Does Islam Force Itself On Others?


The Accusation

One of the most common, yet groundless, accusations being made against Islam is that it forces itself on others. The picture presented is that if someone does not stop Islam, it will forcefully convert everyone, even at gunpoint.

Here is one of the verses commonly quoted by those who make their living propagating this idea:

“…seize them and kill them wherever you find them…” (Qur’an, 4:91).

This verse is used as evidence that Muslims are required to kill anyone who does not accept Islam. That would mean that any Muslim who does not either forcefully convert or kill every non-Muslim he sees is not practicing Islam. This ridiculous idea is childishly easy to refute. But before we do that, let’s do a brief comparison.

A Comparison

Let’s see what the Bible has to say about violence:

In Deuteronomy 7:1-3: “When the Lord your God brings you into the land… and you have defeated them, then you must destroy them totally. Make no treaty with them, and show them no mercy. Do not intermarry with them…”

In Deuteronomy 20:10-17: “When you march up to attack a city, make its people an offer of peace. If they accept and open their gates, all the people in it shall be subject to forced labor and shall work for you. If they refuse to make peace and they engage you in battle, then lay siege to that city. When the Lord your God delivers it into your hand, put to the sword all the men in it. As for the women, the children, the livestock and everything else in the city, you may take these as plunder for yourselves.

In Deuteronomy 20:16-17: “However, in the cities of the nations the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance do not leave alive anything that breathes. Completely destroy them…”

In Numbers 31:17-18: “Now kill all the boys. And kill every woman who has slept with a man, but save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man.”

Jesus is reported to have said in Luke 19:27: “But those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them—bring them here and kill them in front of me.’”

Again, Jesus supposedly said in Matthew 10:34: “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.”

The verses in the Bible are much more violent than any of the verses that can be found in the Qur’an. Can you find a single verse in the Qur’an which says: “Show them no mercy!” or “Do not leave anything that breathes!” or “Kill all the non-virgin women!”? Yet, ironically, most of the people who quote verses from the Qur’an about violence consider themselves Christians and believe in the Bible. Why do they ignore their own Scripture and apply a double standard of hypocrisy?

However, the fair Christian will say: “These verses must be read in context.” I agree, and the same opportunity of contextualization should be given to the Qur’an as well.

Searching for Context

To understand the context of any verse in the Qur’an relating to violence, you only need to do two things:

1. Identify the pronouns
2. Read the verses before and after the verse in question

This simple technique is so blatantly obvious; it requires a very special “education” to forget to apply it.

Let’s identify the pronouns in the verse we quoted: “…seize them and kill them wherever you find them …” (Qur’an, 4:91). There is only one pronoun, “them,” used three times, and it’s pretty clear that it refers to the same group of people. This group of people referred to as “them” can only be identified if we look at the verses before and after.

Looking at the preceding verses we learn the following:

  • Verse 88 tells us that the pronoun “them” is referring to hypocrites who pretend to be Muslim on the outside but are actually spies and informants.
  • Verse 89 tells us that if these hypocrites turn and fight you, then you are allowed to fight them back.
  • Verse 90 tells us that Muslims are not allowed to touch anyone who does not want to fight.

In this example, it becomes crystal clear that “them” is referring to a group of hypocrites who are trying to harm and kill the Muslims. It would have been sufficient in this case to simply quote more of the verse: “So if they neither withdraw, nor offer you peace, nor restrain themselves from fighting you, then seize them and kill them wherever you find them: We give you clear authority against these type of people.” (Qur’an, 4:91)

Proof from the Qur’an

There is not a single verse in the Qur’an which says to harm another person because of their not being a Muslim. On the contrary, there are several verses which talk about respecting non-Muslims.

To further clarify the matter about forced conversion to Islam, let’s look at these verses:

“ There is no compulsion in religion…” (Qur’an, 2:256)

 

“Had your Lord wanted, all the people on earth would have believed. So will you force people to believe?” (Qur’an, 10:99)

 

“So warn them: your only task is to warn, you’re not supposed to force them.” (Qur’an, 88:21-22)


“He does not forbid you to deal kindly and justly with anyone who has not fought you for your faith and driven you out of your homes, God loves the just.” (Qur’an, 60:8)

Could the Qur’an be any clearer on this issue?

