The Will of God: Coexistence in Pluralistic Societies
'Pluralism' is the design of God [49:13]. Regarding ‘religious pluralism' the Quran states: If it had been your Lord's will, they would all have believed, all who are on the earth. Will you then compel mankind against their will to believe? [10:99]. God states in another verse of the Quran: To each among you have We prescribed a law and a clear way. If God had so willed, He would have made you a single people, but His plan is to test you in what He has given you; so strive as in a race in good deeds [part of 5:48].
An examination of God’s message of these verses makes it clear that diversity is the will of God. The text of the aforementioned verses also makes it clear that compulsion in the matter of faith is forbidden which is also corroborated by other verses of the Quran which states: Let there be no compulsion in religion [part of 2:256]. To you your system of life [Arabic: diin] and to me mine. [109:6]
A closer look of the text of the verse 5:48 manifests that the purpose of these differences is to test, what we do with the revelations and how we behave with the precepts and teachings of God and compete in doing virtue. Diversity of doctrines, religions, nations and peoples is a test and the teachings of God require that we manage the differences with equity and live in tolerance and coexist in this world, since God is the ultimate one to Judge. [5:8], [3:113-15].
This can be further appreciated in the following verse: Every one pursues his goal. Compete with each other in performing good deeds. Wherever you are, God will bring you all together. God has power over all things. [2:148]
However this does not imply that all religions, doctrines or ideologies followed by Man are upon the “truth” or “rightly guided”. [Quran (Al-Asr):103], [2:135-37]. Hence the reason why God sent messengers (prophets) in the first place. [10:47], [16:36]
This is what is meant by 'pluralism' in the system [Arabic: diin] of Islam. Islam is based upon the divine teachings of God and not the Man made religion or denomination also commonly referred to as ‘Islam’ today. [2:119-20]
The faithful have been commanded to accept the plurality of human society as a reality as well as a test from God. Yet at the same time to convey God’s message within such plural societies. [3:19-20].
And Allah knows best.