Kaleef K. Karim
This is a part two on this Hadith report (below) which is often quoted out of its historical context. In the previous piece, which can be seen here: “The Hadith ‘…Fight Until They Say There Is No god But Allah’ Explained“, we showed evidence that the Hadith was never understood by the Prophet nor his companions of carrying out forced conversion of polytheist Makkans:
“I have been commanded to fight the people until they testify that there is no deity worthy of worship except Allah and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah, establish the prayer and pay the Zakah.” (Fath al-Bari, volume 1, page 95) (Tafsir Ibn Kathir (Abridged) [Abridged by A Group of Scholars Under The Supervision Of Shaykh Safiur-Rahman Al-Mubarakpuri. Maktaba Dar-us-Salam – Second Edition, 2003] volume 4, page 377)”
When we analysed the report in its historical context, we saw that the Prophet (p) gave amnesty and forgave the polytheists for the wrong they had done to the Muslims and their non-Muslim ally, Banu Khuza’a.
The polytheists Makkans with Banu Bakr attacked and murdered members of Banu Khuza’a, an ally of Prophet Muhammed. Previous to this incident, the Quraysh agreed to a treaty two years back promising not to break the treaty they agreed too with the Muslims. Soon after, the Quraysh with Banu Bakr attacked and murdered members of Muhammed’s ally, the Banu Khuza’a tribe. This led to the conquest of Makkah.
In this article, we will show further evidence from the Hadith itself and classical to contemporary commentaries that forced conversion did not take place because the very report that is used refutes this. Let’s now turn to the reports:
“The Messenger of Allah said: “I have been ordered to fight the people until they say: ‘La ilaha illallah’. So when they say that, their blood and their wealth are safe from me, except for a right, and their reckoning is for Allah.” Then he recited: So remind them – ‘YOU ARE ONLY ONE WHO REMINDS. YOU ARE NOT A DICTATOR OVER THEM’ (Quran 88:21-22). (Jami at-Tirmidhi volume 5, Book 44, Hadith 3341 (Eng. Tran., Sahih, Darussalam))
This is also reported in Sahih Muslim:
“It is narrated on the authority of Jabir that the Messenger of Allah said: I have been commanded that I should fight against people till they declare that there is no god but Allah, and when they profess it that there is no god but Allah, their blood and riches are guaranteed protection on my behalf except where it is justified by law, and their affairs rest with Allah, and then he (the Holy Prophet) recited (this verse of the Holy Qur’an):” THOU ART NOT OVER THEM A WARDEN” (lxxxviii (88), 22).” (Sahih Muslim Book 1, Hadith 32 http://sunnah.com/muslim/1/35 )
Pay close attention to both reports where the following is said:
“YOU ARE ONLY ONE WHO REMINDS. YOU ARE NOT A DICTATOR OVER THEM’ (Quran 88:21-22).”
“then he (the Holy Prophet) RECITED (this verse of the Holy Qur’an):” THOU ART NOT OVER THEM A WARDEN” (lxxxviii (88), 22).”
The Prophet (p) is literally quoting word for word Quran 88:21-22. So what is the significance of these words some may ask? Well, since we know for a fact that he quoted those words in the same sentence of fighting the idolaters, the verse shows that the Prophet (p) forbade forced conversion. He commanded his companions not to forcefully convert anyone.
Classical to contemporary scholars all agree that this verse was revealed to the Prophet (p) that forcing someone to convert to Islam is categorically forbidden (Haram). Let’s read S. 88:21-22,
“21. So remind them (O Muhammad, YOU ARE ONLY A ONE WHO REMINDS.
22. You are NOT a dictator over them.” Q. 88:21-22 Hilali & Khan Translation
The Quranic verse 88:21-22 is clear that the Prophet (p) was not sent to force anyone to Islam. Some missionaries not handling the fact that the Prophet (p) was sent only to preach, and not force anyone’s will, they claim that Surah 88:22 was abrogated by Surah 9:5 (“Sword verse”).
If this verse was abrogated by Surah 9:5, then the question needs to be answered as to why the Prophet (p) uttered Surah 88:21-22 on the occasion of Surah 9:5? If it was abrogated, why would he insist his companions not to force anyone to accept Islam on the occasion of when Q. 9:5 was revealed? To the contrary, this shows that Prophet (p) did not see Q. 88:21-22 abrogated, but rather a command that is to be followed until the day of judgement.
Furthermore, another way for some missionaries to try to bypass this clear command of Surah 88:21-22, that forced conversion is Haram (forbidden), they try to present the following verses after S. 88:22,
“21. So remind them (O Muhammad), you are only a one who reminds.
22. You are not a dictator over them.
23. Save the one who turns away and disbelieves
24. Then Allah will punish him with the greatest punishment.
25. Verily, to Us will be their return;
26. Then verily, for Us will be their reckoning.” S. 88:21-26 Hilali-Khan Translation
Some of these missionary critics do acknowledge and admit here that forced conversion is not allowed, but they say since the individuals at Prophet Muhammed’s lifetime rejected Islam, he is somehow allowed to murder them since he is “Allah’s agent of judgement” sent to harm non-believers for refusing to accept Islam, they claim. This kind of deceptive interpretation goes against the very text of Quran and a classical exegesis. Sadly this type of deceptive interpretation by missionaries is rampant online.
