Tolerance in Islam

Tolerance in Islam

Given what is happening in our country at this time, I would like to deliberate here on the Islamic values of tolerance and forgiveness. In simple words, tolerance is the ability, willingness and capacity to put up with something with which one disagrees, or which one dislikes, without interfering or attempting to forcibly change it. This does not mean we should not attempt trying to change things that are wrong. It simply means attempting to bring about that change without violence and keeping in mind that other people”s ideas may be different to ours. Compromise plays a large role in tolerance. Forgiveness is simply excusing an offence/mistake and avoiding venting anger towards the person/institution causing the event. Since these two virtues are cardinal principles in Islam that seem to have totally vanished from society, I feel that they should be elaborated upon.


Not a day goes by in which newspapers are not full of horrible stories and we are confronted with gory scenes on TV. What you read and/or see is often perpetrated in the name of Islam. Cutting off noses, throwing acid on women, honour killings, whipping in public etc are horrible events that send chills down our spines. Just in the last three months, 72 people, mostly women, have been burnt alive! These are despicable crimes that need condemnation. All these acts are carried out by those who claim to be Muslims, while in actual fact they are neither good Muslims, nor should they be pardoned. The Holy Quran is full of warnings and instructions from Allah to desist from wrongdoing and to show love and affection towards others. For example: “Think not that Allah does not heed the deeds of those who do wrong. He but gives them respite against a Day when their eyes will fixedly stare in horror”. (Surah Ibrahim) “No doubt that the chastisement of Allah is very severe and painful and Allah knows all wrong-doers. Allah”s curse is on them and a permanent punishment”. (Surah Tauba)


Islam has put a lot of emphasis on love, affection, tolerance and forgiveness. In the Holy Quran and in the sayings of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) there is an abundance of such instructions and advice. This behaviour does not depend upon our free will, but is an edict of Islam – i.e. it is intrinsic in the behaviour of a true Muslim. Here are some relevant Ahadiths.


* Do not hate or be jealous of each other. Do not backbite. Live like a family. Every Muslim is a brother of another Muslim.


* A good Muslim is he who desires for himself what he wishes for others.


* Every Muslim is like a foundation. One part strengthens the other parts.


Even more important is what our Holy Prophet (PBUH) said in his last address at Arafat during Haj (Hajjatul Widah). This address is a complete code of individual and community conduct. It can be called a Magna Carta of human rights, love, affection, mutual assistance and forgiveness.


Note for those self-proclaimed, pious people who are indulging in the heinous crimes of murdering innocent people, suicide bombings, depriving girls of education, demolishing schools etc, they should remember that Allah has ordained severe chastisement on those who murder a Muslim. Whoever does so, no matter under what pretext, shall abide in burning fire forever. There is no ambiguity about this in the Quran.


The Holy Prophet (PBUH) clearly illustrated tolerance and forgiveness by pardoning Hinda, who had desecrated the body of his uncle Hazrat Hamza (RA). And let us not forget the magnanimity he showed to the people of Ta”if who threw stones at him when he and his adopted son, Zayed bin Haris, went there to guide them to follow the edict of Allah. He was severely injured at the time, blood even solidified in his shoes. How grateful he was when a kind-hearted person gave him shelter in his garden and offered him food and drink. Despite everything that had taken place, he was pained and depressed when Angel Gabriel (Jibrael) told him that, if he so desired, he (Gabriel) would bring mountains together with a bolt of lightning, thereby pulverising every human being present. The Holy Prophet (PBUH) asked him not to as, he said, it was likely that some of the misguided people might still see the light of truth and become Muslims or their future offspring might accept Islam. That is exactly what happened.


My advice to everyone is to read the Holy Quran with translation so as to understand its true meaning. Study Seerat-un-Nabi, be aware of the severe chastisement that has been prescribed for committing sins and repent for having done so. In my next column I will discuss Quranic edicts on the subject of love, affection and brotherhood.


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