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We believe that a true and comprehensive understanding of Islam would not be possible without careful recognition of the Prophetic Tradition and the Prophet's Household. And Allah is the Source of Strength.

Islam Obligates, Muslims Compel

This paper is a submission by Ghulam Abbas.
You can contact her through her email address []

Muslims have been notorious around the globe, for enforcing their beliefs onto the people they live amongst, whether it be their families, their subjects or the nonmuslims of their society. Many Muslims have been known to force the fundamentals of Islam (according to their understanding) onto their children; even going to extremes in doing so.

The question is, that does Islam give the Muslims this responsibility and authority? And if so, how much. What are their responsibilities and limits in this respect? Being parents, till where do their precincts stretch?

Let us first know that in Islam, every individual is responsible for their own actions. On the day of resurrection, all individuals will be accountable to God for Ďtheirí deeds only. As Allah says in His book:

That no bearer of burden shall bear the burden of another.
Quran [53:38]

Allah has declared that no one would be charged for anyone elseís evildoings and transgressions by Allahís law. Every person, as an individual, shall answer just for his sins and virtues. You will not be questioned about what I do, I will not be accountable for what you do.

This how ever does not mean that I have no responsibility over you and your actions. This does not mean that i am totally independent from what you do. I shall clarify here that every individual, as a Muslim, has some responsibilities to fulfill, in regards of other Muslims. Islam is not religion that would care solely about the individual, it considers Muslims as a party, and so all of us have mutual rights over each other too, that means, we have collective duties to do too.

Allah talks of Sabbath in the Quran;

And when a party of them said: Why do you admonish a with a severe chastisement? They said: To be free from blame before your Lord, and that haply they may guard (against evil). So when they neglected what they had been reminded of, We delivered those who forbade evil and We overtook those who were unjust with an evil chastisement because they transgressed.
Quran [7:164-165]

This shows that the people in that town were of three categories. One, those who flagrantly violated God's commands. Two, those who were silent spectators to such violations and discouraged those who admonished the criminals, pleading that their efforts were fruitless. Three, those who, moved by their religious commitment, actively enjoined good and forbade evil so that the evil-doers might make amends. In so doing, they were prompted by, a sense of duty, to bring back the evil-doers to the right path, and if the latter did not respond to their call, they would at least be able to establish before their Lord that for their part they had fulfilled their duty to admonish the evil-doers. So, when the town was struck by God's punishment, only the people belonging to the last category were spared for they had displayed God-consciousness and performed the duties incumbent upon them. As for the people of the other two categories, they were reckoned as transgressors and were punished in proportion to their crimes.
Tafheem ul Quran, by Abul Aala Maududi, Tafseer of Surah 7, Verse 165

Allah only saved the people who forbade the evil. Although they were not committing any disobedience to Allah, and neither would they be held accountable for what the oath-breakers did, if they realize the good, their responsibility was to warn the people.

Everyone of us has our responsibilities over everyone around us, depending on our relationship, our authority and our position in the society. It varies from people to people, how, will be discussed later. The article focuses on how Islam does not compel anyone, and how much, if it does.

One should always try conveying the truth to the people close to him/her, so that his duty is done. Although we are not responsible for what someone else does, we are indirectly responsible of them if we negate our duty to warn some one or guide him. We will not be questioned about what the evil doer did, for what he did is out of his own free will. We will be questioned about our own silence, by thinking that what some one else does is their business only. This also does not mean that we go poking our nose around in everyone else's issues and matters.

The Muslims, are blessed with the opportunity of serving our religion as its advertisers, Islam being our brand.

And from among you there should be a party who invite to good and enjoin what is right and forbid the wrong, and these it is that shall be successful.
Quran [3:104]

Islam tells a specific group of qualified Muslims, to enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrong. On one hand, Islam boasts that it does not compel anyone, on another, it orders a specific group of people to forbid the wrong. If i drink alcohol in an Islamic state, the state punishes me and forces me not to consume it. This is definitely forbidding the wrong, but isn't it also compelling me at the same time?

The purpose of the paper is to clarify any confusion if any, between Islam's boasting of no compulsion and forbidding of evil at the same time. The two are opposing each other as we see it, but are they opposing each other in real?

