Can we move toward peaceful co-existence among all religions, or will militant Islam become an increasing threat to all non-Muslims?
by Rev. Bill McGinnis
The case of Christian convert Abdul Rahman in Afghanistan has sharply focused international attention on what may be the most important question in the
world today: Does true Islam require freedom of religion, or not?
The government of Afghanistan has been preparing to bring Rahman to trial on the criminal charge of renouncing his former religion of Islam to become a
convert to Christianity. According to some authorities, this act of apostasy violates Islamic law and is punishable by death. Other authorities believe
that true Islamic law requires freedom of religion and that Rahman and everybody else should be free to follow whatever religion (or none at all) they
choose, without fear or penalty.
The importance of this question could not possibly be greater, because if true Islam requires freedom of religion, then there is no theological basis for
militant action against people of other religions, merely because of their religion. Islamic Democracy becomes a possibility, and long-term peaceful co-existence
for Muslims and non-Muslims seems likely. The supposed justification for terrorism largely disappears, and a new era of hopefulness in the world can soon
But if true Islam does not require freedom of religion, then Muslims are theologically justified in using violence against non-Muslims, Islamic Democracy
becomes totally impossible, and anti-Western terrorism can continue, with some apparent theological justification — all on the basis of spreading Islam,
by force if necessary. This would also place Islam in direct opposition to the United Nations’ “Universal Declaration Of Human Rights,” which guarantees
freedom of religion to all people in United Nations member countries.
In the immediate case of Abdul Rahman, the best outcome, with benefit for all people, would be for a high Islamic court to rule that the case should be
dismissed because true Islamic law requires freedom of religion. This decision would be based mainly on Qur’an 2.256, which plainly says, “There is no
compulsion in religion; truly the right way has become clearly distinct from error; therefore, whoever disbelieves in the Shaitan (note: Satan) and believes
in Allah he indeed has laid hold on the firmest handle, which shall not break off, and Allah is Hearing, Knowing.”
Source: Qur’an (Koran) as shown at
This reading from the Qur’an is confirmed by another one, the entire chapter (Sura) 109, called “The Disbelievers,” which concludes, “You shall have your
religion and I shall have my religion.”
In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful.
[109.1] Say: O unbelievers!
[109.2] I do not serve that which you serve,
[109.3] Nor do you serve Him Whom I serve:
[109.4] Nor am I going to serve that which you serve,
[109.5] Nor are you going to serve Him Whom I serve:
[109.6] You shall have your religion and I shall have my religion.
The theological basis for the prosecution of Rahman apparently comes from a misreading of Qur’an 16.106, which says, “He who disbelieves in Allah after
his having believed, not he who is compelled while his heart is at rest on account of faith, but he who opens (his) breast to disbelief– on these is the
wrath of Allah, and they shall have a grievous chastisement.”
Immediately we can see two theological errors in prosecuting Rahman on this basis: First, he is not “disbelieving in Allah.” Allah is the creator of the
universe, and there is only one Allah. We Christians call Him, “God,” or “Heavenly Father.” But we are talking about the same One Creator, who has revealed
Himself to different people in slightly different ways, for His own good reasons. As a Christian, Rahman still believes in Allah, as do I myself. And second,
the “grievous punishment” is supposed to come from Allah Himself, on Judgment Day, not from fallible humans today. Furthermore, everyone should keep in
mind that all punishments specified in the Qur’an may be moderated and reduced by applying the oft-stated principle that “Allah is forgiving, merciful,”
as stated in Qur’an 2.173 and seventy-six other places in the Qur’an. Allah knows your heart. In Islam, if you have a really good reason, Allah will overlook
or forgive almost anything.
(Also note that this verse confirms the invalidity of compulsion in religion, when it says, “not he who is compelled.”)
So we see that the prosecution of Abdul Rahman in Afghanistan for converting from Islam to Christianity, in supposed violation of “Islamic law,” is itself
a violation of Islamic law, the highest written authority in which is the Qur’an.
But if this is true, then why is there any question? Why does anyone even think that converting from Islam to another religion might be a sin? The reason
is that some non-Qur’anic secondary written authorities seem to say that it is a punishable sin for Muslims to convert away from Islam.
