Secure Handhold, Concise Speech, Upbringing
Issue 992 » March 30, 2018 - Rajab 13, 1439
Al-Baqarah (The Cow) Sura 2: Verse 256
"There is no compulsion in religion: Truth stands out clear from Error: whoever rejects evil and believes in God has grasped the most trustworthy handhold, that never breaks, for God is All-hearing, All-knowing. "
This verse is the most profound declarative statement in the Quran. It is not the business of any human being to coerce another in matters of faith or religion. The all-powerful gives us complete freedom to believe or not believe, to follow whatever religion we choose. The ability to attain to faith is innate in human nature, and the means to attain faith is provided by revelation. Only our willing, informed convincement is the true measure of God consciousness. By implication, for individuals or society to coerce people is to interfere with and arrogate to themselves authority over a relationship which can exist only between God and each individual soul.
What is being made clear is that God is beyond any need or requirement. God does not need worshippers; it is human beings who need consciousness of God. Faith and religion, we are told, are based on recognising the distinction between truth and error; they are an exercise of reason and intellect, a work of knowledge as well as of spirit. Willing, informed and reasoned belief is laying hold of 'the most secure handhold that never breaks', the most liberating, empowering and comforting phrase in the Quran.
"Reading the Qur'an: The Contemporary Relevance of the Sacred Text of Islam" - Ziauddin Sardar, pp. 180, 181
The Prophet (peace be upon him) was sent to address people of every level, from ignorant seventh-century bedouins to those of the highest intellectual and scientific achievements, until the Day of Judgment. No one has yet been able to disprove what he said. Accordingly, after we scrutinize his Traditions and the Quran, we realize that they complement each other in style and content. Moreover, there is no contradiction between them and established scientific knowledge. Ever since the Revelation, billions of people have found in the Quran answers for their intellectual problems, cures for their spiritual diseases, and models for their behaviour in all circumstances.
The enchanting, captivating, and informative words of God's Messenger that so enlightened his Companions intellectually and revived them spiritually have exerted the same influence on countless scholars, scientists, Quranic exegetes, Traditionists, jurists, spiritual guides, and specialists in science and humanities. Such people, the vast majority of whom have been non-Arab, have used the Quran and Sunna as the foundational sources of their academic studies and endeavours.
Even today, his words are enough to cause people to reform themselves and embrace Islam. He acknowledged this as one of God's blessings and, to emphasize it as so, would sometimes say: "I am Muhammad, an unlettered Prophet. No Prophet will come after me. I have been distinguished with conciseness of speech and comprehensiveness of meaning," (Kanz al Ummal) and: "O people, I have been honored with conciseness of speech and giving the final judgment in all matters." (Kanz al Ummal)
"The Messenger of God: Muhammad" - Fethullah Gulen, pp. 96, 97
Individualists believe in man's conversion, in inner renewal; positivists believe in the change of his behaviour. The philosophy behind these views is clear: if a crime is a result of free choice or of an evil will, then re-education by some outside measure has little chance of success. On the contrary, if the offence is the consequence of bad conditions and habits, the offender can be reeducated by changing these conditions or forming new habits. This is the difference between an inner conversion and a drill. Every re-education technique enforced by clerks and government officials, and especially by the army or the police, always consists of drill and never of upbringing.
Upbringing is an immeasurable and subtle influence upon man's soul. It is completely indirect through love, examples, forgiveness, and punishment with the intention of initiating an inner activity in man himself. Drill, being essentially bestial, is a system of measures and action taken to force a certain behaviour, the so-called right behaviour, upon a human being. Upbringing belongs to man; drill is designed for the animal. By means of drill, it is possible to form citizens who obey the law not out of respect but out of fear or habit. Their insides may be dead, their feelings withered; yet, they still do not break the law because they have been drilled. The stories about so-called blameless citizens who are morally empty and trespassers who are essentially good and noble very often appear in literature. Hence, there exist two kinds of justice: man's and God's, the first looking at deeds and the other at the essence of being.
The inner span of man is huge, almost infinite. He is capable of the most abominable crimes and the most noble sacrifices. The greatness of man is not primarily in the doing of good deeds but in his ability to choose. Everyone who reduces or limits this choice debases man. Good does not exist beyond one's will, nor can it be imposed by force: "There is no force in faith." The same law applies to ethics. Drill, even when it imposes the correct behaviour, is essentially immoral and inhuman.
"Islam Between East and West" - Alija Ali Izetbegovic, p. 115