2 - Al Baqara (The cow)

7 Tafsir(s) related to verse 2.256

Al-Jalalayn

There is no compulsion in, entering into, religion. Rectitude has become clear from error, that is say, through clear proofs it has become manifest that faith is rectitude and disbelief is error: this was revealed concerning the Ansār [of Medina] who tried to compel their sons to enter into Islam; so whoever disbelieves in the false deity, namely, Satan or idols (tāghūt, ‘false deity’, is used in a singular and plural sense), and believes in God, has laid hold of the most firm handle, the tight knot, unbreaking, that cannot be severed; God is Hearing, of what is said, Knowing, of what is done.

Al-Qushairi

There is no compulsion in religion. The arguments are clear and the proofs plain and evident. Rectitude has become clear from error; The night is distinguished by its darkness from the day and its light. The eternal truths ḥuqūq [of the Real] are given facts while the basic limits ḥudūd [of created things] are subject to other causes. [The truths of the Real] are [known] through the property of timeless eternity naʿt al-qidam while [the limits of created things] are [known] through the attribute of privation waṣf al-ʿadam. so whoever disbelieves in the false deity The false deity is anything that distracts one from his Lord. and believes in God Belief is the life of the heart ḥayāt al-qalb through God. has laid hold of the most firm handle Laying hold of the most firm handle is holding to the command and prohibition al-amr wa-l-nahy which is traveling the path of al-MuṣṬafā ﷺ. unbreaking; God is Hearing Knowing. Anyone who realizes the truth of it inwardly and holds to it outwardly will win in the two abodes and will be happy in both worlds.

Asbab Al-Nuzul by Al-Wahidi

(There is no compulsion in religion…) [2:256]. Muhammad ibn Ahmad ibn Ja'far al-Muzakki informed us> Zahir ibn Ahmad> al-Husayn ibn Muhammad ibn Mus'ab> Yahya ibn Hakim> Ibn Abi 'Adiyy> Shu'bah> Abu Bishr> Sa'id ibn Jubayr> Ibn 'Abbas who said: “The women of the Helpers whose boys always died in infancy used to vow to bring up their boys as Jews if they were to live. When the Banu'l-Nadir were driven out, they had among them children of the Helpers. The Helpers said: 'We will not leave our children!' Upon which Allah, exalted is He, revealed (There is no compulsion in religion. The right direction is henceforth distinct from error …)”. Muhammad ibn Musa ibn al-Fadl informed us> Muhammad ibn Ya'qub> Ibrahim ibn Marzuq> Wahb ibn Jarir> Shu'bah> Abu Bishr> Sa'id ibn Jubayr> Ibn 'Abbas who said regarding the saying of Allah, exalted is He, (There is no compulsion in religion…): “The woman of the Helpers whose boys never survived used to vow that if a boy of hers survived, she would raise him as a Jew. When the Banu'l-Nadir were driven out of Medina they had among them children of the Helpers. The Helpers said: 'O Messenger of Allah! Our Children!' Allah, exalted is He, therefore revealed (There is no compulsion in religion…)”. Sa'id ibn Jubayr said: “Those who wished to leave with the Jews did leave, and those who wished to embrace Islam embraced Islam”. Said Mujahid: “This verse was revealed about a man of the Helpers who had a black boy called Subayh whom he used to coerce to become Muslim”. Al-Suddi said: “This verse was revealed about a man from the Helpers called Abu'l-Husayn. This man had two sons. It happened that some traders from Syria came to Medina to sell oil. When the traders were about to leave Medina, the two sons of Abu'l-Husayn called them to embrace Christianity. These traders converted to Christianity and then left Medina. Abu'l-Husayn informed the Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, of what had happened. He asked him to summon his two sons. But then Allah, exalted is He, revealed (There is no compulsion in religion…). The Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, said: 'May Allah banish both of them. They are the first to disbelieve'. This was before the Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, was commanded to fight the people of the Book. But then Allah's saying (There is no compulsion in religion…) was abrogated and the Prophet was commanded to fight the people of the Book in Surah Repentance”. Masruq said: “A man from the Helpers, from amongst the Banu Salim Banu 'Awf, had two sons who had converted to Christianity before the advent of the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace. [After the migration of the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, to Medina,] these two sons came to Medina along a group of Christians to trade in food. Their father went to them and refused to leave them, saying: 'By Allah! I will not leave you until you become Muslim'. They refused to become Muslim and they all went to the Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, to settle their dispute. The father said: 'O Messenger of Allah! How can I leave a part of me enter hell fire while I just sit and look?' Allah, glorious and majestic is He, then revealed (There is no compulsion in religion…) after which he let them go”. Abu Ishaq ibn Ibrahim al-Muqri' informed us> Abu Bakr ibn Muhammad ibn Ahmad ibn 'Abdus> Abu'l-Hasan 'Ali ibn Ahmad ibn Mahfuz> 'Abd Allah ibn Hashim> 'Abd al-Rahman ibn Mahdi> Sufyan> Khusayf> Mujahid who said: “There were some people who were nurse-wetted among the Jews, the Banu Qurayzah and Banu'l-Nadir. When the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, commanded that the Banu'l-Nadir be driven out of Medina, those sons of the Aws who were nurse-wetted by the Jews said: 'We will leave with them and follow their religion'. Their families stopped them and wanted them to coerce them to embrace Islam. Then the verse (There is no compulsion in religion…) was revealed”.

