Part two

Section Four: Another interpretation of freedom of thought and religion in Islam

In this section we are to first present the religious proof of the freedom of religion and thought in religion and second critic the mentioned evidence of the deniers of the freedom of religion and thought. Before paying to this important subject we would first answer this introductory question that if freedom is the base in religion and thought and denying freedom needs proof or vice-versa? It is obvious that by freedom of thought and religion is meant worldly freedom, in a way that even with having faith in the righteousness of the certain religion-Islam_ and the salvation of the its true followers is believing in the other religions, creeds, and schools of thought considered a crime and is punishable or not? Therefore the point in creating a basis is that if the basis is put on the non-Moslem being guilty and his punishment (including all, apostate the followers of the holy book and the infidel that does not pay tribute) and his acquaintance is in need of proof or is it the other way around and the basis is put on innocence of all from punishment and terrestrial crime whether or not it is religious crime and be in need of punishment? It seems that the basis is, the innocence of the terrestrial crime and punishment and proving the crime of, the limitations of the followers of the holy book as the one that have to pay tribute and are obligated to certain duties and the infidel that doesn’t pay tribute not having the right to live is in need of proof. It is necessary to state that the issue is not surely about the sin of the apostate and the infidel that does not pay tribute, in the resurrection day. There is no doubt that even though with the knowledge of Islam being just if the three ways are selected they are sinners. By terrestrial crime it means that their punishment is to be in this world, and not every sin is a terrestrial one therefore many sins do not have neither punishment that has a minimum and maximum nor an Islamic punishment that is laid down by Koran. Therefore if we don’t find a valid reason that proves the guilt of these three group we are to go by the doctrine of presumption if innocence and acquit them.

The first: The Scriptural evidence on the subject of the freedom religion and thought

In the time that we have we would put the verses of the Koran that in any way prove the freedom of religion and thought and analyze them [1].

the denial of duress and force and religion and faith

The most important verse in this group is the following:

“Duress is not permissible in religion, as the path has become clear from falsehood to light, therefore anyone that takes the idols as tyranny and starts to have faith in God, has truly has found a support that is never separated from him, and God is the wise that can hark.” [2 ]

The above verse contains denial and prohibition. Denying that God has based faith on force and duress, and prohibiting imposing faith on anyone, since forced faith and tyranny are not valid. The disproval of force in this verse equals accepting freedom in religion and it requirements are freedom in both matters: freedom in bringing religion and freedom in leaving it. This that people have to choose between the just religion and death means the denial of freedom and duress in religion. If people are free to choose a religion and then after bringing that religion not be free to leave it, them keeping that religion is only possible with duress, force and fear of punishment. At the same time Koran has introduced faith in God as growth and just, and considers the difference between just and null conspicuous, without wanting to force man to accept the just religion. “As understood by the verse Koran has not appropriated the freedom of religion and thought only to Islam, but has rejected any kind of duress and force in general from all religions without an exception, in all thoughts and ideas. Such a liberty and freedom that has a natural and cognitive relation with the nature of man can neither be appointed nor removed [3 ]”.

As to the tradition behind the verse it is said that by Mojahid that a member of the Ansar made his colored servant accept Islam, this verse was descended and prevented the Moslems from this act. Others have stated the tradition behind this verse goes back to a man that was a member of the Ansar, named Abol-Hossein. He had two sons that sometimes worked with the foreign merchants, doing business with them. Several Christian Oil merchants entered Medina; they invited the two mentioned boys to Christianity and the boys accepted and started for Sham city with the people that they had newly shared a religion with. Their father that was one of the apostles of Mohammad informed him and the verse that “ There is no duress in religion [4]” was descended.

There is no doubt that death sentence and life imprisonment for the apostate or making an infidel choose between Islam and death are obviously clear examples of duress in religion and are against the mentioned verse.

