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The true Muslim who adheres to the teachings of his religion is tolerant and forgiving. Tolerance is a noble human characteristic which is highly commended in the Qur’an, where those who attain this virtue are viewed as the supreme example of piety in Islam and are included in the group of those doers of good who have succeeded in earning the love and pleasure of Allah (Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala):

“…Who restrain anger, and pardon [all] men — for Allah loves those who do good.”
(Qur’an 3:134)

Such people have restrained their anger and refrained from bearing grudges. They have freed themselves from the burden of hatred and entered a brave new world of tolerance and forgiveness. They have gained purity of heart and peace of mind and, more importantly, they have won the love and pleasure of Allah (S.W.T.).

Tolerance and forgiveness are sublime attitudes that none can attain except those whose hearts are receptive to the guidance of Islam and its noble teachings. They prefer forgiveness, reward and honour from Allah (S.W.T.) to their ego’s desire for revenge.

In the most brilliant fashion, the Qur’an motivates the human soul to attain this difficult, high level. It allows the one who is oppressed to defend himself and resist that oppression and aggression. It allows recompense for injury (“an eye for an eye”) but it does not allow the man who has been wronged to be overtaken by the desire for self-defence and revenge. Rather, it gently leads him towards the level of patience, tolerance and forgiveness, and states that this is something that takes a great deal of determination and willpower:

“And those who, when an oppressive wrong is inflicted on them, [are not cowed but] help and defend themselves. The recompense for an injury is an injury equal thereto [in degree]: but if a person forgives and makes reconciliation, his reward is due from Allah: for [Allah] loves not those who do wrong. But indeed if any do help and defend themselves after a wrong [done] to them, against such is no cause of blame. The blame is only against those who oppress men with wrongdoing and insolently transgress beyond bounds through the land, defying right and justice: for such there will be a Penalty grievous. But indeed if any show patience and forgive, that would truly be an exercise of courageous will and resolution in the conduct of affairs.”
(Qur’an 42:39-43)

When Abu Bakr (RadiyAllahu Anhu) was overwhelmed with sorrow because of the slander he had heard uttered by some against his daughter ‘A’ishah (RadiyAllahu Anha), he vowed to himself that he would cut off his help to those ungrateful recipients of his bounty who had joined in the sinful gossip. But Allah (SWT) revealed:

“Let not those among you who are endued with grace and amplitude of means resolve by oath against helping their kinsmen, those in want, and those who have left their homes in Allah’s cause: Let them forgive and overlook, do you not wish that Allah should forgive you? For Allah is Oft-Forgiving, All-Merciful.”
(Qur’an 24:22)

Interactions between individuals in a Muslim community are not based on blaming, censure and seeking revenge for every major or minor issue. Rather they are based on tolerance, overlooking faults, forgiveness and patience. This is the teaching of Islam, and this is what is encouraged by the Qur’an:

“Nor can Goodness and Evil be equal. Repel [Evil] with what is better: then will be between whom and you was hatred become as it were your friend and intimate! And no one will be granted such goodness except those who exercise patience and self-restraint – none but persons of the greatest good fortune.”
(Qur’an 41:34-35)

If evil is always repaid with evil, the result will be intense hatred and bitter grudges. But if evil is repaid with good, it will extinguish the fires of hatred, calm people down, and remove their grudges. The two who were enemies will become true friends when one of them speaks a kind word or smiles compassionately at the other. This is a great victory for the one who repelled evil with something better, and no one attains this but persons of the greatest good fortune, as the Qur’an states. Such a person responds to the evil he faces with a measure of patience, and repels it with something good.

This is the attitude of a believer in a community of believers. Many ayat of the Qur’an reinforce this message and seek to instill this attitude in believers’ hearts. So the Qur’an tells believers to restrain their anger in such situations, to be forgiving and to graciously overlook the faults of others, so that no trace of hatred, resentment or malice will remain:

“…so overlook [any human faults] with gracious forgiveness.”
(Qur’an 15:85)

The ahadith are no less concerned with this noble human attitude of forgiveness and tolerance. They also encourage it to be established in Muslim hearts, and describe the practical way in which it should affect one’s behavior. This is the example of the Prophet (SallAllahu Alayhi Wa Sallam), the leader and educator of Muslims, which is to be followed and adhered to.

‘A’ishah (RadiyAllahu Anha) said:

“The Prophet (SallAllahu Alayhi Wa Sallam) never struck any person, woman or servant with his hand, except when he was fighting in the way of Allah (S.W.T.), and he never took offence at anything and sought revenge for it, except when one of the laws of Allah (S.W.T.) had been violated, and then he would take revenge for the sake of Allah (S.W.T.).”

He used to follow the commands of Allah (S.W.T.):

“Hold to forgiveness; command what is right; but turn away from the ignorant.”
(Qur’an 7:199)

“…Repel [Evil] with what is better…”
(Qur’an 41:34)

The Prophet (SallAllahu Alayhi Wa Sallam) was a unique example of this sublime attitude, which encompassed all people. He did not repay their evil with evil, rather he repelled it with an attitude of forgiveness, commanding what is right, and turning away from the ignorant. He always repelled evil with something better.

