Tolerance in Private and Public Life Essay

Outline:

  • Islam’s intention to create an ideal and liberal society
  • The threat to liberties coming from majority
  • No compulsion in the matter of faith in Islam
  • The Holy Prophet showing the highest spirit of tolerance
  • Islamic spiritual lesson of tolerance
  • The example of Abu Hanifa
  • The example of Hazrat Zaid (R.A)
  • Knowledge of good and evil
  • Importance of tolerating different views
  • Disadvantages of hot temper
  • The foolishness of a young worker and an artist
  • Dealing with the hot-tempered people
  • The need to control ourselves

Islam intends to create an ideal liberal society where full scope is provided for the flowering of a variety of opinions. The Holy Prophet (PBUH) is reported to have said, Differences of opinion among the learned within my community is God’s grace. Divergent views can exist under a true democratic spirit only in a society where people show a particular attitude of civilized behavior, and where they enjoy true liberties. The threat to liberties does not always come from political oppression but from a majority that is intolerant of the conventional, that looks for with suspicion on divergent minorities and is willing to use the weight of numbers to repress and regiment them. For in a liberal society a public opinion is required that is genuinely tolerant, that values differences in point of view that limits the amount of agreement it demands, and that welcomes new ideas as a source of discovery. Suffice it is to say that behind a liberal government there must be a liberal society.

Islam inculcates the highest degree of toleration in an individual’s mind. There is, from Islamic viewpoint, no compulsion in the matters of faith. Islam teaches all the people to be moderate in their dealings with their fellow beings irrespective of their caste, creed, colour or religion. Even the non-Muslim minorities have the right to propagate the good points of their religion in an Islamic state. The Holy Quran lies down:

“Allah loveth not the utterance of harsh speech save by one who hath been wronged! Allah is ever hearer, knower”.

The Holy Prophet (PBUH) showed a high spirit of tolerance at a so critical time when a very moderate person was likely to be swayed by emotions. He did never use harsh words even against his worst enemies. So much so that after having been injured at the hands of enemies in the battle of Uhad, he prayed to God: ‘O Allah forgive my people, they do not know.’ After Hijrat to Medina, the Quresh of Mecca from performing Hajj prohibited the Muslims and, there emerged the possibility that the Muslims would take similar action in this connection. There was every possibility that the Muslims would block the way of other people who wanted to go to the Holy Place along the routes running close to Medina. Allah warned the faithfuls in the following words.

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And let not your hatred of folk who stopped your going to the univolable place of worship seduce you to transgress; but help you one another unto righteousness and pious duty.’

The spiritual lesson of tolerance preached by Islam is far superior to the one based on material considerations. It is the embodiment of highest wisdom by virtue of its divine source. It does not require any utilitarian devices in support of its justification. Islamic injunction is dynamic in nature with the provision of a vast scope of accommodating good points of other faiths. The Holy Prophet (PBUH) ordered the Muslims to follow the practices of Jews and Christians in matters about which there was no provision in Islamic law. He established an exemplary attitude when he allowed the Christians of Narian to celebrate their prayers in the very mosque of the Holy Prophet. Not only did he tolerate many pre-Islamic Arab customs but he went so far as to prescribe:

In Islam the virtues of the days of ignorance will be acted upon.

Once a person came and talked rudely to Abu Hanifa (R.A) in the presence of his pupils and friends. He went so far as to call him a Zindeeq (heretic). Abu Hanifa (R.A) replied mildly, Allah forgives you. He knows you are not right in using this word for me. There was some unpleasantness between Imam Abu Hanifa (R.A) and Imam Sufian Sauri (R.A). Somebody came to him and said, “Sufian (R.A) was reviling you. Thereupon Abu Hanifa (R.A) observed.” May Allah forgive both Sufian and me, “If Sufian had passed away even while Ibrahim Nakhaee (a theologian and traditionist of greater repute who was the preceptor of Imam Abu Hanifa preceptor Hammad) was alive, and the Muslims should have lamented over his death.”

