Muzaffar Iqbal and Csaba Okvath

Coercion is defined as the act of forcing someone to do or accept something against his or her will (Ibn Manẓūr, Lisān, sub k-r-h). Can someone be coerced to accept Islam? The pivotal verse in this regard is Q 2:256, which declares, "There is no compulsion in religion...". This article explores exegetical discussions on Q 2:256 and related verses; it also discusses other kinds of coercion mentioned in the Qurʾān.

Definitions and Usage

Ikrāh, the verbal noun of the Form IV verb (“akrahayukrihuikrāhan”), derived from the triliteral root k-r-h, is the act of forcing someone to do or accept something against his or her will (Ibn Manẓūr, Lisān, sub k-r-h). Ibn Fāris (d. 395/1004) notes that all derivatives of this root indicate something “contrary to satisfaction and love” (Maqāyīs). Lexicographers define coercion as “to compel another do something he despises” (Fayyūmī, Miṣbāḥ; Ibn Manẓūr, Lisān; Rāghib, Mufradāt). The related noun karh also indicates coercion. Abūl-Ḥusayn al-Qāsim b. Muḥammad b. al-Mufaḍḍal al-Rāghib al-Aṣfahānī (d. ca.502/1108) says, “al-karh is great toil (mashaqqa) imposed by an external force which one bears against one’s will (bi-ikrāh), and al-kurh is a self-imposed undesirable [toil] and this is of two kinds: something inherently unpleasant and something that is dislikeable due to Law or Intelligence… as in Q 2:216, Prescribed for you is fighting, though it be hateful to you. Yet it may be that you hate a thing which is good for you; and it may be that you love a thing which is bad for you; Allah knows, and you know notal-ikrāh is to force someone to do what he dislikes” (Mufradāt, sub k-r-h).

Forty-one derivatives of k-r-h appear in the Qurʾān (ʿAbd al-Bāqī,  Al-Muʿjam al-Mufahras, sub k-r-h): derivatives relevant to this entry are: the noun kurh, used three times (Q 2:216; 46:15x2); and five times as karh (Q 3:83; 4:19; 9:53; 13:15; 41:11);  ikrāh—coercion, the verbal noun of the Form IV verb, which is the theme of this entry, used twice (Q 2:256; 24:33).

In addition, two kinds of compulsion are mentioned using the Form VIII verb iḍṭarra (“to compel, to force”) from the root ḍ-r-r; the root is used 74 times in 11 derived forms; Form VIII verb, which is relevant to this entry occurs seven times (Q 2:126, 173; 5:3; 6:119, 145; 16:145; 31:24). See below for details.

The meaning of “there is no Coercion in Religion”

The pivotal verse (Q 2:256) states: There is no coercion in religion. The right path (al-rushd) has become distinct from error (ghayy). And he who rejects false deities (ṭāghūt) and believes in Allah has grasped a firm handhold which will never break. Allah is Hearer, Knower. “The right path (al-rushd)” is glossed as Islam and ghayy, in contrast, is disbelief and falsehood. Ṭāghūt in this verse is a reference to the Devil and everything worshipped besides Allah (Bayḍāwī; Baghawī, Tafsīr).

The verse has received exhaustive exegetical attention over the centuries with regard to its occasion of revelation, scope, and applicability—that is, whether it applies only to certain people in certain situations; whether it is general or specific; and whether it was abrogated or not (see Abrogation). Its linguistic structure has been examined, and numerous exegetes, scholars of jurisprudence, and theologians have reflected on its meaning within the wider context of the message of the Qurʾān. A summary of these reflections and positions follows.

Occasion of Revelation: Almost all exegetical discourse on the verse begins with an examination of the occasion of revelation. Sources identify two groups of people about whom the verse was revealed:

