The Freedom of Thought and Religion in Islam

“Freedom of Religion and Belief in Islam,” in Mehran Kamrava (ed.), The New Voices of Islam: Reforming Politics and Modernity – A Reader, London, I. B. Tauris, 2006, pp. 119-142

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Freedom of Religion & Belief in Islam

One of the assumptions in the dialogue of the civilizations is accepting the variety of ideas and religions. The civilizations are based on different cultures and different cultures have been found on the basis of various schools of thought and religions. Dialogue of civilizations and cultures is not possible without freedom of religion and thought.

The dominant culture in Iran, the one that suggested the idea of dialogue, is based on Islam, while the popular (official and traditional) interpretation of Islam does not apparently reflect that. Therefore the mentioned theory is ensued from another interpretation of Islam. This article is to draw the kind of interpretation of Islam that ensures freedom of religion and thought in Islam.

To reach this ideal it is necessary to answer the following questions: What is meant by freedom of thought and religion? Where does it fit in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights? What is the point of view of the popular Islamic interpretation on the subjects of freedom of thought and religion and on what religious documents is it based on? Are freedom of thought and religion beneficial or are they destructive? What is the viewpoint that concords Islam and the freedom of religion and thought, what are its characteristics, and on what religious grounds is it based on?

The assumption of this article is: The freedom of thought and religion is beneficial and its observance in Islam needs studying the fundamental religious rules and a second Ijtihadin in some jurisprudent orders.

The article is made up of several sections. In the first section the fundamental concepts are discussed. In the second section, the popular interpretation of Islam and freedom of thought and religion and its documents would be analyzed. The third part is to prove freedom of thought and religion beneficial. In the fourth section with the use of authentic Islamic text and extraction of fundamental religious rules while criticizing the reasoning of the popular interpretation it has been tried to prove the freedom of religion and thought in Islam. Considering the sensitivity of the subject the author would appreciate criticism beforehand.

Section One: Discussing the fundamental concepts.

The concepts that are used in this discussion are: Freedom, Thought, Religion, Freedom of thought, Freedom of religion, Islam, The popular interpretation, the documents of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It is necessary to state that the concepts have been stated in the orders that are to be paid to in the article.

Freedom: The right of man to act and think in all areas as long as his actions does not deprive the right of others and does not lead to the breach of the public peace or order.

Idea: The collection of viewpoints, opinions, beliefs, and impressions that each individual has concerning existence, society, history, man, religion, culture, and etc. Every opinion from the viewpoint of the person who holds it is correct, honest, useful, and superior, while it can be considered as void, delusive, destructive and unlikely to others.

Religion or Creed: A kind of idea, a collection of viewpoints man, the physical and the metaphysical world, ethical manners and practical rules that the believer is to prosper eternally through faith and the deeds that have been brought tot man by the prophet.

Freedom of thought: The right to choose and adhere to any idea. The right to think, believe, expression, teaching and promoting, and acting on the beliefs long as his action does not deprive the right of others and does not lead to the breach of the public peace or order. Freedom of thought is realized when the beliefs of a person does not lead to the deprivation of his individual and social rights no matter what they are.

Freedom of religion: The right of man to choose any religion. The right to faith, expressing the religion and religious beliefs, and freedom to practice the rituals, teaching the religion to the children and the religious and promoting the religious teachings in the society, putting up shrines, abandoning faith and abandoning the religion (apostasy), abandoning the religious acts, and questioning the religious teachings, as long as his religious acts does not deprive the right or the freedom of others or does not breach the public peace or order. Religious freedom is realized when the religious of the individual what ever that it may be is not considered a crime and does not lead to the deprivation of his individual and social rights in this world.

Islam: Faith in God, resurrection and the prophecy of Mohammad the son of Abdullah as the last prophet of God. Koran- the collection of holy revelations to his prophet-and the practice of the prophet the promise, the deeds and the saying s of the prophet- are the two main resources of Islam. Sunni and Shiite are the great creeds of Islam. Shiite means that after Koran and the prophetic tradition, and the interpretation of the household of the prophet of Koran and tradition it is taken as the third main religious resource. Sunnis do not officially believe in anyone else except the prophet himself as innocent, even though in their religious beliefs they observe in the deeds of the household of the prophet.

The popular interpretation of religion: The dominant understand of Koran and tradition that is often found in the judgment of scholars and orators, and has generally become the consuetude of the intellectuals in the world of Islam, and the historical deeds of the Moslems is also in concord with it, and it can be taken as traditional. In societies that the Islamic rule is sovereign the official interpretation is often as mentioned. Some modern faithful thinkers have questioned this kind of interpretation in the last century. These teologists have a different interpretation of Koran and tradition (and the manners of the household of the prophet in Shiite).

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights: The international declarations, pacts, and protocols that have been legislated, with different dimensions, by the member states in the last half of this century (the majority of all the states) and are taken as universal criterion. The signatory states of these documents can sign these conditionally or absolutely or with a set condition.

The most important documents of he Universal Declaration of Human Rights concerning the freedom of thought and religion are: Articles 2,18,19,26(sections2&3),29(section2)of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Articles2(section1),18,19,and 20of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. 1

Section Two: Freedom of religion and belief in the popular interpretation of Islam:

When we come to religion people can be divided in to three groups: 1) The Moslems 2) The Jews, the Christians, and the Zoroastrian and 3) The Heathen. The popular interpretation of Islam has different judgments for each group. We would first refer to the most original sources concerning these judgments, and then we would pay to its proof.

  • The first group: The Moslems

The Moslems are free to openly practice their religion, express their religious beliefs, practice their rituals alone in groups, teach religion to their children and all believers the rituals of Hajj and sacrifice, advertise and promote the religious teachings in society and build mosque. They have the right to critic all other religions and reveal its shortcomings and shoe the supremacy of Islam. Nobody has the right to force a Moslem to leave his religion with duress or to prevent him from the religious ceremonies. There is a consensus in this and there are no differences in this area. Yet in the following judgments freedom has not been considered:

  1. A Moslem is not free to change his religion, for example become a Christian or a Buddhist and or become an atheist. A Moslem who for any reason leaves his religion, or in other words becomes an apostate would be severely punished. The child of a Moslem who has chosen to become a Moslem after maturity and then has become an apostate-which means a inborn apostate-would have the following sentence: 1) His repenting and Islam are not apparently accepted 2) Would be executed 3) His wife would be separated from him without divorce and would get the period of abstention in the case of husband’s death (three consecutive menses) 4) His property would be divided among his heir.

The repenting of a child whose parents have not been Moslems yet has chosen Islam after his maturity and then has become an apostate (a national apostate) would be accepted. If he repents and brings Islam until the end of the third day then he would be spared otherwise he would be executed. And as soon as he becomes an apostate his spouse would be separated from him without divorce. For a Moslem woman who becomes an apostate her spouse would be separated from her without divorce and the period of abstention in the case of divorce (three consecutive menses) would be necessary. And her repenting would be accepted .If she repents she would be spared otherwise her sentence would be life imprisonment with forced labor until she repents or dies2.

Therefore for a Moslem who becomes an apostate and does not agree to return to Islam if he is a man he would be executed and if she were a woman she would be sentenced to life-imprisonment with forced labor.

A Moslem is not free to deny the affair that in the religious custom has been appointed to Islam because he has other opinions. If a Moslem denies an affair that in the religious custom of the time is indispensable to religion and as a result denying, the religion or the prophet go under question then even if he counts himself as a Moslem, he would be taken as an apostate and he would be sentenced as an apostate3. The new impressions of some of the Islamic scholars of some religious judgments can easily come under the mentioned case, as through history charging people with apostasy and infidelity has not been few4.

  1. A youth whose both parents or one of them has been a Moslem is not free to choose another religion other than Islam after maturity. If he does not become a Moslem for any reason he would be considered as a national apostate and he would be sentenced accordingly, meaning that he would first be asked to repent and if he does not accept depending on whether he is a boy or a girl he would be either sentenced to death or life-imprisonment with forced labor, and the end of the sentence would be determined either by death or repenting5.
  1. A Moslem is not free to abandon the religious incumbents or to do things that are prohibited by the religion. If he does this intentionally and with knowledge he would be punished and the punishment would be given by the Sharia judge6 (The best example would be the punishment of whipping).
  • The second group: The adherent to one of the other four recognized religions (Christianity, Judaism, Zoroastrianism)

Apparently the Subea (A sect that is between Christianity and Judaism) is also put in this group7. The other infidels are not in any way considered in this group8. It is necessary for the Moslems to fight with the adherent to one of the other four recognized religions so that they would choose one of the two ways: To bring Islam or by paying tribute accept the humiliation of accepting the obligations and go by the special laws that has been made for them.

