6 Qualities of Tolerant Individuals


Tolerance is a special quality. It means getting along with people who are different from us. It is a vital trait for peaceful coexistence and to build cordial and friendly relations between people. Being tolerant requires from us to be patient, understanding and accepting of anything different. People are different from us in so many ways. Some hold different religious beliefs others have different political beliefs. Some are of a different ethnicity others of a different gender. There are different languages, different dresses, different cuisine, even different habits and aspirations. Thus diversity has many facets and is a distinguishing feature of the human condition. Being tolerant of people requires acceptance. When we accept differences then we are not worried or anxious about effacing them. We then realize that the world is not meant to be monolithic, and that diversity is something natural. We will identify as tolerant individuals if we exhibit the following signs:

  1. Embracing diversity. The world, which we dwell in, is diverse. This means that we accept the fact that there are people who are different from us. The moment we accept differences, and realize that diversity is a central feature of humanity, that always was, is and will be, then we find inner peace and contentment, because then we are not seeking to obliterate that which is but natural nor are we then looking down upon or dismissing people who are different from us in any way whatsoever.
  2. Not retorting. At times we are faced with acerbic and bitter people. Whose toxic remarks goad us to a tit for tat reply. But being tolerant of their negativity and by ignoring their hurtful remarks we maintain composure, do not lose our cool and handle difficult situations tactfully.
  3. Forgiving mistakes. People make mistakes all the time. We do not embody perfection. Being tolerant means forgiving people for their misdemeanors and not nitpicking on them constantly.
  4. Worrying about our own neck. We have a very short time on earth. It will be no exaggeration to suggest that the years of our entire life can be counted on our fingertips. This being the case, it would be sheer folly to spend a significant proportion of our time on trivial matters, which are not our remit of accountability. Instead of worrying about the salvation of others our focus should be our own self because ultimately we won’t be questioned about the deeds of anyone except our own.
  5. Respecting people’s rights. To deliberately infringe on their rights means we do not have any regard for their humanity. A sign of our tolerant character is our respect for the rights of individuals.
  6. Practicing tolerance within the family. Tolerance can be cemented in an individual from the home. The home is the place where one learns to be tolerant for intolerance too is picked up from the home and family. The views and attitudes that parents pass on to their children shape their personality. The child also learns from the relationship of his father and mother. If the spouses are intolerant of one another, constantly picking up arguments the child will do the same. Once he walks out of his home, then he will have that same mindset. He will see people as his adversaries just like he saw his parents to be at constant animosity with one another. Therefore it is vital that family life be stable and serene so that parents do not pass on intolerant attitudes to their children.

Learning tolerance from Qur’anic examples. Tolerance is a central theme in Islam’s holy text. God’s chosen emissaries were told that tolerance was a key character trait that enabled one to qualify as a righteous individual (2:256). It was revealed to the Messenger (pbuh) that everyone is responsible for his own conduct and is answerable to God on his own; therefore if people are not receptive to the message then he should not despair (6:34). Under no circumstances are people to be compelled to follow the course of righteousness (10:99). That his job was only to deliver the message, while it rested on God to hold people to account (13:40). This Prophetic standard is in stark contrast to the holier than thou mindset prevailing within many who think that they are on some sort of a divine mission to compel people to “righteousness”. That their version of morality should be enforced, even upon those who wish to follow an alternate course. This is not what is instructed in the Quran. The Qur’anic mandate is about one’s willing acceptance of its injunctions. Only that belief will bear fruit, which is accepted by one’s own volition and not because of pressure. Belief that is forced upon is futile and invalid because it does not motivate us to action.

 

First published in DAWN, 16th June 2017

 

WOULD YOU LIKE TO DISCUSS THE ABOVE OR ANY OTHER TOPIC WITH THE AUTHOR THROUGH LIVE CHAT? SCHEDULE A MEETING USING THIS FORM.

Islam And Forced Conversion


Islam and Muslims are frequently imparted with heavy criticism for religious freedom issues. Often examples are cited that in Muslim lands, people of other faiths are not freely allowed to profess or proclaim their beliefs, and that people are converted by force. The notion that Islam is a religion of the sword is quite popular among Islam’s critics who often cite it to scare those outside the faith.

Such accusations needs to be evaluated in the light of how the subject of religious coercion has been dealt with in the Qur’an and how it addresses themes related to freedom of religion and belief.

We must keep in mind that the conduct of individuals acting in the name of Islam does not become authoritative until or unless such behaviour is endorsed by the Qur’an. What it is that the Qur’an says is to be considered as Islamic and the practices that are refuted by it are not valid as an Islamic practice, no matter how close an affiliation with Islam the actors claim to have. As the final and absolute authority for all beliefs and practices in Islam rests with the Qur’an, therefore we must discover whether people can be forced to accept Islam, as per the directives and narratives of the Qur’an.

Freedom of belief is a God-given Right 

Living and non-living beings are all programmed and designed to follow a set pattern. They do not defy that set pattern, and do not have a free will to defy their basic nature, human beings, in comparison, are distinct from animals and planets because they have a a free will to choose between right and wrong, and decide on alternate courses in matters of life.

