TheReligionofPeace.com
Guide to Understanding Islam

 

 

What does the
Religion of Peace
Teach About...

Forced Conversion

 
 

Question
:

Are Muslims permitted to force others into accepting Islam?


Summary Answer
:

Muslims are commanded to fight unbelievers until they are either dead, converted to Islam, or in a permanent state of subjugation under Muslim domination.  Allowing people of other faiths to live and worship independently of Islamic rule is not an option.


The Qur'an:

Qur'an (8:39) - “And fight them until there is no more Fitnah (disbelief and polytheism: i.e. worshipping others besides Allah) and the religion (worship) will all be for Allah Alone [in the whole of the world ]. But if they cease (worshipping others besides Allah), then certainly, Allah is All-Seer of what they do.”  Translation from the Noble Quran

Qur'an (9:29) - "Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, nor acknowledge the religion of Truth, (even if they are) of the People of the Book, until they pay the Jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued."  Suras 9 and 5 are the last "revelations" that Muhammad handed down - hence abrogating what came before, which includes the oft-quoted verse 2:256 -"Let there be no compulsion in religion...".

Qur'an (9:5) "But when the forbidden months are past, then fight and slay the Pagans wherever ye find them, and seize them, beleaguer them, and lie in wait for them in every stratagem (of war); but if they repent, and establish regular prayers and practice regular charity, then open the way for them..."  Prayer and charity are among the Five Pillars of Islam, as salat and zakat.  See below.  Islam sanctions violence as a means of coercing religion.

Qur'an (9:11) - (Continued from above) "But if they repent and establish worship and pay the poor-due, then are they your brethren in religionThis confirms that Muhammad is speaking of conversion to Islam.

Quran (9:56-57) - "And they swear by Allah that they are most surely of you, and they are not of you, but they are a people who are afraid (of you).  If they could find a refuge or cave or a place to enter into, they would certainly have turned thereto, running away in all haste."  This refers to people living among Muhammad's own people who may not be true believers, but have to pretend to be in order to survive.  They have no safe refuge to which to escape the Muslims.  If Islam were a religion of peace, then why the fear?

Qur'an (2:193) - "And fight them until persecution is no more, and religion be only for Allah. But if they desist, then let there be no hostility except against wrong-doers."  The key phrase is to fight until "religion be only for Allah."

Qur'an (3:83) - "Are they seeking a religion other than Allah's, when every soul in the heavens and the earth has sub mitted to Him, willingly or by compulsion?"  So much for the earlier verse (2:256) stating that there is "no compulsion in religion".



From the Hadith:

 

Sahih Muslim (1:33) The Messenger of Allah said: "I have been commanded to fight against people till they testify that there is no god but Allah, that Muhammad is the messenger of Allah, and they establish prayer and pay zakat."  The first part of this condition is the Shahada, or profession of faith in Islam.  Violence is sanctioned until the victims embrace Muhammad's religion.

 

Sahih Muslim (19:4294) - "When you meet your enemies who are polytheists (which includes Christians), invite them to three courses of action. If they respond to any one of these, you also accept it and withhold yourself from doing them any harm. Invite them to (accept) Islam; if they respond to you, accept it from them and desist from fighting against them ... If they refuse to accept Islam, demand from them the Jizya. If they agree to pay, accept it from them and hold off your hands. If they refuse to pay the tax, seek Allah's help and fight them"  Osama bin Laden echoes this order from his prophet: "Does Islam, or does it not, force people by the power of the sword to submit to its authority corporeally if not spiritually?  Yes. There are only three choices in Islam  … . Either submit, or live under the suzerainty of Islam, or die.” (source: The al-Qaeda Reader p. 19-20)

 

Bukhari (8:387) - "Allah's Apostle said, 'I have been ordered to fight the people till they say: 'None has the right to be worshipped but Allah.' And if they say so, pray like our prayers, face our Qibla and slaughter as we slaughter, then their blood and property will be sacred to us and we will not interfere with them except legally and their reckoning will be with Allah.'"

