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Islam

The Religion of Non-compulsion

"History makes it clear, however, that the legend of fanatical Muslims sweeping through the world and forcing Islam at the point of the sword upon conquered races is one of the most fanatically absurd myths that historians have ever repeated." [1]

"The picture of the Muslim soldier advancing with a sword in one hand and the Quran in the other is quite false." [2]

"The theory of Islam and the sword, for instance, is not heard now in any quarter worth the name. The principle of Islam that 'there is no compulsion in religion' is well known." [3]

"No other religion in history spread so rapidly as Islam... The West has widely believed that this surge of religion was made possible by the sword. But no modern scholar accepts that idea and the Quran is explicit in support of the freedom of conscience." [4]

"Muhammad adhered meticulously to the charter he forged for Medina, which - grounded as it was in the Koranic injunction, "Let there be no compulsion in religion" (2:256) - is arguably the first mandate for religious tolerance in human history." [5]

It is still an interesting facet of history that Muslims and Islam have almost always been pictured as barbaric and bloodthirsty. Then again, considering that history is written by the 'victors', perhaps it is not so interesting after all.

"The greatest success of Muhammed's life was effected by sheer moral force without the stroke of a sword." [6]

"Islam was never imposed by sword or by force, but it got into the hearts of people out of longing and free will, due to the talents of stimulation and captivation of people's hearts, lodged in the Koran." [7]

However, the roots of animosity towards Islam does lie in history. When the message of Muhammed was completed, it lay as a grave threat; not only to the pagans of Mecca, but to the entire world. While it upheld the noble aspects of 'Judaism' and 'Christianity', it repelled the dogmas of both, and while it respected the human rights of the followers of any and all religions, it would not allow any person, had they been Zoroastrian, Christian,
Jew or Muslim to thrive in doing injustice.

"After Muhammed's death, Jews and Christians were never required to convert to Islam but were allowed to practise their religion freely in the Islamic empire. Later, Zoroastrians, Hindus, Buddhists and Sikhs were also counted among the People of the Book. It has never been a problem for Muslims to co-exist with people of other religions. The Islamic Empire was able to play host to Christians and Jews for centuries; but Western Europe has found it  almost impossible to tolerate Muslims and Jews in Christian territory." [8]

The actions of the Muslims after the death of Muhammed led to Muslims going all across the world; it did not force non-Muslims to accept Islam. It is ridiculous to insinuate such an idea; Islam spread quickly for the simple reason that it was so easy to accept. Peoples saw the effect that it had on Muslims' lives, they saw the roots of it in their own humanity, they discovered that it was their religion to follow. They were not forced into it, regardless of what many propagated later on. Indonesia, for example, never saw a Muslim soldier. Yet it is today the most populated Muslim country.

In America, freedom of religion and thought is at least stated in the country's laws (although not always practised.) Yet, Islam, the religion of 'force' and 'compulsion' is the fastest growing religion there, and already is the second largest religious denomination in the US, in spite of the public stigma attached to it.

The world over, Islam is the fastest growing religion. Simply because people are realising that the lies they have heard are indeed lies, and that the roots of Islam do not start from the acts of certain groups in the Middle East or the cultural attitudes of some peoples, but from the heart and soul of humanity.

"It will be wrong to judge Islam in the light of the behaviour of some bad Muslims who are always shown on the media. It is like judging a car as a bad one if the driver of the car is drunk and he bangs it with the wall. Islam guides all human beings in the daily life - in it's spiritual, mental and physical dimensions." [9]

When the Muslims entered Jerusalem hundreds of years ago, instead of tearing down the
churches or synagogues, the holy places were respected. The ruler of the Muslims even forbade his followers to pray inside the holy Spelucher, and refused to pray inside it himself, for fear that his followers might later build a mosque in its place, thinking that
his actions were a validation for such an act.

When the Jews were persecuted in France, where did they turn to? Andalusia; Muslim Spain.

When the Jews were persecuted in Spain at the hands of the 'Christian' Spanish Inquisition, where did they turn to? Turkey, another Muslim country. The Jewish historians, even those who are self proclaimed Zionists, acknowledge the fact that Jews were always treated far better in Muslim countries than they were ever treated in Christian countries.