For example, a goat eats only leaves and grass, and not meat, since it is not in its nature to do so. It does not have any freedom of choice, and no matter how hungry it may get, it will not devour meat. But we people, on the other hand, have the power and faculties to ponder on our environment, make choices – choices that may have benefits, or even harms for us. We are not compelled like animals to follow one course of action only. If we are hungry, then given the choice, we can eat vegetables, meat or a combination of both, as it is to our own volition to decide this.

It is because animals do not have a free will, that we do not hold them accountable in any court of law. We will never hear that a Goat was charged with grazing in a pasture that wasn’t its own. It simply grazes where the grass is green, and has no sense of property or ownership of land! But we humans are not like that. We have a free will. We can choose to eat from our land or steal the produce of someone else’s land. We can choose to labour for our bread, or we can choose to steal it. It is because of this free choice that we are held accountable.

As we are given faculties of intellect and a free will we can benefit from our natural surrounding, or distort it and create corruption. The same faculties and free will that we possess and employ in our social, economic or material matters, is also to be used for matters of morality and religious observance. We read in the Qur’an that when Allah sent mankind to earth, it was informed about guidance to lead peaceful lives:

“We said: Go forth from this (state) all; so surely there will come to you guidance from Me, then whoever follows My guidance, no fear shall come upon them, nor shall they grieve.” 2:38

But along with the merits of following the guidance of Allah mankind was also told about the consequences of disobeying such laws:

“And (as to) those who disbelieve in and reject My Ayat (Signs), they are the inmates of the fire, in it they shall abide.” 2:39

We have been shown both ways, and have been blessed with the powers to grasp whatever path we wish:

Have We not given him two eyes, and a tongue and two lips, and pointed out to him the two conspicuous ways?” 90:8-10

We have been pointed out the benefits of following the laws of Allah as well as the consequences of going against them. Now it is up to us to choose to accept those laws or become ungrateful. The following verse reminds us of this aspect:

“Surely We have shown him the way: he may be thankful or unthankful.” 76:3

In accepting the laws of Allah, we have to use our own freedom of choice and free will, without any coercion or force applied from outside;

“And say: The truth is from your Sustainer, so let him WHO WILLS, believe, and let him WHO WILLS disbelieve..” 18:29

 

There is No Compulsion in Matters of Faith 

If man accepts the laws of God, then it is for his own benefit and if he goes against them then the consequences will again be upon his own self. The person delivering the message of God is not a custodian over the people, as the Qur’an says:

“Surely We have revealed to you the Book with the truth for all mankind; so whoever follows the right way, it is for his own soul and whoever errs, he errs only to its detriment; and you are not a custodian over them.” 39:41

The Messenger (pbuh) was not permitted by Allah to force people into accepting his message, and the message has to be accepted by one’s own free will and own initiative, as the following verse points out:

“And if your Sustainer had pleased, surely all those who are in the earth would have believed, all of them; will you then force men till they become believers?” 10:99

The laws of Allah are to be accepted ‘on merit’ and not for any conditions, vested interests or by force. Following or disobeying them is against one’s own self. We have to use our free will to ascertain the benefits of following the law of Allah and accept them willingly without any compulsion on ourselves. The consequences of accepting or rejecting the law have been laid on our own selves. The Qur’an says;

“Indeed there have come to you clear proofs from your Sustainer; whoever will therefore see, it is for his own soul and whoever will be blind, it shall be against himself and I am not a keeper over you.” 6:104

Had Allah willed he would have made us without a free will of our own, but unlike animals we are given the freedom of choice to select our line of action:

And if Allah had pleased, they would not have set up others (with Him) and We have not appointed you a keeper over them, and you are not placed in charge of them.” 6:107

Accepting the message of God requires intellectual analysis of the message and agreement after reasoning and pondering over its validity. Even God does not force people to disown their faculties of reasoning. The Qur’an reminds us this aspect:

Perhaps you will kill yourself with grief because they do not believe. If We please, We should send down upon them a sign from the heaven so that their necks should stoop to it.” 26:3-4

The invitation of Qur’an is based upon evidence of its validity, insight and justification for its laws, therefore the question of forcing someone to accept it, does not arise:

“Say: This is my way: I invite unto Allah upon Insight, I and those who follow me, and glory be to Allah, and I am not from those who associate (with Allah).” 12:108

 

The People Who Compel Others To Their Way of Thinking 

While the Qur’an has stressed that man has been given the intellectual faculty to determine his line of action and is not under compulsion to accept the law of Allah, at the same time it has also identified who those people are who use force and compulsion to make others agree to their point of view. The Pharaoh who epitomizes tyranny, oppression, and disobedience to God’s law has been identified as a person who used to force people to remain in his religion. It is people having the traits of Pharaoh who use compulsion for faith:

“Firaon said: Do you believe in Him before I have given you permission? Surely this is a plot which you have secretly devised in this city, that you may turn out of it its people, but you shall know:” 7:123

It is a Pharonic law to give death to those who change their religion and beliefs as it is he who threatened with capital punishment to Apostates:

“Said he: You believe in him before I give you permission; most surely he is the chief of you who taught you the magic, so you shall know: certainly I will cut off your hands and your feet on opposite sides, and certainly I will crucify you all.” 26:49

To be noted that in the Quran it is the disbelievers and not Muslims who have been identified as the one’s who force people to remain in their faith and it is they who  threaten those who demonstrate disagreement to their doctrines, with dire consequences:

“The chiefs, those who were proud from among his people said: We will most certainly turn you out, O Shu’aib, and (also) those who believe with you, from our town, or you shall come back to our faith. He said: What! though we dislike (it)?” 7:88

“And those who disbelieved said to their Messengers: We will most certainly drive you forth from our land, or else you shall come back into our religion. So their Sustainer revealed to them: Most certainly We will destroy the unjust.” 14:13

Compared to the oppression of the unbelievers, the believers are commanded that even if a person from the opposite camp approaches them for safety then even he is to be given protection:

“And if one of the idolaters seek protection from you, grant him protection till he hears the word of Allah, then make him attain his place of safety; this is because they are a people who do not know.” 9:6

 

Islam calls for voluntary conviction and not forced conversion

The question of forcing someone to believe does not arise at all, because the Qur’an identifies ‘Iman’ i.e. belief as something not just professed by the lips, but something which has entered one’s heart deeply, and that is possible only if a person analyses the message through his reason and accepts it willingly:

“The dwellers of the desert say: We believe. Say: You do not believe but say, We submit; and IMAN has not yet entered into your hearts; and if you obey Allah and His Messenger, He will not diminish aught of your deeds; surely Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.” 49:14

The above verse establishes that “Iman” is something which is deep rooted into a persons heart. In case a person does not have deep conviction on the Laws of God then that does not comprise “Iman”. Therefore it is not possible to force someone to believe, as then the person would merely declare his verbal agreement while his heart would be not be inclined.

There is No Worldly Punishment for Apostasy in the Qur’an

“He who disbelieves in Allah after his having believed, not he who is compelled while his heart is at rest on account of faith, but he who opens (his) breast to disbelief– on these is the wrath of Allah, and they shall have a grievous chastisement.”

“This is because they love this world’s life more than the hereafter, and because Allah does not guide the unbelieving people.”

“These are they on whose hearts and their hearing and their eyes Allah has set a seal, and these are the heedless ones.”

“No doubt that in the hereafter they will be the losers.” 16:106-109

The above verses clearly inform that the consequences of not agreeing to the law of Allah is deprivation of the benefits that are acquired as a result of following the divine guidance in our lives, and the wrath of Allah is incurred upon those who disbelieve.

The Qur’an proclaims that man has the freedom of choice to accept or reject the permanent values of God. He CANNOT be forced to accept those values, but has the free will to accept them, as the following verse informs:

“There is no compulsion in ‘Deen’ (way of life according to laws of Allah); truly the right way has become clearly distinct from error; therefore, whoever disbelieves in the rebel and believes in Allah he indeed has laid hold on the firmest handle, which shall not break off, and Allah is Hearing, Knowing.” 2:256

With the straight path of God having being made distinct, the consequences of not accepting the way of life prescribed by Allah are also identified:

“And whoever desires a religion other than Islam, it shall not be accepted from him, and in the hereafter he shall be one of the losers.” 3:85

In case of apostasy, i.e. a situation in which a person believes, and after believing disbelieves in the message of Allah, the consequences of such a state are also made evident to us in the Qur’an:

“How shall Allah guide a people who disbelieved after their believing and (after) they had borne witness that the Messenger was true and clear arguments had come to them; and Allah does not guide the unjust people.” 3:86

For such (apostates) the penalty is the curse of Allah, i.e. deprivation of the benefits that result from following the guidance of Allah:

“(As for) these, their reward is that upon them is the curse of Allah and the angels and of men, all together. Abiding in it; their chastisement shall not be lightened nor shall they be respited.” 3:87-88

But as the Qur’an identifies the consequences of apostasy, it also confirms that there is room forgiveness and the deserters of faith do not qualify for capital punishment at the hands of Muslims. The following verse identifies this aspect:

“Except those who repent after that and amend, then surely Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.” 3:89

Had the punishment for apostasy been prescribed as death then the above verse would not have accommodated the room for amending one’s conduct and repentance, but with the inclusion of a condition of repentance and reform, the Qur’an confirms that worldly punishment for apostates is not death. The following verse is even more clear regarding this aspect:

“Surely (as for) those who believe then disbelieve, again believe and again disbelieve, then increase in disbelief, Allah will not forgive them nor guide them in the (right) path.” 4:137

Upon analysis we can clearly see that the above verse establishes that a person does not get the death penalty for apostasy, as it identifies stages where a person believes, then disbelieves, then again believes and after that again disbelieves. Now if we were to assume that the stipulating death were existing, then the verse refutes it clearly, as has identified stages of belief, rejection, then again of belief and of subsequent rejection, as a person who after believing in Islam rejects it would then be qualified for the death penalty at the first instance, and would not have the opportunity to believe one more time again after disbelieving. But as the above verse identifies a state of belief after one has become an apostate, it clearly shows that he has not committed a capital offense.

The above verse is abundantly clear in describing that there is room for a person who out of any reason has turned his back on Islam, to amend his conduct and revert to the guidance of God and rules out the idea that apostates should be put to death.

We Are Free To Choose Our beliefs. We Will Know On The Day of Judgement About The Truth Of Our Choice.