  1. The children of Anṣār: Abūl-Ḥasan ʿAlī b. Aḥmad al-Wāḥidī al-Naysābūrī (d. 468/1075) relates a report from Ibn ʿAbbās (3bh-68/619-688) about a certain woman of the Anṣār who had vowed that if her child survived, she would raise the newborn as a Jew; other reports make a general reference to a pre-Islamic practice among certain Anṣār whose children died in infancy and their women would vow to raise a surviving child as a Jew and give the child to the Jews, because they considered the Jews superior to themselves in religious matters (Asbāb, sub Q 2:256). Other scholars specify that the Anṣār used to hire Jewish women for breastfeeding (q.v.) and these children were raised as Jews. When Banū al-Naḍīr, the Jewish tribe of Madina, was expelled for plotting against the Prophet, upon him blessings and peace, the Anṣār asked the Prophet what to do with their children; they wanted to reclaim their children and force them to accept Islam. But Q 2:256 was revealed, and the adult children of Anṣār were given the choice to embrace Islam and stay, or to retain their adopted parents’ religion and leave Madina. A similar option was later given to the children of Anṣār who were suckled by the women of Banū Qurayẓa at the time of their expulsion from Madina (Wāḥidī, Asbāb; Tafsīrs of Ṭabarī; Qurṭubī; Rāzī; Ibn Kathīr; Māwardī, Nukat; Ibn al-Jawzī, Zād; Ibn al-ʿArabī, Aḥkām sub Q 2:256; Naḥḥās, al-Nāsikh 2:100). In another report, al-Wāḥidī and al-Ṭabarī both mention a man called Abū al-Ḥuṣayn, whose two young sons were converted to Christianity (q.v.) by certain visiting merchants from Syro-Palestine and when they left with them, he went to the Prophet, who said, “call them back,” but Q 2:256 was revealed and the Prophet, upon him blessings and peace, did not recall them (Wāḥidī, Asbāb; Ṭabarī, Tafsīr).
  2. People of the Book from whom jizya is accepted, and who, unlike the polytheists, are given the option of keeping their religion (Māturīdī, Taʾwīlāt; Tafsīrs of Ṭabarī, Bayḍāwī, Samʿānī, Rāzī, Ibn Kathīr; Ibn ʿAṭiyya, Muḥarrar).

What does “the religion” refer to? Abū Muḥammad Makkī b. Abī Ṭālib al-Qaysī (d. 437/1045) mentions two possibilities: (i) it means “in His religion (fī dīnihi),” referring back to the previous verse, which describes Allah and ends with the statement, He is the Most High, the Great (Q 2:255); the definite article is a substitute for the possessive pronoun (ʿiwaḍ min ḍamīr); (ii) it is lām al-taʿrīf, the definite article used to express identification and definition; thus the religion, in this context, means al-Islām (Makkī, Hidāya). Fakhr al-Dīn al-Rāzī (d. 606/1209) provides a similar breakdown of the possibilities. Majd al-Dīn Muḥammad b. Yaʿqūb al-Fayrūzābādī (729-817/1329-1414) offers a third possibility: al-dīn in the verse may mean recompense (al-jazāʾ), referring to the recompense of the Creator: He cannot be forced to give reward, but He does whatsoever He wills and in a manner He wills (Baṣāʾir, baṣīra fī k-r-h).

Applicability of Q 2:256

The two main questions discussed in the exegetical literature with regard to Q 2:256 are: (i) Was the verse abrogated or not? (ii) Its applicability: is it general or specific to the People of the Book. There is a marked division between the broad Sunni and Muʿtazilī positions on the applicability of the verse (for Muʿtazilī position, see the next section).

Abū Jaʿfar ibn Jarīr al-Ṭabarī (224-310/839-ca.922) cites various opinions and then prefers the opinion that the verse applies to a specific group of people (fī khāṣṣ min al-nās), namely the Jews, the Christians, and the Majūs, and that coercion is only to be exercised upon the idolators (ʿabadat al-aṣnām), the polytheist Arabs, and the apostate (al-murtadd)—the one who leaves the religion of Truth and turns towards disbelief (Tafsīr). Aḥmad b. ʿAlī Abū Bakr al-Rāzī al-Jaṣṣāṣ (d. 370/981) supports this opinion (Aḥkām).

Abū Bakr Ibn al-ʿArabī (d. 543/1148) considers the opinion of those who say the verse was abrogated “weak” and cites Q 2:193, Fight them until there is no [more] fitna [trial, disbelief, false worship] and [until all] worship is for Allah, in support. Regarding the reality of the belief of the one who has been compelled to believe, Ibn al-ʿArabī acknowledges that a compelled person does not really believe inwardly what he exhibits outwardly, but he argues that after a person is forced to accept Islam, he may be positively influenced by the widespread success of the Islamic call in the world (ʿammat al-daʿwa fī-lʿālamīn), by associating with Muslims (bi-muthāfanatihim), by acts of obedience, and by proofs of Islam, and, thus, he may become a sincere believer (Aḥkām).