"We have never heard about any attempt to compel non-Muslim parties to adopt Islam or about any organised persecution aiming at exterminating Christianity. If the Caliphs had chosen one of these plans, they would have wiped out Christianity as easily as what happened to Islam during the reign of Ferdinand and Isabella in Spain; by the same method which Louis XIV followed to make Protestantism a creed whose followers were to be sentenced to death; or with the same ease of keeping the Jews away from Britain for a period of three hundred fifty years. The Eastern Churches in Asia were entirely cut off from communion with the rest of Christiandom throughout which no one would have been found to lift a finger on their behalf, as heretical communions. So that the very survival of these Churches to the present day is a strong proof of the generally tolerant attitude of Mohammedan [sic] governments towards them." [10]

In Andalusia (Muslim Spain), Jews and Christians lived with, worked with, fought with and shared political office with the Muslims. This continued for hundreds of years, under full Muslim leadership. Compare this with the Spanish Inquisition.

"The Quran is the synthesis of religion, not something new, a universal message for all people. You have absolute freedom to follow it or not." [11]

We are left with one small issue, however; if Islam is against violent spreading of it's religion, then why is it so widely spread?

"It is not enough to discover Christ - you must bring Him to others! The world today is one great mission land, even in countries of long-standing Christian tradition." [12]

To this, some Muslims smile, remembering that missionaries have been coming to the Islamic world for centuries upon centuries, and were exceedingly widespread during the
colonial era, but still failed in their objectives. Other Muslims frown, and find such a
statement degrading. But both merely shrug their shoulders and say,

"We shall bear witness to the message that was brought by the Seal of the Prophets, and leave you to decide what is true and what is not. Let there be no compulsion on you either way, but let us bear witness that we have said what Islam is."

Even Christian theologians today, such as the celebrated Hans Kung, admit that the Christian mission to the Muslims failed completely.[13] For while Muslims can easily display many famous former Christian priests, lords and even evangelicals who became Muslims,[14] Christians can seldom ever show a Muslim who was deeply rooted in Islam, or sought after by Muslims for his teaching ability, who later became Christian.

In Islam, the term dawah refers to the act of spreading religious knowledge among the people. In the West, many people are reverting to Islam because of dawah; not because
they are forced to (Islam does not permit forceful conversion, and any Westerner will
recognise that the Western laws do not either), but because people recognise truth when they see it. Accounts of converts range from intellectual reasons, to ones of pure emotion. There have been notable conversions made; monks from every sect of Christianity, self proclaimed Communists; Zionist Jews; Hindus, Buddhists, Shamans, atheists, agnostics; every walk of life and every school of thought; the way of the Islam appeals to many; if
only they see what it means for themselves rather than what it appears to mean to other
people.

Muslims do place a lot of emphasis in dawah in their everyday lives, but this does not translate into aggravated prostelising. More accurately, it means conveying their beliefs in their everyday actions. If a Muslim treats a woman kindly, and says," I do this because of Islam", he is doing a lot more dawah than he who is telling a prostitute," You are going to hell." It is a lot more effective as well and much more in tune with the spirit of Islamic
teachings.

Incidentally, unlike some other schools of thought, it is forbidden in Islamic teachings (although many Western Muslims do not abide by this injunction) to tell any man or woman that he or she is going straight to hell when they die. No one knows who will be in heaven or hell; only God and God alone will decide. It is also not looked favourably upon for any Muslim to lay the label of disbeliever on any person, for only God almighty knows what is people's hearts.

"O ye who believe!
When ye go abroad in the cause of God
Investigate carefully,
And say not to any one who offers you a salutation,
"Thou art none of a believer!"
[15]

For the Muslim, the Quran is a guide sent from God and he recognises it as such. But for him to impose it upon any person whosoever, is wrong and prohibited, as it is prohibited to publicly show disdain for other religions, not least because he might be unintentionally
reviling a prophet of Islam that has not had his story told.

"Let there be no compulsion in religion." [16]

Muhammed Asad's commentary for the above verse reads:

"all Islamic jurists, without any exception, hold that forcible conversion is under all circumstances null and void, and that any attempt at coercing a non-believer (in Islam) to accept the faith of Islam is a grievous sin: a verdict which disposes of the widespread
fallacy that Islam places before the unbelievers the alternative of "conversion or the sword". [17]

In the past, anti-Islamic missionaries have declared that Islam demands conversion or death. They have now have decided that Islam calls only for this in regard to pagans, and
not to Christians or Jews. Backtracking, and backtracking; and when full education is introduced and bias set aside, people realise that Islam does not permit even those sorts
of measures.

