Diversity of Belief in Quran
“For each We have appointed a divine law and a traced-out way. Had Allah willed, He could have made you one community. But that He may try you by that He has given you. So, vie one with another in good works” (Table Spread: 48)
Them in this verse concerns Jews in Medina, who used to allegorize Quran commandments to what they find in their scriptures. Then advise Muslims about what they find consistent and what they find distinctive from Torah. In this verse, God clarifies Quran to be coherent in its broad message and core with the previous Holy Books, whether Old or New Testaments. In addition, orders the messenger of God to mediate according to Quranic commandments in whatever case he has, clarifying to Muslims that God commandment was common in broad terms, and confirming one another. Yet, for every apostle God had sent-down different details of minor commandments, rituals, and practices to examine followers’ obedience, without indispensably homogenizing these details. Finally, God states the diversity of religious beliefs to be his will, as if He wanted to make people on one way venerating him, he would have done. However, this diversity is part of his challenge to test our diversity acceptance and our degree of obedience.
"And if The Lord had willed, He verily would have made mankind one nation, yet they cease not differing” (Hûd: 118)
“And Had Allah willed, He could have made them one community” (Counsel: 8)
The three holy verses support the same meaning of the 48th verse of “Table Spread”. Affirming diversity to be the divine choice of Allah, does this mean God obliged someone to be Muslim and another to be a Jew by any mean. No, it meant that granting freewill to humankind was God’s choice. As diversity is one symptom of the freewill, it represents the result of his own will. In another terms, God willed humankind to have a freewill leading to diversified interests and beliefs. While if he wanted us a one venerating nation likes angels, he would have not granted to us the power to will.
“And if the Lord willed, all who are on earth would have believed together. Wouldst you (Muhammad) compel men until they are believers?” (Jonah: 99)
In this verse, God explained to his messenger the nature of his mission. As on the severe antagonism, Muhammad (pbuh) recurrently felt grief of fruitlessness, fronting vanity and pride of Quraish idolaters as well as untruthfulness of Jews in Medina later on. God the Most Merciful explicates to Muhammad (pbuh) his mission to be limited to delivering God’s word, and he holds no accountability on people response to it, as he is not requested to force them converting to Islam. The question form “Wouldst you compel men until they are believers?” is used in Arabic as in English, to express disagreement and exclamation; the meaning of the question then will be “you are not supposed to compile people converting to Islam”.
“Had God willed, they would not have been idolaters” (Cattle: 107)
“'To God belongs the conclusive argument, for had He willed, He could have guided all of you to the right way” (Cattle: 149)
“And had He willed, He would have guided you all” (Honeybees: 9)
“And had we so willed, We could have given every soul its means to reach the right guidance” (The Prostration: 13)
The four verses here, are all hammering the same idea, that God, the omnipotent, would have guided all humanity to the preferred conviction if he willed, therefore it would have turned to a world without idolatry.
“And say: The truth has now come from your Sustainer, let him who wills, believe in it, and let him who wills, reject it.” (The Cave: 29)
“Verily, all this is an admonition: whoever, then, so wills, may to his Sustainer find a way”(Man: 29)
“Up to you, your religion, and up to me, mine” (The Disbelievers: 6)
“And so, (O Apostle) exhort them; your task is only to exhort* you has no power over them” (The Overwhelming: 21, 22)
“Has you ever considered (the kind of man) who sets his own desires to be his deity? Could you then, (O Apostle) be held responsible for him?” (The Criterion: 43)
“Your Sustainer is fully aware of what you are (and what you deserve) if He so wills, he will bestow His grace upon you; and if He so wills, He will chastise you. Hence, We have not sent you (to men, O Apostle) with the power to determine their fate” (Night Journey: 54)
In diverse adages and frames, the holy verses magnify the necessity of freewill to convert to Islam, and make it crystal-clear that compulsion is unacceptable in matters of faith and belief. Moreover, the verses frame the role of Apostle and accordingly preachers and jurists afterward, to be gently calling people to devotion and belief. Yet, never to force them to any thoughts, deeds, beliefs or rituals. The verses also clarify the individual responsibility in matters of faith, so that even an apostle will not hold accountable for whoever did not follow him with an absolute freewill and belief.
