No Compulsion In Religion By Hannatu Musawa

Sheikh Dr. Ahmad Abubakar Gumi
is not only a knowledgeable Islamic
scholar; he exemplifies the
character of a Muslim nurtured from
an early age in a virtuous
environment. Having been taught
and raised by his late father, Sheikh
Abubakar Mahmoud Gumi, he
serves as a role model for the spirit
and virtue that Muslims can aspire
for and attain.
In the spate of the recent
unabashed religious threats and
violence by misguided elements, it
has been necessary for notable and
respected members of the Nigerian
Islamic society to speak out on the
outrageously arrogant, criminal and
aggressive actions of people
purporting to speak and act on
behalf of Islam. Up until the recent
sermons Sheikh Gumi has given, in
which he has contradicted much of
what these unsavory elements
spew, hardly anyone within the
Nigerian Islamic leadership order
has had the courage and persuasion
to speak out. Few Scholars have
been brave enough to set the
record straight on the fact that the
individuals and groups presently
attacking the peace and stability in
Nigeria by claiming an Islamic
affiliation are operating with a vile
distortion of the noble and peaceful
teachings of Islam.
It is regrettable that Islam, a religion
of peace, harmony, goodwill and
brotherhood has been used by
unruly and ghastly people to justify
unwarranted acts of violence such
as suicide bombings, threats and
other forms of violence. At the very
base of Islam is the quest for
freedom, justice and equality and
when a Muslim uses Islam to
threaten and condemn another
because they do not share the same
faith, that discrimination is totally
foreign to the pure teachings and
doctrines of Islam. In the Quran,
God bestowed honour on every
single individual, no matter their
background, race or tribe. Liberty
and everything that emerges from it
are some of the great favours God
has given us and concepts such as
kidnappings, threats and the kind of
unprovoked violence we are seeing
in Nigeria today towards people of a
different faith to Islam, especially
the Christian community, are not
part of the true teachings of Islam.
It is so shocking that people
claiming to promote Islam can issue
an ultimatum in which they
threaten a Christian president to
convert to Islam or face their wrath.
How on earth can they give a
Christian who believes in his religion
as much or even more than they
believe in their religion that kind of
ultimatum? Under Islamic
dispensation, it is clearly taught
that “There is no compulsion in
religion…” The Qur’an was very
clear on the issue of forced
conversion by stating, “Had your
Lord wanted, all the people on earth
would have believed. So will you
force people to believe?”
Throughout history, Muslims
themselves were the targets of
forced conversion during the
Spanish Inquisition and the
Crusades and the Communist era of
the 20th century and first hand
Muslims understand how
unacceptable and unreasonable
such a notion is. Threatening people
who don’t convert to Islam,
persecuting non-Muslims and
treating a society in the unjust
manner that extremist elements
have been doing most definitely is
not what Islam is about. When one
reads in the Qur’an that Allah
encourages Muslims to deal kindly
and justly with anyone of any faith
who has not fought Muslims for our
faith and driven us out of our homes
because God loves the just, one
wonders why anyone would want to
put a negative interpretation to
what is clearly a message of
patience, peace and harmony
between different faiths cohabiting.
The second source in Islam, after
the Qur’an, are the statements
made by the Prophet Muhammad
(SAW), who in his lifetime gave a
clear view on the persecution of
non-Muslims when he stated,
“Whoever kills an innocent non-
Muslim will not even smell the
fragrance of Paradise.” How could
such statement possibly be
compatible with the extremist ideal
for Islam to force itself onto others?
Instead, it makes it clear that non-
Muslims should by no means be
harmed by Muslims.
The one doctrine that is used by
extremists to lend credibility to the
notion that Islam encourages
violence is the concept of jihad. The
word Jihad brings into play the
vision of a marching band of
religious fanatics with savage
beards, short trousers and fiery
eyes, brandishing swords,
screaming in Arabic and attacking
everyone and everything in their
wake.
However, the true spirit of Jihad in
Islamic terms means to endeavour
and strive in a noble way. Over time
this meaning of Jihad has been
eradicated or at least diluted. The
critical juncture in the Islamic world
requires reviving and recapturing
the true and pristine meaning of
Jihad. Jihad can be divided into two
broad categories. First is ‘Jihad-e-
akbar’. This is Jihad against one’s
own person to curb sinful
