In the modern world, the word Islam unfortunately, and most wrongly, carries the connotation of intolerance and violence. The truth could not be further from this unjust and ill-informed accusation. The word Islam is quite literally the Arabic word for peace and also for submission. From just this it is immediately apparent that there can be nothing else that Islam values more than a peaceful way of life, along with a life where one is faithful towards the Supreme Being, God.
The Holy Qur’an, the sacred text of the Muslims, reminds Muslims that there is ‘no compulsion in religion’ (2:257). As such, there is absolutely no justification for any sort of oppression in Islam where one is being forced to live in a manner that goes against their will. Islam is a religion that believes, and upholds the concept of free will. Therefore, the essence of Islam is to teach its followers, and to inform followers of other creeds and beliefs, of the truth, the right, and the wrong. After this, the decision to take the right course of action is up to the individual. This is the crux of Islamic teaching. Intolerance has no place in Islam as it continues to breach the foundations upon which Islam stands.
Lamentably, there have been a number of extremist groups committing heinous crimes across the globe in the name of Islam. These acts are in direct contradiction to the beautiful and peaceful teachings of Islam. One of the greatest sources of teaching for Muslims is through the sunnah: the actions of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) who taught religious tolerance to Muslims. The Holy Prophet (peace be on him) was a kind, honourable and forgiving man. The ordeals which he and his followers faced by the Meccans were nothing less than degrading and humiliating torture, yet he never wished any harm upon them; rather, he wished for a divine change of their hearts.
In his Friday Sermon, delivered on March 10th, 2006, His Holiness the spiritual leader of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community Hazrat Khalifatul Masih V (may Allah be his Helper) related the incident when the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) permitted the visiting Christians from Najran to offer their worship inside the mosque. At the time of the Prophet it was one of the responsibility of the Muslims to protect the churches and inns of the Christians as well as to safeguard their worship. It was also prohibited in any circumstance, as it is today, to ever attack a place of worship of any religion during a war or in time of peace.
One cannot deny, that it is not only extremist groups which are using the guise of Islam to justify their inhumane crimes. It is also corrupt politicians and governments. The government of many ‘Islamic’ countries are indeed using the excuse of their interpretation of Sharia to oppress its people in order to gain power and control. Both extremist groups and corrupt governments have misappropriated the terms Islam, Sharia, and the like. In doing so they have created a barrier between the truly beautiful teachings of Islam and the rest of the world.
This barrier is causing a rise in Islamophobic hate crimes as well as generally rising political tensions across the globe. These cannot lead to anything prosperous nor fruitful. It is essential that Islam be seen as a religion which welcomes all with open arms, tolerates differences and allows diversity in God’s creations. The motto of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community ‘Love for All, Hatred for None’ reigns true in Islamic teachings of all forms, whether they be the words of the Holy Qur’an, the words of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him), or his actions, Muslims are universally taught that love, tolerance and kindness are the essence of humanity and they must be adhered to at all times.