If they accept the conditions then their lives, property, and women would be safe. The religious leader would set the amount of tribute and the conditions would be as he sees fit. If it would lead to them becoming a Moslem they would have the right to practice their religion openly and to express their religious ideas. With the permission of the religious leader they would be able to keep their shrines and to practice their religious ceremonies either alone or in groups, and teach the religious affairs to the people of their religion. They can leave their religions and bring the permissible religions (in their own religion) changing their religion to Islam in any condition would be possible. They can leave their religious practices and critic their own religious teachings.

The judgments of the followers of the Zoroaster, Moses and Christ who after entering the agreement with the head of the Islamic government acquire rights and obligations under law in following cases is against the freedom of religion and ideas:

  1. They are not free to train their children in a way that they would adopt the religion of their parents, meaning that they can not forbid their children to go to Islamic gathering and propaganda centers, they are obligated to leave them alone so that they can choose their own way and it is obvious that the way that is correspondent with the inborn nature of the child, Islam, would be chosen9.
  2. They are not free to build churches, synagogues, monastery, or a temple of fire10.
  3. They are not free to advertise and promote their religion and weaken the faith of the Moslems. Spreading their ideas is forbidden11.
  4. They cannot critic the Islamic teachings.
  5. They cannot openly practice what is permissible in their religion yet it is at the same time prohibited in Islam12.
  6. They are not free to change to any other religion (like Christianity, Judaism, or Zoroastrism) except Islam, otherwise they would be killed13.
  7. They don’t have the permission to stay in the Islamic community if they don’t go through with their obligations. In that they can go to a safe location or the religious leader has the right to kill them, slave them or get ransom from them are two opinions14.
  • The third group: The others

The non-Moslem whether he is a Christian, Jew or a Zoroastrian or not that have not accepted the mentioned obligations and the other heathen are considered infidels deserving to be fought against. It is indispensable that they would be presented with Islam. If they accept then there is no problem but if they don’t accept then the holy war against them would be indispensable15. Their wives and children would be slaves and all of their property and land would be confiscated as plunder16. Even though the well known view point of the Shiite scholars impermissibility of the preliminary holy war is for the time of absence17but today the permission of the preliminary holy war for the time of absence is also one of the important opinions18. Therefore the non-Moslem not paying tribute who does not accept Islam does not basically have the right to live, and it is needless to say that he would be deprived of other rights as well, therefore the judgment for the infidels is completely in contrast with freedom of religion and belief.

With a look at the judgments for the three groups we can conclude that if the popular interpretation gets more power the freedom of religion and belief would practically be out of the question. Through the discussion that was had I don’t think that there is any doubt that the popular interpretation does not reflect freedom of religion and belief. And now very briefly we would pay to the most important documents of the above judgments. From the above judgments from every section we would choose a judgment and then we would analyze its most crucial reason. The three judgments that have been chosen are: 1) the death sentence for an apostate Moslem 2) the tribute for the followers of Christianity, Judaism, and Zoroastrism, and 3) the infidel who does not pay tribute and him not having the right to live.

The documents for the heavy punishment of an apostate Moslem are some traditions.

The Sunnis refer to this tradition of the prophet that states: “Kill any one who changes his religion”19. One of the documents for the punishment of the natural apostate is the valid tradition of the Amar Sabati.

I heard Imam Sadegh stating that: Any Moslem who leaves Islam and denies Mohammad’s prophetic mission and accuses him of falsehood, his blood is permissible for who ever that has heard him and his spouse is to be separated from him from the day of his apostasy and his property is to be divided among his heirs, and his wife would get a period of abstention that is for the husband’s death (4 months and 10 days) and it would be a necessity for the Imam to kill him and not accepting his repentance20.

Among the evidences for the punishment of a national apostate is the authentic tradition by Ali-ebn-Jafar to his brother Abel-Hassan.

It has been said that Imam Musa-ebn-Jafar has stated that: I inquired him about a Moslem that had become a Christian and he said that he would be killed and his repentance would not be accepted. I asked him that if a Christian becomes a Moslem and then becomes an apostate then what is to be done? He stated that his repentance would be accepted and if comes back to Islam nothing but if he doesn’t then he would be killed21.

Among the evidences that are referred to for the punishment of women is the authentic tradition of Imad.

I asked Imam Sadegh about an apostate Moslem. He stated that she would not be killed, would be given hard labor and would be deprived of any nourishment or drinks except that which is necessary to keep her alive, and she is to be worn rough clothes and would be beaten at the times of pray22.

One of the most important evidences for the judgment concerning the followers of Zoroaster, Moses and Christ who after entering into agreement with the head of the Islamic government acquire rights and obligations under the law is this Koranic verse: “Fight the followers of the book whop don’t have faith in god and resurrection and do not pay attention to the things that are prohibited by god and his prophet through religion, and do not practice the just religion, fight until they pay tribute with their own hands with humiliation23.

The most important evidences of the infidels who do not pay tribute are:

Fight all heathen as they fight you24.

And at the end of the Hiram month, kill the infidels where you find them and take them as prisoners and siege them and prey for them everywhere, and then if they start to pray and repent and pay religious tax (Zakat) let them be free, that God is kind and merciful25.

Fight with them (The infidels) until there is no evil and there is Godly religion everywhere. And if they let go god is observant of their thoughts26.

Pondering in the above evidences shows that the popular interpretation of Islam has considerable evidences in denying the freedom of thought and religion in the holy book and the tradition. The critical analysis of these evidences will come in the fourth chapter.

Section Three: Freedom of religion and thought as a merit

In this section we are to analyze freedom of thought and religion rationally, without using any narrative schemes. First we would endeavor to create the thinking atmosphere of the deniers of the freedom of religion and thought and then through it’s criticism we would pay to proving the freedom of thought and religion as a merit and a positive element.

The subject of freedom of religion and thought is not comparable with the subjects of pray and seizure so that its merits and demerits be veiled to the human mind. Therefore it can be talked about. Without a doubt, anyone who has rendered a judgment in this area has definitely done so after evaluating the costs and the benefits. The religious scholars, the orators and the decision makers are not an exception .One who gives a religious injunction against the freedom of religion and thought, no doubt have evaluated the cost and disadvantages, and the evils of freedom and one who stresses on the freedom of religion and thought for sure knows the advantages, good and the benefits of it. If the problem of freedom of thought and religion is a rational on e then before analyzing the rational judgments-that would definitely refer to the intellect as the final resource-solve the issue in the realm of intellect and reason.

Other than being an issue that is not concerns of pray and being a rational issues the freedom of thought and religion is a question that has a history that is more ancient than religion. It is prior to choosing of the religion and idea. Through accepting that religion is chosen and an idea is selected. How can a religion that wants its followers to research and accept a religious idea with the help of reasoning and analysis and considers copying in the area of belief as null deny the freedom of religion and thought?

The result of a research cannot be imposed before it is done. This that we say that the people are free to research through religions and ideas but they must definitely choose Islam is an incomplete statement. If they are free then the result cannot be determined beforehand and if the result has been determined beforehand and they have no choice but to accept it then they are not free. What is the difference if an individual has been born in a Moslem family and has been matured in an Islamic society and therefore is a Moslem and that one has been born in a Christian family, has matured in a Christian society an as a result he is a Christian? Good and operative ideas are the choices are for conscious individuals. How can a religion that denies the freedom of religion and thought expect freely choose it and when they do their freedom be taken away from them?

Unfortunately the subjects of freedom of religion and thought have not been paid to as an individual issues. Therefore its framework and ways has not been clearly drawn. Therefore it is natural that in the interpretation of some judgments like the punishment of an apostate, the conditions that are to be accepted by the followers of Moses, Jesus and Zoroastra, and the infidel not having the right of life if he does not accept those conditions enough attention has not been paid to the common religious rules and the fundamentals of religion.

Critic on the presuppositions of denying the freedom of thought and religion


The possibility of the realization of a closed society. Meaning that the cultural atmosphere of a society can be controlled in a way that no unwanted judgment contaminates the general atmosphere, and the people not being informed of the null ideas and religions in order to be influenced or deviate from the right path.