One of the best summary of various Sunni positions on Q 2:256 is by Abū ʿAbd Allāh Muḥammad b. Aḥmad al-Qurṭubī (d. 671/1273), who said, “Scholars hold six different opinions concerning this verse:

  1. It is said that it was abrogated as the Prophet, upon him blessings and peace, did compel Arabs to embrace the Religion of Islam; he fought against them and he did not accept from them any religion but Islam, this is as per Sulaymān b. Mūsā [(d. 115/733)] who holds that “O Prophet, fight against the disbelievers and hypocrites” [(Q 9:73)] abrogated it. The same has been transmitted from Ibn Masʿūd [(d. 32/ca.652)] and numerous other exegetes.
  2. It was not abrogated, but it was revealed specifically regarding the People of the Book; they cannot be forced to Islam if they pay the jizya. Those who can be forced [to embrace Islam] are the idol worshippers (ahl al-awthān), from them only Islam is acceptable. The verse “O Prophet, fight against the disbelievers and hypocrites” [(Q 7:73)] was revealed about them; this is the opinion of al-Shaʿbī [(d. ca. 115/733)], Qatāda [(d.117/735)], al-Ḥasan [al-Baṣrī (21-110/642-728)], and al-Ḍaḥḥāk [(d. ca. 102/721)]. The proof of this opinion is the explanation transmitted by Zayd b. Aslam [(d. 136/754)], from his father, who said, I heard ʿUmar b. al-Khaṭṭāb [(d. 23/644)] say to an old Christian woman:  ‘Submit, O old woman and you will be saved; for Allah sent Muḥammad with the truth.’ She replied, ‘I am a very old woman and death is really close to me.’ At that, ʿUmar said, ‘O my Lord, be my witness.’ Then, he recited: there is no coercion in religion.
  3. Abū Dāwūd [(202-275/817-889)] transmitted from Ibn ʿAbbās [(3bh-68/619-688)], who said, ‘this [verse] was revealed concerning the Anṣār. If their children did not survive, their women (who were called miqlāt ), would vow that if the child survived, they would convert him / her to Judaism. When [the Jewish tribe] Banū-l-Naḍīr were expelled [from Madina], there were many such children of the Anṣār among them. They said, ‘we shall not leave our children and Allah, the Exalted, revealed: there is no coercion in religion; the right course has become distinct from the wrong path” [(cf. Abū Dāwūd, Sunan, kitab al-jihād, bāb fī-l-asīr yukrahu ʿalā-l-Islām)]…this is the opinion of Saʿīd b. Jubayr [(d. 95/714)], al-Shaʿbī and Mujāhid [(21-104/645-722)]; the latter added that the reason for the presence of the children [of Anṣār] among Banū-l-Naḍīr was hiring of wet nurses (al-istirḍāʿ). Al-Naḥḥās [(d. 338/950)] said that the opinion of Ibn ʿAbbās regarding this verse, is the most appropriate due to the authenticity of its chain of transmission (li-ṣiḥḥat isnādihi); and therefore, other opinions cannot be taken into consideration.
  4. Al-Suddi [(d. 127/745)] said that the verse was revealed regarding one man of Anṣār, who was known as Abū Ḥuṣayn and who had two sons. Some merchants came from Syro-Palestine (al-Shām) to Madina carrying with them olive oil. When they were about to leave, the two sons of al-Ḥusayn came to them; the merchants invited them to accept Christianity; the sons adopted Christian faith and left with them for Syro-Palestine. Their father went to the Messenger of Allah, upon him blessings and peace, to complain about the matter and hoped that he would send some people after them to have them return, but the verse “no coercion in religion” was revealed and no fight against the People of the Book was ordered at that time. He said: may Allah remove them [from His Mercy]; the two were the first to disbelieve. Abū-l-Ḥuṣayn felt annoyed when he knew that the Prophet would not send anybody after them; then Allah Most High revealed “but no, by your Lord. They will not [truly] believe until they make you [O, Muḥammad] judge concerning that over which they dispute” (Q 4:65); then “no coercion in religion” was abrogated and the Qurʾān has ordered to fight against the People of the Book in the sura of Barāʾa [cf. Q 9:29]. But the authentic opinion why the Words of Allah Most High “but no, by your Lord. They will not [truly] believe…” were revealed is the tradition of al-Zubayr with neighbor from the Anṣār concerning the irrigation of the gardens, as we shall explain it [in the tafsīr of] al-Nisāʾ [Q 4], God willing [(see: Qurṭubī, Tafsīr, Q 4:65)].
  5. It is said that the meaning of the verse is if someone submits [embraces Islam] under the [threat of] sword, no one should say to him [he is] compelled (mujbaran) or forced (mukrahan) [to accept Islam].
  6. The verse is related to captives from the People of the Book, they were not forced, [only] if they were adults (idhā kānū kibāran). But if they were Zoroastrians, then regardless to their age [they were not forced], [however] if they were pagans (wathaniyyīn), then they were forced to accept Islam; for he who captures them cannot have benefits from these pagans—no one can eat from their sacrificial offerings and one cannot touch their women, for they permit eating carrion and other impure foods. Thus, their owner can become impure by possessing them, without any apparent benefit, this is why compulsion is permitted in their case. A similar explanation is transmitted by Ibn al-Qāsim from Mālik [(93-179/712-795)]. Ashhab [(d. 204/820)] holds that they are on the religion of him who captured them; if they refuse to accept it, they can be forced to Islam. Regarding minors, they do not possess their own religion yet, so they can be forced to embrace Islam in order to avoid that they adopt a false religion. Regarding other forms of disbelief, if jizya is paid, there is no coercion, regardless whether they are Arabs or non-Arabs, belonging to Quraysh or not. (Tafsīr, sub Q 2:256)

