Notes: Tolerance in Islam

The Light (Pakistan), 16th July 1922 Issue (Vol. 1, No. 15, p. 1)

In The Moslem World for April last [1921], we read the following:

“Islam in its fundamental law regarding apostasy breathes a spirit of intolerance. The doors of the vast temple reared by the Prophet of Arabia only swing inward and not outward. Anyone can easily become a Moslem [Muslim] by repeating the creed. But once a Moslem, always a Moslem. The door is shut, barred, and barbed against all exit.”

These lines appear from the pen of Dr Zwemer, who, we believe, is an Arabic scholar. This has made us rather doubtful as to what we should call it. Is it a typical illustration of deliberate misrepresenta­tion or an innocent misconception? The writer of these lines must have read the Quran, and must have come across the verse:

“There is no compulsion in religion” (The Holy Quran, 2:256).

Docs it breathe the spirit of intolerance?

With regard to apostasy, the verdict of the Holy Quran is still more lucid:

“And whoever of you turns back from his religion, then he dies while an unbeliever — these it is whose works shall go for nothing in this world and the Hereafter. And they are the inmates of the fire: therein they shall abide” (The Holy Quran, 2:217).

In the face of these clear words, it is impossible to charge Islam with intolerance. And we cannot understand what motives have goaded Dr Zwemer to do so.