Maulana Wahiduddin Khan | Islam Today | Al-Risala February 1988

Solidarity – that unity which emerges from common feelings and interests – is the most precious element in national harmony. But it is also something rare and fragile which has to be carefully preserved from dissension and divisiveness. It is only when all concerned agree to disagree, and then leave their bones of contention to be chewed by others, that solidarity can remain intact. The human quality most necessary to the cause of solidarity is tolerance. This is not necessarily something which we are born with. But it is something which can definitely be taught to the uninitiated, inculcated as a matter of moral discipline, and practised by public-spirited individuals as an example to the people at large. Patience, it should be stressed, is of the greatest importance if we are to learn to be tolerant. In fact, all of our actions must be marked by patience if we ourselves are not to elicit anger and intolerance from others.

Amongst Muslims today, there is a distressing lack of solidarity. This is because arguments are frequent, tempers easily run high and little value is attached to the virtues of patience and tolerance. Who is to blame for this unfortunate state of affairs? We need look no further than those very Muslim leaders who are loud in their preaching of Islamic solidarity. In one breath they advocate patience, tolerance, restraint, and in the next breath they are shouting against any criticism of themselves. Worse, they retaliate against anyone with a different viewpoint from their own, instead of preserving a dignified silence, or waiting for the opportune moment to reason quietly with an opponent who may be just ignorant or misguided. In so doing they set the example of intolerance. It is tantamount to saying to the people: “If you disagree with something, don’t stand for it. Rise against it”. There are many different kinds of intolerance shown in public life. One example is the demand that the processions of other religions be banned. Leaders who make such a demand are taking their followers in a very wrong direction. They are in effect saying to their adherents, it is only we who are right, it is only our desires which are worthy of consideration – all others and their wishes are beneath contempt. When such attitudes are taken to extremes they can result in violence and even killing.

This negative tendency on the part of our leaders is something that does the greatest damage to the ideal of solidarity. They do not understand that for every highly desirable thing in this world, a price has to be paid. For unity, the price that has to be paid is not only the avoidance of contentiousness, but the frequent sacrifice of our own special interests.