#Article (Archive)

Tolerance in the Teaching of the Great Prophet (s) and in Liberalism: A Contrastive Analysis (Part 2)

Dec 2, 2011, 2:16 PM

The greatest example of the Prophet’s (s) forgiveness is the mass forgiveness of the people of Mecca after its conquest. The people of Mecca had the worst possible attitude, hurled the most terrible of insults, and waged the most aggressive of wars upon the Prophet (s) and his followers. This, however, did not cause the Prophet (s) to digress from the path of Islamic kindness after his victory.

In a Narration from the holy Prophet (s), it has been stated:

I have been commanded to moderation with the people just as I have been commanded to disseminate the Message.

In this Narration, moderation with the people has been enumerated as a chief mission of the Prophet (s) on the same lines as promotion of the divine message indicating its considerable importance.

In another Narration, he has declared:

Allah Almighty has not appointed me to coerce the people; rather, He has appointed me as a lenient teacher.

It has also been cite that Gabriel came to the Prophet (s) and said to him:

O Muhammad! Your Lord has sent His salam and has said: ‘Act moderately with My creatures.

In another Narration from the Prophet(s), it is quoted:

Gentleness and moderateness are blessed whereas strictness is accursed.

Yet a future Narration from the Prophet (s) cited thus:

Whatever moderateness and mildness are applied to, they serve as its ornamentations, and whatever they are taken away from, becomes ugly.

Moreover, the Prophet (s) has sated:

If gentleness and moderateness could be seen with the eyes, there would be no creature more beautiful and magnificent.

2. Tolerance in Islamic Law [TASHRI]

God’s mildness in the legislation of religious laws is an additional shining example of religious tolerance. In the Holy Quran, it is stated:

Allah desires ease for you, and He does not desire hardship for you (2:185)

He has not placed for you any hardship in the religion (22:78).

It has been cited from the Holy Prophet (s) that:

Allah Almighty has not appointed me for monastic life rather; He has appointed me with the Primordial religion-easy and mild.

In this Narration, the words samhah and sahlah have been used which are derived from the same roots as tasamuh and tasahul.

The word sahl denotes level land in which movement is easy. Samahah means mildness or forgiveness together with magnanimity. Therefore, this Narration indications that Islam is an easy, facile, and merciful religion. Another interpretation is that in Islam there are no arduous laws. In the exegesis of this hadith, Martyr Mutahhari writes:

In this religion, because it is ‘sahlah’, no taxing or formidable duties have been mandated. Furthermore, because it is ‘samhah’ (merciful), whenever a duty becomes entwined with great difficulty and strains that duty is abrogated.

These Quranic verse and Narrations signify that the religion of Islam, i.e., the methodology of the Prophet of Islam (s) and the entirety of God’s teachings bestowed upon the Prophet (s), is founded upon positive tolerance.

Interestingly, in Islamic jurisprudence [fiqh] there are rules such as la haraj (on hardship); la darar (on harm); negation of constraint, ignorance, forgetfulness, and coercion; primacy of acquittal; primacy of legitimacy; primacy of purity; primacy of correctness; the rule of possession [qa ‘idah yad]; and halalness of what is bought on the Muslim market [sawq muslimin] all of which are indicative of the leniency and ease of Islamic law. Explanation of these important and effective laws of Islamic jurisprudence is beyond the scope of this discourse.

3. Tolerance in Inviting People to the Religion

Islam’s tolerance in inviting people to the religion is another indicator of its religious tolerance. Addressing the Prophet (s), the Holy Quran declares:

Invite to the way of your Lord with wisdom and good advice and debate with them in a manner that is best (16:125).

Regarding methods of inviting people to the religion of God, this verse refers to wisdom, good advice, and debate as the best. This shows that other methods of making people religious, such as coercion and force, are unacceptable. It is worthy of note that advice is modified with the adverbial hasanah (good) and debate is modified with billati hia ahsan (in a manner that is best) which means that in inviting people to the religion, all types of advice or debate are not endorsed.

In numerous Quranic verses addressing the holy Prophet (s), application of force and compulsion in the call to religion has been prohibited (see: Baqarah 2:256, An;am 6:35 Yunsu 10:108, and Shuara’ 26:3).

The Prophet of Islam (s) and his successors never used force in their in their invitation of the people to Islam. They gave the people of conquered territories the option of becoming Muslim or retaining and following the laws of their own religion while accepting the Islam political administration.

The Infallible Imams created such an open and liberal atmosphere in their debates that other parties plainly spoke and defended their beliefs and opinions without fear. Examples of this may be found in the debates of Imam Sadiq (‘a) with Ibn Abi al-Awja’, Ibn Muqaffa’, and Daysani who were leaders of heresy [ilhad] and atheism [zandaqah].

According to Islam, Muslims are duty-bound to insure the safety of unbelievers that come among Muslims to research Islam and to abstain from aggression against them. Addressing the Prophet (s), the Noble Quran stated:

If any of the polytheists seeks asylum from you, grant them asylum until they hear the Word of Allah. Then convey them to their place of safety. That is because they are a people who do not know (9:6).


To be continued