 

Bukhari (53:392) - "While we were in the Mosque, the Prophet came out and said, "Let us go to the Jews" We went out till we reached Bait-ul-Midras. He said to them, "If you embrace Islam, you will be safe. You should know that the earth belongs to Allah and His Apostle, and I want to expel you from this land. So, if anyone amongst you owns some property, he is permitted to sell it, otherwise you should know that the Earth belongs to Allah and His Apostle."

 

Bukhari (2:24) - "Allah's Apostle said: "I have been ordered (by Allah) to fight against the people until they testify that none has the right to be worshipped but Allah and that Muhammad is Allah's Apostle, and offer the prayers perfectly and give the obligatory charity, so if they perform a that, then they save their lives and property from me except for Islamic laws and then their reckoning (accounts) will be done by Allah."

 

Bukhari (60:80) - "The Verse:--'You (true Muslims) are the best of peoples ever raised up for mankind.' means, the best of peoples for the people, as you bring them with chains on their necks till they embrace Islam."

 

Bukhari (60:40) - "...:And fight them till there is no more affliction (i.e. no more worshiping of others along with Allah)."  'Affliction' of Muslims is explicitly defined here being a condition in which others worship a different god other than Allah.  Muslims are commanded to use violence to 'rectify' the situation. 

 

Bukhari (59:643) - "Testify that none has the right to be worshipped except Allah, or else I will chop off your neck!"  Words of a military leader that Muhammad sent on an expedition with the mission of destroying a local religion in Yemen.

 

Ibn Ishaq/Hisham 959 - Then the apostle sent Khalid bin Walid… to the Banu al-Harith and ordered him to invite them to Islam three days before he attacked them.  If they accepted then he was to accept it from them, and if they declined he was to fight them.  So Khalid set out and came to them, and sent out riders in all directions inviting the people to Islam, saying, “If you accept Islam you will be safe.”  So the men accepted Islam as they were invited.  The text goes on to say that Khalid taught the al-Harith about Islam after their "conversion," proving that it was based on fear of slaughter rather than a free and intelligent decision.

 

Ibn Kathir (Commenting on Quran 2:256, which says "let there be no compulsion in religion") - "Therefore all people of the world should be called to Islam.  If anyone of them refuses to do so, or refuses to pay the jizya, they should be fought till they are killed."

 


Additional Notes:

Following his flirtation with preaching relative peace and tolerance at Mecca - a 13-year disaster that netted less than 100 followers (mostly friends and family) - Muhammad changed tactics during his last ten years.  Once he obtained the power to do so, he began forcing others into accepting his claims about himself at the point of a sword.  In many places in the Hadith, he tells his followers that he has been commanded by Allah to fight unbelievers until they profess their faith in Islam (the Shahada)

 

During these later years, Muhammad did not seem at all bothered by conversions that were made under obvious duress.  These included that of his sworn enemy of Abu Sufyan and his wife Hind.  According to Muslim historians, when Abu Sufyan went to seek peace with Muhammad, he was ordered instead to embrace Islam.  The exact words spoken to him in Muhammad's presence were,  "Submit and testify that there is no God but Allah and that Muhammad is the apostle of Allah before you lose your head" - (Ibn Ishaq/Hisham 814).  He did.

 

The entire city of Mecca followed suit, even though the residents and leaders detested Muhammad and had resisted his preaching from the beginning.  Most of them "converted" to Islam the day that he marched through their city with an army so dominant that little resistance was offered.  Only the most credulous of believers would think that the city's religious epiphany just happened to coincide with the sword at their necks.

 

Meccans who would not change their religion were forcibly expelled from the city following that last Haj (Quran 9:5).  The Christians and Jews living in Arabia at the time suffered the same fate on Muhammad's deathbed order.  They were given the choice of either accepting Islam or being forced off their land (Sahih Muslim 19:4366).

 

The Jews at Khaybar were not at war with Muhammad when he ordered his warriors to attack them.  Even his faithful son-in-law, Ali, whom he chose to head the mission, was somewhat perplexed as to the pretext on which they were to assault this peaceful farming community so far away from Medina:

Muhammad said: 'Proceed on and do not look about until Allah grants you victory', and Ali went a bit and then halted and did not look about and then said in a loud voice: 'Allah's Messenger, on what issue should I fight with the people?' Thereupon he (the Prophet) said: 'Fight with them until they bear testimony to the fact that there is no god but Allah and Muhammad is his Messenger'  (Sahih Muslim 31:5917)

The Jews were caught entirely be surprise, of course.  Their wealth was stolen and their women and children taken and distributed as slaves by the prophet of Islam to his men.  Muhammad even took a woman for himself - after ordering the death of her husband.

