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Tolerance: A noble virtue

Tolerance is a noble humanitarian virtue. Its practice means making concessions to others. Intolerance, on the other hand, means showing a self-centred unconcern for the needs of others. Tolerance is a worthy, humane virtue, which has been described in different terms in Islam. For instance, gentle behaviour, showing concern for others, being soft-hearted and being compassionate.

When true God-worship and religiosity is born within a person, he reaches above all those evils which emanate from selfishness. Instead of living within the confines of the self, he begins to live in the world of reality. The truly pious person begins to look upon people with love and compassion. He does not expect anything from anyone that is why even when others differ from him or do not behave well towards him, he continues nevertheless to make concessions to them, and continues to be tolerant towards them. Tolerance implies unswerving respect for others, whether in agreement or disagreement with them. The tolerant person will always consider the case of others sympathetically, be they relatives or friends, and irrespective of the treatment he is given by them, be it of a positive or a negative nature.

Tolerance implies unswerving respect for others, whether in agreement or disagreement with them.

Tolerance means, in essence, to give consideration to others. In social life, friction between people does occur in every society, differences arising from religion, culture, tradition and personal tastes persist. In such a situation the superior cause of action is to adopt the ways of concession and large-heartedness without any compromise of principle. That is to say that the pious man should be a man of principle as far as he himself, is concerned, but should be tolerant towards others. He should judge himself in the light of the ideal but in the matter of his fellow men he should show tolerance and broad-mindedness. This being inseparable from human gentility and nobility, Islam aims to produce this fine human quality of gentlemanliness by preaching tolerance.

Whenever any negative situation arises one way of dealing with it is a head-on clash, i.e. an attempt to solve the problem by direct confrontation. Such attempts are abortive as they only aggravate the problem. In no way will they improve matters. Experience shows that on such occasions instead of behaving violently and fighting, we should opt for the course of tolerance and forbearance; instead of combating violence with violence, we should adopt the policy of avoidance; remaining united in spite of differences.


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