Since we know that Surah 88:21-22 was uttered on the occasion of Surah 9:5, on the conquest of Makkah, where is the evidence of polytheists being put to death for rejecting Islam? It does not exist. We know from the earliest sources of Islam that the polytheists were fought against as a result of them breaking a treaty and murdering members of the non-Muslim tribe Banu Khuza’a, who at the time were an ally of the Muslims. As a result of Banu Bakr and Quraysh attacking and murdering Muhammed’s non-Muslim ally the Banu Khuza’a, the conquest of Makkah took place. We have written a detailed article on this matter, please click on the following article: “The Hadith ‘…Fight Until They Say There Is No god But Allah’ Explained“. They were fought against because they broke the treaty and killing innocent people, not their beliefs.
I would like to add another important information about Surah 88:21-22 – the chapter as a whole is regarded by the companions of Prophet Muhammed (p) and the majority of scholars to have been revealed in Makkah.             
The Muslims did not raise their hand against the Quraysh, let alone try to kill them. The Muslims were a minority in Makkah, they were persecuted, tortured, imprisoned and even killed. This is a historical fact. This lasted for over ten years, this is when the Muslims fled to Madinah to find safe sanctuary. Even there they were pursued and persecuted because they denied, and rejected polytheism. We have documented many incidents when the Muslims arrived in Madinah, they were persecuted by the Quraysh as soon as they arrived: “Did Quraysh Persecute Muslims When They Fled To Madinah?“. So the idea perpetuated by some that the Prophet (p) was ordered to kill those who rejected Islam is false since we know that the whole chapter 88 of the Quran was revealed in Makkah and no fighting ever took place in Makkah, while they were a minority. And since no fighting or forceful conversion did not take place, then by default the command would also be the same when the Prophet (p) uttered the same words of Q. 88:22 on the conquest of Makkah. Besides the Quranic verse (S. 88:21-22), the earliest sources of Islam on the conquest of Makkah also refute this oft-repeated myth about forced conversion.
In view of the immediate context of S. 88:21-26, one sees that the passage is ordering that Prophet Muhammed, and his companions (p) are not allowed to force anyone to Islam. And those who have been presented with the truth and reject it, they will be dealt with on the day of judgement by God. The punishment that is described against those who reject the truth is from God, the words,
“Allah will punish him…” – Quran 88:24
These words couldn’t get any clearer. That the one who punishes is God Himself. Let’s now show some evidence from classical to contemporary exegesis.
Muslim and Non-Muslim Exegesis on Quran 88:21-22
Reverend E. M. Wherry was a notorious Christian missionary who in his writings does not hide his hatred towards Islam and Muhammed, he says the following:
“(21, 22) See note on chap. Ii. 119.”
A Comprehensive Commentary On The Quran – Comprising Sale’s Translation And Preliminary Discourse,With Additional Notes And Emendations Together With A Complete Index To The Text, Preliminary Discourse And Notes, [London – Kegan Paul,, Trench, Trubner, & Co. Ltd. Paternoster House, Charing Cross Road., 1886] by The Rev. E. M. Wherry, M. A., Vol. IV (vol. 4), page 248- 249)
E. M. Wherry directs us to look for chapter 2, verse 119 for the explanation of Surah 88:22, and here he clearly admits that conversion to Islam was through “persuasion”:
“(119) We have sent there … a preacher. This is Muhammad’s claim concerning himself. He ever sets himself forth as a preacher, yet as a messenger of God, an apostle, by whom the Quran was to be conveyed to and enforced upon the world. The power by which it was to be enforced, AT THE TIME THIS PASSAGE WAS WRITTEN, WAS PERSUASION. The pains consequent on unbelief were the pains of hell-fire. …” (A Comprehensive Commentary On The Quran Comprising Sale’s Translation And Preliminary Discourse, With Additional Notes And Emendations – Together with A Complete Inter To The Cert, Preliminary Discourse And Notes, [LONDON. Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co., Limited Paternoster House, Charing Cross Road, 1896] by the Rev. E. M. Wherry, M. A., vol. I (vol. 1), page 333)
Notice E. M. Wherry saying the “pains” of unbelief is dealt with in “hell-fire”.
The 20th-century scholar Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi says that the Prophet (p) was not appointed to force the will of the deniers (unbelievers):
“8 That is, “If a person does not listen to reason, he may not. YOU HAVE NOT BEEN APPOINTED TO FORCE THE WILL OF THE DENIERS. Your only task is to distinguish the right from the wrong for the people and warn them of the consequences of following the wrong way; so this is the task you should continue to perform.” (Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi – Tafhim al-Qur’an – The Meaning of the Qur’an – online source http://englishtafsir.com/Quran/88/index.html )
Classical scholar Ibn Kathir (1301 – 1373 AD) commenting on Q. 88:21-22, he says that one cannot force a person to “faith” i.e., forcing someone to believe in Islam is prohibited:
“THE MESSENGER IS ONLY CHARGED WITH DELIVERING THE MESSAGE
‘So remind them — you are only one who reminds. You are not a Musaytir over them’ meaning, “O Muhammad! REMIND THE PEOPLE with what you have been sent with to them.”
