There is a joke from the comedian Emo Phillips, that goes like this…
I was walking across a bridge one day, and I saw a man standing on the edge, about to jump. I ran over and said: “Stop. Don’t do it.”
“Why shouldn’t I?” he asked.
“Well, there’s so much to live for!”
“Are you religious?”
He said: “Yes.”
I said: “Me too. Are you Christian or Buddhist?”
“Me too. Are you Catholic or Protestant?”
“Me too. Are you Episcopalian or Baptist?”
“Baptist.””Wow. Me too. Are you Baptist Church of God or Baptist Church of the Lord?”
“Baptist Church of God.”
“Me too. Are you original Baptist Church of God, or are you Reformed Baptist Church of God?”
“Reformed Baptist Church of God.”
“Me too. Are you Reformed Baptist Church of God, Reformation of 1879, or Reformed Baptist Church of God, Reformation of 1915?”
He said: “Reformed Baptist Church of God, Reformation of 1915.”
I said: “Die, heretic scum,” and pushed him off.
There is a term coined by the psychologist Sigmund Freud in 1917 called the narcissism of small differences which occurs with communities that have adjoining territories and close relationships are especially likely to engage in feuds and mutual ridicule because of hypersensitivity to details of differentiation. For example, take two people who are vastly different than one another and they will be neutral to the others views and opinions. Now compare that to two people who are 99% similar in all their ideology, but over that differing 1% they will have the greatest disdain for that other person.
We see this behavior particularly frequently in religious audiences, where two groups will see eye to eye on so many things, but may have a slight difference of understanding on some topic and because of that will label the other side a hypocrite idol worshiper, or disbeliever.
[49:10] The believers are members of one family; you shall keep the peace within your family and reverence GOD, that you may attain mercy.
إِنَّمَا الْمُؤْمِنُونَ إِخْوَةٌ فَأَصْلِحُوا بَيْنَ أَخَوَيْكُمْ وَاتَّقُوا اللَّهَ لَعَلَّكُمْ تُرْحَمُونَ
The typical excuse individuals make for such behavior is that they are just being “safe”. The irony is that God tells us that if we do this to other believers then in no uncertain terms we will be a transgressor according to God.
[6:52] And do not dismiss those who implore their Lord day and night, devoting themselves to Him alone. You are not responsible for their reckoning, nor are they responsible for your reckoning. If you dismiss them, you will be a transgressor.
وَلَا تَطْرُدِ الَّذِينَ يَدْعُونَ رَبَّهُمْ بِالْغَدَاةِ وَالْعَشِيِّ يُرِيدُونَ وَجْهَهُ مَا عَلَيْكَ مِنْ حِسَابِهِمْ مِنْ شَيْءٍ وَمَا مِنْ حِسَابِكَ عَلَيْهِمْ مِنْ شَيْءٍ فَتَطْرُدَهُمْ فَتَكُونَ مِنَ الظَّالِمِينَ
God informs us that if we break into sects that this is a form of idol worship, the single sin that God says that if we maintain until death there is no forgiveness for.
[30:31] You shall submit to Him, reverence Him, observe the Contact Prayers (Salat), and—whatever you do—do not ever fall into idol worship. [30:32] like those who divide their religion into sects; each party rejoicing with what they have.
So we can’t be a transgressor or commit idol worship in order to “avoid” being a transgressor or idol worshiper. God sets the limits and boundaries to who not to dismiss and at the same time who we are not allowed to befriend. It is the devil’s system to push people to the extremes to go above these pre-defined boundaries.
The other extreme that we can fall short to is being overly accepting and kind to people who God specifically tells us not to befriend.
[48:29] Muhammad—the messenger of GOD—and those with him are harsh and stern against the disbelievers, but kind and compassionate amongst themselves. You see them bowing and prostrating, as they seek GOD’s blessings and approval. Their marks are on their faces, because of prostrating. This is the same example as in the Torah. Their example in the Gospel is like plants that grow taller and stronger, and please the farmers. He thus enrages the disbelievers. GOD promises those among them who believe and lead a righteous life forgiveness and a great recompense.
مُحَمَّدٌ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ وَالَّذِينَ مَعَهُ أَشِدَّاءُ عَلَى الْكُفَّارِ رُحَمَاءُ بَيْنَهُمْ تَرَاهُمْ رُكَّعًا سُجَّدًا يَبْتَغُونَ فَضْلًا مِنَ اللَّهِ وَرِضْوَانًا سِيمَاهُمْ فِي وُجُوهِهِمْ مِنْ أَثَرِ السُّجُودِ ذَٰلِكَ مَثَلُهُمْ فِي التَّوْرَاةِ وَمَثَلُهُمْ فِي الْإِنْجِيلِ كَزَرْعٍ أَخْرَجَ شَطْأَهُ فَآزَرَهُ فَاسْتَغْلَظَ فَاسْتَوَىٰ عَلَىٰ سُوقِهِ يُعْجِبُ الزُّرَّاعَ لِيَغِيظَ بِهِمُ الْكُفَّارَ وَعَدَ اللَّهُ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَعَمِلُوا الصَّالِحَاتِ مِنْهُمْ مَغْفِرَةً وَأَجْرًا عَظِيمًا
Therefore we have to be absolutely sure when we place someone into the camp of someone we are to be harsh and stern with.