 

Before he died, Muhammad sent his warriors against pagan Arab tribes, such as the al-Harith, demanding that they either convert to Islam or be wiped out (naturally, they opted for the Religion of Peace).  He cursed Christians and Jews to the very end (Bukhari 8:427). 

 

According to al-Shafi in "The Ordinances of the Quran", Muhammad "defeated the people until they entered Islam by hook or by crook."  Muslims are taught to follow in the way of their prophet.  A devotee under the reign of Umar put it this way "Our Prophet, the Messenger of our Lord, has ordered us to fight you till you worship Allah Alone or give Jizya (i.e. tribute)" (Bukhari 53:386)

 

Likewise, Abu Bakr, Muhammad's closest companion and immediate successor, pressed Jihad aggressively in foreign territory against people who did not want war and were of no threat.  In a letter sent to the Persians, the caliph bluntly stated, "You should convert to Islam, and then you will be safe, for if you don't, you should know that I have come to you with an army of men that love death, as you love life."

 

Down through the centuries Muslims have forced Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, Zoroastrians, pagans and others to accept Islam, either by bluntly offering them death as an alternative, or by making their lives so miserable (ie. taxes, denial of rights...) that the conquered convert to Islam under the strain.

 

Forced conversions persist among extremists.  Recently in Egypt, a Christian girl was kidnapped and told that she would be raped if she did not convert.  In 2010, an 11-year-old Christian boy in Pakistan was kept enslaved in chains (1, 2) by his Muslim landlord, who proudly told the world that he would liberate the lad if he embraced Islam. 

 

Neither of these examples of attempted forced conversion was condemned by Islamic organizations, even in the West.  From the Muslim perspective, the victim in each case still technically retains the choice to convert.  In fact, some even lauded the Pakistani slave-owner for being magnanimous in offering freedom and debt relief to his subject for embracing Islam.  

 

Since Muslims believe so sincerely that their religion is truth, they often can't help but feel, on some level, that forced conversion is more of a favor done to the subject - a case of the end justifying the means.  As Muhammad said, "Allah marvels at those who are brought to paradise in chains" (Bukhari 52:254).

 

After the high-profile kidnapping and forced conversion of hundreds of Christian girls by Boko Haram in 2014, a Muslimah in the UK famously proclaimed that they had actually been "liberated" from the "shackles of slavery."

 

It is also important to note the critical role that jizya plays in Islamic conversion.  Paying a "tax" to Muslims is the only avenue of escape for those who don't want to leave their religion, according to the Qur'an.  This answers the question of why Muhammad, his companions, and subsequent Muslim armies didn't force everyone to convert to Islam.

 

As Muhammad realized with the Jews of Khaybar, who were allowed to keep their farming community provided they directed the profits of their labor to him, it was often more lucrative to leave local economies in place rather than killing every male who wouldn't convert.  This became the loose rule for the Muslim armies that swept across Christian, Jewish, Persian, Hindu and Buddhist lands in the decades that followed.  The money that was collected was then used to further Islamic expansion. 

 

As Muhammad put it: "My sustenance is under the shade of my spear, and he who disobeys my orders will be humiliated by paying Jizya" (another translation: "My provision has been placed under the shadow of my spear, and abasement and humility have been placed on the one who disobeys my command.")  The hadith has been quoted by al-Qaeda and is found in the original version of Bukhari and Ahmad (5114 or 4869, depending on the translation).

 

In fairness, Muslims have generally tended to follow verse 2:256 of the Quran, which states, "Let there be no compulsion in religion." and have not felt it right to force others into embracing Islam.  However, this does not change the fact that verse 2:256 was clearly abrogated by later verses, particularly in Sura 9 - otherwise the practice of killing apostates if they do not recant their chose faith would not have become an acceptable part of Islamic law.