The effect of heavy punishments for the cause of reforming the society. The nature of man is in a way that it must be kept away from the null by force, violence and applying pressure, otherwise, meaning that if he is free he would be deviated from the right path and demons would be in control of his life. If leaving Islam would have a death sentence then no one would feel like apostasy. If the followers of the holy books feel the humiliation if one who has to pay tribute then they would become Moslems, and if the infidels are to choose between death and Islam then they would surely choose the latter. Generally speaking there is no other way if the right religion is to dominate the world.


Completely forbidding propaganda. Human-beings are in a way that if they are exposed by the propaganda of various ideas and religions they would easily be deviated from the right path and would be influenced by the evil forces and would lose their religion and creed. The only way that people would be able to keep their religion is to forbid the advertising of other religions and ideas otherwise there is no guarantee that people would be faithful to their religion.


Predicting any heavy punishments in the case of this special religion having rough clashes with other ideas and religions. In the last millennium religions and ideas have had hostile contacts with each other, therefore these kinds of judgments have been particularly Islamic and have been popular in the ancient world and as a result they have never been taken as a wrong or something to be ashamed of.


The obligation to spread an exoteric, and superficial Islam: It is clear that fear of death or escaping tribute and st6aying as a Moslem for the fear of death sentence of an apostate is in concord with the superficial Islam, but we have no reason to believe that it would lead to a real inner Islam. Even though it is difficult to imagine that these judgments would strengthen the faith, and moral and the penetration of the real religion. Now don’t the religious scholars have a duty to see to it that religion has affected the very core of the society?

There is no doubt that the mentioned judgments are in concord with the five principles above, yet the authenticity and completeness one each and every one of them is disputable. I quickly point to them and pass.

1 : The fast and astonishing progress of technology in the field of communication has made the realization of a closed society impossible. Whether we want it or not general information about religions and ideas is accessible through the language of their owners.

2 : Even though heavy punishments and terror is very much effective in apparent acceptance yet it has a negative effect when it has to be accepted by the heart. We must evidently reconsider our anthropology. Man must be trusted, he accepts right in free conditions, and the important thing is that he should be informed and that he can choose freely.

3 : In today’s world, a hostile, and violent encounter with the religions and ideas has no place and these kinds of judgments cause general hatred and repellence toward that idea and are not attractive.

4 : If something for example causes a decrease in faith and religion authentically, considering that the aim of the religions is inner change how can we consent to such affair?

Intellect and its stand towards the freedom of religion and idea

After a short introduction and critic of the fundamentals of the denial of freedom of religion and thought we would pay to the explanation and interpretation of what intellect dictates concerning this matter.

1. Idea and religion are affairs that are chosen, or left freely by the people. Choosing s certain idea or religion are based on reasons and preludes that with their realization the idea is accepted, and with out it the idea is discarded. If the reasons and the preludes of the idea are present, force and pressure can never take that idea away from a person or change it, and if the reasons and preludes are not present, force and pressure can never create it. That which is created with force and pressure is only a fake idea and no more.

2. It is clear that all ideas and religions present in human societies do not all enjoy the same validity and justification, and in addition there is no doubt that some of these religions are null nevertheless some people have faith in these religions that we consider as null. The best way to change and reform the null ideas is convincing their believers, and convincing cannot be done but in a free atmosphere. If they didn’t accept we don’t have a duty that is more than that. Meaning that we are not let to make them accept our religion with force and pressure. Deprivation of freedom of thought and religion would lead to the acceptance of a certain idea or religion. Force and terror in the case of religions and ideas would make them go underground and it being hidden but it would not do away with it altogether. Till man sees a benefit in a certain religion like well-being or something that takes heals their pain in this world or a thing that is to lead them spiritual summits they would not let go of it. The durability of any idea in history points to the benefit that it has bright for its believers. Man is very strict in changing his idea specially if it is a religious one, this change comes when they are convinced and not ewhen they are forced.

3. Then we can say that the world is a place that one is put through test. Man is free to choose between the different religions and ideas in this world, a choice that might be right or wrong, just or null, and based on our idea he would clearly see the result in the other world. If man was to choose the right religion by force or if there were conditions that made anything but the right path impossible (otherwise he would be killed) God would be the first to be entitled to such a right and could have created man as the angels and make their world as theirs without any contrast of right and wrong. Then what would be the meaning of the punishment of the wrongdoers and the awards given to the pious and the good in the other world?

4. The abundance of ideas among the people is inevitable. At least history of man up to now shows this. Deprivation of freedom and religion in such abundance would lead to discord, deceit and hypocrisy. The believers of the forbidden religions, ones that could even be sentenced to death or would be deprived of many of their legal rights if they express their idea, have no other way but to act as they believe in the dominant religion. Hypocrisy destroys faith, and with multiplication of hypocrites a society that is based on faith cannot be founded. The spread of hypocrisy and discord is the inevitable result of deprivation of freedom of religion and thought.

5. Many of the religions and ideas introduce themselves as the most complete, best, and last religion or idea and their believers believe this claim. There is no doubt that in the other world these ideas would be tested and just would be cleared from the unjust, but in the world it is centuries that every religion has based its reasoning on this great claim and this has apparently not been able to convince others. If any possessor of an idea or religion that claims to have the most complete, the most perfect, and the only acceptable idea or religion forbids other religions and only gives freedom to the followers of his religion (without letting them change their religion) then the religious societies would be closed and the secular areas would become open societies. The most perilous situation for a religion is to be put in a closed atmosphere and society that would stop its growth, and development, and would lead to its impeding. The followers of such religions and ideas as soon as they are put in a free atmosphere lose their religion and idea, or their faith would become weak.

6. The prohibition of freedom of religion and idea even in that religion and idea would lead to a kind of formal inflexibility and would make any innovation and ijtihad extremely difficult. Sentencing as an apostate, infidel, or heathen is the fruit of such societies, and its result is the deprivation of society of the judgment of its most powerful intellectuals.

7. If the followers of a religion or idea don’t give freedom to the followers of other religions and ideas (even not giving their own followers the freed to change their religion) and then it is retaliated and others choose the same means and limit or deprive the followers of this religion or special idea, outside of the dominion of this religion and special idea, who is the one that gets hurt? Other than this religion and special idea?

8. The disadvantages and the demerits of the prohibition of the freedom of religion and idea is to the point that in case of being informed no wise man would ever accept it. The scholars that have issued the judgments of the prohibition of freedom of religion and ideas have imagined that this way the good of religion and its ways would be considered more, there is no doubt that if they are also put in such an atmosphere they would reconsider. It is very likely that the possibility of the youth and children from the right path can be pointed to as one of the evils of the prohibition of the freedom of religion and ideas. It is obvious that education and advertisement among the children and the youth has its rules and that the parents have the main role in the religious teachings of their children. In addition all the activities of the followers of other various religions and ideas in a free society is regulated by the law and no religious and faithful person doesn’t have the right to disregard the rights and the legal freedoms of an others, or public order using the excuse that he is practicing his religion.

9. Religions and ideas that have a strong and rational base don’t fear their presence in the arena of freedom of religions and ideas. It is clear that religions and ideas with a weak base fear competing in the arena of ideas and thoughts and make-up for their weakness by declaring war on the freedom of religion and thought.

10. This viewpoint that it should be differentiated between the freedom of thought and the freedom of idea and accepting the freedom of thought because of it being sound and the denial of the freedom of idea because of the possibility that some rational ideas may not be correct is not acceptable27, since thinking is not in need of justification from an authority and can not in general possible to forbid it so that by the promise of the freedom of thought we can make him indebted. The thing that is disputable is the expression of idea and acting on the basis of that idea. Therefore differentiating between thought and idea is not the solution to our problem. Because who would think of his idea as null and not good? A person who differentiates in such a way is put in the group of the people that deny the freedom of thought and idea.

Therefore it can be concluded freedom of religion and thought rationally speaking is good and positive through the viewpoint of the sages, therefore it is pleasant and beneficial.

