The Qur’an and Tolerance of Other Religions
The Qur’an teaches tolerance for other religions. There are two passages that are often cited to support religious tolerance in Islam. The first of these is Surah Al-Ma’idah, Ayah 48. It reads:
If Allah so willed, he would have made you a single People, but his plan is to test each of you separately, in what He has given to each of you: so strive in all virtues as in you are in a race. The goal of all of you is to Allah. It is He that will show you the truth of the matters in which ye dispute.
The second of these is Surah Al-Ankabut, Ayah 46. It reads:
And dispute not with the People of the Book, except with means better than mere disputation, unless I be with those of them who inflict wrong and injury, but say to them: “We believe in the revelation which has come down to us and in that which came down to you; Our God and your God is one; and it is to Him that we bow.”
The first of these verses clearly states the there are many people under God, that everyone’s path can lead to God. In the second verse, the People of the Book mentioned are Christians, Jews, and Sabians. Muslims believe that God sent His message to different nations at different points of history. While this message may have been corrupted at some point, the people of all those faiths worship the same God as Muslims. Compared to most of the major world religions, Islam is remarkably tolerant to other religions and, unlike many other contemporary religions, this tolerance is not a result of reform or going contrary to what was established originally. Muslims are instructed to be tolerant of people of other faiths directly in the Qur’an.
There is no doubt that there is religious persecution in many countries with Muslim majorities. The conflicts between rival sects is well known, and examples also abound of intolerant, violent acts perpetrated by supposedly Muslim governments. However, it is important to note that this religious persecution does not come from Islam, but from the evil in human beings. Especially contrary to the Qur’an are the conflicts between Jews and Muslims; Islam teaches that Jews worship the same God as Muslims. One of the fundamental requirements of becoming a Muslim is to manifest belief in the scriptures that God has revealed, one of these being the Torah.
It is a human weakness to attack those that are different. Many people, of all religions, often fail to resist this temptation to lash out; Muslims are no exception. However, Muslims can seek guidance in the Qur’an, which explicitly teaches tolerance and non-violence towards those that do not follow Islam.