Divisional justifications claims distinguishing between “Apostasy” that includes not only conversion from Islam, but also hostility against it, and “Renunciation” that is limited to conversion only, stating that apostasy calls for the death penalty while renunciation does not.
Referral justification tried to link penalty to another crime, resembling renunciation to betraying one’s homeland in wartime, and this is why it qualifies for death penalty. We shall answer these propositions under the misperceptions discussion in this chapter. While now, we shall favor to start with the solid proofs Quran gave us, to build evidence on Islamic unlimited respect to freedom of belief.
“Would you, perchance, ask of the Apostle who has been sent to you what was asked aforetime of Moses? But whoever chooses to deny the truth, instead of believing in it, has already strayed from the right path.” (The Cow: 108)
In this holy verse, we will clearly notice there is no penal code mentioned or referred to as a destiny to those who “choose to deny the truth”. The verse only states whoever rejects the truth to be deviating from the right path, the one God wanted for him in life.
“Your enemies will not cease to fight against you till they have turned you away from your faith, if they can. But if any of you should turn away from his faith and die as a denier of the truth – these are whose works will go for naught in this world and in the life to come; whose are destined for the hellfire, therein to abide.” (The Cow: 217)
The statement “whose works will go for naught in this world and in the life to come” indicates clearly that whoever will undertake renunciation to idolatry, will have the time to live on earth after it, thus his works will go for naught. Logically if he will be executed for apostasy, he would have no time for any further deeds to go for naught. Does this sound harmonious with who claim we should penalize renunciation or apostasy with execution?
“Behold, as for those who come to believe, and then deny the truth, and again come to believe, and again deny the truth, and thereafter grow stubborn in their denial of the truth – God will not forgive them, nor will He guide them in any way.” (Women: 137)
An even clearer case the verse offers to us. Here, the verse talks about hesitation of belief, so if we tried to imagine a specific man who goes in the pathway detailed in it, he will follow the coming steps;
- The man first had believed.
- Then he denied again the truth of Islam. And denial is surely a degree of apostasy as it is a manifestation of internal disbelief
- Then he has the time to reconsider and be back to Islam.
- Then he undertook renunciation and denial again.
- Again, he has the time to evidence he became stubborn in his denial.
Then, the man has kept his neck intact throughout this hesitation, with the verse stating not a single word on penal code related to this. Does it sound like renunciation or even apostasy qualifies for death penalty in Islam? As the man dies only once, and accordingly he will never have the option of hesitation if the claimed “reddah” penalty did exist anywhere but in the minds of late jurists, those who engraved their understandings hundreds of years after Messenger of God had deceased.
“O’ you who have attained to faith! If you ever abandon your faith, God will- in time- brings forth in your stead people whom He loves and who love Him.” (Table Spread: 54)
Another proof with no single word mentioned on penalties in relation to man’s belief and faith. Overtly saying that Allah has set the human creature in a way, which someday will take him to the real guidance. Therefore, God will replace the denier with millions of those who follows the true guidance and the lights God allotted in their hearts, those who love Allah and who Allah loves them.
“Verily, as for those who are bent on denying the truth after having attained to it, and then grow ever more stubborn in their refusal to acknowledge the truth, their repentance [of other sins] shall not be accepted: for it is they who have truly gone astray.” (The Emrans: 90)
Again, the verse affirms those who bent on denying will have time to commit sins after their renunciation, and states that God will never accept their repentance for their sins. It is indicating an afterlife penalty that will be guided by God’s judgment, but not a life one that is dominated by the human defective judgment.
