Methodology Of Tolerance

  • When we speak of tolerance in Islam, we are not speaking about a small component of the religion, but rather of a key feature of the Islamic faith. The Prophet s said: “The most beloved matter to Allah is the tolerant faith that matches the natural disposition of man.” (Bukhari)
  • Islam is built upon a methodology of tolerance. Allah says: “And thus we have made you a just community that you will be witnesses over the people and the Messenger will be a witness over you. And We did not make the direction in prayer which you used to face except that We might make evident who would follow the Messenger from who would turn back on his heels. And indeed, it is difficult except for those whom Allah has guided. And never would Allah have caused you to lose your faith. Indeed Allah is, to the people, Kind and Merciful.” [2:143]

  • Islam is a tolerant faith in regards to political matters and foreign affairs. Muslims are ordered to behave in a just, impartial manner. Allah, the Exalted, says: “As regards those who do not fight you because of religion and do not expel you from your homes - Allah does not forbid you from being righteous toward them and acting justly toward them. Indeed, Allah loves those who act justly.” [60:8]
  • Islam is tolerant in general societal matters, as well. One should not become arrogant towards others on account of their status in society. Allah, the Exalted, says: “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 most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. Indeed, Allah is Knowing and Acquainted.” [49:13]
  • Islam is tolerant in terms of behavior and etiquette. It aims to cultivate within Muslims high standards and habits of manners and etiquette. Allah, the Exalted, says: “Take what is given freely, enjoin what is good, and turn away from the ignorant.” [7:199]
    Allah, the Exalted, also says: “Who spend for the sake of God during ease and hardship and who restrain anger and who pardon the people - and Allah loves the doers of good.” [3:134]
    Allah, the Exalted, also says: “And not equal are the good deed and the bad one. Repel evil by that [deed] which is better; and thereupon the one whom between you and him is enmity [will become] as though he was a devoted friend.” [41:34]

  • Islam is also tolerant in relation to acts of worship. No one is overburdened, and those who put forth an effort towards worship will be rewarded graciously for their efforts. Allah, the Exalted, says: “But those who believed and did righteous deeds - We charge no soul except [within] its capacity. Those are the companions of Paradise; they will abide therein eternally.” [7:42]
  • Islam is tolerant in terms of economy. All means through which one could be oppressed through finances is forbidden. Allah, the Exalted, says: “Those who consume interest cannot stand [on the Day of Resurrection] except as one stands who is being beaten by Satan into insanity. That is because they say, “Trade is [just] like interest.” But Allah has permitted trade and has forbidden interest. So whoever has received an admonition from his Lord and desists may have what is past, and his affair rests with Allah. But whoever returns to [dealing in interest or usury] - those are the companions of the Fire; they will abide eternally therein.” [2:275]
  • Islam is tolerant in terms of education and training. The Prophet said: “Give the good news, and do not make things difficult.” (Ibn Hibban)

The textual passages of Islam, time and time again, reaffirm the methodology of tolerance by putting it into practice. The Prophet s said: “Ease is not placed into something except that it would beautify it, and it would not be removed from something except that it would blemish it.” (Muslim)

The Prophet s said: “O Allah whoever is given charge over my community and they make it difficult for others, make their lives difficult. And whoever makes things easy for others, make things easy for them.” (Muslim)

Whoever is tolerant will be blessed with entry into heaven and receive protection from the Hell-Fire. The Prophet s said: “Whoever is easy going, soft-hearted and near to Allah, he would be forbidden from entering Hell.” (At-Targheeb wat-Tarheeb)

It should be known that when we speak of tolerance in Islam, it doesn’t mean that one can purposely break the commandments under the guise of leniency.

A’ishah, may Allah be pleased with her, said: “The Prophet was not given a choice between two matters except that he chose the easier of the two; except if it was a sinful course of action; in that case, he would distance himself from it.” (Muslim)

The exception to this rule is in circumstances of dire need or necessity, wherein some actions which are otherwise considered sinful may be pardoned or overlooked due to no other option being available.

