The Error of Radicalism

Why Should a Muslim Refrain From Being a "Radical" and Prefer Tolerance

There is another idea that we must examine together with that of terror; that is, the phenomenon of radicalism.

Radicalism means supporting sudden revolutionary destructive changes in any sphere and applying a strict uncompromising policy to achieve them. Radicals are characterized by their desire for revolutionary changes and the stern, sometimes aggressive attitude they adopt.

As in every realm, in this too the guide for the Muslim is the Koran. When we look at radicalism as it is defined in the Koran, we see that it has nothing to do with the way in which God commands His believers to behave. When God describes a believer in the Koran, He depicts him as a loving, soft spoken person, shunning conflicts and arguments, approaching even the most hostile people with warmth and friendship.

An example to guide us in this matter is the command given by God to Moses and Harun to go to Pharaoh and speak gently to him.

Go to Pharaoh; he has overstepped the bounds. But speak to him with gentle words so that hopefully he will pay heed or show some fear.' (Surah Ta ha: 43-44 )

Pharaoh was one of the most cruel and rebellious unbelievers of his time. He was a despot who denied God and worshiped idols; moreover, he subjected Muslims ( the Israelites of the time )to terrible cruelties and murder. But God commanded his prophets to go to such a hostile man and speak to him gently.

Notice that the way shown by God was the way of friendly dialogue, not the way of conflict with sharp words, angry slogans and agitated protests.

There are a few other examples to show Muslims how to behave in the dialogue between the Prophet Shu'aib and the deniers. This dialogue is related in the Koran in this way:

And to Madyan their brother Shu'ayb. He said, 'My people, worship God! You have no god apart from Him. Do not give short measure and short weight. I see you prospering and I fear for you the punishment of an all-encompassing Day.

My people! Give full measure and full weight with justice; do not diminish people's goods; and do not go about the earth, corrupting it.

What endures with God is better for you if you are believers. I am not set over you as your keeper.'

They said, 'Shu'ayb, do your prayers instruct you that we should abandon what our fathers worshipped or stop doing whatever we want to with our wealth? You are clearly the forbearing, the rightly-guided!'

He said, 'My people! What do you think? If I do possess a Clear Sign from my Lord and He has given me His good provision, I would clearly not want to go behind your backs and do something I have forbidden you to do. I only want to put things right as far as I can. My success is with God alone. I have put my trust in Him and I turn to Him. (Surah Hud: 84-88)

When we examine what he says, we see that Prophet Shu'aib invited the people to believe in God and to adopt high moral principals and he did this with friendliness and modesty. We can explain some of the reasons behind of the things said in these verses:

o When Shu'aib says " I am not set over you as your keeper" to the people, he does not want to dominate them; his only intention is to inform them of the truth that God has revealed.

  • You are clearly the forbearing, the rightly-guided": These words of the deniers to Shu'aib show his warm, gentle and courteous character and that this was particularly appreciated by the deniers.
  • " My people! What do you think?" This expression used by Shu'aib shows that he calls on the deniers to use their intelligence and conscience. In other words, he does not use insistent pressure, but questions their ideas from an opposing stance and invites them to consider and come to a conclusion based on their own free conscience."
  • I would clearly not want to go behind your backs and do something I have forbidden you to do". Shu'aib's prohibition here is not actually a prohibition. He explains that some acts are sinful and invites the people to abandon them. Moreover, when Shu'aib says " I would clearly not want to go behind your backs ", it is not his purpose to dispute with the people; he does not want to make them uncomfortable and incite a quarrel; he wants only to invite them to faith and the practice of high moral principals.

If you examine the Koran you will see that a warm, gentle and tolerant disposition characterized all the prophets. God describes Abraham as "Ibrahim was tender-hearted and forbearing. ( Surat at-Tawba: 114) and there is a verse in which our prophet Mohammed's moral principals are described:

It is a mercy from God that you were gentle with them. If you had been rough or hard of heart, they would have scattered from around you. So pardon them and ask forgiveness for them, and consult with them about the matter. Then when you have reached a firm decision, put your trust in God. God loves those who put their trust in Him. (Surat al-Imran: 159 )

An evident quality of radicalism is its anger. This disposition can be clearly seen in the speeches, writings and demonstrations of radical people. However, anger is not an attribute of Muslims. When God describes believers in the Koran, he commands, " those who give in times of both ease and hardship, those who control their rage and pardon other people - God loves the good-doers -" ( Surat al-Imran: 134 )

There is no situation in which a Muslim displays anger. The only thing a Muslim wants from other people is that they believe in God and live according to moral principles, but this is possible only by the grace of God. No matter what we do, no matter how much we try to explain the truth to people, human hearts are in God's hands. God reminds Muslims of this very important fact in this verse,

"Even if there was a Koran which moved mountains, or split the earth open or spoke to the dead . . .! On the contrary! The affair is God's altogether. Do those who have faith not know that if God had wanted to He could have guided all mankind? Those who are disbelievers will not cease to be struck by disaster for what they have done - or a disaster will happen close to their homes - until God's promise is fulfilled. God will not fail to keep His promise." (Surat ar-Rad: 31)

There is another verse that emphasizes this same fact;

If your Lord had willed, all the people on the earth would have had faith. Do you think you can force people to be believers? (Surah Yunus: 99)

Therefore, it is the duty of a Muslim only to explain the facts and to invite people to accept them but whether or not people accept the invitation is completely up to their own conscience. God reveals this truth in the Koran when He says that there is no coercion in religion.

There is no compulsion where the religion is concerned. Right guidance has become clearly distinct from error. Anyone who rejects false gods and has faith in God has grasped the Firmest Handhold, which will never give way. God is All-Hearing, All-Knowing. (Surat al-Baqara: 256)

Therefore, there is no coercion to make people believe and become Muslims, or to make Muslims say their prayers and beware of sin. There is only advice. God reveals in a few verses addressed to our Prophet that Muslims are not oppressors:

We know best what they say. You are not a dictator over them. So remind, with the Koran, whoever fears My Threat. (Surah Qaf: 45 )

Say: 'Mankind! the truth has come to you from your Lord. Whoever is guided is only guided for his own good. Whoever is misguided is only misguided to his detriment. I have not been set over you as a guardian.' (Surah Yunus: 108)

Muslims are responsible only for explaining their religion, they apply no pressure or coercion on anyone and are enjoined to speak gently to even the most tyrannical deniers. Such persons cannot be "radicals" because radicalism stands for the opposite of those qualities we have enumerated. Indeed, radicalism is an un-Islamic current of thought and political stance that came into the Islamic world later from outside. When we examine social phenomena described in terms of radicalism, it will be seen that these are basically a collection of methods and pronouncements used by communists in an earlier time, or an expression of the bigotry of ignorance that has no place in true Islam.

All Muslims must totally reject an angry, unbending disputatious disposition which goes against the very nature of the Koran and in its place adopt a friendly, gentle, tolerant, calm and compassionate attitude. Muslims must be an example to the world and be admired for their maturity, compassion, moderation, modesty and peacefulness. Not only in these things, but also in their fine achievements in fields of science, culture, art, aesthetics and social order and others, Muslims must live Islam in the best possible way and be its representatives to the world.

Explaining Islam to others and defending Islam against ideas alien to it are included in what we have listed above. In the verse below, God clearly reveals what attitude a Muslim must assume with regard to others:

Call to the way of your Lord with wisdom and fair admonition, and argue with them in the kindest way. Your Lord knows best who is misguided from His way. And He knows best who are guided. (Surat an-Nahl:125 )


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