We have seen that the Quran cites freedom of belief for man. We have the free will to choose whatever we believe to be right for ourselves, and no human has the right to stop us by force or compulsion from choosing, professing or observing our faith. But as we have freedom of choice, so shall we be held accountable for our choices. We see that in all times and eras messengers of God and their adherents were compelled to disown their beliefs and rejectors used force and threats against them. On the issue of apostasy, though the act is abhorred in the Qur’an and stated that apostates from Islam will be requited in the hereafter by God himself, believers are not allowed by the Qur’an to compel apostates in any way from their choice. Similarly we see evidence in Qur’an that an apostate has opportunities for repentance even after his denouncing of faith, thereby proving that he is not to be put to death.

Those who use force or oppression to spread their beliefs, or who compel people and do not give them the liberty of changing their belief are identified as rejectors of Allah and not as Muslims. We also see that those who are turned away from the straight path pose no threat to the believers, provided the believers are steadfast on the law of God, therefore apostates do not pose a threat to Islam or Muslims:

“O you who believe! take care of your souls; he who errs cannot hurt you when you are on the right way; to Allah is your return, of all (of you), so He will inform you of what you did.” 5:105

Islam is not to be spread at the point of the sword. The Qur’an is full of rejoinders to this effect. A Muslims duty is to propagate the message of the Qur’an to the best of his or her ability and in propagating that message there is to be no use of force, as the following verse identifies:

“We know best what they say, and you are not one to compel them; therefore remind him by means of the Quran who fears My promise.” 50:45

To spread the message of Qur’an by wisdom and reason and not by force – this is the true practice of the Prophet that every Muslim must emulate.

 

WOULD YOU LIKE TO DISCUSS THE ABOVE OR ANY OTHER TOPIC WITH THE AUTHOR THROUGH LIVE CHAT? SCHEDULE A MEETING USING THIS FORM.

Blasphemy laws in the Qur’an


The Qur’an has issued clear guidelines as to how believers are to respond in the face of insults and ridicule

Blasphemy (Greek blaptein, “to injure”, and pheme, “reputation”) signifies etymologically gross irreverence towards any person or thing worthy of exalted esteem.¹ Blasphemy is the use of offensive, and derogatory language and visual representations against personalities revered and held in high esteem in a religion. In the Judeo Christian tradition, blasphemy is a serious sin, which is according to the Hebrew Scriptures a cognizable offense incurring capital punishment. In the book of Leviticus, which is considered an inspired text by both, Jews and Christians it is stated: “Take the blasphemer beyond the confines of the camp; let all those who were listening lay their hands on his head, and let the whole people put him to death by stoning. 15 Tell the Israelites this: The man who curses his God will be held to account for it; 16 he blasphemed the Lord’s name, and he must die. Be he citizen or stranger, he must be stoned by the whole people; death for the blasphemer.” Leviticus 24:14-16 Though very clearly a law enshrined in the Judeo-Christian Scripture, we also see in recent times, that it is the Muslim community which is in the spotlight regarding this subject. Some violent and extreme responses to blasphemy meted out in the name of Islam, make those outside of the faith (as well as many within the faith itself) raise the question, that like the Judeo-Christian Scripture, does the Islamic Scripture too, exhort believers to deliver death to blasphemers?

Blasphemy is not a capital crime in the Qur’an

Without investigating the fact of the matter many make an underlying assumption that whilst responding violently, those who label themselves as Muslims are acting on the tenets of their faith. That what you see on the TV screens and read about in the newspapers concerning so called Islamic acts is the practice of the Qur’an to the last letter. Many are deliberately led to believe as if whatever any individual identifying himself as a Muslim does or believes in, is a result of the religious guidance found in their Book and the authentic teaching of their faith. This actually, is not the case. Behaviour that we witness as “Islamic” behaviour is not necessarily Quranic behaviour. Upon studying the Qur’an we realise that the fringe in the Muslim world that partakes in violent behaviours is neither representative of Qur’anic teachings nor of the vast number of peaceful believers. The Qur’an is not silent about situations when the Prophet (peace be upon him) was insulted and abused by rejecters of his message. It very well does show his behaviour, as to what his response was in such instances. It also gives clear and unambiguous instructions to Muslims as to what their conduct should be when people mock, ridicule or scoff their faith.

God is sufficient against those who mock the Prophet

إِنَّا كَفَيْنَاكَ الْمُسْتَهْزِئِينَ

“For sufficient are We unto thee against those who scoff.” 15:95

It follows from this verse that if God is indeed sufficient against the scoffers, then there is no room left for believers to respond.

The Prophet [pbuh] never commanded anyone to respond violently in face of insults

The Prophet [pbuh] was commanded by Allah:

وَلَا تُطِعِ الْكَافِرِينَ وَالْمُنَافِقِينَ وَدَعْ أَذَاهُمْ وَتَوَكَّلْ عَلَى اللَّهِ ۚ وَكَفَىٰ بِاللَّهِ وَكِيلًا

“And obey not [the behests] of the Unbelievers and the Hypocrites, and heed not their annoyances, but put thy Trust in Allah. For enough is Allah as a Disposer of affairs. ” 33:48

As Allah commanded the Prophet “and heed not their annoyances..” therefore the Prophet and his true followers did not pay any heed to insults and abuses they received from the rejecters.