The Tolerance Of Islam In Terms Of Belief

The beliefs of Islam are the cornerstone aspect of the Islamic faith. It is something that cannot be done away with under any circumstances. Allah, the Exalted, says: “Indeed, Allah does not forgive associating partners with Him in worship, but He forgives what is less than that for whom He wills. And he who associates in worship others with Allah has certainly fabricated a tremendous sin.” (4:48)

The Aspect Of Ease In The Islamic Faith

  • It is a clear faith with no difficulties in understanding it.
  • All the followers of Islam are obliged to accept and believe that the Messengers and Prophets of Allah were all sent by God with the message of belief in the Oneness of God. Allah, the Exalted, says: “The Messenger has believed in what was revealed to him from his Lord, and [so have] the believers. All of them have believed in Allah and His angels and His books and His messengers, [saying], “We make no distinction between any of His messengers.” And they say, “We hear and we obey. [We seek] Your forgiveness, our Lord, and to You is the [final] destination.” [2:285]
  • All the followers of Islam are obliged to accept and believe that the Messengers and Prophets of Allah were all sent by God with the message of belief in the Oneness of God. Allah, the Exalted, says: “The Messenger has believed in what was revealed to him from his Lord, and [so have] the believers. All of them have believed in Allah and His angels and His books and His messengers, [saying], “We make no distinction between any of His messengers.” And they say, “We hear and we obey. [We seek] Your forgiveness, our Lord, and to You is the [final] destination.” [2:285]
    No one is forced into Islam. Allah, the Exalted, says: “There shall be no compulsion in [acceptance of] the religion. The right course has become clear from the wrong. So whoever disbelieves in idolatry and believes in Allah has grasped the most trustworthy handhold with no break in it. And Allah is Hearing and Knowing.” [2:256]
    No one has the right to force anyone into Islam. Allah, the Exalted, says: “And had your Lord willed, those on earth would have believed - all of them entirely. Then, [O Muhammad], would you compel the people in order that they become believers?” [10:99]
    Whoever the Message of Islam has reached, and to whom it was clarified, would have the choice of choosing their faith, either to accept or reject the Message. Allah, the Exalted, says: ““And say, “The truth is from your Lord, so whoever wills - let him believe; and whoever wills - let him disbelieve.” Indeed, We have prepared for the wrongdoers a fire whose walls will surround them. And if they call for relief, they will be relieved with water like murky oil, which scalds [their] faces. Wretched is the drink, and evil is the resting place.” [18:29]
  • Another aspect of its tolerance is that a person is judged by Allah for what they do. One should not try to decipher the inward meanings of someone’s actions and judge them based on that. Instead, Muslims are ordered by Allah to judge others based on what we witness ourselves.
    As we established above, a person is judged by what he does and what is apparent from his actions. This is also established in this narration of the Prophet s

