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‘No Compulsion in Matters of Faith’ Is the Fundamental Principle Running Through the Quran; Islam Advocates Peaceful Propagation of Religion and Strives To Establish A Just Society through Peaceful Struggle

By S. Arshad, New Age Islam

13 March 2019

‘La Ikraha Fiddeen’ (no compulsion in matters of faith) is the phrase that sums up the basic philosophy of the Quran. On various occasions, it points out this message for Muslims. It says that the Muslims should strive to establish a just society where injustice, transgression and violence do not find a place. It enjoins Muslims and the flag bearers of Islam to maintain restraint, peace and harmony in the society so that the peaceful messages of Islam are propagated with love.

Since Islam faced hostility during its nascent stage, it had to fight battles for its survival and therefore, the Quran contains verses that instruct Muslims how to treat or deal with the opponents. Sometimes, it asks Muslims to make some compromise and sometimes it asks Muslims to launch an offensive when the opponents are bent on harming them. But those war-period verses were taken to be the fundamental messages for Muslims for all times to come and the verses that enjoin Muslims to maintain peace with non-Muslims while inviting them to Islam with love and peaceful dialogue were ignored. A number of scholars and exegetes misinterpreted those verses enjoining good behaviour with non-Muslims as abrogated though the Quran does not have any list of abrogated verses within the text of the Quran. There are a number of verses that prevent Muslims from committing violence against non-Muslims and ask them to convey the message of the Quran peacefully and by engaging with them in dialogue.

The Quran clearly says that if God had willed, no one on earth would have been an idolater or polytheist. Every human being would worship one God. But God wants people to strive in his path; he has put challenges before his followers or servants in the form of transgressor and atheists. He wants to test the patience and restraints of his servants because God loves those who endure hardships and humiliation for the cause of his Deen. Therefore, he says:

“If thou art anxious for their guidance, yet Allah guideth not such as He leaves to stray, and there is none to help them.”  (Al Nahl 37)

God says to Muslims to leave people who do not listen to the message of piety and Godliness. They will meet their own ruin. The job of Muslims is not that of a policeman but that of a messenger. Muslims should convey the message of the Quran to the people and leave the rest to God.

“Leave alone those who take their religion to be mere play and amusement, and are deceived by the life of this world. But proclaim (to them) this (truth): that every soul delivers itself to ruin by its own acts.” (Al An’am: 70)

“If one amongst the Pagans ask thee for asylum, grant it to him, so that he may hear the word of Allah; and then escort him to where he can be secure. That is because they are men without knowledge”. (Tauba: 6)

The Quran asks Muslims to engage with the People of the Book in interfaith dialogue and present to them the message of the Quran stressing the common grounds between  their religion and the religion of the People of the Book.

“And dispute ye not with the People of the Book, except with means better (than mere disputation), unless it be with those of them who inflict wrong (and injury): but say, "We believe in the revelation which has come down to us and in that which came down to you; Our Allah and your Allah is one; and it is to Him we bow (in Islam)."  (Al Ankabut: 46)

“Argue with them in ways that are best and most gracious: (Al Nahl: 125)

The Quran also instructs Muslims not to quarrel with people or commit violence against those who do not accept the message of the Quran and do not pay heed to the words of wisdom. It clearly asks Muslims to avoid any confrontation in matters of faith because good deeds will benefit only them and evil deeds will harm only them. No one will be held responsible for the wrongdoings of others. So Muslims should not behave like policemen enforcing and spreading Deen with sword or AK-56.

Some of the verses are as follows:

“But We made thee not one to watch over their doings, nor art thou set over them to dispose of their affairs. (Al Anam: 107)

“Tell those who believe, to forgive those who do not look forward to the Days of Allah: It is for Him to recompense (for good or ill) each People according to what they have earned. If any one does a righteous deed, it ensures to the benefit of his own soul; if he does evil, it works against (his own soul). In the end will ye (all) be brought back to your Lord. (Al Jathiya: 14-15)

“Let there be no compulsion in religion: Truth stands out clear from Error: whoever rejects evil and believes in Allah hath grasped the most trustworthy hand-hold that never breaks. And Allah heareth and knoweth all things”.(Al Baqarah :256)

Say: "If ye do love Allah, Follow me: Allah will love you and forgive you your sins: For Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful." (Al Imran: 31)

