Love, Compassion, Tolerance, and Forgiving: The Pillars of Dialogue
Love is the most essential element in every being. It is a most radiant light, a great power that can resist and overcome every force. Love elevates every soul that absorbs it, and prepares it for the journey to eternity. Those who make contact with eternity through love work to implant in all other souls what they receive from eternity. They dedicate their lives to this sacred duty, and endure any hardship for its sake. Just as they say “love” with their last breaths, they also breathe “love” while being raised on the Day of Judgment.
Altruism, an exalted human feeling, generates love. Whoever has the greatest share in this love is the greatest hero of humanity, one who has uprooted any personal feelings of hatred and rancor. Such heroes of love continue to live even after death. These lofty souls, who daily light a new torch of love in their inner world and make their hearts a source of love and altruism, are welcomed and loved by people. They receive the right of eternal life from such an Exalted Court. Not even death or Doomsday can remove their traces.
Love is the most direct way to someone’s heart. This is the way of the Prophets. Those who follow it are not rejected. Even if some reject them, far more others welcome them. Once they are welcomed through love, nothing can prevent them from attaining their goal.
Everything speaks of and promises compassion. Therefore, the universe can be considered a symphony of compassion. A human being must show compassion to all living beings, for this is a requirement of being human. The more people display compassion, the more exalted they become; the more they resort to wrongdoing, oppression, and cruelty, the more they are disgraced and humiliated. They become a shame to humanity. We hear from Prophet Muhammad that a prostitute went to Paradise because her compassion compelled her to give water to a dog dying of thirst, while another woman went to Hell because she allowed a cat to starve to death.
Forgiving is a great virtue. Forgiveness cannot be considered as separate from virtue, or virtue as separate from forgiveness. Everyone knows the adage: “Errors from the small, forgiveness from the great.” How true this is! Being forgiven means a repair, a return to an essence, and finding oneself again. For this reason, the most pleasing action in the Infinite Mercy’s view is activity pursued amidst the palpitations of this return and search.
All of creation, both animate and inanimate, was introduced to forgiveness through humanity. Just as God showed His attribute of forgiveness through individual human beings, He put the beauty of forgiving in their hearts. While the first man dealt a blow to his essence through falling, which is somehow a requirement of his human nature, God’s forgiveness gave him a hand and elevated him to the rank of Prophethood.
Whenever people have erred, mounting on the magic transport of seeking forgiveness and surmounting the shame of personal sin and the resulting despair, they attain infinite mercy and overlook the sins of others. Jesus said to a crowd of people eager to stone a woman: “Let one who is without sin cast the first stone.” Can anyone who understands this binding, fine point even consider stoning someone else when he or she is also a likely candidate for being stoned? If only those unfortunate ones who demand that others pass a certain litmus test could understand this!
Malice and hatred are the seeds of hell scattered among people by evil. In contrast to those who encourage such evil and turn the land into a pit of Hell, we should carry forgiveness to those whose troubles are pushing them into the abyss. The excesses of those who neither forgive nor tolerate others have made the past one or two centuries the most horrific of all time. If such people are to rule the future, it will be a fearful time indeed. For this reason, the greatest gift today’s generation can give to their children and grandchildren is to teach them how to forgive, even in the face of the crudest behavior and most upsetting events. We believe that forgiveness and tolerance will heal most of our wounds only if this celestial instrument is in the hands of those who understand its language.
It should be such a broad tolerance that we can close our eyes to others’ faults, show respect for different ideas, and forgive everything that is forgivable. In fact, even when our inalienable rights are violated, we should respect human values and try to establish justice. Even before the coarsest thoughts and crudest ideas, with the caution of a Prophet and without boiling over, we should respond with a mildness that the Qur’an presents as “gentle words.” We should do this so that we can touch other people’s hearts by following a method consisting of a tender heart, a gentle approach, and mild behavior. We should have such a broad tolerance that we benefit from contradictory ideas, for they force us to keep our heart, spirit, and conscience in good shape even though they do not teach us anything.
Tolerance, which we sometimes use in place of respect and mercy, generosity and forbearance, is the most essential element of moral systems. It also is a very important source of spiritual discipline, and a celestial virtue of perfected men and women.
Under the lens of tolerance, the merits of believers attain a new depth and extend to infinity; mistakes and faults shrink into insignificance. Actually the treatment of He Who is beyond time and space always passes through the prism of tolerance, and we wait for it to embrace us and all of creation. This embrace is so broad that a prostitute who gave water to a thirsty dog touched the knocker of the “Door of Mercy” and found herself in a corridor extending to Heaven. Similarly, due to the deep love he felt for God and His Messenger, a drunk suddenly shook himself free and became a Companion of the Prophet. In another example, with the smallest of Divine favors, a murderer was saved from his monstrous psychosis, turned toward the highest rank, which far surpassed his natural ability, and reached it.
We want everyone to look at us through this lens, and we expect the breezes of forgiveness and pardon to blow constantly in our surroundings. All of us want to refer our past and present to the climate of tolerance and forbearance, which melts and transforms, cleans and purifies, and then walk toward the future without anxiety. We do not want our past to be criticized, or our future to be darkened because of our present. All of us expect love and respect, hope for tolerance and forgiveness, and want to be embraced with feelings of liberality and affection. We expect tolerance and forgiveness from our parents in response to our mischief at home, from our teachers in response to our naughtiness at school, from the innocent victims of our injustice and oppression, from the judge and prosecutor in court, and from the Judge of Judges (God) in the highest tribunal.
However, deserving what we expect is very important. Anyone who does not forgive has no right to expect forgiveness. Everyone will see disrespect to the degree that they have been disrespectful. Anyone who does not love is not worthy of being loved. Those who do not embrace humanity with tolerance and forgiveness will not receive forgiveness and pardon. One who curses others can expect only curses in return. Those who curse will be cursed, and those who beat will be beaten. If true Muslims would continue on their way and tolerate curses with such Qur’anic principles as: “When they meet empty words or unseemly behavior, they generously pass them by” and “if you behave tolerantly and overlook their faults,” then others would appear to implement the justice of Destiny on those cursers.
By M. Fethullah Gülen