[4:94] O you who believe, if you strike in the cause of GOD, you shall be absolutely sure. Do not say to one who offers you peace, “You are not a believer,” seeking the spoils of this world. For GOD possesses infinite spoils. Remember that you used to be like them, and GOD blessed you. Therefore, you shall be absolutely sure (before you strike). GOD is fully Cognizant of everything you do.
يَاأَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا إِذَا ضَرَبْتُمْ فِي سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ فَتَبَيَّنُوا وَلَا تَقُولُوا لِمَنْ أَلْقَىٰ إِلَيْكُمُ السَّلَامَ لَسْتَ مُؤْمِنًا تَبْتَغُونَ عَرَضَ الْحَيَاةِ الدُّنْيَا فَعِنْدَ اللَّهِ مَغَانِمُ كَثِيرَةٌ كَذَٰلِكَ كُنْتُمْ مِنْ قَبْلُ فَمَنَّ اللَّهُ عَلَيْكُمْ فَتَبَيَّنُوا إِنَّ اللَّهَ كَانَ بِمَا تَعْمَلُونَ خَبِيرًا
The devil’s allies wants us to go to one extreme or the other.
[68:7] Your Lord is fully aware of those who strayed off His path, and He is fully aware of those who are guided. [68:8] Do not obey the rejectors. [68:9] They wish that you compromise, so they too can compromise.
We should never compromise when it comes to our religion.
What is the criteria?
[3:118] O you who believe, do not befriend outsiders who never cease to wish you harm; they even wish to see you suffer. Hatred flows out of their mouths and what they hide in their chests is far worse. We thus clarify the revelations for you, if you understand. [3:119] Here you are loving them, while they do not love you, and you believe in all the scripture. When they meet you they say, “We believe,” but as soon as they leave they bite their fingers out of rage towards you. Say, “Die in your rage.” GOD is fully aware of the innermost thoughts. [3:120] When anything good comes your way they hurt, and when something bad happens to you they rejoice. If you steadfastly persevere, and maintain righteousness, their schemes will never hurt you. GOD is fully aware of everything they do.
[60:8] GOD does not enjoin you from befriending those who do not fight you because of religion, and do not evict you from your homes. You may befriend them and be equitable towards them. GOD loves the equitable.
لَا يَنْهَاكُمُ اللَّهُ عَنِ الَّذِينَ لَمْ يُقَاتِلُوكُمْ فِي الدِّينِ وَلَمْ يُخْرِجُوكُمْ مِنْ دِيَارِكُمْ أَنْ تَبَرُّوهُمْ وَتُقْسِطُوا إِلَيْهِمْ إِنَّ اللَّهَ يُحِبُّ الْمُقْسِطِينَ
[60:9] GOD enjoins you only from befriending those who fight you because of religion, evict you from your homes, and band together with others to banish you. You shall not befriend them. Those who befriend them are the transgressors.
إِنَّمَا يَنْهَاكُمُ اللَّهُ عَنِ الَّذِينَ قَاتَلُوكُمْ فِي الدِّينِ وَأَخْرَجُوكُمْ مِنْ دِيَارِكُمْ وَظَاهَرُوا عَلَىٰ إِخْرَاجِكُمْ أَنْ تَوَلَّوْهُمْ وَمَنْ يَتَوَلَّهُمْ فَأُولَٰئِكَ هُمُ الظَّالِمُونَ
[5:57] O you who believe, do not befriend those among the recipients of previous scripture who mock and ridicule your religion, nor shall you befriend the disbelievers. You shall reverence GOD, if you are really believers.
يَاأَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا لَا تَتَّخِذُوا الَّذِينَ اتَّخَذُوا دِينَكُمْ هُزُوًا وَلَعِبًا مِنَ الَّذِينَ أُوتُوا الْكِتَابَ مِنْ قَبْلِكُمْ وَالْكُفَّارَ أَوْلِيَاءَ وَاتَّقُوا اللَّهَ إِنْ كُنْتُمْ مُؤْمِنِينَ
One verse that people use to try to justify the use of force to prohibit sinful behavior is the following.
[8:25] Beware of a retribution that may not be limited to the evildoers among you. You should know that GOD’s retribution is severe.
(٢٥) وَاتَّقُوا فِتْنَةً لَا تُصِيبَنَّ الَّذِينَ ظَلَمُوا مِنْكُمْ خَاصَّةً وَاعْلَمُوا أَنَّ اللَّهَ شَدِيدُ الْعِقَابِ
But the Quran prohibits ever being an aggressor (2:190-193) or compulsion to force people to be righteous (2:256), but that the same time we should never condone sinful behavior, this includes never using force or aggression to push people to be righteous.
