Short Answer: Of course we are not supposed to fight people until they convert. The problem is a misunderstanding of the Arabic which has led to faulty translation, specifically regarding the words “deen” and “fitnah.” On deeper examination, it becomes clear that God has made forced conversion forbidden and that a Muslim is supposed to enforce God’s system which allows freedom of religion, and defend themselves and others against oppressors who persecute people to remove their fitnah and so that the deen of Allah, which grants freedom of religion would prevail.
Salam Dear Rashid,
Thank you for your questions and for contacting Ask About Islam.
First, we have to set clear definitions for the words “deen” and “Fitnah.”
Deen means a whole way of life which includes religion, law, manners, and so on.
The accurate translation is not religion but rather system or way.
For example, Allah the Almighty said in the Quran what means:
He could not have taken his brother according to the king’s law unless Allah willed. (Quran 12:76)
The word “King’s law” is “deen al-malik” in Arabic. Therefore, the word deen means law or ruling system in this verse.
Fitnah means oppression in religion, or persecution as mentioned in the Quran:
They ask you concerning the sacred month about fighting in it. Say: Fighting in it is a grave matter, and hindering (men) from Allah’s way and denying Him, and (hindering men from) the Sacred Mosque and turning its people out of it, are still graver with Allah, and persecution is graver than slaughter… (Quran 2:217)
Context of this Verse
Getting back to the question about the meaning of “and all the religion becomes for Allah,” if we read the verses of the Quran in which this statement was mentioned within the context, then we have to go back a few verses before and consider the few verses after, as well.
We will find that it comes as follows in Surat Al-Baqarah:
Fight in the way of Allah against those who fight against you, but begin not hostilities. Surely! Allah loves not aggressors. And kill them wherever you find them, and drive them out from whence they drove you out, and persecution (fitnah) is severer than slaughter, and do not fight with them at the Sacred Mosque until they fight with you in it, but if they do fight you, then slay them; such is the recompense of the unbelievers. But if they desist, then surely Allah is Forgiving, Merciful. And fight them until persecution (fitnah) is no more, and religion (deen) is for Allah. But if they desist, then let there be no hostility except against wrong-doers. (Quran 2:190-193)
Freedom of Religion
It is well-known that Islam grants freedom of religion as mentioned in the following verses:
Let there be no compulsion in religion: Truth stands out clear from Error. (Quran 2:256)
And if your Lord had pleased, surely all those who are in the earth would have believed, all of them; will you then force men till they become believers? (Quran 10:99)
And say: The truth is from your Lord, so let him who please believe, and let him who please disbelieve. (Quran 18:29)
Therefore, the deen, or way, or law, or system of Allah is that no one will be persecuted for his or her religion, which is exactly the opposite of fitnah, or oppression in religion or persecution.
And from the context of the verses 190-193 in the chapter of Al-Baqarah, we can see that Muslims are told to fight back those who fight them and drive them out of their homes which is fitnah or persecution.
Therefore, we can say that Muslims are encouraged to defend themselves against oppressors who persecute people to remove their fitnah and so that the deen of Allah, which grants freedom of religion would prevail.
I hope this answers your questions. Please keep in touch.
(From AboutIslam’s archives)