Tolerance is a basic principle of Islam. It is a religious and moral duty and Islam teaches tolerance on all levels: individual, groups and states. Tolerance is the mechanism that upholds human rights and the rule of law. The Quran says very clearly:To every People have We appointed rites and ceremonies which they must follow, let them not then dispute with you on the matter, but do invite (them) to your Lord: for you are assuredly on the Right Way. If they do wrangle with you, say, ‘God knows best what it is you are doing.’ ‘God will judge between you on the Day of Judgement concerning the matters in which you differ (Al-Hajj 22:67-69).The Nuisances of the Pigeon-FancierSheikh Abu Ali Thaqafi had a neighbour who loved pigeons. His pigeons would perch on the roof of the Sheikh's house and in order to make them fly away, he would fling stones at them, an act that caused disturbance and inconvenience to the Sheikh.One day, the Sheikh was sitting in his house reciting the Noble Quran, when the neighbour hurled a stone at the pigeons. The stone struck the Sheikh on his forehead, injuring him and causing blood to flow down his forehead.The Sheikh's companions were overjoyed and spoke amongst themselves: “Tomorrow, the Sheikh is bound to complain to the governor of the city and we shall soon be relieved of the pigeon-fancier's nuisance.”The Sheikh summoned his servant and instructed him to bring a long branch of a tree. When the servant had brought the branch the Sheikh said to him: “Now take this branch to the pigeon-fancier and ask him not to throw stones but to use this instead to make the pigeons fly.”The Conduct of Imam Sajjad (a.s.)Once a relative of Imam Sajjad (a.s.) approached the Imam (a.s.) and began to revile and insult him. The Imam (a.s.) did not utter a word in reply but, after the man had left the gathering he turned to the people around him and said:“You heard what this man said. Now I want you to accompany me and hear what I have to say in response to his abuses and insults.”The companions complied, “We shall surely accompany you; in fact we had hoped that you would reply to him at that very moment.”The Imam (a.s.) set off towards the person’s house and was heard reciting the following Quranic verse:... And who restrain (their) anger, and forgive (the faults of) men; for God loves those who do good (to others). Quran: 3.134The narrator says: “ When we heard the recitation of this verse, we realized that the Imam (a.s.) intended to exhibit goodness towards the person who had just insulted him.”When he reached the person’s house, the Imam (a.s.) called out to him and announced his arrival.On seeing the Imam the person immediately assumed that he had come to respond to his abuses. However, as soon as the Imam (a.s.) saw the man he said, “O’ Brother! You came to me and uttered things which were appalling and unpleasant. If what you have attributed to me is true, I seek forgiveness for myself from God, but if it is not so, then I pray that God forgives you.”The man was shocked to hear these words and repented, he kissed Imam Sajjad (a.s.) between the eyes and apologised, saying:“My insults and abuse were unfounded and cannot be attributed to your character. In fact those insults befit me more than you.”There are many wonderful examples of the Holy Prophet Mohammed (saaw).When Prophet Muhammad (saaw) migrated to Medina, he found that besides those who had accepted Islam there was a large Jewish community in that city butthis did not bother him. He did not contemplate forcing them into the fold of Islam, instead he made a peace agreement with them and called them Ahlul Kitab—the people of the Scripture. This was indeed the supreme example of tolerance shown towards the followers of other religions. The peace agreement between the Prophet (saaw) and the Jews of Medina clearly guaranteed the physical safety and security of the Jewish community and also the freedom for them to practise there as long as they also abided by the terms of the treaty.So we see that even historically the Prophet of Islam (saaw) was prepared to live in peace with the followers of other Monotheistic religions, especially Judaism and Christianity.The Quranic Point of ViewWere Moses (as), Jesus (as) and Muhammad (saaw) ordered by the Almighty to impose their teachings upon the people? Absolutely not! In the Quran Allah (swt) clearly outlines the duty of His messengers by saying: “(And as for My messenger) there is no (obligation) on him except to deliver (the message). God knows what you expose and what you conceal”. (Quran 5:99).Once the people of Mecca said to Prophet Muhammad (saaw) that if God did not want them to worship idols why does He (swt) not forcefully prevent them from doing so. Then God sent the following verse: “...(O Muhammad) This is not a new excuse; those who went before them made the same excuses. Is there anything upon the messengers except the clear conveying of the message”.(Quran 16.35).So we see that from the Quranic point of view, the mission of the Prophets and Messengers of God was not to forcefully impose their teachings on the people but to guide them and ask them to accept God with their own will, in one revelation God says to Prophet Muhammad (saaw):"Say: Obey Allah and obey the Apostle; but if you turn back, then on him rests what is imposed upon him and on you rests what is imposed upon you; and if you obey him, you are on the right way; and nothing rests upon the Apostle but clear delivering (of the message)" (Quran 24:54).The Quran clearly says that religion cannot be forced on anyone. It says, "There is no compulsion in (accepting) the religion (of Islam)…” (Quran 2.256)A question arises: If Allah(swt) gave the choice to believe or not to believe, why then did He punish the people of Prophet Nuh (as), the `Ad, the Thamud, the people of Prophet Lut (as), the people of Prophet Shu`ayb (as) and Pharaoh and his followers? The answer is in the Quran itself. Those people were not punished simply because of their disbelief. They were punished because they had become oppressors. They committed aggression against the righteous, and stopped others from coming to the way of Allah. There were many in the world who denied Allah (swt), but Allah (swt) did not punish everyone.“Allah does not forbid you that you show kindness and deal justly with those who did not fight you in your religion and did not drive you out from your homes, that you show them kindness and deal with them justly; surely Allah (swt) loves the doers of justice”(Quran 60:8).In today’s world tolerance is even more important, with the world getting ever smaller and good or misdeeds being spread around the globe instantly a lack of tolerance will very easily create strife and discord where it needn’t be. We must first remind ourselves that Allah (swt) is the creator of all and knows the good and bad deeds of each and every person including our own, yet even with this knowledge He (swt) tolerates and gives us all a chance to reform ourselves. Tolerance therefore should be a part of a believer’s charater, in fact whether a person has a faith or none, tolerance within oneself is a noble trait that should be nurtured. “Intolerance is a small prison where one resides due to ignorance, tolerance is a vast garden with enough room for us all.”
ForbearanceForbearance is Allah's (swt) lantern from the illumination of which a person achieves the proximity of Allah (swt). A forbearing person, in the face of ill treatment by his family, friends and other people, exhibits patience for the sake of divine pleasure. The reality of forbearance is when a person, despite having the power and ability to extract revenge, pardons the person who has caused him harm and injury; we read in the supplications: “O' Lord! Your grace is (too) expansive and Your forbearance is (too) immense that You should punish me for my deeds and disgrace me for my sins.”It is imperative for a true believer to exhibit forbearance in the face of troubles and inconveniences, for if he were to stand up in confrontation with others it would be tantamount to adding fuel to the fire and only serve to aggravate the issue.