‘YOUR DUTY IS ONLY TO CONVEY (THE MESSAGE) and on Us is the reckoning.’ (13:40) Then Allah says,
‘You are not a Musaytir over them.’ Ibn `Abbas, Mujahid and others said, “You are not a dictator over them.” This means that you CANNOT create faith in their hearts. Ibn Zayd said, “YOU ARE NOT THE ONE WHO CAN FORCE THEM TO HAVE FAITH.’
The Threat for Whoever turns away from the Truth
Concerning Allah’s statement,
(Save the one who turns away and disbelieves.) meaning, he turns away from acting upon its pillars, and he disbelieves in the truth with his heart and his tongue. This is similar to Allah’s statement,
(So he neither believed nor prayed! But on the contrary, he belied and turn away!) (75:31-32) Thus, Allah says,
(Then ALLAH WILL PUNISH HIM with the greatest punishment.) Allah then says,
(VERILY, TO US WILL BE THEIR RETURN) meaning, their place of return and their resort.
(Then verily, for Us will be their reckoning.) meaning, `WE WILL RECKON THEIR DEEDS FOR THEM AND REQUITE THEM FOR THOSE DEEDS.’ If they did good, they will receive good, and if they did evil, they will receive evil. This is the end of the Tafsir of Surat Al-Ghashiyah.” (Tafsir Ibn Kathird (Abridged) – (Surat At-Taghabun to the end of the Qur’an) [Abridged by A group of scholars under the supervision of Shaykh-Rahman Al-Mubarakpuri., Darussalam., Second Edition, 2003], volume 10, page 463 – 465)
Muhammad b. al-Sa’ib al-Kalbi (d. 146/763) :
“‘(Remind them) admonish them, (for thou art but a remembrancer) YOU ARE BUT A WARNER BY MEANS OF THE QUR’AN; it is also said that this means: you are only an admonisher by the Qur’an and through Allah. Thou art not’ O Muhammad ‘at all a warder over them’ you are NOT imposed on them such that you force them to accept faith. … (ALLAH WILL PUNISH HIM) IN THE HEREAFTER (WITH DIREST PUNISHMENT) I.E. WITH THE PUNISHMENT OF THE FIRE. (Lo! unto Us is their return) in the HEREAFTER. (And Ours their reckoning) their steadfastness in the life of the world and reward and punishment in the Hereafter’. ” (Tanwir al-Miqbas min Tafsir Ibn Abbas on Surah 88:21-22 online source, http://altafsir.com/Tafasir.asp?tMadhNo=0&tTafsirNo=73&tSoraNo=88&tAyahNo=22&tDisplay=yes&UserProfile=0&LanguageId=2 )
A Thematic Commentary on the Qurʼan – Shaykh Muhammad Al-Ghazali (1917 – 1996):
(The Overwhelming Event)
The Surah opens with a reverberating question: ‘Have you heard of the overwhelming event?’ (1). The title of this Surah, al-Ghashiyah (The Overwhelming Event), DENOTES THE DAY OF RESURRECTION because it is a day when people’s minds will be overwhelmed. The Surah then continues to provoke fear and hope through promises and threats, before it calls on the Arab mind to look around its environment and observe the camels and the mountains and the stretching horizons. The Arabs were directed to conclude that only One God was deserving of worship and that the idols they had inherited should be abandoned.
The Surah closes by defining the mission of the Muslim community, namely to ENLIGHTEN AND REMIND. As people forget or overlook the purpose of their existence, Muslims are expected to take up the task of confronting ungodliness and evil in the world. They draw their power and strength from the Qur’an, the book that had brought them honor and respect, but which they have now all but neglected.
The Surah threatens the wrong-doers with misery, describing their faces: ‘On that day there shall be downcast faces, worn out, haggard’ (2-3). They will drink seething water and eat food of no benefit to them. As for the believers, they will be in a different world altogether. ‘There shall be radiant faces, of men pleased with their labors, residing in a LOFTY PARADISE’ (8-10). Paradise is a place that is free of idle talk or vain chatter, because such behaviour does not befit wise and pious people.
Believers should use their minds to increase understanding of the world and that which lies beyond its physical presence. ‘Would they not reflect on how camels were created and how the heavens were raised on high?’ (17-18). It is an open invitation to mankind to reflect on all aspects of the universe and all its phenomena and creatures. Very few of the early Muslim scholars can escape the criticism that they were too infatuated with the study of Hellenistic Greek philosophy rather than devoting their attention to the study of the Qur’anic philosophy of matter.
The Surah then makes a most profound statement which encapsulates the essence of the mission of Islam. It says:
‘Therefore, admonish, for you are but a warner; you have no power them’ (21-22).
THIS IS A CLEAR AFFIRMATION THAT MUSLIMS ARE NOT DIRECTED TO ESTABLISH TYRANNICAL, colonialist community steeped in greed, but a community that liberates the human mind and DIRECTS MANKIND TOWARDS PERFECTION. A Muslim state is not established for the benefit of one particular race or ethnic group; rather, it is the outcome of sincere and honest endeavour to please God Almighty.
