Teaching tolerance

Muslim history is full of glorious examples of large hearted tolerance not only between Muslims but also in dealing with non-Muslims.Muslim rule in Spain provides perhaps the most outstanding example of progressive tolerant society, ready to open its arms to all people, Muslims and non-Muslims alike, driven by persecution from intolerant and narrow minded communities.The Muslim rulers in Spain provided every possible opportunity to all such people to develop their talents and abilities for the greater good of mankind.

It has, however, also to be admitted that there are glaring black spots in Muslim history, where Muslim governments have persecuted pious Muslims for the only sin of not fully subscribing  to the views of the establishment. One cannot help being amazed at the swings and vagaries in the behaviour of Muslims over the centuries, when one views them in the context of the clear cut directions of the Holy ‘Quran on the subject of tolerance.

The core of Quran’s viewpoint about tolerance is contained in the proposition that complete responsibility  for every person’s action rest entirely with him, and no one can share this responsibility to the smallest extent, even if he wishes to do so. This idea has been repeated so many times in the Quran in different words, and from varying angles, that it is not possible to re-produce  all the relevant Ayats of the Quran in this small article.Ayat 164 of Surah Al Anam puts the proposition very clearly where it is said: “.. Every soul draws the meed of its acts on none but itself; no bearer of burdens can bear the burden of another.

Your goal in the end is towards God: He will tell you the truth of the things wherein ye disputed.” This Ayat, apart from forcefully expressing the doctrine of personal responsibility, make it clear that only God in His omniscience knows the truth about any matter which may become a point of difference of opinion among human being, and as such no one however sincere and knowledgeable he may be, should try to force his interpretation of the finer points of religion on any one else.

The same theme is continued further and what can be a more resounding call towards religious tolerance  than Ayat 107 of Surah Al Anam wherein it is stated: “If it had been God’s plan, they would not have taken false gods: but We made thee not one to watch over their doings, nor art thou set over them to dispose of their affairs.”

If the Prophet (peace be upon him) himself had no duty to compel anyone to follow the right course and God had absolved him of this responsibility, as stated in the above verse, is it not totally presumptuous for lesser mortals to have taken upon themselves the responsibility for forcing others to follow their interpretation of religion.Many of us who think that they have all the answers and are on the right path try to assume the responsibility of guiding others on the basis of the advice contained in Ayat 104 of Surah Al Imran wherein it is stated: “Let there arise out of you a band of people inviting to all that is good, enjoining what is right, and forbidding what is wrong….”

The assumption of responsibility for ensuring right conduct on the part of others on the basis of this Ayat is quite uncalled for, if one takes into account the following facts: Firstly, the words ‘maruf’ and ‘munkar’ have very broad connotations, namely what is universally acknowledged to be decent and desirable and what is considered universally abominable. Secondly, the fact that the word ‘enjoining’ is preceded by the word ‘inviting’, makes it clear that the enjoining and forbidding have to be in the spirit of invitation and persuasion rather than in the form of pressurising and compulsion.

Thirdly, it will be seen that it is only this interpretation of the two words ‘enjoining ‘ and ‘forbidding’ which fits in and is in accord with the clear exposition contained in Ayats 104 and 107 of Surah Al Anam, which have been reproduced above. In view of all this there is apparently no justification for any Muslim to force his religious view and interpretations on other Muslims.

What the Holy Quran permits, and even enjoins, is that if anyone finds that some one is straying from the correct path, he should, with all courtesy and politeness, point out his mistakes, but if the person concerned persists in his deviation, the responsibility of the first person is over, and there is no need for starting a fight or argument or campaign which may ultimately divide the Muslim community into schisms and sects. – Khaleejnews