Proof from the Prophet of Islam

The second source in Islam, after the Qur’an, are the statements made by the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ. Let’s see what he said about non-Muslims and how to force them to join Islam:

“Whoever kills an innocent non-Muslim will not even smell the fragrance of Paradise.” [Bukhārī]

How could this statement possibly be compatible with the ridiculous idea that Islam forces itself on others? Instead, it makes it clear that no non-Muslim is allowed to be harmed because of what they believe.

The Historical Evidence

Lastly, in the 1,400 years of Muslim history; from the living example of the Prophet ﷺ until now, when there are about 1.6 billion Muslims in the world, where do we find this forced conversion being practiced? Nowhere.

On the contrary, we find throughout history, Muslims being the targets of forced conversion, particularly to Christianity during the Spanish Inquisition and the Crusades, and to Atheism during the Communist era of the 20th century.

Conclusion

So the question about whether Islam forces itself on others has been addressed. Now the question remains, what can we do to prevent Muslims from being forced to leave their faith?

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36 Comments

  1. medical says:

    Thank you so much, i love it….some days ago i was listening to a shaikh where he said that people do interpret this quran verse “There is no compulsion in religion” false and God wants us to fight them and kill them and so and so on….i was really thinking does God want me to Kill the Jew or Christian next door? I believe/know from the bottom of my heart that Allah is the most mercyful and its actually quit sad that this person who has studied the deen for years and years has such an opinion about our Allah.

    Thank u very much for posting this.

  2. Ahmed says:

    Quran 10:41
    {And if they deny thee, say: Unto me my work, and unto you your work. Ye are innocent of what I do, and I am innocent of what ye do.}

  3. sana says:

    Excellent article – well said! I am also reminded of Surah Kafirun which reminds us to just say to those who disbelieve “to you your religion, and to me, mine” 109: 1-4 http://quran.com/109

  4. Hasan says:

    Thank you very much for this article. One thing you do not address is the issue of irtidad. If a Muslim leaves Islam and converts to another religion like Christianity or the Baha’i religion, does Islam have an obligation to force itself on that person and force him or her to return back to Islam or be killed?

    • Ahmed D. says:

      No it does not. That law that many people continually reference was a situational law. I can’t remember clearly the exact situation so I’d appreciate someone else’s input, but I remember that this was during a time of war in which there was fear that hypocrites who were claiming to be Muslim would become apostates, go to the kuffar and tell them war secrets of the Muslims.

      Again, I’m not 100% clear on all the details so any corrections/fillers would be more than welcome.

      • Hasan says:

        Ahmed, you seem to not be well read on this issue. Please see the wiki page. Scroll down to the opinion of eminent contemporary scholars like Yusuf al-Qaradawi:

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apostasy_in_Islam

        See also the section on apostasy in recent past.

        • sakib says:

          What you need to understand is that in an Islamic Governance, a person submits to Allah not just spiritually but politically, socially, economically etc.
          when a person leaves Islam under an Islamic governance, it has to be assessed as to whether they are a threat as per the lines of treason (apostasy is a vague word). The punishment for treason is death in many of the world countries and Islam is not different in this respect with regards to treason.

        • pappu says:

          You arent well informed either. Wikipedia is NOT an authentic source of information. Many institutes have banned using wikis for reference in academics. There are many scholars who explained irtadad with well sounding reasons.
          Islam is just being defamed on purpose. The involved people never speak for Bradley Mining who is facing high chances of death penalty.

  5. Huda says:

    “Despite Quran 2:256 and its prevalent intepretation, Muslim books of tradition
    and jurisprudence include extensive chapters on groups of people who should be
    forced to accept Islam. We have already surveyed the views of Muslim jurists
    concerning idolaters of various ethnic affiliations, as well as women, children and
    prisoners of war in certain circumstances. Another group against whom religious
    coercion is to be applied are the apostates (murtaddün), people who had been
    Muslims but renounced their faith.”

    For more, see this book:

    http://www.amazon.com/Tolerance-Coercion-Islam-Interfaith-Civilization/dp/0521827035

  6. Zahid says:

    Excellent piece!

    It’s the stigma of the violence in Middle East that is glorified by the media in general. Opinionated Pundits will always use verses talking about violence in Quran out of context and turn it into talking points.

    Your post is literally a slap in the face to all who believe there is no violence in Christianity or other religions.