“And if your God wished all the settlers of earth would be faithful, then do you make people become Moslems with duress ? [5] ” It is true that bringing faith in God and the other world is just, but god has not imposed faith on man, because in such a case man would have no choice and punishment and award would be meaningless. Religion and faith only have a value when man chooses it freely and with a free will. When the prophet would sometimes get worried about some people not bringing Islam and would insist that they become Moslems, God would remind him on how he could not reject duress in faith and religion when his God rejects it? And the obvious answer is obviously no. If duress and using force are not permissible to make a person bring Islam or to make him be faithful how can duress and force be permissible for staying in Islam? Bringing faith and becoming a Moslem are just, but God has not given anyone the permission to force this right on anyone. How can we make people choose between Islam and death? Of course to stay faithful and not bartering faith to tyranny and not becoming an apostate is righteous. Do we have the permission to force people bring Islam and faith with punishments such as death sentence or life imprisonment?
Noah has stated that: Thy people, think that if I have a conspicuous proof from thy God and he had bestowed me a favor that has been veiled from you, then can we obligate you while you don’t favor it [6]?

When Noah presented his holy message to the people he encountered with the denial of the people of his own time and they refuted him. He in argumentation of his people invited them to think that however he could have a proof from his God and that proof may have stayed hidden from the eyes of his people. Can the prophet force people to accept the right while they feel reluctant towards that that are righteous? Forcing to understand is with duress and that means that it is obvious that the prophet does not have such permission. If the prophet does not have such a permission then do the followers of the prophet have the permission to make people bring Islam through force and duress or to make them keep their religion with punishment, pressure and threat? From these three verses this imperative rule can be concluded that one cannot and should not make anyone bring a religion or faith through duress and force. The freedom of religion is nothing but the denial of duress and force in this area.

The second group: freedom as a mans of guidance and manifestation in the world

“Prophet, state the right is from your God, therefore anyone that wishes can bring faith and anyone that wishes can become a heathen, we have prepared a fire for the unjust [7].

Even though there is no doubt in the righteousness of Islam, yet the Koran clearly states that anyone that wishes can bring faith and anyone that wishes can become a heathen. God has only pointed to the punishment of he infidel in the other world, but is anyone to be punished for his idea and religion in the testing arena, the world? In such a case then there would be no meaning in a person wanting faith or wanting to be a heathen. In this verse the basis for the freedom of religion and the punishment for the wrong choice is reminded and the faithful don’t have the right to ignore the rational holy logic and rely on he logic of violence, force, and threat in making others religious.

“ say o people, right has come from your God, therefore anyone who finds the path then he has done so in his own benefit, and anyone who deviates has done so in his own loss, and I am not your guard [8].”
There is no doubt that Koran does not take the right path and the deviated path and Islam with tyranny the same. But this that man chooses the path freely is an art and in need of award otherwise if there is only one path in the way of man- the right path-and everyone is forced to walk on that otherwise they would lose their life, then what would be the need for a test in the world and the awards and the punishments of the other world? The noble principle of resurrection is not possible without the freedom of religion.

We send the book (the Koran) righteously to you for the people, therefore anyone that finds the right path has done so to his own benefit and anyone that deviates has done so to his own loss and you are not their guard [9].

Koran has revealed the right to the people, but the people in this world are free to go by it or to ignore it, and the other world is the place that one is to be evaluated and awarded. We don’t have the permission to let people do that which God has forbidden for his prophet. God and his messenger let people accept religion freely, yet of course they reminded them of that that is just. The other world is the place of repose for the ones that have accepted that which is just through a free will.

“I have been commanded to worship the God of this city that has made it safe and all he says is truth and I have been commanded to be one of the Moslems and that to study Koran, then whoever that finds the path has done so to his own benefit and as for anyone that deviates just tell them that just one of the people that is to warn you and say that you are grateful to the God. He would show you his signs and then you would recognize them and your God is not ignorant of that which you do [10].”

The prophet warns people of the end of the null religions and ideas, reads Koran to them and shows them the right religion and idea, anyone that accepts, good for him and anyone that doesn’t he himself will have lost and will have to end the terrible end o his choice. God is a conscious observer and pays close attention to every choice that is made.

This group of sample verses that were reviewed, stress on freedom in the world in order to guide and manifestation are the fundamentals of the freedom of religion and idea in religion.

