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Learning religious tolerance

01 September, 2011 02:54:00 administrator Font size:

Question: What is the concept of religious tolerance in Islam? Please would you explain the concept in a simple way as I have to explain it to my 10 year old daughter? Jazak Allah Khair. Answer: Many thanks for your question. It is admirable that you want to teach religious tolerance to your young daughter, since Islam is a religion of peace and tolerance. Giving our children the right instruction when they are young will help them to grow up as good Muslims, with a real understanding about Islam. In our modern world, where there is so much misunderstanding between people of different faiths and of no faith at all, it is important that we understand that our own faith is not threatened by the faith of others. Indeed, as religious people, we should never feel threatened by goodness, wherever it comes from. Someone being a good Roman Catholic should not make me feel threatened as a Muslim. In fact, we only do feel threatened when our own faith is weak. As Muslims, then, we respect the beliefs of others. This does not for one minute, though, take anything away from what we believe as Muslims. The truth is, though, that explaining this to your daughter is a bit complicated. Of course we want to show her that we should have respect for others' beliefs, but we certainly don't want it to seem that it doesn't really matter what you believe. It matters very much. In a very simple way, you can explain to your daughter that Allah Almighty has spoken to people since the beginning of time. He did this through His prophets and messengers,

starting with Adam, who was the first prophet, and finishing with Muhammad (peace be upon them both), who was the seal of the prophets, confirming all that had previously been revealed. Maybe in this regard you can teach her this verse from the Quran: *{Muhammad is not the father of any of your men, but the Messenger of Allah and the Seal of the Prophet}* (AlAhzab 33:40)

Just as some of the children in her class at school understand well what the teacher is teaching them, so there are others who don't understand at all. In the same way, over time there were people who understand the message being revealed to them by Allah and there were some people who didn't fully understand it. This didn't make them bad people because they didn't understand. They thought they understood what God was like. There were some people, though, who deliberately changed the words of Allah, so that they misled others. These were indeed in the wrong and what they did was very wrong. *{So woe to those who wrote the Book with their hands, and then say: 'This is from Allah,' that they may sell it for a little price. So woe to them for what their hands have written, and woe to them for their earnings}* (Al-Baqarah 2:79) Because Almighty Allah has such great love for His creatures, He always wants what is best for them. Time and time again He sent different prophets to tell them what He is like and how they should live their lives: *{Indeed! We sent a Messenger to every nation.}* (An-Nahl 16:36) In the Quran, Almighty Allah finally made it perfectly clear to everyone in the world how they should live. We call this Islam. We give thanks to Him every day for calling us to be Muslims and for choosing us from all the people in the world to know about Islam. Just like those children in your daughter's class at school, not everyone has quite got the message. Over the years, the people who didn't understand or who had made things up which were not right, passed on their beliefs to others. There are now many people in the world who believe different things to Muslims, because of what they were taught from a very early age. Some of these are called Christians. They believe that our Prophet Jesus (peace be upon him) was more than a man, and that he was actually like God, His son. Some people are called Jews. They believe in One God, like us, but over the centuries they have come to believe that they are a specially "Chosen People" and that God favors them now above everyone else.

As Muslims we don't believe some of the things that Christians and Jews believe. But there are many things we do have in common. We all believe that there is a God, for example. (There are some people in the world who don't believe in God at all.) We all believe that we live in this world to serve God and to please Him and to be good and kind to others. So religious people of a certain religion should respect what other religious people believe. Our beloved Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) had neighbors who were both Christians and Jews, and even some people who believed in many different gods. By the kind way he treated them and with the good example he gave to them, many of them became Muslim. This is because Prophet Muhammad is a Mercy to all mankind, not just to Muslims only. Allah Almighty shows His great love for people by sending Prophet Muhammad to teach them about Islam. As Muslims we, too, are called to give good example and to be very respectful of what others have been brought up to believe by their parents. Religions don't teach people to do bad things. They teach them to be good people. In the Quran we read: *{O mankind! We created you from a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, so that you might come to know each other. The noblest among you in Allahs sight is the one most anxious to please Him. Allah is All-Knowing, All-Aware.}* (Al-Hujurat 49:13) When we pray every day, we ask Almighty Allah to make us worthy of His great gift in calling us to be Muslims. Just because we are Muslim, we mustn't think that we don't have to try very hard to be good people. It takes us a whole lifetime to become the good people that Allah wants us to be, and there are many people who are not Muslims who put us to shame by the good example they give. In constantly telling your daughter, then, to give thanks for the gift of being Muslim, you can also encourage her to respect people who have different religious beliefs to her. Maybe by doing that, she will attract them to the sweet and beautiful message of Islam. I hope that this very simple answer has been of some help. Please keep in touch.