Abrahamic Family House
What the Abrahamic Family House will look like Image Credit: WAM

The Abrahamic Family House is a reflection of the UAE’s culture, which makes it a role model for peaceful coexistence in the region and around the world by incorporating tolerance as a stable and expansive value into its vision of the present and the future. The UAE is a nation that embraces diversity in terms of religion, race, and sect while also making discrimination, hatred, and racism illegal. More than 200 nationalities coexist peacefully in the UAE, where they all have equal rights and chances for a fulfilling existence. There are 76 non-Muslim places of worship as well; some of them were built on land donated by the Emirates.

His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the UAE, reaffirmed this country’s exceptional tolerance by stating: “The universe accommodates everyone, and diversity is a source of wealth, and is not a cause for conflict or fighting. God created us differently, in order to complement each other, and to get to know each other and work together for the sake of goodness, peace, and development for all of us. This is the message that the United Arab Emirates wants to convey to the whole world by waving the flag of tolerance and working tirelessly to coordinate programmes, activities, and projects that promote tolerance instead of intolerance, cohabitation over conflict, moderation over fanaticism and extremism, openness over closure, and conversation over disagreement.

The “House of the Abrahamic Family” is a united society in which followers of the three monotheistic religions enhance their practices of exchanging conversation and ideas. It is a translation of the Human Fraternity Document, particularly the clause that states that “dialogue and understanding, and establishing a culture of tolerance, acceptance of the other, and coexistence among people, would contribute to containing many social and political problems.” The establishment of this house was announced on February 5, 2019, the day after Pope Francis and Grand Imam Dr Ahmed Al Tayeb, Sheikh of Al Azhar Al Sharif, signed the Document of Human Fraternity in Abu Dhabi on February 4, 2019.

UAE’s independent international role

The Abrahamic Family House, which is being built on Saadiyat Island in Abu Dhabi and is scheduled to open soon, is being built in a purely Emirati political and humanitarian context, linking tolerance and human brotherhood on the one hand, and the economic and social progress of countries and peoples on the other, and reflects the nature of the tolerant Emirati society, thanks to its natural instinct and the accumulated human gain from “Zayed’s Legacy.” This sets the “Abrahamic Family House” apart from all other endeavours, including interfaith discussion and others.

Some people may believe that the founding of the “House of the Abrahamic Family” is inextricably linked to a global setting in which the United States and the United Nations are two of its most significant players. Although this statement is partially true, it ignores the other half, which is that the United Arab Emirates, moving from its position as an influential actor, plays a pivotal and independent role in this international context in terms of defining goals and providing the necessary means to achieve them.

Since its inception in 1971 until now, the United Arab Emirates has grown accustomed to taking the initiative and leading in foreign policy and international relations, particularly in significant humanitarian actions involving the values of peaceful coexistence, leveraging its experience in establishing and maintaining diplomatic relations with other countries. This demonstrates that the “House of the Abrahamic Family” is a genuine Emirati movement born of an Emirati culture that embraces fraternity. The “Abrahamic Family House” is part of a free and independent Emirati policy framework, as well as a sustainable Emirati vision of tolerance and human brotherhood that others are inspired by, imitate, and willingly gather under for the benefit of all humanity and the planet.

Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed
UAE President His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan and His Highness Sheikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, with Pope Francis and Grand Imam Ahmad Al Tayyeb at the Human Fratenity Meeting in Abu Dhabi in February 2019. Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed ordered the construction of the Abrahamic Family House to reflect the peaceful coexistence of different communities in the UAE. Image Credit: Twitter/@MohamedBinZayed

Emirati people’s present to the world

The world will finally realise that the “House of the Abrahamic Family” is a sublime human message that the Emirati people present to the world, with the goal of building reconciled societies that are not argumentative, peaceful rather than belligerent, loving rather than hateful, cooperative rather than bickering, and convergent rather than divergent. That can be achieved by sustaining a tradition of religious tolerance and its peculiarities, reaping the benefits of this diversity, addressing the core causes of its downsides, and avoiding them. Mountains are incapable of supporting this massive work, but the President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, and the Rulers of the Emirates gladly accepted it because it is a message of peace for the world. They are carrying it out to the greatest extent feasible by preserving the specific traits of each divine religion and without erasing the distinctions between the three, and without prejudice to the UAE’s national constants or its solid positions on Arab problems.

