نَّحْنُ أَعْلَمُ بِمَا يَقُولُونَ ۖ وَمَا أَنتَ عَلَيْهِم بِجَبَّارٍ ۖ فَذَكِّرْ بِالْقُرْآنِ مَن يَخَافُ وَعِيدِ
(50:45) – We know best what they say; and thou art not one to overawe them by force. So admonish with the Qur'an such as fear My Warning! [Yusuf Ali]
Therefore, O Messenger! You should not take any notice of what they say. You have not been sent to forcibly compel people to follow the right path. You should keep on presenting the Quran to them. Only the one who is fearful of the working of Our Law will learn lesson from it, according to which the consequence of every wrong way is destruction.
What would the Quraysh be saying amongst themselves about the Prophet (PBUH) and his small group of companions? What do the powerful and affluent always say about poor working people under their control? Well, they say that these people must be out of their minds if they demand human rights, equality, and justice for all; don’t these wretched of the society know that we will be teaching them a stern listen; don’t they know that if they organize any movement against us then we will destroy them? How can the weak and poor challenge us? This kind of mentality always takes over tyrants and oppressors of humanity (20:24, 20:43, 20:45, 53:52, 79:17, 89:11, 91:11). And this is what the Quraysh were saying about the Prophet (PBUH) and his small group of companions in Mecca when the Prophet (PBUH) started his movement for social justice and human equity. And, as a consequence, the Quraysh made their life so difficult that they had to migrate to Medina.
Difficult Stages of Migration from Mecca to Medina
Migration was a difficult stage in the life of the Prophet (PBUH) and companions. Even today, with all the modern conveniences, when we get uprooted and migrate to another place we go through lot of difficulties. Imagine then, how difficult and heart-wrenching it would have been for the Prophet (PBUH) and his companions when the means of communications were very primitive those days, and the enemy was constantly waylaying them? Allah acknowledges this when He says:
وَاللَّـهُ يَعْلَمُ مُتَقَلَّبَكُمْ وَمَثْوَاكُمْ
(47:19) – He knows what progress your revolutionary movement has made. He knows what sacrifices you have made in migrating from Mecca to Medina; and what the ultimate destination of this Divine system is. In this process of migrating from one place to another place, and in establishing a new revolutionary program based on Divine revelation, there are bound to be challenges:
فَلَا يَحْزُنكَ قَوْلُهُمْ ۘ إِنَّا نَعْلَمُ مَا يُسِرُّونَ وَمَا يُعْلِنُونَ
(36:76) – So, O Messenger! Do not be aggrieved about what they say. We are certainly aware of what they are saying openly and what they are hiding in their hearts.
Every War Was A Defensive War After Migration
The Meccans should have been happy that the danger – so they thought – from the Momineen was finally over as they moved to a different place. The Momineen had completely dissociated from Mecca. But the Quraysh did not keep quiet. The Quraysh did not leave them alone even there. In a surprise move, they came all the way from Mecca to Medina fully prepared for war and attacked the Momineen in Medina. It was at this time that Allah granted permission to the Prophet (PBUH) and the Momineen to defend themselves at the battle of Badr:
أُذِنَ لِلَّذِينَ يُقَاتَلُونَ بِأَنَّهُمْ ظُلِمُوا ۚ وَإِنَّ اللَّـهَ عَلَىٰ نَصْرِهِمْ لَقَدِيرٌ
(22:39) – It is for this reason that permission is hereby granted to the Momineen – who have been extremely oppressed and against whom war is being wrongfully waged – to fight in self-defense. Allah indeed has the power to support oppressed people. So, the Momineen went to Badr and faced the advancing army of Quraysh.
And the Quraysh were in for a shock – a real deep shock – which shattered them at the battlefield of Badr because the Momineen were fighting for Al-Haq (the Truth) and the Quraysh were fighting for falsehood (Baatil) (3:12, 8:7, 8:8, 8:13, 8:41, 17:81). But the Quraysh didn’t learn lesson from their loss as is the case with all tyrants. Even after their defeat the Quraysh kept attacking the Momineen in Medina, and the Prophet (PBUH) and the Momineen kept defending themselves. What was the fundamental reason for all these attacks from Quraysh?
الَّذِينَ أُخْرِجُوا مِن دِيَارِهِم بِغَيْرِ حَقٍّ إِلَّا أَن يَقُولُوا رَبُّنَا اللَّـهُ ۗ
(22:40) – The only fault of the oppressed people who were unjustifiably driven from their homes was that they proclaimed Allah alone as their Sovereign Sustainer and Nourisher. But evil rebellious forces usurp and control the God-given natural resources and never easily permit people to exercise this option of choosing Allah as their sole Sustainer. This struggle has been going on throughout human history and will continue until eternity. Allama Iqbal expresses this Quranic reality thus:
This perpetual struggle has always been there
Amid Muhammad’s light and Abu Lahab’s fire
And the history of humanity bears ample testimony to this fact, including the one dubbed as the age of knowledge and enlightenment with global domination!
