Maulana Wahiduddin Khan | Teachings of Islam
Religious freedom is the basic human right whose violation has caused conflicts, wars and bloodshed in both ancient and modern societies. The Quran, therefore, has declared for the first time in human history:
“There shall be no coercion in matters of religion.” (2:256)
In view of this prohibition of coercion (Ikrah), all Islamic jurists (Fuqaha) without any exception hold that forcible conversion is under all circumstances null and void. Any attempt to coerce a non-believer to accept Islam is a grievous sin, (Ahkam al-Quran, al-Jassas vol. 2, p. 168). According to this principle of ‘non-coercion’, it is not permissible to exploit or manipulate personal weaknesses or calamities (e.g. poverty, sickness, famine, etc.) for religious conversion. That is why old and downtrodden non-Muslims were exempted from taxes and given all monetary support by the Islamic state without ever being asked to embrace Islam just for the advantages it would give them.
Once a Jewish widow came to the Caliph Umar asking for some financial aid. Umar tried to persuade her to accept Islam. He promised to take care of all her needs if she embraced Islam. But the lady refused. Umar then gave her more than she had asked for. When she departed, Umar raised his hands towards heaven and said:
“O God, bear witness that I have not exercised any coercion on this lady.” (Al-Nasikh Wa Al-Mansukh by Al-Nahhas, p. 259)