Section Four: Another interpretation of freedom of thought and religion in Islam

In this section we are to first present the religious proof of the freedom of religion and thought in religion and second critic the mentioned evidence of the deniers of the freedom of religion and thought. Before paying to this important subject we would first answer this introductory question that if freedom is the base in religion and thought and denying freedom needs proof or vice-versa? It is obvious that by freedom of thought and religion is meant worldly freedom, in a way that even with having faith in the righteousness of the certain religion-Islam_ and the salvation of the its true followers is believing in the other religions, creeds, and schools of thought considered a crime and is punishable or not? Therefore the point in creating a basis is that if the basis is put on the non-Moslem being guilty and his punishment (including all, apostate the followers of the holy book and the infidel that does not pay tribute) and his acquaintance is in need of proof or is it the other way around and the basis is put on innocence of all from punishment and terrestrial crime whether or not it is religious crime and be in need of punishment? It seems that the basis is, the innocence of the terrestrial crime and punishment and proving the crime of, the limitations of the followers of the holy book as the one that have to pay tribute and are obligated to certain duties and the infidel that doesn’t pay tribute not having the right to live is in need of proof. It is necessary to state that the issue is not surely about the sin of the apostate and the infidel that does not pay tribute, in the resurrection day. There is no doubt that even though with the knowledge of Islam being just if the three ways are selected they are sinners. By terrestrial crime it means that their punishment is to be in this world, and not every sin is a terrestrial one therefore many sins do not have neither punishment that has a minimum and maximum nor an Islamic punishment that is laid down by Koran. Therefore if we don’t find a valid reason that proves the guilt of these three group we are to go by the doctrine of presumption if innocence and acquit them.

The first: The Scriptural evidence on the subject of the freedom religion and thought

In the time that we have we would put the verses of the Koran that in any way prove the freedom of religion and thought and analyze them28.

1-the denial of duress and force and religion and faith

The most important verse in this group is the following:

  1. “Duress is not permissible in religion, as the path has become clear from falsehood to light, therefore anyone that takes the idols as tyranny and starts to have faith in God, has truly has found a support that is never separated from him, and God is the wise that can hark.” 29

The above verse contains denial and prohibition. Denying that God has based faith on force and duress, and prohibiting imposing faith on anyone, since forced faith and tyranny are not valid. The disproval of force in this verse equals accepting freedom in religion and it requirements are freedom in both matters: freedom in bringing religion and freedom in leaving it. This that people have to choose between the just religion and death means the denial of freedom and duress in religion. If people are free to choose a religion and then after bringing that religion not be free to leave it, them keeping that religion is only possible with duress, force and fear of punishment. At the same time Koran has introduced faith in God as growth and just, and considers the difference between just and null conspicuous, without wanting to force man to accept the just religion. “As understood by the verse Koran has not appropriated the freedom of religion and thought only to Islam, but has rejected any kind of duress and force in general from all religions without an exception, in all thoughts and ideas. Such a liberty and freedom that has a natural and cognitive relation with the nature of man can neither be appointed nor removed30”.

As to the tradition behind the verse it is said that by Mojahid that a member of the Ansar made his colored servant accept Islam, this verse was descended and prevented the Moslems from this act. Others have stated the tradition behind this verse goes back to a man that was a member of the Ansar, named Abol-Hossein. He had two sons that sometimes worked with the foreign merchants, doing business with them. Several Christian Oil merchants entered Medina; they invited the two mentioned boys to Christianity and the boys accepted and started for Sham city with the people that they had newly shared a religion with. Their father that was one of the apostles of Mohammad informed him and the verse that “ There is no duress in religion31” was descended.

There is no doubt that death sentence and life imprisonment for the apostate or making an infidel choose between Islam and death are obviously clear examples of duress in religion and are against the mentioned verse.

  1. “And if your God wished all the settlers of earth would be faithful, then do you make people become Moslems with duress32?” It is true that bringing faith in God and the other world is just, but god has not imposed faith on man, because in such a case man would have no choice and punishment and award would be meaningless. Religion and faith only have a value when man chooses it freely and with a free will. When the prophet would sometimes get worried about some people not bringing Islam and would insist that they become Moslems, God would remind him on how he could not reject duress in faith and religion when his God rejects it? And the obvious answer is obviously no. If duress and using force are not permissible to make a person bring Islam or to make him be faithful how can duress and force be permissible for staying in Islam? Bringing faith and becoming a Moslem are just, but God has not given anyone the permission to force this right on anyone. How can we make people choose between Islam and death? Of course to stay faithful and not bartering faith to tyranny and not becoming an apostate is righteous. Do we have the permission to force people bring Islam and faith with punishments such as death sentence or life imprisonment?
  2. Noah has stated that: Thy people, think that if I have a conspicuous proof from thy God and he had bestowed me a favor that has been veiled from you, then can we obligate you while you don’t favor it33?

When Noah presented his holy message to the people he encountered with the denial of the people of his own time and they refuted him. He in argumentation of his people invited them to think that however he could have a proof from his God and that proof may have stayed hidden from the eyes of his people. Can the prophet force people to accept the right while they feel reluctant towards that that are righteous? Forcing to understand is with duress and that means that it is obvious that the prophet does not have such permission. If the prophet does not have such a permission then do the followers of the prophet have the permission to make people bring Islam through force and duress or to make them keep their religion with punishment, pressure and threat? From these three verses this imperative rule can be concluded that one cannot and should not make anyone bring a religion or faith through duress and force. The freedom of religion is nothing but the denial of duress and force in this area.

The second group: freedom as a mans of guidance and manifestation in the world

  1. “Prophet, state the right is from your God, therefore anyone that wishes can bring faith and anyone that wishes can become a heathen, we have prepared a fire for the unjust34.

Even though there is no doubt in the righteousness of Islam, yet the Koran clearly states that anyone that wishes can bring faith and anyone that wishes can become a heathen. God has only pointed to the punishment of he infidel in the other world, but is anyone to be punished for his idea and religion in the testing arena, the world? In such a case then there would be no meaning in a person wanting faith or wanting to be a heathen. In this verse the basis for the freedom of religion and the punishment for the wrong choice is reminded and the faithful don’t have the right to ignore the rational holy logic and rely on he logic of violence, force, and threat in making others religious.

  1. “ say o people, right has come from your God, therefore anyone who finds the path then he has done so in his own benefit, and anyone who deviates has done so in his own loss, and I am not your guard35.”

There is no doubt that Koran does not take the right path and the deviated path and Islam with tyranny the same. But this that man chooses the path freely is an art and in need of award otherwise if there is only one path in the way of man- the right path-and everyone is forced to walk on that otherwise they would lose their life, then what would be the need for a test in the world and the awards and the punishments of the other world? The noble principle of resurrection is not possible without the freedom of religion.

  1. We send the book (the Koran) righteously to you for the people, therefore anyone that finds the right path has done so to his own benefit and anyone that deviates has done so to his own loss and you are not their guard36.

Koran has revealed the right to the people, but the people in this world are free to go by it or to ignore it, and the other world is the place that one is to be evaluated and awarded. We don’t have the permission to let people do that which God has forbidden for his prophet. God and his messenger let people accept religion freely, yet of course they reminded them of that that is just. The other world is the place of repose for the ones that have accepted that which is just through a free will.

  1. “I have been commanded to worship the God of this city that has made it safe and all he says is truth and I have been commanded to be one of the Moslems and that to study Koran, then whoever that finds the path has done so to his own benefit and as for anyone that deviates just tell them that just one of the people that is to warn you and say that you are grateful to the God. He would show you his signs and then you would recognize them and your God is not ignorant of that which you do37.”

The prophet warns people of the end of the null religions and ideas, reads Koran to them and shows them the right religion and idea, anyone that accepts, good for him and anyone that doesn’t he himself will have lost and will have to end the terrible end o his choice. God is a conscious observer and pays close attention to every choice that is made.

This group of sample verses that were reviewed, stress on freedom in the world in order to guide and manifestation are the fundamentals of the freedom of religion and idea in religion.

The third group: The prophet and the notification of the right and not forcing it

The place of the prophet in relation with the religion of the people has been thoroughly clarified. The duty of the prophet is bringing the message, notification, and guidance. He does not have the right to force people and make them accept religion with duress.

1. ‘Therefore remind that you are truly a one that notifies, and you do not master them38.”

The duty of the prophet is to convey the message of the religion; he notifies that which is just to the people. Anyone that wishes would accept and would enjoy its incessant benefits, and anyone that does not want to would not accept and would obviously bear the endless disadvantages that it has. The consequences of the just and the null would be in the day of resurrection and the world is the place of test. The prophet does force people or does not master them to make them bring faith or make them lose it. If the prophet does not have such a right, do the followers of the prophet have the right to deprive the people of the freedom of religion?

2. “ We are the most informed to what they say and you are not forceful with them, so refer anyone that fears my promise of pain to Koran39.”

