The Message of Tolerance
by Fayez Khwaja
MAS National Give Director
“You may be shocked by these words coming from me. But on this pilgrimage, what I have seen, and experienced, has forced me to rearrange much of my thought-patterns previously held, and to toss aside some of my previous conclusions. This was not too difficult for me. Despite my firm convictions, I have always been a man who tries to face facts, and to accept the reality of life as new experience and new knowledge unfolds it. I have always kept an open mind, which is necessary to the flexibility that must go hand in hand with every form of intelligent search for truth.”
“During the past eleven days here in the Muslim world, I have eaten from the same plate, drunk from the same glass, and slept on the same rug – while praying to the same God – with fellow Muslims, whose eyes were the bluest of blue, whose hair was the blondest of blond, and whose skin was the whitest of white. And in the words and in the deeds of the white Muslims, I felt the same sincerity that I felt among the black African Muslims of Nigeria, Sudan and Ghana.”
“We were truly all the same (brothers) – because their belief in one God had removed the white from their minds, the white from their behavior, and the white from their attitude.”
“I could see from this, that perhaps if white Americans could accept the Oneness of God, then perhaps, too, they could accept in reality the Oneness of Man – and cease to measure, and hinder, and harm others in terms of their ‘differences’ in color.”
That is a quote from a letter Malcolm X wrote to his supporters while he was traveling through the Middle East after performing Hajj. These words came from someone who spent 13 years as a member of Nation of Islam, as a Black Nationalist. His acceptance of Islam and his travel to the Haram completely changed his view.
As we go through the blessed days of Dhul-Hijjah, pilgrims gather from all over the world, rich and not so rich, young and not so young. All in the same place at the same time doing exactly the same thing- for the worship of one God. The worship of Allah(swt) has an amazing unifying effect on mankind.
However, when we return home, it can be a different story. The effects of Hajj wear off, and we fall back into our “usual” selves. What made Malcolm X a force for change was that upon his return, he lived and breathed the messages he wrote in his letter. He formed a new mosque and started spreading his new found enlightenment about the religion of God. The more people heard, the more they themselves became enlightened.
Those of us born with the gift of Islam often times do not approach it with the zeal of one who had to search the darkness to find the Light. We practice it privately, and tend not share its beauty, brilliance and grandeur with those around us. It’s easy to preach to the ones who are already believers. How do we get the message out to the masses?
Let’s take it a step further. Malcolm X, in talking about Hajj, teaches us that if we accept the Oneness of God, then perhaps, we could also accept the oneness of mankind. Some of our centers have become places where people no longer feel welcome, where women have to struggle to attend programs, and young people are shunned. How would our center attendees respond to a sister who walks into the center without a hijab, or wearing a miniskirt? How would they respond to a brother who has tattoos and pierced ears?
“O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. Indeed, Allah is Knowing and Acquainted.”
Sura Al-Hujurat 13
Anas Bin Maalik said:
While we were in the masjid with the Messenger of Allah, a Bedouin came;
he then urinated in the masjid.
The Companions of the Messenger of Allah said, “Mah Mah (An expression used to severly scold someone, to indicate the graveness of a matter).”
The Messenger of Allah said, “Do not put a halt to his urinating, but instead leave him.” They left him alone until he finished urinating.
The Messenger of Allah called him over and said to him, “Any kind of urine or filth is not suitable for these masjids. Instead they are only [appropriate] for the remembrance of Allah, the Prayer, and the recitation of the Qur’aan,” or this is near to what the Messenger of Allah said.
He (SAAWS) then issued an order to a man from the people, who then came with a bucket of water, which he poured over the [effected] area [of the masjid].
[Related by Muslim in his Saheeh, 285]
How do we react to less significant actions, by believers, that take place around us? Are we willing to embrace one of the most significant lessons of Hajj, a lesson of tolerance and acceptance of others, in order to build a stronger, more unified ummah? That is up to you and I to answer with much more than mere words.