He used to say about himself, I have never cursed anybody: “I have never avenged myself; I have never hurt or teased any Muslim or Zimmi (non-Muslim subject of a Muslim state). I have never deceived anyone or broken a promise with any person”. A shoemaker, who was a drunkard and a reveler, was his neighbour. Late in the night he used to drink and eat Kababs in the company of his merry making friends to the tune of this couplet.

Axaooni wa ‘ayyo fata Azaaoo

Lay Yomin Kareematin wa Sadoodin Sughar

(The people have abandoned me. And what a brave fellow they have abandoned; he who would have stood firmly by them on the day of fighting and turmoil). Although Imam Abu Hanifa (R.A) was thus badly disturbed in the midst of his prayers and communion with God, but he patiently tolerated this nuisance. One night the Kotwal happened to pass that way and arrested and imprisoned the shoemaker’s. As soon as Imam Abu Hanifa (R.A) heard of this he rode straight to the house of the Governor of Kufa who had a great regard for him and got the culprit released immediately. On their way back home, he said to the shoe-maker”, well, after all, we have not abandoned you”. The drunkard was so much affected by this generosity and good neighbourliness that he repented and atoned for his sins by becoming a pupil of Imam Abu Hanifa (R.A) and in course of time became a Faqeeh himself. Islam is a great advocate of tolerance in private or public life. The history of Islam is replete with such sublime examples. Let me take an example from the Holy Quran which will astonish you but will teach you how to welcome tolerance with loud shouts. Prophet Muhammad’s (be peace upon him) cousin’s sister was married to Zaid (R.A) (who was a slave). The Arabs began to talk with one another about this marriage because Mohammad’s (PBUH) cousin sister belonged to the highest family while Zaid came of the lowest family. The Arabs were caste ridden at that time but Mohammad (PBUH) who was here to ban, for good, all colour and caste took no notice of it. So, he did but after a little time there was a’conflict between husband and wife. The things were so critical that Zaid determined to divorce her. Here see who goes to Zaid. Our great Prophet (PBUH) goes to him.

Although a man,

Yet inviolate

World First Teacher

God’s Last Legate

And asks Zaid not to divorce her, but the reply from Zaid was, “Dear Mohammad (PBUH) tell me, if you are inspired from God or only you are giving your own view” and when Zaid was told that Mohammad (PBUH) was saying his own view here then listen to the words of Zaid, it is my affair, I have full freedom in this matter. See how the minds were trained and how the full liberty was being enjoyed by humanity.

Here Zaid’s (R.A) soul appears and conveys there lines:

O liberty of speech, action and thought

From God on High whom the gabriels brought

No mere harbinger of Faith serene

Of Faith sublime Preserver thou art of Faith, liberty

in extensive Space

in successive Time

Like Faith thou art God’s blessing great

Enabling man carve out newer Destiny

Newer Faith

God’s greatest gift is liberty of all

In the world of opportunity

Equality of all

But this gift demands such a righteous life

For man’s liberty lost more righteous strife

This gift demands a vigorous will-to-win

Slavery acquired sin

This is written in the Quran

This is Eeman Eeman

Good and evil are inseparably joined in this world and the knowledge of good is involved and mixed up with the knowledge of evil. A person, who, knowing all the temptations of vice abstains from it and follows the path of virtue, is a true Muslim. Some foolish people argue that Adam (A.S) transgressed the right path by Providence (i.e. the will of God), But God gave Adam (A.S) the freedom to choose otherwise Adam (A.S) would be a mere puppet. God left him free and hence there can be any meaning in reward or praise for his abstinence. We cannot expel sin by removing the material for sin. Difference of opinion among good men is knowledge in the making.