True believers in Allah bear the hurts of rejecters with patience, not violence

A statement that believers in Allah gave to rejecters is recorded in the Qur’an as:

وَمَا لَنَا أَلَّا نَتَوَكَّلَ عَلَى اللَّهِ وَقَدْ هَدَانَا سُبُلَنَا ۚ وَلَنَصْبِرَنَّ عَلَىٰ مَا آذَيْتُمُونَا ۚ وَعَلَى اللَّهِ فَلْيَتَوَكَّلِ الْمُتَوَكِّلُونَ

“No reason have we why we should not put our trust on Allah. Indeed He Has guided us to the Ways we [follow]. We shall certainly bear with patience all the hurt you may cause us. For those who put their trust should put their trust on Allah.” 14:12

The words “..We shall certainly bear with patience all the hurt you may cause us…” make it absolutely clear that true believers do not respond violently to the hurtful things they hear from rejecters but tolerate them with patience.

Believers commanded to be patient in the face of insults

لَتُبْلَوُنَّ فِي أَمْوَالِكُمْ وَأَنفُسِكُمْ وَلَتَسْمَعُنَّ مِنَ الَّذِينَ أُوتُوا الْكِتَابَ مِن قَبْلِكُمْ وَمِنَ الَّذِينَ أَشْرَكُوا أَذًى كَثِيرًا ۚ وَإِن تَصْبِرُوا وَتَتَّقُوا فَإِنَّ ذَٰلِكَ مِنْ عَزْمِ الْأُمُورِ

“Ye shall certainly be tried and tested in your possessions and in your personal selves; and ye shall certainly Hear much that will hurt you, from those who received the Book before you and from those who worship many gods. But if ye persevere patiently, and guard against evil,-then that will be a determining factor in all affairs. ” 3:186

The divine command given to believers as to what to do in the face of abuse as “..if ye persevere patiently, and guard against evil…” leaves no room for doubt that true believers do not respond violently when faced with insults and abuse but remain calm and patient.

Believers are forbidden to insult other religions, hence responding violently is ruled out

وَلَا تَسُبُّوا الَّذِينَ يَدْعُونَ مِن دُونِ اللَّهِ فَيَسُبُّوا اللَّهَ عَدْوًا بِغَيْرِ عِلْمٍ ۗ كَذَٰلِكَ زَيَّنَّا لِكُلِّ أُمَّةٍ عَمَلَهُمْ ثُمَّ إِلَىٰ رَبِّهِم مَّرْجِعُهُمْ فَيُنَبِّئُهُم بِمَا كَانُوا يَعْمَلُونَ

“Revile not those unto whom they pray beside Allah lest they wrongfully revile Allah through ignorance. Thus unto every nation have We made their deed seem fair. Then unto their Lord is their return, and He will tell them what they used to do.” 6:108

If believers are commanded by Allah not to even verbally insult deities, then how can they turn physically violent?

We also see in the Qur’an that blasphemy does not carry a capital punishment. Those who commit blasphemy and even plot sedition are given an opportunity by Allah to repent. If capital punishment were invoked and they were to face the death penalty then they would not be able to avail the opportunity for repentance that Allah mentions in 9:74.

يَحْلِفُونَ بِاللَّهِ مَا قَالُوا وَلَقَدْ قَالُوا كَلِمَةَ الْكُفْرِ وَكَفَرُوا بَعْدَ إِسْلَامِهِمْ وَهَمُّوا بِمَا لَمْ يَنَالُوا ۚ وَمَا نَقَمُوا إِلَّا أَنْ أَغْنَاهُمُ اللَّهُ وَرَسُولُهُ مِن فَضْلِهِ ۚ فَإِن يَتُوبُوا يَكُ خَيْرًا لَّهُمْ ۖ وَإِن يَتَوَلَّوْا يُعَذِّبْهُمُ اللَّهُ عَذَابًا أَلِيمًا فِي الدُّنْيَا وَالْآخِرَةِ ۚ وَمَا لَهُمْ فِي الْأَرْضِ مِن وَلِيٍّ وَلَا نَصِيرٍ

“They swear by God that they said nothing (evil), but indeed they uttered blasphemy, and they did it after accepting Islam; and they meditated a plot which they were unable to carry out: this revenge of theirs was (their) only return for the bounty with which God and His Apostle had enriched them! If they repent, it will be best for them; but if they turn back (to their evil ways), God will punish them with a grievous penalty in this life and in the Hereafter: They shall have none on earth to protect or help them.” (9:74)

The expression in above verse: “..If they repent, it will be best for them…” is clear evidence in demonstrating that those guilty of blasphemy, apostasy and sedition are not to face the death penalty as Allah has given them a chance for repentance and amendment of their conduct.

If Muslims are to remain peaceful, then who are the people who respond violently?

