Friday, June 29, 2007

No compulsion in Islam

No compulsion in religion, Qur’aan 2:256
Mike Ghouse, June 29, 2007
Letter format

Dear Iftekhar, You have said it very well “Muslims have a nearly clean slate to resolve what "no compulsion" means in the 21st century."

I welcome all the repudiations and support equally, the more arguments we see, the more we understand it. It will certainly give the opportunity to clear misunderstandings about Islam. We should let it be debated openly and freely, after all it is the word of God, as we believe, and would withstand all the challenges. The majority of people really do not want to know the details of their own faith, they simply believe in it and move on with life and this works for them just fine. However a few of us (those on the discussion groups particularly) find satisfaction after the doubts are removed and questions are answered.

Thanks God we live in open societies today, these discussions were the monopolies of a few Scholars at one time, indeed it was the case in all religions. Since we are individually responsible for our actions here on the Earth, as well as here after, we have to understand the truth ourselves so we can take appropriate actions. No wonder, God continuously helps us learn the truth - when Prophet said in his last sermon something to this effect "I am leaving this book (Qur’aan) to you for you to understand it " and that there is no one assigned to interpret it for you, you have to employ your intellect for creating a better society. How nice of God to have communicated that liberating message through the prophet (pbuh). Qur’aan 13:55 “Then which of the favors of your Lord will ye deny?”

There are many verses that may sound terrible on the face of it, but when you look at the overall theme of Justice in Qur'aan where you have to testify the truth even if it goes against you and your kith and kin. You have to take the responsibility for your action and face the consequences squarely. Such is the emphasis in Qur'aan for truth and justice for the Aa'lameen (Universe).

Justice, truth, equilibrium and balance of individual and society are the core teachings of any religion, including Islam, and hence, "no compulsion in religion" is God's natural guidance based on the idea that you cannot force anyone to believe against his/her will.

Islam is an expression of freedom, justice and the truth, however, much of the Muslim society is not, as is the case with all religions when excesses and forcible conversions have taken place by the transgressors. The issue is not with Islam, but how the societies that followed it have interpreted it for their own needs, we have to understand it ourselves as Prophet (pbuh) has conveyed to us, finding the truth is our own responsibility, as Munkir –Nakeer, our record keepers will open the books of our individual actions.

Insha Allah one of these days we Muslims will wake up and work for creating a better world of co-existence for the people and nature around us. Each one of us has to do our share on an individual as well as on collective basis.

Jazak Allah Khair

Mike Ghouse
In a message dated 6/28/2007 10:21:04 A.M. Central Standard Time, writes:

This research by non-Muslims is worth reading on, "There shall be no compulsion in religion."

This is worth reading what "There is no compulsion in religion" mean to different people. Send by non-Muslim who has studied the Qur’aan - I must admit I never knew there could be this many meaning.

What do Muslims believe regarding freedom of religious choice? A Qur’aanic verse (2:256) answers: "There is no compulsion in religion"(in Arabic: la ikrah fi'd-din). That sounds clear-cut and the Islamic Center of Southern California insists it is, arguing that it shows how Islam anticipated the principles in the U.S. Constitution. The center sees the First Amendment ("Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof") as based on concepts in the Qur’aan's no-compulsion verse. In a similar spirit, a former chief justice of Pakistan, S.A. Rahman, argues that the Qur’aanic phrase contains "a charter of freedom of conscience unparalleled in the religious annals of mankind." To a Western sensibility, this interpretation makes intuitive sense. Thus does Alan Reynolds, an economist at the CATO Institute, write in the Washington Times that the verse signifies the Qur’aan "counsels religious tolerance."

Were it only so simple.

In fact, this deceptively simple phrase historically has had a myriad of meanings. Here are some of them, mostly pre-modern, deriving from two outstanding recent books, Patricia Crone's God's Rule: Government and Islam (Columbia University Press) and Yohanan Friedman's Tolerance and Coercion in Islam (Cambridge University Press), augmented by my own research. Proceeding from least liberal to most liberal, the no-compulsion phrase is considered variously to have been:

Abrogated: The passage was overridden by subsequent Qur’aanic verses (such as 9:73: "O Prophet! Struggle against the unbelievers and hypocrites and be harsh with them").

Purely symbolic: The phrase is a description, not an imperative. Islam's truth is so obvious that to coerce someone to become a Muslim does not amount to "compulsion"; or else being made to embrace Islam after defeat in war is not viewed as "compulsion."

Spiritual, not practical: Governments may indeed compel external obedience, though they of course cannot compel how Muslims think.

