Is Islam Opposed to Freedom of Belief?

  • Islam guarantees the freedom of belief and this is verified in the following Quranic verse: 

"Let there be no compulsion in religion’

-2:256

Accordingly, no one is forced to renounce his religion in favour of another faith. One’s freedom to adhere to the religion of one’s choice establishes the base of his belief. And this is emphasized in the following Quranic verse:

"Let him who will, believe, and let him who will, reject (it).” 

-18:29

  • Declaring the freedom of belief means accepting that there is more than one religion. This was stressed by the prophet in the first Constitution of the Islamic state in Al Madina when he acknowledged Judaism and declared that the Jews and the Muslims in Al Madina formed one nation. An example of Islam’s granting freedom of belief is Umar ibn Al-Khattab’s treatment of the Christians of Jerusalem whom he guaranteed the safety of their lives. Their churches, and their crosses assuring them that none of them would be harmed on account of his religion.
  • Islam also grants freedom of thought and opinion provided that discussions on religion are of an objective nature and are not a pretext for abuse and ridicule. This is referred to in the following Quranic verse:

“ Invite (all) to the way of your creator with wisdom and beautiful preaching ; and argue with them in ways that are best and most gracious.” 

-16:125

In the light of this tolerance, discussions may take place between Muslims and Non–Muslims. The Quran invites the Muslims to discuss matters with the people of the Book in the following Quranic verse:

“O people of the Book, come to common terms as between us and you: that we worship none but God; that we associate no partners with him; that we elect not from among ourselves lords and patrons other than God, If they turn back say you: ”Bear witness that we (at least) are Muslims (bowing to the will of God ).

-3:64

This verifies that should the discussion between both parties fail to accomplish its aim, each person is entitled to adhere to the faith in which he believes. This is also what the following Quranic verse expressed concerning the prophet Muhammad’s final remarks to the pagans of Mecca namely:

You have your religion and I have mine.” 

-109:6

  • Belief is based upon one’s conviction, and sincere belief is therefore based on indisputable conviction and is not the result of blind imitation or compulsion. Every individual is free to choose or adopt the faith in which he believes and to exercise his free thought even if he is an atheist. No one has the right to interfere with his beliefs provided that he keeps his beliefs to himself and does not spread them among the people in order to confuse them regarding their moral values. If he deliberately does so, and spreads his false beliefs which reject the beliefs of the people, he will have opposed the regime of the state in which he lives and will have stirred sedition in the hearts of the people. Any person who acts in such a manner will be accused of treason and condemned to death. 

The execution of a person who renounces his faith in Islam is not just due to the renouncing of his religion in which he had believed of his own free will, but also the punishment for inciting sedition against the established religious authority of the Islamic state.

If he should renounce his religion without spreading his views among the people and without shaking the peoples belief, he is immune against all harm. Some Muslim scholars are of the opinion that the person who renounces his faith does not meet his punishment in this world but would be punished in the Hereafter on the Day of Judgement. They also declared that the execution of those who renounced Islam according to the sayings of the prophet, was not for renouncing Islam, but for being enemies of Islam who had fought the Muslims on the battle ground

-Sheikh Abdel Mun’im Al Sa’eed. Freedom of Religious Thought in Islam


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