We mentioned previously that the biggest affliction and illness to have affected religious thought throughout history has been the issue of tolerating the other and condemning the other with disbelief and polytheism. In other words, the beliefs that you hold which I don’t makes you a polytheist, disbeliever, misguided, apostate etc. And we also looked at some examples from Islamic scholars from different schools to demonstrate this.
In this discussion, I would like to look briefly at the logic employed by the Qur’ān and assess whether the Qur’ān also deals with people with this level of intolerance. Does the Qur’ān accept the claim that the truth is with me and no one else? You might think does the Qur’ān even touch on this topic and I can assure you that it does!
Before we get into this, it would suffice to mention that the principle I have based this on is that when the Qur’ān mentions an example or a circumstance (namādhij wa masādīq) it is not the case that what is being referred to is specifically and exclusively only relevant to that particular case. For example, if God mentions that so and so are amongst those who have gone astray, this is not to say this verse is exclusively limited to that example but rather they are just one of such example and it is possible for there to be more.
Let us have a look at verse 113 of Sῡrah Baqarah bit by bit. “And the Jews say the Christians follow nothing (true)”, here the Jews are saying to the Christians that they follow nothing of the truth, we will be the ones saved and you will be in the depths of Hell. “and the Christians say the Jews follow nothing (true)” and in return the Christians throw the same accusations on the Jews. What type of reasoning is this? This is the reasoning of intolerance, the reasoning that all the truth is with me and no where else. “Yet both are readers of the Scripture”, this part of the verse is remarkable. This reasoning that the Qur’ān is critiquing, is it the reasoning of the religious institutions or the laymen? Unfortunately, it is the reasoning of the religious institutions. Just like the Christians and the Jews accuse one another of being on falsehood, it could be said “the Shi’ī say the Sunnis follow nothing (true) and the Sunnis say the Shi’ī follow nothing (true)”, with both sides claiming the other will spend eternity in Hell for being polytheists.
A question to be asked here is this, does the Qur’ān comment on whether this type of reasoning is based on knowledge or ignorance? Look at how the verse continues, and memorise this and remember it well just in case you come across someone whose reasoning is intolerant like this: “Even thus speak those who know not”, so those who reason this way, do they know (what they are talking about) or not? Are they knowledgeable or ignorant? This is the clear response of the Qur’ān, that those who are intolerant of others and adamantly claim the truth is only to be found with themselves and not others, are referred to as those who simply do not know. Let it not occur to anyone that this verse is only speaking about the Christians and the Jews, as we explained earlier, the Christians and the Jews mentioned in this verse is merely a particular instance, the same can be said about the Shi’ī against the Sunni, the people of Hadīth against the people of Ijtihād, the Salafī against the Ash’arī etc.
So now someone might ask what shall we do? You said explain your beliefs upon the three principles previously mentioned, that the criteria be evidence, and that the evidence be of a sufficient level of knowledge and that it is not necessary for it to be in accordance with the truth. Now that a person does this they can either be accepted or rejected and disagreements arise. If a difference of opinion arises then what? Then know that you are not the judge as the verse finishes saying: “Allah will judge between them on the Day of Resurrection concerning that wherein they differ.” This is the reasoning of the Qur’ān.
Next, we will look at the reasoning and logic of the Ahlulbayt when it came to dealing with others, and we will see the difference between what they have to say on this matter and what the others like the Wahabīs and the likes of Allāmah Majlisī and Sāhib al-Jawāhir have said.
Sadiq Meghjee is a frequent contributor to Iqra Online and has been studying in the seminary of Qom for 6 years. Prior to entering the seminary he pursued an accounting qualification and worked in London. His field of interest is intellectual history.