The third group: The prophet and the notification of the right and not forcing it

The place of the prophet in relation with the religion of the people has been thoroughly clarified. The duty of the prophet is bringing the message, notification, and guidance. He does not have the right to force people and make them accept religion with duress.

1. ‘Therefore remind that you are truly a one that notifies, and you do not master them [11].”

The duty of the prophet is to convey the message of the religion; he notifies that which is just to the people. Anyone that wishes would accept and would enjoy its incessant benefits, and anyone that does not want to would not accept and would obviously bear the endless disadvantages that it has. The consequences of the just and the null would be in the day of resurrection and the world is the place of test. The prophet does force people or does not master them to make them bring faith or make them lose it. If the prophet does not have such a right, do the followers of the prophet have the right to deprive the people of the freedom of religion?

2. “ We are the most informed to what they say and you are not forceful with them, so refer anyone that fears my promise of pain to Koran [12].”

3. “We did not send you but to give tidings and warnings, say that for that I don’t seek anything as a wage for that, unless one wants to walk to his God and rely on a live God that doesn’t die and praise him thankfully, and he is so much aware of the sins of his people [13].”

4. “ If I reveal to you a part of what I have promised them, or to get your life (before that) this would not change that conveying the messages is yours and auditing is ours.”

5. “ There is no duty for the messenger but to convey the messages, and God knows that which you reveal and that which you hide.”

If the prophet that is the first human in the world has no other duty towards the religion of the others but preaching, do others have the permission to do anything but to encourage and preach concerning the religion of the others and deprive the people of freedom in religion and idea? If the calculation and the evaluation of the people’s religion is to be done but God and conveying and the notification and the way that it is to be done id to be done by the prophet then depriving the people of freedom of thought and religion and punishing and awarding, affairs that are to be done in the other world, in this world is in a way playing the role of the God, and this is not acceptable by God and his prophet has not committed it.

The fourth group: Condemning the punishment for changing the religion

Using the element of force and the heavy punishment of the apostate has from ancient times been an issue. The through the report of three events has condemned the punishment for changing religion.

“The elders of his tribe that had chosen tyranny said that oh Shoaib we would run out you and the ones that have brought faith out of the city unless you come back to our religion. He said even with duress [14]?”

The tyrants caused a dilemma for Shoaib and the believers of his time. They either had to accept exile or change their religion and become apostates and choose tyranny over faith. Shoaib replies that if we are to change our religion with duress? Is changing religion possible through force and duress? We cannot leave our religion with force. Koran accepts the logic of Shoaib.
One cannot say that changing religion from just to null is not mandatory, yet changing from null to righteous can be forceful. Analyzing the verse that states that there is no duress in religion we found out that Koran completely rejects duress and force in religion.

“They (the sorcerers) said that: We have brought faith in the God of the universe, the God of Moses and Haroun. The pharaoh said that: Did you bring faith before me giving you permission? This is a scandal that you have thought of it together in the city, to make the settlers of the city homeless, you would soon find out that I would cut your legs and hands in opposite directions, and then I would hang all of you.” [15 ]

The sorcerers seeing the miracle of Moses brought faith in God and let go of tyranny and changed their religion and in other words they became apostates. _ Pharaoh was overwhelmed on how they have changed their religion before his permission. He has advertised the sorcerer’s change of faith as a scandal for making the people homeless and immediately announces the punishment of the apostates that is cutting the legs and the feet and hanging them. The sentence for changing religion and apostasy in pharaoh’s creed is execution, and in the land of pharaoh anyone that changes his religion would die. Koran does not believe in this logic and condemns it. On the opposite, the logic of Koran is rejecting force and duress in religion, or you can say freedom of thought and religion.

“ And the pharaoh let me kill Moses and he call his God, I have no fear whether he changes your religion or to corrupt this land.” [16]

In Pharaoh’s religion changing the religion (from tyranny to righteous) has a death sentence. He threatens Moses to death; because he intends to change the religion of the people and through his viewpoint corrupt the earth. Koran rejects pharaoh’s reasoning. The people are free to choose their own religion. Nobody has the right to force them to accept this religion or that through duress. The path of growth is clear from that of evil.