 

Another point to keep in mind is that in Islam, practice is more important than belief.  Muslims are commanded to fight unbelievers until they say they believe in Allah (or pay the Jizya), but there seems to be a tacit understanding that belief itself can't be forced (ie. "there is no compulsion in religion").  Nevertheless, once a subjugated individual outwardly converts to Islam under the strain of taxes and discrimination, they are not allowed to recant upon penalty of death.  Their children must also be raised Muslim.  And, if they aren't, then it is a sign of apostasy - subject to death... This is how Islam managed to spread so successfully within conquered populations to ratios in the high 90th percentiles over native religion.

 

One last point of interest is that Muhammad's later practice of ordering people to profess their belief in him proved disastrous both for his own family and the legacy of his religion.  By the time of his death, his empire included a great many people and tribes who had accepted his rule merely to avoid war and slavery.  Many of them wanted out after he died, and several wars were immediately fought, resulting in thousands of deaths and cementing Islam's legacy of violent intolerance.

 

Incredibly, even Muhammad's sworn enemy of Abu Sufyan may have gotten the last laugh.  So ambitious was the prophet of Islam that he accepted his former foe's outward profession of allegiance (at the point of a sword) in order to expand his empire.  Yet, it was Abu Sufyan's own children who ultimately benefited - at the expense of Muhammad's family. 

 

Abu Sufyan's son, Muawiyah, inherited the empire after defeating Muhammad's adopted son, Ali.  He also poisoned Hasan, one of the prophet's two favorite grandsons.  Abu Sufyan's grandson, Yazid, became the next caliph and promptly had the head of Muhammad's other favorite grandson, Hussein, brought to him on a platter.

 

Such are the perils of forcing others to say that you are a prophet when they prefer to believe otherwise.

 

See also: MYTH: Muhammad Rejected Conversions Made Under Duress

 


Recent Examples of Forced Conversions and Attempts:

Hindu Woman Tortured into Converting...

Scores of Yazidis Slaughtered after Deadline to Convert to Islam Expires...

Three Kidnapped Priests Killed for Refusing to Convert...

'Convert to Islam or We will Chop Off Your Heads According to Sharia...
15 Christian Families 'Embrace' Islam Under Threat of Death...
Thousands of Christians Flee Ultimatum to Convert or 'Face the Sword'...
Captors: Kidnapped Girls 'Must' Convert to Islam to Be Released...
Christians Crucified for Refusing to Leave Faith...
Young Christian Shot to Death for Refusing to Embrace Islam...
Convert to Islam or Face the Sword...
Christian Forced to Convert to Save Kids from Kidnapping...
Christian Man Killed for Refusing to Convert...
Druze Forcibly Converted to Islam by al-Qaeda...
Three Christians Executed for Refusing to Renounce Faith...
Knife Held to Throat of Christian Teen to Encourage Conversion...
Three Christians Pistol-Whipped for Refusing to Embrace Islam...

Nigerian Christian Shot in the Face for Declining Islam...

Christians Killed for Refusing to Convert...

Jewish Man Writes Shahada on Hand to Survive Mall Massacre...

Man's Throat Slit for Refusing to Convert, Fiancee Taunted...

Christian Teen Gang-Raped Then Forcibly Converted...

Christian Widow Told to Embrace Islam or Die...

Hindu Families Threatened in Order to Force Men to Convert...

Canadian Woman Sexually Brutalized, Forced to Accept Islam...

Priests Ordered to Accept Islam or Face Death...

Shiite Woman told to Become Sunni or Lose Head...

Christians Refusing Offer to Convert 'Slaughtered Like Goats'...

Christians Ordered to Convert or Lose Homes and Jobs...

Pastor's Throat Slit After Refusing to Convert...

French Prisoners Threatened into Converting...

Hostage Forced to Embrace Islam at Gunpoint...

Nigerian Christians Murdered after Refusing to Denounce Faith...

Family in Hiding after Daughter Almost Killed for Refusing to Convert...

Libyan Islamists Use Torture to Try and Convert Christians...

Top Cleric Guilty of Rape, Torture, Murder, Forced Conversion of Hindus...

