Tolerance as a Core Islamic and Canadian Value, Dr Muzakir Majeed, Family Physician, Ottawa

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Tolerance as a Core Islamic and Canadian Value, Dr Muzakir Majeed

All praise is to Allah, the lord of the Universe, for granting us the gift of calling this great nation our home. Some of us chose it, while others were fortunate enough to be born sons and daughters of it. Either way, we all cherish in calling it our home for the tolerance, security and the opportunities that it continues to provide us, as its citizens. One of the greatest values that makes this nation what it is the value of “Tolerance”- tolerance towards people of all colors, races, religions, nations, casts and creeds. This can be observed at every level of Canadian Life; individual, family, communal, social and governmental. What many Muslims do not appreciate that this is also a value that is highly cherished in Islam. In fact, it is one of the fundamental qualities of a Mu’min.

Why do we need tolerance as a life principle?

The world, in general, appears to going through a very turbulent time, where intolerance is presented as being normal part of life, and bigotry is defended as part of fight against “political correctness”. In may parts of the worlds, under this disguise civil liberties of citizens from all communities (majorities and minorities) have been eroded away. Even in mature democracies, while human decency and respect are denied to one another, tolerance as a principle in civic and social life appears to be eroding fast and can no longer be taken for granted. Many Islamic scholars argue that even in the developed world, tribalism (which flourishes, in the absence of tolerance), in the form sects, nationalities and regions, holds many back Muslim communities from maximizing our potential. As Muslims, therefore, we have a civic and religious duty, at individual and community levels, to emphasize this principle (which we have previously taken for granted) to our children and fellow Muslims and non-muslims alike.

Tolerance as an Islamic Value

Islam has a broad perspective on tolerance as a basis for social (and family) cohesion. Many of us perceive tolerance as something that involves “majority communities” accommodating “minority communities”, as Muslims happen to be minorities is many parts of the developed world. In Islam however, tolerance has a much broader meaning; where we value and respect each person and their differences (tolerance to individuals), as well as respect cultural and social values of groups that are different to us (social tolerance), whilst at the same time we celebrate what is common to us- i.e we are all Abd of Allah (Muslims or not); with different colors, races, nations and tribes; with one common purpose of seeking the countenance and pleasure of our Creator. This is clearly illustrated by the the following Quranic Ayah

“Oh mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. Indeed, Allah is Knowing and Acquainted” (49:13).

Numerous other Qur’anic ayahs (which are beyond the scope of this piece) and emphasize this principle.

Life of Prophet Muhammadh (peace be upon him) reflect this same spirit, as exemplified by many incidents recorded in hadith.

Once when the Prophet (peace be upon him) was asked, “What is Iman?” he (peace be upon him) replied: “Iman (faith) is patience and tolerance.” (Al-Silsilah Al-Sahihah, No. 554).

Multitude of other incidents have been recorded emphasizing the importance of respecting the principle of tolerance

Another poignant reminder of this important principle is laid out at the last sermon give by the prophet (Khutbathul Wada): “… All mankind is from Adam and Eve, an Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab; also a white has no superiority over a black nor a black has any superiority over a white – except by piety and good action”. Again, this this emphasizes the importance of the principle of tolerance, in Islam

 

The Value of Tolerance in Human civilization: Historic perspective from Islamic Civilization

Many scholars attribute the spread of Islam beyond the borders of Arabia, in the early periods of Islamic civilization, to its few key principles; one of which is its emphasis on the value of tolerance. Prior to the twentieth century, Muslims were widely regarded as the champions of academic liberalism and tolerance (even in Eurone), through the various periods of Islamic civilization. The Great Englishman Marmaduke Pickthall, (known for being one of the first to translate the Qur’an in to English), explains in one of his lectures: “In the eyes of history, religious toleration is the highest evidence of culture in a people”. He goes on to explain that it was not until many western nations broke away from their religious law that they became more tolerant, arguing at the same time, that it was only when the Muslims fell away from their religious rules and laws that they declined in tolerance. He went on to state before that the coming of Islam, tolerance had never been preached as an essential part of a religion, confirming that Islam places a greater importance on this principle, compared to many other religions

 

Tolerance as a Social value; an Islamic perspective

Islam is a relatively conservative religion. As its values are based on Quran and sunnah (both divine in origin), they do not change with time, although societies and social norms do change with time. As Islam is aimed at entire mankind (and not just practicing Muslims), with its progressive its approach to social cohesions, it places great importance on the value of tolerance. At times of social and political turbulence in the world, Muslims have a religious duty to espouse and practice this important value.

Humans have an innate tendency to group together with people who look the same, talk the same, act the same and think the same. Whilst this may have no harms most of the time, when it comes to ideas and opinions, not being open to the others’ opinion, ideas and cultures results in social and political polarization. This phenomenon can be witnessed in full play, in various parts of the world in the form of social, political and civil discord. Many people feel that they are “open and tolerant”; whilst they are only open to their own narratives and ideas. Tolerance therefore, is not something that people born with, rather it is a learned quality, acquired through intellectual reasoning. In Islam, it is an acquired form of Ilm, that is highly encouraged.

 

The current state of tolerance in societies

Somehow, over the last few centuries, this great Islamic principle and Canadian value appears to have been lost from much of the world (much faster in the last few decades). The narrative appears to be that somehow that “Islam is part of this problem”, whilst in reality Muslims are, in most cases, the victims of this global wave of change. To quote President Obama and the quintessentially Canadian logo, in deed “The world needs more Canada”. I pray to Allah, for the safety and security of this nations, its people and its core values that are also commonly shared by Islam and Muslims.