3. “We did not send you but to give tidings and warnings, say that for that I don’t seek anything as a wage for that, unless one wants to walk to his God and rely on a live God that doesn’t die and praise him thankfully, and he is so much aware of the sins of his people40.”

4. “ If I reveal to you a part of what I have promised them, or to get your life (before that) this would not change that conveying the messages is yours and auditing is ours.”

5. “ There is no duty for the messenger but to convey the messages, and God knows that which you reveal and that which you hide.”

If the prophet that is the first human in the world has no other duty towards the religion of the others but preaching, do others have the permission to do anything but to encourage and preach concerning the religion of the others and deprive the people of freedom in religion and idea? If the calculation and the evaluation of the people’s religion is to be done but God and conveying and the notification and the way that it is to be done id to be done by the prophet then depriving the people of freedom of thought and religion and punishing and awarding, affairs that are to be done in the other world, in this world is in a way playing the role of the God, and this is not acceptable by God and his prophet has not committed it.

The fourth group: Condemning the punishment for changing the religion

Using the element of force and the heavy punishment of the apostate has from ancient times been an issue. The through the report of three events has condemned the punishment for changing religion.

  1. “The elders of his tribe that had chosen tyranny said that oh Shoaib we would run out you and the ones that have brought faith out of the city unless you come back to our religion. He said even with duress41?”

The tyrants caused a dilemma for Shoaib and the believers of his time. They either had to accept exile or change their religion and become apostates and choose tyranny over faith. Shoaib replies that if we are to change our religion with duress? Is changing religion possible through force and duress? We cannot leave our religion with force. Koran accepts the logic of Shoaib.

One cannot say that changing religion from just to null is not mandatory, yet changing from null to righteous can be forceful. Analyzing the verse that states that there is no duress in religion we found out that Koran completely rejects duress and force in religion.

  1. “They (the sorcerers) said that: We have brought faith in the God of the universe, the God of Moses and Haroun. The pharaoh said that: Did you bring faith before me giving you permission? This is a scandal that you have thought of it together in the city, to make the settlers of the city homeless, you would soon find out that I would cut your legs and hands in opposite directions, and then I would hang all of you.”42

The sorcerers seeing the miracle of Moses brought faith in God and let go of tyranny and changed their religion and in other words they became apostates. Pharaoh was overwhelmed on how they have changed their religion before his permission. He has advertised the sorcerer’s change of faith as a scandal for making the people homeless and immediately announces the punishment of the apostates that is cutting the legs and the feet and hanging them. The sentence for changing religion and apostasy in pharaoh’s creed is execution, and in the land of pharaoh anyone that changes his religion would die. Koran does not believe in this logic and condemns it. On the opposite, the logic of Koran is rejecting force and duress in religion, or you can say freedom of thought and religion.

  1. “ And the pharaoh let me kill Moses and he call his God, I have no fear whether he changes your religion or to corrupt this land.”43

In Pharaoh’s religion changing the religion (from tyranny to righteous) has a death sentence. He threatens Moses to death; because he intends to change the religion of the people and through his viewpoint corrupt the earth. Koran rejects pharaoh’s reasoning. The people are free to choose their own religion. Nobody has the right to force them to accept this religion or that through duress. The path of growth is clear from that of evil.

From these and other similar verses we can conclude that Koran rejects the attitude of the tyrants an the pharaohs concerning apostasy and condemns it, and while it believes faith in god to be righteous, yet it has left man free to choose between continuous and preliminary faith and tyranny in this world, and in other words it has left man free to choose his religion and thought.

The fifth group: A critic on the way that the believers of different religions encounter each other and God’s will for a difference in ideas

1. “ If your God wished he would create all people as one, yet they still have their differences, except the ones that God has mercy on them and that is the reason why he has created them, the promise of your God is that we would fill all hell with men and demons.”44

God’s will is not for everyone to think alike, in other words God has recognized the difference of religions and thoughts in this world for a reasons and has promised the people that have deviated hell. Forcing ideas and thought in this world is exactly against Islamic and Koran’s viewpoint.

2. The Christians said that the Jews are not righteous even though they study the holy book, and others that do not know anything said similar things and at the end God is to judge between them.”45

The Koran has blamed this that any religion takes another religion as null and frail. The place that one is to be judged is the other world and not this. In this world people are free to choose any religion or idea that they wish, yet the holy prophets remind them of justice but the people are to choose and this is what test and in getting involved is all about.

  1. “ Thou heathen I do not worship your idol and you are not my praying worshippers and I am not the worshipper of what you worship, and you are not my praying worshippers, you keep to your religion and I to mine.”46

The Kafaroun chapter is one of the most reliable evidences of he freedom of religion and thought in Koran, now can Moslems’ in dealing with other religions and thought choose any other scheme?

The sixth group: Not punishing an apostate in this world

Even though has condemned changing faith to tyranny, yet based on sound logic has only informed them of their evil end in the other world. It has not mentioned any worldly penal such as death sentence or life imprisonment for apostasy, meanwhile we would point to two of the most important verses on the subject of apostasy:

  1. “ And any one of you that turns from his religion and dies in tyranny, his actions will have turned void in both world and they are immortal in hell.”47

The reverend verse has informed of the death of the apostate. The Arabic word refers to natural death and not death sentence or murder; if the apostate were to be killed (executed) it would have been stated (The word “fimat” should have been changed to “Gatala” as in die and killed). From the phrase “fimat ve hova kafar” one would understand that he could have died even though he is a believer, meaning first that after becoming an apostate one needs to stay as an apostate to be punished by the later punishments that have been predicted in the verse, and in addition the repenting of the apostate in normal conditions is accepted if he gets the chance to repent. The punishments that have been projected in the verse are for the other world and death sentence or the life-sentence of the apostate has not been mentioned.

  1. “Anyone that chooses any religion other than Islam it would not be accepted from him and he would be one of those that has lost, how can God guide people that after their faith, and after they have confessed that the prophet (of Islam) is righteous and they have been enlightened have become tyrants and God does not guide tyrants. Their punishment is that God and all the angels damn them. They are in hell for eternity and their pain does not lessen and they are not given time except the ones that repented and did well, since God is the kind merciful. The repenting of people that become heathen after they have become faithful and then add to their tyranny is never accepted and they are the lost souls.”48

Even though Koran has clearly stated that after the migration of the last prophet no other religion accepted from anyone other than Islam and that anyone that practices another religion would be at loss, yet no worldly punishment has been mentioned for the followers of other religions. In addition the only punishments that are for the other world are in case of obstinacy and hostility, and rejecting it while knowing that that is right meaning the practical and the political apostates and not the scientific and the theoretical apostate. The ones that out of ignorance and because of lack of knowledge have chosen a null idea are not punished even in the other world. The punishment of the practical and the political apostate in the other world are damnation of God, the angels and the people, eternal pain, not lessening the punishment and time of it. These punishments are in case if the apostate does not repent, is he repents God is merciful and the possibility of being forgiven is not out of the question. Yet the repenting of the apostate that goes out of his way in tyranny is not accepted. The repenting of an apostate not being accepted in the other world has nothing to do with his repenting being accepted in this world.

Contemplating about the verses concerning an apostate that were reviewed we can conclude that:

1-Changing faith to tyranny is definitely condemned, and not acceptable. Changing faith to tyranny can be in two ways: first through theoretical and scientific, and through research even if it is wrong. The individual in this case reaches the conclusion that there is no god and resurrection and doubts Islam (theoretical and scientific apostasy). And second through practical lust, corrupt political deviation, evil manipulations and the love of the world while knowing that which is right, denying that that is just and changes his religion, meaning that the apostasy being based on material gains and not because of scientific reasons (the practical and political apostasy).

2-There is no punishment mentioned in Koran for the theoretical and scientific apostasy neither in this world nor in the other. It is obvious that such a person would conditionally not be entitled to the benefits and advantages of that which is right.

3- In the case of practical and political apostasy the punishment that has been mentioned is punishments of the other world, and pain in hell. Anytime that Koran speaks of apostasy it refers to this very kind.

4-For an apostate, there is absolutely no punishments, as life imprisonment or execution been predicted in Koran.

The seventh: The schemes of religious invitation

“Invite to the path of your God with wisdom and acceptable themes and reason with them using the better way, because your God is more conscious on who has deviated from his path and that he himself knows of the people who have found the path.” The logic of Koran in inviting people to religion is rational and peaceful, using the reason and the wisdom of people, reminder and advice and last logical reasoning. Terror or duress and murder have no place in this logic. Islam is the religion of mercy and its invitation is merciful as well.”49

The conclusion of the Koranic reasoning:

Now with a closer look at the Koranic verses concerning freedom of thought and religion, with some of their most important examples being covered in the last seven groups we would reach the following conclusions:

1- Islam has introduced the just religion and the correct ideas with the most conspicuous rules and has pointed to the disadvantages of tendencies towards the false.

