‘No compulsion in the religion’

‘O Children of Adam! When there come to you Messengers from among you delineating unto you My revelations then whoever refrains and reforms, no apprehension on them nor shall they grieve. But those who cry lies to Our revelations and disparage them, they are dwellers of the Fire; they shall abide therein forever.’ 7:35/36

Does this verse imply that the obligation to adhere to the edicts of the ‘One God’ as revealed to Prophet Moses in the Torah, Prophet Jesus in the Gospels and Prophet Muhammad in the Quran is the imperative duty of the people in whose midst a Prophet has been appointed only? What I have observed after having meticulously studied the Quran is that there exists a predilection for the people in whose midst a Prophet has been appointed to pull apart into at least two distinct groups – disbelievers and believers. What can also be gleaned from the verses in the Quran is that as the ‘One God’ reveals more of himself through his revelations to the people in whose midst a Prophet has been appointed the severity of the retribution that will be exacted in the event of disbelief in the revelations increases proportionately.

O People of the Scripture! There has come to you Our Messenger making clear to you, post an interval in the Messengers, lest you say: “There came not to us a giver of glad tidings nor a warner.” 5:19
Lest you (pagan Arabs) say: “The Book was but sent to two sects (Jews and Christians) before us, and indeed we had been unaware of what they studied.” 6:156

Are these verses implying that even though the pagan Arabs had living amongst them the ‘People of the Scripture’ had no Prophet come to them and no Scripture been given to them they could have pleaded ignorance in the Court of the Most High? Is it also implicit in 5:19 and 6:156 that in the absence of a Prophet and as the revelation of Scripture gets more distant with respect to time a certain clemency is proffered to people in the obligation to adhere to the edicts of the ‘One God’ as inscribed in the Testament?

There are verses in the Quran that are predicated on a specific location and/or to a specific Prophet and verses that can be interpreted in a contemporary context for general application:

‘So when you encounter those who disbelieve smite the necks till when you have weakened them, then fasten the shackles’ 47:4
‘Verily, those who believe and those who are Jews and the Sabians and the Christians and the Majus and those who ascribe partners, Allah will judge between them on the Day of Resurrection’ 22:17

I am of the opinion that the edict to ‘Fight in the Cause of Allah’ is specific to the ‘Sacred land/House’ and can only be sanctioned in the presence of a Prophet:

But Lot believed him (Abraham), and said: “I will emigrate for the sake of my Lord” 29:26
They reply: “We were oppressed on the earth.” They (angels) say: “Was not Allah’s earth vast enough for you to migrate therein?” 4:97

Despite the explicit threats to the life of Prophet Abraham that were emerging from his people the ‘One God’ did not permit him to ‘Fight in the Cause of Allah’ against them but instead to migrate to the Land of Canaan. In the Land of Canaan the people of Prophet Lot were destroyed for their perverse indulgence by divine retribution and not because the ‘One God’ sanctioned ‘Fight in the Cause of Allah’. It isn’t until the time of Prophet Moses where after having drowned Pharaoh and his people that the ‘One God’ ordains at the gates of the ‘Sacred Land’ Prophet Moses and the Israelites to ‘Fight in the Cause of Allah’ against the pagan occupants.

Let us not forget that Prophet Joseph used his unique gift to interpret dreams endowed on him by the ‘One God’ in the service of a pagan Pharaoh. Prophet Muhammad sought refuge for the weakest of the new Muslim converts with a Christian King in Abyssinia.

‘No compulsion in the religion. It is manifest, the right conduct from the wrong.’ 2:256
‘And had your Lord so willed, those on earth would have believed; all of them together. So will you compel mankind until they become believers?’ 10:99
‘And say: “The truth is from your Lord.” So who wills, let him believe; and who wills, let him disbelieve.’ 18:29
‘O mankind! We have created you from a male and a female and have made you nations and tribes that you may know one another’ 49:13

I urge my fellow Muslims to understand and appreciate the diversity in all of God’s creation. This diversity is reflected in our thought processes and also evidenced in what we do. We must endeavour to lead by example and not by compulsion in all aspects of our lives. Who are we to reserve judgement on our fellow human beings; arrogate to ourselves that which the Noble Quran does not sanction?

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About Husein M
I have created this blog in order to bring new informed ideas with the view that it would promote an educated discourse amongst progressive British Muslims.

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