Does the Qur’an Really Sanction Violence Against Unbelievers?

It is often misunderstood that the Qurʾanic verses which permit or obligate a Muslim to fight in defence against a hostile enemy abrogated the verses of peaceful preaching. The verse in question is: We do not abrogate a verse or cause it to be forgotten except that We bring forth [one] better than it or similar to it. Do you not know that Allah is over all things competent? [2:106]

The claim of Jihad being an instrument of terrorism and forced conversions is one of the misconceptions that have been used by non-Muslims to claim that Prophet Muhammad pbuh only established his religion by the sword.

Forced conversions against one’s will are not genuine. Why would any Muslim want to force people with the threat of death when faith comes from within the heart and the hypocrites will face an especially painful punishment in the next life? It would be absurd for Islam to first force people to become hypocrites and then to punish them for having done so.

Allah stated in the Qurʾan, addressing the Prophet: “And had your Lord willed, those on earth would have believed – all of them entirely. Then, [O Muḥammad], would you compel the people in order that they become believers?” [10:99]. “So remind, [O Muḥammad]; you are only a reminder. You are not over them a controller.” [88:21-22]. “…upon you is only the [duty of] notification, and upon Us is the account.” [13:40]

Allah orders Muslims to allow total freedom of choice: “There shall be no compulsion in [acceptance of] the religion…” [2:256] And say, “The truth is from your Lord, so whoever wills – let them believe; and whoever wills – let him disbelieve.” [18:29]

What this means is that they are free to disbelieve in this world, but Allah will punish them in the next.

There is no cancellation or abrogation of any of the verses in the Qur’an. The verse on abrogation refers to cancellation of revealed laws in previous scriptures and replaced it with a new law for a new religious community, and the new law never differed from the old law. Rather, the new law was either similar or better than the old law.

Prophet Muhammad did not compel a single person to accept Islam. Rather, he fought whoever fought against him first. As for the one who made a truce with him, he never fought him so long as that person remained upon the truce and did not violate his covenant. Allah says: “…So as long as they are upright toward you, be upright toward them.” [9:7]

Western governments incite nations into these wars of aggression through the use of carefully crafted propaganda. Hence, the presentation of Islam as inherently violent is used to justify invasions and wars. They deceive the people by failing to point out that all the verses of war are addressed only under the command of a Muslim ruler, not individuals. These ‘violent’ verses came for a particular time and for a particular war. 

Allah enjoins justice towards those who do not fight and kill Muslims: “Allah does not forbid you from those who do not fight you because of religion and do not expel you from your homes – from being righteous toward them and acting justly toward them. Indeed, Allah loves those who act justly.” [60:8]

Thus, peaceful preaching and good argumentation are the foundation of spreading [inviting people to] Islam: Invite to the way of your Lord with wisdom and good instruction, and argue with them in a way that is best.” [16:125] These are commands which will always remain in effect and have not been abrogated.

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