Virtue in today’s world has been stifled as evil, injustice, and vice find protection and promotion. There has never been a greater need for a believing authority to rise to protect the good, establish justice, and work for faith and reform. Whatever the outcome, THE FINAL RETURN SHALL BE TO GOD ALMIGHTY: ‘TO US IS THEIR RETURN, AND WE WILL BRING THEM TO ACCOUNT’ (25-26). “(A Thematic Commentary on the Qurʼan, [Translated from the Arabic by Ashur A. Shamis – Revised by Zaynab Alawiye – The International Institute of Islamic Thought, 1421 AH/2000AC] by Shaykh Muḥammad Ghazali page 717 – 718)
An Enlightening Commentary into the Light of the Holy Quran:
“Verily, the creation of the sky, earth, mountains, and animals indicate that there is a plan and purpose for the creation of man and the world. The Prophet’s mission is to make people acquainted with the goal of that creation, with his admonishments and lead them to the path of development and nearness to Allah. Of course, the path of development is paved when they do it willingly and without any outer forces, otherwise it is meaningless. THE PROPHET (S) CANNOT FORCE THEM TO OBEY ALLAH AND EVEN IF HE COULD, IT WOULD BE USELESS.
Some have supposed that this instruction has been abrogated when the verses of the command for Holy War were revealed.
WHAT A GREAT MISTAKE! The Prophet’s mission for publicity of Islam and admonition began from the early days of his prophecy and continued until the last moments of his life. It has been continuing since then; at first by his sinless successors and then by the Islamic scholars. This responsibility will never stop. The lack of obligation on the people, in accepting Islam, is also a permanent principle.
However, Holy War is different. The goal is mainly to stand AGAINST TRANSGRESSORS and remove the hindrances from the path of true believers.
This matter is somewhat similar to that of Surah Nisa, No.4, verse 80 which says:
“…But IF ANY TURN AWAY, WE HAVE NOT SENT THEE TO WATCH OVER THEIR (EVIL DEEDS)”.
It is the same in Surah An’am, No. 6, verse 107 and Surah Shura, No. 42, verse 48.
The term /musaytir/ is based on /satr/ ‘a line of a book or writing’ and means ‘a person who arranges the lines of a book’ or ‘one who has absolute authority over a thing or a person and writes down its manner of action, or makes him do something by force’.
In the next verse, as an exception, it says:
“But whoever turns back and disbelieves.”
Opinions are divided about the commentary of this ‘exception’: The first idea says that the exception is from the object of the verb /fathakkir/ to ‘give admonition’. Accepting this, it means ‘you do not need to give admonition to the enemies who reject Allah and do not take your advice’.
This is similar to what is said in Surah Zukhruf, No. 43, verse 83:
“SO LEAVE THEM TO BABBLE AND PLAY (WITH VANITIES) until they meet that Day of theirs, which they have been promised”.
The second idea denotes that if the sentence is considered as a conditional sentence, there is something omitted in the sentence and hence the meaning is,
‘Do thou give admonition, because admonishment is useful for all, unless they are enemies of Allah’.
It is similar to what is said in Surah A’1a, No. 87, verse 9:
“Therefore give admonition in case the admonition profits (the hearer)”.
The third idea says that the exception is from the pronoun /’alayhim/ in verse 22, then it would mean: ‘Thou art NOT one to manage (men’s) affair, except in so far as you receive authority to do so against those who reject Allah and do wrong with you.’
This commentary seems more agreeable.
The ‘exception’ may be unrelated; if so, the meaning is: ‘But those who turn back and reject Allah, He has authority over them, or He will punish them with a mighty punishment’.
‘Mighty punishment’ is the punishment IN THE HEREAFTER and is compared with the punishment in the present life as it is said in Surah Zumar, No. 39, verse 26:
“So GOD GAVE THEM A TASTE OF HUMILIATION in the present life, but greater is the punishment of the HEREAFTER.”
It is probable that the purpose of the ‘mighty punishment’ is a definite intensive PUNISHMENT IN HELL for some SINNERS IN THE HEREAFTER, because the punishment of all evildoers will not be the same in HELL.
At the end of the Surah, it says with a threatening tone that:
“Surely to Us will be their Return;”
“Then surely upon Us will be the taking of their account.”
This is, in fact, a kind of consoling for the Prophet (S) in order for him not to be upset about their obstinacy and to keep his responsibility in view. It is also a threat for all those who are obstinate in understanding who it is that will reckon with them.
Thus, Surah Ghashiyah which began by SPEAKING ABOUT THE HEREAFTER, ENDS BY SPEAKING ABOUT THE HEREAFTER also, but in between, ‘monotheism’ and ‘prophecy’, are discussed which is the basis of Resurrection.
Meanwhile, in the beginning verses, a portion of the severe punishments for the evildoers, and then a great part of the rewards of the good-doers are mentioned. By the way, PEOPLE ARE FREE EITHER TO BELIEVE AND FOLLOW THE WAY OR NOT, but they are warned that their return will certainly be to Allah and it is He Who will take care of their account.
