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The quote about Compulsion does apply to Non-believers

Reader comment on item: The Evil Isn't Islam

Submitted by Karl Ericson (United States), Aug 1, 2002 at 11:24

In a previous post I argued that the quote that there is not compulsion in religion only applied to Muslims. Upon further study of the Koran and reflection I think I made a mistake. My source of confusion is that the quote that there is no compulsion in religion is in blatant contradiction to quotes in the same chapter such as:

[Koran 9.29] Fight those who do not believe in Allah, nor in the latter day, nor do they prohibit what Allah and His Apostle have prohibited, nor follow the religion of truth, out of those who have been given the Book, until they pay the tax in acknowledgment of superiority and they are in a state of subjection.

   How can we understand this contradiction?  Perhaps looking at the context of the compulsion quote will be helpful.  Here is the quote in its immediate context:

"[2.256] There is no compulsion in religion; truly the right way has become clearly distinct from error; therefore, whoever disbelieves in the Satan and believes in Allah he indeed has laid hold on the firmest handle, which shall not break off, and Allah is Hearing, Knowing.  [2.257] Allah is the guardian of those who believe. He brings them out of the darkness into the light; and (as to) those who disbelieve, their guardians are Satans who take them out of the light into the darkness; they are the inmates of the fire, in it they shall abide.  [2.258] Have you not considered him (Namrud) who disputed with Ibrahim about his Lord, because Allah had given him the kingdom? When Ibrahim said: My Lord is He who gives life and causes to die, he said: I give life and cause death. Ibrahim said: So surely Allah causes the sun to rise from the east, then make it rise from the west; thus he who disbelieved was confounded; and Allah does not guide aright the unjust people.  [2.259] Or the like of him (Uzair) who passed by a town, and it had fallen down upon its roofs; he said: When will Allah give it life after its death? So Allah caused him to die for a hundred years, then raised him to life. He said: How long have you tarried? He said: I have tarried a day, or a part of a day. Said He: Nay! you have tarried a hundred years; then look at your food and drink-- years have not passed over it; and look at your ass; and that We may make you a sign to men, and look at the bones, how We set them together, then clothed them with flesh; so when it became clear to him, he said: I know that Allah has power over all things."

  Just looking at the immediate context the quote seems to me to be saying that because there is no compulsion in religion, and because the right way (the way of Allah) is clearly distinct from error so that no one would choose Islam by mistake, Allah will take care of those who believe  ("Allah is the guardian of those who believe") and he will punish those who do not ("they are the inmates of the fire, in it they shall abide.")

   The statement that the author of this Koran text made, may be an attempt to answer two questions that may have puzzled Muslims, one of which is   "Why would Allah punish those who worship another religion because they don't know any better?"  If as the author rights the "right way is distinct from error" then the non-believer knows he is doing wrong by not believing and it is right that he be punished.  The author goes on to present evidence that the "right way is distinct from error" by telling the stories of Namrud and Uzair.  

The other question that may be being answered here is "Why would Allah reward those who converted to Islam if they didn't convert of their own free will?" There are in my opinion only two answers to this question. The first is that Allah will not reward those who convert against their will. The second is that no one is compelled to convert against their will (there is no compulsion in religion) which is the answer given in the Koran. This second answer is more desirable from a Muslim proselytizers point of view. If people who were forced to convert think they'll be rewarded by Allah they are more likely to stay converted than if they think they will wind up in hell with the infidel.

Although the author's of these phrases dealt with these questions in the best way possible, he had to be dishonest in order to do so. The statement that there is no compulsion in religion, is a false statement,  because Moslems are commanded to kill those who leave the faith "Whoever changes his Islamic religion, kill him. Sahih Al-Bukhari (9:57)" and to kill those who do not believe and refuse to pay the Jizya tax:
"Fight those who do not believe in Allah, nor in the latter day, nor do they prohibit what Allah and His Apostle have prohibited, nor follow the religion of truth, out of those who have been given the Book, until they pay the tax in acknowledgment of superiority and they are in a state of subjection."
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