From these and other similar verses we can conclude that Koran rejects the attitude of the tyrants an the pharaohs concerning apostasy and condemns it, and while it believes faith in god to be righteous, yet it has left man free to choose between continuous and preliminary faith and tyranny in this world, and in other words it has left man free to choose his religion and thought.

The fifth group: A critic on the way that the believers of different religions encounter each other and God’s will for a difference in ideas

1. “ If your God wished he would create all people as one, yet they still have their differences, except the ones that God has mercy on them and that is the reason why he has created them, the promise of your God is that we would fill all hell with men and demons.”[17]
God’s will is not for everyone to think alike, in other words God has recognized the difference of religions and thoughts in this world for a reasons and has promised the people that have deviated hell. Forcing ideas and thought in this world is exactly against Islamic and Koran’s viewpoint.

2. The Christians said that the Jews are not righteous even though they study the holy book, and others that do not know anything said similar things and at the end God is to judge between them.”[18]

The Koran has blamed this that any religion takes another religion as null and frail. The place that one is to be judged is the other world and not this. In this world people are free to choose any religion or idea that they wish, yet the holy prophets remind them of justice but the people are to choose and this is what test and in getting involved is all about.
“ Thou heathen I do not worship your idol and you are not my praying worshippers and I am not the worshipper of what you worship, and you are not my praying worshippers, you keep to your religion and I to mine.”[19]

The Kafaroun chapter is one of the most reliable evidences of he freedom of religion and thought in Koran, now can Moslems’ in dealing with other religions and thought choose any other scheme?

The sixth group: Not punishing an apostate in this world

Even though has condemned changing faith to tyranny, yet based on sound logic has only informed them of their evil end in the other world. It has not mentioned any worldly penal such as death sentence or life imprisonment for apostasy, meanwhile we would point to two of the most important verses on the subject of apostasy:

“ And any one of you that turns from his religion and dies in tyranny, his actions will have turned void in both world and they are immortal in hell.”[20]

The reverend verse has informed of the death of the apostate. The Arabic word refers to natural death and not death sentence or murder; if the apostate were to be killed (executed) it would have been stated (The word “fimat” should have been changed to “Gatala” as in die and killed). From the phrase “fimat ve hova kafar” one would understand that he could have died even though he is a believer, meaning first that after becoming an apostate one needs to stay as an apostate to be punished by the later punishments that have been predicted in the verse, and in addition the repenting of the apostate in normal conditions is accepted if he gets the chance to repent. The punishments that have been projected in the verse are for the other world and death sentence or the life-sentence of the apostate has not been mentioned.

“Anyone that chooses any religion other than Islam it would not be accepted from him and he would be one of those that has lost, how can God guide people that after their faith, and after they have confessed that the prophet (of Islam) is righteous and they have been enlightened have become tyrants and God does not guide tyrants. Their punishment is that God and all the angels damn them. They are in hell for eternity and their pain does not lessen and they are not given time except the ones that repented and did well, since God is the kind merciful. The repenting of people that become heathen after they have become faithful and then add to their tyranny is never accepted and they are the lost souls.”[21]

Even though Koran has clearly stated that after the migration of the last prophet no other religion accepted from anyone other than Islam and that anyone that practices another religion would be at loss, yet no worldly punishment has been mentioned for the followers of other religions. In addition the only punishments that are for the other world are in case of obstinacy and hostility, and rejecting it while knowing that that is right meaning the practical and the political apostates and not the scientific and the theoretical apostate. The ones that out of ignorance and because of lack of knowledge have chosen a null idea are not punished even in the other world. The punishment of the practical and the political apostate in the other world are damnation of God, the angels and the people, eternal pain, not lessening the punishment and time of it. These punishments are in case if the apostate does not repent, is he repents God is merciful and the possibility of being forgiven is not out of the question. Yet the repenting of the apostate that goes out of his way in tyranny is not accepted. The repenting of an apostate not being accepted in the other world has nothing to do with his repenting being accepted in this world.