Under the funny kind of fear for sects, we wrong the earnest and zealous thirst for knowledge. Some men are afraid of parties but these fears are useless. Bear in mind that out of moderate varieties in the ideas of men there arises a good symmetry. Just as in a body when the blood is fresh, the spirits pure and vigorous then all the operations of wit and intelligence work sharply, similarly when a nation is cheerful and enjoys freedom and safety it reaches sublime heights of discussion and invention. It throws off its wrinkled skin of corruption and enters the glorious era of truth and virtue. It would become great and honourable in the future ages. The Government who choke the freedom of thoughts and set up twenty officers over the minds of men when new light is born, she brings a famine upon our minds again. She is wrongly advised. She is breeding slaves or imitators not creators. Milton exclaims, “Give me the liberty to know to utter and to argue freshly according to conscience above all liberties.”

Toleration is better than compelling all the iron yoke of conformity will bear an imprint on our minds. If all cannot be of one mind, it is wiser that many views be tolerated rather than all be compelled to have one view. Of course, fundamental differences should be suppressed but minor differences must be allowed. If we come down to prohibiting, it is most likely that truth will be prohibited than any thing else because when our eyes have become dim with the film of custom and prejudice, truth appears to be quite strange to us. It is a sure proof of our laziness that we distrust the right cause. We should rather hold gentle meetings with those who err. We should have a liberal audience and try to reform them. Who knows that they may rise to great heights and see the cause of truth? We often judge hastily. Hence while we believe that we are defending the Gospel by suppressing them we might be actually rendering a dis-service to religion. Errors occur in a good government as in a bad one.

Many men and women are jogging along in mediocrity. They are occupying inferior places because they are unable to keep good situations on account of their hot tempers. Everywhere we see people mortified, humiliated, kept down by hot tempers, which they think they cannot control. They may work months, or years to climb up to good positions, and then throw them away by yielding to fits of passion in moments of annoyance.

I met a very capable man the other day that has been handicapped all his life by a quick temper, which is the secret of his comparative failure. He has held many good positions but lost them in unguarded moments. He is very ambitious and hard working and he struggles to get ahead. He is now well along, in years but he has never been able to do anything like what his superior ability would warrant. He feels mortified that he fills such an ordinary position as he does when he is conscious that he has superior ability. He knows that he ought to be at the top of his profession instead of half way down; that he ought to be a leader instead of being led by men who are not half as competent as he. It galls him to death to be ordered around by men far his inferior in ability, but they all know his fault.

Can anything be more foolish than for a boy to spend years and years on education and special training for his life work and then just as soon as he climbs up a little and gets a decent position, to throw it all away in a momentary fit of temper? What would you think of an artist who would spend years in caring a beautiful statue out of marble block, smite it to pieces with his mallet in an instant and then go to work on another, and do the same thing again and again? You would say that he ought to be in an insane asylum. But are you sure, my friend, that you are not even more foolish than he; that you are not destroying your own work of years of hasty expositions of temper?

People who fly into a rage at the slightest criticism, who take everything as a personal affront, are never sure of themselves, and never sure of their positions. They make employers and associates feel all the time as if they were walking on thin ice, liable any minute to go through. You have to be very careful how you handle these touchy people, how you approach them; you always have to choose the right word lest you give offence. You must not say anything which they can twist into a personal thrust, these sensitive souls suffer a great deal, and they are very difficult people to get along with sensitiveness is really an acknowledgment of weakness. It is founded on vanity, false pride, egotism and selfishness.

Jealousy enters into a quick temper, so does intolerance of other’s opinions. The victim wants to run things, wants to make everybody do as he wishes, and if he cannot, he ‘flies off the handle.’ As a rule, a hot-tempered person is naturally arbitrary, selfish, vain and proud. He cannot think of anybody else but himself. Other people’s rights cut very little figure with him.

Every person should be ambitious to become a power in the world, to stand for something above the ordinary, to lift him out of mediocrity but he can never make himself thus felt until he is first master of himself. He cannot control conditions or men until he can first control himself. It is the man who can be calm, no matter what the provocation. It is the man who can look serene when the tempest of passion is raging all around him in others. It is who inspires confidence that forces respect and who masters men and matters.

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