Intolerance is on the increase in the world today, causing death, genocide, violence, religious persecution as well as confrontations on different levels. Some times it is racial and ethnic, some times it is religious and ideological, other times it is political and social. In every situation it is evil and painful.
What is tolerance? Literally the word “tolerance” means “to bear.” As a concept it means “respect, acceptance and appreciation of the rich diversity of the world’s cultures, forms of expression and ways of being human.”
Quran teaches tolerance:
And do not insult those who call on other than Allah, lest they insult Allah out of ignorance. And We have similarly adorned for every nation their works; then to their Lord is their return and He will inform them of what they had done. 6:108
Tolerance according to Islam does not mean that we believe that all religions are the same. It does not mean that we do not believe in the supremacy of Islam over other faiths and ideologies. It does not mean that we do not convey the message of Islam to others and do not wish them to become Muslims.
Tolerance comes from our recognition of:
1. The dignity of the human beings,
2. The basic equality of all human beings,
3. Universal human rights, and
4. Fundamental freedom of thought, conscience and belief.
The Quran teaches love and compassion for every human being, no matter their religion. The problem for the majority of Muslims is that some groups are following traditions and superstitions invented centuries after the Quran was first sent and the Prophet lived, and these have gotten more radical over time.
Violent and intolerant beliefs about Islam go against the teachings of the Quran.
1- ISLAM IS PEACE
The word “Islam” is derived from the word meaning “peace” in Arabic. Islam is a System (Deen) revealed to mankind with the intention of presenting a peaceful life where the infinite compassion and mercy of Allah manifests on earth. Allah calls all people to live by the moral values He sets so that compassion, mercy, peace and love can be experienced all over the world.
“O You who believe! Enter absolutely into peace (Islam). Do not follow in the footsteps of satan. He is an outright enemy to you.” 2:208
In the verse above, Islam intrinsically calls for peace and fosters a life in absolute sincerity and honesty before Allah. Therefore it is vitally important for an individual to believe in Allah with his own will and aspiration, and observe Allah’s commands and advice through personal conscientious contentment.
2- NO ONE SHOULD BE FORCED TO BELIEVE IN ISLAM
“There is no compulsion in the system (Deen); the proper way has been clarified from the wrong way. Whoever rejects evil, and believes in Allah, indeed he has taken grasp of the strongest hold that will never break. Allah is Hearer, Knower.” 2:256
As stated in the verse, no one can be compelled to live by Islamic morals. Conveying the existence of Allah and the morals of the Quran to other people is a duty for believers, but they call people to the path of Allah with kindness and love and they never force them. It is only Allah Who guides people to the right way. This is related in the following verse:
“You cannot guide those you would like to but Allah guides those He wills. He has best knowledge of the guided.” (Holy Quran/28: 56)
3- WHOEVER DESIRES BELIEVE AND WHOEVER DESIRES REJECT
18:29 And say: “The truth is from your Lord, so let whoever desires believe, and whoever desires reject.” We have prepared for the wicked a Fire whose walls will be surrounding them. And if they cry out, they are given a water like boiling oil which burns their faces. What a dreadful drink and what a miserable place!
4- FREEDOM OF THOUGHT AND SYESTEM (DEEN) ARE PARAMOUNT
The Quran provides an environment where people can fully enjoy freedom of thought and freedom of System (Deen) and allows people to live by the faith and values they believe in. According to Islam, everyone has the right to live freely by his beliefs, whatever they may be. Anyone who wants to support a church, a synagogue or a mosque must be free to do so. In this sense, freedom of religion, or freedom of belief, is one of the basic tenets of Islam. There is always freedom of religion wherever the moral values of the Quran prevail.
That is why Muslims also treat Jews and Christians, described in the Quran as “the People of the Book,” with great justice, love and compassion.
Allah says in the Quran:
“Allah does not prohibit you from those who have not fought you because of your system (deen), nor drove you out of your homes, that you deal kindly and equitably with them. For Allah loves the equitable.” 60:8
Quran teaches that fighting is only against those who fight.
Allah says in the Quran:
“Fight in the cause of Allah those who fight you, but do not transgress limits; for Allah loves not transgressors.” 2:190
Islam may tolerate anything, but it teaches zero tolerance for injustice, oppression, and violation of the rights of other human beings.
Allah says in the Quran:
And why do you not fight in the cause of Allah, when the weak among the men and women and children say: “Our Lord, bring us out of this town whose people are wicked, and grant us from Yourself a supporter, and grant us from Yourself a victor!” 4:75
4) COMPETE WITH EACH OTHER IN DOING GOOD
Muslims who share these basic values believe in the need to act together with Christians and Jews. They therefore strive to eliminate prejudices stemming from provocations by unbelievers and fanatics. Jews, Christians and Muslims should strive together to spread moral virtues across the world.
Allah explicitly states that the existence of people from different faiths and opinions is something that we have to acknowledge and welcome heartily, for this is how He created and predestined humankind in this world:
“We have appointed a law and a broad way for every one of you. Had Allah willed, He would have made you a single community, but He wanted to test you regarding what has come to you. So compete with each other in doing good. Every one of you will return to Allah and He will inform you regarding the things about which you differed.” 5:48
In acknowledgment of this fact, Muslims have an inner love and compassion for people of all faiths, races and nations, for they consider them as the manifestations of Allah in this world and treat them with heartfelt respect and love. This is the very basis of communities administered by Islamic morality.
The values of the Quran hold a Muslim responsible for treating all people, whether Muslim or non-Muslim, kindly and justly, protecting the needy and the innocent and
“preventing the dissemination of mischief”. Mischief comprises all forms of anarchy and terror that remove security, comfort and peace.
“Allah does not love corruption”. 2:205
THERE ARE MANY LEVELS OF TOLERANCE:
A. Between family members, between husband and wife, between parents and children, between siblings etc.
B. Tolerance between the members of the community: tolerance in views and opinions.
C. Tolerance between Muslims and the people of other faiths (interfaith relations, dialogue and cooperation).