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A Culture of Tolerance - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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In our life we should implement the scriptural injunctions that urge us to exercise forgiveness, tolerance, social peace, humane treatment, and compassion among people, remembering God’s commandment to “restrain anger, and pardon all men; for God loves those who do good.” (Koranic verse, the Family of Imran 3:134) Tolerance begins with tolerance with oneself, by refraining from bearing grudges and harboring hate and hostility. Instead we should teach ourselves mercy, amity, and peace. We should forgive our parents, relatives, and all our kin, nurturing the blood ties that God commanded us to nurture. We should be generous with our kin, take care of them, forgive their transgressions, and tolerate the harm they do to us. We should be tolerant and forgiving with the members of our society so that if they err, we will correct them with gentleness and mild advice, remembering that we might err just as they do.

We need to send a message of tolerance and peace to the world. We should show concern to other nations` safety and prosperity so that they may be reassured that we will not harm them. They and we live on the same planet. We have mutual interests and benefits. As humans, we all have responsibilities toward each other. It behooves us to show them Islam’s beautiful face that is devoid of violence, harshness, contempt, repression, and oppression because God commanded us to call to His religion with wisdom. He enjoined us to use gentle discourse and kind treatment. He forbade us to use intellectual terrorism and to attempt to control people’s minds by force. God, the Exalted One said: “Thou are not to manage men’s affairs,” and “Wilt thou then compel mankind, against their will, to believe!” (Koranic verses, the Overwhelming 8:22, Yunus 10:99) Persuasion, dialogue, and convincing arguments are the right way to present our message and propagate our principles.

The world will not listen to us if it thinks we want to control its destiny, usurp its rights, take revenge on it, threaten its inhabitants` lives, and intimidate it. We need rather to present to it the manifest truth and the convincing argument of our religion. We need to show the world that we care about its success, happiness, and its people’s lives. The prophet, may God’s prayers and peace be upon him, was sent to bring happiness, not misery to the people, to lead them to salvation rather than perdition, safeguard their security and lives, and not kill them except in the cause of righteousness. Indeed the prophet, may God’s prayers and peace be upon him, spoke thus in his splendid and inspired sermon on the day of the great pilgrimage: “You are forbidden to take each other’s lives, property, and honor. This prohibition is as sacred as this day, in this month, in this your sacred country.”

Why would the people of the world be convinced of our religious advocacy and convert to our religion when they see some of us threatening them when they have not raised arms against us or fought against us, but came to do humanitarian work and deal with us for our and their mutual benefit?

The wise among us have tried calling them to Islam and as a result, caused many of them to convert to God’s religion, unlike those who did not use the wise method of gentle advocacy or sound argument but resorted to kidnapping, robbery, and coercion. These obtained no victory, nor were their actions conducive to eternal rewards. They gained no new converts to Islam and achieved no victory or conquest. Instead they presented to the world a wrong message saying that we are lying in wait for other human groups to pounce on them unexpectedly, that we reject coexistence with them, and threaten their lives and future. As a result they make preparations to counterattack and take revenge on us, keeping in mind that they are more numerous than us and better armed.

Meanwhile because we are not truly faithful to our religion, we are weak and unprepared. We are divided, fractious, and primitive when it comes to material civilization. Why, then, do we challenge the world to a duel? Why do we invite the snakes to come out of their lairs and then find ourselves too weak to fight them?

He who builds mosques and Islamic centers, publishes books, opens satellite television channels, and convinces the world with wise council, good proofs, and friendly advice is a million times more useful to Islam and the Muslim people than those who raised arms against foreigners who have been given covenants of security, made loud threats, and uttered curses. Such persons are angry and weary with the world and themselves. They are angry with everything, with the people and even with the very water they drink and air they breathe. They are like this because they have little knowledge and are unable to live in amity and peace with their society. They are incapable of interacting with people and showing or receiving compassion. Can we now stretch our hands in conciliation and tolerance to the world and invite it to interact and become acquainted with us so that the world will listen to us?

Dr. Aaidh al-Qarni

Dr. Aaidh al-Qarni

Dr. al-Qarni is a Saudi-born Islamic preacher and scholar. His book, Don't Feel Sad (La Tahzan), has sold millions of copies worldwide.

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