There Is No Compulsion in Religion

In The Name of Allah, The Most Gracious, The Most Merciful.

Allah Almighty said in the Glorious Qur’an, meaning:
There is no compulsion in religion. Verily, the Right Path has become distinct from the wrong path. Whoever disbelieves in Tāghut and believes in Allah, then he has grasped the most trustworthy handhold that will never break. And Allah is All-Hearer, All-Knower.” (Chapter 2, Al-Baqarah: Verse 256)

The verse above was the theme for a forum held on 28 September 2007 entitled “Religious Tolerance”. The forum was held at the Center of Foundation Studies, International Islamic University of Malaysia (CFSIIUM) in Petaling Jaya. It was a forum which was held, perhaps, at the right time and to the right audience. Considering the current situation concerning relations between the Muslim community and the non-Muslim community, whether locally or internationally, the forum on religious tolerance has managed to remind – or perhaps taught – the audience on one of the basic and fundamental values of Islam. Three highly-credible speakers were invited as panelists of the forum: Dr. Mohd. Farid Mohd. Shahran, Hj. Nicholas Sylvester and Bro. Noryzal Zainal Abidin. I would like to share some of the most important points delivered during that forum here.

The verse “There is no compulsion in religion...” clearly lines out an important code of conduct for Muslims, especially in the context of relations with the non-Muslims. The verse tells us that Muslims cannot compel other people into embracing the religion of Islam. Most people, especially in the Western world, have perhaps misunderstood Islam as a religion of oppression, terrorism, discrimination; when in fact Islam is a tolerant religion, a religion that is built upon love and care. These attributes of Islam can be learned when one studies the life of the exalted Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. (by reading authentic materials or referring to acknowledged Islamic scholars, of course!).

Giving understanding about the concept of tolerance in Islam to the young Muslim students is a very important thing as it is these group of people that will mostly influence public perspective on Islam. They are the image of Islam. Being young, their adrenaline-pumped aggressiveness will most of the time portray a negative image of Islam. Therefore, it is highly important that the young generation of Muslims nowadays understand the concept of tolerance as one of the basic values in Islam.

Another important fact that everyone should understand is that Islam is a religion that emphasizes on strong foundation of knowledge. The basic thing for one to truly embrace Islam is knowledge; faith and belief follows. This is because one can only have true faith and belief when one has knowledge. How can a person have a strong faith, and belief, if a person does not even have a clue as to the matter or the concept that he or she must believe in? This perhaps answers why most Muslims nowadays do not portray the true image of Islam – for they lack the true knowledge and understanding of Islam.

The only way that we can build strong foundation of knowledge and cultivate understanding is through education. This is why Islam teaches its believers to not compel others into Islam because we cannot teach and build understanding through compulsion. There is no point in having a person to embrace Islam when that person does not have a clear understanding and knowledge about the fundamentals of Islam, especially pertaining to matters of ‘aqidah. Therefore it is wrong for Muslims to force the non-Muslims to accept Islam as the truth. As Muslims, we believe with total conviction that Islam is the ultimate truth, Therefore, we do not need to force other people because nobody in their right and clear state of mind will be able to reject or resist the truth – the ultimate truth.

So, when we understand that Islam is not a compulsive religion, it also means that we respect other people’s belief. Respecting other people’s belief does not mean that we must subscribe to their rituals and values. It also does not mean that we must abandon our own Islamic rules, traditions and values. In fact, if one hold true to the Islamic values, one will act tolerantly in terms of relations with people of other religion. Acting tolerantly includes not mocking and making fun of other people’s belief, not restricting other people from performing their own rituals and prayers, and not having double-standards in matters of humanity or human rights.

Muslims must learn to be tolerant and have clear understanding of Islam. The task that has been given to Muslims is to impart knowledge and cultivate understanding, not compulse people into embracing Islam. Whether a person wants to accept Islam or not, that is his or her personal decision. However, it is perhaps noteworthy to say that the concept of ‘no compulsion in religion’ applies merely to the context of reaching out to the non-Muslims and preaching them to embrace Islam. Whenever a person embraces Islam, then that person has the responsibility to oblige all the rules and regulations of Islam.

Gombak, 2:34 p.m.
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