Al-Baqara 256

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Verse (ayah) 256 of Al-Baqara is a very famous verse in the Islamic scripture, the Quran.[1] The verse includes the phrase that "there is no compulsion in religion".[2] Immediately after making this statement, the Quran offers a rationale for it: Since the revelation has, through explanation, clarification, and repetition, clearly distinguished the path of guidance from the path of misguidance, it is now up to people to choose the one or the other path.[1] This verse comes right after the Throne Verse.[3]

The overwhelming majority of Muslim scholars consider that verse to be a Medinan one,[4][5][6] when Muslims lived in their period of political ascendance,[7][8] and to be non abrogated,[9] including Ibn Taymiyya,[10] Ibn Qayyim,[11] Al-Tabari,[12] Abi ʿUbayd,[13] Al-Jaṣṣās,[14] Makki bin Abi Talib,[15] Al-Nahhas,[16] Ibn Jizziy,[17] Al-Suyuti,[18] Ibn Ashur,[19] Mustafa Zayd,[20] and many others.[21] According to all the theories of language elaborated by Muslim legal scholars, the Quranic proclamation that 'There is no compulsion in religion. The right path has been distinguished from error' is as absolute and universal a statement as one finds,[22] and so under no condition should an individual be forced to accept a religion or belief against his or her will according to the Quran.[23][24][25][26]

The meaning of the principle that there is no compulsion in religion was not limited to freedom of individuals to choose their own religion. Islam also provided non-Muslims with considerable economic, cultural, and administrative rights.[27]

Text and meaning[edit]

Text and transliteration[edit]

لَآ إِكْرَاهَ فِى ٱلدِّينِ صلے قَد تَّبَيَّنَ ٱلرُّشْدُ مِنَ ٱلْغَىِّ ج فَمَن يَكْفُرْ بِٱلطَّٰغُوتِ وَيُؤْمِنۢ بِٱللَّهِ فَقَدِ ٱسْتَمْسَكَ بِٱلْعُرْوَةِ ٱلْوُثْقَىٰ لَا ٱنفِصَامَ لَهَا قلے وَٱللَّهُ سَمِيعٌ عَلِيمٌ ۝
256 Lā ’ikrāha fi d-dīn(i), qa t-tabayyana r-rushdu mina l-ghay(yi), fama y-yakfur biṭṭāghūti wayu’mim billāhi faqadi s-tamsaka bil‘urwati l-wuthqā la n-fiṣāma lahā, wallāhu samī‘un ‘alīm(un)


لَآ إِكۡرَاهَ فِے اِ۬لدِّينِ صلے قَد تَّبَيَّنَ اَ۬لرُّشۡدُ مِنَ اَ۬لۡغَىِّ ج فَمَن يَكۡفُرۡ بِالطَّٰغُوتِ وَيُومِنۢ بِاللَّهِ فَقَدِ اِٜسۡتَمۡسَكَ بِالۡعُرۡوَةِ اِ۬لۡوُثۡقَٜىٰ لَا اَٜنفِصَامَ لَهَا قلے وَاَ۬للَّهُ سَمِيعٌ عَلِيمٌ ۝
255 Lā ’ikha fi d-dīn(i), qa t-tabayyana r-rushdu mina l-ghay(yi), fama y-yakfur biṭṭāghūti wayūmim billāhi faqadi s-tamsaka bil‘urwati l-wuth la n-fiṣāma lahā, wallāhu samī‘un ‘alīm(un)

Meanings[edit]

256 There is no compulsion in religion. Verily, the Right Path has become distinct from the wrong path. Whoever disbelieves in Taghut and believes in Allah, then he has grasped the most trustworthy handhold that will never break. And Allah is All-Hearer, All-Knower.
Translation:Noble Quran, 1999



256 There shall be no compulsion in [acceptance of] the religion. The right course has become clear from the wrong. So whoever disbelieves in Taghut and believes in Allāh has grasped the most trustworthy handhold with no break in it. And Allāh is Hearing and Knowing.
Translation:Saheeh International, 1997



