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Lesson - 44
"There is no compulsion in religion the right
way is indeed clearly distinct from error. So whoever disbelieves
in the devil and believes in Allah, he indeed lays hold on the firmest
handle which shall never break. And Allah is Hearing, Knowing. Allah
is the Friend of those who believe He brings them out of
darkness into light. And those who disbelieve, their friends are
the devils who take them out of light into darkness. They are the
companions of the Fire; therein they abide." Ch. 2:256, 257
Fighting with the sword lawful only in defensive
Those who have studied my earlier lessons on this magnificent
section of the Holy Quran may remember the discussion which is to
follow. Preceding this section, the Holy Quran prophesies the battles
which the Holy Prophet Muhammad (eace and blessings of Allah be
upon him), and the Muslims would have to fight in order to save
their faith, life and property. Also discussed was the striving
(jihad) with the Holy Quran according to the Divine command:
"And strive against them a mighty striving with it" (25:52).
This latter kind of jihad was the one which was to persist in all
ages. Its need is particularly acute in the present time when the
opposition is trying to destroy Islam not only militarily, but also
with objections, instigation, innuendo and propaganda. To answer an
objection with the sword is not the way of the righteous. In fact,
it was the way resorted to by the supporters of falsehood i.e., the
disbelievers of Arabia. When they could not rationally counter the
strength of Muslim arguments, the fire of wrath and resentment was
ignited in their hearts, and they decided to destroy the truth with
the sword. Fighting with the sword is lawful only in case of defensive
warfare. This is quite apparent from all those Quranic verses where
the ordinances for fighting (for which the Holy Quran has used the
word qital) are given. For example, the first ordinance was
"Permission (to fight) is given to those on whom war is
made, because they are oppressed" (22:39).
Islam which literally means 'peace' and 'security', allows
fighting only when war is forced upon the Muslims by an enemy guilty
of oppression. In another verse it is stated:
"And fight in the way of Allah against those who fight
against you but be not aggressive. Surely Allah loves not the aggressors"
The real intent and purpose of the permission to fight in Islam is
captured in the verse:
"And fight with them until there is no more persecution,
and all religions are for Allah" (8:39).
The charter of religious freedom that Islam proclaims is given
in the beginning of the verses under discussion today i.e.,
"There is no compulsion in religion."
Glory be to Allah! How exalted and superior is the teaching of the
Death is not the punishment of apostasy in Islam
It is essential at this point to remove the misunderstanding that
in Islam apostasy is to be punished with death. The verse quoted
above clearly shows that this is not the case. This is even admitted
by fair minded Orientalists. For example, Heizming, a Christian
author of the essay on apostasy in the 'Encyclopedia of Islam,'
starts his essay with the words:
"The Quran has only threatened the apostate with chastisement
in the Hereafter."
This statement is absolutely correct. If the apostate is to be put
to death, would the following verse be in the Holy Quran?
"And if thy Lord had pleased, all those who are in the
earth would have believed, all of them. Wilt thou then force men
till they are believers?"(10:99).
Would the Jews of Medina have schemed to deceive the Muslims in this
"And a party of the People of the Book say: Avow belief
in that which has been revealed to those who believe, in the first
part of the day, and disbelieve in the latter part of it, perhaps
they may turn back" (3:72).
If in fact, the punishment for apostasy was death, then the Holy Prophet
(peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), who was the ruler in Medina
would have meted out the death penalty to such apostates whether Jews,
or otherwise. Under these circumstances would the Quran contain the
"Those who believe then disbelieve, again believe and
again disbelieve, then increase in disbelief, Allah will never forgive
them nor guide them in the (right) way" (4:137).
There are several other Quranic verses on this subject, but time does
not permit a more detailed discussion of these verses, nor of some
of the misconceptions arising out of certain Hadith. For a more detailed
discussion of the subject, I would like to refer the interested reader
to the section on apostasy in The Religion of Islam by Maulana
Muhammad Ali. The gist and essence of that discussion is the blessed
verse, "There is no compulsion in religion," with which I started
my lesson today.
Holy Prophet's life a magnificent example
of religious tolerance
The Holy Quran gave this magnificent charter of religious freedom
fourteen hundred years ago when the world was enveloped in the darkness
of bigotry and religious intolerance.. In modern times the United
Nations has accepted this same principle of religious freedom and
all of the member nations, by becoming signatories to its charter,
have affirmed the truth of this principle of the Holy Quran. What
is the relationship of this spiritually luminescent verse:
"There is no compulsion in religion,"
with the preceding verses of the Holy Quran? The preceding verses
mention that the disbelievers have avowed to forcefully impose their
beliefs upon the Muslims by waging a war against them. The Holy Prophet
Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), and his companions
are enjoined to uphold, and establish the principle of religious freedom
in the world by resisting the onslaught against them through defensive
fighting. They are cautioned not to enforce their religion upon their
vanquished foes when Allah granted them victory which was to take
place in the near future. The most excellent display of this religious
tolerance which the Holy Prophet taught his followers was manifested
during the victory at Mecca. Even the worst enemies of Islam cannot
site a single example where the Holy Prophet Muhammad forced the disbelievers
of Mecca, or any other subjugated nation to accept Islam. "O Allah!
