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THE VALUE OF DIFFERENCES

Uniformity is not the culture of our world. This lack of uniformity is observable all over the world. The Qur’an affirms this fact. It says that the stones of the mountains are different in color (35:27), in plants there are diverse varieties (20:53), and the same picture is observable in the animal world. Regarding man, the Qur’an, in the chapter Al-Rum (The Romans) has this to say: Another of His signs is that He created the heavens and earth, and the diversity of your languages and colors. There truly are signs in this for those who know. (30:22)

It is a fact that our life is full of differences. In fact, every man is Mr. Different and every woman is Ms. Different. Diversity is an integral part of nature and is immutable. What to do in such a situation? The only option, in this case, is to adopt the principle of tolerance. Maturity is the ability to accept things that we cannot change. And every man and woman should prove to be a mature person in this regard.

In such a situation, everyone should learn the art of difference management, rather than try to eliminate the differences, for this can lead to nothing but failure. Difference management is not a difficult task. In terms of the capacity of the human mind, it is certainly an easy task. Regarding the capacity of the mind, it has rightly been said: “I am large enough to contain all these contradictions.”

The difference is not evil: it has a great positive value. The difference is a challenge. Difference awakens the mind. Difference invites discussion and dialogue. And, dialogue and discussion lead to intellectual development. Difference saves us from being a victim of intellectual stagnation. There is a saying: “If all think alike, no one thinks very much.” This saying aptly explains the value of difference. Uniformity is not part of the scheme of nature. The scheme of nature is based on diversity rather than uniformity.

Tolerance is not a passive attitude. Tolerance is an amalgam of all kinds of noble values, such as exercising patience, giving respect to others, forbearance, deep wisdom, and the willingness to co-exist with others. These qualities are what make up a good person. One who is lacking in the spirit of tolerance is bereft of all kinds of human values. The difference is not evil: it has a great positive value. The difference is a challenge. Difference awakens the mind.

Distraction from worthwhile objectives is a fatal lapse in any man or woman, but the spirit of tolerance saves one from such deviation. One who is tolerant will certainly be spared unpleasant situations, while one who is intolerant will find himself involved in all manner of things that are not to his liking. Individuals who are intolerant, both men and women, are bound to ruin their lives—partially if not totally. Tolerance means giving a well-considered response in any given situation. It is the sign of a sound mind. A person of sound mind is one who refrains himself from an instant reaction, who tries to examine the situation, who judges the pros and cons of his actions, and only then does he give his response. This is the spirit of tolerance, and tolerance is the sign of a wise person. 

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