A question that immediately comes to the mind is that if indeed the Qur’an calls for calm and restraint in the face of insults and abuse, then why do so many people who identify themselves as staunch believers in Islam behave otherwise? Why do people resort to violence, damage property and attempt to riot? The answer to this is also given in the Qur’an. The reality is that the Qur’an categorises two types of believers. Those who are believers in deed, and those who are believers only by name. It is the latter who resort to violence and destruction in the name of religious reform:

وَمِنَ النَّاسِ مَن يَقُولُ آمَنَّا بِاللَّهِ وَبِالْيَوْمِ الْآخِرِ وَمَا هُم بِمُؤْمِنِينَ

“Of the people there are some who say: “We believe in Allah and the Last Day;” but they do not [really] believe. ” 2:8

Whilst refuting the claim of such, the Qur’an also exposes them by virtue of their conduct and behaviour in the world:

وَإِذَا قِيلَ لَهُمْ لَا تُفْسِدُوا فِي الْأَرْضِ قَالُوا إِنَّمَا نَحْنُ مُصْلِحُونَ

“When it is said to them: “Make not Fasaad (disorder) on the earth,” they say: “Why, we only Want to reform!” 2:11

Pinpointing the people who go about flaunting their Imaan (belief) to be in fact fake, the above verses also identify their modus operandi to do Fasad (disorder),  assuming it to be a means to Islah (reform from sin). When we come across individuals who make it their mission to “destroy evil and vice”, we see the truthfulness of the above description. These are the type of people who bomb establishments that appear sinful to them and display violent rage in the name of religion. They style themselves as believers, do Fasaad fil Ard (disorder and mischief in the land), without realising that far from acting on Allah’s laws, they are in fact grossly violating them. Hence there are two types of people in the world who would claim to be within the fold of Imaan. Those whose characters are trained on Quranic guidance, who in the face of insults, invective and abuse act patiently and do not resort to a tit-for-tat or violent response. While others are those who, while claiming to be believers, actually defy the divine injunctions. These are the people who resort to violence and destruction and justify their conduct in the name of religion. The fundamental mistake we would make is to accept people by the labels they carry or the claims they make, instead of identifying them by the behaviours they display. Behaviours that go against the teachings of the Qur’an are never a part of Islam and their actors are never its true representatives. Muslims must not forget that the best defence to any insults is the one contained in the Qur’an. Instead of losing control, Muslims must hold fast to Qur’anic guidance in such matters. The Qur’an is Allah’s word and is not silent. Allah is fully aware of what situations come in the life of a believer and He has given remedies in His word. The only response that a true Muslim is to give is the one which the Prophet gave and which is to abide by the teaching contained in the Qur’an.

REFERENCES

¹ Catholic Encyclopedia

 

WOULD YOU LIKE TO DISCUSS THE ABOVE OR ANY OTHER TOPIC WITH THE AUTHOR THROUGH LIVE CHAT? SCHEDULE A MEETING USING THIS FORM.

Muslim Response To The Blasphemous Film


A film depicting the Prophet of Islam (peace be upon him) in an offensive manner and which has been described as “a bigoted piece of poison calculated to inflame the Muslim world” has been circulated and its worldwide response has been in the form of protests and contempt across Muslim societies. Some of these protests have turned violent and outsiders to the faith are asking questions as to why a mere film can cause violence and resentment?

An assumption underlying this appraisal is that whilst responding violently, those who label themselves as Muslims are acting on the tenets of their faith. That what you see on the TV screens and read about in the newspapers is a practice of the Qur’an to the last letter. Many are deliberately led to believe as if whatever the world’s Muslims do and believe in, is a result of the religious guidance found in their Book and the authentic teaching of their faith.

This actually, is not the case.

Behaviour that you witness as “Islamic” behaviour is not necessarily Quranic behaviour. Upon studying the Qur’an you will realise that the fringe in the Muslim world that partakes in violent protests is neither representative of Qur’anic teachings nor of the vast number of peaceful believers.

In fact it is not religion that motivates such violence but politics. Almost all violent protests will see the involvement, not of ordinary Muslims who go about their normal daily routines, but by hardcore activists of religio-political groups, in whom along with a faithful zeal is also cultivated a deep rooted resentment of all things American. It is not the love of the Prophet, but a hatred of the United States that is instrumental in rousing such sentiments, for Prophetic teachings never command believers to act in a violent and disorderly manner.

It should also be borne in mind that elections are close by in many Muslim societies and political groups see situation created by the release of the film as an opportunity to test their street power. What better opportunity do they have by which under the cover of religion they can appear heroic? How else can they gain anti-American credentials that are so much needed to safeguard their vote bank?

Thus it is not religion, and to be specific religious teaching in the Qur’an, that is motivating people to act violent and disorderly, but it is largely politics and social deprivation that is orchestrating the violence. To be taken into account is the fact that due to corrupt and inept governments in Muslim societies there already exists much frustration and anger among the masses. When unemployment is high, there is deprivation, inflation is sky rocketing and you have a large and angry young population, then it is no rocket science to fathom that a protest of this category is bound to snowball into violence. People are frustrated and need an outlet, and politics has provided them a target and a means to vent that anger. The fuel is already there and all it needs is a match!

Here it is also important to bring on record what exactly is the Islamic ruling on such a matter as that which has come about as a result of the inflammatory film?

The Qur’an is not silent about situations when the Prophet (peace be upon him) was insulted and abused by rejecters of his message. It very well does show his behaviour, as to what his response was in such instances. It also gives clear and unambiguous instructions to Muslims as to what their conduct should be when people mock, ridicule or scoff their faith.

(1) God is sufficient against those who mock the Prophet

إِنَّا كَفَيْنَاكَ الْمُسْتَهْزِئِينَ

“For sufficient are We unto thee against those who scoff.” 15:95

It follows from this verse that if God is indeed sufficient against the scoffers, then there is no room left for believers to respond.