Exalt Muhammad , and have peace and blessings upon him, and the true
followers of Muhammad, with Thy Mercy, O Most Merciful of all."
Freedom of Will essential for spiritual development
If Allah, the Most High, wanted to enforce acceptance of faith,
He would not have given free will to man and would have bound him
into submission, just as He has constrained the rest of the universe
into submission. For example, the instincts of animals have been
programmed into their nature by the Divine Being and they are bound
to follow it. It is impossible for an animal to go against its natural
guidance or instinct. If Allah had treated man in a similar manner,
he would not have been able to rise above the animal stage. How
great is the beneficence of Allah, the Most High, towards man, that
He has opened the path of his spiritual development by granting
him the freedom of will. This, in fact, is a Divine privilege for,
"Allah does what He intends" (3:254). It is because of this freedom
of will that man is rewarded for his good deeds, which is mentioned
in almost every page of the Holy Quran. If man is forced to follow
or do something against his will, then such a compliance does not
qualify as a good deed. For example, if belief in One God which
is the basis of faith, and truthfulness which is the foundation
of all good deeds, is enforced, then such compliance becomes devoid
of all goodness. An act of goodness occurs only when there is an
opportunity to make an associate with God, but one rejects it, or
there is an opportunity to lie, but one chooses to tell the truth.
Divine Guidance necessary to save mankind
The words that follow this magna carte of a religious freedom makes
one truly appreciative of the greatness of the Holy Quran. It is
stated, "the right way is indeed clearly distinct from error." The
secret of man's eminence and his spiritual and moral development
which lie in the freedom of will, are captured in these words. Allah
has always clearly defined the right from the wrong way in order
to save man from drifting, and losing his way. He has done this
through the ages by sending His prophets and Books, but with the
passage of time the Books were either lost or adulterated, and the
example of the messenger forgotten or misrepresented. This system
came to an end with the revelation of the Holy Quran to Prophet
Muhammad because the guidance in the Holy Quran is in its most excellent
form, and Allah guarantees to safeguard it against any form of corruption
or alteration. Even the worst enemies of Islam acknowledge the purity
of the text of the Holy Quran. Though the Holy Quran reached the
four corners of the world about a millenium and a half ago, and
has circulated since in many far flung and isolated communities,
there is not a verse of the Holy Quran that has been altered anywhere.
Similarly the sunnat (actions) of the Holy Prophet (peace
and blessings of Allah be upon him) has been preserved, and the
smallest detail of his life is recorded in numerous books of Hadith
(sayings ). If any prophet deserves the title of being a prophet
whose life has been recorded in a historical sense, the Holy Prophet
Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) is certainly
the one. If any doubt arises about the authenticity of some saying
or action of the Holy Prophet, the Holy Quran provides us with a
simple test. The Holy Quran states:
"Whoever obeys the Messenger, he indeed obeys Allah" (4:80).
This provides us with the test to authenticate any Hadith or Sunnah.
The Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) followed
the command of Allah, or in other words the Holy Quran to such a complete
degree that if any doubt arises about a Hadith or a tradition, it
can be judged from the Holy Quran. If it is in accordance with the
Holy Quran, it is correct. If it goes against the Holy Quran, it is
incorrect, for no saying or deed of the Holy Prophet was in contradiction
of the Holy Quran.
Holy Quran a guidance with clear proofs
Not only is the Holy Quran a complete guide, but it also supports
its guidance with rational arguments as stated in this verse:
"The month of Ramadan is that in which the Quran was revealed,
a guidance to men and clear proofs of the guidance, and the Criterion
(separating truth from falsehood)" (2:185).
If it invites towards the right path, it supports and proves its point
with arguments. For example, the teaching of monotheism is supported
by different arguments. Sometimes attention is drawn towards the testimony
of all creation and sometimes towards that of man's own nature. At
times, appeal is made to the intelligence of man, or he is reminded
of the testimony provided by the prophets and the revealed scriptures.
Another rational argument in support of monotheism is given in this
"Nor is there with Him any (other) god in that
case would each god have taken away what he created, and some of
them would have over-powered others. Glory be to Allah above what
they describe" (23:91).
Even if men are real brothers, they tend to divide their property
and separate in order to avoid future conflict. No country functions
with two kings, two presidents, or two prime ministers. How can God
be expected to share His Power, and be bound by limitations of shared
arrangements? The concept of Trinity three gods in one
is indeed very strange. We observe that two conjoined twins are in
such great difficulty! If in reality there were three gods what would
their condition be?