Nov 24 2016

The Two Roses of the Emerald Hills: Tolerance and Dialogue

Dialogue means the coming together of two or more people to discuss certain issues, and thus the forming of a bond between these people. In that respect, we can call dialogue an activity that has human beings at its axis. Undoubtedly, everyone is rewarded according to their sincerity and intention. If people direct their actions with sincerity and with good intentions, then they may be winners even if others should consider them losers. The Prophet of God said: "Deeds are judged by intentions,"[1] and he emphasized that the intention of the believer is more important than the act itself. If the deed is founded upon good intentions, it will turn out well. So, whatever one may do, one must first be sincere in one's intentions and seek the approval of God. Thus one should not illjudge or slander the ties that are being established between various groups in the name of love, dialogue and tolerance.

Society cannot endure more tremors after having suffered so many wounds and after having been shaken so many times. If antidemocratic concentrations of power become the unshakeable burden of this nation and logic and judgment are supplanted through the power and means available to these concentrations, then this noble nation might not be able to recover again. As a result of such a calamity, this heavenlike land may be pushed 15 or 20 years back. It is possible that we might lose some things, that we might long for these lost things, even if they were to be among those things that we criticize today. In that respect, if we start our efforts for dialogue with the belief that "peace is better" (Al-Nisa 4:128), then we must demonstrate that we are on the side of peace at home and abroad. Indeed, peace is of the utmost importance to Islam; fighting and war are only secondary occurrences which are bound to specific reasons and conditions. In that respect, we can say that if an environment of peace where all can live in peace and security cannot be achieved in this land, then it would be impossible for us to do any good service for society or for humanity.

Misconceptions about Islam

If we approach the issue from a different perspective, Muslims have from time to time been misunderstood and as a result they have been subjected to pressure and insults. We have even witnessed Muslims being deprived of their most natural and basic rights, for example their right to work. This oppression that believing people has been subjected to is executed in the name of virtues, like humanism, human rights, generosity, love, and tolerance; these are in fact characteristics of Islam. Yet, it is these very characteristics and virtues that are being used against people who believe and these concepts are being exploited. Always there has been this basic attitude, an attitude that is subtle and deceitful, on the part of those who do not want to give room to Islam and Muslims to exist, either here or abroad. Things that have been claimed are not true; a Muslim can never be a bigot. Even if some people with such characteristics may have appeared within the Islamic community, it is unthinkable to conceive of all Muslims as being distanced from understanding and tolerance. Indeed, to this day what harm have the Muslims done and what evil have they committed and against whom? Despite their good intentions, some people have always been falsely stereotyped and have been weighed up on faulty scales; they have become the scapegoats for various accusations in the name of love, tolerance, freedom, and democracy. Despite being at the receiving end of all these false accusations, real Muslims never injure anyone and satisfy themselves merely by stating the fact that they are not the way they have been imputed to be. Still, a certain group has never ceased to attack them. Indeed, beauty has always sprung from the pure and blameless souls of the Muslims and the holy and exalted sources that are in their hands. It cannot be any other way; in the Qur'an, the Sunna, and in the pure and learned interpretations of the Great Scholars there is no trace of a decree or an attitude that is contrary to love, tolerance or dialogue in the sense of meeting with all, and declaring and expressing our emotions or thoughts. We cannot conceive of a religion that wills the good of all and who calls all—with no exception—to salvation, as being otherwise. The following verses in the Glorious Qur'an express this truth perfectly:

And if you behave tolerantly, overlook, and forgive, then verily God is Forgiving and Merciful. (at-Taghabun 64:14)

God does not forbid you, regarding those who did not fight you on account of religion and did not drive you out of your homes, to show kindness and deal with them justly. (Al-Mumtahana 60:8)

Tell those who believe to forgive those who do not look forward to the Days of God; in order that He may recompense each people according to what they have earned. (Al-Jathiya 45:14)

Indeed, when we look at the Qur'an we see that it is molded in love. In that respect, believing hearts must reclaim these beauties which are already ours, changing the negative image of Muslims. This negative image has been fed to the world and now we must once more communicate the essential facet of Islam to those who are presumed to be civilized, using the principle of "gentle persuasion."

Let there be endless thanks to the Excellent Just One who feeds us with His bounty for the devotees of truth and heroes of love who have been carrying messages of love, tolerance and dialogue all over the world and who are trying to build the "new image of the Muslim" with hearts full of love.

Seeking the Approval of God

I would like to stress the fact that Muslims will lose nothing by employing dialogue, love, and tolerance. Muslims continuously seek the approval of God; this is the greatest gain of all. In that respect, things that may appear as losses to some people are seen as gains by Muslims, while certain other events may actually be detrimental even when they appear to be lucrative. Moreover, we have no doubts concerning Islam, its holy book the Qur'an or its most glorious representative, the Pride of Humanity, peace and blessings be upon him. We know that Islam will certainly continue on the path that leads to the future despite all obstacles; every subject of the Qur'an is proven by reason; it is a book that is strong enough to solve all the problems of the future. The Prince of the Prophets, a man about whom Bernard Shaw said, "He solves all problems the ease of drinking coffee," was sent to humanity in order to present the solutions for all of its problems until Judgment Day. As in previous centuries, the problems of our age and the coming ages, which seem to be far removed from a sound solution, will be solved by the architects of hearts and mind who base their solutions on these holy sources.

Indeed, we do not need to have any worries as we believe that the illuminating expressions and statements of the Holy Qur'an and our Prophet offer lasting solutions to a myriad of problems. In my opinion, those who are equipped with these torches will suffer no loss, with the help and bounty of God, wherever they may go in the world and with whomever they may enter into dialogue. Thus, there is no cause for concern. The important fact here is that we should understand the sources that we possess, and we should employ them as necessary. Moreover, we should not abuse them by associating them with our own faults, our bodily or earthly desires. With their assistance and guidance we should seek only the approval of God and the afterlife.

Indeed, just as we have not even the slightest doubt concerning the Qur'an and the Prophet of God and just as we have no doubts concerning their justice, there is no reason why anyone should have doubts about us. But, if there still are some people who are frightened due to groundless fears, they will only be those people who are worried about the reliability of the dynamics and sources on which they rely.

[1] Bukhari, Bad'ul-Vahy 1, Itk 6; Muslim, Imarat, 155; Abu Dawud, Talak, 11.