Limited in time and place: It applied uniquely to Jews in Medina in the seventh century.

Limited to non-Muslims who live under and accept Muslim rule: Some jurists say it applies only to "Peoples of the Book" (Christians, Jews and Zoroastrians); others say it applies to all infidels.

Exclude some non-Muslims: Apostates, women, children, prisoners of war, and others can indeed be compelled. (This is the standard interpretation that has applied in most times and places).

Limited to all non-Muslims: Muslims must abide by the tenets of Islam and may not apostatize.

Limited to Muslims: Muslims may shift from one interpretation of their faith to another (such as from Sunni to Shia), but may not leave Islam.

Applied to all persons: Reaching the true faith must be achieved through trial and testing, and compulsion undercuts this process.
Massive disagreement over a short phrase is typical, for believers argue over the contents of all sacred books, not just the Qur’aan. The debate over the no-compulsion verse has several important implications.

First, it shows that Islam - like all religions - is whatever believers make of it. The choices for Muslims range from Taliban-style repression to Balkan-style liberality.

There are few limits; and there is no "right" or "wrong" interpretation.
Muslims have a nearly clean slate to resolve what "no compulsion" means in the 21st century. (Shafi we have to re-define this in the light of its true meaning)

Conversely, non-specialists should be very cautious about asserting the meaning of the Qur’aan, which is fluid and subjective. When Alan Reynolds wrote that the no-compulsion verse means the Qur’aan "counsels religious tolerance," he intended well but in fact misled his readers.

Further, many other areas of Islam have parallels to this debate. Muslims can decide afresh what jihad signifies, what rights women have, what role government should play, what forms of interest on money should be banned, plus much else. How they resolve these great issues affects the whole world

Iftekhar Hai
UMA Interfaith Alliance

From: Rashid Samnakay > Date: Thu Jun 28, 2007 10:44 pm Subject: Re: MuslimAgenda: Re: No Compulsion in Religion - Challenged in Interpretation

Dear all- Salaams
The way I understand the meaning of this verse (not being an Arab) is the emphases on ikrah and adDeen. ‘Compulsion’ gives the connotation of use of force, physical or mental pressure. Neither of these is to be used by an individual or the State.

This makes sense when at various places the invitation in Qur’aan is to use ‘intellect’, ‘brain’, ‘contemplation’ etc and further that “argue with them in ways that are beautiful and gracious (Ahsan)”-16-125 etc, The Deen, God’s practice, that is fixed and unchanging laws of nature 33-62 etc. when taken in conjunction with many other statements defining a ‘believer’ make it amply clear that the process is ARGUMENTATIVE and not COERCIVE or even dogmatic that is, based on ‘religion’.

A believer, man or woman has only to have faith in this and live a life based on righteous ACTIONS (Amilus-saalihaat) beneficial to humanity 4-124 etc.

Not even Qur’aan is to be accepted like a deaf and dumb 25-73. So where is the compulsion?--let alone the requirement to stone any body!!

Hence Islam is only an Arabic word to describe the above. To me Arabic is not holy!

Mike: Rashid, well said, and thanks for referencing Qur'aan on the subject. Insha Allah, I will include the comments on the website/ Blog. Only God is divine in Islam, all else is venerable and respectable, but none is worshippable.
From: Shamim SiddiqiDate: Thu Jun 28, 2007 9:16 pm Subject: Re: MuslimAgenda: Re: No Compulsion in Religion - Challenged in Interpretation...

In a message dated 6/28/2007 8:34:33 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time, writes: “for creating a better world of co-existence for the people and nature around us. Each one of us has to do our share on an individual as well as on collective basis.” ASA The concept of "coexistence" is very confusing. It means both or all are either right or wrong but can co-exist together. Can Haq and Batil coexist? or both are correct then who will establish Haq over Batil and how? Please reconsider the theme and give it some other name. Shamim
Mike: Shamim, I welcome your comments as it lends to deeper exploration and subsequent understanding. The concept of co-existence expresses that God has created the entire universe in the form of matter and life. The matter is in perfect harmony, the stars, the planets and the whole nature is running on its trajectory and co-existing without colliding. Qur’aan: 55: 3-9 “He has created man”, “He has taught him speech (and Intelligence) “, “The sun and the moon follow courses (exactly) computed”, “And the herbs and the trees-both (alike) bow in adoration” , “And the Firmament has He raised high and He has set up the balance (of Justice)” , In order that ye may not transgress (due) balance” and “So establish weight with justice and fall not short in the balance”

However the human life is not put on a trajectory, God added a brain and the heart for man to make his own trajectory and achieve that balance. Manuals are given through different religions and Allah has created it all deliberately for us to follow or simply make our own way to create that harmony, where all life co-exists without colliding and forcing upon each others as the matter is set up.

