Islam and tolerance towards other religions

We have witnessed the countless attacks on Christian, Yazidi and Shia minorities in the Middle East, especially with the rise of Daesh (infamously known as ISIS), who have been killing anyone that does not believe in what they believe in, despite many of the victims of Daesh are Muslims, but of a different sect to the fundamentalists.

So this raises the question, Do Muslims believe in religious tolerance in their religion? What does Islam say about religious tolerance? Do the actions committed by these crazy fundamentalists, such as executing innocent minorities hold any accordance to Islam?

To answer this question, I would like to give examples from Islamic history, Quranic verses and Prophetic sayings with regards to religious tolerance.

First of all, this is what the Quran says regarding Christians and Jews:

“Surely those who believe, and those who are Jews, and the Christians, and the Sabians — whoever believes in God and the Last Day and does good, they shall have their reward from their Lord. And there will be no fear for them, nor shall they grieve.” (The Holy Quran 2:62 )

“…and nearest among them in love to the believers will you find those who say, ‘We are Christians,’ because amongst these are men devoted to learning and men who have renounced the world, and they are not arrogant” (The Holy Quran 5:82)

The above verses depict the Abrahamic faiths as fellow believers who believe in the same God in an equal light which is completely against what Daesh is doing right now, which is the unjust oppression on religious minorities.

The cousin of the Prophet Mohamed and leader of the Muslims after the Prophet, Imam Ali states “Know that people are of two types: they are either your brothers in religion or your equals in creation.” (Nahjul Balagha, Sermon 53). Meaning that all people, no matter what religion, race or class they come from, are supposed to be treated equally, because either people are your Muslim brethren, or your equals in humanity who have the same rights as you and cannot be discriminated or disrespected for their beliefs. In fact, to disrespect another religion is explicitly condemned in the Quran; “Do not abuse those whom they worship besides Allah” (6:109). If a person claims to be Muslim, he is not allowed to insult or disrespect another religion. This is forbidden according to the Quran.

Even to engage in arguments with Non-Muslims in a disrespectful manner is prohibited, as the Quran states: “And argue not with the people of the Scripture (Jews and Christians), unless it be in (a way) that is better (with good words and in good manner), except with such of them as do wrong, and say (to them): “We believe in that which has been revealed to us and revealed to you; our God and your God is One, and to Him we have submitted”(29:46)[1]. If to talk to a person of another faith in a rude way is impermissible, then to kill them in the name of religion is just despicable and completely wrong!

Also, It is narrated that Imam Ali was once walking in the streets, and he passed by a Christian beggar. His question was, “Who is this?” When they told him that he is an old Christian man who cannot work and is asking people for help, the Imam replied and said, “you [the Muslim community] used him [in his youth] and when he became old, you left him.” Then the Imam assigned a salary for him from the treasury, the same way he did with Muslims[2]. This portrays that Islamically, Muslims and non-Muslims are supposed to be treated in an equal manner under an Islamic government, without anyone being discriminated.

Unfortunately, this is not what has been happening in many Middle Eastern countries due to religious fundamentalists who distort the image of Islam for their own selfish agendas and make up their own laws that do not represent the Islamic faith. It saddens me as a Muslim when I read about the persecution of my fellow Christian brothers by Daesh (who I loathe with my heart and pray to God every day that Daesh would be annihilated).

I come from a Tanzanian town whereby the majority of the residents are Christians and we have always lived in peace. I still remember the times when I would go to school and pray alongside my Christian friends and visit the church, and also celebrate the awesome Christmas holidays[3] with them. Because that was how I grew up in my Muslim community and mosque whereby we were taught religious tolerance from a young age; there would be times when Hindus would visit our mosque and we would partake in religious ceremonies together. Also, many times I would watch Islamic programs whereby a priest and/or a rabbi would be invited to mosques to have an interfaith dialogue with the audience.

So it hurts me when I see this kind of Un-Islamic behaviour being demonstrated by crazy extremists who claim to be “Muslim” whilst their actions completely depict otherwise, and this is the reason I decided to discuss this topic because I want to defend the faith I believe in and what it has taught me; which is to love and respect everyone, regardless of their faith. And no, I’m not saying to respect everyone ‘despite’ their religion, I’m saying to respect everyone regardless of anything because when one says ‘despite’, it seems to have a negative connotation as we should not love people despite anything, we should love them regardless of anything.

I would like to end with a saying from the Prophet Muhammad:

“Beware!  Whoever is cruel and hard on a non-Muslim minority, or curtails their rights, or burdens them with more than they can bear, or takes anything from them against their free will; I (Prophet Muhammad) will complain against the person on the Day of Judgment.” (Abu Dawud)[4]

Let’s all try to live by these words, and combat extremism and religious intolerance in this manner, whereby everyone is treated equally with full respect and like brethren, as no matter what, we are all human beings in the end of the day.


[1] http://www.alsiraj.net/English/misc/nonmuslims/html/page03.html
[2] http://www.islamicinsights.com/religion/history/a-probe-into-imam-alis-government.html
[3] http://www.soundvision.com/article/treating-christmas-with-respect
[4] http://www.islamreligion.com/articles/207/viewall/tolerance-of-prophet-towards-other-religions/

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