Among the later exegetes, ʿImād al-Dīn Ismāʿīl b. ʿUmar Ibn Kathīr (700-774/1300-1373) provides a resolution by pointing out that the meaning of this verse is that no one should be forced to enter the religion of Islam, because its truth is self-evident; obvious proofs have been brought forth and these are like shining stars; this religion does not need that anyone be forced to enter it; on the contrary, if Allah guides someone to Islam and opens his heart for it and enlightens his intellect (nawwara baṣīratahu), he will embrace Islam based on clear and well-founded proof (ʿalā bayyina) (Ibn Kathīr, Tafsīr)..

The Muʿtazilī Interpretations

Jār Allāh Abū al-Qāsim Maḥmūd b. ʿUmar al-Zamakhsharī (467-538/ca.1074-1143), reflecting the broad Muʿtazilī position, says that Allah has not based the matter of religion on coercion (ijbār) and constraint (qasr); rather He established it on contentment (tamakkun) and choice (ikhtiyār); he cites Q 10:99 as proof of this position: Had your Lord wished, the whole of mankind would have believed in Him; would you compel people until they have faith? Thus Allah established the matter of belief on choice; He made the Right Path distinct from the wrong path, and distinguished belief from disbelief with clear proofs (Kashshāf).

Al-Rāzī also cites this broad Muʿtazilī position, attributing it to Abū Muslim and al-Qaffāl. Al-Qaffāl argues that Allah Most High has presented conclusive proofs of His Oneness (dalāʾil al-tawḥīd) that leave no room for excuse (bayānan shāfiyan qātiʿan lil-ʿudhr). The disbeliever has no excuse for remaining on disbelief in light of these established proofs. The only remaining way to get such a person to believe would be to compel him; but this world is the abode of trial (dār al-ibtilāʾ) and forcing someone to accept the Religion invalidates (buṭlān) the meaning of the test and trial (ibtilāʾ wal-imtiḥān); it also contradicts al-taklīf. Several verses of the Qurʾān reflect this meaning, including: so whoever wills—let him believe; and whoever wills—let him disbelieve (Q 18:29); And had your Lord willed, those on earth would have believed—all of them entirely. Then, [O, Muḥammad] would you compel the people in order that they become believers? (Q 10:99); Perhaps, you [O, Muḥammad], would kill yourself with grief (bākhiʿun nafsaka) that they will not be believers. If We willed, We could send down to them from the sky a sign for which their necks would remain humbled (Q 26:3-4) (Tafsīr, sub Q 2:256).

