As a strong believer in plurality, do you think it is possible to defend a position of plurality from within the religious frame? After all, every religion sees itself as the only true path to God, which doesn't leave much space for real plurality.

Soroush: That's true. Prophets are not good pluralists. Let me give you an example: imagine a marketplace, filled with different shops. Every shopkeeper advertises for his shop. That's the most natural thing in the world. I am not going to propagate your shop, you are not going to propagate mine, yet every one of us is trying to be as successful as possible by attracting as many customers as possible.

But what about the customers? They are in the market and see a number of shops looking to attract custom. They have to be pluralist. The shopkeepers are not pluralists, but the marketplace is a place of plurality. The prophet of Islam was no pluralist, the prophet of Christianity wasn't either, and the list goes on. But I as a customer can see a number of shops in front of me. So I think, okay, maybe Iʹll buy some of what I need from this shop and some from a different. Pluralism also means that you have to allow all these shops to be open and to operate. You canʹt allow just one shop to open and close all the others down. What I have just described is my kind of pluralism.

From a theological point of view, the question might take another turn. Are we all the same, equal in the eyes of God, regardless of our religion? There are so many religions in the world, there are even ideologies that donʹt even call themselves a religion. So what has God to do with them? Iʹm afraid I donʹt have the answer to this because I am not God. But I can say that as long as you seek the truth you will be saved – it doesnʹt matter whether you are a Christian or a Muslim or something else.

Of course a prophet of a religion will say come to me, don't go to the others, but I as a customer in the market place can choose to whom I should go. All that matters is that I seek the truth; that I am honest and act fairly. The purpose, the goal of all religions is just to make us honest human beings.

The Sufis were prophets of pluralism. Rumi for example has many things to say about pluralism. He says light is light, but you have different lamps. So different lamps mean different religions, but the light inside the lamp is the same, whether you get it from this particular lamp or from another. The truth is above religion and religiosity. Religions are looking for truth. And if you find truth then you have to follow it.

Interview conducted by Dara Alani

© 2018

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