Tolerance and Dialogue in The Qur’an and The Sunnah
And the servants of (God) the All-Merciful are those who move on the Earth in humility, and when the ignorant address them, they say: “Peace.” (Al-Furqan 25:63)
When they meet hollow words or unseemly behavior, they pass them by with dignity. (Al-Furqan 25:72)
And when they hear vain talk, they turn away therefrom and say: “To us our deeds, and to you yours.” (Al-Qasas 28:55)
The general gist of these verses is that when those who have been favored with true servanthood to God encounter meaningless and ugly words or behavior they say nothing unbecoming, but rather pass by in a dignified manner. In short:
“Everyone acts according to his own disposition,” (Al-Isra 17:84)
and thus displays his or her own character. The character of heroes of tolerance is gentleness, consideration, and tolerance. When God sent Moses and Aaron to a man who claimed to possess divinity, as the Pharaoh had done, He commanded them to behave tolerantly and to speak softly (Ta Ha 20:44).
The life of the Pride of Humanity, peace and blessings be upon him, (Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad) was led in an orbit of forgiveness and forbearance. He even behaved in such a manner toward Abu Sufyan, who persecuted him throughout his lifetime. During the conquest of Makka, even though Abu Sufyan said he still was not sure about Islam, the Messenger said: “Those who take refuge in Abu Sufyan’s house are safe, just as those who take refuge in the Ka’ba are safe.” Thus, in respect of providing refuge and safety, Abu Sufyan’s house was mentioned alongside the Ka’ba. In my humble opinion, such tolerance was more valuable than if tons of gold had been given to Abu Sufyan, a man in his seventies, in whom egoism and chieftainship had become ingrained.
In addition to being commanded to take tolerance and to use dialogue as his basis while performing his duties, the Prophet was directed to those aspects in which he had things in common with the People of the Book (Jews and Christians):
Say: “O People of the Book! Come to common terms as between us and you: that we worship none but God; that we speculate no partners with Him; that we take not some from among ourselves for Lords other than God.” (Al-Imran 3:64)
In another verse, those whose hearts are exuberant with belief and love are commanded to behave with forgiveness and tolerance, even to those who do not believe in the afterlife:
Tell those who believe to forgive those who do not look forward to the Days of God: It is for Him to recompense each people according to what they have earned. (Al-Jathiya 45:14)
Those who consider themselves addressed by these verses, all devotees of love who dream of becoming true servants of God merely because they are human beings, those who have declared their faith and thereby become Muslims and performed the mandated religious duties, must behave with tolerance and forbearance and expect nothing from other people. They must take the approach of Yunus Emre: not to strike those who hit them, not to respond harshly to those who curse them, and not to hold any secret grudge against those who abuse them.
By M. Fethullah Gulen