“What is the meaning of No Compulsion in Religion?”


by Rifat Hassan

Right to Life

The Qur�an upholds the sanctity and absolute value of human life [1] and points out that, in essence, the life of each individual is comparable to that of an entire community and, therefore, should be treated with the utmost care [2].

Right to Respect

The Qur�an deems all human beings to be worthy of respect [3] because of all creation they alone chose to accept the �trust� of freedom of the will [4]. Human beings can exercise freedom of the will because they possess the rational faculty, which is what distinguishes them from all other creatures [5]. Though human beings can become �the lowest of the lowest�, the Qur�an declares that they have been made �in the best of moulds� [6], having the ability to think, to have knowledge of right and wrong, to do the good and to avoid the evil. Thus, on account of the promise which is contained in being human, namely, the potential to be God�s vicegerent on earth, the humanness of all human beings is to be respected and considered to be an end in itself.

Right to Justice

The Qur�an puts great emphasis on the right to seek justice and the duty to do justice

Right to Freedom

As stated earlier, the Qur�an is deeply concerned about liberating human beings from every kind of bondage. Recognizing the human tendency toward dictatorship and despotism, the Qur�an says with clarity and emphasis in Surah 3: Al-�Imran: 79:

It is not (possible) that a man, to whom is given the Book, and Wisdom, And the Prophetic Office, Should say to people: �Be ye my worshippers Rather than Allah�s� On the contrary (He would say): �Be ye worshippers Of Him Who is truly The Cherisher of all.� [16]

The Qur�an recognizes the right to religious freedom not only in the case of other believers in God, but also in the case of not-believers in God (if they are not aggressing upon Muslims) [27].

In the context of the human right to exercise religious freedom, it is important to mention that the Qur�anic dictum, �Let there be no compulsion in religion� [28] applies not only to non- Muslims but also to Muslims. While those who renounced Islam after professing it and then engaged in �acts of war� against Muslims were to be treated as enemies and aggressors, the Qur�an does not prescribe any punishment for non-profession or renunciation of faith. The decision regarding a person�s ultimate destiny in the hereafter rests with God.

The right to freedom includes the right to be free to tell the truth. The Qur�anic term for truth is �Haqq� which is also one of God�s most important attributes. Standing up for the truth is a right and a responsibility which a Muslim may not disclaim even in the face of the greatest danger or difficulty While the Qur�an commands believers to testify to the truth, it also instructs society not to harm persons so testifying [29].

Right to Acquire Knowledge

The Qur�an puts the highest emphasis on the importance of acquiring knowledge.

Right to Privacy

The Qur�an recognizes the need for privacy as a human right and lays down rules for protecting an individual�s life in the home from undue intrusion from within or without [35].

Right to Protection from Slander, Backbiting, and Ridicule

The Qur�an recognizes the right of human beings to be protected from defamation, sarcasm, offensive nicknames, and backbiting [36]. It also states that no person is to be maligned on grounds of assumed guilt and that those who engage in malicious scandal-mongering will be grievously punished in both this world and the next [37].

Right to Leave One�s Homeland Under Oppressive Conditions

According to Qur�anic teaching , a Muslim�s ultimate loyalty must be to God and not to any territory. To fulfill his Prophetic mission, the Prophet Muhammad decided to leave his place of birth, Mecca, and emigrated to Medina. This event (�Hijrah�) has great historical and spiritual significance for Muslims who are called upon to move away from their place of origin of it becomes an abode of evil and oppression where they cannot fulfill their obligations to God or establish justice.[40]

Right to �The Good Life�

The Qur�an uphold the right of the human being only to life but to � the good life �. This good life, made up of many elements, becomes possible when a human being is living in a just environment. According to Qur�anic teaching, justice is a prerequisite for peace, and peace is a prerequisite for human development. In a just society, all the earlier-mentioned human rights may be exercised without difficulty. In such a society other basic rights such as the right to a secure place of residence, the right to the protection of one�s personal possessions, the right to protection of one�s covenants, the right to move freely, the right to social and judicial autonomy for minorities, the right to the protection of one�s holy places and the right to return to one�s spiritual center, also exist [41].

1. Reference here is to, Surah 6: Al-An�am: 151. 2. Reference here is to, Surah 5: Al-Ma�idah:32. 3. For instance, see Surah 17: Al-Isra�: 70. 4. Reference here is to Surah 33: Al-Ahzab: 72. 5. Reference here is to Surah 2: Al-Baqarah: 30-34. 6. Reference here is to Surah 95: At-Tin: 4-6. 7. For instance, see Surah 5: Al-Ma�idah: 8 and Surah 4: An- Nisa�: 136. 8. A.A.A. Fyzee, A Modern Approach to Islam, p. 17 (Lahore: Universal Books, 1978). 9. Ibid.

10. Reference here is to Sarah 53: An-Najm: 38-39. 11. Reference here is to Surah 2: Al-Baqarah: 177. 12. Reference here is to Surah 4: An-Nisa�: 95-96. 13. Reference here is to, Surah 24: An-Nur:2.



  1. oriana says:

    Most of the ‘rights’ you mention are at the expense of freedom of expression and freedom of inquiry.

    No wonder Islamic countries stagnate and have the highest illiteracy and lowest education rates of all countries.

    Curiosity is discouraged under a stultifying blanket of fear.

  2. Come and live in our Islamic countries — then talk..

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