One of the fundamental truths established by the sacred texts is that no one can be compelled to accept Islam.
It is the duty of Muslims to establish the proof of Islam to the people so that truth can be made clear from falsehood.
After that, whoever wishes to accept Islam may do so and whoever wishes to continue upon unbelief may do so.
No one should be threatened or harmed in any way if he does not wish to accept Islam.
Among the many decisive pieces of evidence in this regard are the following:
Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa) says:
لَآ إِكۡرَاهَ فِي ٱلدِّينِۖ قَد تَّبَيَّنَ ٱلرُّشۡدُ مِنَ ٱلۡغَيِّۚ فَمَن يَكۡفُرۡ بِٱلطَّٰغُوتِ وَيُؤۡمِنۢ بِٱللَّهِ فَقَدِ ٱسۡتَمۡسَكَ بِٱلۡعُرۡوَةِ ٱلۡوُثۡقَىٰ لَا ٱنفِصَامَ لَهَاۗ وَٱللَّهُ سَمِيعٌ عَلِيمٌ (256)
“There is no compulsion in Faith. The correct way has become distinct from the erroneous. Now, whoever rejects the Taaghoot (the Rebel, the Satan) and believes in Allah has a firm grasp on the strongest ring that never breaks. Allah is All-Hearing, All-Knowing.” (Al-Baqarah 2:256)
Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa) further says:
وَلَوۡ شَآءَ رَبُّكَ لَأٓمَنَ مَن فِي ٱلۡأَرۡضِ كُلُّهُمۡ جَمِيعًاۚ أَفَأَنتَ تُكۡرِهُ ٱلنَّاسَ حَتَّىٰ يَكُونُواْ مُؤۡمِنِينَ (99)
“Had your Lord willed, all those on earth would have believed altogether. Would you, then, compel people, so that they become believers?” (Younus 10:99)
Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa) also says:
فَإِنۡ حَآجُّوكَ فَقُلۡ أَسۡلَمۡتُ وَجۡهِيَ لِلَّهِ وَمَنِ ٱتَّبَعَنِۗ وَقُل لِّلَّذِينَ أُوتُواْ ٱلۡكِتَٰبَ وَٱلۡأُمِّيِّۧنَ ءَأَسۡلَمۡتُمۡۚ فَإِنۡ أَسۡلَمُواْ فَقَدِ ٱهۡتَدَواْۖ وَّإِن تَوَلَّوۡاْ فَإِنَّمَا عَلَيۡكَ ٱلۡبَلَٰغُۗ وَٱللَّهُ بَصِيرُۢ بِٱلۡعِبَادِ (20)
“Then, if they argue with you, say: ‘I have submitted myself to Allah, and (so did) those who have followed me’. And say to those who have been given the Book, and to the unlettered: ‘Do you submit?’ If they submit, they will be on the right path. Yet, if they turn back, then you have only to convey the message. Allah is watchful over (all of) His servants.” (Aale ‘Imraan 3:20)
At another point in Quraan, Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa) says:
مَّا عَلَى ٱلرَّسُولِ إِلَّا ٱلۡبَلَٰغُۗ وَٱللَّهُ يَعۡلَمُ مَا تُبۡدُونَ وَمَا تَكۡتُمُونَ (99)
“The duty of the Messenger is only to convey the Message.” (Al-Maaidah 5:99)
It is important to note that these last two Aayaat (Verses) were revealed in Madinah al Munawwarah.
This is significant, since it shows that the ruling they gave was not justcontingent on the Muslims being in Makkah al Mukarramah in a state of weakness.
Some people might be wondering that if Islam indeed advocates such an approach, then what is all this we hear about Jihad?
How can we explain the warfare that the Prophet, Hadhrat Muhammad (SallAllaho Alaihe WaSallam), and his Sahaabah (Companions) waged against the pagans?
The answer to this is that Jihad in Islamic Law can be waged for a number of reasons, but compelling people to accept Islam is simply not one of them.
As for conversion, this is to be done peacefully by disseminating the Message with the written and spoken word rather with your practices in daily life.
There is no place for the use of weapons to compel people to accept Islam.
The Prophet (SallAllaho Alaihe WaSallam) said in his letter to the Roman governor Heraclius: “I invite you to accept Islam. If you accept Islam, you will find safety. If you accept Islam, Allah will give you a double reward. However, if you turn away, upon you will be the sin of your subjects.”(Bukhari and Muslim)
Once people have heard the Message without obstruction or hindrance and the proof has been established upon them, then the duty of the Muslims is done.
Those who wish to believe are free to do so and those who prefer to disbelieve are likewise free to do so.
Even when the Muslims are compelled to fight and then, as a consequence, subdue the land, their duty thereafter is to establish Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa)’s law in the land and uphold justice for all people, Muslim and non-Muslim.
It is neither their duty nor their right to coerce their subjects to accept Islam against their will.
Non-Muslims under Muslim rule must be allowed to remain on their own faith and must be allowed to practice the rights of their faith, though they will be expected to respect the Divinely-prescribed laws of the land.
Had the purpose of Jihad been to force the unbelievers to accept Islam, the Prophet (SallAllaho Alaihe WaSallam) would never have commanded the Muslims to refrain from hostilities if the enemy relented.
He would not have prohibited the killing of women and children.
However, this is exactly what he did.
During a battle, the Prophet (SallAllaho Alaihe WaSallam) saw people gathered together. He dispatched a man to find out why they were gathered.
The man returned and said: “They are gathered around a slain woman.”
So,Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa)’s Messenger (SallAllaho Alaihe WaSallam) said: “She should not have been attacked!”
Hadhrat Khalid ibne Waleed was leading the forces, so he dispatched a man to him saying: “Tell Khalid, not to kill women or laborers.” (Sunan Abi Daawood)
Therefore, even in the heat of battle against a hostile enemy, the only people who may be attacked are those who are actually participating in the fighting.
Had the purpose of Jihad been to force the unbelievers to accept Islam, therightly guided Caliphs would not have prohibited the killing of priests and monks who refrained from fighting.
However, this is exactly what they did.
When the first Caliph, Hadhrat Abu Bakr, sent an army to Syria to fight the aggressive Roman legions, he went out to give them words of encouragement. He said: “You are going to find a group of people who have devoted themselves to the worship of God (i.e. monks), so leave them to what they are doing.”