256 Let there be no compulsion in religion: Truth stands out clear from Error: whoever rejects evil and believes in Allah hath grasped the most trustworthy hand-hold, that never breaks. And Allah heareth and knoweth all things.
Translation:Yusuf Ali, 1934



256 There is no compulsion in religion. The right direction is henceforth distinct from error. And he who rejecteth false deities and believeth in Allah hath grasped a firm handhold which will never break. Allah is Hearer, Knower.
Translation:Pickthall, 1930



Context[edit]

According to some commentators, the verse was only directed towards a small group of residents of Medina, i.e. children from one of the Muslim families who had been educated in the town's Jewish schools decided to depart with the Jewish tribe being expelled from Medina. His distraught parents were told by God and the Prophet in this verse that they could not compel their son to stay.[28][29]

When the children of a woman (in pre-Islamic days) did not survive, she took a vow on herself that if her child survives, she would convert it a Jew. When Banu an-Nadir were expelled (from Arabia), there were some children of the Ansar (Helpers) among them. They said: We shall not leave our children. So Allah the Exalted revealed; "Let there be no compulsion in religion. Truth stands out clear from error."

It is reported that Mujahid said that "This verse was revealed about a man of the Helpers who had a black boy called Subayh whom he used to coerce to become Muslim".[30]

In all cases, following the famous maxim "العبرة بعموم اللفظ لا بخصوص السبب"‎ (Consideration is granted to the Generality of the Language, not to the Specificity of the Reason [for Revelation])[31][32][33] it is concluded that the verse is general in meaning,[28][29] and thus the verse has been understood over the centuries as a general command that people cannot be forced to convert to Islam.[28][34]

Discussion[edit]

Relevance to apostasy[edit]

According to Khaled Abou El Fadl, and other scholars such as S. A. Rahman,[35] the phrase "there is no compulsion in religion" from verse Q.2:256[2] enunciates a general, overriding principle that cannot be contradicted by isolated traditions attributed to the Prophet and that the verse indicates that Quran never intended a punishment for apostasy in this life.[35][36]

Other Islamic scholars disagree.[37] First, the "no compulsion" phrase should not be used out of context and all exegesis of Quran that is "linear-atomistic" analysis of one small phrase in one verse is flawed.[38] The complete verse and nearby verses[39] should be read to understand the "complex hermeneutic totality" of context for anything in Quran.[citation needed]

It is reported that Mujahid said that "This verse was revealed about a man of the Helpers [Ansar of Medina] who had a black boy called Subayh whom he used to coerce to become Muslim".[30] In addition scholar argue, no single phrase or verse in Quran is less or more relevant in Islam than other phrases or verses in Quran; and other verses in Quran such as verse 66[40] of At-Tawba state "Make ye no excuses: ye have rejected Faith after ye had accepted it. If We pardon some of you, We will punish others amongst you, for that they are in sin.",[40] As well as "Say, "The truth is from your Lord": Let him who will believe, and let him who will, reject (it): ...",[41] "And if your Lord had pleased, surely all those who are in the earth would have believed, all of them; will you then force men till they become believers?",[42] "Therefore do remind, for you are only a reminder. You are not a watcher over them;",[43] "He said: "O my people! See ye if (it be that) I have a Clear Sign from my Lord, and that He hath sent Mercy unto me from His own presence, but that the Mercy hath been obscured from your sight? shall we compel you to accept it when ye are averse to it?".[44] According to some western scholars, in the history of Islamic exegesis scholarship, that verse is considered as an early revelation, and abrogated by verses that were revealed to Muhammad at a later stage in his life.[45] However, as stated by the famous British orientalist Sir Thomas Walker Arnold the verse in question is a Medinan verse, when Muslims lived in their period of political ascendance.[5] Moreover, Muslim scholars have established the abrogated verses and Q.2:256 isn't among them.[18][21] Finally, to understand the Quran, the sayings and actions of Muhammad as recorded in Hadith collections are considered by Islamic scholars. Taken together, the vast majority of Islamic scholars of every fiqh have traditionally held with the position that there should be punishment for apostasy in Islam.[46][not specific enough to verify]