Islam is the truth, yet we are not supposed to force religion onto others because there is no compulsion in Islam.

There is no compulsion in religion; truly the right way has become clearly distinct from error; therefore, whoever disbelieves in the Shaitan and believes in Allah he indeed has laid hold on the firmest handle, which shall not break off, and Allah is Hearing, Knowing.
Quran [2:256]

Once again, Islam tells clearly that there is no compulsion in religion. You are free to believe that Isa (AS) was the god or son of god. You are free to worship idols. You are free to accept Islam. When Rasool (SAW) migrated to Medina, he did not compel the Jewish tribes to accept Islam. He allowed them to practice their religion while the Muslims practiced theirs. A treaty was signed and there was no compulsion.

We know best what they say, and you (Muhammad) are not one to compel them; therefore remind him by means of the Quran who fears My threat.
Quran [50:45]

Rasool (SAW) was not given the authority to compel people to accept Islam, because his duty was only to deliver what was revealed to him (SAW). Rasool (SAW) was told only to remind the people, and not compel them. His mission was to change the thoughts of the people, to win hearts, not force them to agree to his cause.

Muhammad (SAW) is only a Warner and messenger, not a compeller, because guidance comes from God. Itís a product of Allahís will, personís sincerity of intentions and efforts.

Before i proceed, a clear understanding should be made between the "to-dos" and the "don't-dos" of Islam. Beliefs are the most important aspect of Islam. Occupying the primary position in religion, without beliefs or Usool e deen, there is no Islam. Actions are secondary to beliefs in Islam, although integral. For every individual who claims to be a Muslim, there are some things mandatory; he is required to do certain things, to meet with the standards set by Allah for a believer. Once heís a Muslim, heís supposed to do these acts, as Allah has ordained these. His doing of these tasks would further prove his belief in Allah as the Supreme authority. These are the obligations or the "to-dos". They include Fasting, Salaat, observing of hijab, giving of Zakat, performing Hajj, asking of Tawba, Sending Durood on Muhammad (SAW) and his blessed progeny etc.

The "don't-dos" are the things forbidden to Muslims, such as consuming alcohol, adultery, theft, robbery etc. All believers must refrain from them willingly.

No one can force beliefs onto any one, be him a parent of the person disbelieving. A parent or brother in religion can only preach the person who disbelieves; they canít go any further, as we already read, there is no compulsion in religion, and we already have the example of Rasool (SAW) before us, who did not force his uncles and brothers to agree to him and support him, but only warned them and conveyed the message.

Allah doesnít need our time or worship, he wants us to be well oriented with Islam, so much that we understand its essence, and donít consider prayer just a compulsion and do it five times daily, but put in our best feelings too!

They think that they lay you under an obligation by becoming Muslims. Say: Lay me not under obligation by your Islam: rather Allah lays you under an obligation by guiding you to the faith if you are truthful.
Quran [49:17]

The basic, most talked of in Quran and thus most common form of worship is salaat or prayer. Prayer is obligatory on every adult, conscious and sane Muslim.

The Salaat is the Mairaj of a Momin. For everyone else, it is a waste of time. The salaat we pray is the time we get to talk to Allah, it is the time when we stand in front of our creator. Shouldn't our deeds and faith be so that when we stand before him, we feel safe and proud? We should feel scared and nervous at the same time, for we stand before Allah, at his mercy? Yet we all stand in front of him daily, after disobeying him and his Rasool (SAW) almost every hour. We stand just because we are suppose to do it. If oneís heart is not involvement, his freely chosen way and pleasure is not included, then any form of worship, no matter how many hardships one had to face in its way, is not acceptable. The essence of worship is to feel happy and be pleased in it. Let the time you spend in the worship of Allah, be the best time of your day, through your natural feelings.

The father and mother should teach their children how to perform prayer, as itís their duty towards their children. They should order them gently to perform it when they reach seven years, explaining to them why are we supposed to pray, to thank God and remember Him at regular timings each day. As children arenít sensible enough to discriminate between right and wrong, the parents/guardians are assigned the duty to ensure that their children get adequate awareness about their duties towards Allah, so that they can practically implement it through out their lives. Every adult Muslim is supposed to be well informed enough on Islam that he be able to convince a young kid to follow Islam, if he fails to do this, he apparently is himself not following Islam by a full agreement of mind and heart!