Contemplating about the verses concerning an apostate that were reviewed we can conclude that:

1-Changing faith to tyranny is definitely condemned, and not acceptable. Changing faith to tyranny can be in two ways: first through theoretical and scientific, and through research even if it is wrong. The individual in this case reaches the conclusion that there is no god and resurrection and doubts Islam (theoretical and scientific apostasy). And second through practical lust, corrupt political deviation, evil manipulations and the love of the world while knowing that which is right, denying that that is just and changes his religion, meaning that the apostasy being based on material gains and not because of scientific reasons (the practical and political apostasy).

2-There is no punishment mentioned in Koran for the theoretical and scientific apostasy neither in this world nor in the other. It is obvious that such a person would conditionally not be entitled to the benefits and advantages of that which is right.

3- In the case of practical and political apostasy the punishment that has been mentioned is punishments of the other world, and pain in hell. Anytime that Koran speaks of apostasy it refers to this very kind.
4-For an apostate, there is absolutely no punishments, as life imprisonment or execution been predicted in Koran.

The seventh: The schemes of religious invitation

“Invite to the path of your God with wisdom and acceptable themes and reason with them using the better way, because your God is more conscious on who has deviated from his path and that he himself knows of the people who have found the path.” The logic of Koran in inviting people to religion is rational and peaceful, using the reason and the wisdom of people, reminder and advice and last logical reasoning. Terror or duress and murder have no place in this logic. Islam is the religion of mercy and its invitation is merciful as well.”[22]

The conclusion of the Koranic reasoning:

Now with a closer look at the Koranic verses concerning freedom of thought and religion, with some of their most important examples being covered in the last seven groups we would reach the following conclusions:

1- Islam has introduced the just religion and the correct ideas with the most conspicuous rules and has pointed to the disadvantages of tendencies towards the false.

2- Islam believes the true prosperity of man in following the just religion and the correct idea and severely condemns deviation from this path.

3- From the point of view of Islam people are free in choosing their religion and thought and no one can be forced or be made to accept under duress the just religion and correct ideas.

4- Islam has recognized variety of religions after the holy invitation; meaning that a group will accept the holy invitation and some would stay in the dark. The lost ones have many groups and branches.

5- From the viewpoint of Islam the persons that have not accepted the holy invitation tin this world and have accepted the false religion and thought would be punished at the time of resurrection.

6- In Islam there is no punishment predicted for a false belief or religion.

7- The Islamic logic in inviting others to the just religion is logical, rational, peaceful, merciful, and away from violence and force.

8- No one can be stopped to change his or her religion by duress. Apostasy does not have a punishment in this world, but if it were enmity, and denial it would have harsh punishments in the other world.

As a result it is clear that freedom of religion and thought in Islam is indisputable. But this conclusion is complete when the documents of the group that denies freedom of thought and religion in Islam is critically reviewed in a way that it would not be able to overcome the mentioned reasons.



1 Jemal ol’ Bena in the essay of “ Horiat ol’Fekr Ve Eleteghad Fe Al’ Islam “ has organized these Koranic verses in another way

2 Baghareh Chapter, Verse 256.

3 Ayatollah Doctor Mehdi Haeri Yazdi, Islam and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the yearbook of the Shiite school of thought, number 4, 1341, pgs.67-76.

4 Tabari, Majma ol’ Bayan Fi Tafsir El’ Koran, ch.3, pgs.363-364.

5 Euness Chapter, Verse 99.

6 Houd Chapter, Verse 28.

7 Kahf Chapter, Verse 29.

8 Euness Chapter, Verse108.

9 Zamr Charter, Verse 41.

10 Namal Chapter, Verses 91-93.

11 Ghashia Chapter, Verses 21-22.

12 Gh Chapter, Verse 45.

13 Forghan Chapter, Verses 56-58, Raad Chapter Verse 40, Maedeh Chapter, Verse 99

14 Eraf Chapter, Verse 88.

15 Eraf Chapter, Verses 121-124

16 Ghafar Chapter, Verse 26.

17 Houd Chapter, Verses 118-119.

18 Baghareh Chapter, Verse 113

19 Kafaroun Chapter, Verses 1-6

20 Baghareh Chapter, Verse 217

21 Al’ Omran Chapter, Verse 85-90

22 Nahl Chapter, Verse 125