Sunday, May 18, 2008

Is Tolerance accepted in Islam?

A very thoughtful piece by Manzurul Haque is followed by my commentary;

Manzurul, you made a profound statement “The idea is that as Muslims we should have no difficulty in developing an attitude of tolerance towards some persons or some families, who are not entirely like us. The paramount need is to learn to co-exist.”

Islam is indeed tolerance. Qur’aan, Al-Hujurat, Surah 49:13: "O mankind! We have created you male and female, and have made you nations and tribes that ye may know one another. The noblest of you, in sight of Allah, is the best in conduct. Allah Knows and is Aware."

Our Mission at the World Muslim Congress is to work for a world of co-existence through inclusiveness and participation. As a member of diverse family of faiths, our efforts will be directed towards justice and equity to attain peace for the humankind with a firm grounding in commonly held values. We cannot have advantages at the cost of others. Such benefits are temporary and deleterious to lasting peace. We believe what is good for Muslims has got to be good for the world, and vice versa, to sustain it.

Indeed we aspire to promote goodwill amongst people of different affiliations, regardless of their faith, gender, race, nationality, culture or any other uniqueness blessed by the creator.
From your first paragraph, the idea of “Everything about nature is balance and equilibrium” Jumps at me.

55:6 [before Him] prostrate themselves the stars and the trees.
55:7 And the skies has He raised high, and has devised a measure,
55:8 so that you [too, O men,] might never transgress the measure
55:9 weigh, therefore, [your deeds] with equity, and cut not the measure short!
55:10 and the earth has He spread out for all living beings,
55:11 with fruit thereon, and palm trees with sheathed clusters [of dates],
55:12 and grain growing tall on its stalks, and sweet-smelling plants.

Everything in the cosmos, the solar system, the life (sperm to full being), from seed to the mature tree is a system, a precise system.

God caused matter and life. Matter is put on a trajectory, matter is designed to do what is set out to do, … the earth orbiting around the sun, the moon around the earth… the trees are to produce fruit… they are all doing the Sajda, doing what they are designed to do.

Life, on the other hand, especially the human one is not put on a trajectory, instead God gave us a brain to figure out how to survive the anomalies and how not to get washed away and survive and live in equilibrium.

God’s model of equilibrium is the matter… trillions of stars with their own unique space is living in harmony, without conflicts and collisions. Anomalies are built into it, so we can learn to accept our flaws as well.

So he expects us to create that co-existence and balance with the brains he has endowed us, while also giving us the temptations like greed, anger, fear and other elements. He also gave us manuals through different religions (Qur’aan uses a number of 124,000 of them to describe infinity) to figure out and create the harmony and balance. There comes “Al-Hujurat, Surah 49:13: "O mankind! We have created you male and female, and have made you nations and tribes that ye may know one another. The noblest of you, in sight of Allah, is the best in conduct. Allah Knows and is Aware."

Jumping to the Hindu way of life, shamefully, the Muslims, the Christians and Jews have an attitude towards Hindu way of honoring the divine. We talk about oneness of God in terms of physical being, where as God is not a being, not a thing and not an entity. If we can learn to accept and respect the God given uniqueness of each one of us, and honor every which way people have come to worship the divine, then conflicts fade and solutions emerge. That is indeed Islam, peace and submission.

If we were to ask Mr. Spock to analyze the religions, being unbiased and un-brainwashed he probably would sum up as

“The purpose of a religion is to create a balance within an individual and between that individual and what surrounds him or her. Being religious is being a peacemaker who constantly seeks to mitigate the conflicts and nurtures goodwill for peaceful co-existence. The creator wants his creation to live in peace and harmony and submitting (Islam) to his idea of peace, following (Christianity) his system or surrendering (Hinduism) to him is the purpose of religion, when you do that, everything is yours and you belong to every thing. It is this conflictlessness that religion brings to the humanity. And this is precisely what the oneness of God ought to be.

Each system works for the follower, and no one idea negates the other. I am a Muslim because I am trained that way and I enjoy being one, but would NEVER claim that my way is the only way for every one of the 6 billion of us, that would be an imposition and arrogance, that which God does not give value to, as it creates an imbalance in his creation. Prophet Muhammad shared God's word in Sura Baqra "There is no compulsion in the matters of faith". Indeed there should not be one.

Mike Ghouse
# # #

Is Tolerance accepted in Islam?