Ibn Kathir's interpretation[edit]

The Quran commentator (Muffasir) Ibn Kathir, a Sunni, suggests that the verse implies that Muslims should not force anyone to convert to Islam since the truth of Islam is so self-evident that no one is in need of being coerced into it,[29]

There is no compulsion in religion. Verily, the right path has become distinct from the wrong path. لاَ إِكْرَاهَ فِي الدِّينِ (There is no compulsion in religion), meaning, "Do not force anyone to become Muslim, for Islam is plain and clear, and its proofs and evidence are plain and clear. Therefore, there is no need to force anyone to embrace Islam. Rather, whoever God directs to Islam, opens his heart for it and enlightens his mind, will embrace Islam with certainty. Whoever God blinds his heart and seals his hearing and sight, then he will not benefit from being forced to embrace Islam. It was reported that; the Ansar were the reason behind revealing this Ayah, although its indication is general in meaning. Ibn Jarir recorded that Ibn Abbas said (that before Islam), "When (an Ansar) woman would not bear children who would live, she would vow that if she gives birth to a child who remains alive, she would raise him as a Jew. When Banu An-Nadir (the Jewish tribe) were evacuated (from Al-Madinah), some of the children of the Ansar were being raised among them, and the Ansar said, `We will not abandon our children.' God revealed, لاَ إِكْرَاهَ فِي الدِّينِ قَد تَّبَيَّنَ الرُّشْدُ مِنَ الْغَيِّ (There is no compulsion in religion. Verily, the right path has become distinct from the wrong path). Abu Dawud and An-Nasa'i also recorded this Hadith. As for the Hadith that Imam Ahmad recorded, in which Anas said that the Messenger of God said to a man, أَسْلِم "Embrace Islam. The man said, "I dislike it. The Prophet said, وَإِنْ كُنْتَ كَارِهًا "Even if you dislike it. First, this is an authentic Hadith, with only three narrators between Imam Ahmad and the Prophet. However, it is not relevant to the subject under discussion, for the Prophet did not force that man to become Muslim. The Prophet merely invited this man to become Muslim, and he replied that he does not find himself eager to become Muslim. The Prophet said to the man that even though he dislikes embracing Islam, he should still embrace it, `for God will grant you sincerity and true intent.'[47]

Kashani's interpretation[edit]

Kashani, a Shi'i,[48] interprets Q.2:256 as follows

{ لاَ إِكْرَاهَ فِي ٱلدِّينِ قَد تَّبَيَّنَ ٱلرُّشْدُ مِنَ ٱلْغَيِّ فَمَنْ يَكْفُرْ بِٱلطَّاغُوتِ وَيْؤْمِن بِٱللَّهِ فَقَدِ ٱسْتَمْسَكَ بِٱلْعُرْوَةِ ٱلْوُثْقَىٰ لاَ ٱنفِصَامَ لَهَا وَٱللَّهُ سَمِيعٌ عَلِيمٌ } There is no compulsion in religion, because in reality religion is the guidance that is acquired from the light of the heart that is a concomitant of the human primordial nature and that is required for the faith of certainty, as God, exalted be He, says: so set your purpose for religion as a ḥanīf, a nature given by God, upon which He originated mankind. There is no changing God's creation. That is the upright religion [Q. 30:30], and Islam, which is the exoteric aspect of religion, is built upon this [guidance] and is something in which compulsion can have no place. The proof that the esoteric and true aspect of religion is faith, just as its exoteric aspect and [outer] form is Islam, comes in what follows: Rectitude has become clear, that is, it is distinguished, from error, by means of clear proofs, for the one who possesses insight (baṣīra) and reason (ʿaql), as they say, 'The morning is bright for he who has eyes'; so whoever disbelieves in the false deity, that is, [in] what is other than God and denies its existence and its effect, and believes in God, a belief of witnessing and in truth, has laid hold of the most firm handle [that cannot be split], that is, he has held onto the Essential Unity whose ties and modes of operation are in of Itself, such that there is nothing firmer than It, since every thing that holds onto It is firmly attached, nay, every existence is existent through It and non-existent in itself. Thus if one were to consider such [a thing's] existence, then it is split (infiṣām) in itself because a contingent thing's attachment and existence is only through the Necessary [Existent]. When consideration [of this Existent] is severed from that [contingent] thing then that contingent's existence is terminated and is no longer anything in itself. This [Necessary Existent] cannot be split from the existence of His very essence since He does not entail divisibility (tajazzuÌ) or duality (ithnayniyya). There is a subtle detail in this [concept of] 'splitting' (infiṣām), which is that a splitting (infiṣām) is a breaking (inkisār) but without separation (infiṣāl). Since no contingent can be separated from His Essence, exalted be He, or remove itself from It - given that it would either be an act of His or an attribute of His - there can be absolutely no separation. Nay, if reason would consider such [a contingent] in isolation, it would appear split, that is lacking [independent] existence, its existence attached to His existence, exalted be He. And God is Hearing, hears the speech of those who have religion, Knowing, of their intentions and their faith.[49]

