Dispelling the misunderstandings by elucidating the reality of ‘forced conversion’ to Islam, M. S. Shamsi avers that conversion with any ulterior motive like marriage, money, power, position, etc. or converting anyone by use of force, allurement, coercion, threat or any fraudulent means is not at all acceptable in Islam.
Of late, a hackneyed refrain – ‘forced conversion’ – is being marketed on social as well as godi media in overwhelming proportion. Any stray incident, particularly if it relates to marriage between a Muslim boy and a Hindu girl, is immediately termed, rather amusingly, as ‘love jihad’ and let loose on social media peppered by hyperbolic add-on. The highly outrageous Shraddha Walker murder case, which deserved to be condemned in harshest words, calling for severest punishment to the perpetrator was mostly presented as ‘love jihad’ merely because the name of the boy is Aftab Poonawala, the Muslim sounding name, while reportedly he is a Zoroastrian (parsi) not a Muslim. It appears that some trained caucus groups are very active scripting soap opera on the fly in respect of any petty incident involving a Hindu and a Muslim.
However, the concern here relates to dispelling the misunderstandings by elucidating the reality of ‘forced conversion’ to Islam. Religion, be it Islam or any other, is solely concerned with accepting the set of basic beliefs of a particular religion from the core of heart. Conversion with any ulterior motive like marriage, money, power, position, etc. or converting anyone by use of force, allurement, coercion, threat or any fraudulent means is not at all acceptable in Islam. Hence use of the word ‘force’ is quite irrelevant when it comes to entry into the fold of Islam. Even the word ‘conversion’ is not appropriate to use in case of one’s entry into the religion of Islam. The holy Qur’ān nowhere uses any word connoting ‘conversion’ while describing the principles of propagation of Islam.
‘CALL’ NOT ‘CONVERSION’
The holy Qur’ān is the message of the Creator to the human beings – His creation. It reveals the reality of the ephemeral human lives, its beginning and the end on the basis of rational arguments. Firmly founded on three basic and logical beliefs – i.e. total submission to and worshipping one and only God – the Creator, strict adherence to His prophet Muhammad ﷺ, accountability to the Creator for our deeds in the life after death – it emphasises high moral values for human beings and prescribes a set of do’s and don’ts for creating an egalitarian society based on such high moral values. It also clearly brings out the natural consequences of rejecting the truth both here in this life and the life after death.
However, Islam being the pioneer and proponent of freedom of belief, faith and expression, strictly prohibits use of any overt or covert force, allurement, coercion or threat for ‘converting’ any one into the fold of Islam. The Holy Qur’ān, at more than one place, emphasises this to the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ and his followers. A few of the verses are reproduced below:
- Indeed, this (Qur’ān) is only an admonition. So, whosoever wishes may heed to it. (80:11&12)
- Surely, We have shown him the right path; (now) one may choose to be thankful or unthankful (to his Lord). (76:3)
- So (O’Prophet) you exhort (them); your duty is only to exhort. You have no authority to compel (them into Islam). (88:21&22)
- There is no compulsion in the matter of religion. The right way stands clearly distinguished from the wrong. (2:256)
However, human being has natural right and freedom to propagate and publicise what he thinks is right. It is rather moral duty of a person to share with fellow human beings what he thinks right and beneficial to mankind. Only in pursuit of the well-wishing and benefits of mankind, the Holy Qur’ān asks its followers to ‘call’ (not convert) people to the way of their Lord. In this regard, the Holy Qur’ān says:
“Call to the way of your Lord with wisdom and fair exhortation and reason with them in a way that is the best.” (16:125)
Thereafter, it leaves to the fair judgement of the people to accept or reject the call. This in a way is similar to the call of a producer to buy his product by bringing forth its distinguishing features and benefits without applying force to buy it.
Prophet Muhammad ﷺ scrupulously followed these commandments. Not a single instance can be cited from the sacred life Prophet Mohammad ﷺ where he used compulsion or coercion for conversion. He always gave a call to the people through goodly exhortation and reasoning. What could have been the better opportunity to use force for conversion when Prophet Mohammad ﷺ entered Makkah– the land then mostly inhabited by non-Muslims and his staunch enemies – as a conqueror with a might of more than ten thousands of armed forces at His command. But it is perhaps the solitary example in the world history that He entered Makkah in a quite humble posture. Addressing the panic-stricken and frightened people of Makkah, he asked, “Do you know how I am going to behave with you today?” “You are our brother, kind and magnanimous and son of our merciful brother” was the only reply of the vanquished Makkans in a despairingly resigned tone. The magnanimity of the Prophet, however, announced general amnesty and forgiveness to all, saying, “Today no blame against any of you. You all are free of all charges.” The Prophet, being in an overpowering position, could have issued a diktat asking everyone to convert to Islam. But he never did so as it was against the commandment of Allah (SubhanahuwaTa’ala).
This was also admitted by many other scholars like Philip K. Hitti, a Maronite Christian, who, while describing the Conquest of Makkah by Prophet Mohammad ﷺ, writes in his magnum opus‘A History of the Arabs’, “The people (of Makkah) themselves were treated with special magnanimity. Hardly a triumphal entry in ancient annals is comparable to this.”
The above verses make it absolutely clear leaving no haze or daze that forceful conversion is foreign to the nature of Islam. It depends solely on the wish and will of a person to accept or deny it on the basis of his/her fair judgement. The slanderous allegations and malicious propaganda being hurled against Muslims and Islam to demonise them are soon to end in smoke as only truth triumphs.