Topic initiated on Monday, May 21, 2007 - 1:41 PM
A beautiful prayer from the Bible came to my mind as soon as I started writing this article: “Oh Lord, give me the perseverance to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” How true these words from out of one of the books sent down by God are to our topic. Even as a Muslim, I have often taken these words to speak to the Almighty whenever a problem seemed insurmountable or a situation did not go my way.
Why do we want everything to go our way? The answer seems to be that we are human and selfish. But progressing from the Neanderthal stage, and learning the ways of civilisation and survival in a society, required us to be tolerant of each other; whatever the other person believed in, as far as religion or any other matter is concerned, is individual choice. In time, civilisations learned to survive by accepting each other’s ways and by tolerating everyone else’s way of life. Those that did not do so did not achieve success as societies and were filled with conflict and hatred.
Such societies have no progress, as when there is no peace there is no progress. People are so busy disliking each others’ ways of life that all they do is point fingers at how wrong others are, and all the positive and creative energy that the Creator has endowed us with goes to waste. People get distanced from each other due to intolerance; and when they don’t unite to work towards their betterment and that of others, the society plunges into darkness and despair. No one wants to help or like anyone who does not conform to his or her own specific standards of piety and correctness.
This self-righteous attitude has never brought people together as it hurts the feelings of those who do not believe what others want them to believe. It is indeed a sad state of affairs when everyone feels they are right and others wrong and deserves to be disrespected. If animals can live together in a jungle and respect each other’s rights and territories and only kill for survival, why can’t we humans, who are the most supreme species, learn to live with each other in peace and harmony?
All the prophets sent by the Almighty taught love and tolerance. They spread the word of the Creator through wisdom and patience and suffered all kinds of atrocities by the people of their time and only fought when there was no other option. Till the end of their lives, they spread the message that they were sent with understanding and wisdom and to help even those who did not believe what they preached. A kind word, a gentle gesture and most of all humility and strength of character can win a war without shedding the blood of fellow human beings.
Another important thing to remember is that if one gives respect to others’ feelings one gets respect for one’s own in return. If you behave honourably towards others’ beliefs, they will tolerate yours. The Holy Prophet Mohammad (peace be upon him) was not famous for his feats as a gladiator but as a man who was known as truthful and honest. It was his strength of character that won him the respect and position to relay the message that he was sent with. It was the tolerance and kindness he showed to even the people who made fun of him and called his miracles a work of magic that drew people to him. He asked his followers never to insult others, to explain to others with understanding and patience and if they are not convinced then to turn away in peace.
When a person wants to promote his or her opinion regarding an idea, it is better to explain it in a way that is not inflammatory or insulting to any other individual who has different views. Even political preferences sometimes lead to heated arguments and prejudice. It is not necessary that the other person should agree with you when it comes to who should be at the helm of affairs. Sometimes politicians give very fiery speeches, which result in people who are otherwise close, disliking each other for no good reason.
One should remember that anyone who wants to make the person in a position of power step down will make derogatory or insulting remarks about him or her. On the other hand, one who is in a position of power will not want to give that power away so easily, and will resist criticism. No one is without fault or shortcomings; in other words, no body is perfect, so when discussing one’s own political views, one must have the patience to listen to the opposite person’s preference for someone else.
Human beings are born with a free will and they have the right to decide what religion or persons they want to be associated with. If one thinks that one is following the right and true path, the way to make others agree is to be an exemplary human being or try to be, so that others will automatically want to be like you. They will reform or change their opinions without one having to insult or criticise them.
On a more philosophical note, one must try to be like the Moon and the Sun and the stars. Imagine if the Sun only shone on good people and left the others in darkness, there would be very few people enjoying the benefits of its existence. If the Moon only shone for selected individuals, its light would be denied to others, if the stars only came out at night to guide the people who are on the true path, everyone else would lose their way. The result would be the end of all existence including mankind. Thankfully, the sun comes out every morning to spread its rays for all creatures living whether good or bad or different.
The Moon comes out, spreading its silvery light for all to see and so do the stars, dutifully without any prejudice or preference for anyone or anything, showing everyone the way, guiding small boats as well as large ships to navigate across oceans and seas. So, why can't we humans, who study the workings of the universe, understand the meaning of unity and tolerance? Those who are on the wrong path will suffer for their own mistakes eventually. It is up to the Creator to decide and judge. Let us stop being vigilantes for the rest of the world and be vigilantes for ourselves and look into our own hearts. If others do not understand one's feelings or do not agree with one’s beliefs, then let them be. The Almighty instructs us not to spread mischief on Earth. Try not to hurt anyone physically or otherwise. If it happens, apologise. And if you think that it was not your fault, apologise anyway, just because the other person is hurt and has a right to his or her feelings. Or they might have misunderstood your actions or words.
An interesting fact that amazes all is that there have been instances in which human babies left unattended in the wild have been nurtured by animals like wolves or monkeys. When these children were found, they could neither speak nor understand human ways but behaved like the animals that had raised them when they were babies. Isn’t it a lesson for us, humans, that creatures that we think are wild and ferocious can also be tolerant to the very species that kills traps and eats them?
It is truly a point to ponder over. In today’s fast changing and globally shrinking world in which different races, religions and cultures have to interact on a day-to-day basis, the only way to exist in peace is to accept and tolerate each other.