Reflections on 'There is no compulsion in religion' from Surat Al-Baqarah
The line from Surat Al-Baqarah [verse 256] of the Quran - "there is no compulsion in religion” is often quoted by those making the argument that there is no coercion or intolerance in Islam, and that Islam can be reconciled with freedom of conscience.
On one level, this kind of interpretation of scripture is to be welcomed, if it genuinely helps to stop the persecution of apostates.
If it is used by genuine reformers who wish to seriously admit to the traditions and scriptural roots of intolerance within Islam, then it may be a step in the right direction.
On the other hand, it is too often used as a superficial sound bite to avoid discussion of the serious issues within Islamic scripture and tradition regarding coercion, force and apostasy, and thus can make matters worse, by being an avoidance strategy, and merely a superficial attempt to depict Islam and the Quran as perfect and flawless and pristine.
This is motivated by the wish to protect the image of Islam, rather than actually addressing serious issues of the persecutions and oppression that arise from Islamic scripture, belief and ideas.
Here is a dialogue that took place on our forum regarding this verse, reflecting on the line ‘there is no compulsion in religion’.
Isn't it true that the "no compulsion in religion" verse actually just means for those within Islam already, (born Muslims)? That, for example, it protects that a Muslim would not be forced into a marriage, forced to pray, forced to do whatever religious obligation.
However, if we're talking about someone who was "born" Muslim and now identifies as a non-Muslim, they are not protected, because they are "out of religion" not in it.
So basically, it doesn't do shit for us. So much for that "peaceful" and "tolerant" verse.
(I would like someone to clarify this though, so that I don't go around continuing to think that if I'm wrong. Or do we not know since it's based on interpretation?)Allat:
The "no compulsion in religion" line is touted by some to show how tolerant Islam is. While Muslims and their apologists like to accuse everyone else of taking Islam and the Quran out of context, this verse is an example of how shamelessly Muslims themselves take things out of context.
The verse actually says in full:
There is no compulsion in religion. The right direction is henceforth distinct from error. And he who rejecteth false deities and believeth in Allah hath grasped a firm handhold which will never break. Allah is Hearer, Knower.
There shall be no compulsion in religion: the right way is now distinct from the wrong way. Anyone who denounces the devil and believes in GOD has grasped the strongest bond; one that never breaks. GOD is Hearer, Omniscient.
There is no compulsion in religion; truly the right way has become clearly distinct from error; therefore, whoever disbelieves in the Shaitan and believes in Allah he indeed has laid hold on the firmest handle, which shall not break off, and Allah is Hearing, Knowing.
The verse seems to be saying that there is no compulsion in religion because Islam is the "right way". In other words, it is a verse declaring the supremacism of Islam, not its "tolerance". It's like saying "well you go do what you want, but you'll do the right thing, the thing we say is right, if you know what's good for you".
That's not tolerance. It is, at best, passive aggressiveness.
Also, the next time a Muslim or a liberal apologist of Islam brings up that verse, besides the crass threat in it, bring up the verse right after that one:
2:257 Allah is the Protecting Guardian of those who believe. He bringeth them out of darkness into light. As for those who disbelieve, their patrons are false deities. They bring them out of light into darkness. Such are rightful owners of the Fire. They will abide therein.
So in the next verse, the quran right away contradicts itself.Osmanthus:
My reading of 2:256 would be that it is saying there is no longer any need to compel anyone to follow any religion, because (in the Islamic/Quranic view) the right path/religion is now so obvious (since the revelation of the Quran) that anyone will follow it without requiring compulsion.
This is, of course, providing that they are not wilfully evil, in which case they're off to the fire as per 2:257, and providing that in accordance with another well known verse, Allah has not "set a seal on their hearts" (in which case they are screwed too).
There is nothing in either verse about being tolerant of other religions, or about accepting that people can be good while still following other religions, or about any possibility of people who do follow other religions being able to avoid ending up in Hell.Sprout:
Kind of a hollow boast 'this religion is soooo obviously awesome'. The problem is that it creates a standard whereby those who aren't Muslim or who reject Islam will be treated with incredulity and have their sanity or rationality questioned rather than supported in their religious freedom. This is the best the Qur'an has to offer and its still lamentably intolerant.Al-Alethia
The verse was actually revealed in relation to some Arabs who took oaths that their children will be raised Jewish; it's basically telling them that there's "no compulsion in religion" in the sense that they don't have to follow the oath and make sure the kids are Jewish, i.e, they can convert them to Islam.
Narrated Abdullah ibn Abbas
When the children of a woman (in pre-Islamic days) did not survive, she took a vow on herself that if her child survives, she would convert it a Jew. When Banu an-Nadir were expelled (from Arabia), there were some children of the Ansar (Helpers) among them. They said: We shall not leave our children. So Allah the Exalted revealed; "Let there be no compulsion in religion. Truth stands out clear from error."
Abu Dawud 14:2676
Ibn Kathir had this to say in his tafsir:
Allah says: "There is no compulsion in religion", meaning: do not force anyone to embrace Islam, because it is clear and its proofs and evidences are manifest. Whoever Allah guides and opens his heart to Islam has indeed embraced it with clear evidence. Whoever Allah misguides blinds his heart and has set a seal on his hearing and a covering on his eyes cannot embrace Islam by force...hence Allah revealed this verse. But, this verse is abrogated by the verse of "fighting...Therefore, all people of the world should be called to Islam. If anyone of them refuses to do so, or refuses to pay the Jizya they should be fought till they are killed. This is the meaning of compulsion. In the Sahih, the Prophet said: "Allah wonders at those people who will enter Paradise in chains", meaning prisoners brought in chains to the Islamic state, then they embrace Islam sincerely and become righteous, and are entered among the people of Paradise.The Dark Rebel:
Islam apologists always love to accuse people of taking violent verses out of context but they themselves ignore the tafsirs completely and pull their own interpretation of the verse out of nowhere. Hypocrisy at it's finestJema:
From Tafsir Al-Jalalayn: There is no compulsion in, entering into, religion.
The other interpretations are kinda redundant and can be easily overlooked because of other contradictory verses. Tafsir Al-Jalalayn is far more important to Sunnis anyway. If you were born and raised as a non-muslim with no knowledge of Islam then the religion cannot be forced upon you. It says fuck all about fitri Muslims who were born into this fuckery of a religion and you don't have to look very far in the Qur'an or Sunnah to know what it does say about those who apostatise.The Dark Rebel:
The "no compusion in religion" verse only applies to non muslims.
When it comes to muslims who stop believing in Islam then there are hadiths that say that apostates should be killed
like this one
Narrated Ikrima: Ali burnt some people and this news reached Ibn 'Abbas, who said, "Had I been in his place I would not have burnt them, as the Prophet said, 'Don't punish (anybody) with Allah's Punishment.' No doubt, I would have killed them, for the Prophet said, 'If somebody (a Muslim) discards his religion, kill him.' "Peppermint Tits:
Sahih Bukhari 4:52:260
This sucks. I'm incredulous about Islam's deceit with this verse. It's disgusting. It protects non-Muslims more than people like us who were born into it. But of course.
It's that double standard that kills me. So when my parents question me, I should just tell them "I wish I was born a non-Muslim instead, then I'd have more rights!" Can't they see how backwards this is?? Sigh.
It's the same idea with the Westerner who voluntary converts to Islam, and then later leaves it - even though they might be looked at horribly by the Muslim community, that same community would look at me much worse simply because I was "born" a Muslim and later rejected it, although it's a similar thing. Makes my blood boil.