Tolerance-Respecting the beliefs and opinions of others. Not judging. Being kind. Being sincere. These are the things that come to my mind when I think of tolerance. In the current world that we live in, we are constantly surrounded by people of different faiths and cultures than us and the best way to get along is through tolerance. I actually used to not like the world tolerance. I always felt that I didn’t need people to tolerate me because I’m different, just be respectful. Now though, I’ve come to the realization that the respect comes from them being tolerant. As Muslimeen, we are taught to be kind and respectful to all creatures, including those who do not share our faith. Unfortunately though, I think many people mix up tolerance and acceptance.
Acceptance indicates that you agree with the person’s opinions or beliefs. Tolerance means, yes I might not agree, but I will still treat you with respect and allow you to do as you please as long as you’re not inhibiting me. As Muslims, especially those who live among non-Muslims, it is not appropriate for us to ridicule the faith of others or treat them in an ill-mannered way simply because of their faith. We must remember that Allah(SWT) has told us
Say: O disbelievers! I worship not that which ye worship; Nor worship ye that which I worship. And I shall not worship that which ye worship. Nor will ye worship that which I worship. Unto you your religion, and unto me my religion.” Q 109:1-6
Most Muslimeen probably have this sura memorized being that its one of the shortest, yet do we actually carry out it’s teaching? Yes we can and should be giving dawah to others but let’s try and remember that last line in the above surah-To you your religion, and to me mine.
Interestingly though, the concept of tolerance does not only apply to individuals of different faiths but those within the same faith as well. As Muslims, we’ve probably all encountered a fellow believer who is more observant than us or less observant or who doesn’t agree with everything that we do-there’s nothing wrong with realizing that. The question is how do we treat that person? Are we being tolerant? Are we being respectful of their opinions? There are some people who prefer not to deal with those who differ in opinion from them. My approach is different and mainly has a lot to do with my surroundings. I don’t expect people to agree with me on every religious thing, nor do I expect them to observe the way that I observe, though that would be ideal. I do not go out of my way to try to get people to accept the way I dress, to accept my decision to fully live by the Qur’an and Sunnah(and not by whims of society and the dunya), or to accept my opinions in general because at the end of the day, what I am doing only has an effect on them if they allow it to. I don’t have a problem explaining to people why I do the things I do but I do not and will not engage in a long conversation about about why I wear a jilbab or why I pray all the time if your only goal is to convince me as to why I’m wrong and not because you’re actually interested in my opinion.
Outside of close friends, I don’t discuss religious matters with people, especially when it comes to matters of differing opinion. In these times, many people are quick to claim that you’re judging them simply because you mention something that their actions may not be in accordance with. Usually though, its their inner self that’s reacting. By you mentioning something that they are in defiance of, there’s a guilt that they feel and instead of admitting it, it’s easier to attack and label you as being judgemental. I learned this about myself a while ago. When someone is teaching you something about the deen, reflect first before claiming that they are passing judgement on you. Also, there is a difference between having a different opinion from someone because the AUTHENTIC religious sources and scholars have presented that opinion and simply differing because it doesn't align with your ideals, your culture or what you want for yourself.
One of the things that Halima and I have both discussed numerous times is in regards to whether or not the religious opinions of others matter to us. Essentially, we came to the conclusion that the only individual whose opinions and observance need to be in alliance with ours are essentially our spouses because ultimately, they will be the one that we will be spending the most time with, their beliefs and actions will have an influence on our kids, and they will also have an influence on us. Some people often wonder about immediate family and dealing with their tolerance and acceptance-this is actually a subject that we recently received in an email about from a reader. Halima and I have repeatedly stressed the importance of family and kinship ties in Islam and how essential they are. With that being said, your approach with dealing with family members who observe differently from you is very important. Both Halimah and I have a similar approach though hers is slightly different being that her family are non-Muslims while mine are Muslimeen.
CONSIDERATIONS WHEN DEALING WITH TOLERANCE OF RELIGIOUS DIFFERENCES...
While there are many Muslims who live in Muslim countries, a large portion of the ummah live in environments that do not align with Islamic principles. The "Navigating Non-Muslim Society" section of SFC is geared towards discussing the challenges that occur in these situations.