The one-of-a-kind design of the “House of the Abrahamic Family” by world-renowned architect Sir David Adjaye Obi, designer of the National Museum of African-American History and Culture in Washington, D.C., reflects these noble human goals, as its three buildings resemble three different trees in one crucible, all of which reach the same light that gives it life, in order to remind all of humanity that the three religions: Islam, Christianity, and Judaism, have a single origin, and their objective is to benefit humanity.

The “Human Fraternity” document, a wholly Emirati effort, serves as the inspiration for the design. In addition to a cultural museum that will be open to all visitors, the house includes a mosque for Muslims, a church for Christians, and a synagogue for Jews, each of which has been given a distinct building and a garden. This design reflects the keenness of the wise leadership in the Emirates to respect the privacy of each religion. This natural concern from the Emirati self, a rational leadership, and a conscious people cuts off the claims of the skeptics in the house and its objectives, exposes the falsity of their assertions, and exposes the malice of the proponents of these fabrications and allegations of distorting the Islamic religion, erasing the Islamic identity, and seeking to spread new religion under the name “Abrahamic Religion,” all of which are false claims that reveal a masked agenda.

And the “House of the Abrahamic Family” springs from the “Document of Human Fraternity,” and since its announcement, Pope Francis, the Vatican’s leader, and Dr. Ahmed Al-Tayeb, the sheikh of Al Azhar, have kept an eye on it. The Supreme Committee for Human Fraternity is in charge of it. Three cubes that make up its magnificent and distinctive geometric architecture are used to represent the three major religions’ ancient architectural styles. In order to preserve the “privacy of the three religions,” “freedom of belief,” and avoid “the fusion of beliefs,” members of religious communities from around the world took part in this house’s design process. They made certain that the design corresponded to each religion’s beliefs and demands. Naming the mosque after Dr. Ahmed Al Tayeb’s name, the church after Pope Francis’s name, and the name of Moses bin Maimon on the Jewish synagogue come out of gratitude for their roles and positions in support of human brotherhood.

A hub for dialogue and understanding

By giving his blessing to the mosque being named after him, Sheikh Ahmed Al Tayeb dispels any suspicion that seeks to distort this pure Emirati initiative by linking it to claims related to the alleged “New Abrahamic Religion,” and confirms that any confusion between the “Abrahamic Family House” and these claims is a pure fabrication that needs further investigation to find out the truth and who is behind it.

In reality, the “Abrahamic Family House” intends to achieve something that is consistent with the teachings of authentic Islam. God Almighty says in the Holy Quran: “O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the noblest of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. Indeed, Allah is Knowing and Acquainted. (Al-Hujurat: 13), This eloquent verse reaffirms the primacy of human difference, plurality, and diversity, as well as the importance of getting to know one another and all the benefits that provide in terms of cooperation, communication, understanding, and cohabitation. As such, the “House of the Abrahamic Family” has arrived to reaffirm this mission, bring attention to the shared ideals of the three faiths, and further instill the importance of mutual respect among believers. It is hoped that this building will become a symbol of cultural significance and a hub for dialogue and understanding among the three monotheistic religions and all religions and beliefs, serving this purpose through regular events, conferences, and international summits that promote the sharing of perspectives and experiences among the faithful of these faiths.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is immune to the negative effects of the ridiculous criticism and false charges it has received for creating the “Abrahamic Family House” as a genuine contribution to achieving peace and harmony for the whole world. It shouldn’t give a hoot about these critiques for two reasons. First, they come from people who want to keep alive a closed and fanatical vision of religion that runs counter to its essence and message, and who use religion to further their own goals and aspirations while being oblivious to the tremendous harm it has caused through its own selfish pursuits and bloody practices. The second is that we are quite certain that history will be able to prove these critics wrong by exposing their irrational and unfounded assumptions about the nature of reality.