In Islamic theology, there is a strong directive for the Muslims to look for Signs in the phenomena of nature. Sadly this strand of thought has not struck deep roots in the Muslim consciousness. Life perhaps would have been different if we did look for Signs and draw necessary lessons from those Signs.

The extreme rigidity of our ideological moorings, leading to conflicts with those who do not share views with us, describes a stalemated situation. We may say that we are followers of the Prophet (PBUH) but the times of the Prophet had witnessed the movement forward of Islam at the highest possible speed. To day in the name of Islam one group of Muslims is hitting hard at the other group because that other is an ideological deviant. Surely, this is no way of propagating an ideology.

The art of miniature painting is different from the art of painting a wall. The reason for this difference lies in the size of the canvas. Evidence of this logic is found in the Creation of Allah itself. Fundamental laws of physics which operate at the existential level in apparently immutable ways, undergo remarkable transformation at the sub-atomic level. Can we take a cue from this, to be able to handle our private issues of the miniatures canvas, independently from the public issues of the large canvas, without of course giving up either of them?

Because of the habit of mind, for a long time physicists could not convince themselves that the laws of mechanics do not hold good in the world of subatomic particles. Then finally with some training of mind, they were able to accept the coexistence of both the sets of laws, both being equally fundamental... After all if nature is the perpetrator, who can have the grudge?

When a question is thrown at me in secular India about the position of Islam, which stands for the abrogation of the Hindu way of life, I cannot coax myself to deny this position, because it is true. At the same time, when I probe my mind about my relationship with a Hindu, I honestly do not find myself antagonistic to him. How do I reconcile these contradictory facts of life? My answer is that it can be explained by the canvas theory which may not remove the contradiction, but which may lay down the ground work for co-existence, being intrinsic part of the design of nature.

It is possible that there would be humans who would not subscribe to accepting this line of argument, but as an intelligent follower of Islam, one is perhaps obliged to accept the centrality of co-existence, taking cue from the Signs hidden in nature. The ability to accept the principles of co-existence lies in the understanding of the fundamental laws of nature. I must take pains to explain that our aim should not be to regress into a situation of tearing apart larger canvas of our ideological life merely in order to accommodate our relationship with other humans, and similarly vice verse, because in reality such tearing apart business is not needed, if we can be convinced to accept both these apparently contradictory realities as equally sacrosanct, with which one can live, with a little training of mind. A person with true understanding of the naturalness of the two sets of laws governing the two levels of human existence would not be unduly affected in his personal relationships, because of his ideological differences.
In the above, all that was required to be said has been stated. But for our simple readers, the essence is explained. The idea is that as Muslims we should have no difficulty in developing an attitude of tolerance towards some persons or some families, who are not entirely like us. The paramount need is to learn to co-exist. Everything else will follow. And the good news is that this approach is fully sanctioned by Islam.

Manzurul Haque,


  1. I would agree with both the authors on the broad perspective of the peaceful co-existence of two communities that follow contradictory religions in the same society. However, we should also understand that the existence of two antithetical ideas within the same ideology is irrational.
    For instance, a glass of muddy water(e.g. polytheism) and a glass of clean water(e.g. monotheism) can stand side by side without knocking each other down or spilling into each other, but if somebody wants them to exist in the same glass, then its the 'clean' water that will lose its identity and become muddy and not vice-versa. So, while two distinct ideologies can co-exist peacefully, they must have their distinct boundaries and no tresspassing on either side.

    A practical example that many Muslims in India face is that, their Hindu friends are often willing to go to the Mosque with them and offer Namaz (and thus worship Allah for those few minutes) and then expect the Muslim person to accompany them to their temples for idol-worshipping, as a reciprocal gesture. They fail to realize this 'clean water-muddy water' concept whereby a Hindu visiting a mosque temporarily, retains his polytheistic culture, but a Muslim visiting a temple loses his monotheism.

    Besides, media propaganda notwithstanding, it is a stark reality that in none of the more Islamic countries (all of Gulf) has there been any riot against non-Muslims esp. Hidus. in fact, the Indian Hindus in these countries feel more secure, socially and financially than they are back home. However, the same cannot be said of predominantly Hindu country like India (with instances of Graham Steins and state-orchestrated Gujrat riots against the Muslims). So it's basically the non-Muslims who have to learn to peacefully co-exist with Islam as unlike in Islam (which forbids barbarity) some of these cultures are very primitive and barbaric and have a history of violence against their own family members (e.g. Sati, where the lady of the house was regularly burnt alive by her family members, under the supervision of religious priests).