Egyptian Christians Told to Convert or Face Death...

Christian Man Murdered for Refusing to Embrace Islam...

Salafis Abduct, Attempt to Convert 13-Year-Old Christian Girl...

Christian Woman Stripped Naked in Conversion Effort...

15-Year-Old Christian Girl Forcibly Converted and Married...

2-Year-Old Christian Girl Raped After Father Refuses to Convert...

German Student Slashed for Refusing to Embrace Islam...

Cleric: Christians Must Choose Between Islam or Death...

Woman Killed for Wanting to Raise Daughter Christian...
14-Year-Old Christian Girl Raped, Tortured, Forcibly Converted to Islam...
16-Year-Old Christian Girl Raped, Forcibly Converted to Islam...
Abducted Christian Woman 'Declared' a Muslim at Islamic Center...
Christian Woman Abducted, Forcibly Raped and Converted...
10-Year-Old Christian Girl Forcibly Converted, 'Married'...
Pakistan: 2,000 Minority Girls Forcibly Converted via Rape and Kidnapping...
Neighbors Warn Christians to Convert, Flee or 'Face Consequences'...
Christian Family with Disabled Member Beaten, Urged to Convert...
Palestinian Christians Protest Forcible Conversions...
Minor Sister of Pastor Kidnapped, Raped, Forced to Embrace Islam...
16-Year-Old Christian Girl Doused with Acid for Refusing Islam...
Sikh Beaten into Embracing Islam...
Church Bombers: 'All Christians Must Convert to Islam'...
Black Christian Women Abducted, Told to Embrace Islam...
14-Year-Old Christian Girl Kidnapped, Forced to Convert...
'Become a Muslim and We'll Spare Your Life'...
Young Christian Mother Jailed after Refusing to Convert...

Child Beaten, Adult Charged with Blasphemy for Refusing to Embrace Islam...

Pastor Beaten by Turkish Radicals for Refusing to Convert...

Pakistani Official: 100 Women Abducted, Forced to Embrace Islam

Seven Hindu Children Abducted, Forcibly Converted to Islam...

(Australia) Firebombed Religious Minority Told to Worship Allah Alone...

Christian Charged with Blasphemy for Refusing Islam...

Religious Teacher Beats Christian Boy with Rod for Not Saying Muslim Prayers...

'Pious' Pakistani Abducts, Converts and Sells Christian Girls...

Pastor Declines Iran's Offer of Freedom for Endorsing Islam...

Algerian Christian Jailed for Refusing to Recite the Shahada...

18-Year-Old Christian Shot to Death after Refusing to Convert...

Christian Woman Jailed, 'Enticed' by Guards to Embrace Islam...