[4:107] Do not argue on behalf of those who have wronged their own souls; GOD does not love any betrayer, guilty. [4:108] They hide from the people, and do not care to hide from GOD, though He is with them as they harbor ideas He dislikes. GOD is fully aware of everything they do. [4:109] Here you are arguing on their behalf in this world; who is going to argue with GOD on their behalf on the Day of Resurrection? Who is going to be their advocate? [4:110] Anyone who commits evil, or wrongs his soul, then implores GOD for forgiveness, will find GOD Forgiving, Most Merciful. [4:111] Anyone who earns a sin, earns it to the detriment of his own soul. GOD is Omniscient, Most Wise.
How to Deal?
Consider how Abraham talked to his father. He was very matter of fact and compassionate, despite his father telling him that he would stone him if he didn’t stop talking to him about this stuff.
[19:41] Mention in the scripture Abraham; he was a saint (صِدِّيقًا), a prophet. [19:42] He said to his father, “O my father, why do you worship what can neither hear, nor see, nor help you in any way? [19:43] “O my father, I have received certain knowledge that you did not receive. Follow me, and I will guide you in a straight path. [19:44] “O my father, do not worship the devil. The devil has rebelled against the Most Gracious. [19:45] “O my father, I fear lest you incur retribution from the Most Gracious, then become an ally of the devil.” [19:46] He said, “Have you forsaken my gods, O Abraham? Unless you stop, I will stone you. Leave me alone.” [19:47] He said, “Peace be upon you. I will implore my Lord to forgive you; He has been Most Kind to me. [19:48] “I will abandon you and the gods you worship besides GOD. I will worship only my Lord. By imploring my Lord alone, I cannot go wrong.”
[31:15] If they try to force you to set up any idols beside Me, do not obey them. But continue to treat them amicably in this world. You shall follow only the path of those who have submitted to Me. Ultimately, you all return to Me, then I will inform you of everything you have done.
وَإِنْ جَاهَدَاكَ عَلَىٰ أَنْ تُشْرِكَ بِي مَا لَيْسَ لَكَ بِهِ عِلْمٌ فَلَا تُطِعْهُمَا وَصَاحِبْهُمَا فِي الدُّنْيَا مَعْرُوفًا وَاتَّبِعْ سَبِيلَ مَنْ أَنَابَ إِلَيَّ ثُمَّ إِلَيَّ مَرْجِعُكُمْ فَأُنَبِّئُكُمْ بِمَا كُنْتُمْ تَعْمَلُونَ
The Quranic system towards those who do us wrong is tit for tat with a leaning towards forgiveness.
[42:40] Although the just requital for an injustice is an equivalent retribution, those who pardon and maintain righteousness are rewarded by GOD. He does not love the unjust.
(٤٠) وَجَزَاءُ سَيِّئَةٍ سَيِّئَةٌ مِثْلُهَا فَمَنْ عَفَا وَأَصْلَحَ فَأَجْرُهُ عَلَى اللَّهِ إِنَّهُ لَا يُحِبُّ الظَّالِمِينَ
[15:85] We did not create the heavens and the earth, and everything between them, except for a specific purpose. The end of the world will come, so treat them with benign neglect.
(٨٥) وَمَا خَلَقْنَا السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضَ وَمَا بَيْنَهُمَا إِلَّا بِالْحَقِّ وَإِنَّ السَّاعَةَ لَآتِيَةٌ فَاصْفَحِ الصَّفْحَ الْجَمِيلَ
[25:63] The worshipers of the Most Gracious are those who tread the earth gently, and when the ignorant speak to them, they only utter peace.
(٦٣) وَعِبَادُ الرَّحْمَٰنِ الَّذِينَ يَمْشُونَ عَلَى الْأَرْضِ هَوْنًا وَإِذَا خَاطَبَهُمُ الْجَاهِلُونَ قَالُوا سَلَامًا
[7:198] When you invite them to the guidance, they do not hear. And you see them looking at you, but they do not see. [7:199] You shall resort to pardon, advocate tolerance, and disregard the ignorant. [7:200] When the devil whispers to you any whisper, seek refuge in GOD; He is Hearer, Omniscient. [7:201] Those who are righteous, whenever the devil approaches them with an idea, they remember, whereupon they become seers. [7:202] Their brethren ceaselessly entice them to go astray.
[90:11] He should choose the difficult path. [90:12] Which one is the difficult path? [90:13] The freeing of slaves. [90:14] Feeding, during the time of hardship. [90:15] Orphans who are related. [90:16] Or the poor who is in need. [90:17] And being one of those who believe, and exhorting one another to be steadfast, and exhorting one another to be kind. [90:18] These have deserved happiness.
God is the One who sets the limits, the devil is the one who wants us to transgress these limits, and it is our job to not fall into the devil’s trap and try our best to uphold God’s laws.
[55:8] You shall not transgress the law. [55:9] You shall establish justice; do not violate the law.