By Muhammad Yunus, New Age Islam
6 June 2021
(Co-author (Jointly with Ashfaque Ullah Syed), Essential Message of Islam, Amana Publications, USA, 2009.)
Islam Does Not Allow Anyone To Force Any Non-Muslim To Accept Islam
1. The article quotes from the Qur’an and thus has an exegetic dimension.
2. It has to be compelling in its arguments and not vulnerable to easy criticism.
3. For any reason whatever one cannot force an individual to embrace faith.
The article quotes from the Qur’an and thus has an exegetic dimension. Therefore it has to be compelling in its arguments and not vulnerable to easy criticism. Since I have spotted some weak points, I feel it my duty to raise them to enable the author to bear them in mind while writing further on the subject. Here are my observations:
1. The statement in the opening part of the article: “Islam does not allow unjustified coercion in order to bring an individual under its domain” implies that in certain circumstances coercion could be justified to bring a person under its domain. This is not correct. For any reason whatever one cannot force an individual to embrace faith
2. Use of the word ‘bondwoman’ in the translation of the verse 4:36 purports to restrict the command of the verse to only men. This makes the Qur’an a male centric religion and thus detracts from its gender neutrality for all general commandments:
“Indeed, for Muslim men and Muslim women, for believing men (Mu’minin) and believing women (Mu’minat), for devout men and devout women, for truthful men and truthful women, for patient men and patient women, for humble men and humble women, for charitable men and charitable women, for fasting men and fasting women, for men and women who guard their chastity, and for men and women who remember God a lot - God has prepared for them forgiveness and a great reward” (33:35).
3. The article says at one place: “There are many instances in the biography of the Prophet (peace be upon him) that he did not force the polytheists to convert to Islam.” This statement can be easily dismissed on the ground that some of the accounts in the same biography depict the Prophet in lurid light ((Bukhari - Vol 1, 234, 260; Vol.2, 577; Vol.4, 261-A; Vol.5, 505, 507, Vol.8, 796, 797).
4. Hazrat Safwan b. Umayyah's case cited in the article can be dismissed as evidence for whether he converted to avert any punishment for his enduring hostility against the Prophet or out of his inner feelings is known only to Allah SWT.
5. The concluding remark ”Islam does not force a non-Muslim to become a Muslim without any reason” seems to contradict the Qur’an as the Qur’an leaves the choice of embracing Islam on individuals and does not empower anybody even the Prophet to compel or scare anyone to enter Islam by giving a reason.
6. A very compelling case witnessed by the Qur’an is in allowing pagan women to leave for Mecca, if they did not opt to convert to Islam along with their husbands:
“And if any of your wives should go over to the pagans, and then you have your turn (as many converted wives of the Meccan pagans left their pagan husbands and came over to Medina), then pay to those whose wives had left the equivalent of what they had spent (on their dower). And heed God in whom you believe” (60:11).
7. Finally, one of the most learned and reputed historians of Islam, Thomas W. Arnold (1864-1930), who carried out an extensive research lasting almost two decades to dig into the reasons of the phenomenal spread of Islam in its early centuries, can be quoted as follows – from its concluding chapter –to establish the article’s claim:
"In the preceding pages it has been shown that the theory of the Muslim faith enjoins toleration and freedom of religious life for all those followers of other faiths who pay tribute in return for protection …, The very existence of so many Christian sects and communities in countries that have been for centuries under Mohammadan rule is an abiding testimony to the toleration they have enjoyed, and shows that the persecutions, they have from time to time been called upon to endure at the hands of bigots and fanatics, have been excited by some special and local circumstances, rather than inspired by a settled principal of intolerance." He also notes: ‘(Caliph) Umar is recorded to have ordered an allowance of money and food to be made to some Christian lepers, apparently out of the public funds .
Finally I must admit, as a human being I am not above error – but as a Muslim I am required to testify to the truth (Saddaqa Bil Husna) and hence this rejoinder.
 Thomas W. Arnold, Preaching of Islam, 2nd revised edition, 1913, reprinted Delhi 1990, p. 419/420. Ibid., p.57.
Muhammad Yunus, a Chemical Engineering graduate from Indian Institute of Technology, and a retired corporate executive has been engaged in an in-depth study of the Qur’an since early 90’s, focusing on its core message. He has co-authored the referred exegetic work, which received the approval of al-Azhar al-Sharif, Cairo in 2002, and following restructuring and refinement was endorsed and authenticated by Dr. Khaled Abou El Fadl of UCLA, and published by Amana Publications, Maryland, USA, 2009.
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