Building religious tolerance through interfaith dialogue
“MAY Almighty Allah reward you abundantly for the great work you are doing using your talents to express the peace that Islam stands for.” With this prayer by the Executive Secretary, Muslim Ummah of South West Nigeria (MUSWEN), Prof. Dawud O.S. Noibi, the Islamic Art exhibition by Ridwan ADK-Osinowo indeed, lived up to expectation. Prof. Noibi spoke last Sunday at the closing ceremony of the one-week exhibition held at the National Museum, Onikan Lagos.
Tagged Seeds of Peace: the Sower and the Envoy, the organizers – Halal Art Gallerieo, IBEJI Foundation and Forum for Islamic Education and Welfare – had planned to draw curtains on the show with an interfaith dialogue that would further interrogate religious tolerance as a fundamental value in the search for peaceful co-existence in a multi-religious setting.
The interfaith session attracted distinguished personalities including MD/CEO, Centrespread Advertising, Alhaji Maroofudeen Kola Ayanwale; National Head of Mission Al Fatihul Quareeb Islamic Society of Nigeria, Sheikh Sulaiman Abdurrahman Adangba; Senator Ganiyu Olanrewaju Solomon; CEO, IBEJI Foundation, Alhaji Rafiu Ebiti; the foundation’s Executive Director, Alhaji Khairat Sodique, representatives of Muslim organizations, many artists, art lovers among others. Featuring 40 works carrying Islamic impressions and messages, the artist, through the show, desired to use art to spread virtues of tolerance and co-existence among the people.
Principally, Osinowo is inspired by his Islamic faith, brings into the creative art space the richness of Qur’anic divinity, using the resilient beauty of calligraphy designs with fresh techniques and styles.
The guest speaker, Sheikh Sulaiman Abdurrahman Adangba defined tolerance as “an act that must be cultivated, it has a relative instinct known as understanding. It emanates from the give and take culture and submission to the will of the Almighty creator.
It is relevant in community building which if introduced, practiced and implanted in self, it brings harmonious living and peaceful cohabitation.” He emphasized the cultivation of virtues such as patience, endurance and perseverance in order to achieve tolerance in addition to its multiplier effects – progress and prosperity.
The Muslim cleric cautioned that people should beware of lust and egoism, saying “If a human being is not deep in thinking, he/she will give a boundary to tolerance, whereas, tolerance is continuous the more of it you can give, the more people entrust you with their lives.” He spoke on the ‘law of opposites’ and how its understanding can enhance man’s appreciation of other creatures.
He buttressed his point with verses from Quran 11 v 118: ‘’If Thy Lord had so willed, He could have made mankind one people, but they will not cease to dispute, except those of whom Thy Lord has bestowed His mercy, and for this did He create them, and the word of Thy Lord shall be fulfilled, I (Allah) will fill hell with jinn and men altogether.’’
He explained further, “At this point and the understanding of why Allah created men in colour, race and ethic disparity is for appreciation of what you are given to use as a tool of liberation of humanity in any community you find yourself.”
He identified what he tagged ‘spiritual and material tools of tolerance’ saying, “It simply implies that actors of both must in all ramifications equip themselves of the tools to attain success.
The spirit tolerance has to be understudied by the leaders of religions that are the actors, therefore, their preferred tools are divine books, versatility, psychology, philosophy and the P.E.P (Patience-Endurance-Perseverance).
All of the aforementioned will modify and prune their ideologies towards human emancipation. “Leaders also must have the spirit of less materialism (detachment) if we the leaders amass too much wealth without been conscious of the thinking of our followers, what do we expect…. corruption, lust and wanton destruction of the house of God and its occupants.
Leaders must create an enabling environment of the coming together of different faiths to rub minds and forge a path of peace and stop condemnation of others faith because of propagating their house of God while thinking they are propagating their faith…” Sheikh Adangba concluded.
In his goodwill message, Prof. Noibi acknowledged the importance of using artistic impressions to spread the message of peace as ordained by Islam. “The artworks on display remind me of the divine message in Quran 16 V 125 which goes thus: ‘Invite (mankind, O Muhammad) to the Way of your Lord (i.e. Islam) with wisdom and good admonition…’
This is because of the fact that many people have their interests and desires that are nurtured by the kind of upbringing that they went through. “So, it is part of wisdom to look at what their interest is and use it as a window to open them into Islam. This exhibition is one of the ways to do it.
We have heard about the importance of Arts, many of us know that before now. We are told that Allah, the Creator is Jameel (beautiful) and He loves beauty. It is natural that when you see something beautiful you are attracted, and when you come closer, it is a window into something greater. “When I went round the exhibition hall, I saw many things that reminded me of the manner in which the Holy Prophet Muhammad (SAW) preached Islam in the practical way. Some of the artworks showed clearly that Muslims are not necessarily aggressive to other people.
We are taught to cooperate with other people. Even though Allah (SWT) makes it clear in the Quran that prophet Muhammad (SAW) was sent to the whole world, all mankind, especially because all the prophets before him had predicted that he was going to come as Allah guided them to say and he was so commanded to say, ‘O you mankind, I am the messenger of Allah sent to all of you…’ But in spite of that, we all know that when he arrived in Medinah, he gave the Jews the right to continue to follow their religion, not only in matters of worship, but also in matters of following the law. “
And when the Christians of Najiran (in central Arabia) visited him and they spent the period of three days, one of the days happened to be a Sunday, he (SAW) asked his companions (Sahaaba) to leave the mosque and give the Christians the opportunity to worship in his (prophet) own mosque. Those who talk about Islam from another angle hardly know about this incident or want to talk about this.
So, Islam is not a religion of aggression. It is a religion of peace and Allah clearly states in many parts of the Quran: “Allah does not like those who are aggressive…”
Through the kind of messages we pick up today from these artworks, we can send an assurance to the rest of the world that we are a peaceful people.
If there are people who do evil in the name of Islam, people should try to seek the source of that elsewhere, not in Islam. “We all know that the early followers of the Prophet (SAW) were under acute persecution in Makkah, but where did Prophet ask them to go for refuge? Abbysinia where a Christian was the King under whom no one would be dealt with unjustly! That shows friendship and friendliness towards Muslims from the Christians.
But that does not prevent us from teaching and preaching the fact that the message brought by Muhammad (SAW) is in agreement with what the prophets before him had said including Jesus, Moses and others.” The MUSWEN scribe there prayed for the artist and urged Muslims to support his endeavour.