“And Muhammad is only an apostle; all the other apostles have passed away before him: if, then, he dies or is slain, will you renunciate backward? But he that renunciates backward can in no wise harm God, whereas God will requite all who are grateful to Him.” (The Emrans: 144)
The sixth verse that mentions desertion, linked here to apostle’s death. We might not go so far if we said the verse anticipated what should happen upon Muhammad’s death, the mass renunciation that took place after his death as a form of tribal rebellion to the central authority in Medina, and to what was thought-of as Quraish domination over other tribes based on the honor of prophecy. Such a thing that called many tribal leaders to claim prophecies and encouraged their tribes to follow their falsehoods. This form of narrow tribal loyalty was best expressed by an apostate, once asked if he really believe the prophecy claimer from his tribe, he then replied “a liar from my own clan is better than a true apostle from Quraish”. What takes our attention here, is the indicativeness of this verse, having called for no action from the believers against the apostates, it stands as a proof supporting what is known in history as “Apostasy Wars” to be more about temporal action to secure the Muslims nation more than a divine war to secure Islam itself. It was a “Rebellion War” if we wanted to call it with its real name.
Ibn Salul Case:
“Abdullah ibn Salul”, the man known as the “Chief of Hypocrites” in Islamic treatise. He was one day, a man about to be crowned as King of Medina, as the two major tribes there agreed on his leadership to ensure applying the peace settlement they had, after years of unceasing wars. It was then, when Muhammad (pbuh) came to an agreement with Medina people to receive him and harbor his Message. Then, the royal plans of “ibn Salul” were gone with the winds. During the first two years after Muhammad (pbuh) arrival to Medina, “ibn Salul” with around 700 fellows of him, adhered to their former believes. After Badr combat, when Muslims prevailed over Quraish, and when the man felt Islam to be dominating his city, he announced himself as a devout Muslim. Yet, he had never abided by this announcement.
Now, to give an idea about the forgiveness he was granted from Muhammad (pbuh) and Muslims, let us count how many acts he conducted against the faith and the apostle, plus being known as a hypocrite overtly,
- He was the man who undermined Apostle’s wife “Aisha” in what is known in Islamic history as “The Narration of Falsehood”, he was “ibn Salul” who accused “Aisha” to commit adultery with “Safwan”.
- He was “ibn Salul” too, who separated from Muslims’ army with his followers, whom in total counted for almost 30% of the army. He returned to Medinah, and later on, he asked apostle for mercy, and we find it amazing that he got it.
- In “Bani Mostalak” battle, and only before swords start to gallop, he managed to create a conflict between Medina people and Meccans, rapidly it was turning into an internal fight. It was then when apostle was agitated telling them all: “you are now following the ethics of paganism while I am among you! Do not follow sedition for its stinking”
- Finally, he was the man who commented-on an incident of conflict between Medina men and Meccans saying “I swore once we are back to Medina, whose powerful will clear it from whose powerless” of course meaning Muslims to be the powerless and claiming himself and his followers to be the powerful. Yet, he just said but did not try to do, as he knew he is powerless compared to the Muslims majority in Medina.
After all, he kept talking and behaving like a hypocrite for an age in Medina, well known to be the head of hypocrisy. Then, what the apostle did to him? Simply nothing, not even a minor humiliation he suffered, leaving alone the claimed death penalty. On one of his major attacks on Islam and Muslims, repeating his heresies in public and calling people to renunciate from Islam, Muslims were angry and asked Muhammad (pbuh) to allow them killing the man. The apostle did not allow it, and when these talks arrived to ears of “ibn Salul” son, ”Abdullah”, who was –on the contrary to his father- a devout Muslim, he came to apostle saying “O’ Apostle, if you shall shed his blood, please order me to do it myself. I am afraid if any other man did it, I might tend to revenge killing him, then I am a looser killing a devout for a hypocrite” the apostle answered the faithful son and devout Muslim saying “O’ Abdullah, I shall not do this, he will stay safe and well treated as far as he is here in Medina”.
Later on, when the man was dying, his son asked the prophet to give him a piece of his clothes so he use as a shroud for his father. The son was trying to decrease his father’s expected suffering in afterlife, with a cloth belonging to Muhammad (pbuh). When “ibn Salul” the father died, Muhammad (pbuh) led the funeral prayer blessing his sole. Afterward, God revelation came instructing Muhammad (pbuh) not to repeat this prayer for any other hypocrite. God only blamed his Apostle for praying in his funeral, but no other blame on the overall management of the case and the treatment “ibn Salul” received came with it. Which proved apostolic treatment of the case was coherent with revelation.