You and I have the responsibility to work towards that, which is the truth that is Haq, that it is one source. God has created all the pieces. We need to put them together, without eliminating any and that is co-existence.


Thanks for forwarding this.

I have read Friedman's book and in many respect, he is right because Muslims themselves have contributed to the confusion.

However, what really matter is what Br. Iftekhar Hai thinks about this issue and the meaning of the particular verse. If we want to deal with the confusion, we have to begin with ourselves.

Fi amanillah.
Dr. Mohammad Omar FarooqUpper Iowa University

Mike: Dr. Farooq, thanks for your comments, we are all going to work on this.

1 comment:

  1. The quote from Alan Reynolds was an article written on September 11, 2001, partly to counsel more tolerance among everyone.

    The Quran is surely harsh on polytheists (infidels) and atheists (nonbelievers), but not so with People of the Book (Jews and Christians) unless they are hypocrites (worshiping saints rather a single God).

    Needless to say, the Inquisition and Crusades were not very tolerant either, nor were the Pilgrims in Colonial America.

    Humility and tolerance are essential to theological disputes.



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quraan burning

Planned Muslim Response to Qur'an Burning by Pastor Jones on September 11 in Mulberry, Florida

August 19, 2013| Dallas, Texas

Mike Ghouse
Text/Talk: (214) 325-1916

Mirza A Beg
(205) 454-8797


We as Muslims plan to respond to pastor Terry Jones' planned burning of 3000 copies of Quran on September 11, 2013 in positive terms.

Our response - we will reclaim the standard of behavior practiced by the Prophet concerning “scurrilous and hostile criticism of the Qur’an” (Muhammad Asad Translation Note 31, verse 41:34). It was "To overcome evil with good is good, and to resist evil by evil is evil." It is also strongly enjoined in the Qur’an in the same verse 41:34, “Good and evil deeds are not equal. Repel evil with what is better; then you will see that one who was once your enemy has become your dearest friend.”

God willing Muslims will follow the divine guidance and pray for the restoration of Goodwill, and on that day many Muslim organizations will go on a “blood drive” to save lives and serve humanity with kindness.

We invite fellow Americans of all faiths, races, and ethnicities to join us to rededicate the pledge, “One nation under God”, and to build a cohesive America where no American has to live in apprehension, discomfort or fear of fellow Americans. This event is a substitute for our 10th Annual Unity Day Celebration ( held in Dallas, but now it will be at Mulberry, Florida.

Unwittingly Pastor Jones has done us a favor by invigorating us by his decision to burn nearly 3000 copies Quran on September 11, 2013. Obviously he is not satisfied by the notoriety he garnered by burning one Qur'an last year.

As Muslims and citizens we honor the free speech guaranteed in our constitution. We have no intentions to criticize, condemn or oppose Pastor Terry Jones' freedom of expression. Instead, we will be donating blood and praying for goodness to permeate in our society.

We plan to follow Jesus Christ (pbuh), a revered prophet in Islam as well as Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) – that of mitigating the conflicts and nurturing good will for the common good of the society.

We hope, this event and the message will remind Muslims elsewhere in the world as well, that violence is not the way. Muslims, who react violently to senseless provocation, should realize that, violence causes more violence, and besmirches the name of the religion that we hold so dear. We believe that Prophet Muhammad was a mercy to the mankind, and we ought to practice what we believe and preach. We must not insult Islam by the negative reactions of a few.

We can only hope it will bring about a change in the attitude of the followers of Pastor Jones, and in the behavior of those Muslims who reacted violently the last time Pastor sought notoriety – We hope this small step towards a bridge to peaceful coexistence would propel us towards building a cohesive society.

Like most Americans a majority of Muslims quietly go about their own business, but it is time to speak up and take positive action instead of negative reaction. May this message of peace and goodwill reverberate and reach many shores.

Lastly, we appreciate the Citizens of Mulberry, Florida, Honorable Mayor George Hatch, City Commissioners, police and Fire Chiefs for handing this situation very well. This will add a ‘feather of peace’ in the City’s reputation. We hope Mulberry will be a catalyst in showing the way in handling conflict with dignity and peace.

We thank the Media for giving value to the work towards peace rather than conflict.


Thank you.


The people in Dallas are making an effort to understand and clean their own hearts first, when we are free from bias, it would be easy to share that with others. Islam teaches us in so many ways to "respect the otherness of others" and it is time we find simple practical ways of doing it.