Anas (RadiyAllahu Anhu) said:

“I was walking with the Messenger of Allah (SallAllahu Alayhi Wa Sallam), and he was wearing a Najrani cloak with a stiff collar. A Bedouin came up to him and grabbed him roughly, and I looked at the Prophet’s shoulder and saw the mark left by his collar because of this rough approach. Then the Bedouin said;
‘O Muhammad, order that I be given some of the wealth of Allah (S.W.T.) that you have!’

The Prophet (SallAllahu Alayhi Wa Sallam) turned to him and smiled, then ordered that he be given something.”
[Bukhari and Muslim]

The attitude of forgiveness was so deeply entrenched in his noble heart that he even forgave the Jewish woman who sent him poisoned mutton, as Bukhari, Muslim and others narrate. This Jewish woman sent a gift of poisoned mutton to the Prophet (SallAllahu Alayhi Wa Sallam). He and a group of his Companions began to eat it, then he said:

“Stop, it is poisoned!”

The woman was brought to the Prophet (SallAllahu Alayhi Wa Sallam) and he asked her:

“What made you do that?”

She said, “I wanted to know if you were really a Prophet, in which case Allah (S.W.T.) would warn you and the poison would not harm you. If you were not a Prophet, then we would be rid of you.”

The Companions asked:
‘Shall we kill her?’

He (s.a.w.s.) said, “No,” and forgave her.

When the tribe of Daws rebelled and refused to follow the commands of Allah (S.W.T.) and His Messenger, al-Tufayl ibn ‘Amr al-Dawsi came to the Prophet (SallAllahu Alayhi Wa Sallam) and said:

“Daws have rebelled, so pray to Allah (S.W.T.) against them.”

The Prophet (SallAllahu Alayhi Wa Sallam) faced the qiblah and raised his hands, and the people said:
‘They are finished!’

But the Prophet (SallAllahu Alayhi Wa Sallam), who was merciful and tolerant, and did not want to see the punishment of Allah (S.W.T.) befall people, prayed for Daws, saying:

“O Allah (S.W.T.), guide Daws and bring them here, O Allah (S.W.T.), guide Daws and bring them here, O Allah (S.W.T.), guide Daws and bring them here.”
[Bukhari and Muslim]

The Prophet (SallAllahu Alayhi Wa Sallam) instilled in the Muslims’ hearts the attitude of always forgiving and being tolerant, even when faced with harshness and being boycotted. With the deep insight with which Allah (S.W.T.) had endowed him, he understood that people respond better to tolerance than to harshness. Therefore when ‘Uqbah ibn ‘Amir (RadiyAllahu Anhu) asked him:
‘O Messenger of Allah, tell me the best of deeds,’

he told him:

“O ‘Uqbah, maintain ties with the one who cuts you off, give to the one who deprives you, and do not seek revenge on the one who wrongs you.”

In another report he said: “Forgive the one who wrongs you.”[11]


The Muslim who understands his religion is tolerant in his dealings with people, because he knows that there is nothing like tolerance for the good man in this world and the next. His tolerant, gentle, easygoing attitude opens the way to people’s hearts, and endears him to them, and it also earns him Allah’s pleasure, forgiveness and mercy. This is what is stated clearly in the teachings of the Prophet (SallAllahu Alayhi Wa Sallam).

Jabir (RadiyAllahu Anhu) reported that the Prophet (SallAllahu Alayhi Wa Sallam) said:

“May Allah (S.W.T.) have mercy on the tolerant man, when he buys, when he sells, and when he demands payment.”

Abu Mas‘u d al-Anasri (RadiyAllahu Anhu) said:

“The Prophet (SallAllahu Alayhi Wa Sallam) said:

“A man from those who were before you was brought to account and no goodness was found in him, except that he was a man who used to mix with people; he was rich, and he used to order his employees to let off the one who was in difficulty. Allah (S.W.T.) said: ‘We should be even more tolerant than him, so let him off.’”

How heavily this attitude will weigh in the balance, and how much will man need it on that great and terrible Day!


One of the requirements of this tolerant attitude is that a person should appear cheerful, pleasant and friendly. All of this is part of having a good attitude, and is part of the good deeds encouraged by Islam.

In Sahih Muslim, it says that the Prophet (SallAllahu Alayhi Wa Sallam) said:
“Do not think little of any good deed, even if it is just meeting your brother with a cheerful countenance.”

Bukhari and Muslim report from the great Saahbi Jarir ibn ‘Abdullah (RadiyAllahu Anhu) that he said:

“The Prophet (s.a.w.s.) never saw me, after I embraced Islam, without smiling at me.”

The society which is infused with tolerance, friendliness and warmth between its members is a cohesive, friendly, civilized, human society which honors man, respects good manners and is filled with the highest human values. This is the Islamic society envisioned in the sources of Islam, the society which Islam seeks to establish, so that it would stand out from other communities. We can see the huge difference between this sublime society and the materialistic societies in which man suffers crushing emotional dryness, never smiling at a neighbor or relative, and hardly even smiling at his own friend, because he is too preoccupied and concerned with pursuing the needs of that materialistic life which has extinguished the flame of human emotion and spirituality and left him running in endless circles.


[11] Reported by Ahmad and al-Tabarani; the men of Ahmad’s isnad are thiqat.

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