Published using Google Docs
Sayyid Abu Al Hassan translation
Updated automatically every 5 minutes

Sayyid Abu Al Hassan - What is the meaning of the Quranic Ayah:  “There is no compulsion in religion” (2:256)

Question = What is the tafsir of this verse, “there is no compulsion in religion,” and is the popular understanding of the public correct that it is proof that every individual has the freedom to believe what they want?


The full verse

‎لَآ إِكْرَاهَ فِى ٱلدِّينِ ۖ قَد تَّبَيَّنَ ٱلرُّشْدُ مِنَ ٱلْغَىِّ ۚ فَمَن يَكْفُرْ بِٱلطَّـٰغُوتِ وَيُؤْمِنۢ بِٱللَّهِ فَقَدِ ٱسْتَمْسَكَ بِٱلْعُرْوَةِ ٱلْوُثْقَىٰ لَا ٱنفِصَامَ لَهَا ۗ وَٱللَّهُ سَمِيعٌ عَلِيمٌ

Let there be no compulsion in religion, for the truth stands out clearly from falsehood. So whoever renounces false gods and believes in Allah has certainly grasped the firmest, unfailing hand-hold. And Allah is All-Hearing, All-Knowing.

This verse is often used by some as evidence against the punishment for apostasy in Islam or the obligation of jihad. In reality, if we look into the verse and try to understand from it this interpretation, it would read: “Allah has not legislated any ruling that has compulsion into entering the faith.”

Does the verse indicate this type of meaning?  

Something important that we need to pay attention to is whether the verse says “ there is no compulsion IN ( في) religion “ or “ there is no compulsion ON ( علی ) religion“. The verse said in not on, and one might ask what’s the difference.

The difference is that the idea the opposition is trying to negate with this verse is compulsion on (i.e., onto religion). The verse never uses the word on ( علی ) rather it states في (in) which indicates a locative word usage, not outward usage; this leaves us with the word “ religion “ in the verse and what it indicates. There are two possibilities for this:

And they were not commanded except to worship Allah, [being] sincere to Him in religion

So now let’s take these two possible meanings and see which one fits with the verse.

religiosity or sincerity in belief).

This is proven even more as the Quran states in 28:56 and 10:99

Indeed, [O Muhammad], you do not guide whom you like, but Allah guides whom He wills.

Had your Lord so willed ˹O Prophet˺, all ˹people˺ on earth would have certainly believed, every single one of them! Would you then force people to become believers?

There is no compulsion, so you cannot force someone to truly believe in Islam even if they say they are Muslim (outwardly). The choice is still theirs, and you cannot force sincerity into one’s heart.

From this, we learn that the verse has nothing to do with legislation at all; rather, it is speaking of sincerity in practice and belief.

We have plenty of ahkam pertaining to ensuring outward acceptance of religion, but as for the sincerity inside someone's heart, this is out of our control as the verse states. So the opposition changed the usage of the word (في) to (علی) in the verse to make it a legislative verse when in reality it has nothing to do with legislation. Rather, it’s informing about the nature of man and that you cannot force sincerity into one’s heart even if they might seem to be practicing outwardly.

Now that we have explained the verse, to answer the second part of the question “freedom of every individual to believe in what they want “

we say for freedom of belief, it could have multiple meanings

(as evidenced by the verse).

This is what we say in terms of freedom of belief and it is important to expand, depending on what is meant by the question.

اللهم صل على محمد وال محمد وعجل فرجهم والعن اعدائهم من الاولين والآخرين