Verses relating to Quran 2:256[edit]

A number of verses relate to Quran 2:256 and this includes,

And if your Lord had pleased, surely all those who are in the earth would have believed, all of them; will you then force men till they become believers?

— Quran 10:99

He said: "O my people! See ye if (it be that) I have a Clear Sign from my Lord, and that He hath sent Mercy unto me from His own presence, but that the Mercy hath been obscured from your sight? shall we compel you to accept it when ye are averse to it?

— Quran 11:28

Say, "The truth is from your Lord": Let him who will believe, and let him who will, reject (it): for the wrong-doers We have prepared a Fire whose (smoke and flames), like the walls and roof of a tent, will hem them in: if they implore relief they will be granted water like melted brass, that will scald their faces, how dreadful the drink! How uncomfortable a couch to recline on!

— Quran 18:29

Therefore do remind, for you are only a reminder. You are not a watcher over them;

These verses indicate that compulsion is strictly prohibited.[22][27][29][34][36][50][51]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Mustansir Mir (2008), Understanding the Islamic Scripture, p. 54. Routledge. ISBN 978-0321355737.
  2. ^ a b Quran 2:256.
  3. ^ Jacques Berque (1995), Le Coran : Essai de traduction, p.63, note v.256, éditions Albin Michel, Paris.
  4. ^ John Esposito (2011), What Everyone Needs to Know About Islam, p. 91. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-979413-3.
  5. ^ a b Sir Thomas Walker Arnold (1913), Preaching of Islam: A History of the Propagation of the Muslim Faith, p. 6. Constable.
  6. ^ Mapel, D.R. and Nardin, T., eds. (1999), International Society: Diverse Ethical Perspectives, p. 233. Princeton University Press. ISBN 9780691049724.
  7. ^ Taha Jabir Alalwani (2003), La 'ikraha fi al-din: 'ichkaliyat al-riddah wa al-murtaddin min sadr al-Islam hatta al-yawm, pp.92-93. ISBN 9770909963.
  8. ^ "this verse is acknowledged to belong to the period of Quranic revelation corresponding to the political and military ascendance of the young Muslim community. ‘There is no compulsion in religion’ was not a command to Muslims to remain steadfast in the face of the desire of their oppressors to force them to renounce their faith, but was a reminder to Muslims themselves, once they had attained power, that they could not force another's heart to believe. There is no compulsion in religion addresses those in a position of strength, not weakness. The earliest commentaries on the Quran (such as that of Al-Tabari) make it clear that some Muslims of Medina wanted to force their children to convert from Judaism or Christianity to Islam, and this verse was precisely an answer to them not to try to force their children to convert to Islam." Open Letter to his holiness Pope Benedict XVI (PDF) Archived 2009-02-12 at the Wayback Machine