    “‘Ali bin Abi Talib sent a piece of gold, not yet taken out of its ore, in a tanned leather satchel to the Messenger of Allah y . The Messenger y distributed that amongst four people… On that, one of his companions said, ‘We are more deserving of this gold than these people.’ When that news reached the Prophet s ,he said, ‘Don’t you trust me, as I am the one who receives the Divine Revelation from God?’ There got up a man with sunken eyes, raised cheek bones, raised forehead, a thick beard, a shaven head and a waist sheet that was tucked up and he said, ‘O Allah’s Messenger! Be afraid of Allah!’ The Prophet s said, ‘Woe to you! Am I not of all the people of the earth the most entitled to fear Allah?’ Then that man went away. Khalid bin Waleed (may Allah be pleased with him) said: ‘O Messenger of Allah, give me permission to strike his neck.’ The Prophet s said, ‘No, for he may offer prayers.’ Khalid said, ‘Numerous are those who offer prayers and say by their tongues (i.e. mouths) what is not in their hearts.’ The Messenger of Allah y said, ‘I have not been ordered (by Allah) to search the hearts of the people or cut open their bellies.” (Bukhari)
  • When one is put in a situation and is threatened with harm, then in that case he may take the necessary steps to protect himself. Allah, the Exalted, says: “Whoever disbelieves in Allah after his belief... except for one who is forced [to renounce his religion] while his heart is secure in faith. But those who [willingly] open their souls to disbelief, upon them is wrath from Allah, and for them is a great punishment;” [16:106]
    Ammar bin Yasir, one of the Companions, was in a life and death situation, where he was almost killed by those non-Muslims who were torturing him. He was asked by those who tortured him to speak ill of the Prophet s in order to save himself further torture, so he did that. He was so saddened by what he had done. The Prophet s consoled him and said: “How is your faith?” He said, “I am content with Islam.” The Prophet s then said: “If they want to torture you again, say what you must.” (Ibn Kathir)
  • Islam has also freed humankind from giving servitude to other humans and it has delivered them to worshiping God alone. Allah, the Exalted, says: “But they have taken besides Him gods which create nothing, while they themselves are created, and possess not for themselves any harm or benefit and possess not [power to cause] death or life or resurrection.” [25:3]
    Allah, the Exalted, says: “And if Allah should touch you with adversity, there is no remover of it except Him; and if He intends for you good, then there is none to repel His bounty. He causes it to reach whom He wills of His servants. And He is the Forgiving, the Merciful.” [10:107]
    To avoid any unnecessary veneration towards any individual, Allah clarifies that the Prophet Muhammad is merely a man, as were all the prophets before him. They were merely men, who deserved no excessive veneration or deification. Allah, the Exalted, says: “Say, “I myself have no power to benefit or do harm, save as God pleases. If I had knowledge of the unseen, I would have availed myself of an abundance of good, and no harm would have touched me. I am but a warner and a bearer of good tidings for those who will believe.” [7:188]
  • Allah as well orders Muslims to be fair and just towards all people, regardless of their faith or religion, color or ethnic background, or societal status. Allah, the Exalted, says: “Indeed, God orders justice and good conduct and giving to relatives and forbids immorality and bad conduct and oppression. He admonishes you that perhaps you will be reminded.” [16:90]
    One should be fair to others whether you might be in a happy or angry mood, with Muslims or with non-Muslims. Allah, the Exalted, says: “O you who have believed, persistently stand firm for Allah, witnesses in justice, and do not let the hatred of a people prevent you from being just. Be just; that is nearer to righteousness. And fear Allah; indeed, Allah is acquainted with what you do.” [4:135]
  • A sign of the tolerance in the Islamic Faith is that a Muslim believes that all people have been favored by God. Allah, the Exalted, says: “And We have certainly honored the children of Adam and carried them on the land and sea and provided for them of the good things and preferred them over much of what We have created, with [definite] preference.” [17:70]

    Jabir said that a funeral procession for a Jew passed by and the Prophet s stood up for it, as did Jabir. Jabir then said, ‘O Messenger of Allah that was the body of a Jew. He said: “Stand up for it (out of respect).” (Bukhari)

The Tolerance Of Islam In Relation To Shari’ah

    Nowadays, the term ‘Shari’ah’ invokes archaic images of lashings and other public punishments. In reality, the Shari’ah simply denotes the divine system of Law given to humankind. It is a system that is built on tolerance and ease. Here are a few points to keep in mind:

  • The textual passages in the Quran and Sunnah (Prophetic Tradition) are very easy to understand. Allah, the Exalted, says: “And We have indeed made the Qur’an easy to understand and remember, so is there any who will [receive admonition and] remember?” (54:17)
    The textual passages are very clear in their meaning; there is no difficulty in understanding what is meant by the text. If there is a situation where one is in doubt, God directs us to ask those who have knowledge. He says: “So ask the people of the message if you do not know.” (16:43) :
    This is indeed an important aspect. If someone lacks the knowledge on how to solve a worldly problem, they would have to ask specialists in that area to help them resolve that particular situation. The same applies to questions of religion. God has ordained that speaking without knowledge is a grave sin. Whoever speaks in religion without knowledge, and then forbids a lawful matter or vice versa, has committed a major sin. God, the Exalted, says: “Say, “My Lord has only forbidden immoralities - what is apparent of them and what is concealed - and sin, and oppression without right, and that you associate with Allah that for which He has not sent down authority, and that you say about Allah that which you do not know”.” (7:33)
    The Messenger of Allah y clarified the negative consequences of one who is not knowledgeable speaking without knowledge. He would surely mislead himself and others. The Prophet s said: “God does not remove knowledge from his slaves by causing them to forget it; rather, knowledge would be lost by the loss of scholars. Until there will remain no scholar, then people would appoint over themselves ignorant individuals and they would issue judgments without knowledge and mislead themselves and others.” (Bukhari)
    There are no mysterious or unexplained issues in Islam. At times there are issues that pertain to the unseen world that we will not have a complete grasp over; in reality, they would not affect one’s faith, nor bring any benefit. One such issue is, as God says: “And they ask you, [O Muhammad], about the soul. says: “The soul is of the affair of my Lord. And mankind have not been given of knowledge except a little.” [17:85]
    Allah, the Exalted, also says: “They ask you, [O Muhammad], about the Hour: when will it be established? Say, “Its knowledge is only with my Lord. None will reveal its time except Him. Heavy is its burden through the heavens and the earth. It will not come upon you except unexpectedly.” They ask you as if you are familiar with it. Say, “Its knowledge is only with Allah, but most of the people do not know.” [7:187]
    All that will benefit us in terms of knowledge that is related to the unseen world has already been explained to us by our Prophet s .These include the descriptions of Heaven and Hell, and the stories of the previous nations so that we can reflect upon what happened to them. Allah, the Exalted, says: “So I have warned you of a Fire which is blazing. None will [enter to] burn therein except the most wretched one. Who had denied and turned away. But the righteous one will avoid it - [He] who gives [from] his wealth to purify himself. And not [giving] for anyone who has [done him] a favor to be rewarded, but only seeking the countenance of his Lord, Most High. And he is going to be satisfied.” [92:14-21]
  • Unlike man-made laws, which may be applicable to some while exempted by others due to loopholes, the laws of Islam are divine. The Law of God is final and definite, and it is the law to which all would refer; be they - rich or poor, noble or ignoble. Allah, the Exalted, says: “It is not for a believing man or a believing woman, when Allah and His Messenger have decided a matter, that they should [thereafter] have any choice about their affair. And whoever disobeys Allah and His Messenger has certainly strayed into clear error.” [33:36]

    Allah has ordained that all should respect and uphold this system of law. Allah, the Exalted, says: “The only statement of the [true] believers when they are called to Allah and His Messenger to judge between them is that they say, “We hear and we obey.” And those are the successful.” (24:51)
    No one in Islam has absolute authority, including the president or leader; he is subject to the same laws as everyone else. This is the beauty and tolerance of Islam. No one can transgress these rules and boundaries. The Prophet s said: “A Muslim must listen and obey their leader, except when ordered with a sinful matter; in such case, there is no obedience.” (Bukhari)
  • Another aspect of the divine laws of God is that they are not susceptible to change and do not become outdated like man- made laws. These laws are absolute for all times and places. God has decreed the divine system of law and it does not change. God, the Exalted, says: “Then is it the judgment of [the time of] ignorance they desire? But who is better than Allah in judgment for a people who are certain [in faith].” (5:50)
  • In Islam, there is no structure of priesthood, nor are there infallible men whose opinions are regarded above the word of God. Allah says: “Unquestionably, for Allah is the pure religion. And those who take protectors besides Him [say], “We only worship them that they may bring us nearer to Allah in position.”” (39:3)
    No one has the power to harm or benefit. This is something exclusive to God alone. Allah, the Exalted, says: “Indeed, those you worship besides Allah are only servants like you. So call upon them and let them respond to you, if you should be truthful.” (7:194)
    Islam stresses that every individual has a direct link to God; there are no intermediaries between us and Him. He forgives our sins and grants us what we wish. Allah, the Exalted, says: “Call upon Me; I will respond to you.” [40:60]
    Allah, the Exalted, also says: “And whoever does a wrong or wrongs himself but then seeks forgiveness of Allah will find Allah Forgiving and Merciful.” [4:110]
    In Islam, there are no religious authorities that can legalize what is unlawful or prohibit that which is lawful, for the right of law-making belongs to God alone. It is a known fact that among previous nations, the law was often changed to suit the whims and fancies of people in power. God, the Exalted, says about this: “They have taken their scholars and monks as lords besides Allah.” [9:31]
    When their rabbis and priests legalized something that was unlawful, or did the opposite, their people would follow and obey them. This is undoubtedly an aspect of worship!
  • Another aspect of Islam’s tolerance is that there is a system known as Shura, or mutual consultation. This is used in cases wherein there is a public benefit to be earned; where people of knowledge and expertise in a certain field can be consulted to take the best course of action. Allah says: “So by mercy from Allah, [O Muhammad], you were lenient with them. And if you had been rude [in speech] and harsh in heart, they would have disbanded from about you. So pardon them and ask forgiveness for them and consult them in the matter. And when you have decided, then rely upon Allah. Indeed, Allah loves those who rely [upon Him].” [3:159]
  • Islam has also opened the gateway for Ijtihad, which is when a scholar of expertise would exert his effort to reach a ruling in a certain matter that may not be directly mentioned in the Scriptural texts. In Islam, the general guidelines are given and one is to uphold them when a situation arises. This makes the laws of Islam versatile and fitting for all places and times.
  • God has ordained laws to protect all communities from extremism. Allah, the Exalted, says: “Allah intends for you ease and does not intend for you hardship.” [2:185]
    The Prophet s said: “Beware of extremism, for this is what destroyed the previous nations.” (Nasaee’)