Tolerance as a Core Islamic and Canadian Value

All praise is to Allah, the lord of the Universe, for granting us the gift of calling this great nation our home. Some of us chose it, while others were fortunate enough to be born sons and daughters of it. Either way, we all cherish in calling it our home for the tolerance, security and the opportunities that it continues to provide us, as its citizens. One of the greatest values that makes this nation what it is the value of “Tolerance”- tolerance towards people of all colors, races, religions, nations, casts and creeds. This can be observed at every level of Canadian Life; individual, family, communal, social and governmental. What many Muslims do not appreciate that this is also a value that is highly cherished in Islam. In fact, it is one of the fundamental qualities of a Mu’min.

Why do we need tolerance as a life principle?

The world, in general, appears to going through a very turbulent time, where intolerance is presented as being normal part of life, and bigotry is defended as part of fight against “political correctness”. In may parts of the worlds, under this disguise civil liberties of citizens from all communities (majorities and minorities) have been eroded away. Even in mature democracies, while human decency and respect are denied to one another, tolerance as a principle in civic and social life appears to be eroding fast and can no longer be taken for granted. Many Islamic scholars argue that even in the developed world, tribalism (which flourishes, in the absence of tolerance), in the form sects, nationalities and regions, holds many back Muslim communities from maximizing our potential. As Muslims, therefore, we have a civic and religious duty, at individual and community levels, to emphasize this principle (which we have previously taken for granted) to our children and fellow Muslims and non-muslims alike.

Tolerance as an Islamic Value

Islam has a broad perspective on tolerance as a basis for social (and family) cohesion. Many of us perceive tolerance as something that involves “majority communities” accommodating “minority communities”, as Muslims happen to be minorities is many parts of the developed world. In Islam however, tolerance has a much broader meaning; where we value and respect each person and their differences (tolerance to individuals), as well as respect cultural and social values of groups that are different to us (social tolerance), whilst at the same time we celebrate what is common to us- i.e we are all Abd of Allah (Muslims or not); with different colors, races, nations and tribes; with one common purpose of seeking the countenance and pleasure of our Creator. This is clearly illustrated by the the following Quranic Ayah

“Oh mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. Indeed, Allah is Knowing and Acquainted” (49:13).

Numerous other Qur’anic ayahs (which are beyond the scope of this piece) and emphasize this principle.

Life of Prophet Muhammadh (peace be upon him) reflect this same spirit, as exemplified by many incidents recorded in hadith.

Once when the Prophet (peace be upon him) was asked, “What is Iman?” he (peace be upon him) replied: “Iman (faith) is patience and tolerance.” (Al-Silsilah Al-Sahihah, No. 554).

Multitude of other incidents have been recorded emphasizing the importance of respecting the principle of tolerance

Another poignant reminder of this important principle is laid out at the last sermon give by the prophet (Khutbathul Wada): “… All mankind is from Adam and Eve, an Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab; also a white has no superiority over a black nor a black has any superiority over a white – except by piety and good action”. Again, this this emphasizes the importance of the principle of tolerance, in Islam

 

The Value of Tolerance in Human civilization: Historic perspective from Islamic Civilization

Many scholars attribute the spread of Islam beyond the borders of Arabia, in the early periods of Islamic civilization, to its few key principles; one of which is its emphasis on the value of tolerance. Prior to the twentieth century, Muslims were widely regarded as the champions of academic liberalism and tolerance (even in Eurone), through the various periods of Islamic civilization. The Great Englishman Marmaduke Pickthall, (known for being one of the first to translate the Qur’an in to English), explains in one of his lectures: “In the eyes of history, religious toleration is the highest evidence of culture in a people”. He goes on to explain that it was not until many western nations broke away from their religious law that they became more tolerant, arguing at the same time, that it was only when the Muslims fell away from their religious rules and laws that they declined in tolerance. He went on to state before that the coming of Islam, tolerance had never been preached as an essential part of a religion, confirming that Islam places a greater importance on this principle, compared to many other religions

 

Tolerance as a Social value; an Islamic perspective

Islam is a relatively conservative religion. As its values are based on Quran and sunnah (both divine in origin), they do not change with time, although societies and social norms do change with time. As Islam is aimed at entire mankind (and not just practicing Muslims), with its progressive its approach to social cohesions, it places great importance on the value of tolerance. At times of social and political turbulence in the world, Muslims have a religious duty to espouse and practice this important value.

Humans have an innate tendency to group together with people who look the same, talk the same, act the same and think the same. Whilst this may have no harms most of the time, when it comes to ideas and opinions, not being open to the others’ opinion, ideas and cultures results in social and political polarization. This phenomenon can be witnessed in full play, in various parts of the world in the form of social, political and civil discord. Many people feel that they are “open and tolerant”; whilst they are only open to their own narratives and ideas. Tolerance therefore, is not something that people born with, rather it is a learned quality, acquired through intellectual reasoning. In Islam, it is an acquired form of Ilm, that is highly encouraged.

 

The current state of tolerance in societies

Somehow, over the last few centuries, this great Islamic principle and Canadian value appears to have been lost from much of the world (much faster in the last few decades). The narrative appears to be that somehow that “Islam is part of this problem”, whilst in reality Muslims are, in most cases, the victims of this global wave of change. To quote President Obama and the quintessentially Canadian logo, in deed “The world needs more Canada”. I pray to Allah, for the safety and security of this nations, its people and its core values that are also commonly shared by Islam and Muslims.

 

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