7 – Islam’s stance on false ideology

Islam's Stance on False Ideology

In the name of Allah, the all-Beneficent, the all-Merciful.

Allah the all-Wise has said in His book:

الّذین یتّبعون الرّسول النّبىّ الامّىّ الّذی یجدونه مکتوبا عندهم فی التّوراة و الانجیل یامرهم بالمعروف و ینهاهم عن المنکر و یحلّ لهم الطّیّبات و یحرّم علیهم الخبائث و یضع عنهم اصرهم و الاغلال الّتی کانت علیهم

Those who follow the Apostle, the uninstructed prophet, whose mention they find written with them in the Torah and the Evangel, who bids them to do what is right and forbids them from what is wrong, makes lawful to them all the good things and forbids them from all vicious things, and relieves them of their burdens and the shackles that were upon them … (Surah al-A’raaf, 157)

In our discussion on freedom, we reached the topic of freedom of belief in Islam. We mentioned that Islam supports freedom of belief within an Islamic society, meaning that no one is investigated or put under pressure or force for having false beliefs – even if having false beliefs is something looked down according to Islamic edicts and is illogical. Because of the importance of freedom of religion and the need to clarify an Islamic government’s responsibility regarding said freedom, we will continue on this topic. We will begin by addressing some doubts that may have arisen from the previous discussion.

One possible doubt is regarding some verses of the Qur’an that discuss the disbelievers, polytheists, and all those who have false beliefs. Someone might say that if Islam guarantees freedom of belief in society, why all these verses about false beliefs? The answer is that none of these verses – to the extent that I am aware – order the Muslims to fight the disbelievers because of their beliefs. (Fighting them because of their actions is a different situation). Battle with the disbelievers is commanded either because the disbelievers have taken up arms against the Islamic system and faith of Islam – in which case, it is the responsibility of the Muslims to defend Islam and Islamic society – or in the case of fighting against the leaders of disbelief and those heads of atheistic and corrupt systems who have enslaved nations. However, regarding the actual beliefs of the disbelievers, there is in fact a verse of the Qur’an that orders Muslims to be kind towards those disbelievers who have not fought against Islam and the Muslims. In Surah Mumtahinah, it is said: Allah does not forbid you in regard to those who did not make war against you on account of religion and did not expel you from your homes, that you deal with them with kindness and justice. Indeed Allah loves the just.[1] God does not forbid you from being kind towards those disbelievers who have not fought with you; He does not say to avoid being just with them. Rather, God the Almighty says to show them kindness, and surely, He loves those who are kind. Justice in an Islamic society naturally entails observing the rights of the individuals. The disbelievers are some of those individuals within that society or even those that live outside of an Islamic society but do not oppress the Islamic system, Muslims or Islam.

The next doubt is with regards to famous historical events during which idols were broken. As you know, in the history of prophets, the history of monotheism, we encounter prominent occasions where prophets took part in breaking idols. They destroyed the idols that were holy figures and an object of faith for a group of people. One example is Ibrahim a.s. Another example is the noble Prophet when he entered the city of Mecca after conquering it. Someone might consider these acts of idol-breaking to be in opposition with freedom of belief. However, it is important to realize that Prophet Ibrahim did this action in order to awaken the sleeping and opiated minds of the people in that ignorant society, a people who only had familiarity with polytheism and a polytheistic system for the entirety of their lives. The sound of truth was never raised in that society to be heard by their ears. For such people to be awoken from their deep slumber, a severe action had to be taken. This is why, when he was no older than a youth, Ibrahim went into the idol-house, took out a hammer, and broke all the idols except one. He left the largest idol unbroken and hung the hammer from its neck. This was to awaken the conscience of the people. Afterwards, in the scathing conversation Ibrahim had with his people, the cleverness that this righteous servant of God utilized was such an intense shock for their slumbering minds that the Qur’an says: Thereat they came to themselves and said [to one another], ‘Indeed it is you who are the wrongdoers!’[2] After Ibrahim carried out this action of idol-breaking, the result that he desired was achieved. The people came back to themselves, talked amongst themselves. Their conscience was awoken, and they said to themselves and each other that certainly we are the wrongdoers. We are the oppressors, and we should not blame Ibrahim. Similarly, in the case of the Prophet of Islam, the breaking of idols was not done as a show of force against the people of Mecca. When the Prophet broke those idols, he broke the symbol of that corrupt system. This is similar to the reality that when the people of a country carry out a revolution, they remove the symbols of the previous regime. Just as you [the people of Iran] have in your country removed all the symbols of the Shah’s oppressive government from the face of society, from roundabouts, from buildings, and from papers, the Prophet took those idols – the symbols of the polytheistic government – from the Ka’bah and threw them down, destroying them. Nothing in history indicates that when the Prophet entered Mecca, he forced the people to accept Islam or investigated the houses of people to see who has a small idol so that it could be seized and destroyed. The Prophet only broke the symbols of that false and ignorant system. Therefore, the Prophet’s action was not a show of force employed in order to impose a certain belief on the people.