Legal Status of Q 2:256

According to ʿAlam al-Dīn ʿAlī b. Muḥammad al-Sakhāwī (558-643/1163-1245), the majority of scholars hold that the verse has permanent legal applicability (muḥkam) in Islamic Law (Sakhāwī, Jamāl). The perpetual validity of the verse is supported by the report that ʿUmar b. al-Khaṭṭāb (d. 23/644), Allah be well-pleased with him, offered his freed slave Wasq al-Rūmī a role in the management of Muslim affairs if he embraced Islam; when he refused, ʿUmar left him alone, invoking, there is no coercion in religion (Ibn Zanjawayhi, Kitāb al-amwāl, 1:145 §133; the person is named Wussaq in Abū ʿUbayd’s Kitāb al-amwāl, p. 35 §87; Washaq in his Kitāb al-nāsikh wal-mansūkh, p. 282; and Asbaq in Ibn Kathīr’s Tafsīr, sub Q 2:256). Another supporting event in this regard is ʿUmar’s reaction to the refusal of an old Christian woman to accept Islam (see above). Al-Fayrūzābādī points out that given the reality of belief, there cannot be any compulsion in obedience (al-ṭāʿa) to Allah Most High, for it cannot be realized except by sincerity (ikhlāṣ) and sincerity is irreconcilable with coercion (Baṣāʾir, baṣīra fī-l-d-wn and d-y-n).

Other Aspects of Coercion

In addition to Q 2:256, the following aspects of coercion are mentioned in the Qurʾān:

A Believer forced to disbelief: If circumstances compel a Muslim to renounce his religion, such coercion does not nullify belief (q.v.). Whoever disbelieves in Allah, after having believed—save one who is coerced (illā man ukriha), while his heart is content with belief—but whosoever opens his breast unto disbelief, upon them shall be the Wrath of Allah, and theirs shall be a great punishment (Q 16:106). This verse was revealed in the early Makka period when the polytheist Arabs tortured some early Muslims such as Yāsir, his son ʿAmmār b. Yāsir (Dhahabī, Siyar, Juzʾ 1, No. 84), his mother Sumayya, Bilāl b. Rabāḥ (Dhahabī, Siyar, Juzʾ 1, No. 76), and Khabbāb b. al-Aratt (Dhahabī, Siyar, Juzʾ 2, No. 62), and punished them severely (Wāḥidī, Asbāb). From among the small earliest group of Companions to accept Islam in Makka, Sumayya and her husband Yāsir were killed, becoming the first martyrs in the history of Islam. Their son ʿAmmār gave in to the demands of the polytheists, uttering words of apostasy under compulsion (mukrahan) (Baghawī, Tafsīr). Later, he related this to the Prophet, upon him blessings and peace, who asked him, “How do you find your heart?” He replied, “[my heart] is content with belief (muṭmaʾinnan bil-īmān)”. The Prophet said to him, “If they do it once again, act in the same way” (Ṭabarī, Ibn Kathīr, Tafsīrs). In spite of the cruel punishment, Bilāl, Allah be pleased with him, remained steadfast in his faith, even when they placed a huge rock on his breast (Baghawī, Tafsīr), and he kept repeating “Aḥad, Aḥad (One, One),” testifying to the oneness of Allah (Qurṭubī, Rāzī, Baghawī, al-Khāzin, Tafsīrs). Al-Baghawī says, “the scholars of Islam are unanimous in this respect; if someone is compelled to utter the word of disbelief (kalimat al-kufr) with his tongue, that is in mere words—this is acceptable, for if he says it only by words, under compulsion, while his heart believes, this cannot be considered apostasy or disbelief. But if the compelled person refuses to say the word of disbelief, even if he is killed for this, that is better (Baghawī, Tafsīr) (see ).

The case of Firʿawn’s magicians (Q 20:70-73): After they declared their belief in the Lord of Hārūn and Mūsā, the magicians were threatened by Firʿawn and he ordered that their hands and feet should be cut and they be crucified (Q 20:71), unless they denounce their belief. The coercion was not effective as the magicians had attained perfect certainty (al-yaqīn al-tāmm) and comprehensive understanding (al-baṣīrat al-kāmila) of faith. They responded to the coercion by saying, we shall never prefer you over what has come to us of clear proofs and over He who created us (Q 20:72) (Rāzī, Tafsīr). Highlighting their metamorphic change of status, Ibn ʿAbbās said, “in the morning, they were magicians, by the evening of the same day, they were martyrs” (Ibn Kathīr, Tafsīr, sub Q 20:73). 

