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Tolerance in Islam by Asiff Hussein

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Published by Muslim Women’s Research and Action Forum

It has often been argued by non-Muslims that Islam is not a tolerant faith and that it has been propagated by force of arms rather than by peaceful means; by compulsion rather than through conviction. This perception has been widely propagated in the writings of certain biased Western scholars who left no stone unturned to portray Islam as a fanatical faith spread by the sword and to whom the myth of the holy warrior with sword in one hand and the Qur’an in the other, imposing Islam on the conquered peoples owes its ignoble origins. Secondly, it is the result of the inconsiderate behaviour of certain Muslim states, groups and individuals whose misunderstanding and ignorance of the principles governing relations between Muslims and non-Muslims has led to considerable acts of intolerance against religious minorities, despite the fact that they have no grounding in the true teachings of Islam.

As pointed out by the author of the work, Asiff Hussein, Muslims are supposed to invite non-believers to Islam in a manner that will convince them of the truth of the message rather than through vain arguments ridiculing their divinities or by means of brute force which could only be counter-productive. Indeed, every endeavour except force should be resorted to in order to attract persons to Islam, so much so that even worldly inducements may be used since the underlying intention is a noble one. In fact, one of the areas in which Zakat or the Alms tax collected from Muslims could be used is to attract the hearts of those who have been inclined (towards Islam). As the Qur’an very beautifully puts it: God is our Lord and your Lord. For us our deeds and to you yours. Between us and you let there be no strife. God will bring us together. And to Him shall we return.

Hussein has availed himself of four main sources to establish the truth that Islam is a religion of tolerance and that compelling people to believe against their will has no place in it. Among these, the Qur’an, which Muslims believe to be the Word of God and the primary source of Islamic Law; the Sunnah, the sayings and doings of the Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) the secondary source of Islamic Law; the practice of the rightly guided caliphs who could be expected to implement the law of Islam to the fullest; and historical evidence for tolerance in Islamic lands gleaned from the writings of both Muslim and non-Muslim scholars. The author has also dealt with the related topics of Law of War in Islam and the Jizyah or Poll tax levied on Non-Muslims to counter some frequently propagated allegations against Islam.

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