Muslims Have the Responsibility to Protect Non-Muslims
The Quran says:
وَلَوْلَا دَفْعُ اللَّـهِ النَّاسَ بَعْضَهُم بِبَعْضٍ لَّهُدِّمَتْ صَوَامِعُ وَبِيَعٌ وَصَلَوَاتٌ وَمَسَاجِدُ يُذْكَرُ فِيهَا اسْمُ اللَّـهِ كَثِيرًا ۗ وَلَيَنصُرَنَّ اللَّـهُ مَن يَنصُرُهُ ۗ إِنَّ اللَّـهَ لَقَوِيٌّ عَزِيزٌ
(22:40) – those who have been driven from their homelands against all right for no other reason than their saying. “Our Sustainer is God!” For, if God had not enabled people to defend themselves against one another, all monasteries and churches and synagogues and mosques - in [all of] which God's name is abundantly extolled - would surely have been destroyed [ere now]. And God will most certainly succor him who succors His cause: for, verily, God is most powerful, almighty. [Asad]
Jihad Does Not Mean Forcing People Into Submission
The Quran summarizes the philosophy of war exquisitely. The important thing to note is this:
وَمَا أَنتَ عَلَيْهِم بِجَبَّارٍ
(50:45) – O Messenger! You have not been sent to forcibly compel people to follow the right path. There must not be any compulsion in Islam. They are engaged in these wars with you, although the fact is that you are not trying to force them to accept Islam. The Quran declares:
لَا إِكْرَاهَ فِي الدِّينِ
(2:256) – If Allah, the possessor of infinite might, the Creator of the Universe had desired, then His Absolute Order could have been enforced in the human world as it is enforced in the natural world, but He did not wish to exercise compulsion (5:48).
If Islam does not allow any kind of compulsion or coercion in Deen then how come we often hear the refrain that “Islam spread by the sword?” This is nothing but a propaganda and total lie against Islam.
The Quran, in fact, tells the Bedouins who had accepted Islam willingly that Iman has not entered your hearts, so you can’t call yourselves Momin (49:14). It tells even us, who call ourselves Muslims, to acquire Iman:
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا آمِنُوا بِاللَّـهِ
(4:136). Iman is derived from “Amn” which means peace and security – inside the heart as well as in the society at large. In fact, the Quran goes so far as to say that even if its verses are presented to you then you should not accept them uncritically as if you are dumb and deaf (25:73). You must accept its verses only after giving due thought and consideration (4:82, 47:24).
The Quran not only does not suppress intellect but it enhances it. The Kuffar were asking the Prophet (PBUH) to show miracles, and only then they will believe (2:118, 6:8-10). Allah told the Prophet to tell them that if We created this gigantic Universe from nothing then it would be easy for Us to show them miracle but that would be accepting Our message without due thought and understanding (13:7, 13:27, 29:50). The Quran does not accept such an Iman because Iman must be based on inner peace and contentment that comes from accepting it based on logic, reason, and knowledge. Forcing anyone to accept Islam is totally out of the question according to the Quran. All the wars that the Prophet (PBUH) fought were defensive wars imposed on him by the enemies of Islam. These wars were not to spread Islam by sword. One cannot be called Muslim if one accepts Islam due to compulsion according to the Quran.
How to Do Da’wah According to Sunnah of the Prophet (PBUH)
Allah tells the Prophet (PBUH) to remain steadfast and fight the Kuffar and Mushrikeen at the battle of Badr; and since you, O Messenger, are on the path of Al-Haq you will prevail (8:8) but you cannot compel anyone in matters of Islam. If someone from among the enemies come to you to seek shelter then treat him with dignity and provide him shelter and present him the Quran (8:70, 8:71). If he wants to go back then send him under your protection to his people. And leave them alone to decide, based on their own understanding, whether or not they want to accept Islam. It must be their conscious choice based on their own freewill whether or not to accept Islam.
The Ideal Sunnah of the Prophet (PBUH): Show Guidance, Ask No Compensation
Every messenger’s very first message to his people was:
يَا قَوْمِ لَا أَسْأَلُكُمْ عَلَيْهِ أَجْرًا
(11:51) – I ask no reward from you for the service which I am rendering you. So, it is purely your choice whether you accept or reject my message. There is no compulsion in Deen. I am only here to present you Allah’s message through the Quran:
(50:45) – You should keep on presenting the Quran to them. However, only those will accept its message who truly feel in their hearts that they will be held accountable for their deeds:
مَن يَخَافُ وَعِيدِ
(50:45) – Only the one who is fearful and conscious of the working of Our Law of Requital will learn lesson from it according to which the consequence of every wrong way is destruction.
So, O Prophet (PBUH)! You are only to show them the right path. It is up to them whether or not to follow it. It is not your duty to force anyone to walk on the right path. One who does not want to follow the guidance of the Quran it is his choice. He shall face the consequences. Allah’s Law of Requital will ultimately hold him accountable.
The Prophet (PBUH) did not force even his enemies to accept Islam. These were the same people who made his life so difficult and had become prisoners of war. The Prophet (PBUH) could have done anything to them. The normal practice regarding prisoners of war at the time was to make them slaves. But the Quran told that you have to treat them well while they are in your custody (8:70, 76:8). You can exchange them for your prisoners; or you can release them for ransom; or if that is not possible then release them as a goodwill gesture (47:4).
The essence of Islam is the Quran with its sublime sunshine of universal permanent values. And the ideal role model of Islam – and of the humanity at large – is our Prophet (PBUH), not the latter-day saints, kings, and dictators who have used the name of Islam for their own ulterior motives.