    The Prophet s preached a moderate way of life. Anas bin Malik said:

    “Three people came to the houses of the Prophet s asking how he spent his days and how he worshipped Allah. When they were informed of what the Prophet s did of worship, they saw it as little, so they said: “The Prophet has been forgiven by Allah, who are we to compare ourselves to him?” One said: “As for I, I will pray continuously throughout the night and forsake sleep.” The second said: “I will fast for the rest of my days.” The third said: “As for me I will never get married.” The Prophet s came by afterwards and asked, are you the ones who said this and this? He said: “Indeed I am the most god-fearing amongst you and yet I pray at night and also rest, I fast and break my fast, and I marry women. Whoever does not want to adhere to my way is not from me.” (Bukhari)

    The Prophet s made a point of guiding his companions to the moderate path in life so that they would not fall into extremism. It is narrated in the hadeeth(1) of Abdullah bin Amr bin al-Aas that the Prophet s said to him: “(Is it true) that you fast all day and stand in prayer all night?” The companion replied that the report was indeed true. The Prophet then said: “Do not do that! Observe the fast sometimes and also leave (it) at other times. Stand up for prayer at night and also sleep at night. Your body has a right over you, your eyes have a right over you and your wife has a right over you. Fast three days a month as the reward of good deeds is multiplied ten times and that will be equal to one year of fasting.” I replied, “I have more power than that.”The Prophet said to me, “Then fast one day and give up fasting for a day and that is the fasting of Prophet David (Dawud) and that is the best fasting.” I replied, “I have more power than that.” The Prophet said, “There is no better fasting than that.” (Bukhari) The Prophet s also said: “Whoever fasts daily throughout his life is just as the one who does not fast at all.” (Bukhari)
    This does not mean that Islam encourages one to seek the pleasures of this life while disregarding the Next Life. Rather, Islam is a moderate way of life. It strikes a beautiful balance between this worldly life and the Next.
    Allah, the Exalted, says: “O you who have believed, when the call to prayer is heard for the prayer on the day of Friday, then proceed to the remembrance of Allah and leave trade. That is better for you, if you only knew.” [62:09]
    In light of a person’s worldly needs, Allah has ordered that one not forget about his need for sustenance. He, the Exalted, says: “And when the prayer has been concluded, disperse within the land and seek from the bounty of Allah, and remember Allah often that you may succeed.” [62:10]
    Allah has also ordered us to avoid being wasteful. He, the Exalted, says: “O Children of Adam, dress properly and well whenever you are at worship: and eat and drink but do not be wasteful: God does not like the wasteful.” [7:31]

  • Another sign of tolerance in Islam is when a person fears his demise or that harm shall befall him, it is lawful for him to consume that which is otherwise unlawful so that he may sustain himself and stay alive. Allah, the Exalted, says: “He has only forbidden to you dead animals, blood, the flesh of swine, and that which has been dedicated to other than Allah. But whoever is forced [by necessity], neither desiring [it] nor transgressing [its limit], there is no sin upon him. Indeed, Allah is Forgiving and Merciful.” [2:173]
    In one of the commentaries of the Qur’an, it explains: “It is the set of laws and beliefs that marks a man as a man and not an animal, or an angel or a devil. It takes into consideration ones abilities and complete capabilities as well as the human weakness.”
  • Another sign of the tolerance of Islam is that one’s good deeds would be multiplied many times over. Allah, the Exalted, says: “Whoever comes [on the Day of Judgment] with a good deed will have ten times the like thereof [to his credit], and whoever comes with an evil deed will not be recompensed except the like thereof; and they will not be wronged.” [6:160]