Open Access
No
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