“Tolerance is the graveyard of defects.” – Imam Ali ibn abi Talib (a)
There’s always been this huge issue about how the Muslim, and as an extension Islam, is usually intolerant of other faiths. And seriously, the fanatics and extremists don’t help much in dispelling this misconception.
I’ve never seen anything of the sort being encouraged within Islamic ethical or legal codes. It’s not an attitude we’re encouraged to adopt, and it’s not hidden away deep within the system. In fact, the more you dig in – and I’ve been doing quite some of that recently – the more surprising it is to learn how much more lenient Islam is than even Muslims themselves think!
At first, I used to feel that the emphasis on the equality of all mankind was so great that it doesn’t seem to make a difference if you chose to be on the Right Path or not. Which is a little dangerous because it borders on pluralism.
Many people think that because Islam does not support the concept of pluralism in its entirety, that this means it is aggressively hostile towards all other faiths. Things are never that B&W.
The way I understand it, (and I’ve discovered that many people don’t know this) is that Islam is the final Divine code. It was never meant to be a ‘new religion’, just a perfect and comprehensive version of previous codes. Any Muslim will tell you that Islam began with the creation of the world and that Adam was the first Muslim.
At some point in time along the way, people adapted and tweaked religion for various reasons, and voila! we ended up with all the different faiths we have today. Some diversions branched off at greater tangents than others, thus the monotheists, the polytheists and the atheists (who have a belief system, even if they claim to abandon the one involving God.)
Of course, when you disagree with pluralism, there’s always the essential question: “Do you believe/think non-Muslims will go to Hell?” which I always had a problem answering, until I realised that there really isn’t a yes/no reply for this one. Like I said before, hardly anything is ever B&W.
When you’re talking about God, it’s impossible to do so without mentioning His Justice. It’s our un-wavering belief in that attribute that allows us to accept Him as God, as Creator and Master. Without it, we have every reason to rebel or reject Him.
The one thing I’ve often made the mistake of overlooking is that He’s not only Just, He’s PERFECTLY Just. That’s something we cannot comprehend.
We make laws based on general assumptions and then we apply them and hope that 7 times out of 10, we’ll make the right judgements and keep society stable. Does that justify what happens to the innocent who get caught up in the ‘system’?
How many people have been punished for their “crimes” only to be absolved later because of new evidence? And what do we do other than say: ‘Oops! Sorry about that, but we’re only human’? The reason we get away with it every time is precisely that: we’re only human.
You can’t apply that to God. He has an overview we don’t. His Justice is specific to each and every individual and takes into consideration their unique situation and circumstances, which means nothing is generalised when it comes to His judgements.
Which is why we can say that being a Muslim gives you an advantage because (ideally) you’ve studied all available paths and chosen the best one, but we can’t guarantee with 100% certainty who will go to Heaven or Hell, because we’re not privy to what goes on inside another human being’s soul/mind.
Sure we can make certain assumptions based on actions, but only when those actions are consistent and clearly defined. Otherwise, it’s just different forms of stereotyping.
So we’ve established that Islam isn’t intolerant of other faiths. The thing is tolerance is a relative term, and it’s dependent on context too…
This post will probably work better with a Part Two, and I haven’t done one of those since I started P2 anyway, so why not? Watch out for Flip Side – Take Two!
“In some circumstances, the refusal to be defeated is a refusal to be educated.”
– Margaret Halsey, novelist (1910-1997)