inclinations, which is the purification
of self. This is the most difficult
Jihad and hence in terms of rewards
and blessings is the highest
category of Jihad. The second is
‘Jihad-e-asghar’. This is Jihad of the
sword. This is communal Jihad and
presupposes certain specific
conditions. The Quran speaks of
fighting only as a self defence and
this is the very condition laid down
in several verses of the Holy Quran.
The so-called verse of the sword in
the Islamic scripture is often taken
out of context as if it inculcates an
indiscriminate massacre of all non-
Muslims. The Quranic words such as
“kill whatever you find them” apply
only in cases of self-defence and a
state of unprovoked war; they do
not apply to provoked wars and
battles. The Muslims who interpret
these verses in any other manner
commit a travesty of the lofty ideals
of Islam. There is not a single
instance in the life of the Holy
Prophet where he offered the
alternative of the sword or Islam to
anyone.
The Holy Quran does not make Jihad
in context of an article of faith. The
sayings and traditions of the Holy
Prophet render it into a formula for
active struggle that invariably and
incorrectly tended towards a
militant expression. Suicide
bombings, violent threats and
killing those of different faiths just
for the sake of killing are contrary to
the purview of the real spirit of the
Islamic Jihad. It is pure and simple
mass murder. The presentation of
Islam as a crude and barbaric
religion which gives itself the right
to cause unwarranted human and
material suffering and destruction
under the guise of Divine authority
is not the kind of Islam we find in
the precepts of the Holy Prophet
Muhammad (SAW).
The basic unity of the followers of all
faiths is emphatically stressed in the
Holy Quran and the creation of
discord and disunity by terrorism or
otherwise has no place in Islam.
Islam is an all-encompassing codes
of values and conduct and with
those values, those of us that
practice it from the depths of our
heart and soul must use its
teachings as a ground of hope to
progressively promote unity and
accord in Nigeria rather than
mischievously and maliciously using
it as a justification for violence.
The Holy Quran teaches that God
has sent His revelation to all people
from time to time. Jesus Christ and
many of the Prophets of the Old
Testament are mentioned by name
and they are all honoured and
revered by all true believing
Muslims. Indeed, the Quran requires
belief in the truth of all the
Messengers of God and requires an
affirmation in them all wherever
they appear. And therefore it seeks
to bring about reconciliation
between the followers of different
faiths and to establish a basis of
respect and honour among them.
The Quran says: “Surely, those who
believe and the Jews and the
Christians and the Sabians –
whichever party from among these
truly believes in Allah (God) and the
Last Day and does good deeds,
shall have their reward with their
Lord, and no fear shall come upon
them nor shall they grieve.”
In the Holy Scriptures, the Qur’an,
Torah and the Bible, both Christians
and Muslims are taught that God is
the Source of peace and the
bestower of security. And since the
doctrine of peace and security are
‘His’’, the establishment of that
peace and maintenance of security
must, therefore, be the constant
objective of all Muslims and
Christians alike. Those who choose
to exact a campaign of hatred,
violence and threats against others
who have done nothing to provoke
them, purely because others
worship in a different way to them,
must revaluate Allah’s message of
peace and harmony and understand
that, only through conformity to the
spirit of peace, patience, conscience
and the promotion of human welfare
can we achieve a society where all
can co-exist. If they don’t, they have
only themselves to blame in the
hereafter when they have to make
the real account to the Almighty, All
seeing and All Knowing.
Sheikh Dr. Ahmad Abubakar Gumi
is a beacon to the inherent justice in
Islam and a brave Scholar,
especially when examined with the
lenses of the present Islamic
leadership in Nigeria. Like his father,
he lives a life outstanding in its
dedication to the cause of Allah.
May God protect him and guide him
to continue speaking out against
those within the Muslim Ummah
choose to distort the message and
meaning of Islam. Nigerian Muslim,
extremists especially, can learn from
Sheikh Gumi when he explores
them to follow Allah accordingly and
advises them that there is no
compulsion to Islam.

Hannatu Musawa
I invite you to follow me on Twitter –
@hanneymusawa

To promotes freedom of expression and right to contrary opinion, views expressed by Authors does not necesarily reflect the views of the blogger.

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