25th February 2013
But wait! “There is no compulsion in religion” (Qur’an 2:256), right?
Well, consider this from the mainstream and still-consulted medieval Qur’an commentator Ibn Kathir (thanks to David Wood):
Allah says: “There is no compulsion in religion,” meaning: do not force anyone to embrace Islam because it is clear, and its proofs and evidences are manifest. Whoever Allah guides and opens his heart to Islam has indeed embraced it with clear evidence. Whoever Allah misguides, blinds his heart and has set a seal on his hearing and a covering on his eyes cannot embrace Islam by force.
The reason for the revelation of this verse was that the women of Ansar used to make a vow to convert their sons to Judaism if the latter lived. And when the tribe of Bani an-Nadhir was expelled from Madinah, some children of Ansar were among them, so their parents could not abandon them; hence Allah revealed: “There is no compulsion in religion…,” narrated by Ibn Jarir, on the authority of Ibn Abbas, Abu Dawud and an-Nasa’i, on the authority of Bandar, Abu Hatim, and Ibn Hiban from the Hadith of Shu’bah, Mujahid and others. However Muhammad Ibn Ishaq narrated that Ibn Abbas said: it was revealed with regard to a man from the tribe of Bani Salim Ibn Awf called al-Husayni whose two sons converted to Christianity but he was himself a Muslim. He told the Prophet: “Shall I force them to embrace Islam, they insist on Christianity”, hence Allah revealed this verse. But this verse is abrogated by the verse of “fighting”: “You shall be called to fight against a people given to great warfare, then you shall fight them, or they shall surrender” (Al-Fath: 16). Allah also says: “O Prophet! Strive hard against the disbelieves and the hypocrites, and be harsh against them” (At-Tauba:73), and He says: “O you who believe! Fight those of the disbelievers who are close to you, and let them find harshness in you, and know that Allah is with those who are the Al-Muttaqin (the pious),” (At-Tauba:123).
Therefore, all people of the world should be called to Islam. If anyone of them refuses to do so, or refuses to pay the Jizya they should be fought till they are killed. This is the meaning of compulsion. In the Sahih, the Prophet said: “Allah wonders at those people who will enter Paradise in chains”, meaning prisoners brought in chains to the Islamic state, then they embrace Islam sincerely and become righteous, and are entered among the people of Paradise. (Tafsir of Ibn Kathir, Surah Al-Baqarah, ayat 253 to 286, Surah Al-Imran, ayat 1 to 92, abridged by Sheikh Muhammad Nasib Ar-Rafa‘i [Al-Firdous Ltd., London, 1999: First Edition], Part 3, pp. 37-38.)
And Coptic leaders have already said that they will resist paying the jizya “to the point of martyrdom.” So that leaves only conversion or death.