2- Islam believes the true prosperity of man in following the just religion and the correct idea and severely condemns deviation from this path.

3- From the point of view of Islam people are free in choosing their religion and thought and no one can be forced or be made to accept under duress the just religion and correct ideas.

4- Islam has recognized variety of religions after the holy invitation; meaning that a group will accept the holy invitation and some would stay in the dark. The lost ones have many groups and branches.

5- From the viewpoint of Islam the persons that have not accepted the holy invitation tin this world and have accepted the false religion and thought would be punished at the time of resurrection.

6- In Islam there is no punishment predicted for a false belief or religion.

7- The Islamic logic in inviting others to the just religion is logical, rational, peaceful, merciful, and away from violence and force.

8- No one can be stopped to change his or her religion by duress. Apostasy does not have a punishment in this world, but if it were enmity, and denial it would have harsh punishments in the other world.

As a result it is clear that freedom of religion and thought in Islam is indisputable. But this conclusion is complete when the documents of the group that denies freedom of thought and religion in Islam is critically reviewed in a way that it would not be able to overcome the mentioned reasons.

The second part: Critical review of the documents of the popular interpretation.

The critical review of the deniers of freedom of thought and religion would require a long time and can not be paid to just in this article. In the time that we have among the various judgments we would pay to three famous judgments that deal with freedom of religion and thought and we believe that these three are the most important concerning this area. These judgments are: 1) Death Penalty for the apostate 2) tribute for the followers of Zoroaster, Moses, and Christ who, after entering into agreement with the head of the Islamic government, acquire rights and obligations under law ,and 3)Not having the right to live for an infidel who does not pay tribute. In the second part we had pointed to the most important documents of these three judgments. Here we would evaluate and have a critical look at these documents considering the evidence that had been presented about freedom of thought and religion.

1- A critical review on the punishment of the Moslem apostate in this world

The documents that is referred to about the execution of an apostate goes back to some narratives from the prophet( in the jurisprudence of the Sunnis)and from the household of the prophet ( in the jurisprudence of the Shiite)Based on some of the popular jurisprudence some of these narratives are taken to be valid documents, and even if we conclude that this to be unquestionable this has to be accepted notwithstanding the intellectual and Koranic understandings, but there are some points to be said in this area.

1- In executing the judgment of an apostate, anything that it would be, there is nothing to be said at the time of the immaculates, because they themselves knew all the angles of the judgments canonical-wise more than any other person, and they are familiar with all the advantages and disadvantages of the holy judgment and there is no doubt permissible in what is carried out by them as a canonical judgment. The thing that is questionable is the judgments of an apostate at the time when the immaculates are not present. Even if we assume these documents to be completely valid, we would need to ask if the execution of these judgments for he time of the immaculates only if it can be carried out after them also, and as a result if it is a judgment that is changed with time or not. There are two opinions presented the scholars of Shiite. The famous opinion 50is the impermissibility at the time when the immaculates are not present51, to the point that some have had a claimed consensus52. As the penance of apostasy from the viewpoint of the well-known opinion is a canon one53this judgment is not to be executed at the time when the immaculates are not present. The importance of this judgment considering the problems that it has would become clearer at this time. Especially that based on the most dominant opinion the preliminary holy war is one of the special judgments of the era of presence and these two subjects have a common point and that is Islam. One of them is bringing Islam (the preliminary holy war) and the other leaving Islam (the punishment of apostasy).

2- The mentioned documents concerning execution of the apostate are all tradition with a single transmitter54. Basis and validity of the reliable tradition is the wisdom of the scholars. The scholars on vital and critical subjects despite other matters do not only rely on the reliable tradition. One of the most important things to pay to is the matter that has to do with the life of an individual (the right to live). The right to live can be breached when there is an undeniable document at hand meaning the text of the Koranic verse itself or a successive textual tradition. Execution cannot be based on tradition with only one transmitter, meaning that carrying out of the execution is in need of undeniable valid proof. Caution in the subject of spilling blood (because of its great importance and the attention that the legislator has given to it) necessitates not issuing the death penalty of any one without a valid proof (not even a dubious valid document).

As the great skilled researcher, Ardebilli, states that:” Murder is a great thing because the legislator tries to safeguard life, it being the axis of prosperity and duty therefore protecting it is indispensable, even not protecting life is not permissible, to kill another to save your own life, and a sound mind also attests that, and to sum this up it is important to take full precaution regarding this important matter.”55

The great contemporary scholar Ayatollah Ahmad Khansari has made it clear that:” The validity of the reliable tradition with the confirmation of prominent scholars or them modifying for the sake of giving it an intellectual base or using some of the traditions concerning blood is not without its problems, and specially with the great importance that the subject has don’t you think that the sage will not only rely on the tradition with a single transmitter for vital matters?”56

Kashef’olsam with caution has appropriated the carrying out of the canon punishments such as death penalty only to the immaculate Imam57. Since the documents for the death penalty of the apostate are some unique traditions and unique traditions are not valid documents that can be proof for death penalty therefore because of the rule of caution in this matter as a result death penalty does not prove to be the solution.

3. If a person is threatened that “if you o not become a Moslem we would kill you” undoubtedly this would be a clear case of duress and if we would threaten a person that “ if you abandon your religion, and become an apostate we would kill you” then nonetheless duress has been realized in religion. Based on the clear Koranic verse duress has been prohibited. Therefore the death sentence of an apostate is in contrast with the great verse that states “there is no duress in religion” and many other verses that were pointed to at the beginning of this discussion. The traditions that come up wit the death sentence as the solution are in contrast with the context of the mentioned Koranic verses. These verses mean to appropriate and obligate because they refer to a rational judgment (as it was covered in the section dealing with the rational good of the freedom of religion and thought) therefore such traditions would be void and we would let the people who are qualified decide meaning that the exact context of these traditions are not hat clear to us and we must clarify the ambiguities through resort to the Immaculate excellencies and can not act on the context of these traditions until then.

2. The judgments of the followers of Zoroastar, Moses and Christ who after entering into agreement with the head of the Islamic government acquire rights and obligations under law.

Paying tribute which is the most important judgment concerning the followers of Zoroaster, Moses and Christ who after entering into agreement with the head of the Islamic government acquire rights and obligations under law is a Koranic judgment at the time of the prophet and it was exercised after the prophet. The question is that if these judgments are constant, permanent, and not changeable with time Islamic judgments or are one of the special judgments of the height of Islam and are changeable, time dependant ones that would become void with time and place. This judgment at its own time was based on absolute good otherwise it would not become a divine law, and it can be added that this judgment is not considered a religious judgment that has to do with devotion or salvation. Yet the humble opinion of the author is that at least today it is this judgment can not be considered good in the seven areas that were covered in section two. The judgment for tribute as judgments in servitude have been for set times and Koran in addition to judgments that are for all times has had no choice but to point to some judgments that were particularly for the time of revelation. The judgments for the followers of Zoroastar, Moses and Christ who after entering in to agreement with the head of Islamic governments acquire rights and obligations under law were the same.

It is interesting that of the Islamic Republic of Iran with the slogan of its written laws being in correspondence with the laws of religion, the judgments of apostasy and the judgment for the followers of Zoroastar, Moses, and Christ who after entering in to agreement with the head of the Islamic government acquire rights and obligations under law.

3. The infidel who lives in the Islamic country and does not pay tribute being deprived of the right to live

The holy war is one of the most indispensable judgments in Islam. Yet contrary to the popular belief this does not mean using military force in order to make the heathen become Moslem and bring death but the point of this holy war is that if a country is occupied by the heathen in away that the freedom to religion is forbidden and the people are not let to choose the right religion and the religious information is not abundantly accessible and the Moslems are able to correct this fault then it is necessary for them to go to war with the heathen and the unbelievers and free them from the shackles in order for them to choose the religion that they want freely . It is natural that many people when free would choose the just religion. Therefore the preliminary holy war is in a way a kind of protective war. It is defending the freedom of people in religion and not forcing a religion even the just religion.

If a non-Moslem lives in or out of an Islamic society if he does not go to war with the Moslems he would never have to make a choice between Islam and death only because he is a believer of another religion or belief. He would keep his religion or belief any thing that it would be and no Moslem with the excuse of a different religion does not have the right to harass him.

