It should be clear that there is both unity and diversity among world religions. There are common grounds but still there are areas in which they differ. It is untrue and quite presumptuous to say that all areas of differences among religions eventually lead to the same end.

Dr. Muzammil H. Siddiqi, President of the Fiqh Council of North America, states: In my opinion this statement is simplistic and naïve. There is both unity and diversity among world religions. There are many areas in which religions agree and there are also serious theological, philosophical and practical differences among them. It is quite presumptuous to say that all these differences do not matter and everything eventually leads to the same end.

The Qur’an gives us a very clear guidance on the subject of unity and diversity among religions. Let me emphasize few points from the Qur’anic perspective:
1. According to the Qur’an, human beings are by nature religious. Allah instilled in them His awareness through their “primordial nature” (Al-Fitrah, Ar-Rum 30: 30). This primordial nature in human beings recognizes the Divine, truth and goodness. All human beings have a common religiousness, just as they have a common sense.
2. The story of the origin of human beings is related in the Qur’an at several places (Al-Baqarah 2: 30-39; Al-A`raf 7: 11-25; Al-Hijr 15: 26-44; Al-Israa’ 17: 61-65; Al-Kahf 18: 50; Taha 20: 115-123; Saad 38: 71-85). However, on each occasion some fresh points and new insights are introduced. The basic message of the story is that Allah honored the first parents of humanity and allowed them to stay in Paradise for some time. He told them to enjoy everything, to eat and drink all they wished to but not to approach a certain tree. However, Iblis, the devil who was their enemy, misled both of them causing them to soon depart from Paradise. Upon their expulsion from Paradise they were told to beware of the Devil and not to fall into his traps. They were also assured that Allah would send His guides and messengers among them to show them the path of truth and righteousness. If they followed Allah’s prophets and messengers they would return to Paradise wherein they had been originally placed, or else they would lose it forever and end up in the total perdition of Hell.
3. Thus, as promised, Allah raised messengers from time to time among all peoples. (There was not a community), says the Qur’an, (except that a warner came to them.) (Fatir 35: 24); (For every people there was a guide.) (Al-Ra`d 13: 7) Finally the last Prophet, Muhammad came, concluding this prophetic line and giving the complete and final message of Allah to all mankind (Saba’ 34: 28).
4. The Qur’an emphasizes that the messages of all the Prophets of Allah were identical as far as the fundamental beliefs are concerned (see Al-A`raf 7: 59-93; Al-Anbiyaa’ 21: 25; and As-Shu`araa’ 26: 1-191). However, they differed in some practical details in consideration of the vicissitudes of time and place (Al-Ma’idah 5: 48). The religion of all the Prophets and Messengers of Allah throughout history was one and the same – Islam- that is ‘submission to Allah’. Islam in this sense is not a new religion, it is rather the original religion of all mankind and Prophet Muhammad is not the founder of Islam but its final messenger.
5. Although human beings hail from one and same origin and were originally one community, they do have differences. Not all differences are bad. Some differences are created by Allah. The diversity introduced by Allah in the human situation consists of the variety of genders, colors and languages among human beings and the multiplicity of races and tribes. These diversities are considered natural and are called “Allah’s signs” (Ayat) in the Qur’an (Ar-Rum 30:20-22). They are indicative of Allah’s creative power and are good and healthy since they endow human life with richness and beauty. Allah wants human beings to derive benefit from this diversity and not to allow these diversities to generate unhealthy schisms and divisions among them on the basis of genders, colors, languages or racial and tribal origins.
6. In addition to these natural diversities, there are other differences that were introduced by human beings. These are the diversities of viewpoints among human beings. The Qur’an recognizes the individuality of human beings and of their groups and communities. Not all diversities in views and opinions are considered evil either. On the contrary, sometimes the difference of opinion might be a token of Allah’s mercy. However, the dissension and disputes that lead to divisions and sectarianism are denounced in the Qur’an: (Those who divided their religion and broke up into sects, you have no part in them in the least. Their affair is with Allah. He will, in the end, tell them the truth of all that they did.)(Al-An`am 6:159) Such divisions arose, the Qur’an points out, because of undue selfishness, transgression, aggression and mutual jealousy (Al-Baqarah 2: 213; Aal `Imran 3: 19).
the Qur’an also points out that these divisions arose among people when they ignored the word of Allah and His guidance and (sold Allah’s words for a paltry price) (Al-Baqarah 2: 79), when they went to extremes in their religion, when they corrupted Allah’s message, when they consigned some part of it to oblivion, or when they took one part of Allah’s teachings and ignored the other. Each group divided up Allah’s messages and instead of following the knowledge that was given to them by Allah’s prophets, they followed their own whims and wishes. Thus, some evil religious leaders went astray and also misled their followers (Al-Baqarah 2: 120-121; Al-Ma’idah 5: 177; Al-An`am 6: 119; Ar-Rum 30: 29; Al-Jathiyah 45: 18; Muhammad 47:14, 16).
7. If Allah had so willed, according to the Qur’an, He could have forced people to come together and be guided, but He allowed them to use their own free will to come to Him. He decided not to interfere with them except by sending His Prophets from time to time so that right path might be shown to them but without coercing or compelling them. As regards the final decision as to who held to the truth and who did not, it will be made in the Hereafter on the Day of Judgement by Allah Himself. In keeping with this principle, Allah forbade His Prophets and other believers from having recourse to coercion in religion. (There is no compulsion acceptable in religion. The truth and falsehood had been made distinct from one another.) (Al-Baqarah 2: 256) (Let him who wants to believe, believe; and let him who wants to deny, deny.) (Al-Kahf 18: 29)
8. It pleases Allah that people are guided to the right path and follow it, but He would not impose the right path upon them in this world. He wants them to accept true guidance by their own free choice: (… If Allah had so willed, He would have made all of you one community, but He (has not done so) that He may try you in what He has given you; so, compete in goodness. To Allah shall you all return and He will tell you (the truth) about what you have been disputing.) (Al-Ma’idah 5: 48)
9. The Qur’an makes us fully aware that there are a variety of religious communities, each happy with its own version of the truth (Al-Mu’minun 23: 53; Ar-Rum 30: 32). They all possess some truth which is a part of the true Islam in their midst, but regrettably none of them has preserved the message of Allah in its complete and authentic form (Al-Ma’idah 5: 13-14). Allah sent Prophet Muhammad to guide humanity to the original and authentic faith and the message of Allah.
10. It is significant that the Qur’an does not condemn any religion by name. It rather commends the religious communities on their good deeds and censures them for departing from the true and authentic teachings of the prophets. It urges each religious person to purify his/her life, to search for the truth, to follow Allah’s true and authentic message, and do so with earnestness and sincerity. The salvation, according to the Qur’an, does not depend on formal affiliation with one community or the other. It rather depends on true faith in Allah and in the Hereafter and on righteous behavior (Al-Baqarah 2: 62; Al-Ma’idah 5: 69; Al-Hajj 22:17).