This is an important question one has to deal with in his/her mission of Christian Muslim relations. In the pluralistic world one cannot completely avoid any level of participation in the worship of the other. The immediate danger many Catholic theologians apprehend in such participation is the danger of syncretism. The question becomes theologically much nuanced when it has to deal with Christians and Muslims praying together. In this brief article we shall suggest that it is not only possible that Christians and Muslims could pray to one God together, but ‘praying together’ is essential and should be encouraged.
Christians and Muslim believe in one God
Christians and Muslims should recognize first of all that they worship none but One God. They address their prayer to One God in whom both Christians and Muslims place their faith and commit themselves to bend their own wills to the will of the one and the only God. Pope Paul VI affirmed that Muslims as true adorers of the one God. He wrote: “Then to adorers of God according to the conception of monotheism, the Muslim religion especially, deserving of our admiration for all that is true and good in their worship of God” (Ecclesiam Suam 106).
Recognition of differences is an expression of mutual respect
Nevertheless they should not forget the considerable difference between the Christian and Muslim confession of God’s unity. The unity of God as a common element between Christians and Muslims needs to be approached carefully for when Christians talk about God, they talk about one who “is known and worshiped as Father, Son and Spirit”. Muslims do not accept the Trinitarian understanding of God. These fundamental differences in their understanding of God should be recognized. Recognition of differences is an expression of mutual respect.
Christians and Muslims pray to the living God
If one realtivizes differences then the significance of difference will be undervalued. However, differences do not do away the meaning one could experience in depth in encountering one another. Christians should be aware that Muslim prayer is directed towards the living God and the Islamic faith has raised over the centuries true worshipers of the One God. Christians also must know that the God of Muslims in not an idol, not a creature, not a lofty idea but the in whom Christians also believe.
We stand before one God
Secondly, Christians’ and Muslims’ faith in One God and prayer to that One God allows them an encounter in faith and stand before God in a real way. In standing together helps Christians and Muslims that it is God who binds them together and the encounter between them is God’s gift. This encounter helps Christians and Muslims to live their profound differences in genuine respect. When Christians and Muslims seek to live their relationship with God in a conscientious way they are together with their differences and thus they are brothers and sisters. Pope John Paul II stressed this in his address to Muslims in Philippines. He told them: “I deliberately address you as brothers: that is certainly what we are, because we are members of the same family, whose efforts, whether people realize it or not, tend toward God and the truth that comes from him. But we are especially brothers in God, who created us and whom we are trying to reach, in our own ways, through faith, prayer and worship, through the keeping of his law and through submission to his designs”.
Every authentic prayer binds Christians and Muslims and guides towards living in peace
The spiritual efforts of Muslim brothers and sisters do not leave the heart of their Christian brothers and sisters unmoved since they stand together before God since every authentic prayer is under the influence of the Spirit of God who intercedes insistently for us (Romans 8:26-27). As Christians and Muslims standing together and praying ‘authentically’ according to one’s tradition then they are moving towards living together in peace. One should not stop a Christian who is exploring with Muslims this ‘togetherness’ in prayer. (The author acknowledges several fruitful discussion he had with Prof Christian W Troll SJ, a renowned Catholic theologian on Islam and Christian – Muslim Relations).