It seems that the verses in Koran that are for all times would express the mentioned interpretation and not the popular one.

Conclusion :

Even though the popular interpretation of Islam in many cases does not reflect the freedom of religion and belief yet the other interpretation of Islam that is based on the original rules of Islam is in concord with the freedom of religion and belief that has been mentioned in the Universal Declaration of the Human Rights.

April 2001 ,Tehran

* This paper was read in international congress of human rights and the dialog of civilizations in Tehran , may 6 2001.

**Translated from Persian to English by Arash. Khalatbari

Foot Notes:

1The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) ratified by the General Assembly of the United Nations

Article 2- Everyone is entitled to all the right s and freedoms set forth in this declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.

Article 18-Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes the right to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship, and observance.

Article 19- Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontier.

Article 26(2)- Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nation, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.

Article 26(3)- Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.

Article 29(2)-In the exercise of his rights and freedoms, everyone shall be subject only to such limitations as are determined by law solely for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others and of meeting the just requirements of morality, public order and the general welfare in a democratic society.

International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966); ratified by the General Assembly of the United Nations

Article 2(1)- The member states are obligated to guarantee and respect the recognized rights in this covenant for every citizen in the realm of its sovereignty without any distinction of any kind, such as race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.

Article 18,1- Everyone has the right to freedom, opinion, conscience, and religion. This right includes having or accepting a religion or opinions of his own choice and also the freedom to manifest his religion or opinions, either alone or in community with others, and in public or in private to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.

2-Nobody should be put under duress so that to impair his freedom in having or accepting a religion or opinions of his own choice.

3-the freedom to manifest ones religion or opinions cannot be limited unless the ones that under the law have been predicted and is necessary for the protection of security, order, health, or general moral, or fundamental rights and freedoms of others.

4-The member states obligate themselves to respect the freedom of the parents and in case legal guardians in providing for the moral and religious education of their children by their own beliefs.

5-Article 19,1-Noone can be harassed and terrorized because of his opinions.

2-Everyone is entitled to freedom of speech. This right includes freedom of research, education, and spreading knowledge and opinions of any kind with no regard to the frontiers either orally or written or print or art or any other means that he chooses.

3-The practice of the mentioned rights in section 2 are in need of certain rights and responsibilities, and therefore may have some restrictions that have been clarified in the law and be necessary for the following: a) Respecting the rights and dignity of others. b) For the maintenance of national security or the general health and moral.

Article 20,1- Any kind of propaganda for war is forbidden.

2-Any kind of invitation to national or racial or religious hatred that provokes prejudice or hostility or the use of force is forbidden by the law.

The Islamic Declaration of Human Rights (1990,Cairo)

Article 1- Humans are in general a family that that devotion to god and filial relation towards Adam has gathered them together and all people are equal in dignity, duty and responsibility, without any kind of distinction in race, color or language or sex or religious opinion or political dependence or social status and etc. In addition the right opinion is the only guarantee for growth of this dignity through the evolution of man.

Article 9,a- Perusing science is a virtue and education is a necessary affair and duty of the society and the government that it must prepare its means and facilities and its variety in a way that it is for the good of the society and give time to man to gain knowledge about Islam and the facts of existence and use it for the reformation of humanity.

b-It is the right of every individual that various educational, and guidance institutions of any degree from family to school to university to the media and etc. endeavor in the way that enhances religious and material growth for humanity and its complete education and grow his character in a way that his faith in God and his respect for the rights and duties of others and its protection would be prepared.

Article 10- Islam is an innate religion and using any kind of duress towards man or using poverty or his ignorance for him to change his religion for another or atheism is not permissible.

Article 16-Any man has the right to enjoy the benefits of scientific or literal or artistic or technological innovation and has the right to protect the financial and literal benefits that result from it, in condition that it is not against the Islamic rules.

Article 18- Any man has the right to a peace of mind about his life, religion and family and his honor and his property.

Article 22,a- Any person has the right to express his ideas as long as it is not against moral principles.

b- Advertising is a vital necessity for the society and abusing it and attacking the sacred and the dignity of the prophets or using anything that might derange the values or cause tension in the society or it’s ruin or it’s damage causes a shake in faith is forbidden.

c-provoking any kind of tribal or religious feelings or anything that causes the feeling of racial prejudice is not permitted.

Article 24- All the mentioned rights and freedoms above are conditional to correspond with the Islamic Shari a.

2-The above judgments are based on the religious injunctions of Shiite scholars for example refer to:

Imam Rouhollah Khomeini, Tahrir ol’vasile, Ketab ol’ers, Mavane ol’ers, Al’Kofr, problem 10,ch2, pgs.366&367 and Ketab ol’Mahdood, Algol Fi Ertedad, Problem 1,ch2, pg.494

Ayatollah seyyed Abolghasem Khoi, Mabani Takalomat ol’Menhaj, Al’Ertedad, ch.1pgs.324&327 and problem 271,pg.330.

By hard labor it is meant getting beaten at the time of pray, harsh forced labor, being deprived of drinking and eating more than it is necessary and being worn rough cloths (Mabani Takalomat ol’Menhaj Ch.1 pgs.331&332).

The Sunni scholars don’t have a consensus about the killing of an apostate in the case of repenting, Only Hanfieh know the punishment of the woman apostate as imprisonment with hard labor until she brings Islam, in addition they know repenting as permissible and not mandatory. For example refer to Al’Daktour Vahbata Zahili, Al’Fegh ol’ Islami Ve, pgs.183-193

3-Ayatollah Seyyed Kazem Tabatabai Yazdi, Al’Arvate Al’Vasge, Ketab ol’Taharat, Fi al’Nejasat, Al’Samen, ch.1, pg.67.

Tahri ol’Vasile, Ketab ol’Taharat, Fi bayan ol’Nejasat, Al’Asher, vh.1, pg.118.

Menhaj ol’Salehin, Ketab ol’Tahare, Al’Ayan ol’Najesat, ch1, pg.109.

For sample religious injunctions of the Sunni scholars refer to: Al’Fegh al’Islami Ve Adelate ch.6pg.183.

4-The judgment of excommunication for the biggest Islamic scholars whether sophist or philosopher like Avisina, Sohrevardi, Sad ol’Moteahelin, Mohiedin ebn Arabi and even recently in between the scholars Sheikh Hadi Najm Abadi (Known as Mokafer) are small samples that represent a whole bigger group.

5-Refer to Tahrir ol’Vasile, Ketab ol’ Hodood, Al’ghole Fi Ertedad, problem 4,ch2, and pg.495.

6-Mabani Takalomat ol’Menhaj, problem 282,ch.1, pg.337. Dar Tahrirat ol’ Vasile (Forou Had ol’ Ghasf, Al’Khames, ch.2, pg477.) Not doing that which is by religion necessary and committing that by religion has been forbidden are included in punishments that have maximum and minimum if they are considered as great sins

7-Menhaj ol’Salehin, ch.1, pg.361&391, Ketab ol’Jahad, problem 62..

8-Previous 391/1 and Tahriret ol’ Vasile, Tatamat Ketab ol’Hodood, Ahkame Ahle Zamme, problem 2,ch2, pg.497.

9-Menha ol’Salehin, Ketab ol’Jahad, problem 81,ch 1,pg.397.

10-Tahrir ol’Vasile, Sharaet ol’Zemme, Al’ Sades, ch. 2,pg.502.,Menhaj ol’Salehin, Ketab ol’Jahad, problem 85,ch.1, pg.399.

11-Tahrir ol’Vasile, Ketab ol’Hodood, Foroue Ahkame Ahle Zemme, Alrabe, ch.2, pg.507.

12-Tahriat ol’Vasile, Ketab ol’ Houdoud, AL’Sani Men Forou el’Ahkame Ahle Zemme, ch.2, pg.506, Mehnaj ol’ Salehin, Ketab ol’Jahad, problem 80,ch.1, pg.397.

13-Tahrir ol’Vasile, Ketab ol’hodood, Al’Aval Men Foroue el’Ahkamme Ahle Zemme, ch 2, pg.506.

14-Men Haj ol’Salehin, Ketab ol’ Jahad, problem 82, ch.1, pg.398, Tahrir ol’ Vasile, Sharaet ol’ Zemme, problem 8, ch.2, pg. 503.

15-Men Haj ol’Salehin, Ketab ol’ Jahad, ch.1, pg.360.

