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Lesson 44

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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 warfare

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 given thus:

"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" (2:190).
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 Holy Quran.

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 manner:

"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 following statement:

"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 verse:

"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?
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