Ibn Kathir on Compulsion: 
Do Not Force Anyone to Become a Muslim, 
No Compulsion in Religion

By Abu Amina Elias for

Ibn Kathir writes in his commentary on Surah Al-Baqarah:

Allah Almighty said:
لاَ إِكْرَاهَ فِى الدِّينِ
There is no compulsion in religion, (2:,256)

Meaning, “Do not force anyone to become Muslim, for Islam is plain and clear, and its proofs and evidence are plain and clear. Therefore, there is no need to force anyone to embrace Islam. Rather, whoever Allah directs to Islam, opens his heart for it and enlightens his mind, will embrace Islam with certainty. Whoever Allah blinds his heart and seals his hearing and sight, then he will not benefit from being forced to embrace Islam.”

It was reported that the Ansar were the reason behind revealing this verse, although its indication is general in meaning. Ibn Jarir recorded that Ibn Abbas said that before Islam, When an Ansar woman would not bear children who would live, she would vow that if she gives birth to a child who remains alive, she would raise him as a Jew. When Banu An-Nadir (the Jewish tribe) were evacuated from Medina, some of the children of the Ansar were being raised among them, and the Ansar said: We will not abandon our children. So Allah revealed:

لاَ إِكْرَاهَ فِى الدِّينِ قَد تَّبَيَّنَ الرُّشْدُ مِنَ الْغَيِّ
There is no compulsion in religion. Verily, the right path has become distinct from the wrong path.

Abu Dawud and An-Nasa’i recorded this tradition.

Imam Ahmad recorded from Anas that the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said to a man:

Embrace Islam.
The man said, “Indeed, I find that I dislike it.” So he said:
وَإِنْ كُنْتَ كَارِهًا
Even if you dislike it.
[Musnad Ahmad, Number 11650, Sahih]

First, this is an authentic tradition, with only three narrators between Imam Ahmad and the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him. However, it is not relevant to the subject under discussion, for the Prophet did not force that man to become Muslim. The Prophet merely invited this man to become Muslim, and he replied that he does not find himself eager to become Muslim. The Prophet said to the man that even though he dislikes embracing Islam, he should still embrace it “for Allah will grant you sincerity and true intent.”

Success comes from Allah, and Allah knows best.

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