Making The Atmosphere of Tolerance Permanent
In addition to our “lost paradise,” we have also lost some of our exalted characteristics. Knowledge, research, work, work method, organization of the work place, helping one another, and reading the book of the universe are some of the things we have lost. Among the many things we have lost, perhaps the first and most important is tolerance. From this word we understand embracing people regardless of differences of opinion, world-view, ideology, ethnicity, or belief. It also means putting up with matters we do not like by finding strength in a deep conscience, faith, and a generous heart or by the strength of our emotions. From another approach, it means, in the words of the famous Turkish poet Yunus,1 loving the created simply because of the Creator.
Loving the Created Simply Because of the Creator
Love is the reason for existence and its essence,
and it is the strongest tie that binds creatures together. Everything in the universe is the handiwork of God. Thus, if you do not approach humanity, a creation of God, with love, then you will have hurt those who love God and those whom God loves. For example, being an opponent of the paintings of an artist like Picasso will hurt both Picasso and those who admire him. Another example would be to remain indifferent to the grace of the Alhambra Palace, the lines of grace that express the ways from the finite to the infinite; this would be to show disrespect to that masterpiece and its artists. In the same way, every aspect of the universe’s mind-boggling beauty, grandeur, and splendor is an example of God’s artistry. In this respect, humans, animals, other animate creatures, and, in fact, all the inanimate objects as well, were created with a nature that is worthy of being embraced by us with love. Showing indifference or being condescending to them means showing indifference and acting with condescension to the Maker. On the contrary, our approach to creation and other human beings should be based on loving them for the sake of their Creator. If Muslims talk about weapons, armories, killing and the butchering of others and if by doing so they put vast distances between people, then this means that in fact we have been far removed from our essence.
But we should be thankful that at a time when there are signs of the paradise we have lost, we have also found tolerance again; this is one of the characteristics that we had lost. We are rediscovering tolerance, something that is inherent in the spirit of Islam and something that was explained to us in the Qur’an and by Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him. In the matter of tolerance, our people have welcomed the activities involved with tolerance and have warmly embraced this spirit; this is of vital importance. Along with the institutions that have been established, the voluntary services provided by people have aroused a great deal of interest. The Qur’an states:
On those who believe and work deeds of righteousness will the All-Merciful bestow love. (Maryam 19:96)
In other words, both inhabitants of the sky and inhabitants of the Earth will love them. As expressed in a hadith, God tells those in the sky which people He loves and orders them, too, to love these beloved ones. When the angels in the sky love them, the people on Earth love them, too.
The seed that has been sown by tolerance is growing. It will blossom when the time is right. Of course, this depends, to a certain extent on the newspapers, TV, magazines, and foundations giving the appropriate support.
There is No Turning Back from the Road of Tolerance
Acceptance in the heavens always brings about an affirmative response on Earth. The signs of this are obvious. The most obvious signs are that doors everywhere are opened wide in the name of acceptance to heroes of love and tolerance. It can be said that tolerance is on its way to growing and flourishing. This is true to such an extent that after the season of tolerance began conflicts were staged to disrupt these developments. But sides that for years had been seen and shown as being separate reacted with great farsightedness, and a calamity was averted.
I think it is probable that from now on many other intrigues will take place and attempts will be made to disturb the general peace. However, we, who have begun this process, must be determined to carry it through to the end. We have to be determined and act in accordance with the way indicated in the Qur’an:
Those who witness no falsehood, and when they meet hollow words or unseemly behavior, they pass them by with dignity. (Al-Furqan 25:72)
Everyone reflects their own character with their actions. It is the duty of perfected people to act leniently. If one ridicules the Qur’an, and makes light of prayer, fasting, and chastity, this behavior should be considered as an indication of the style and character of that person. But as believers, we must not be aggressive or ridicule people, even toward those who act in a disagreeable manner. We should not return aggressiveness and ridicule in kind. Another verse says:
Tell those who believe to forgive those who do not look forward to the Days of God. (Al-Jathiya 45:14)
This is actually the voice of our conscience. When you see a blind man, do you kick and beat him or do you take his hand and show him the way?
From this point of view, the duty that befalls the makers of ideas for tomorrow is to bring harmony to the incongruities in society, to protect the balance that is under attack and to view unpleasant incidents with farsightedness. Just as is said in the Turkish saying, “Take what is pleasant, and leave what causes grief,” we should remain indifferent to unpleasant things and not cause any conflicts or disturbances.
If we can continue like this, then in a short time it will be possible to go much further than where we are now. Of course, there will be many attempts made, domestically and abroad, to destroy this balance. But for the sake of the continuation of tolerance, we will die many times and be born again in the efforts to prevent this. There will be floods of love everywhere, and love will flow from the eyes and hearts of people. Everyone will embrace one another with love and, God willing, the twenty-first century will be called the age of tolerance. I am so eager for this to come about that one or two years of tolerance is not enough for me. We are determined that there will be one or two centuries of tolerance, in fact, we want tolerance to last until the end of time, we want to experience eras of tolerance, and we have no intention of turning back from this road.
By M. Fethullah Gulen
Yunus Emre (c.1238-c.1320): A poet and Sufi who had a powerful influence on Turkish literature. He was well versed in Sufi philosophy, especially that of Rumi, and, like Rumi, became a leading representative of Sufism in Anatolia (but on a more popular level).