Therefore, IT CLEARLY STATES THAT THE HOLY PROPHET (S) IS SENT TO TEACH AND DIRECT PEOPLE ON THE WAY AND HE IS NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR PEOPLE’S REJECTIONS AND CORRUPTIONS. All prophets of Allah have been commissioned in like manner.” (An Enlightening Commentary into the Light of the Holy Quran [The Scientific and Religious Research Center Amir-ul-Mu’mineen Ali Public Library – Translator Sayyid Abbas Sadr-‘ameli], compiled by a group of Muslim scholars, under the direction of Allamah Al-Hajj Sayyid Kamal Faqih Imani, volume 19, page 301 – 303, online source http://islamicmobility.com/pdf/An_Enlightening_Com_intothe_Light_ofthe_Holy_Quran_vol19.pdf )
The Holy Quran – Commentary – Tafsir by Agha Mehdi Pooya states that there is no “compulsion in religion”. He comments further that the Prophet Muhammed is not a compeller and it is “Allah who will punish”:
“[Pooya/Ali Commentary 88:21-22]
The Prophet of Allah is sent to teach, preach and guide the people, but not to force people to adopt the right path. Musaytir has been used here in the sense of an enforced or compeller who forces or coerces in order to make any one carry out commands against one’s will under duress. As has been said in Baqarah: 256, there is NO COMPULSION IN RELIGION, so the Prophet of Allah is NOT A COMPELLER in this sense, otherwise as the vicegerent of Allah he has the authority to execute His divine legislative will. It is Allah who will punish the transgressors. …” The Holy Quran – Commentary – Tafsir by Ayatullah Agha Mehdi Pooya & S. V. Mir Ahmed Ali (Surah 71 to 114), page 81)
Scholar Yusuf Ali (1872 – 1952) states that the Prophet (p) was not sent to force people’s will and that “punishment belongs to Allah alone”:
“6107 The Prophet of Allah is sent to teach and direct people on the way. HE IS NOT SENT TO FORCE THEIR WILL, or to punish them, except insofar as he may receive authority to do so. Punishment belongs to Allah alone. And Punishment is certain in the Hereafter, when true values will be restored.” (The Meaning of The Noble Qur’an [Edition 2006] by Abdullah Yusuf Ali, page 449 http://www.ulc.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/English-Quran-With-Commentaries.pdf)
Fi Dhilal Al Qur’an – Qutb says that the job of the Prophet (p) was to remind people of the Message of Islam and no other role. And his task was not to convert people by force, as such is forbidden (Haram) in Islam:
“The Prophet’s Mission
Having dealt first with the hereafter, and pointed out some apparent aspects of the universe, the surah now addresses the Prophet, (peace be upon him), laying down the nature of his mission and limits of his role. It then concludes with a final reminder to mankind: “Therefore exhort them; your task is only to exhort. You are not their overseer. But he who turns his back and disbelieves, God shall inflict on him the greatest suffering. To Us they shall surely return, when We shall bring them to account.” (Verses 21-26)
Remind them, then, of the hereafter and the universe, and all there is in each of them. YOUR SPECIFIC TASK IS TO REMIND PEOPLE, AND YOU HAVE NO OTHER ROLE. This is indeed your mission for which you have been suitably equipped. “You are not their overseer.” (Verse 22) You have no control over their hearts and you cannot compel them to adopt the faith. Men’s hearts are in the hands of God, the Merciful. Jihad, which means striving for God’s cause and which was later made a duty of the Prophet and all Muslims, DID NOT AIM AT CONVERTING PEOPLE TO ISLAM BY FORCE. Its only aim was to remove all hindrances in the way of the Islamic message, so that it could be delivered freely, and people would not be prevented from listening to it or be persecuted for doing so. This is the role the Prophet can fulfil: to remove the obstacles which prevent him from delivering his message.
The notion that the Prophet’s mission is confined to reminding people and delivering God’s message is often repeated and stressed in the Qur’an. There are several reasons for this emphasis, the first of which is to relieve the Prophet of the heavy burden of directing the course of the Islamic message once he has conveyed it.