Say: "O my people! Do whatever ye can: I will do (my part): soon will ye know who it is whose end will be (best) in the Hereafter: certain it is that the wrong-doers will not prosper." (Al An ‘am 135)

Say to those who do not believe: "Do whatever ye can: We shall do our part; (Hud :121)

Hold to forgiveness; command what is right; But turn away from the ignorant. (Al Araf: 199)

The Quran wants Muslims to work for the reform of the society and for its all round development. Muslims should assume the job of a reformer, not of a religious warrior all the time. He should command what is good and persuade people to leave the evil path. That’s why the Quran asks him not to be desperate when people do not pay any heed to his words of wisdom or become hostile to them. It asks the Muslims to leave such people to their own fate and move forward. Quran says this in at least three verses:

“If they charge thee with falsehood, say: "My work to me, and yours to you! ye are free from responsibility for what I do, and I for what ye do!" (Yunus: 41)

that we are responsible for our doings and ye for yours; and that We are sincere (in our faith) in Him? (Al Baqarah: 139)

They shall reap the fruit of what they did, and ye of what ye do! Of their merits there is no question in your case: (Al Baqarah: 141)

“Allah is our Lord and your Lord: for us (is the responsibility for) our deeds, and for you for your deeds. There is no contention between us and you. (Ash Shura: 15)

And when they hear vain talk, they turn away therefrom and say: "To us our deeds, and to you yours; peace be to you: we seek not the ignorant." (Al Qasas: 55)

The Quran therefore, makes it clear that it does not want violence in the name of spreading religion and says that when people cause bloodshed and fight against each other in the name of religion, God prevents them from causing much damage to each other and prevents the war of fighting from spreading beyond control because He loves mankind and does not want innocent people to die in bloodshed.

“And did not Allah Check one set of people by means of another, the earth would indeed be full of mischief: (Al Baqarah: 251)

The Quran allows Muslims to fight or wage war only when one group of militant Muslims commit atrocities against another group of Muslims and all the avenues of peaces have been exhausted. If the transgressing group does not repent, Muslims are allowed to fight the militant Muslim group until they are subdued and made to surrender so that people are saved from their mischief.  This verse asks Muslims to play a greater role of saviours of mankind and upholders of truth and justice.

“If two parties among the Believers fall into a quarrel, make ye peace between them: but if one of them transgresses beyond bounds against the other, then fight ye (all) against the one that transgresses until it complies with the command of Allah; but if it complies, then make peace between them with justice, and be fair: for Allah loves those who are fair (and just).” (Al Hujurat: 9)

There are certain militant groups among Muslims who perpetrate violence against Muslims and non-Muslims alike according to their own interpretations of Deen and the mankind cries for justice and help. The militant groups remain at war with their own Muslim brethren or with peace loving non-Muslims though jihad is not a fundamental pillar of Islam and it is not one of the five basic tenets of Islam. These militants present jihad as one of the basic pillars of Islam and create the impression that Muslims are enjoined to be at war with non-Muslims through their entire life. Jihad is only a emergency situation mentioned above while peaceful preaching of the message of the Quran is the fundamental duty of every Muslim. He has been enjoined to maintain peace with his neighbours irrespective of his religion and take care of his needs and well being.

God has made it clear on a number of occasions that he does not like those who do injustice to people, cause bloodshed against innocent people, drive people from their homes and abuse the gods of other people.

“And Allah loveth not those that do wrong”. (Al Imran: 140)

“For Allah is with those who patiently persevere”. (Al Anfaal: 66)

“Allah does not like transgressors.”(Al Baqarah: 190)

 “For Allah loves not those who do mischief. (Qisas: 77)

And seek not occasions for mischief in the land, for Allah does not love those who commit mischief.”(Al Qasas: 77)

There are a number verses with this message and God warns man against mischief, violence and killing without a just cause.

“When it is said to them: "Make not mischief on the earth," they say: "Why, we only want to make peace!" Of a surety, they are the ones who make mischief, but they realise (it) not. (Al Baqarah-11-12)

In short, peace and peaceful propagation of the message of the Quran is what is envisaged in Islam. Apart from that a Muslim is expected to fight for the cause of all the oppressed people on earth either with word or with force when mankind is under threat from transgressors whether they are Muslims or non-Muslims. God has commanded Muslims to be the flagbearers of justice, peace and harmony and to strive for the establishment of a just and harmonious society where all the people are allowed to live peacefully.

S. Arshad is a regular columnist for


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