  7. Said B. says:

    The question that remains is…do these people really care or want to hear the truth? We all know how humanly Muslim treated people who had other faiths during the Prophets capture of Mecca, the companions capture of Jerusalem, the recapture of Jerusalem, the control of Andalus, the capture of Sicily and many more.

    There were no conversion by force. So these people they know the truth but the dont care.

    • matthew says:

      My name is Matthew, I have formed opinions and views from personal experience.. media.. and other half truths that my government allows. Your article and comments were eye opening to me. I heard many of those quotes and had a misunderstood view because of the speakers words had validity and the attacked didnt have any rebuttle that made sense. Maybe im in need to rethink my opinions and views. Thank you for the epiphany. If you wish to comment please send me an email at axiomthegreat@gmail.com

  8. Abdullah says:

    Asalamu Alaykum,

    Jazakum’Allahu khayran Br. Mustafa. If you and/or one of the other people of knowledge could also do a similar article explaining the beginning verses of surah Tawbah, the interpretation(s), insha’Allah that would be beneficial. I also like the putting up of the Arabic verses when referenced, as much as possible.

    Asalamu Alaykum

  9. Ahmed says:

    There isn’t any real proof that Islam forces or requires forcing it onto people. Instead, forcing was the way of the mushriks upon muslims. The only proof is, unfortunately, the mouth of some muslims trying to potray forcing Islam as a valid “difference of opinion” inspite of massive overwhelming evidence that it is baseless and probably even an evil bidah. As long as muslims retain the “difference of opinion” card on this, the complains of non-muslim will remain justified.

  10. Marian Larsen says:

    I was only 16 when i came to Marocco the first time in 1964, i stayed there most of the time till 1970. I am from Denmark, and for 2 of those years, i had a Jewish boyfriend from England, who by the way was the one to open my eyes to the terrible truth about the situation in Israel where he had been and seen the apartheid. Anyway, i also travelled in Turkey, Syria, Egypt and Palestine, and i´ve never met anything but kindness and tolerance, and i´m both chocked and surprised at the irrational fear and prejidice that has hit the western world in recent years. I can only see it as ignorance and lack of historical knowledge, and hope that the new developments in the Muslim world will open their eyes, InshaAllah.

  11. omaronly says:

    Salam, while the article is mostly correct about a historical absence of literally forced conversions, we do need to contend with the fact that spreading Islam has been used as a frequent excuse to conquer lands and impose an Arabo-pseudo Islamic government on the inhabitants. This has occurred as late as 1896 when the Afghan king Abdur-Rahman invaded Nuristan which had been completely pagan (like the Kalash in neighboring Pakistan). Now, its 100% Muslim, so its not something far into the past. How did that come to be?

  12. Z says:

    Nicely articulated.

  13. Ahmed says:

    While it is important to show the true nature of Islam i.e. that it is not violent, quoting verses from other scriptures is a terrible idea. Doing so entails the tu quoque fallacy, which is basically the same thing as the fallacious claim that two wrongs make a right (assuming that Islam is, indeed, violent).

    And if Islam is not violent, there is no need for comparisons, unless you just want to shut people up and say, “Hey, you too!” A strong argument that proves that Islam is peaceful is sufficient.

  14. Wasay says:

    i totally agree with you brother….great information! thank you!

  15. Andrew says:

    Good read! I am seriously considering converting to Islam and it is good to read pages like this that explain things clearly. I am seeing a Muslim girl from Indonesia for the last 5 months so have thoroughly researched Islam considering that I will need to convert to marry her :-) I hate seeing the narrow minded viewpoints expressed on television and the news but equally hate seeing the narrow minded viewpoints from Muslims towards others way of life. Why do the Muslim communities who teach reason, tolerance and understanding not confront the extreme groups who are marching through Britain shouting that gays should be killed as well as British police?
    We all need to live together!!!

    And no, I don’t live in Britain…. just watched it on documentaries about town called Luton.

  16. Alia says:

    Salam.
    What one is forced into the religion due to legislation matters such as in Maldives, where one has to be Muslim to be a citizen and Islamic studies are not taught properly to the citizens? How do we look at situations such as that?

  17. talia says:

    You lied about the bible verses and took them out of context.. Jesus never said bring them and kill them in front of me, Not Gods character at all to do that.

