#Article (Archive)

Tolerance in the teaching of the Great Prophet(s) and in liberalism: a contrastive analysis (Part 2)

Dec 9, 2011, 2:53 PM

4. Islam’s Tolerance in Peaceful Coexistence of Muslims with Followers of Other Religions

Peaceful coexistence is one of the most important human ideals. Islam had laid the foundation of peace and has thus leveled the path of peaceful coexistence. Peace and tranquility constitute the soul of Islam. The word ‘Islam’ is derived from the root silm, which subsumes the concepts of health, safety, peace, and tranquility. The Holy Quran instructs its followers to collectively enter peace and silm;

O you who have faith! Enter into silm, all together (2:208).

God commands the Prophet (s) to size the opportunity if his enemies take up the path of peace and reconciliation and positively respond to their overtures:

And if they incline toward peace, then you [too] incline toward it, and put your trust in Allah. Indeed He is the All hearing, the All knowing. Bu if they desire to deceive you, Allah is indeed sufficient for you (8:61-62).

Moreover, the Quran elsewhere directs the Prophet (s) and Muslims in general thus:

So if they keep out of your way and do not fight you, and offer you peace, then Allah does not allow you any course [of action] against them (4:90).

Islam’s desire for peace is so strong that it informs Muslims that their behaviour may bring about a bond of friendship between them and their enemies:

It may be that Allah will bring about affection between you and those with whom you are at enmity, and Allah is all powerful, and Allah is all-forgiving, all-merciful (60:7)

With the following statement, the Noble Quran has determined peace as a better course of action above and beyond all personal and social relations prevailing between humans:

And reconcilement is better (4:128).

Islam has introduced the idea of peaceful coexistence among followers of divine religions as a global declaration. By proclaiming the common ground of ‘belief in the One God and the negation of polytheism and existence of divinity apart from God’, Islam invites everyone to global unity. By God’s command, the holy Prophet (s) has also announced to all followers of divine religions to submit to a great monotheistic convergence and unification (see: Ali ‘Imran 3:64).

The policy of the Prophet of Islam (s) in the negotiation of peace and non-aggression treaties with various followers of divine religions and even polytheists denotes Islam’s peaceful spire and the necessity of peaceful coexistence in Islam. The ten-year armistice the Prophet negotiated with the polytheists of Mecca (i.e, the Hudaybiyyah Truce), in addition to other treaties, are signs of the endeavours of Islam to prevent aggression among humans. The Quran advises Muslims that as long as their enemies adhere to non-aggression treaties, their pacts are to be respected (Tawbah 9:4). The performance of the holy Prophet (s) during the Mecca conquest with regard to the polytheists of Mecca and the following slogan bespeak of his peaceful attitude concerning enemies and opponents:

Today is a day of mercy; today Allah has honored the Quraysh! 

The most coherent of statement in this regard are those of Imam ‘Ali (‘a), the most illustrious disciple of Prophet (s), in the Nahj al-Balaghah;

Never reject a peace proposal from the enemy that involves the satisfaction of God since the ease of warriors and the peace of mind and security of the country are ensured in peace…. If a pact is agreed upon between you and your enemy or you have granted them your protection, be loyal to your pledge, be reliable in what you have taken on, and make your soul a shield for your covenant since there is no divine obligation on the same level as faithfulness to promises; all people of the world, with all their differences, are unanimous in this opinion…. Therefore, never be an oath-breaker, never betray your pledge, and never deceive your enemy…After precautionary measures and making certain about a treaty, do no seek excuses. Let not difficulties of a covenant you have entered into, for which God has made you duty-bound; lead you to break an oath.

5. Tolerance in Governance and Administration

Some Quranic verses and numerous Narrations indicate that conditions from success in administration and leadership include magnanimity as well as moderateness, easygoingness, and gentleness with the people. Therefore, the holy Prophet (s) and noble ‘Ali (a) have advised their governors to observe these important principles.

In verse 159 of surah Ali ‘Imran, the key to the Prophet’s (s) success as the leader and head of government of the religious community was his gentleness and tact. In a Narration, it is cited:

A tool of leadership is magnanimity.

When the holy Prophet (s) appointed Mu’adh ibn Jabal as governor of Yemen, part of his recommendations was as follows:

I advise you to gentleness (with the people) and forgiveness in cases that do not involve the violation of a right [or truth].

The Prophet (s) also instructed him thus:

Go easy and do no be strict, give glad tidings [and make (people) happy], and do not cause displeasure.

Islam even stresses upon Imams of congregational prayer to go easy on the people in prayers. In a latter to Malik Ashtar, ‘Ali (a) declares:

When you hold group prayer for the people do not cause hate in people by prolonging it since there are some among them that are ailing or feeble. When the Prophet (s) dispatched me to Yemen, I asked him how I should pray with the people. He answered, “Pray within the limits of the most weak among them and be kind to the faithful”.

Throughout the following letter, Imam ‘Ali accentuates gentleness, moderateness, and kindness above all else:

Given your heart to the people in the form of love, warmth, kindness, and grace. Do not be like a vampiric predator that sets great store by devouring them, as they are your siblings in faith or (at least) are similar to you in genesis. People stray from the path and become afflicted by blights. Either intentionally or unintentionally they perform certain deeds (that they should not). Treat them with magnanimity and forbearance jus as you hope God treats you with magnanimity and forbearance.


To be continued.