Ibn Al Kathir

No Compulsion in Religion

Allah said,

لاَ إِكْرَاهَ فِى الدِّينِ

(There is no compulsion in religion), 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 Ayah, 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 Al-Madinah, some of the children of the Ansar were being raised among them, and the Ansar said, `We will not abandon our children.' 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 also recorded this Hadith. As for the Hadith that Imam Ahmad recorded, in which Anas said that the Messenger of Allah said to a man,

«أَسْلِم»

قَالَ: إِنِّي أَجِدُنِي كَارِهًا قَالَ:

«وَإِنْ كُنْتَ كَارِهًا»

("Embrace Islam.'' The man said, "I dislike it.'' The Prophet said, "Even if you dislike it.'')

First, this is an authentic Hadith, with only three narrators between Imam Ahmad and the Prophet. 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.'

Tawhid is the Most Trustworthy Handhold

Allah's statement,

فَمَنْ يَكْفُرْ بِالطَّـغُوتِ وَيُؤْمِن بِاللَّهِ فَقَدِ اسْتَمْسَكَ بِالْعُرْوَةِ الْوُثْقَى لاَ انفِصَامَ لَهَا وَاللَّهُ سَمِيعٌ عَلِيمٌ

(Whoever disbelieves in Taghut and believes in Allah, then he has grasped the most trustworthy handhold that will never break. And Allah is All-Hearer, All-Knower) is in reference to, "Whoever shuns the rivals of Allah, the idols, and those that Shaytan calls to be worshipped besides Allah, whoever believes in Allah's Oneness, worships Him alone and testifies that there is no deity worthy of worship except Him, then

فَقَدِ اسْتَمْسَكَ بِالْعُرْوَةِ الْوُثْقَى

(then he has grasped the most trustworthy handhold.)

Therefore, this person will have acquired firmness in the religion and proceeded on the correct way and the straight path. Abu Al-Qasim Al-Baghawi recorded that `Umar said, "Jibt means magic, and Taghut means Shaytan. Verily, courage and cowardice are two instincts that appear in men, the courageous fights for those whom he does not know and the coward runs away from defending his own mother. Man's honor resides with his religion and his status is based upon his character, even if he was Persian or Nabatian.'' `Umar's statement that Taghut is Shaytan is very sound, for this meaning includes every type of evil that the ignorant people of Jahiliyyah (pre Islamic era of ignorace) fell into, such as worshipping idols, referring to them for judgement, and invoking them for victory.

Allah's statement,

فَقَدِ اسْتَمْسَكَ بِالْعُرْوَةِ الْوُثْقَى لاَ انفِصَامَ لَهَا

(then he has grasped the most trustworthy handhold that will never break) means, "He will have hold of the true religion with the strongest grasp.'' Allah equated this adherence to the firm handhold that never breaks because it is built solid and because its handle is firmly connected. This is why Allah said here,

فَقَدِ اسْتَمْسَكَ بِالْعُرْوَةِ الْوُثْقَى لاَ انفِصَامَ لَهَا

(then he has grasped the most trustworthy handhold that will never break.)

Mujahid said, "The most trustworthy handhold is Iman (faith).'' As-Suddi said that it refers to Islam. Imam Ahmad recorded that Qays bin `Abbad said, "I was in the Masjid when a man whose face showed signs of humbleness came and prayed two Rak`ahs that were modest in length. The people said, `This is a man from among the people of Paradise.' When he left, I followed him until he entered his house, and I entered it after him and spoke with him. When he felt at ease, I said to him, `When you entered the Masjid, the people said such and such things.' He said, `All praise is due to Allah! No one should say what he has no knowledge of. I will tell you why they said that. I saw a vision during the time of the Messenger of Allah, and I narrated it to him. I saw that I was in a green garden, ' and he described the garden's plants and spaciousness, `and there was an iron pole in the middle of the garden affixed in the earth and its tip reached the sky. On its tip, there was a handle, and I was told to ascend the pole. I said, `I cannot.' Then a helper came and raised my robe from behind and said to me, `Ascend.' I ascended until I grasped the handle and he said to me, `Hold on to the handle.' I awoke from that dream with the handle in my hand. I went to the Messenger of Allah and told him about the vision and he said,

«أَمَّا الرَّوْضَةُ فَرَوْضَةُ الْإِسْلَامِ، وَأَمَّا الْعَمُودُ فَعَمُودُ الْإِسْلَامِ، وَأَمَّا الْعُرْوَةُ فَهِيَ الْعُرْوَةُ الْوُثْقَى، أَنْتَ عَلَى الْإِسْلَامِ حَتَّى تَمُوت»

(As for the garden, it represents Islam; as for the pole, it represents the pillar of Islam; and the handle represents the most trustworthy handhold. You shall remain Muslim until you die.)