He must leave it to God to decide its course. The urgency of the human yearning to win victory for the truth and to get people to benefit from its absolute goodness is so keen that such repetition is required to make the advocates of this message distinguish their own desires and ambitions from their mission. When this distinction is clear, they proceed in fulfilment of their duty, regardless of the response and consequence. THUS ADVOCATES OF ISLAM DO NOT WORRY THEMSELVES OVER WHO HAS ACCEPTED THE FAITH AND WHO HAS NOT. They are not charged with this burden, which becomes particularly heavy at times of adversity, when a favourable response becomes a rarity and enemies abound. “But he who turns his back and disbelieves, God shall inflict on him the greatest suffering.” (Verses 23-24) They will no doubt return to God, and He will inevitably administer their retribution. Such is the final and decisive note on which the surah ends: “To Us they shall surely return, when We shall bring them to account.” (Verses 25-26)
The definition of the Prophet’s role and the role of every subsequent advocate of Islam is thus completed. They have only to remind and the reckoning will be made by God. It must be stressed, however, that the process of reminding includes the removal of hindrances so that people are free to listen to the divine message. This is the aim of jihad as it is understood from the Qur’an and the Prophet’s history. It is a process which neither admits negligence NOR PERMITS AGGRESSION. (In The Shade Of The Qur’an (“Fi Dhilal Al Qur’an”) by Sayyid Qutb Vol XVIII (vol. 18), page 143 – 144)
The Tafsir Anwarul Bayan by scholar Muhammad Aashiq Elahi Muhajir Madani (1924/1925 – 2001) writes that the responsibility of the Prophet Muhammed (p) was only to preach the Message and “not force people to believe (in Islam)”:
“…because of his overwhelming concern for his Ummah, the Holy Prophet used to become extremely grieved when people REFUSED TO ACCEPT ISLAM. Therefore, Allah said to him, ‘So give advice, for you are an advisor. You have not been appointed as a warder over them’ i.e., YOUR RESPONSIBILITY IS ONLY TO PREACH THE MESSAGE AND NOT FORCE PEOPLE TO BELIEVE. Whoever believed after the message reached him, shall be successful.“ (Illuminating Discourses On The Quran (“Tafsir Anwarul Bayan”) [Translation Edited by Mufti Afzal Hussain Elias. – Revised by Maulana Arshad Fakhri based on Ma’ariful Quran. – Darul Ishaat, Urdu Bazar, Karachi. First Edition, 2005] by Muhammad Aashiq Elahi Muhajir Madani, volume 5, page 390)
Maarif ul Quran – Mufti Mohammad Shafi (1897 – 1976) writes that it is God Almighty who guides the “unbelievers”, and Prophet Muhammed (p) is only a “preacher”:
“In conclusion of the Chapter, the Messenger of Allah is comforted thus:
… ‘You are not a taskmaster set up over them, … 88:22’
THE HOLY PROPHET IS TOLD THAT HE IS ONLY A PREACHER, and as such he must keep on preaching. He should not worry beyond that. IT IS FOR ALLAH TO CALL THE UNBELIEVERS TO HIM to render account of their deeds and actions…” (Maarif ul Quran: Quran Translation and Commentary [Translated by Maulana Ahmed Khalil Aziz. Revised by Justice Mufti Muhammad Taqi Usmani] by Maulana Mufti Mohammad Shafi, volume 8, page 777)
Asrar At-Tanzil – Scholar Amir Muhammad Akram A’wan:
A propagator must have these four qualities: (1) Must work tirelessly like… and be content with whatever food is available. (2) Posses lofty determination and courage like the sky (3) Be as firm as the mountains and finally (4) Should be as furnishing and humble as the earth, without a trace of arrogance. Each action must be aimed at benefitting mankind; by way of delivering the oppressed as well as checking the oppressor.
So O’ PROPHET YOU MAY SIMPLY ADVISE PEOPLE as advising them is your responsibility. YOU DO NOT FORCE THEM INTO BELIEVING. It is Allah’s domain to severely punish those who turn away from your advice and Din and opt for infidelity. Undoubtedly they have to return to Us one day and We will Personally take them to account.” (Holy Quran – Translation & Commentary – Asrar At-Tanzil [Idarah-e Naqshbandiah Owaisiah, Dar al-Irfan Munara, Distt, Chakwal. First edition, 2004] by Amir Muhammad Akram A’wan, volume 5, page 481)
The giant 14th Century Imam Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya (1292 – 1350 AD) in the book “Hidayatul Hayara Fi Ajwibatul Yahood wa al-Nasara” he writes on Surah al-Tawbah, specifically on the occasion of this Hadith report under discussion. He writes that the Prophet Muhammed (p) never forced anyone to accept Islam:
“When God sent His Apostle (p), most of the followers of these religions responded to him and to his successsors, voluntarily and willingly. NOBODY WAS COMPELLED TO DO SO. THE APOSTLE FOUGHT ONLY THOSE WHO FOUGHT AND WAGED WAR AGAINST HIM. He did not fight those who made peace with him, neither did he fight those who were under the pledge of truce. He was obeying the bidding of God Most Sublime were he said:
‘Let there be no compulsion in Religion: Truth stands out clear from error: whoever rejects Evil and believes in God hath grasped the most trustworthy hand-hold, that never breaks, and God heareth and knowth all things ‘ (al-Baqarah: 256).
THE APOSTLE DID NOT COMPEL ANYONE TO ADOPT ISLAM. The above quoted verse from the Qur’an negates compulsion in the sense of prohibition that is: do not compel a soul to embrace the Religion. The verse (Sura) was revealed to admonish some of the men among the companions whose children embraced Judaism and Christianity before the advent of Islam, and where with the advent of Islam, their fathers embraced the religion of Muhammad and attempted to compel their children to follow their lead. God Most Exalted prohibited the fathers from resorting to compulsion to inspire their children to embrace Islam out of their choice. … To him who ponders over the biography of the Prophet (p) it becomes clear that he did not compel anyone to embrace his religion, and that he only fought those who fought him. He did not fight those who made truce with him as long as they kept and honoured the truce. He never broke a promise, for God Most High bid him to fulfil his promises to them as long as they kept theirs. A propos, God Most Exalted said:
‘How can there be a league before God and His apostle, with the pagans, except thoe with whom ye made a treaty near the Sacred Mosque? As long as these stand true to you, stand ye true to them for God doth love the righteous’ (AL-TAWBAH: 7).