16-Mne Haj ol’Salehin, Ketab ol’Jahad, Al’Ghanaem, ch.1, pgs.379-381.

17-Tahrir ol’Vasile, Ketab ol’Amre Be Marouf Ve Nahye As Monker, Khotam, problem 2,ch.1pg.482.

18-For example refer to: Ayatollah Sheikh Mohammad Momen Ghomi, Kalamate Sadideh Fi Masael Jadideh, Kalamate Fi al’Jahad el’Ebtedai,pg. 315-358, and Ayatollah Khoii, Menhaj ol’Salehin, Ketab ol’Jahad, ch.1,pgs. 364-366.

19-Neil ol’Vetar, ch. 7,pg.90.

20-Al’Kafi, ch. 7, pg.287, tradition 11,Men la Yahzarol Faghih, ch.3, pg.98, tradition 333,Al’Tahzib, ch 10,pg.136, tradition 541, Al’Estebsar, ch.4, pg 283, tradition 957, Vasaelat ol’ Shiite, Abvab Had ol’Mortad, section 1,tradition 3,ch.28, pg.324.

21-Al’ Kafi, ch.7, pg.287, tradition 10, Al’Tahzib, ch.10, pg.138, tradition 548,Al’Estebsar, ch.4,pg 254,tradition 963, Vasael Al’Shiite,Abvabehade ol’Mortad,section 1,tradition 5,ch.28,pg.325.

22– Al’ Tahzib, ch.10, pg.143, tradition 565, Men layahzarol’Faghih,ch. 3, pg.89, tradition 335, Vasael ol’Shiite, Abvabe Had ol’Mortad,section 4, tradition 1, ch.28,pg.330.

23-Tobeh Chapter, Verse 29.

24-Tobeh Chapter, Verse 29.

25-Tobeh Chapter, Verse 5.

26-Enfal Chapter, Verse 39.

27-Professor Martyr Motahari, A book about the Islamic Republic, 87-136 and a book about the Islamic revolution pgs.6-22.

28-Jemal ol’ Bena in the essay of “ Horiat ol’Fekr Ve Eleteghad Fe Al’ Islam “ has organized these Koranic verses in another way

29– Baghareh Chapter, Verse 256.

30– Ayatollah Doctor Mehdi Haeri Yazdi, Islam and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the yearbook of the Shiite school of thought, number 4, 1341, pgs.67-76.

31– Tabari, Majma ol’ Bayan Fi Tafsir El’ Koran, ch.3, pgs.363-364.

32-Euness Chapter, Verse 99.

33-Houd Chapter, Verse 28.

34-Kahf Chapter, Verse 29.

35-Euness Chapter, Verse108

36-Zamr Charter, Verse 41

37-Namal Chapter, Verses 91-93

38-Ghashia Chapter, Verses 21-22

39-Gh Chapter, Verse 45

40– Forghan Chapter, Verses 56-58,Raad Chapter Verse 40, Maedeh Chapter, Verse 99

41– Eraf Chapter, Verse 88

42– Eraf Chapter, Verses 121-124

43-Ghafar Chapter, Verse 26.

44– Houd Chapter, Verses 118-119.

45-Baghareh Chapter, Verse 113

46– Kafaroun Chapter, Verses 1-6

47– Baghareh Chapter, Verse 217

48-Al’ Omran Chapter, Verse 85-90

49– Nahl Chapter, Verse 125

50– Ayatollah Seyyed Ahmad Khansari, Jame ol’ Madarek Fi Shrh ol’ Mokhtasar ol’ Nafe, ch 5, pg.411.

51– researcher Helli, Sharaye ol’ Islam Fi Masael ol’ Halal Ve Eltezam, ch. 1, pg.344. [By the meaning of the word Appoint (Mansoub) is the special one and not the general one, refer to Javaher ol’ Kalam ch.21, pg.368.

52– Ebn Adriss Helli, Al’Saraer Al’ Havi Ol’Tahrir ol’Fatava, ch.2, pg.25.

53– the other opinion considers apostasy as a punishment that has a minimum and a maximum and not one that has been mentioned in Koran, refer to the Sharaye ol’ Islam, ch.4, pg. 147.

54– Mesbah Osoul, ch. 2, pg.196.

55– Majma ol’ Faydeh Ve Borhan Fi Sharh Ershad ol’ Azhan, Ketab al’ Hodoud, ch 13,pg 90.

56– Jameh Ol’ Madarek Fi Sharh Ol’ Mokhtasar ol’ Nafeh, Ketab al’ Hodoud, ch.7, pg.35.

57-Baha edin Mohammad ebn al’ Hassan known as Fazel Hendi, Kashf ol’ Sam en al’ Ghavaed ol’ Ahkam, ch.2, pg. 405.


1-The Holy Koran

2- Soghat ol’Isalam Mohammad ebn Ughoub Kalini, Al’Kafi, edited by Ali Akbar Ghafari, 8 volumes, Tehran 1388 (lunar year)

3-Sheikh Sadough, Men la’ Yahza ol’ Faghih, edited by Ali Akbar Ghafari, 4 volumes, Tehran 1392 (lunar year)

4- Sheikh Yousi, Tahzib ol’Ahkam, edited by Seyyed Hassan Mousavi Khorasani, 10 volumes, Tehran, 1390 (lunar year)

5- Al’ Estebsar, edited by Seyyed Hassan Mousavi Khorasani, 4 volumes, Tehran 1390(lunar year)

6-Amin ol’Salam Tabarsi, Majma ol’Bayan Fi Tafsir Koran, The research of Mirza Abol Hassan Sherani, 10 sections in 5 volumes.

7-Shokani, Nil Ela Ve Tar, Al’ Matbeate al’Osmanieh al’Mesriah.

8-The researcher Helli, Sharaye ol’ Islam, edited by Abdol Hossein Mohammad Ali, 4 volumes, Najaf, 1389 (lunar year).

9-The researcher Ahmad Ardebilli, Majma ol’ Fayedeh Ve Borhan Fi Sharh Ershad ol’ Azhan, 14 volumes, Qom [Bita]

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11-Sheikh Mohammad Hassan Najafi, Javaher ol’ Kalam fi Sharh Sharaye ol’ Islam, 43 volumes, Tehran, 1400 (lunar year)

12-Seyyed Mohammad Kazem Tabatabai Yazdi Al’ Arout el’ Vosgha, 2 volumes, Tehran, 1399 (lunar year)

13-Seyyes Abolghasem Mousavi Khoi, Men Haj ol’ Salehin, 2 volumes, Qom, 1410 (lunar year)

14-Seyyed Abolghassem Mousavi Khoi, Mabani Takalomat al’ Menhaj, 2 volumes, Beirut, (Bita)

15Seyyed Abolghassem Mousavi Khoi, Mesbah ol’ Osoul, by Seyyed Mohammad Sorour Vaez Behsoudi, 3 volumes, Najaf, 1386 (lunar year)

16-Seyyed Ahmad Khansari, Jame ol’Madarek Fi Sharh Mokhtasar ol’ Nafeh, 7 volumes, Tehran 1405 (lunar year)

17-Seyyed Rouhollah Mousavi Khomeini, Tahrir ol’ Vasile, 2 volumes, Qom(Bita)

18-Vahbeh Zahili, Al’ Fegh ol’ Islami Ve Adlate, 8 volumes, Beirut, 1409(lunar year) third edition.

19Sheikh Mohammad Momen Ghomi, Kalamate Sadide Fi Masael Jadideh, Qom 1415(lunar year).

20-Sheikh Hor Ameli, Vasaelat ol’ Shiite Ela Tahsil Masaelat ol’ Shari’a, 30 volumes, Qom, 1412(lunar year) edited by Institute of Ale Beit.

21-Sheikh Morteza Motahari, Around the Islamic Revolution, Tehran, 1368.

22-Sheikh Morteza Motahari, Around the Islamic Republic, Tehran, 1368.

23-Doctor Mehdi Haeri Yazdi, The article of Islam and The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the yearbook of Shiite, The fourth year, Qom, 1341.

24-Fazel Hendi, Kashf ol’ Sam Fi Sharh Ghavaed ol’ Ahkam, 2 volumes.

25-The Universal Declaration of Human Rights

26-Jamal ol’ Bana, the essay of Horiet ol’ Fekr Ve Eteghad Fi Islam, 56 pages, Cairo, 1418(lunar year) dar ol’ Fekr ol’ Islami.

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