  9. ^ Richard Curtis (2010), Reasonable Perspectives on Religion, p. 204. Lexington Books. ISBN 978-0739141892. Quote: "While the pope, following many anti-Islam propagandists, seemingly argues that the oft-cited Quranic dictum "no compulsion in religion" was abrogated by subsequent revelations, this is not the mainstream Muslim interpretation. Indeed, the pope made a major scholarly blunder when he claimed that the "no compulsion in religion" verse was revealed during the Meccan period, "when Mohammed was still powerless and under threat." In fact, it was revealed during the later Medinan period--the same period as the verses that authorize armed struggle against the Meccan enemies of the nascent Muslim community in Medina, that is, "when Muhammad was in a position of strength, not weakness."" (emphasis added)
  10. ^ Ibn Taymiyya, Qāʿidah Mukhtaṣarah fī Qitāl al-Kuffār wa Muhādanatihim wa Taḥrīm Qatlihim li-Mujarrad Kufrihim: Qāʿidah Tubayyn al-Qiyam al-Sāmiyah lil-Haḍārah al-Islāmiyyah fī al-Harb wa al-Qitāl, p.123. Ed. ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz ibn ʿAbd Allah ibn Ibrāhīm al-Zayd Āl Hamad. Riyadh: N.p., 2004/1424. Quote: "جمهور السلف و الخلف على أنها ليست مخصوصة و لا منسوخة، ..." Translation: "Most of the salaf considered the verse to be neither specific nor abrogated but the text is general, ..."
  11. ^ Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya, Ahkam Ahl al-Dhimma, pp.21-22.
  12. ^ Al-Tabari, Jāmiʿ al-bayān ʿan ta'wīl āy al-Qur'ān 4, Dar Hajar, 2001, p.553.
  13. ^ Abi ʿUbayd, Kitab al-Nasikh wa al-Mansukh, p.282.
  14. ^ Al-Jaṣṣās, Aḥkām al-Qur'ān 2, p.168.
  15. ^ Makki bin Abi Talib, al-Idah li Nasikh al-Qur'an wa Mansukhih, p. 194.
  16. ^ Abu Jaʿfar al-Nahhas, al-Nasikh wa al-Mansukh fi al-Quran al-Karim, p.259.
  17. ^ Ibn Jizziy. at-Tasheel. p. 135.
  18. ^ a b Jalal al-Din al-Suyuti, Al-Itqān fi ʿUlum al-Qur’an 2. p.22-24.
  19. ^ Muhammad al-Tahir ibn Ashur, Al-Tahrir wa al-Tanwir, (2:256).
  20. ^ Mustafa Zayd, al-Naskh fi al-Qur'an al-Karim 2, p.510. Dar al-Wafa'. Quote: "تبطل دعوى النسخ في قوله جل تناؤه: Ra bracket.pngلَا إِكْرَاهَ فِي الدِّينِLa bracket.png : ٢٥٦ في سورة البقرة."
  21. ^ a b Muhammad S. Al-Awa (1993), Punishment in Islamic Law, p.51. US American Trust Publications. ISBN 978-0892591428.
  22. ^ a b A.C. Brown, Jonathan (2014). Misquoting Muhammad: The Challenge and Choices of Interpreting the Prophet's Legacy. Oneworld Publications. p. 186. ISBN 978-1780744209.
  23. ^ Yousif, Ahmad (2000-04-01). "Islam, Minorities and Religious Freedom: A Challenge to Modern Theory of Pluralism". Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs. 20 (1): 35. doi:10.1080/13602000050008889. ISSN 1360-2004. S2CID 144025362.
  24. ^ Leonard J. Swidler (1986), Religious Liberty and Human Rights in Nations and in Religions, p.178. Ecumenical Press.
  25. ^ Farhad Malekian (2011), Principles of Islamic International Criminal Law, p.69. Brill. ISBN 978-9004203969.
  26. ^ Mohammad Hashim Kamali, The Middle Path of Moderation in Islam: The Qur'anic Principle of Wasatiyyah (Religion and Global Politics), pp. 110-1. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0190226831.
  27. ^ a b David Ray Griffin (2005), Deep Religious Pluralism, p.159. Westminster John Knox Press. ISBN 978-0664229146.