I came across this hadith while my research for this paper, about punishing children for not praying, but I donít think its convincing enough;

The Prophet (saw) said: ďTeach your children prayer when they reach seven, and punish them (for neglecting it) when they reach ten, and also separate them from sleeping together. ď
Incomplete Reference

Can any Muslim, shia or Sunni, show me any example from the Seerah of Muhammad (SAW), that he forced and of his companions, or their children to pray salaat?

One may try justifying the authenticity of this hadith, logically, by saying that this punishment is for betterment of the child, so that he understands that prayer is an obligation, just like a guardian would punish his child for not completing/doing his homework.

Do not compare salaat with homework. If I intend to do homework or not, it doesnít matter, as long as it is done in my register. Because the teacher will give me marks on what is in the register, not on what was in my heart. I did my homework for the fear of my parents or not, is not a concern for my teacher. In Islam, everything is based on intentions. If I wanted to do a good thing, but I died in between of it, I will be rewarded for it. Allah doesnít see our prayers, he sees our hearts and that is what matters. If my parents forced me to pray, beat me if I did not, I would only pray for the fear of my parents, not for the fear of Allah. Does this fulfill the purpose of Salaat?

Because we donít tell our kids why its important to pray to Allah, who is Allah, what is his rights, how helpless we are, kids end up being hafiz e Quran and disobedient to the Quran at the same time. Because they study Quran due to the fear of their molvi who beats them if they mispronounce an Arabic word by mistake, and who beats them if they show reluctance in reciting the Quran, and not for guidance! We teach our kids that by reading the Quran, you can take seven generations with you to paradise. How can Quran help you if it is not read, understood, followed and implemented? That is why, our kids, our generation, they study it and they think its over! Those who study the Quran, because they intend to be guided by it and implement it, only they have the rights to be called true believers.

We try to implement things by force, while true worship is to change the heart and the understanding of a person, for the betterment.

O you who believe! take care of your souls; he who errs cannot hurt you when you are on the right way; to Allah is your return, of all (of you), so He will inform you of what you did.
Quran [5:105]

How can we take care of our souls? Probably by doing the right deeds with the right intentions, by orienting ourselves so that we spend each micro second of our life in accordance with Allahís will, which is not very difficult in the presence of clear indications from Allah upon everything in life, be it as basic as dress code or complicated matters of inheritance.

After Salaat, the most forced on issue amongst muslims is the topic of perdah Ė hijab. A Muslim woman is supposed to observe perdah from the males who arenít related to her, the non-mahrams. Hijab is not only a dress of cloth, but an attitude. This is a unique form of protection Islam has offered to women, saving them from being sex objects.

We see many objections being raised onto hijab, we hear about Muslims forcing their daughters to wear hijab, oppressing them, not giving them the freedom to dress per their will.

Hijab is a "to-do" for Muslim women, as they are told by Allah to do so; it no longer remains an option for them "IF" they want to understand and obey Rasool (SAW) to the fullest. Women are obligated to observe it.

The question arises if their guardians can Force them to wear it. No! A guardian should suggest the female in care of him to start observing perdah, telling her about the benefits of it, explaining to her how important it is as an obligation from Allah, he can not force her into it, as she is an adult and would be responsible for her actions.

News I read sometime back caught my attention, it was about a Canadian Muslim father, from a town of Punjab originally, who killed his 16 year old daughter, Axa Perwez on the issue of hijab! There were more than 400 articles written on the topic within 3 days of her brutal murder, defaming Islam- or the left overs of it after the rangeela rasool and satanic verses.

The question I would want to ask the father is that was he a wali of the Muslim girl greater than Muhammad Mustafa (SAW)? Did he actually think that he had the right to Murder her for a decision that was to be hers, was he granted the authority to decide about her life when Nabi (SAW) himself was told not to force religion on others? Was he allowed to impose Islam on his daughter when nabi (SAW) was only a Warner?