… Likewise, when the Prophet Muhammad made truce with (the tribe of) Quraysh holding for ten years, HE DID NOT START ANY FIGHT WITH THEM; BUT WHEN THEY VIOLATED THE MUTUAL AGREEMENT AND RAISED ARMS AGAINST HIM, HE FOUGHT BACK… he stopped the fight when they retreated and went off. The point is that he did not compel anyone at all to embrace his religion; but people embraced his RELIGION VOLUNTARILY and willingly. When most of the people earth realized the True Guidance, and that he is genuinely the Apostle of God, they embraced his call. (Guidance To The Uncertain In Reply To The Jews And The Nazarenes (‘Hidayatul Hayara Fi Ajwibatul Yahud wa al-Nasara’) – [Translated by Abdelhay El-Masry, Dar Al-Kotob Al-Ilmiyah] by Imam Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziah, page 25 – 27)
With the above evidence shown, we see that the Hadith that is used by proponents, claiming that report shows Muhammed ordered his followers to forcefully convert idolaters is not true. The very same report used by critics, the Prophet commands his followers not to force anyone to believe in Islam, he uses word for word Surah 88:21-22, which as we have seen all scholars agree that forced conversion is not allowed in Islam. The verse ordered Muslims not to convert anyone to Islam by force. As such act, forcing someone’s will is categorically forbidden (Haram) in Islam.
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(1) – “Early Expeditions And Battles Of Islam”
(2) – “Muhammed A Mercy: Analysing Dogs Killed In Madinah”
(3) – “What Happened To The Captive Women In Awtas Incident?”
(4) – “Most Misinterpreted Verses Of The Quran?”
(5) – “‘Those Who Wage War And Make Mischief’ – Quran 5:33”
(6) – “Did Jews Get Expelled From Arabia?”
(7) – “Does Biblical Law Force Rape Victim To Marry Rapist?”
(8) – “2 Samuel 13:14 And Deuteronomy 21:14”
(9) – “Social Conditions: Christians And Jews In Early Period Of Islam“
(10) – “The Truth About Jizyah”
 Shaykh Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi:
“Period of Revelation
The whole subject matter of the Surah indicates that this too is ONE OF THE EARLIEST SURAHS TO BE REVEALED; but this was the period when the Holy Prophet (upon whom be peace) had started preaching his message publicly, and the people of MAKKAH were hearing it and ignoring it carelessly and thoughtlessly.” (Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi – Tafhim al-Qur’an – The Meaning of the Qur’an – online source http://englishtafsir.com/Quran/88/index.html)
 Maulana Abdul Majid Daryabadi:
The Enveloping. LXXXVIII
(MAKKAN, 1 Section and 26 verses) (Tafsir-Ul-Qur’an – Translation and Commentary Of The Holy Qur’an [Published By Darul Ishaat Urdu Bazaar Karachi: Pakistan. First edition, 1991] by Maulana Abdul Majid Daryabadi, volume 4, page 495)
 Maulana Muhammad Ali:
“The Overwhelming Event, whose mention in the first verse supplies a name to this chapter, is the doom of the opponents in this life and their punishment in the Hereafter. The DATE OF REVELATION IS PLACED ABOUT THE FOURTH YEAR OF THE PROPHET’S CALL.” (The Holy Quran Arabic Text with English Translation, Commentary and comprehensive Introduction [Year 2002 Edition] by Maulana Muhammad Ali, page 1206)
 Ibn Kathir:
“The Tafsir Of Surat AL-GHASHIYAH
(Chapter – 88)
Which was REVEALED IN MAKKAH”. (Tafsir Ibn Kathir (Abridged) – (Surat At-Taghabun to the end of the Qur’an) [Abridged by A group of scholars under the supervision of Shaykh-Rahman Al-Mubarakpuri., Darussalam., Second Edition, 2003], volume 10, page 455)
 The Holy Qur’an – Arabic Text With English Translation & Short Commentary:
(Revealed BEFORE HIJRAH)
Dated of Revelation and Context
The Surah, like the preceding one, was revealed early at MECCA. Eminent early Muslims scholars such as Ibn Abbas and Ibn Zubair hold this view. The famous German orientalist Noldeke places it in the fourth year of the Call. …” (The Holy Qur’an – Arabic Text With English Translation & Short Commentary [Published by Islam International Publications Limited, Present edition (UK), 2002] by Malik Ghulam Farid, page 1257)
 Maulana Mufti Mohammad Shafi:
(The Overwhelming Event)
THIS SURAH IS MAKKI, and it has 26 verses. (Maarif ul Quran: Quran Translation and Commentary [Translated by Maulana Ahmed Khalil Aziz. Revised by Justice Mufti Muhammad Taqi Usmani] by Maulana Mufti Mohammad Shafi, volume 8, page 772)