    • Al says:

      You clearly didn’t read the post correctly. The author mentioned exactly that, people take the verses out of context in both the Quran & the Bible.

      The thing he is point out is the hypocrisy of some Christians or people of other faith, who apply no context in the Quranic verses but do in the Bible for example.

      In fairness and truth you should apply context in both circumstances for the Bible & the Quran..

      In that respect I think what he stated is completely fair..

  18. Andrew says:

    Talia,

    All religions have writings that can be taken out of context or even twisted to meet individuals wants (i.e. Taliban, jemaah islamiyah) but the fact of the matter is that the Bible is written in a much more violent way than the Quran and there is no denying this. Maybe the original scriptures, if they could ever be resurrected in their original language and format would be different. But the bible has been translated so many times and languages change over time so it’s a bit like ‘Chinese whispers’ isn’t it? This is the reason that the Quran has remained in Old Arabic.

    You can find comparisons of Luke 19:27 here if you want to see for yourself. It is hard to argue that this can be taken out of context in my eyes though…..

    http://bible.cc/luke/19-27.htm

    • OC715 says:

      Did you mean Luke 19:27 taken out of context in light of Luke 19:11?

      I’m curious why the Quran often tells people to check the Torah if the Torah is corrupted. Doesn’t Quran 28:48-49 sound a bit like the Quran challenge?

  19. stephanie says:

    Interesting. What about countries (eg. in Southeast Asia – Malaysia & Singapore) where, in order to marry a Muslim, one must convert to Islam? Does that not count as forcing? I’m (of course) not blaming the Quran for this but I’m wondering if one could perhaps say that Islamic law is being misapplied in such situations? If religion cannot be forced, why force someone to convert in order to marry? Also, notably, the children of Muslims _must_ be Muslims and subsequent proselytisation is then punishable by sharia law.

  20. OC715 says:

    You might be setting your readers up for embarrassment with those Jesus quotes. I’ve seen them shot down more than once.

    “Jesus is reported to have said in Luke 19:27…”, as part of a PARABLE. See Luke 19:11. It was actually a character in the parable giving the order. Seems to illustrate a supernatural judgment at the end of time.

    Matthew 10:34-36 references Micah 7:6-7. After reading the rest of the chapter, like Matthew 10:16-23, it’s a bit of a stretch to get an exhortation to violence from it. Luke 12:49-53 replaces “sword” with “fire”, and the Gospel of Thomas (non-canon) uses both words and references Micah 7 as well.

    The Old Testament verses disturb me, but are limited to a small area. It doesn’t say expand into India and Spain.

    I rarely see anyone reference Quran 4:91. I think it would be more compelling to analyze something like Quran 9:5-6 (or other parts of Quran 9), or Sahih Bukhari Book 59, Number 643.

  21. Abdul says:

    Thank you so much!
    I just want to that…there are some non muslims who’ve created a blog using the name of Islam and falsifying Qur’anic verses giving out quotations after quotations from Qur’an without been just and honest.

    If you ever have a doubt concerning anything about Islam you just read on a particular website or a blog…don’t hesitate to make further research and the more research you make the better your understanding of the Islamic religion because this is a religion that is bigger than our mind and the entire universe….salam

  22. KOJO says:

    Its sad how because of some people the image of Islam is tarnised. Honestly a lot has to be done. Am not muslim but i have Muslim friends whom i look upto. Saddens me when i hear killings in relation to conversion. Allah have mercy on all whose acts go contrary to the teachings of his holy prophet Muhammed (SAW)

  23. Matthew says:

    I think that anyone who is passionate about their beliefs can come across as forceful. And as is any other religion, there are going to be people who are extreme in their actions. Prime example is Christianity, look at all the violence done in the name of God. The name used as a power tool to subdue anothers freedom, beliefs, civil liberties, ect. I think when we can stop looking at the diffrences, and start treating everyone as humans, we will stop the madness. We need to stop looking at each other as White, Black, Brown, Tan. We need to love, learn, teach, accept, compromise, show compassion, and help each other heal. I try to live my life by doing more good, than bad. If my fellow man needs something I offer without hesitation, doubt, or judgement. if we dont help each other, who else will? one day this idea can be realized and i hope im alive when it is..

  24. Sadham Aadam says:

    Masha Allah. greaaaatttttt.. I love it.

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