If Axa didn't choose Hijab, then she is accountable for her decisions in her grave, in the hereafter. Hijab in Islam is a personal decision, which is no way to be forced onto girls. It does not suppress the women but gives them liberty to prove their intellect without using their sexuality. A father should convince her daughter how hijab is for her own good. A daughter should understand Islam, love Rasool (SAW) and obey him in completion that she should wear hijab with her own happiness. If she does not, she is accountable for her own actions. The father is accountable up to the extent of conveying the message to her daughter and giving her the resources and the opportunity to observe hijab.

Everything in deen is based on intentions. If i intend to do some good, and I die on my way, i am rewarded for the good which i intended to do. However, if i intend to do something evil, and I die on my way in doing so, I will not be punished for the evil which i only intended to do but did not commit as yet.

The "to-dos" in Islam are rewarded by Allah. The "don't-dos" in Islam are punished by Allah. We cannot compel the people to perform the to-dos. We can only advice them and convince them through dialogue. Because until they realize the essence of the to-dos, and perform it out of sincerity, their reward will not be with Allah. If the people are stopped by force, to refrain from the "dont-dos", then they will not be punished by Allah, until they committed that sin. That is why, we cannot force the "to-dos" on the people, but we can compel the people to refrain from the "don't-dos". Hijab is a to-do. Going out nude is a don't-do. You cannot force your daughter to take hijab, but you can force your daughter and punish her if she wants to go out nude.

However, the question arises as to who is allowed and given the authority to compel the people to refrain from the "don't-dos". The "to-dos" cannot be compelled. The issue of allowing everyone to choose what they want to has been dealt with, four new issues arise.

  1. What is the responsibility and authority of Muslims over their family members, children and society?
  2. What is the responsibility and the authority of the Islamic state or government over it's Muslim and nonmuslim subjects?
  3. What is the responsibility and authority of Muslims over the nonmuslims living in their society?
  4. What is the responsibility and authority of Muslims living in a nonmuslim society, over everyone else?

All the above questions should be viewed in the light of the forbidding of evil and promoting of good, which Islam enjoins on Muslims, and the liberty to choose anything one wants to, which Islam gives to everyone.

To make the issue clear, being a Muslim, how does Islam want me to react, if i see my daughter going out without Hijab, how should i react if i see a Jewish woman without hijab in my society. How will my authority differ if i am the head of the state and what should I do if i am living in a nonmuslims society.

My children are free to choose any religion for themselves. My responsibility is to convince them to Islam. If they choose Islam out of their pleasure, then my responsibility is to convince them to perform the "to-dos" with the right intentions, so their reward can be with Allah.

If they choose not to pray salaat, observe hijab, then they are accountable for their actions. My forcing these things on them will ruin the purpose of worship.

However, i will force my children to refrain from the "don't-dos". I will punish them if they consume alcohol.

O Prophet! say to your wives and your daughters and the women of the believers that they let down upon them their over-garments; this will be more proper, that they may be known, and thus they will not be given trouble; and Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.
Quran [33:59]

Rasool (SAW) is told to tell his wives and daughters and Muslim women to observe Hijab. This will be proper for them. He is not told to force them to observe it. If my daughter doesn't take Hijab, it is her choice, but if she wants to go out in the public, nude, which is a "don't-do", I will force her and punish her in order to stop her from doing so.

I cannot force my neighbor to stop consuming alcohol in his apartments. He is mature and he has his grave. I can only advice him, just like the people of the Sabbath were warned by a certain group, the people of the Sabbath were not forced to quit their evil, by the Sabbath breakers. To quit alcohol will be his choice. Similarly, i do not have the right to blow up alcohol shops in a Muslim state. Who has that right?  

The responsibility of the Islamic government is to provide such an environment to the people that they can practice Islam freely. He who wants to pray should have the availability of mosques and the safety to enter them. The worshipping places, the temples, the churches, of the nonmuslims should be protected so that they can perform their rituals with the same freedom. For the hereafter is sufficient to punish. Their free will in this world is sufficient to guide them.

The state should not provide any opportunity to a Muslim to commit the "dont-dos". If there are any alcohol shops, or any brothel houses in the state, it is the responsibility of the government to close them and punish those who run them.