  2. Neha,

    Your analogy is flawed. You must present both as Clear Water, that’s giving full value to each faith.

    “For instance, a glass of muddy water (e.g. polytheism) and a glass of clean water (e.g. monotheism) can stand side by side without knocking each other down or spilling into each other,”

    This is not a good portrayal. One is painted as muddy water where as the other as clear water. It is not acceptable. Present both as Clear water…

    Religion is not a conflict…. And religion is about free will. If Hindus go to the mosque, that is their choice, and if Muslims do not want to reciprocate it, it is their choice…. It is not rejection; it is simply a different way of looking at things.

    I would not expect you to eat medium rare steak, because I do. You eat what works for you. I might like Julebi and if you prefer Gulab Jamun. We do not have to eat what does not work for us. Neither desert is superior, better, healthy or any other quality… they are just different and appeal to each one's taste bud. Neither is wrong or right.

    No religion is barbaric, Sati is a custom of the culture, and it is not part of the religion or any sort of dogma. Religion is never the problem, it is the individual.

    To you is your faith and to me is mine. Neither is inferior or superior. As they say, beauty is in the eyes of the beholder, I say, faith is in the heart of the believer.

    Mike Ghouse



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quraan burning

Planned Muslim Response to Qur'an Burning by Pastor Jones on September 11 in Mulberry, Florida

August 19, 2013| Dallas, Texas

Mike Ghouse
Text/Talk: (214) 325-1916

Mirza A Beg
(205) 454-8797


We as Muslims plan to respond to pastor Terry Jones' planned burning of 3000 copies of Quran on September 11, 2013 in positive terms.

Our response - we will reclaim the standard of behavior practiced by the Prophet concerning “scurrilous and hostile criticism of the Qur’an” (Muhammad Asad Translation Note 31, verse 41:34). It was "To overcome evil with good is good, and to resist evil by evil is evil." It is also strongly enjoined in the Qur’an in the same verse 41:34, “Good and evil deeds are not equal. Repel evil with what is better; then you will see that one who was once your enemy has become your dearest friend.”

God willing Muslims will follow the divine guidance and pray for the restoration of Goodwill, and on that day many Muslim organizations will go on a “blood drive” to save lives and serve humanity with kindness.

We invite fellow Americans of all faiths, races, and ethnicities to join us to rededicate the pledge, “One nation under God”, and to build a cohesive America where no American has to live in apprehension, discomfort or fear of fellow Americans. This event is a substitute for our 10th Annual Unity Day Celebration ( held in Dallas, but now it will be at Mulberry, Florida.

Unwittingly Pastor Jones has done us a favor by invigorating us by his decision to burn nearly 3000 copies Quran on September 11, 2013. Obviously he is not satisfied by the notoriety he garnered by burning one Qur'an last year.

As Muslims and citizens we honor the free speech guaranteed in our constitution. We have no intentions to criticize, condemn or oppose Pastor Terry Jones' freedom of expression. Instead, we will be donating blood and praying for goodness to permeate in our society.

We plan to follow Jesus Christ (pbuh), a revered prophet in Islam as well as Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) – that of mitigating the conflicts and nurturing good will for the common good of the society.

We hope, this event and the message will remind Muslims elsewhere in the world as well, that violence is not the way. Muslims, who react violently to senseless provocation, should realize that, violence causes more violence, and besmirches the name of the religion that we hold so dear. We believe that Prophet Muhammad was a mercy to the mankind, and we ought to practice what we believe and preach. We must not insult Islam by the negative reactions of a few.

We can only hope it will bring about a change in the attitude of the followers of Pastor Jones, and in the behavior of those Muslims who reacted violently the last time Pastor sought notoriety – We hope this small step towards a bridge to peaceful coexistence would propel us towards building a cohesive society.

Like most Americans a majority of Muslims quietly go about their own business, but it is time to speak up and take positive action instead of negative reaction. May this message of peace and goodwill reverberate and reach many shores.

Lastly, we appreciate the Citizens of Mulberry, Florida, Honorable Mayor George Hatch, City Commissioners, police and Fire Chiefs for handing this situation very well. This will add a ‘feather of peace’ in the City’s reputation. We hope Mulberry will be a catalyst in showing the way in handling conflict with dignity and peace.

We thank the Media for giving value to the work towards peace rather than conflict.


Thank you.


The people in Dallas are making an effort to understand and clean their own hearts first, when we are free from bias, it would be easy to share that with others. Islam teaches us in so many ways to "respect the otherness of others" and it is time we find simple practical ways of doing it.