TOLERANCE is a special quality. It means getting along with people who are different from us. It is a vital trait for peaceful coexistence and to build cordial relations among people.
Being tolerant requires from us to be patient, understanding and accepting of anything different. People are different from us in so many ways. Some hold different religious beliefs, others have different political beliefs.
Some are of a different ethnicity, others of a different gender. There are different languages, different dresses, different cuisine, and different habits and aspirations.
Being tolerant of people requires that we accept them as they are.
Thus diversity has many facets and is a distinguishing feature of the human condition. Being tolerant of people requires acceptance. When we accept differences we are not worried or anxious about effacing them.
We then realise that the world is not meant to be monolithic, and that diversity is something natural. We will identify with tolerant individuals if we exhibit the following signs:
Embracing diversity: The world which we dwell in is diverse. This means that we accept the fact that there are people who are different from us. The moment we accept differences, and realise that diversity is a central feature of humanity, we find inner peace and contentment, because we are not seeking to obliterate that which is natural, nor are we looking down upon or dismissing people who are different from us in any way.
Not retorting: At times we are faced with acerbic and bitter people whose toxic remarks goad us into giving a tit-for-tat reply. But being tolerant of their negativity and by ignoring their hurtful remarks we are able to maintain our composure, not lose our cool and handle difficult situations tactfully.
Forgiving mistakes: People make mistakes all the time. Being tolerant means forgiving people for their misdemeanours and not nitpicking constantly.
Worrying about ourselves: We have a very short time on this earth. It would be no exaggeration to suggest that the years of our entire life can be counted on our fingertips.
This being the case, it would be sheer folly to spend a significant proportion of our time on trivial matters. Instead of worrying about the salvation of others, our focus should be our own self because ultimately we won’t be questioned about the deeds of anyone except our own.
Respecting people’s rights: To deliberately infringe on people’s rights means we do not have any regard for their humanity. A sign of our tolerant character is our respect for the rights of individuals.
Demonstrating tolerance within the family: Tolerance can be cemented in an individual at home. The home is the place where one learns to be tolerant, for intolerance too is picked up from the home and family. The views and attitudes that parents pass on to their children shape the latter’s personality.
The child also learns from the relationship of his father and mother. If they are not tolerant of one another and are constantly arguing, the child will do the same. Once he walks out of his home, he will have the same mindset as that of his parents.
He will see people as his adversaries just as he saw the constant acrimony between his parents. Therefore, it is vital that family life be stable and serene so that parents do not pass on intolerant attitudes to their children.
Learning tolerance from Quranic examples: Tolerance is a central theme in Islam’s holy texts. God’s chosen emissaries were told that tolerance was a key character trait that enabled one to qualify as a righteous individual.
It was revealed to the Messenger (PBUH) that everyone is responsible for his own conduct and is answerable to God on his own; therefore if people are not receptive to the message then he should not despair. Under no circumstances are people to be compelled to follow the course of righteousness. And his job was only to deliver the message, while it rested on God to hold the people to account.
This standard is in stark contrast to the holier-than-thou mindset that prevails in many who think that they are on some sort of a divine mission to compel the people towards ‘righteousness’.
They think that their version of morality should be enforced, even upon those who wish to follow an alternative course. This is not what is instructed in the Quran. The Quranic mandate is about one’s willing acceptance of its injunctions. Only that belief will bear fruit, which is accepted by one’s own volition and not because of pressure.
Belief that is forced is futile and invalid because it does not motivate us to action.
The writer is a freelance contributor with an interest in religion. He blogs at KashifShahzada.com
Published in Dawn, June 16th, 2017