Coercion into prostitution: Forcing slave girls into prostitution was a common practice in the Age of Ignorance (al-jāhiliyya) among the polytheist Arab slave owners, who would receive payment for the temporary ‘sale’ of their slave girls. The wording of the prohibition specifies slave girls, but the ruling applies more generally to free women as well (Rāzī, Tafsīr). (See Adultery and Fornication). Q 24:33 explicitly prohibits forcing slave girls into prostitution by coercion (Wāḥidī, Wajīz). The case of a slave girl called Muʿādha—or two slave girls, Muʿādha and Musayka—is said to be the occasion of the revelation of this verse (Wāḥidī, Asbāb; Baghawī, Tafsīr; Ibn al-Jawzī, Zād). Al-Rāzī adds others names (Umayma, ʿAmra, Arwā, Qutayla; Tafsīr) who were forced by the arch-hypocrite of Madina, ʿAbdullāh b. Ubayy b. Salūl, into prostitution. Authentic traditions preserve Ubayy’s words, “Go and fetch something for us by prostituting” (Muslim, kitāb al-tafsīr, qawluhu taʿālā wa lā tukrihū; Ibn Abī Shayba, Muṣannaf, al-nikāḥ, mā qālū fī mahr al-baghiyy). 

Come willingly or in compulsion

In a graphic description of the creation of the Heavens and the Earth (see Creation), Allah Most High addresses the heavens and the earth: He then turned to heaven while it was smoke and said unto it and unto the Earth, “Come willingly or unwillingly!” They said, “We come willingly” (Q 41:11). The willing submission of all things to the Creator is also mentioned in Q 2:116, Unto Him belongs whatsoever is in the heavens and on the Earth; all are subservient to Him, and in Q 19:93, There is none in the heavens or on Earth, save that it comes unto the Compassionate as a servant.

According to al-Ṭabarī , the command to come refers to the disclosure of what has been created in the Heavens and the Earth by Divine command: “Allah says to the Heaven and the earth: come both of you with all those things that I have created in you (bi-mā khalaqtu fīkumā); concerning you, O Heaven, disclose all that which I created in you, like the Sun, the moon and the stars; and you, O Earth, bring forth all that I created in you—trees (al-ashjār), fruits (thimār) and vegetation (al-nabāt), and let the rivers gush forth (wa tashaqqaqī ʿan al-anhār). They said: we have come willingly (Q 41:11). We bring forth all the things You have created in us, complying with and obeying Your order—we would never disobey Your order” (Ṭabarī, Tafsīr).

Nāṣir al-Dīn Abū Saʿīd ʿAbd Allāh b. ʿUmar al-Bayḍāwī (d. 685/1286) says the intent of the verse is to highlight Allah’s Perfect Power (kamāl qudratihī) and the execution of His Will as an existential necessity (wujūb wuqūʿ murādihī), regardless of their willingness (al-ṭawʿ) or unwillingness (al-karh). Heaven and Earth submit to the order of the One Who is obeyed (al-Muṭāʿ); they are obedient (al-muṭīʿ) and submissive (al-ṭāʾiʿ); as in His Words kun fa-yakūn (be – and it is) [see: Q 2: 117; 3:47, 49; 59; 6:73; 16:40; 19:35; 36:82; 40:68] (Bayḍāwī, Tafsīr).

Meanings of Coercion Expressed through iḍṭirār

Two kinds of compulsion are mentioned using the Form VIII verb iḍṭarra (“to compel, to force”). The first relates to Divine Omnipotence, Infinite Power, and Fair Judgement in two verses, both using the active imperfect form of the verb—aḍṭarruhū, “I shall force him” (Q 2:126), and naḍṭarruhum, “We shall force them” (Q 31:24).