(2) The Prophet never commanded anyone to respond violently in face of insults

The Prophet was commanded by Allah:

وَلَا تُطِعِ الْكَافِرِينَ وَالْمُنَافِقِينَ وَدَعْ أَذَاهُمْ وَتَوَكَّلْ عَلَى اللَّهِ ۚ وَكَفَىٰ بِاللَّهِ وَكِيلًا

“And obey not [the behests] of the Unbelievers and the Hypocrites, and heed not their annoyances, but put thy Trust in Allah. For enough is Allah as a Disposer of affairs. ” 33:48

As Allah commanded the Prophet “and heed not their annoyances..” therefore the Prophet and his true followers did not pay any heed to insults and abuses they received from the rejecters.

(3) True believers in Allah bear the hurts of rejecters with patience, not violence

A statement that believers in Allah gave to rejecters is recorded in the Qur’an as:

وَمَا لَنَا أَلَّا نَتَوَكَّلَ عَلَى اللَّهِ وَقَدْ هَدَانَا سُبُلَنَا ۚ وَلَنَصْبِرَنَّ عَلَىٰ مَا آذَيْتُمُونَا ۚ وَعَلَى اللَّهِ فَلْيَتَوَكَّلِ الْمُتَوَكِّلُونَ

“No reason have we why we should not put our trust on Allah. Indeed He Has guided us to the Ways we [follow]. We shall certainly bear with patience all the hurt you may cause us. For those who put their trust should put their trust on Allah.” 14:12

The words “..We shall certainly bear with patience all the hurt you may cause us…” make it absolutely clear that true believers do not respond violently to the hurtful things they hear from rejecters but tolerate them with patience.

(4) Believers commanded to be patient in the face of insults

لَتُبْلَوُنَّ فِي أَمْوَالِكُمْ وَأَنفُسِكُمْ وَلَتَسْمَعُنَّ مِنَ الَّذِينَ أُوتُوا الْكِتَابَ مِن قَبْلِكُمْ وَمِنَ الَّذِينَ أَشْرَكُوا أَذًى كَثِيرًا ۚ وَإِن تَصْبِرُوا وَتَتَّقُوا فَإِنَّ ذَٰلِكَ مِنْ عَزْمِ الْأُمُورِ

“Ye shall certainly be tried and tested in your possessions and in your personal selves; and ye shall certainly Hear much that will hurt you, from those who received the Book before you and from those who worship many gods. But if ye persevere patiently, and guard against evil,-then that will be a determining factor in all affairs. ” 3:186

The divine command given to believers as to what to do in the face of abuse as “..if ye persevere patiently, and guard against evil…” leaves no room for doubt that true believers do not respond violently when faced with insults and abuse but remain calm and patient.

(5) Believers are forbidden to insult other religions, hence responding violently is ruled out.

وَلَا تَسُبُّوا الَّذِينَ يَدْعُونَ مِن دُونِ اللَّهِ فَيَسُبُّوا اللَّهَ عَدْوًا بِغَيْرِ عِلْمٍ ۗ كَذَٰلِكَ زَيَّنَّا لِكُلِّ أُمَّةٍ عَمَلَهُمْ ثُمَّ إِلَىٰ رَبِّهِم مَّرْجِعُهُمْ فَيُنَبِّئُهُم بِمَا كَانُوا يَعْمَلُونَ

“Revile not those unto whom they pray beside Allah lest they wrongfully
revile Allah through ignorance. Thus unto every nation have We made their deed seem fair. Then unto their Lord is their return, and He will tell them what they used to do.” 6:108

If believers are commanded by Allah not to even verbally insult deities, then how can they turn physically violent?

A question that immediately comes to the mind is that if indeed the Qur’an calls for calm and restraint in the face of insults and abuse, then why do so many people who identify themselves as staunch believers in Islam behave otherwise? Why do people resort to violence, damage property and attempt to riot? The answer to this is also given in the Qur’an. The reality is that the Qur’an categorises two types of believers. Those who are believers in deed, and those who are believers only by name. It is the latter who resort to violence and destruction in the name of religious reform:

وَمِنَ النَّاسِ مَن يَقُولُ آمَنَّا بِاللَّهِ وَبِالْيَوْمِ الْآخِرِ وَمَا هُم بِمُؤْمِنِينَ

“Of the people there are some who say: “We believe in Allah and the Last Day;” but they do not [really] believe. ” 2:8

Whilst refuting the claim of such, the Qur’an also exposes them by virtue of their conduct and behaviour in the world:

وَإِذَا قِيلَ لَهُمْ لَا تُفْسِدُوا فِي الْأَرْضِ قَالُوا إِنَّمَا نَحْنُ مُصْلِحُونَ

“When it is said to them: “Make not Fasaad (disorder) on the earth,” they say: “Why, we only Want to reform!” 2:11

Pinpointing the people who go about flaunting their Imaan (belief) to be in fact fake, the above verses also identify their modus operandi to do Fasad (disorder),  assuming it to be a means to Islah (reform from sin). When we come across individuals who make it their mission to “destroy evil and vice”, we see the truthfulness of the above description. These are the type of people who bomb establishments that appear sinful to them and display violent rage in the name of religion. They style themselves as believers, do Fasaad fil Ard (disorder and mischief in the land), without realising that far from acting on Allah’s laws, they are in fact grossly violating them.

