"Conversion by Force" and "Execution for Leaving"?
وَقُلِ الْحَقُّ مِن رَّبِّكُمْ ۖ فَمَن شَاءَ فَلْيُؤْمِن وَمَن شَاءَ فَلْيَكْفُرْ
“And say, ‘It is the truth from your Lord, therefore let him who wishes (it) believe (in it) and let him who wishes (otherwise) disbelieve (in it).” (18:29)
Apostasy, or leaving the faith, is a part of Sharî’a law and is punishable by death. Similarly, conversion by force means to confess Islam without being convinced at heart. Both these situations bring the person into a state of hypocrisy (cf. 2:8). It is not possible that the Holy Qur’ân denounces hypocrisy (cf. 2:9-10) but allows forced conversion. The Holy Prophet (pbuh) conformed fully to this principle on all occasions whenever he overpowered his foes. When he entered Makkah victorious, he told them, “This day there is no reproof against you. Go! You are free.” In Qur’an you read the well-known, frequently quoted, but least understood verse:
لَا إِكْرَاهَ فِي الدِّينِ ۖ قَد تَّبَيَّنَ الرُّشْدُ مِنَ الْغَيِّ
“There is no compulsion of any sort in religion (as) the right way does stand obviously distinguished from the way of error.” (2:256)
Ibn Athîr, while commenting on this verse, sums up its meaning in the following words: “You do not need to force anyone to accept Islam and follow its rules, as it is so manifest and clear, and arguments and reasoning in its favour are so powerful and convincing that there is no need of any force. Whosoever receives guidance from Allâh, opens his breast to the truth, and possesses the wisdom to understand the arguments in this Book will accept it voluntarily. And if a person is so blind as not to see any reason, his acceptance of Islam is useless.”
إِنَّكَ لَا تَهْدِي مَنْ أَحْبَبْتَ وَلَـٰكِنَّ اللَّهَ يَهْدِي مَن يَشَاءُ ۚ وَهُوَ أَعْلَمُ بِالْمُهْتَدِينَ
“It is not possible for you to guide whomsoever you wish, but Allâh guides whomsoever He will. He knows fully well those who would accept guidance.” (28:56)
This message is also supported by verse 10:99 that states, “And if your Lord had enforced His will, those who are on earth would have believed one and all”. Now if the Lord does not want to apply force toenforce Hiswill, how can He want from us that we apply force to convert a non-believer. There are other verses in the Holy Qur’ân, which convey the same message (cf. 18:29; 26:3-4; 76:3; 6:105; 17:7).
“Scholars” of Islam who insist on death punishment for apostasy fail to explain how and why Islam is threatened if a person leaves his Muslim faith. This law, like the law of blasphemy cannot be called a moral law. Quite the contrary it breeds hypocrisy. Qur’ânic laws are based on morality. If apostate hides leaving his faith to save his life, he is living the life of an hypocrite. Qur’ân uses strong words for hypocrites in dozens of verses .
What Qur’ân tells us on apostasy (يَرْتَدَّ) can be read in the following verse:
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا مَن يَرْتَدَّ مِنكُمْ عَن دِينِهِ فَسَوْفَ يَأْتِي اللَّهُ بِقَوْمٍ يُحِبُّهُمْ وَيُحِبُّونَهُ
“O you who believe! If anyone of you should renounce his Faith (let him remember that) Allâh will bring forth (in his stead) a people (more zealous in faith) whom He will love and who will love Him.” (5:54)
There is a particular beauty in these Divine words يُحِبُّهُمْ وَيُحِبُّونَهُ “Whom He will love and who will love Him”, which come from the use of pronouns of absence (3rd. person plu.) and a future tense without end, indicating that Allâh’s love for His servants will be endless. Following verses clearly speak against any punishment by the people. The authority of punishment is left with Allȃh (3:154)
كَيْفَ يَهْدِي اللَّهُ قَوْمًا كَفَرُوا بَعْدَ إِيمَانِهِمْ وَشَهِدُوا أَنَّ الرَّسُولَ حَقٌّ وَجَاءَهُمُ الْبَيِّنَاتُ ۚ وَاللَّهُ لَا يَهْدِي الْقَوْمَ الظَّالِمِينَ
“How is Allâh to guide a people who renounce their faith after having accepted it and after testifying to the truth of the Messenger and after clear and sound proofs had come to them? And Allâh never guides a people who cannot discriminate between right and wrong.” (3:86)
There is no mention of any death penalty for apostasy in above verses. How can it be. God does not want to encourage and breed hypocrites. He always gives an option to “repent after and make amends”. Similarly, Qur’ân tells us that there is no punishment of any kind for the one who converts a Muslim to another faith.
وَدَّ كَثِيرٌ مِّنْ أَهْلِ الْكِتَابِ لَوْ يَرُدُّونَكُم مِّن بَعْدِ إِيمَانِكُمْ كُفَّارًا حَسَدًا مِّنْ عِندِ أَنفُسِهِم مِّن بَعْدِ مَا تَبَيَّنَ لَهُمُ الْحَقُّ ۖ فَاعْفُوا وَاصْفَحُوا حَتَّىٰ يَأْتِيَ اللَّهُ بِأَمْرِهِ
“Many of the people of the Scripture would love to turn you back after your having believed, into disbelievers, out of selfish envy, and after the truth (of this Qur’ân) has become apparent to them. But pardon (them) and overlook, until Allâh shall make manifest His will, indeed Allâh is Possessor of every power to do all He will.” (2:109)