Faith and Sword, Transformation, False Hope
Issue 890 » April 15, 2016 - Rajab 8, 1437
Faith and Sword
Al-Baqara (The Cow) - Chapter 2: Verse 256
"There is to be no compulsion in religion. Surely, the right direction has been made clear and distinct from error. He who rejects false deities and believes in God has grasped a firm handhold which will never break. And God is Hearing and Knowing."
This verse was revealed on the occasion when some Companions among the Helpers (ansar) asked the Prophet for permission to compel their relatives to profess Islam. However, some of these people had practiced Christianity or Judaism since their early childhood, and the Banu Nadir, a Jewish tribe of Medina even had children who were related to the Companions, but who were brought up by Jewish parents and were considered Jews. When the Prophet issued orders for the Banu Nadir to move out of Medina, so as to prevent clashes between them and the Muslims, some Companions sought instead to force their relatives into Islam. It was at this juncture that the preceding verse was revealed, and the Prophet ordered his Companions not to compel anyone, but to give them the choice to decide what religion they wished to follow.
Commentators of the Quran, such as Ibn Kathir and Rashid Rida, have considered this text to be a general proclamation in the sense that it absolutely prohibits compulsion in religion. No one must be compelled to embrace Islam, as it would serve no useful purpose for a person to do so under coercion, while his mind and heart remain closed to enlightenment and guidance. To this Rashid Rida adds that belief (iman), which is the pillar and essence of religion, implies a willing submission of the self which cannot be gained through duress: it must be attained through conviction and reason. Force, therefore, has no place in the matter of belief. The subsequent portion of the verse, Rida adds, endorses the general message of the verse, namely, in this religion there is guidance and light and the call to the faith should be through explanation. Once people are shown the right path then it is their choice whether to follow it or abandon it. Rida continues:
We are ordered to invite people to the path of God with wisdom and good exhortation ...This would explain the place of holy war (jihad) in Islam. Jihad is not of the essence of religion nor one of its goals. It is only a protective shield and is resorted to as a matter of political necessity. The common hysteria and its misguided exponents who assume that faith is established by the sword merit no attention whatsoever.
"Freedom of Expression in Islam" - Mohammad Hashim Kamali
The hearts of all humans are between the fingers of Allah, and He turns them in any way that He desires. The Arabic word for heart, qalb, comes from the root qalaba, which means to change, alter, transform, or convert. The heart is constantly changing, and the greatest fear is that it would change from belief to disbelief. Even the Prophet (peace be upon him) used to supplicate for an obedient heart, saying: "Verily, the hearts of all the sons of Adam are between two fingers of the Compassionate, like one heart. He turns that to any direction He likes." Then the Messenger of Allah said: "O Allah, the Turner of the hearts, turn our hearts to Your obedience." [Muslim]
Guidance from Allah helps people to be sincere to Allah, both in their hearts and in their actions. It helps them to be steadfast and patient in times of adversity, and grateful in times of abundance and blessings.
The guidance that Allah provides come in many forms, but it is primarily through influencing the heart and soul of the individual.
"Psychology from the Islamic Perspective" - Dr. Aisha Utz, pp. 116-117
It was common among Muslim scholars to discuss the delicate balance between hope and fear. If one is overwhelmed with fear, he enters a psychological state of terror that leads to despair — that is, despair of God's mercy. In the past, this religious illness was common, although less so today because, ironically, people are not as religious as they used to be.
An overabundance of hope is a disease that leads to complacency and dampens the aspiration to do good, since salvation is something guaranteed (in one's mind, that is). Human beings simply cannot handle being assured of Paradise without deeds that warrant salvation. Too many will serve their passions like slaves and still consider themselves saved. In Islam, faith must be coupled with good works for one's religion to be complete. This does not contradict the sound Islamic doctrine that "God's grace alone saves us."
There is yet another kind of hope called umniyya, which is blameworthy in Islam. Essentially it is having hope but neglecting the means to achieve what one hopes for, which is often referred to as an "empty wish." One hopes to become healthier, for example, but remains sedentary and is altogether careless about diet. To hope for the Hereafter but do nothing for it in terms of conduct and morality is also false hope.
"Purification of the Heart" - Hamza Yusuf