There is no compulsion of any sort in religion (as) the right way does stand obviously distinguished from the way of error. Now he that shall reject the transgressor and accepts Allâh (let such know that he) has laid hold of a support firm and strong which knows no breaking. Allâh is All-Hearing, All-Knowing. Q2: 256
ﻟَﺎ ﺇِﻛْﺮَﺍﻩَ ﻓِﻲ ﺍﻟﺪِّﻳﻦِ ۖ ﻗَﺪ ﺗَّﺒَﻴَّﻦَ ﺍﻟﺮُّﺷْﺪُ ﻣِﻦَ ﺍﻟْﻐَﻲِّ ۚ
2:256 Al-Dîn ﺍﻟﺪِّﻳﻦِ is religious law, faith or religion (cf.: 3:19). Ikrâh ﺇِﻛْﺮَﺍﻩَ is derived from kariha meaning to be unwilling, feel aversion, disagreeable, or against one’s will. Ikrâh ﺇِﻛْﺮَﺍﻩَ is to compel a person to a thing against his will; Ikrahun is compulsion. “There is no compulsion of any sort in religion” ﻟَﺎ ﺇِﻛْﺮَﺍﻩَ ﻓِﻲ ﺍﻟﺪِّﻳﻦِ is a clear injunction. The enforcement of “Religion” – Dîn ﺍﻟﺪِّﻳﻦِ means enforcement of its laws; the so-called “Sharî’a Laws”. Such enforcement is against the very spirit of this verse. A state has its constitution and its laws and violation of its laws carries the risk of punishment. However, when a state enforces a law in the name of religion of Islam, it is called the “Sharî‘a Law”. According to this verse, its violation cannot be punished.
Similarly, conversion by force means to confess Islam without being convinced in heart. This brings the person in a state of hypocrisy (cf. 2:8). It is not possible that the Holy Qur’ân denounces hypocrisy (cf. 2:9-10) but allows forced conversion. The Holy Prophet (pbuh) conformed fully to this principle on all occasions whenever he overpowered his foes. When he entered Makkah victorious, “This day there is no reproof against you. Go! You are free.’ It is reported by Ibn Ishâq that one of the Ansâr of Madînah had two sons who were Christians and would not accept Islam. He came to the Holy Prophet (pbuh) and asked whether he should force them to accept Islam. It was on this occasion that this verse was revealed.
Going astray from the right path is Ghayya. If there is no compulsion in matters of religion, there cannot be any punishment for Ghayya. This verse is frequently quoted but least understood. Ibn Athîr while commenting on this verse sums up its meaning in the following words:
“You do not need to force anyone to accept Islam and follow its rules, as it is so manifest and clear, and arguments and reasoning in its favour are so powerful and convincing that there is no need of any force. Whosoever receives guidance from Allâh, opens his breast for the truth, and possesses the wisdom to understand the arguments in this Book will accept it voluntarily. And if a person is so blind as not to see any reason, his acceptance of Islam is useless.”
This message in this verse is also supported by the verse 10:99 that states “And if your Lord had enforced His will, those who are on earth would have believed one and all.” There are other verses in the Holy Qur’ân which convey the same message (18:29; 26:3-4; 76:3; 6:105; 17:7).