Freedom of Religions

Editorial: Freedom of Conscience

Islam possesses a dynamic character. Muslims are duty bound to seek to persuade others about the truth of Islam and of the beneficent values it advocates. This is because the message of Islam is universal. While some religions have set territorial or racial limits to participation in their commu- nion, Islam brooks no such limitation. Claiming to be based on truth, it invites the whole of mankind to its fold and naturally warns, constantly and exten- sively, of the dire moral and spiritual consequences that would follow from the rejection or even neglect of the values that it propounds. Importantly, how- ever, it grants everyone the freedom to exercise his or her volition in choosing to subscribe to it or not. Belief is a matter of conscience and the conscience cannot be compelled. Islam, therefore, stands for the freedom of conscience which it considers indispensable to the achievement of the object of man’s life on earth. This includes the freedom to profess, practise, propagate and, should his conscience so impel him, to abjure his religion. This freedom is repeatedly and emphatically affirmed by the Holy Qur’an so much so that there should not be a scintilla of doubt on the matter. The noble example of the Holy Prophet(saw) also makes it clear that no coercion is to be applied in religious matters. No non- Muslim can be forcibly con- verted to Islam nor can any Muslim be forcibly declared a non-Muslim. The doors of ingress into Islam are open to anyone who, convinced of the truth and beauty of Islam, affirms that he is a Muslim just as the doors of egress are open to any Muslim who, for whatever ill- fated reason, chooses to disavow his faith in Islam. Unfortunately, despite all this, a 2 The Review of Religions – May 2006 Bockarie Tommy Kallon – UK EDITORIAL section of the priestly classes within Islam, motivated by political factors, developed and propagated the abominable notion that a professing Muslim can recant from Islam only on the pain of death. This is a notion that is not only abhorrent to Islam but indeed to the human conscience. It renders nugatory the freedom of conscience that is so emphatically guaranteed by Islam. If this misguided notion were to be upheld, Islam would be guilty of hypocrisy by expecting adherents of other religions to give up their beliefs to embrace Islam while at the same time denying its adherents the freedom to renounce Islam should they be so inclined and would thus create barriers in the path of its own objectives. As is argued in Recantation Under Islam, featured this month, freedom of conversion is in fact the litmus test of freedom of conscience. Everyone must be free to affirm his faith voluntarily or to proclaim his denial without restraint. It cannot be a one-way freedom. Hadhrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad(ru) bases his arguments on the Holy Qur’an, the practice and the traditions of the Holy Prophet(saw) and events of the early Islamic era to divest Islam of this reprehensible appur- tenance. The development to dogma within religion, however, is not confined to the four walls of Islam. The Council of Nicaea, reproduced in this month’s edition, shows how Christianity was influenced by the power of politics not only to promulgate a distorted concept of godhead but also to punish those who dared to reject it. Thus was to begin the indoctrination of the unfortunate masses which only the advent of the Holy Prophet(saw) and Islam could reverse. 3 EDITORIAL The Review of Religions – May 2006