This Companion was `Abdullah bin Salam.''

This Hadith was also collected in the Two Sahihs; and Al-Bukhari also recorded it with another chain of narration.

Kashani

There is no compulsion in religion, because in reality religion is the guidance that is acquired from the light of the heart that is a concomitant of the human primordial nature and that is required for the faith of certainty, as God, exalted be He, says: so set your purpose for religion as a ḥanīf, a nature given by God, upon which He originated mankind. There is no changing God's creation. That is the upright religion [Q. 30:30], and Islam, which is the exoteric aspect of religion, is built upon this [guidance] and is something in which compulsion can have no place. The proof that the esoteric and true aspect of religion is faith, just as its exoteric aspect and [outer] form is Islam, comes in what follows: Rectitude has become clear, that is, it is distinguished, from error, by means of clear proofs, for the one who possesses insight (baṣīra) and reason (ʿaql), as they say, 'The morning is bright for he who has eyes'; so whoever disbelieves in the false deity, that is, [in] what is other than God and denies its existence and its effect, and believes in God, a belief of witnessing and in truth, has laid hold of the most firm handle [that cannot be split], that is, he has held onto the Essential Unity whose ties and modes of operation are in of Itself, such that there is nothing firmer than It, since every thing that holds onto It is firmly attached, nay, every existence is existent through It and non-existent in itself. Thus if one were to consider such [a thing's] existence, then it is split (infiṣām) in itself because a contigent thing's attachment and existence is only through the Necessary [Existent]. When consideration [of this Existent] is severed from that [contingent] thing then that contingent's existence is terminated and is no longer anything in itself. This [Necessary Existent] cannot be split from the existence of His very essence since He does not entail divisibility (tajazzuÌ) or duality (ithnayniyya). There is a subtle detail in this [concept of] 'splitting' (infiṣām), which is that a splitting (infiṣām) is a breaking (inkisār) but without separation (infiṣāl). Since no contingent can be separated from His Essence, exalted be He, or remove itself from It - given that it would either be an act of His or an attribute of His - there can be absolutely no separation. Nay, if reason would consider such [a contingent] in isolation, it would appear split, that is lacking [independent] existence, its existence attached to His existence, exalted be He. And God is Hearing, hears the speech of those who have religion, Knowing, of their intentions and their faith.

Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi - Tafhim al-Qur'an

The word "din" implies the concept about Allah as stated in the Ayat al-Kursi above as well as the entire way of life built on it. The verse means that the creed of Islam and its way of life cannot be thrust upon anyone forcibly. As a matter of fact, this cannot be forced upon anyone.

The word taghut literally applies to everyone who transgresses the limits. The Qur'an uses this word for one who rebels against Allah and claims himself to be the master and sovereign of His servants and forces them to become his servants.

Man's rebellion against Allah has three degrees of criminality: (1) One is fasiq (disobedient) if one professes to be His subject but practically acts against His commandments; (2) One is kafir (disbeliever) if one becomes independent of Him or owes allegiance to someone else; (3) One is taghut if one rebels against Allah and exerts to make His subjects subservient to himself. Such a one may be Satan or a priest or a religious or a political leader or a king or a state. Therefore no one can be a true believer of Allah unless he disowns taghut.

"Darkness" stands for the darkness of ignorance that causes one to go astray from the Right Way, and to spend all one's efforts and energies in wrong way. In contrast to this, "light" stands for the light of the Truth which enables one to see clearly the Reality and perceive the real aim of life and follow consciously and deliberately the Right Way.

Though taghut is singular in form, here it is plural in meaning, for the one who rejects Allah becomes a slave not of one but of several forms of taghut, One of these is Satan who goes on tempting him with many false and alluring temptations. Another is his own self that makes him a slave of passions and lusts and misleads him into crooked ways. Then there are others, his wife and children, his kith and kin, his clan and family, his friends and nation, his political and religious leaders and his government. All these are taghut for him and desire to make him a slave of their wishes and ambitions. And this slave of all these masters wastes his whole life in trying to accomplish the impossible feat of pleasing each and every one of them.

Tanwîr al-Miqbâs min Tafsîr Ibn ‘Abbâs

(There is no compulsion in religion) no one from among the people of the Book and the Magians should be coerced to believe in the divine Oneness of Allah after the Arabs' embrace of Islam. (The right direction is henceforth distinct from error) faith from disbelief and Truth from falsehood. The following was revealed about Mundhir Ibn Sawi al-Tamimi: (And he who rejecteth false deities) the command of the devil and the worship of idols (and believeth in Allah) and in what has come forth from Him (hath grasped a firm handhold) has taken in trust “there is no God save Allah” (which will never break) will never cease, vanish or perish; it is also said that this means: for him who believes in it, the bliss of Paradise will never cease and he will never be taken out of Paradise, nor will he perish by staying in the Fire. (Allah is Hearer) of this speech, (Knower) of its reward and bliss.