As Salam Alaykum,
“Indeed, in the creation of the heavens and the earth and the alternation of the night and the day are signs for those of understanding.” [3:109]
Looking at the Universe and reflecting on its vastness, one can’t avoid feeling a certain amount of awe and respect for it. The Qur’an is a book of Ayat, which can be translated as signs. Over and over again Allah (swt.) also reminds us that there are signs in the world around us, for those of understanding. The Qur’an therefore points at the awe inspiring phenomena in nature and asks us to reflect on the Creator, His existence, His Might etc. Science and Religion within Islamic discourse does not exclude each other but go hand in hand. Okay, so taking into account the title of this post, where am I going with this?
In our “post-modern” society this awe and respect has stopped at a deep appreciation, deference even, for nature and for science, at the expense of religion. There is a deep sense of respect for science as if it has become a new religion, one that especially the New-Atheists ascribe to. On the other side as society steadily splits apart, with more and more people moving towards the right. A speck of respect and tolerance for the other, the unknown, the foreigner, the religion of the foreigner becomes increasingly non-existant.
Religions, Ideas, Ideologies do not need to be respected or so is the current prevailing view. Freedom of speech has been used as a blanket to disrespect and insult communities, the current high levels of Islamophobia have even costed Sikh communities. What about us though? Us Muslims. We who believe that the Prophet (saw.) came as a mercy to mankind. Do we show respect and tolerance as the Prophet (saw.) did to people who have different customs, the Bedouin for example who are very rough and straight forward in their behaviour. Or to those of different faith as the Prophet (saw.) did, standing up in respect to the progression of a funeral for a Jewish woman. Reminding us that despite our differences she is just another human being like we are too. Do we respect those who we call kuffar as if it were an insult? Never mind non-Muslims, how about our fellow brothers and sisters in Islam? Do we respect and love each other for the sake of Allah, despite our differences of opinion, despite our different cultures and ethnic backgrounds. Because diversity is a signs from Allah (swt):
“And of His signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth and the diversity of your languages and your colors. Indeed in that are signs for those of knowledge.” [30:21]
The problem is that we only have a textbook understanding of different faiths, cultures and world views at most. How do we build respect for each other, if we do nothing to get to know each other and be open for difference? As Allah (swt.) tells us in the Qur’an:
“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 (honoured) of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. Indeed, Allah is Knowing and Acquainted.” [49:13]
Allah (swt.) could have created us all the same, how boring would our world be then? No, we are supposed to learn from our diversity, from each other. We all have been honoured, as Allah tells us in the above ayah, all human beings, indeed all beings are to be treated with respect. In creating relationships with people that are very different from you, you establish a basis for understanding and getting to know the Other.
I have been fortunate to have been able to make friends with all kinds of different people, from different (or no) faiths, cultures, ethnic backgrounds and interests. But just making friends is in some cases not enough, especially in those instances where one separates the ideology of a person with the person. It is bizarre to me how a person who has friends who are practising Muslims, can be islamophobic at the same time but it still happens. Why? Most likely because there is no actual communication happening on issues that are relevant. What is there to understand if there is no communication?
If there is no communication beyond YouTube Comments and Tweets, how are we to grow to respect each other, and in effect stitching the gaping wound in society? So that it may start to heal.