No Compulsion in Religion
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Spirituality made the concept of spirit and soul emerge as external and internal powers respectively. Theology was applied in the form of “fear” of the unseen in earlier societies. The propagators of this concept were the rulers and/or “priests” who used rituals and human sacrifices to terrorize the people. They projected god as impersonal, harsh, angry and punishing and projected themselves as the link between the people and their gods.
The three ingredients of religion improve the morality of humankind and elevate society in three different ways – theology through fear, philosophy through logic and spirituality through love. Theology deals with the world of the unseen, philosophy through the world of the seen and spirituality with both. The last entity plays a vital role of bridging the gap between the two worlds.
The Quran was the evolution and understanding to the soul that highlighted love, humbleness, tolerance and obedience as its desired acts amongst other noble deeds. It also clarified that good deeds are pre-requisites for the follower of this path towards the world of the Hereafter. The concept also expresses God as love, kindness and justice who can be reached though good deeds and not necessarily panic or terror.
God sent Prophets and Messengers from time to time to direct humankind.
[16:36] We have sent a messenger to every community, saying, “You shall worship GOD, and avoid idolatry.” Subsequently, some were guided by GOD, while others were committed to straying. Roam the earth and note the consequences for the rejectors.
He sent His Warners to every community on earth.
[35:24] We have sent you with the truth, a bearer of good news, as well
as a warner. Every community must receive a warner.
These Prophets and Messengers conveyed the same Celestial Message to their respective communities, tribes and people. They did it with relentless struggle and persistent efforts. For example Noah lived a very long time with his people (950 years). On deputing him God says:
[29:14] We sent Noah to his people, and he stayed with them one thousand years, less fifty. Subsequently, they incurred the flood because of their transgressions.
God does not say “We sent Noah to the non believers.” Similarly, when Noah addressed his people he said:
[7:59] We sent Noah to his people, saying, “O my people, worship GOD; you have no other god beside Him. I fear for you the retribution of an awesome day.”
He was not commanded to say “O non-believers.”
God does not declare anyone unbelievers or disbelievers without giving them many opportunities even in this third and final chance. We also understand that Prophet Muhammad took 23 years to deliver the Quran. He worked in the cause of God with patience and perseverance. He had a huge responsibility and was required to accomplish his task. People were given ample time and opportunity to think and decide for themselves the itinerary for the future.
Proselytizing work (try to convert somebody) is a challenging and delicate task. It demands wisdom, deep sincerity, patience, steadfastness and extraordinary care. Our communication, behavior and style while transmitting the Message should not reflect any kind of compulsion. However, one has to warn:
[50:45] We are fully aware of everything they utter, while you have no power over them. Therefore, remind with this Quran, those who reverence My warnings.
If there is force applied it would be counter productive to the very spirit of the Divine Plan to allow a human the power of choice and freedom. Any duress applied would snatch away the freedom of choice and free will. It also renders the concept of accountability meaningless and the demands of justice will not be met while awarding reward and punishment.
People think that the Prophet launched his campaign with “sword in one hand and Quran in the other.” But this is simply not true. Would he be the first to break God’s commandment? Early in the Quran God says:
[2:256] There shall be no compulsion in religion: the right way is now distinct from the wrong way. Anyone who denounces the devil and believes in GOD has grasped the strongest bond; one that never breaks. GOD is Hearer, Omniscient.
How about Sura 109 - The Disbelievers (Al Kaferoon)? This Sura ends beautifully with the following peaceful statement:
[109:6] “To you is your religion, and to me is my religion.”
A quote from M.K. Gandhi regarding his views on Islam’s expansion in early days is worth noting:
“...I became more than ever convinced that it was not the sword that won a place for Islam in those days in the scheme of life. It was the rigid simplicity, the utter self-effacement (withdrawing into the background; making yourself inconspicuous) of the Prophet, the scrupulous regard for his pledges, his intense devotion to his friends and followers, his intrepidity (courage), his fearlessness, his absolute trust in God and in his own mission. These, and not the sword carried everything before them and surmounted every trouble.”
How to spread God’s Message is spelled out in the Quran:
YOUNG INDIA, 1924.
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