Treaty of Hudaybiyah:
One of the articles in Hudaybiah treaty that prophet has signed with his traditional enemies in Quraish for ten years timed ceasefire, stated that “Whoever from Quraish comes to Muhammad as a Muslim, he shall not allow him to Medina, while whoever from Muslims comes to Quraish renunciating out of Islam, Quraish can allow him to Mecca”. Some of the apostle’s followers were very agitated because of such an article, as it was unjust and intruding into Medina’s power within its domain. Yet the apostle accepted it. What interests us here, is the indirect evidence. Shall the renunciation be a sin that exposes to persecution, would the apostle have given this divine right up to Meccans? Would he have approved to allow re-converters to Mecca? Surely, he would have not. However, as it was a matter of conflict management strategies, that harm and violate no major role in Islam, he accepted it. In addition, Muslims objection was not on allowing whoever wants to apostate to go back to Mecca. They objected mainly the idea of rejecting a Muslim from Quraish heading to Medina.
Furthermore, it is mentioned in some Islamic references, yet denied in others, that 12e Muslims has re-converted to paganism after Hudaybiah treaty, then moved to Mecca according to its conditions. Later on, when Muhammad (pbuh) conquered Meccans and had access to these twelve, he applied no harm to them and they joined Islam back voluntarily.
The Revelation-Writers’ Renunciation:
“Bukhary” and “Muslim”, the two widely accepted hadieth collectors, both supported the story of a man, who was a new converter Muslim, and being a literal man, apostle assigned him to write revealed Quran for him among other writers, as literacy was quite uncommon in that time in Hejaz. Later on, the man converted to Christianity and moved to join a Christian tribe, where he attacked Muhammad (pbuh), saying: “He Knows Nothing but what I was writing for him”. Here we have a man who converted and attacked the apostle and undermined his knowledge and his faith. Did the apostle order his followers to get him beheaded for his overt apostasy? No, the man went untouched after it, and we know from “Bukhary” he has died on his bed in peace, simply because Islam has always supported freedom of faith and Muhammad (pbuh) has always knew that, and has always behaved and judged accordingly.
A second writer who was a Meccan, named “Abdullah ibn Abi Sarh” re-converted after Islam and went to Mecca, where he kept undermining the apostle of Islam, then, when Muhammad (pbuh) captured Mecca, he ordered his army to give peace to all its inhabitants but three men, “ibn Abi Sarh” was one of them. “Othman ibn Affan” who was one of Muhammad (pbuh) closest followers and a relative to “ibn Abi Sarh” in the same time, asked Muhammad (pbuh) to dismiss his relative, and the Apostle responded positively. Shall “reddah” penalty be a divine order, apostle would have never accepted to dismiss “ibn Abi Sarh” even after his dear relative support. Yet, as it was a matter of temporal decisions, not a divine one, the Apostle could forgave.
Obaidullah ibn Gahsh:
One of the early Muslims who traveled to Ethiopia in the first Islamic migration, then converted to Christianity and stayed in Ethiopia when others traveled back to Hegaz. Again the apostle has never mentioned him or referred to him as an apostate. Neither he asked any of the Muslims who were in Ethiopia to assassinate the man, who lived for 9 years after his conversion and died in bed. Moreover, knowing that his wife “Ramla” remained a Muslim and she settled with him after his conversion, and knowing that after his death, upon the news came to Muhammad (pbuh) that she became a widowed, lonely, helpless and stranger in Ethiopia, the Messenger mailed to the Ethiopian king to transmit his marriage proposal to here. Yes, she is “Ramla” who was named “om Habiba” after the first baby she mothered for “ibn Gahsh”. Accordingly, the widow of the apostate became the “Mother of Muslims” when she married to the apostle. Do you find this historical reality carrying any of the sensitivity and agitation we face today’s converters with?
The Christian Sons of a Muslim Disciple:
Two sons of one of Medina Muslims converted to Christianity in the life of the apostle. Their father went to Muhammad (pbuh) saying, “O’ Apostle, shall I leave my sons converting to another religion?” it was then when Apostle answered him with nothing but the holy verse “There shall be no compulsion in matters of faith. Distinctive has now become the right way from the way of error.” (The Cow: 256)