Islam Defends Freedom of Thought
Islamic Morality Envisions a Life Filled With Peace, Well-being, Love and Joy For All People...
Islam is a religion which provides and guarantees freedom of ideas, thought and life. It prevents tension, disputes, slander and even negative thinking among people. In the same way that terrorism and all acts of violence are determinedly prohibited in Islam, even the slightest ideological pressure to be put on them is also forbidden:
There is no compulsion in religion. True guidance has become clearly distinct from error. (Qur'an, 2:256)
So remind them! You are only a reminder. You are not in control of them. (Qur'an, 88:21-22)
Forcing people to believe in a religion or to adopt its forms of belief is completely contrary to the essence and spirit of Islamic morality. According to Islam, true faith is only possible with free will and freedom of conscience. Of course, Muslims can advise and encourage each other about the features of Qur'anic morality. All believers are charged with explaining Qur'anic morality to people in the nicest manner possible. They will explain the beauties of religion in the light of the verse, "Call to the way of your Lord with wisdom and fair admonition..." (Qur'an, 16:125), however, they must also bear in mind the verse, "You are not responsible for their guidance, but God guides whoever He wills." (Qur'an, 2:272)
They will never resort to compulsion to force others to embrace faith, nor any kind of physical or psychological pressure. Neither will they use any worldly privilege to turn someone towards religion. When they receive a negative response to what they say, Muslims will reply along the lines of: "To you your religion, and to me, mine," as revealed in the verse (Qur'an, 109:6). Muslims must respect and be compassionate towards all beliefs they encounter, no matter what they may be, and behave forgivingly, justly and humanely towards everyone, even if they don't believe in any faith at all. This responsibility placed on believers is to live by the beauty of the religion of God by means of peace and compassion. The decision whether or not to implement these truths, whether or not to believe, lies with each individual himself. Forcing that person to believe, or trying to impose anything on him, is a violation of Qur'anic morality. In fact, God issues a reminder to believers in the Qur'an:
If your Lord had willed, all the people on the Earth would have believed. Do you think you can force people to be believers? (Qur'an, 10:99)
A model of society in which people are forced to worship is completely contradictory to Islamic morality. Belief and worship should be directed to God by the free will of the individual. If a system imposes belief and worship on people, then they will act as if they are religious out of fear of that system. This will mean the encouragement of hypocrisy and no Muslim would approve that. From the point of view of Islamic morality, what really counts is that religion should be lived with the love of God, for God's good pleasure, mercy and paradise in an environment where peoples' consciences are totally free.
The history of Islam is full of the compassionate and understanding practices of Muslim rulers who have respected all religions and built religious freedom with their own hands. For example, Thomas Arnold, a British missionary employed in the service of the Indian government, describes that Islamic morality favours freedom in these words:
But of any organised attempt to force the acceptance of Islam on the non-Muslim population, or of any systematic persecution intended to stamp out the Christian religion, we hear nothing. Had the caliphs chosen to adopt either course of action, they might have swept away Christianity as easily as Ferdinand and Isabella drove Islam out of Spain, or Louis XIV made Protestantism penal in France, or the Jews were kept out of England for 350 years. The Eastern Churches in Asia were entirely cut off from communion with the rest of Christendom, throughout which no one would have been found to lift a finger on their behalf, as heretical communions. So that the very survival of these Churches to the present day is a strong proof of the generally tolerant attitude of the Muhammadan governments towards them.1
In 1492, the Jews who refused to convert were exiled from Spain by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella (above). The Jews were accepted by the Ottoman Empire, a haven of Islamic justice and compassion.