 The Qur’an With Annotated Interpretation in Modern English – Ali Unal:
“REVEALED IN MAKKAH, this surah of 26 verses derives its name from the word AL-GHASHIYAH (the overwhelming, meaning the Resurrection Day) in the first verse. It draws attention to the hardships and punishment the unbelievers will suffer in the Hereafter, and the bliss with which the believers will be favored. It also calls on us to reflect on some manifestations and evidence of God’s Power and Wisdom.” ((The Qur’an With Annotated Interpretation in Modern English by Ali Unal, page 1161)
 An Enlightening Commentary into the Light of the Holy Quran:
“Surah Ghashiyah, Chapter 88
(The Overwhelming Event) Number of Verses: 26
Contents of Surah Ghashiyah
This Surah is ONE OF THE MECCAN SURAHS which contains mainly the following three themes: The first subject is the ‘Resurrection’ and the contrast between the destinies of the Good and the Evil in the ‘Hereafter’. The second subject is ‘Monotheism’ with reference to the creation of the sky, the earth, and the mountains. Man should consider these wonderful matters as admonishments. The third subject is ‘Prophecy’ and some of the duties that the holy Prophet (S) was required to perform. On the whole, the Surah strengthens the idea for the basis of religion and faith, as well as all MECCAN SURAHS do.” (An Enlightening Commentary into the Light of the Holy Quran [The Scientific and Religious Research Center Amir-ul-Mu’mineen Ali Public Library – Translator Sayyid Abbas Sadr-‘ameli], compiled by a group of Muslim scholars, under the direction of Allamah Al-Hajj Sayyid Kamal Faqih Imani, volume 19, page 288 – 289, online source http://islamicmobility.com/pdf/An_Enlightening_Com_intothe_Light_ofthe_Holy_Quran_vol19.pdf )
 So Qur’an al-Karim:
“Al-Ghashiyah – 88 – 1037 – MAKKI” (So Qur’an al-Karim – Ago so Kiya pema ana iron ko basa a iranon sa pilimpinas – iniranon i: Sheik AbdulAziz Guroalim Saromantang [King Fahd Complex For The printing Of the Holy Qur’an, Madinah, K. S. A.], page 1067)
 Professor Shah Farid-ul-Haque:
“Surah Number 88: Al-Ghashiyah (The Overwhelming)
REVEALED AT: MAKKAH
Total verses: 26” (Al-Quran-ul-Kareem (English Translation) Kanz-ul-Eeman – An English Translation from ‘Kanz-Ul-Eeman’ – English Text Translation by Professor Shah Farid-ul-Haque, page 207, online source http://www.nooremadinah.net/Al-Quran/EnglishTranslation/Download/QuranEnglishTranslation.pdf )
 Scholar Abdullah Yusuf Ali:
“Introduction And Summary To Surrah 88 – Al-Ghashiyah
This is a late surah of the EARLY MAKKAN PERIOD, perhaps close in date to S. 53. Its subject matter is the contrast between the destinies of the Good and the Evil in the Hereafter – on the day when the true balance will be restored The signs of Allah even in this life should remind us of the day of account, for Allah is good, and his creation is for a just purpose. (The Meaning of the Holy Qur’an [Amana Publications, 2004] by Abdullah Yusuf Ali, page 1639)
 Asrar At-Tanzil – Shaykh Amir Muhammad Akram A’wan:
“Surah al Ghathiah
REVEALED AT MAKKAH, it has twenty six Ayat and only one section.” (Holy Quran – Translation & Commentary – Asrar At-Tanzil [Idarah-e Naqshbandiah Owaisiah, Dar al-Irfan Munara, Distt, Chakwal. First edition, 2004] by Amir Muhammad Akram A’wan, volume 5, page 479)
 Dr. Muhammad Asad:
“REVEALED most probably about the MIDDLE OF THE MECCA PERIOD, this surah derives its title from the participial noun al-ghashiyah in the first verse.” (The Message of The Quran Translated and Explained by Dr. Muhammad Asad [Leopold Weiss], page 862, online source https://asadullahali.files.wordpress.com/2010/09/the-message-of-the-quran.pdf )
 Professor Asma Afsaruddin says that the companion Ibn Abass is not the author of this exegesis “Tanwir min Miqbas ibn Abbas”. The professor points out that the original author of this exegesis is Muhammad b. al-Sa’ib al-Kalbi (d.146/763):
“1 The work attributed to Ibn ‘Abbas is titled Tanwir al-miqbas min tafsir Ibn ‘Abbas; the EXTANT VERSION HAS BEEN ATTRIBUTED TO MUHAMMAD B. AL-SA’IB AL-KALBI (d.146/763). For a discussion of this work’s probable authorship, see Andrew Rippin 1994, 38–83 and more recently, Harald Motzki 2006, 147–63.” (The Hermeneutics Of Inter-Faith Relations: Retrieving Moderation And Pluraism As Universal Principles In Qur’anic Exegesis [Journal of Religious Ethics Inc., 2009] by Asma Afsaruddin, page 333 (footnote 1))