Islam and Codes of Tolerance

Book: Codes der Toleranz
Author: Hubertus Hoffmann
Publisher: Verlag Herder, Germany
Pages: 464
Year: 2014
ISBN: 978-3-451-33373-6
Price: Euro 24

A new book "Codes of Tolerance" by Dr. Hubertus Hoffmann, Founder and President of the World Security Network, has been recently published by Herder Verlag in Germany. An Arabic version will follow soon.

It is a profound and also promising answer to the aggressiveness and violence "in the name of Islam," whether by IS/ISIS in Iraq and Syria or Boko Haram in Nigeria.

In the first half, the German geo-strategist Dr. Hubertus Hoffmann analyzes the question "Is Islam intolerant?" and paints a detailed picture of a truly peace-loving Islam with many new facets.

The author works out 10 Golden Nuggets of Tolerance in Islam, which offer the real picture of this wronged faith:
1. The predominance of God's mercy and compassion in the opening Surah and all other Surahs of the Qur'an.
2. The Muslim greeting formula is "Peace be with you!"
3. The Prophet's goal of harmony practiced in a new society of "hilm" (mercy) with respect of God, humans and animals.
4. Punishment on the Day of Judgment and not on earth.
5. The state-political example of the Prophet through reconciliation after the conquest of Mecca from 630 to 632 CE, when he did not establish a totalitarian theocracy, but left intact the old political structures and even pardoned all his enemies.
6. The numerous references in the Qur'an to the validity of the ancient holy texts of Jews and Christians and the other 14 prophets, which are observed also by Muslims.
7. At least 27 verses of the Qur'an which ask Muslims to practice tolerance, among them six core calls to tolerance.
8. The clear limitation of the use of violence in the Qur'an - as self-defense and only as long as there is direct danger, and never against uninvolved civilians.
9. No less than 14 contracts with Christians designed to have eternal validity, including the protection of freedom of religion, as best practices from the time of the Prophet and the first two Caliphs.
10. The tradition of tolerance, as documented in the close friendship of the first 100 Muslims with the Christians during the exile in Abyssinia from 615 to 630 CE and the Golden Age of Islam in the ninth century, as well as the obligation, according to Surah 17:34, to observe the UN Charter as a transformed law in effect in the Islamic countries.

In - so far little known - details, the well-informed author refers to the forgotten peacefulness of the Prophet at the conquest of Mecca in 630:

He did not kill his enemies, who had displaced him from his home town, had offered head money for his capture, had wounded him in battle and had waged a war against him for eight years.

He pardoned them all, practiced generous forgiveness and preached a new harmony. He left intact the political conditions and the officials remained in their positions. Hoffmann considers this not only as a solid proof of the Prophet's tolerance, but also as his guideline for the separation of religion and state - just the opposite of the assertions of the radicals of ISIS, al-Qaeda and Boko Haram.

Another example newly investigated by the author is the asylum of the first 100 Muslims in the Christian Kingdom of Abyssinia from 615 to 630 CE. The Prophet himself sent his first followers from Mecca to the Negus so that they were able to survive. The Christians disobeyed the request of the powerful rulers of Mecca to expel the Muslims from Abyssinia, started a long-term deep friendship with them and were even successful in convincing the enemies of Muslims in Mecca to withdraw the banishment.

The book argues that the radicals have misunderstood these ten messages of tolerance and the example of the Prophet, they have picked out only six hard sentences from the 6.236 Surahs of the Qur'an, thus ignoring 99.99 per cent and turning Islam upside down, from a conciliatory message into an aggressive message of fighting.

The author's analysis of Islam is optimistic and a counterpart to the propaganda of ISIS and Boko Haram: The true Qur'an and the message of the Prophet Muhammad are characterized by mercy, the virtues of calmness and harmony/mercy (hilm) and peacefulness (salam). The Islamic world must recall these roots, and the silent majority must stand up against the small minority of radicals.

The author refers to many forgotten details with regard to the Prophet's relation to women in the exciting chapter on Muhammad: 'I am the best to women'.

The focus is on the comprehensive portrait of Khadidjah bint Khuwaylid (around 555-620 CE), the Prophet's first wife, and her supportive role during the early days of the new religion. She was an emancipated and very successful business woman in Mecca, employed the younger Muhammad and proposed marriage to him through a mediator. There is only one world religion that was financed by a woman - Islam. Not a man but a woman was "the first Muslim." A woman was the most important adviser and supporter of the Prophet. She should be a model, so Hoffmann argues, for all present Muslim women, because God consciously chose an emancipated woman for his messenger. Khadidjah is the opposite of the image of women propagated today by ISIS and Boko Haram: they should neither go to school nor work, in the year 2014 - supposedly and absurdly "in the name of the Prophet."

The rules of the Qur'an grant women not less but much more rights. The Qur'an granted them six so far unknown rights, including the law of inheritance, the right to personal property, the necessity to agree to marriage and the prohibition to kill female descendants. In the tribal society of the seventh century, it was not possible to implement more rights of women. However, it is nowhere written in the Qur'an that women should not be granted more rights. Later equality is not excluded. The Qur'an does not impose a limit to progress, but indicates a clear direction towards emancipation. The Prophet promoted the emancipation of women and married an emancipated business woman, so Hoffmann writes.

The author describes a clever attempt at more love of humanity in the global village and demonstrates through many examples: More tolerance towards other religions, minorities and races is possible, and appeals to tolerance are contained like golden nuggets in all word religions including Islam.

However, so far the 99 per cent majority of peaceful people has remained silent and has left the power of interpretation to the few radicals. The world urgently needs a world ethos in practice, the Codes of Tolerance. Hoffmann's book is a plea for more humanity in our global village and an active peace policy of reconciliation.

So far, there have been many talks, but without noticeable actions. Only 0.01 per cent of the budgets of the states are spent on projects of reconciliation, but 99.99 per cent on internal security and defense. Hoffmann calls for a paradigm change and a re-orientation in foreign and domestic affairs. An active policy of tolerance should be developed that is financed through at least one per cent of all expenditure for foreign, development aid and defense policy. Only in this way can politics in trouble spots create more tolerance.

The work is a comprehensible textbook of tolerance in 463 pages, for active involvement of responsible world citizens of all religions, races and ethnic groups. In addition, the Codes are a successful contribution to intercultural and interreligious dialogue and mutual understanding in the global village.

His appeal: Don't leave the world to the preachers of hatred and to evil! Don't wait - just start! Locally, creatively, actively. Put a first small, good jigsaw piece into the mosaic of seven billions. Let's together create a new harmonious world of cooperation with more respect and humanity in our global village, especially for our children and their good future!

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This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 16-30 April 2015 on page no. 21

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