Fethullah Gulen's articles are now appearing weekly in the Nigerian Newspaper, 'Leadership'
There Is No Compulsion In Religion
Compulsion is contrary to the meaning and purpose of religion, which essentially is an appeal tobeings endowed with free will to affirm and worship their Creator. Intention and volition are necessary bases of all actions (including formal worship), attitudes, and thoughts for which the individual is religiously accountable. Without that basis, accountability has no meaning.
According to Islam, actions are not considered religiously acceptable or valid unless they are done with the appropriate intention. Compulsion also contradicts the religious–legal principle that actions are to be judged only by intentions.
Islam does not allow Muslims to be coerced into fulfilling its rites and obligations, or non-Muslims to be forced into accepting Islam. Under Islamic rule, non-Muslims always are allowed full freedom of religion and worship.
The Islamic way of life cannot be imposed or sustained by force, for faith (iman) is essential toit. And as we know, faith is a matter of the heart and conscience, both of which are beyond force. In the absolute sense, therefore, compulsion is impossible, for one can believe only withand from the heart.
From the time of Adam, religion has not coerced anyone into unbelief or forced anyone to stray from righteousness. However, the powers of unbelief always seek to coerce believers away from their religion and their faith.
In other words, Islamunderstands and practices the principle of "there is no compulsion in religion." Muslims had theconfidence and self-assurance to understand that once that principle becomes part of thecollective ethos, people will recognize Islam's truth and enter it of their own will.
Tolerance and letting-be will be replaced bypersecution, which calls for force to re-establish religious freedom. At other times, the attitudeexpressed in: To you your religion, and to me my religion (109:6) will be more appropriate.
The present is a period of the latter sort, one in which jihad is seen in our resolution, perseverance, forbearance, and devoted, patient preaching. And so we teach and explain. We do not engage in coercion, for there would be no benefit in our doing so.
The misguidance and corruption of others is niether the target nor the focus of our efforts. We provoke, target, or offend no one. But, we try to preserve our own guidance in the face of misguidance. And in our own lives, we strive to establish the religion.
Just because a particular Qur'anic command is not applicable in present circumstances does mean that it is no longer applicable or relevant. Rather, it means that the command can be applied correctly or properly only in certain circumstances. We do not know when such circumstances will recur, only that they will. Meanwhile, the principle underlying the command remains relevant and applicable: religious persecution is abhorrent at all times and in all places.
Religious tolerance is, in some sense, a sociopolitical characteristic special to Islam, one derived directly from the Muslims' understanding of and commitment to the Qur'anic principle of "there is no compulsion in religion."Even in modern times, Western political constitutions typically make space for individualreligious freedom, as opposed to collective and communal religious freedom. The Islamic polityrecognizes the relevance and importance of community to the practice and continuance ofreligious beliefs and traditions.
Islam also applies Muslim-specific deterrent sanctions to maintain the Islamic social order andethos. An analogy may clarify this point. Most states have armed forces. These forces arecomposed either of volunteers or conscripts. Both types of soldiers are governed by the same disciplines (and sanctions).
There is no "conscription" into Islam, for you can enter only by repeating the shahada. To be valid and acceptable, this declaration must be voluntary and sincere. After that, the duties and obligations of Islam apply equally to all Muslims.
Collective action must be taken to prevent or undo widespread corruption within the social body. While such action includes positive efforts to educate the community in the corresponding virtues, it also must accept the negative action of imposing appropriate penaltieson those who wilfully and systematically introduce vices into society that will destroy its discipline and Islamic character.
"There is no compulsion in religion" because we have free will and because "Truth stands clearof falsehood." Truth has an absolute authority within the human conscience, which calls iturgently to affirm its Creator and Sustainer. In both individual and collective life, the Truth's absolute authority demands a flexible but strong and steady discipline.
Discipline and forbearance, as well as compassionate understanding and patience, are the proper responses to all breaches—but only up to and until the discipline itself is threatened with destruction. Like every discipline, the discipline of Islam imposes its burdens. But unlike any other, the rewards for carrying those burdens with sincere devotion are sanity, serenity, and ease in this life and in the life to come.