Freedom of Religion

The Islamic position on freedom of religion is clear in the Quran; it recognizes that different religious traditions and belief systems will always exist and that forced belief is no belief at all. Even when considering those religious traditions that are not compatible with Islam, the Quran clearly commands its adherents to treat others’ beliefs with respect. The Quran strongly rejects the notion of forcing any person to accept Islam.

And God said:

There is no compulsion in religion. 2:256   

When Prophet Muhammad raised the concern about people’s response to this message, God said to him:

We are fully aware of what they say, and you are not a dictator over them. So remind by the Quran whoever fears My warning. 50:45

Then God highlighted the Prophet’s main purpose by saying: 

And say, “The truth is from your Lord. Whoever wills—let him believe. And whoever wills—let him disbelieve”. 18:29   

If they accept Islam, then indeed they follow the right way; and if they turn back, your duty (O Prophet) is only to deliver the message. 3:20

The above verses are but a few of many that establish religious pluralism as a core teaching of Islam. Religious pluralism was a bedrock in classical Islamic Jurisprudence and ethics; and, the religious laws of other religions, including Christianity, Judaism and Hinduism, were accommodated within the Islamic legal framework, as seen in the early Caliphates, Al-Andalus, the Indian subcontinent, and the Ottoman Millet system.

Since the inception of Islam, the protection of religious freedom has been emphasized. Indeed, when Prophet Muhammad relocated with his followers to the city of Medina he, to ensure that all citizens residing in Medina were treated humanely, declared religious freedom for all inhabitants through the Medina Charter.

One clause of the Charter reads:

The Jews of Bani Awf will be treated as one community with the Believers. The Jews have their religion. This will also apply to their freedmen…..No Jew will be wronged for being a Jew.

Since then, this approach has been the dominant modus operandi for Islamic civilizations. Another example is the assurance of safety made by Umar bin Al-Khittab after the Muslims conquest of Jerusalem. 

Bin Al-Khittab declared to the inhabitants of Jerusalem:

In the name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate. This is the assurance of safety which the servant of God, Umar, the Commander of the Faithful, has given to the people of Jerusalem. He has given them an assurance of safety for themselves for their property, their churches, their crosses, the sick and healthy of the city and for all the rituals which belong to their religion. Their churches will not be inhabited by Muslims and will not be destroyed. Neither they, nor the land on which they stand, nor their cross, nor their property will be damaged. 

As a result of this approach to governance, you can find many examples across the globe where Muslims ruled for centuries and diverse religious communities survived and thrived.