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The Abrahamic Family House has been inspired by the Document on Human Fraternity, signed during Pope Francis’ visit to the UAE in February 2019. Pope Francis, head of the Roman Catholic Church and the Grand Imam of Al Azhar, Ahmed El Tayeb, are closely following its progress. The project is supervised by the Higher Committee of Human Fraternity, an independent committee of religious and cultural leaders who seeks to promote tolerance and has been designed by Sir David Adjaye, a Ghanaian-British architect. Above, the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar and Pope Francis are shown the initial plans for the Abrahamic House, which is now under construction in Abu Dhabi.

UAE’s steadfast support for Palestinians

Some people associate the “House of the Abrahamic Family” with American schemes with Zionist undertones that aim to end the Palestinian problem and pass the “bargain of the century.” The UAE’s unwavering support for the Palestinian people, their legal rights, and their fair cause exposes this as yet another kind of slander and a lie. Following the announcement of the creation of the “Abrahamic Family House,” these opinions remained unchanged. Since the Union’s founding in 1971, these have been steadfast, solid, and extended positions, and they will continue to be so until a just resolution to the Palestinian problem is found that satisfies the aspirations of the Palestinian people.

The UAE requested that efforts be intensified to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and find a resolution that satisfies the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people on December 3, 2020, three days after the state announced the establishment of the house on February 5, 2019. The permanent representative of the UAE to the United Nations, Lana Zaki Nusseibeh, quoted phrases from a message that had been sent by the late Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan to the United Nations, on the occasion of the celebration of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian people, as Nusseibeh said during the session: “In accordance with international law and pertinent United Nations resolutions, the government and people of the United Arab Emirates reaffirm their long-standing, unwavering commitment to helping the comradely Palestinian people realise all of their inalienable rights.”

In addition to these initiatives, the United Arab Emirates stressed the need to preserve the legal and historical situation in the city of Jerusalem during the Security Council’s quarterly open debate on “the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian issue,” which was held on October 19, 2021. The UAE also demanded an end to all illegal Israeli measures and practices in the occupied Palestinian territory, including the colony [settlement] construction and expansion, the destruction of property and its expropriation, and emphasised finding a two-state solution to the problem. On November 29, 2022, in honour of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan sent a message to the United Nations reiterating the UAE’s unwavering solidarity with the Palestinian people and its support for the Palestinian cause. He also reaffirmed the unwavering solidarity of the Emirates, government, and people with the Palestinian people’s legitimate aspirations to realise their unalienable rights, including their right to self-determination, and the establishment of their independent state on the borders of June 4, 1967, with East Jerusalem as its capital, in accordance with international norms, including the Arab Peace Initiative, are supported.

Transforming life into happiness

Since the establishment of contemporary nation-states in the wake of the Second World War as a result of the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire, the United Arab Emirates’ “Abrahamic Family House” initiative reflects its approach to a problem affecting the Arab world and the rest of the world. Additionally, the three Abrahamic religions’ adherents are looking for areas of agreement, especially in light of the emergence of extreme religious currents and the propensity to view conflicts through a religious lens.

Thus, the United Arab Emirates sends a message to the world that emphasises the shared origin of the three heavenly messages that the majority of the population in the region adheres to. If its objectives are met, this message will transform the world, and specifically the Middle East region, from war to peace, from conflict to cooperation, and from the fanaticism and hatred that “extremists” trade-in, to the ideals of love, fraternity, peaceful coexistence, human brotherhood, and tolerance, by means of which relationships between nations, states, and peoples are improved, and life is transformed into happiness, as opposed to the misery currently experienced by some people in the region’s and other countries’ populations.

— Prof. Jamal Sanad Al Suwaidi is a noted Emirati writer