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.
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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.