  28. ^ a b c A.C. Brown, Jonathan (2014). "3. The Fragile Truth Of Scripture". Misquoting Muhammad: The Challenge and Choices of Interpreting the Prophet's Legacy. Oneworld Publications. p. 92. ISBN 978-1780744209.
  29. ^ a b c d Yusuf al-Qaradawi, Ayat al-Sayf, pp.50-51.
  30. ^ a b Al-Wahidi, Asbab Al-Nuzul, (2:256).
  31. ^ Ali Gomaa, al-Tariq ila al-Turath, p.207.
  32. ^ Muhammad ash-Shawkani, Nayl al-Awtar, 8:112.
  33. ^ Ahmed Al-Dawoody (2011), The Islamic Law of War: Justifications and Regulations, p.51. Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 9780230111608.
  34. ^ a b Sir Thomas Walker Arnold (1913), Preaching of Islam: A History of the Propagation of the Muslim Faith, p.420. Constable. Quote: "Forcible conversion was forbidden, in accordance with the precepts of the Qur'an : — " Let there be no compulsion in religion " (ii. 257). " Wilt thou compel men to become believers ? No soul can believe but by the permission of God " (x. 99, 100). The very existence of so many Christian sects and communities in countries that have been for centuries under Muhammadan rule is an abiding testimony to the toleration they have enjoyed, and shows that the persecutions they have from time to time been called upon to endure at the hands of bigots and fanatics, have been excited by some special and local circumstances rather than inspired by a settled principle of intolerance."
  35. ^ a b S. A. Rahman (2007). "Summary and Conclusions". Punishment of Apostasy in Islam. The Other Press. pp. 132–142. ISBN 978-983-9541-49-6.
  36. ^ a b Abou El Fadl, Khaled (January 23, 2007). The Great Theft: Wrestling Islam from the Extremists. HarperOne. pp. 158–159. ISBN 978-0061189036.
  37. ^ S. A. Rahman (2007). Punishment of Apostasy in Islam. The Other Press. pp. 7–15, 110–123. ISBN 978-983-9541-49-6.
  38. ^ Asma Barlas (2002), Believing Women in Islam, ISBN 978-0292709041, University of Texas Press, page 8
  39. ^ Quran 2:254–257
  40. ^ a b Quran 9:66
  41. ^ Quran 18:29.
  42. ^ Quran 10:99.
  43. ^ Quran 88:21, Quran 88:22.
  44. ^ Quran 11:28.
  45. ^ Peters & De Vries (1976), Apostasy in Islam, Die Welt des Islams, Vol. 17, Issue 1/4, pp 15 (footnote 38)
  46. ^ Abdul Rashied Omar (2009), "The Right to Religious Conversion: Between Apostasy and Proselytization", in Peace-Building by, between, and beyond Muslim and Evangelical Christians, Editors: Abu-Nimer, Mohammed and David Augsburger, Lexington, pages 179-194
  47. ^ Tafsir Ibn Kathir Part 3: Surah Al-Baqaray, Ayat 253 to 286, Surah Al-Imran, Ayat 1 to 92, by Ar-Rafa'i, Muhammad Nasib, Al-Firdous Ltd., London, 1999: First Edition, Part 3, pp. 37-38
  48. ^ SHI'ITE COMMENTATORS (MUFASSIRIN) AND THEIR COMMENTARIES (TAFSIRS), The Principles Of Shi'i Tafsir And The Relation Between The Imams(a.s) And The Qur'an
  49. ^ Kashani, Tafsir Kashani, (2:256).
  50. ^ Hashim Kamali, Mohammad (2008). Shari'ah Law: An Introduction. Oneworld Publications. pp. 202–3. ISBN 978-1851685653.
  51. ^ Iḥsān, Al-Hindī (1993). Aḥkām al-Ḥarb wa al-Salām fī Dawlat al-Islām (in Arabic). Damascus: Dār al-Numayr. pp. 16–7.