Religious Tolerance: The Islamic Perspective

Religious Tolerance: The Islamic Perspective


Editorial

Mankind seems to be divided by religious categorisation. Some religious groups are more exclusive in their approach than others. However, the approach of condemning people belonging to other faiths, although it has become a much less pronounced problem in recent times, has not vanished completely.

There have been many approaches adopted by religious scholars belonging to different faiths to check the tendency of growing bigotry amongst religious people. The Vatican adopted the policy of Religious Inclusivism through its decree of 1967 which expressed sentiments of cordiality for other important world religions. Words of sympathy were also reserved in the decree for those who have chosen to follow the approach of atheism.

There are, however, some Christians scholars who believe that Religious Inclusivism, even though it is a welcome improvement on Religious Exclusivism, still falls short of being fully convincing. What has been presented by William Rowland, John Hick, and Paul Badham is an approach to justify what they describe as Religious Pluralism. According to this approach, all important religions are genuine human responses to the same Transcendental Reality, even though influenced by the respective cultural environments of the religious leaders. Thus all of them are simultaneously correct, and all offer important insights into the understanding of the Ultimate.

Both Religious Inclusivism and Religious Pluralism promise more religious tolerance amongst those who choose to adopt these points of view, although the latter seems to be more capable of engendering true respect in the hearts of believers of one faith for the believers in the other faiths.

Muslims have normally been considered Religious Exclusivists, who would not hold people of other faiths worthy of being offered respect for their religious commitments. There is, therefore, felt a need to present an Islamic point of view on how Islamic teachings propose to tackle the issue of religious plurality.

Islam, on the one hand takes a firm position in confirming the unquestionable authenticity of its teachings, on the other hand it also calls for genuine respect for all non-Muslims. Even though there seems to be apparently a contradiction in the approach, a better understanding of the various verses of the Qur'an on the subject would suggest that it is not necessarily so.

The correct Islamic approach towards the non-Muslims is to assume that all of them have, as yet, not been properly convinced about the authenticity of the divine origins of the teachings of Islam. It is for the Muslims to help the non-Muslims to appreciate the truthfulness of the Islamic teachings. That would require not only intelligent preaching on their part but, perhaps more importantly, a behaviour of respect for the fellow human beings, irrespective of their faith. The absence of that behaviour on the part of some Muslims has been an important reason for their failure to present Islam as a message which is worthy of being taken seriously by the non-Muslims. Thus true religious tolerance is at the heart of a proper Islamic behaviour. Thus it will be shown that all Muslims are required to be extremely tolerant of other faiths and to continue their struggle to convince them politely.

This approach is neither Religious Inclusivism of the sort adopted by the Vatican, nor Religious Pluralism as proposed by Rowland Williams, John Hick, and Paul Badham. It is, in fact, a call for religious tolerance because of the possibility of lack of proper communication of the true message of God. Since no body knows whether the other individual has been communicated the message of Islam properly, therefore, no Muslim has the right to condemn any non-Muslim on grounds of religious differences.




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