This chapter offers a brief but comprehensive review of some of the premodern historical antecedents following the launch of Chicago's Parliament of Religions. It recounts the profile of the Mughal emperor Akbar (r. 1556–1605), who on the cusp of the modern age represents an especially arresting case in his efforts to bring multiple religious voices from the Indian subcontinent, together with European Jesuit missionaries, into conversation with one another. The chapter seeks to spotlight several salient examples of harbingers of interreligious dialogue. It draws preponderantly from Western and, to a lesser extent, Islamic civilizations after the advent of Christianity — with the partial exception of the Mongol court and Akbar. The chapter also emphasizes that not only do the terms interreligious and interfaith not exist in the premodern world, but the same is true for our present-day usage of religion. Ultimately, the chapter discusses the instances of and ideas about conversation/debate/dialogue among various religious groups or individuals that, whether intentionally or not, resulted in mutual understanding or at least bear witness to “religious others” interacting and intellectually taking stock of one another.
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