Tolerance For Everybody
Without Hands Against Those Who Strike You,
Without Speech Against Those Who Curse You
From the day the Journalists and Writers Foundation was established until now—even if things have not always been as we would have wished—we can say that the Foundation has always organized important activities. But somehow I have never fully been able to participate in any of them. For this reason, I cannot claim a share in their success.
For instance, it brought world-famous soccer players here to raise aid for Bosnia. Every year it has brought together special groups, like the one here tonight, to talk on various platforms, providing at the very least an exchange of ideas. The Foundation has suggested the ideas to be discussed, regardless of our personal ideas or opinions. As a result, we have seen with our own eyes that there is no reason to fear one another, and that everyone can meet with whomever they want. If we have not been able to come together before today, it only means that we have been obstructed by our mistaken conjectures, and as a result, neglected this important responsibility toward each other.
The Foundation is known in Turkey mainly as a representative of tolerance. In fact, it has identified itself with tolerance. Whenever it is mentioned, tolerance is immediately mentioned afterwards. In fact, the Foundation’s image has created much jealousy, causing several alternative organizations to appear. Now, fortunately, everyone is singing the same tune. For this reason, I believe that tolerance will spread faster to the grassroots, diffuse throughout the country and, as an artist friend said, we will be able to walk head to head, heart to heart, and hand in hand toward “a happy tomorrow,” God willing.
When the Prophet was dying and about to pass over to the next world, he said:
I place in your trust the People of the Book, the Christians and Jews.1
When ‘Omar had been stabbed and was in the throes of death, he warned:
I place the People of the Book among us in your trust. Fear God regarding them and treat them justly.2
After defeating the enemy at Malazgirt,3 the Turkish commander Sultan Alparslan4 hosted the military chiefs and the ruler of the rival state in his tent. He then had them conveyed safely to their capital, Constantinople (now Istanbul), escorted by some of his officers. In Jerusalem, the commander and ruler, Sultan Salahaddin Ayyubi, went at night to the tent of Richard, the commander of the Crusader’s army, to treat his wounds—despite the fact that Richard’s forces had killed thousands of Muslims.
We are the children of a culture that gave birth to such people. We are the heirs of the culture that has the world’s broadest, most comprehensive and most universal tolerance. This concept is spreading today like the waves of the sea, reaching across the entire world. I fully believe that the coming years will be years of tolerance and love. In this framework, we will give the world much and we will receive much. Not only will we not be fighting our own people, we will not even be fighting other cultures, civilizations, or the people of other beliefs and worldviews. Issues that lead to argument and conflict will be completely resolved, and once again by understanding the power of love, we will be able to open our hearts to all with love and compassion. With the help of God, we will be able to concentrate on the important matters of dialogue and tolerance; matters which today’s world needs very much.
When I saw Mr. Izzettin Dogan,5 I remembered an important event in Muslim history. Mentioning the Kharijites6 who rebelled against the lawful government and gathered in Nahrawan to attack him, Caliph ‘Ali said, “It would have been unjust for us to attack them before they attacked us.”
We are a society nurtured by the culture of such leaders. At a time when we are in great need of tolerance, with the grace of God, every sector of society will stand up for tolerance and dialogue, and the good things that come from this will spread faster than ever hoped for in all directions.
Maybe I am taking up too much of your time, but I cannot proceed without mentioning the anxiety I feel. Turkish society, which has been wrung by internal conflict at this time, has been awaiting tolerance. Upon finding it, when one step toward it was to have been made, the society responded by leaping forward three steps. But it also is obvious that certain weak and insignificant persons, by ranting and raving, have demonstrated their own weaknesses and have tried to show themselves as being strong by being destructive, lying in ambush to attack tolerance and attempting to blow up the bridges that lead to dialogue. We will face great tests now. Our nation, which has already passed through many trials, will face these future tests with solidarity among individuals, and will overcome every obstacle on the path to social harmony.
What we are seeking is very valuable. The goal of the tolerance and dialogue that we want to reach will be very expensive. Just as it is not easy to obtain precious and exclusive things, it is also difficult to protect them once they have been achieved. Attaining social harmony through dialogue and tolerance is a matter of achieving two valuable things in order to realize a third. God is going to test us in different ways so that we realize how great the values of these are and, accordingly, to force us to stand up for them. We will endure all these trials and say as Yunus did:
If harshness comes from the Majesty of God
Or generosity from His Grace,
Both are delights to the soul.
Both His blessings and His wrath are pleasing.
We must be as if “without hands against those who strike us and without speech against those who curse us.” If they try and fracture us into pieces even fifty times, we still will remain unbroken and embrace everyone with love and compassion. And, with love toward one another, we will walk toward tomorrow.
I wish for this happy evening to be an occasion for mercy and forgiveness. I greet you all with my deepest respect.
By M. Fethullah Gulen
- 1Abu Dawud, Imarat, 33; Muttaqi al-Hindi, Kanz al-Ummal, 4.362.
- Yahya ibn Adam, Kitab al-Haraj, 54.
- Battle of Malazgirt (or Manzikert): This battle, fought in 1071, pitted the Byzantine Emperor Romanus IV Diogenes against the Seljuk Turk Sultan, Alparslan. The Emperor’s defeat resulted in the Seljuk conquest of most of Anatolia.
- Sultan Alparslan (1032-1072). The greatest and most famous of the Seljuk sultans. He defeated the Byzantine army in Malazgirt in 1071, and opened the doors to Anatolia for the Seljuks.
- Dr. Izzettin Dogan (b. 1940): Professor of law and current president of Cem Vakfi, a foundation of Turkish Alevi citizens.
- A minority group who withdrew from the community and assassinated Caliph ‘Ali.
The author delivered this speech at a Ramadan dinner gathering organized by the Journalists and Writers Foundation, February 11, 1995, Istanbul.