If some one chooses to consume alcohol privately in his house, or commit adultery in his room, with a woman willingly, then the state cannot punish them.

And (as for) those who accuse their wives and have no witnesses except themselves, the evidence of one of these (should be taken) four times, bearing Allah to witness that he is most surely of the truthful ones. And the fifth (time) that the curse of Allah be on him if he is one of the liars. And it shall avert the chastisement from her if she testify four times, bearing Allah to witness that he is most surely one of the liars; And the fifth (time) that the wrath of Allah be on her if he is one of the truthful.
Quran [24:6-8]

If a man has seen his wife commit adultery but he has no witnesses, it hints that this adultery was done in privacy. The testimony of the man is sufficient to punish the wife if he takes Allah as a witness for four times and if he is a liar, Allah will punish him, not the state. However, if the wife does the same, she will be free from the blame even though she lied. The husband cannot beat her or kill her, but a divorce will take place. And Allah will punish the wretched.

The above example was just to prove that a sin, like adultery, will go unpunished, if done in privacy, and if the fear of Allah is absent from the hearts.

Rape is something else. Murder is something else. A crime against the state or any of the people, will be punishable, whether done in open, or in private. Sins against one's own soul, such as alcohol consumption or adultery on will, will be punishable only if done in the open.

And as for those who are guilty of an indecency from among your women, call to witnesses against them four (witnesses) from among you; then if they bear witness confine them to the houses until death takes them away or Allah opens some way for them.
Quran [4:15]

Quran asks for four witnesses in order to prove adultery. This proves that if it was done in private properly, four witnesses would not be present, thus the adulterers would not be punished in this world, but by Allah. If four witnesses are available, then the state will punish them, because of their doing it in the open.

What one does in private is their decision.

Similarly, the state cannot force the Muslim women, or the non Muslim women to observe Hijab.

Say to the believing men that they cast down their looks and guard their private parts; that is purer for them; surely Allah is Aware of what they do.
Quran [24:30]

The Muslim men are told, not forced or compelled, to cast down their looks. If women take proper hijab, looking at them or not looking at them makes no difference. This is the purpose of hijab. Why should the men cast their looks down then? It is, incase, that some Muslim women choose not to observe hijab, if some nonmuslim, for whom hijab is not an obligation, roam around the street. That is why, the Muslim men are told to cast down their looks. This also points to the fact that the "to-dos" cannot be forced on Muslims and nonmuslims alike!

The "dont-dos" for a Muslim, can be performed by nonmuslims, within an Islamic state, if it is performed in isolation/private and not openly in the society. If any religious ritual of some nonmuslims requires the consumption of alcohol, then the Islamic state cannot prohibit that, given that the ritual is not performed openly.

The Muslim bears the name of Islam. His actions will be interpreted as the orders of Rasool (SAW) and will be pictured at Islam itself. Although it is wrong, it is how things work. Thus Muslims will have to portray themselves to such an extent that the true picture of Islam reflects in them and the non Muslims are attracted to Islam through the character and behavior of the Muslims. A Muslim cannot force a non Muslim to accept Islam at all, neither can an Islamic government do that.

Same as that living in an Islamic community. The only difference, you will have to tolerate the "dont-dos" which the nonmuslims do in the open, which would only be allowed in private in an Islamic state. If you see an alcohol store in an Islamic state, you notify the government and the concerned authorities will take action against it. If you see an alcohol store in a non-Islamic state, you will have to ignore it, and convince your family members and friends, to refrain from going there.

Surely (as for) those whom the angels cause to die while they are unjust to their souls, they shall say: In what state were you? They shall say: We were weak in the earth. They shall say: Was not Allah's earth spacious, so that you should have migrated therein? So these it is whose abode is hell, and it is an evil resort. Except the weak from among the men and the children who have not in their power the means nor can they find a way (to escape);
Quran [4:97-98]

If you are not allowed to follow Islam in a nonmuslim state, you cannot do Jihad against the state, because it is not a Muslim state or government. If you love Rasool (SAW) and want to follow Islam, you should migrate. Instead of bringing shariah of Muhammad (SAW) to nations like the USA or UK, you should go to a country, a Muslim nation, which already applies that Shariah.