Hence there are two types of people in the world who would claim to be within the fold of Imaan. Those whose characters are trained on Quranic guidance, who in the face of insults, invectives and abuse act patiently and do not resort to a tit-for-tat or violent response.

While others are those who, while claiming to be believers, actually defy the divine injunctions. These are the people who resort to violence and destruction and justify their conduct in the name of religion.

The fundamental mistake we would make is to accept people by the labels they carry or the claims they make, instead of identifying them by the behaviours they display. Behaviours that go against the teachings of the Qur’an are never a part of Islam and their actors are never its true representatives.

Indeed the film is contemptuous, and vulgar but we must not forget that the best defence to any attempted character assassination of the Prophet (peace be upon him) is the one contained in the Qur’an. Instead of losing control, we must hold fast to Qur’anic guidance in such matters. The Qur’an is Allah’s word and is not silent. Allah is fully aware of what situations come in the life of a believer and He has given remedies in His word. The only response that a true Muslim is to give is the one which the Prophet gave and which is to abide by the teaching contained in the Qur’an.

Cordial Relations Between Faith Communities


During the course of interfaith dialogue some participants assert that Islam advocates intolerance of other faiths, and that Muslims are not permitted to be friendly with non believers. Some even point out references from religious texts to support their view. Sadly, a few of those who label themselves as Muslim also agree to this and maintain a view that non believers should be shunned and despised, and Muslims should not forge cordial ties with them but should be in a constant state of animosity.

Particularly, references are made towards those of Jewish and Christian tradition and the objection is raised that Muslims are advised in their holy scripture not to: “…take the Jews and Christians as allies … Anyone who takes them as an ally becomes one of them.”? (5:51)”.

If believers are not to form alliances with Jews and Christians, then how can communal harmony be built in environments where diverse faiths reside and share the same spaces? Imagine a school where children of Jewish, Islamic and Christian backgrounds come together to study, are Muslims supposed to shun their Jewish and Christan classmates, and not seek their friendship?

What about the sports team where Muslims, Jews and Christians play together? If such a view were put into practice in letter and spirit, then what would be the outcome for the Muslim community but becoming ostracized from the rest of the members of society. Sadly, this is what some misguided individuals would want us to believe. This serious misconception and errant view is the result of complete ignorance of the Qur’an and lack of understanding of Arabic language. The verse in question which is often cherry picked to ‘prove’ the intolerant behavior of Muslims is not interpreted and understood properly and distorted readings are what cause such misconceptions.

In reality the verse in question (5:51) states that believers should not take Jews and Christians as Aulia. The Arabic word Aulia is the plural form of Wali and its precise meaning is more than just ‘friend’ or ‘ally’, but the term carries the meaning of “guardian”, “manager of affairs”, “protector”, and “caretaker”. (C.F. Lane’s Arabic English Lexicon, pp. 3080).

E.g. A parent is a Wali i.e. a guardian, or manager of affairs and maintenance of his child. For ‘friend’ or ‘ally’, the words Khaleel (see 25:28 & 17:73) and Sadeeq (see 24:61) have occurred in the Qur’an. There is a difference between being friends with someone and in living as a dependent under someone’s guardianship or protection, whereby the guardian controls the material as well as spiritual needs of the dependent. But why is it that the Qur’an exhorts believers not to be under the guardianship of Jews and Christians?

Because some Jews and Christians have been identified in the Qur’an to display certain characteristics that are detrimental to the spiritual well being of believers, e.g. they will not show tolerance towards the religion of believers, but will strive to convert them to their own religion. They consider salvation to be their exclusive right, destine only themselves to paradise and condemn the rest of mankind to hellfire (see 2:111), consider only themselves as the son’s and beloved one’s of God (see 5:18), and do not have any accommodation for anyone else, even for each other (see 2:113). The believers are therefore warned that with such a mentality such individuals will not rest until they convert others to their own belief:

“And never will the Jews and the Christians be satisfied with you until you follow their religion..” (2:120)

“And they say: ‘Become Jew or Christian, and it is then that you will be guided aright!…” (2:135)

Therefore, in such a situation where believers do not have the freedom to maintain their own beliefs, and were they are under the constant barrage to convert, they should not remain under the guardianship of such individuals who do not allow them personal freedom and from whom they are under the strain of proselytism and demands for conversion. I am sure that people  will feel uncomfortable in such an environment, where “Hot Gospellers” and “Bible Thumpers” rest not until they convert people to their own point of view and will see the wisdom behind the Qur’anic advice of not remaining dependent and subservient in such a passionate evangelical or rabbinical atmosphere.

The Qur’an forbids believers to seek guardianship and protection of those who are aggressive and intolerant towards their faith. As for those who do not show aggression and intolerance towards believers, the Qur’anic advice is for good and just relations as stated:

“God forbids you not, with regard to those who fight you not for (your) Faith nor drive you out of your homes, from dealing kindly and justly with them: for God loveth those who are just.” (60:8)

Deal kindly and justly with Jews and Christians who are non hostile to you. This is God’s instruction to the Muslim community. There is ample textual evidence for this case.

WOULD YOU LIKE TO DISCUSS THE ABOVE OR ANY OTHER TOPIC WITH THE AUTHOR THROUGH LIVE CHAT? SCHEDULE A MEETING USING THIS FORM.