Another doubt that exists in some minds is that Islam enforces strict actions against apostates. Someone who has faith and then turns away from it and towards disbelief has severe consequences in Islam. Some might count this as an action of force with regards to beliefs. However, analyzing the verses regarding apostasy reveals that Islam is acting to safeguard the boundaries of the Islamic faith. In reality, Islam, from the moment that people have accepted it as their religion, has made the Islamic system responsible for safeguarding and being watchful over the peoples’ faiths. This is the responsibility of the Islamic system and government (which I will later discuss with regards to anti-Islamic propaganda). In a verse regarding apostasy, the Qur’an states: Whoever renounces faith in Allah after [affirming] his faith – barring someone who is compelled while his heart is at rest in faith – but those who open up their breasts to unfaith, upon such shall be Allah’s wrath, and there is a great punishment for them.[3] The next verse says: That, because they preferred the life of the world to the Hereafter.[4] The reason for God’s wrath on apostates is that they have preferred the life of this world and their lowly desires over their spiritual wishes, internal nature, and the Hereafter. From this we can see that the issue is not simply one of changing belief. The issue is that someone due to material attractions and the satisfying of lowly desires became prepared to weaken the prestige of the Islamic system and turn their back upon their faith. Islam’s harshness with regards to these individuals is from this aspect, which is different from that of simply having a different belief.

Of course, that religious belief and faith are free in an Islamic society does not mean that Islam gives permission for trickery to occur in society for the purpose of attracting peoples’ faiths. Such deception is definitely not allowed in Islam. If those hands that by offering material attractions, by satisfying lowly desires, attract weak hearts towards themselves are given leave to do so in an Islamic society, they would put those with weak and simple hearts under their influence and misguide them, taking them from heaven to hell. As for the faithless, their patrons are the Taaghut, who drive them out of light into darkness.[5] Islam does not give permission for people whose hearts have been enlightened with faith to be pulled towards darkness through such ideas. This is why Islam opposes anti-Islamic and deceptive preaching which through deceit regarding theological topics weakens the faith of people and attracts their hearts. Signs of this opposition are evident in various Islamic rulings.

We can summarize this discussion on freedom of belief in a few sentences:

Islam opposes false and wrong beliefs. However, Islam does not react with force with those who have faith in such falsehoods; rather, it strives to attract them towards the correct faith through wisdom, warnings, and truthful preaching and speech. Islam does oppose a person who, due to having faith in false beliefs, is pushed towards carrying out destructive actions against society. These are the main and fundamental points on freedom of belief, and this is the path the system of the Islamic Republic follows.

In an Islamic society, we have a responsibility to explain Islamic faith for the people, to make the attraction of faith clear for the people. In order for this faith to penetrate throughout society, the Islamic government has a responsibility to act. That being said, in this very same Islamic society, the Islamic government does not act with force and pressure against those who hold a false faith. The commotion that is sometimes seen in global news sources about the pressure on religious minorities in our country is a clear lie. In an Islamic society, religious minorities live their own lives. Nobody forces them to accept true faith. They, as members of this great social atmosphere, have the ability to choose their faith. If they choose correctly, it is to their own benefit. And if they choose wrongly, not only does the Islamic government and society not bother them, it gives them their social rights. However, in opposing destruction, temptations, and thievery of the hearts, the Islamic Republic views itself as responsible for guarding the faith of the people. Just as you have seen, this is another responsibility that is a definite Islamic principle and can be derived from the verses of the Qur’an and the actions of Muslims and the Imams (as) at the beginning of Islam.


[1] Surah al-Mumtahinah, verse 8: لا ينهكم الله عن الّذين لم يقاتلوكم في الدّين و لم يخرجوكم من دياركم أن تبرّوهم و تسقطوا اليهم انّ الله يحبّ المسقطين

[2] Surah al-Anbiya’, verse 64: فرجعوا الى انفسكم فقالوا انّكم انتم الظّالمون

[3] Surah al-Nahl, verse 106: من كفر بالله من بعد ايمانه الّا من اكره و قلبه مطمئنّ بالايمان و لاكن من شرح بالكفر صدرا فعليهم غضب من الله و لهم عذاب عظيم

[4] Surah al-Nahl, verse 107: ذالك بأنّهم استحبّوا الحيو’ة الدنيا على الأخرة

[5] Surah al-Baqarah, verse 257: و الّذين كفروا اوليائهم الطّاغوت يخرجونهم من النّور الى الظلمات

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