Tolerance and Hospitality as a virtue in Gulen’s Teachings

Tolerance is defined as allowing someone or something to exist without interference. In social and political settings, it means to let other opinions and practices that are different than ours to exist and thrive.  Aristoteles defines virtues as being balanced and determining prudently in any given human condition. As a virtue, we can argue, tolerance is choosing wisely in how we decide to treat diversity. Tolerance as a virtue did not appear until the end of religious strife in the 16th century Europe. Europeans came to understand that peaceful coexistence can only happen if other ideas and views are treated with respect. Initially it did not expand to adherents of other religions but contemporary Europe has this very well established.

Although Islamic tradition has ample examples of tolerance, the current state of affairs is very sad. Especially in the conflict zones there is no tolerance of even other Muslims. Fethullah Gulen is one of the strongest voices advocating for interfaith dialogue and tolerance of different worldviews. He emphasizes the significance of virtues and the value of humanity in understanding Islam. He asks people to have a level of tolerance that enables them to forgive, have mercy and experience compassion towards creation.

We should have such tolerance that we are able to close our eyes to the faults of others, to have respect for different ideas, and to forgive everything that is forgivable. In fact, even when faced with violations of our inalienable rights, we should remain respectful to human values and try to establish justice. Even before the coarsest thoughts and the crudest ideas, ideas that we find impossible to share, with the caution of a Prophet and without losing our temper, we should respond with mildness. [1]

Coming from the Sufi tradition of Islam mercy, forbearance, compassion and patience. These virtues are in turn inspired and reinforced by love. Said Nursi explains love as the central phenomenon in the universe. Based on this understanding he calls for loving all of the humanity since they reflect the beauty of the Eternal One.

Love is the reason for existence and its essence, and it is the strongest tie that binds creatures together. Everything in the universe is the handiwork of God. Thus, if you do not approach humanity, a creation of God, with love, then you will have hurt those who love God and those whom God loves[2]

This is a voice that our world is very much in need of. In our conflict ridden world, we need more voices like Gulen’s.


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