By Dr. Mateen Khan (Trenton, New Jersey)
Some people in America would have you think that much like intergalactic aliens, Muslims would like to force you into being one of them or being subjugated by them. Just as Will Smith saved the world from aliens, Americans need to save the world from “Muslim Muslims.”1 The allegation is Islam forces itself upon people and the death penalty awaits anyone who leaves it. It is a scare tactic with clear insinuations: If the Muslim population grows in America, they will force Islam on everyone here. Muslims only remain Muslim for fear of death. Otherwise, there would be a mass exodus from the religion to…another belief system that does not know war, tolerates other religions (with Islam being the exception) and not-getting-killed-if-you-left-it-ism.
On the contrary, a Muslim believes Islamic concepts stand for themselves and are compelling to those who approach them without prejudice and baggage. The Qur’an has delineated guidance from deviance removing any need for compulsion.2 We believe this. In fact, from our perspective had Allah wanted every person to be Muslim, He would have just done so. When He has not, the Qur’an asks rhetorically, “Will you then compel them into believing?”3 Of course not.
“Forcing someone to be Muslim” is an oxymoron. It’s nonsensical. Islam is the heart’s belief in Allah and His Messenger (Allah bless and give him peace). How can you force a heart to believe?4 Instead, what you would have done is made a person into a munāfiq5…those who are the worst of human beings and for whom the Qur’an promises a place in the lowest reaches of Jahannam.6 In other words, you and they were better off with them as non-Muslims.
These allegations shouldn’t affect us. From the very beginning, Islam had its enemies, who hated it and fought it. They spent their resources and lost their loved ones against it. Enemies such as Khālid bin Walīd, `Amr bin `Ās, Abū Sufyān bin Harb, and Mu`āwiyah bin Abū Sufyān. However, may Allah be pleased with them all for He instilled in them understanding of our deen, and they accepted it willingly and benefited it tremendously. From then until now, history has shown us repeatedly that the enemies of Islam can become its supporters.
So we hope, pray and encourage non-Muslims to understand Islamic concepts and the Prophet (Allah bless and give him peace) who conveyed them to us. Let people learn Islam from us and recognize it as the truth on their terms. Let them know what we believe and they disbelieve. “Then, whoever wants, let him (or her) believe, and whoever wants, let him (or her) disbelieve.”7
1 “Moderate” Muslims are tolerable,apparently just like suburban Blacks or legal Hispanics…unless they happen to be your neighbors.
2 Surah al-Baqarah 256
3 Surah Yūnus 99
4 Qur’an commentators like Ibn `Abbās and Mujāhid (May Allah be pleased with them) noted that you cannot create belief in people’s hearts.
5 Munāfiq is an Islamic term for a “hypocrite” – one who outwardly claims to be Muslim, but inside he or she does not believe in Islamic tenets.
6 Surah al-Nisā’ 145
7 Surah al-Kahf 29
Featured image (c) Ottoman Imperial Archives