"Wilt thou then compel mankind, against their will, to believe? No soul can believe, except by the Will of God...." [18]

"And We send message-bearers
Only as heralds of glad tidings and
Warners..."
[19]

"Revile not ye
Those whom they call upon
Besides God, lest
They out of spite
Revile God
In their ignorance."
[20]

"O you who believe, if any of you reverts from his religion,
Then God will bring people whom He loves as they
love Him,
And humble themselves towards the believers,
While being stern towards the disbelievers;
And strive in the cause of God;
And never worry about any blamer who might blame them.
Such is God's grace that He bestows upon whomever He wills.
God is bounteous, omniscient."
[21]

"Apostasy is not subject to Hudud (Islamic punishments). The judgement on apostasy is in the hereafter. Abu Bakr, the trustworthy , when he fought the apostates, he fought them because their political rebellion against Islam. It was not because of their position on creed. Allah is the sole judge of the apostate." [22]

It is a shame that in light of this ignorance about Islam quite a few Muslims who have become frustrated with the decadence of Western life and the immorality of their surroundings have opted to follow a system that bears more in common with Hitler's totalitarianism and Stalinism than Islam but yet still call their political ideology, Islam.

Most Muslims will see through intolerant deceptions, even if the deception is being carried by someone of well-meaning zeal. For if they understand the role of Islam, they
will realise that while Islam is not confined to the mosque it cannot, must not and will not be imposed upon the people without their choice.

"Islamic tolerance of the other stipulates not imposing its ethical norms regarding food, dress or drink. That which is lawful in the culture of the non-Muslim, concerning his food, dress or drink and way of life, such as the consumption of intoxicating beverages or pork, or the exposing of certain parts of the female body, is not debarred by Islam even if its values interdict it. Instead, Islam accepts such differences on the basis of its recognition of the other's fundamental rights of belief and expression, so long as they are not found to be offensive to the general character or public norms of Muslim society, such as aberring from demure dress in public, for that is what the general consensus repels, in Muslim society and in all the societies that have maintained a certain degree of respect for religious values, for the value of modesty and for innate ethics. Islam wields these phenomena, if exacerbate and customary amongst people, through adopting the method of gradualism, conviction and education in reducing their proliferation." [23]

Notes

1. De Lacy O'Leary, 1923, Historian.

2. A. S. Tritton, 1951, Historian.

3. K.S. Ramakrishna Rao, Hindu, Head of the Department of Philosophy, Government College for Women University of Mysore, Mandya-571401 (Karnatika).Re-printed from Islam and Modern age, Hydrabad, March 1978.

4. James A. Michener, Reader's Digest, May 1955.

5. Huston Smith, The Illustrated World's Religions.

6. Edward Gibbon, History of the Saracen Empire, London, 1870.

7. Count de Castri, Islam: Impressions and Studies.

8. Karen Armstrong, Muhammed: A Biography of the Prophet.

9. Cat Stevens (now Yusuf Islam). Formerly a world famous pop singer.

10. Thomas Arnold, The Call to Islam.

11. Mustapha Tougui, an Algerian teacher and scholar on Islam living in France, as reported by Adam Lebor in A Heart Turned East.

12. Pope John Paul II, 1998.

13. I sternly reproach, however, those Muslims who 'convert' to Christianity soley by lip- service with the intention of taking advantage of Christian missionaries and their resources. Such Muslims are not honourable.

14. For example, Bishop David Benjamin Keldani, Bishop John Jacob, Anselm Turmeda, Rev. Prof. Abraham Phillips, or Father Marino, Gary Miller (who now goes by the name Abdulahad Omar), or Father Norman, the 19th century Christian priest who went to Turkey to preach Christianity to the 'heathens' and came back to America in order to convert the Christians to Islam, and even an Anglo-Saxon king Offa (757-796 CE). Only a few months did I meet a man who had trained as a priest, become a monk, prayed absolutely endlessly, but had become Muslim.

15. Quran, 4:94.

16. Quran, 2:256.

17. Muhammed Asad, The Message of the Quran, footnote 249.

18. Quran, 10:99.

19. Quran, 6:48.

20. Quran, 6:108.

21. Quran, 5:54.

22. Rached Ghannoushi, exiled leader of the Tunisian an-Nahda (Renaissance) Movement, in Ash-Shiraa October 1994. I do not quote Mr. Ghannoushi as a sign of support of An Nahda, but merely to prove that the 'Islamists' are not always as revolting as they are often portrayed.

23. Rached Ghannoushi, exiled leader of the Tunisian an-Nahda (Renaissance) Movement.

Hisham Zoubeir

5 June 1998.

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[Currently, he is at the University of Sheffield undertaking a multi-disciplinary degree in law. He has lived in Abu Dhabi, Cairo and London. His main interests delves into peace, equality, righteousness and spirituality.]

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