You cannot force the women of the nonmuslims, not to come out naked in public. However, the nonmuslim women would be forced not to do so, if it were in an Islamic state.

People are free to decide for themselves. Islam didnít give Muhammad (SAW) the authority to impose Islam, so one who does that today, is plainly an Islamizer and is defaming Islam.

The permissibles, that one does, which donít affect the deeds of other individuals living in the society, the State doesn't need to intervene in regard of these between God and person. I mean the state enforcing one to pray, fast, pay zakat, do hajj, observe hijab is irrational. These deeds, for acceptance, require that one opts for them by him/herself, rather than being compelled to do these.

On the contrary, the State should make sure, by force (if needed) that the citizens don't indulge in what they aren't supposed to do- the impermissible - as these do affect the lives of their fellow men who want to observe Islam with purity.

For instance, if one does or doesn't pray, that's his act, doesn't affect the deeds of other people, while if he drinks, he may harm other people in his drunk state, verbally or physically, for which the ruler of state will be accountable to Allah along the doer of action, as he (the ruler) has the responsibility of ensuring safety of people living in his territories, also he has the authority and the duty to stop the wrong being done in his territory. Itís the head of state's responsibility to make sure that no one does anything wrong publicly, which affects others, in any way.

There have been issues in tribal areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan, where the men have brutally tortured and even killed their wives when found in bed with another man. There have been issues where fathers have killed their daughters over the issue of Hijab.

The Taliban are known for blowing up movie shops, although they are not the government. The Taliban are known for demolishing churches and idols while Islam safeguards them. Muttawas in Saudia are known to force the people to perform Salaat when it is the time for prayers. Countries like Iran force hijab onto the women. What purpose does it serve? Even the nonmuslim women are not allowed there without Hijab. Did Rasool (SAW) force hijab on the Jews of Medina or the pagans of Mecca when he conquered it?

Pakistan witnessed the Lal Masjid issue, where women in niqab came out on streets to kidnap alleged prostitutes and punish them, where men would try to install the shariah of Muhammad (SAW) according to their sets of beliefs on everyone else around them. Who gave them the authority to do so? Was it the right way?

Only if Axa's father had enough understanding of Islam, maybe her murder wouldnít have happened, and she could even be one of the readers here like you and me.

It is time that we follow Islam which Rasool (SAW) brought, which gives every human the right to choose any religion, or no religion for him. Which gives every Muslim his right to do what he feels is right, because in the end, he is answerable to, rewarded and punished by Allah on the day of judgment. The Islam, which gives non-Muslims and Muslims, alike, the options to do whatever against their own soul in private (as everyone will be accountable before Allah), the Islam which Only Obligates and doesnít Compel, which gives every woman the liberty to dress according to their will, contrary to what is portrayed as Islam by two Muslim countries- holy lands, to the entire world. The Islam, which lets all girls like Axa, enjoy their lives, if they choose the right it is good for their own selves and if they choose materialism, they will suffer in the hereafter. The Islam, which gives opportunities of repentance.

Sunnis might respect and revere the caliphs, and my purpose is not to defame them or target them. The purpose is to enlighten the people that Rasool (SAW) was infallible, role models after him were the chosen ones, the truthful, the Imams, the Ahlulbayt, which Rasool (SAW) left with the Quran after him (SAW). 

Abu Bakr lead a war against the Zakat defaulters. Does Islam give anyone the right to fight and kill anyone who does not pay zakat willingly? If it is justifiable, shouldn't we fight and kill all people who are careless about their salaat also or who do not perform Hajj even if they have the resources to do so? Umer spread Islam, or stretched the I Muslim empire on the tip of the sword. Does not Islam of Muhammad (SAW) give everyone the liberty to choose any religion for themselves? Let us stop following the Islam of people like Umer, whose strategies were not supported by Mawla Ali (AS), and that was one of the reasons why he boycotted the governments of the sheikheyns. Let us not leave what Rasool (SAW) gave us, and adopt what the illiterate Taliban portray.

Our kids today, are being compelled to read the Quran and memorize it in Arabic. If only they are taught such that they feel naturally obliged to read it, understand it and follow it with sincerity, it will change the state of the Muslim nation.

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