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Belief Is Not Forced

Not Forcing Anyone in Matters of Faith


Allah says

{If it had been you Lord's Will, they would all have believed - all who are on earth!}

So we need not to worry about the disbelief of the disbelievers□ comment: 1, and we need not to force belief up on anyone: This is not how it works, anyway:

Free will was given to man and guidance is alone by Allah (may His Majesty be exalted).

Man has been given a trust, and a 'free will' that he may choose right from wrong, but this 'free will' is not absolute or independent — in reality it is a divine test: he should only choose what is conducive and beneficial to his human state (breaking off from negative thoughts and actions, choosing the Halāl not Harām) and what will help him for his final destination.
Living Islam - Islamic Tradition: Presentation

Al-Hasan ibn ´Ali said: God is not obeyed through compulsion, nor is He disobeyed by reason of overwhelming force: He has not left His servant entirely without work to do in (His) kingdom.
LI-Booklist DS33

Faith is something personal, intimate and direct: between the person and God (may His Majesty be exalted).


Also Allah says

{And whoever disbelieves, let not his disbelief grieve you; to Us they shall return, and We shall tell them what they did: for Allah knows well all that is in (men's) hearts.}

God will deal with all human beings according to their true nature.
Zamakhsharī, TSQ

Allah’s servant shouldn't be worried or saddened when people refuse belief (faith, imān ), instead he should do his duty [as stated in Quran & Sunnah] and leave the rest to Allah (may His Majesty be exalted). Everyone will return to Allah and render account. (See 14-17)
Tafsīr al-Qur'ān Al-Karīm, M. Rassoul

However the believer (al-mu'min ) will promote or order what is right and hinder or forbid what is wrong (al-'Amr bi-l ma´rūf )( الأمر بالمَعْرُوف والنَهي عن المُنْكَر‎). Right: what is conducive to harmony, peace and justice in society; wrong: what is unjust, repressive, abusive, evil, and what threatens harmony and coexistence in society.

The duty is to preach goodness to oneself, to act upon it and later gradually also to others.5

Allah says

{You are the best of peoples, evolved for mankind, enjoining what is right, forbidding what is wrong, and believing in Allah. If only the People of the Book had faith, it were best for them: among them are some who have faith, but most of them are transgressors.}


Interpretations of verse 2-256

It is important to read the whole verse:


{There is no compulsion in religion. The right direction is henceforth distinct from error. And he who rejects false deities and believes in Allah hath grasped a firm handhold which will never break. Allah is Hearer, Knower.}


Allah says

{There is no compulsion in religion}

What they (the Mu´tazila - not only those) meant by this was that when God says that there is no compulsion in the religion, He means that He does not practise compulsion. God does not force you to be a believer or an infidel – i.e. He does not predestine or determine it for you: you have free will.

Your free will gives you the possibility to say ’yes’ or ’no’. It is your right, but it is not always right (what you choose).
”The human purpose can only be achieved by responding positively to the ’prescriptive command’ (al-amr at-taklīfi ). With this command, relayed by the prophets, God provides instructions on right, true, and real knowledge and activity.”
Ibn Arabi, Heir to the Prophets, Willian C. Chittick; p.81


(The Mu´tazila) said that the verse could also be read as declaring that there is not and cannot really be any such thing as human coercion in religious matters either, for it simply is not possible to force other people to believe. You can only force them to act as believers, i.e. to conform on the surface;6 you can't force them to believe in their innermost hearts. So on the first Mu´tazilite interpretation, God is saying that He won't force people to believe; and on the second Mu´tazilite (not only those) interpretation, He is saying that you can't do it. In short, in your inner self, your private interior, you are free vis-à-vis humans and God alike.2

All human beings, not just dhimmis or Muslims, had an inner sanctum that was controlled by themselves alone.3 They had what you would call freedom of conscience.4

[1] The term ”disbelievers” (kafir ) is a technical term, it is not to be used to denigrate other people of other faiths or of no faith at all.

[2] Regarding ”you are free vis-à-vis humans and God alike,” this is of course incorrect. According to the Islamic tradition, there is no ’freedom from God’ except as an illusion of the disbelievers and as such only valid for a limited time, and even then not isolated from God. It is correct that we humans cannot ”force them to believe in their innermost hearts,” but for Allah (may His Majesty be exalted) it is of course possible to do just that, in the way He wills and when He wills.

[3] This statement reveals the author's secularism, or rejection of the divine agent in man and in man's conscience in particular. The whole point of an ’inner sanctum’ (a sacred place) in man is that it cannot be ’controlled’ by anyone except the Real, the Controller of everything.

[4] It is this subtle faculty of knowledge given to human beings, and it can be nurtured and elevated or the opposite.
- Conscience
- In The Beginning Is Consciousness, SH Nasr

[5] .
Hadith: Abu Sa´īd al-Khudrī reported that the prophet Muhammad ﷺ sallAllahu ´aleihi wa sallam, said, "Whoever amongst you sees an evil, he must change it with his hand; if he is unable to do so, then with his tongue; and if he is unable to do so, then with his heart; and that is the weakest form of Faith (imān )". Muslim

The concept of al-'Amr bi-l ma´rūf is a delicate one, because it can be misunderstood as preaching to others while serving the nafs (ego) - may Allah protect us from this! Therefore one has always to preach first of all to one's own soul (self).

The problem with statements such as ”To act as believers; i.e. to conform on the surface,” or ”in religious matters” is the different worldview which is expressed here: In Western contemporary speech ’religion’ is not the same as ’dīn’ in Islam, which is used in the hadith above.

Dīn conveys two levels, the inner actions: thoughts, faith in God etc., and the outer actions: social behaviour, living as a family, studying the sacred texts, giving sadaqah (alms), avoiding interest (ribā´) etc.

So ”religious matters” are not restricted to the inner man, and to ”conform on the surface” has no negative connotation (as long as no hypocrisy is involved) as it is a truly holistic term, it means for members of the Muslim community to accept the wisdom of islamic decorum and social norms - to be kind and helpful, to support the poor and downtrodden, to protect women, not to steal or kill, not to lie, not to cheat, not to oppress, not to behave like a degenerate person etc.)

[7] From the overview of different interpretations of the verse by P Crone,
No pressure, then: religious freedom in Islam | openDemocracy

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