12-Year-Old Christian Girl Kidnapped, Raped, Forcibly Converted...
Muslims Beat Man with Iron Rods for Refusing to Embrace Islam...
Christian Girl Kidnapped, Beaten, Raped - But Resists Demand to Embrace Islam...
Two Christians Severely Beaten for Refusing to Convert...
Father Threatens to Kill Boy if He Does Not Embrace Islam...
Christian Families Flee After Child Refuses to Convert...
Two Coptic Girls Abducted and Forced to 'Embrace' Islam...
Abduction and Forced Conversion of Christian Girl Called a 'Pious Act'...
Canadian Raped, Stabbed - Invited to Embrace Islam...
'Hundreds' of Pakistani Christian Girls Forced to Convert...
Rights Group: Indonesian Military Forces 56 to Embrace Islam...
Hindu Family Forcibly Converted, Circumcised...
Pakistani Christian Ordered to Convert or Die...
Obama Ordered to Embrace Islam or Face Sharia Justice...
Russian Soldier Beheaded for Refusing to Convert to Islam
Beaten US Hostage Embraces Religion of Peace...
Wife of Jailed Christian Man Told to Convert to Islam...
Christian Students Abased, Pressured to Convert (Pak.)...
Farm Woman Sentenced to Death after Refusing to Embrace Islam
Kidnapped Girl Returns Home after Forced Conversion, Rape...
Egypt Refuses to Allow Muslim to Convert 'On Paper'...
Hindu Girl Kidnapped, Forcibly Converted to Islam...
Sikhs Ordered to Embrace Islam
Coptic Girls Kidnapped - Forcibly Converted...
Hindu Girl Kidnapped, Taken to Muslim Seminary, Forcibly Converted, Raped...
Indigenous Malaysian Tribes Forced to Embrace Islam to Receive Development Aid...
Man Loses House and Daughter over Refusal to Embrace Islam...
Christian Professor Beaten for Refusing to Embrace Islam...
Christian Nurse Kidnapped, Forcibly Converted to Islam...
Widow of Christian Tortured to Death Ordered to Embrace Islam
NJ Jihadist Beat Family for Refusing to Embrace Islam...
Two Christian Sisters Kidnapped, Forced into Marriage...
Ethiopian Christians Forcibly Converted to Islam...
13-Year-Old Hindu Girl Abducted, Forcibly Converted...
16-Year-Old Hindu Girl Survives Kidnapping, Forced Conversion and Rape...
12-Year-Old Christian Girl Kidnapped, Converted, Raped...
Christian Hacked to Death After Declining to Embrace Islam...
Middle Eastern Christians Invited to Embrace Islam or Die...
Rare Escape by Coptic Girl from Abduction, Forced Conversion...
Americans Offered Peace Plan: Accept Islam or Die...
Cleric Behind Kidnap, Forced Conversion of Hindu Girl...
Stockholm Bomber's Wife Converted 'Under Pressure'...
Hindu Girl Kidnapped, Forced to Accept Islam...
al-Qaeda Frees Spanish Hostage after She Embraces Islam...
8th Grade Christian Girl Kidnapped, Converted, 'Married'...
Man Beaten with Sticks for Refusing to Embrace Islam...
Christian Beaten Unconscious for Refusing to Embrace Islam...
Three Sikhs Beheaded After Refusing to Embrace Islam...
Report: 19-Year-Old Christian Kidnapped, Forced to Convert...
Filipinos Told, Embrace Islam or Lose Your Job...
UK Student Killed for Refusing to Convert to Islam...
Christian Girls (Ages 11 & 16) Kidnapped, Forcibly Converted and 'Married' Off...
Christian Girl Raped over Father's Refusal to Embrace Islam...
Rape Victim Ordered to Convert to Islam...
Christian Killed after Refusing to 'Embrace Islam'...
Abductee Refuses to Convert Under Torture, Pays the Price...
Beheaded Engineer Chose Death Rather than 'Embracing' Islam...
Christian Refuses to Convert, Stabbed 24 Times...
Hindus Told to Embrace Islam, Pay Up - or Else...
Burn Victim Who Refused to Convert Dies in Hospital...
Pakistan Christians Invited to Embrace Islam or Die Horribly...
Saudis Force Christian Workers to Convert or Lose Job...
Christian Journalist Warned to 'Embrace Islam' or Family will 'Suffer'...
Iran Releases Jailed Christians after Failing to Convert Them...
Hindus and Christians Invited to 'Embrace Islam' or Face 'Elimination'...
Pakistan Christians Attacked for Refusing to Convert...
Slain Christians had Been Warned for Months to Convert to Islam...
Islamists Up the Violence to Force Christians to Convert...
Murdered Yemeni Jew Had Been Warned by Killer to Convert or Leave...
20-25 Hindu Girls Abducted Each Month, Forcibly Converted...
Pakistani Christians Told to Convert or Die...
Egypt Sentences Christian Woman to Three Years for Refusing to Convert to Islam...
18-Year-Old Christian Raped, Forced to Convert to Islam...
Korean Pastor Killed for Refusing to Convert to Islam...
Man Gang-Raped, Tortured for Refusing to Embrace Islam...
Nigerian Woman Sentenced to Stoning after Declining to Convert
Hostages Forced at Gunpoint to Convert to Islam...
Girl Drugged, Raped, and Forcibly 'Converted' to Islam...
Christian Girls Rescued after Kidnapping, Forced Conversions...
Christian Professor Forcibly 'Converted' to Islam by Hamas...
Christian Children Kidnapped, Forcibly Converted in Nigeria...
 

 

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