Al-Wāḥidī explains the Qurʾānic verb naḍṭarruhum by paraphrasing it as nuljiʾuhum—We shall force them (Wajīz). Most exegetes explain that the thing to which the disbelievers are compelled is punishment (ʿadhāb). In the first verse, the punishment is the Hell-Fire (ilā ʿadhābi-l-nār); in the second, a severe punishment (ilā ʿadhābin ghalīẓ). Al-Ṭabarī glosses al-iḍṭirār as al-ikrāh (coercion), meaning that God, by His fair judgment on the Day of Reckoning (q.v.), will force (aljaʾa) all disobedient disbelievers to their well-deserved destiny (Ṭabarī, Tafsīr, sub Q 2:126); the semantic connotations of this verbal structure being that he who is driven to the punishment dislikes it (kāna kārihan lahū) for they will be dragged into the Fire on their faces (Q 54:48), “to the eternal punishment” (Qurṭubī, Tafsīr, sub Q 31:24), because of their deeds in this worldly life (Rāzī, Tafsīr, sub Q 2:126). In both verses, the forced dragging is preceded by a short respite given to the disbelievers (fa-umattiʿuhu Q 2:126; and numattiʿuhum, Q 31:24) (see ). Allah Most High postpones the punishment of disbelievers and gives them a short respite (muddatan qalīlatan) and lets them live and enjoy the ephemeral worldly pleasures; but then He will reveal the dreadful outcome of their denial (wabāla takdhībihim) and disbelief. As a consequence of their deeds, He imposes upon them the severest eternal punishment, leading these disbelievers to Hell-Fire, where they flee from the powerful Angels (min al-malāʾikati al-ghilāẓ al-shidād) who chase them and are incessantly punishing them with whips (bi-maqāmiʿ) made of fire (Rāzī, Tafsīr).

Several verses list prohibited foods, such as the dead animals (al-mayta), blood (al-dam), the flesh of swine (laḥm al-khinzīr), anything that has been slaughtered as a sacrifice to other than Allah (Q 2:173; see also Q 6:145 and Q 16:115), animals killed by strangling (al-munkhaniqa) or by a violent blow (al-mawqūdha), or those that died by falling from a height (al-mutaraddiya) or by the goring of horns (al-naṭīḥa) (Q 5:3), those from which a wild animal has eaten (Q 5:3; Q 6:119). If one is forced (uḍṭurra) to eat such food due to unavoidable circumstances (wa uljiʾa fī ḥāl al-ḍarūra) then there is no sin upon him (Wāḥidī, Wajīz, sub Q 2:173). Circumstances that temporarily make allowance for consumption of prohibited foods can be coercion by a tyrannical iniquitous ruler (bi-ikrāh min ẓālim), life-threatening situations such as severe hunger (jūʿ, makhmaṣa) and famine (Qurṭubī, Tafsīr, sub Q 2:173)—in short, when someone is compelled to eat the unlawful to stay alive, without having any other alternative (Ibn Kathīr, Tafsīr, sub Q 2:173). One who eats prohibited food under these circumstances should not do so desiring it (ghayra bāghin), in the sense of eating more than needed (Qurṭubī, Tafsīr; Ibn al-Jawzī, Zād, sub Q 2:173), nor transgressing the limits (wa lā ʿādin) (Q 2:173; 6:145; 16:115), and without considering these prohibited foods to have become Lawful (Qurṭubī, Tafsīr). The one compelled to eat unlawful food should do it with no inclination to sin (Q 5:3; ghayra mutajānifin li-ithm), that is, merely to save one's physical existence, and not intending disobedience (Wāḥidī, Wajīz, sub Q 5:3). It should not be premeditated (ghayr mutaʿammid) or in disobedience to Allah (Ṭabarī, Muqātil, Tafsīrs). It should be eaten without the deliberate intent to eat more than what is absolutely needed (fawqa-l-shabʿ) (Samarqandī, Baḥr) and the consumed amount of food should be just enough to extinguish the excruciating harm of hunger (Rāghib, Tafsīr).

Any unlawful act forced upon a believer through coercion is not held against him or her, as the Prophet, upon him blessings and peace, said, “Allah has forgiven my Community for mistakes (al-khaṭaʾ) and forgetfulness (al-nisyān) and what they are forced to do (ustukrihū ʿalayhi)” (Ibn Mājah, Sunan, kitāb al-ṭalāq, bāb ṭalāq al-mukrah wal-nāsī).


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See also

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