The Beauty Of Tolerance
It is sad to see that disputes which lead to the fragmentation of Muslims have not receded. In fact, it is like a cancer that has spread to all parts of the body. This bitter reality has to be swallowed while the cure is never sought. Insults and humiliation are levelled daily towards groups of Muslims who do not share the same thinking and thoughts.
Even worse when some Muslims tend to accuse one another of being infidels. Eventually, there would be extremists who would do whatever it takes to justify the destruction of any school of thought which runs contrary to the beliefs of their group. This crisis has already happened in some Muslim countries. Upon reflection, the diversity of thoughts among servants of Allah SWT is bound to happen. Hence, it requires us to be tolerant and have open minds.
This is stated in Surah Hud, verses 118 to 119: ٱ Which means: “If your Lord had so willed, He could have made mankind one people: but they will not cease to dispute. Except those on whom your Lord has bestowed His Mercy: and for this did He create them: and the Word of your Lord shall be fulfilled: "I will fill Hell with jinns and men all together."
Through observation, most of these differences in opinions and school of thoughts among the society in Malaysia is not too vast. It is not to the extent of their creed departing from the Islamic faith altogether. Examples of these differences include, differences in opinions with regards to acceptable practices, acceptance of weak hadith, determination of jurisprudential issues, differences in Sunnah and acceptable new practices (bida’ah hasanah), clarification of ambiguous verses, acceptance of the Sufi Order and the various methods of politics and of Islamic propagation. All of these are currently much debated today. It is acceptable to debate and argue with each other. But, there are several things that should be given attention to: First: Debate and discourse using the most appropriate words.
As reminded by Allah SWT through Surah An-Nahl, verse 125:Which means: “Invite to the way of your Lord with wisdom and good instruction, and argue with them in a way that is best. Indeed, your Lord is most knowing of who has strayed from His way, and He is most knowing of who is [rightly] guided.”
Second: Do not place negative labels on those who disagree with us. Such labels will lead to public misconception towards a group or school of thought. Remember, such actions will not unite us, but would in fact cause the groups of people to hold on even stronger to their opinions. Anyone who unfairly labels another will be seen as one who has lost his integrity and character, which in turn will make the community even more confused. Thus, rather than solving the problem, the society will be burdened with more problems.
Third: We must be flexible in terms of affiliations or method, as long as it does not affect the principles of Islamic law or detaches us from the completeness of Islam. In the event of a clear breach of those principles, only then can we rule out tolerance. Emulate the tolerant and forgiving attitude of Imam As-Syafi'i, when he led the morning prayers in an area where the community were followers of Imam Hanafi. He did not read the ‘Qunut’ prayer. After the prayers, the congregation asked Imam Ash-Syafi'i why he did not perform the ‘Qunut’ in line with his teachings and school of thought. Imam Ash-Syafi'i replied that he did not perform the ‘Qunut’ prayer out of respect for Imam Hanafi and his followers. He was an imam, who was accepted as an original authority of Islamic law (Mujtahid), whose opinions are followed by millions of people, but was able to forgive and be tolerant, so why can’t we?
Fourth: Do not be quick to judge when receiving information. A trait among those who are tolerant is to scrutinize the validity of the information received. Do not just spread information indiscriminately. Remember the words of Rasulullah SAW, sourced from Hafs bin 'Asim RA and recorded by Imam Muslim: يحَ د َث ب ك ل مَا سَم َع ًا َأ ْن كَفَىُ كَ ذب ب اَُْْرْء Which means: “It is enough for a man to be called a liar when he speaks of everything that he hears.
Apart from the above, do not generalise when judging. For example, if a small number of people within a group commits a wrong, we cannot then assume all members of that group to be responsible, for it will cause us to be unfair to others within the group who are innocent. Therefore, we need to be more sensitive and meticulous, in order to fulfil the criteria of someone who is forgiving and tolerant. Those who fail to possess a tolerant and forgiving mind will react quickly and will often misjudge. As a result, they will make an unfair decision, and it will have a negative impact on themselves, in particular, and on the society, in general.
As part of the community, what should be our stand when dealing with contentious situations due to the differences of views within the community?
Consider the following: First: Make sure whether the disputed matter is in the main principles or in the specifics, such as jurisprudence, which still has room for debate and discussion. There are things already determined, which we cannot be tolerant of, while issues of specifics require us to be more forgiving and tolerant as much as possible, as long as it is within the boundaries of Islamic law.
Second: Be thoughtful and intelligent when assessing priorities. To debate on specifics or to preserve the Muslim brotherhood? Many of us choose to ignore integrity among fellow Muslims and are willing to sever the bonds that unite the people. Why can’t we treat them as human beings who deserve to live in harmony and fairness?
Third: We should not be involved in any debate that is not our area of expertise. We should also not stand firm against something that we have no knowledge of. It is better to remain silent and allow others, with the knowledge and expertise, to debate.
Be tolerant and open our minds... By being tolerant, it will make us calmer, gain respect among friends and foes, simplify the mission of propagation, as well as enable us to live harmoniously within the community.
To end today’s sermon, the mimbar would like to conclude some important points for us to ponder and reflect:
First: Having different opinions is not a big issue, but the arrogance and extremism shown by some Muslims have made it complicated to unravel.
Second: Differences of opinions not handled well would effectively undermine and destroy the Muslim brotherhood. What is the point of winning the argument, but losing the brotherhood?
Third: High level of tolerance is an attitude greatly demanded, in addition to wisdom when presenting arguments and advice.
As stated by Allah SWT in Surah al-Isra’, verse 36: Which means: “And do not pursue that of which you have no knowledge. Indeed, the hearing, the sight and the heart - about all those [one] will be questioned.”