These secondary written authorities are called called the “hadith,” or “sayings,” attributed to the prophet Muhammad, some of which were reportedly heard
by his followers, then told to others who then told them to others who then wrote them down. But the various hadith differ widely among themselves, and
many are believed by some Muslims but not by others. Some of these hadith do appear to prohibit freedom of religion in some cases. But even the most authoritative
hadith is never strong enough to contradict the words of the Qur’an, all of which were reportedly given by Allah to the Prophet Muhammad and immediately
written down under his direct supervision. In Islam, the Qur’an comes directly from Allah and is infallible. The hadith come from man and are subject to
error. The hadith are sometimes useful in order to clarify the words in the Qur’an, but hadith are never strong enough to contradict the clear words of
If the government of Afghanistan merely yields to Western pressure in this one case, that doesn’t solve anything. The problem will come back again in future
cases. And if they make up some phony excuse for not having the trial, like “mental incompetence,” that is even worse. The fact is that Abdul Rahman is
perfectly competent to stand trial, but the case against him is not justified under true Islamic law.
PROPOSAL FOR SOLUTION, WITH BENEFIT FOR ALL
I propose that a high-level team of Islamic scholars study this case, and defend Rahman, and win the legal victory they deserve: “Case dismissed.” This
would establish the Islamic legal precedent, on the international level, that true Islam requires freedom of religion. This might very well be as important
a case for the entire world today as Brown v Board of Education was for the United States in 1956. And it could be the foundation of true Christian-Muslim
understanding and peaceful co-existence, as described below.
THE PROPER RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN MUSLIMS AND CHRISTIANS
The world is well aware that a fundamental tension has long existed between Islam and Christianity, Muslims and Christians. The underlying theological reason
for this tension is best understood by comparing two verses from Scripture: Sura (chapter) 112 from the Qur’an (Islam’s highest written authority) and
John 3:16 from the Bible (Christianity’s highest written authority.) Sura 112 is considered by many Muslims to be the most important single statement in
Islam, and John 3:16 is considered by many Christians to be the most important single statement in Christianity.
The fundamental conflict is that the Qur’an says Allah (God) did not father any children in any way, and that no one is like Him; but the Bible says that
Jesus is God’s Son and that anyone who believes in Jesus will have eternal life. Islam accepts Jesus, but only as one of the many prophets who came before
Muhammed, not as the only-begotten Son of God.
[112.1] Say: He, Allah, is One.
[112.2] Allah is He on Whom all depend.
[112.3] He begets not, nor is He begotten.
[112.4] And none is like Him.
For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son,
that whoever believes in him should not perish but
have eternal life.
Bible: John 3:16
(Revised Standard Version)
The Qur’an and Bible I am using here are the ones available online from the University Of Michigan by following THIS LINK =>
The Revised Standard translation of the Bible (RSV) and the M. H. Shakir translation of the Qur’an are both widely available and widely accepted. If you
want to consult other translations, you can easily do so by searching for “Bible online” and “Qur’an online” at Google.com.
To a Muslim, it is blasphemy to say that Jesus is the Son of God. To a Christian, it is blasphemy to say that Jesus is not the Son of God. This is the fundamental
conflict between Islam and Christianity, and it cannot be papered over with smiles and pleasant words.
Nevertheless, it is quite possible for both religions to live side-by-side in peaceful, even brotherly, co-existence. In fact, the Qur’an specifically instructs
Muslims to accept and tolerate Christians, and the Bible instructs Christians to live at peace with all people, as we will show below.
The Way Christians Should Act Toward Muslims
The Bible instructs Christians to live at peace with all people, as much as it is possible to do so. Further, Christians are instructed not to seek revenge
for personal offenses, but to leave vengeance to God.
If possible, so far as it depends upon you,
live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge
yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God;
for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay,
says the Lord.”
Bible: Romans 12:18-19
(Revised Standard Version)
The Way Muslims Should Act Toward Christians
The Qur’an instructs Muslims to give Christians nothing to fear and not to cause Christians to grieve. Further, the Qur’an instructs Muslims that there
should be no compulsion in religion. Therefore Christians, all of whom believe in Allah (God), believe in the Last day (Judgment Day) and try to do good,
should be allowed to live in peace, even if they do not convert to Islam.
[2.62] Surely those who believe, and those who are Jews, and the Christians, and the Sabians, whoever believes in Allah and the Last day and does good,
they shall have their reward from their Lord, and there is no fear for them, nor shall they grieve.
[2.256] There is no compulsion in religion; truly the right way has become clearly distinct from error; therefore, whoever disbelieves in the
Shaitan and believes in Allah he indeed has laid hold on the firmest handle, which shall not break off, and Allah is Hearing, Knowing.
Qur’an 2.62 and 2.256
Blessings to you. And may God help us all.
Rev. Bill McGinnis, Director – LoveAllPeople.org