An invitation for Malaysians to think about what the Qur’an really says.

Freedom of religion as God’s will

The Qur’an teaches us that this world was created as dar al-ibtila’, a place of trial and a testing ground for the hereafter:

He it is Who created the heavens and the earth in six Days – and His Throne was over the waters – that He might try you, which of you is best in conduct.” (11:7)

Allah’s object also is to purge those that are true in Faith and to deprive of blessing those that resist Faith. Did ye think that ye would enter Heaven without Allah testing those of you who fought hard (in His Cause) and remained steadfast?” (3:142)

And it is God’s will, in order that we may be tested, that Man should be free to disbelieve:

Had Allah willed, He would have made you one nation [united in religion], but [He intended] to test you in what He has given you; so race to [all that is] good.” (5:48)

Because God has given Man the freedom to believe and to disbelieve, no man can force another to believe:

If it had been thy Lord’s will, they would all have believed – all who are on earth! Wilt thou then compel mankind, against their will, to believe! No soul can believe, except by the will of Allah, and He will place doubt (or obscurity) on those who will not understand.” (10:99-100)


  • Has God given freedom of religion to all mankind or only to non-Muslims?
  • If God had intended Islam to be hereditary, why did he not force the children of Muslims to believe automatically? If God did not force them, should humans try to force them?

Messengers and devils

To every People, God has sent messengers, to warn and to bring good tidings:

For We assuredly sent amongst every People a messenger, (with the Command), ‘Serve Allah, and eschew Evil’: of the People were some whom Allah guided, and some on whom error became inevitably (established).” (16:36)

And never would your Lord have destroyed the cities until He had sent to their mother a messenger reciting to them Our verses. And We would not destroy the cities except while their people were wrongdoers.” (28:59)

But God has also created evil ones to lead men astray:

Likewise did We make for every Messenger an enemy, evil ones among men and jinns, inspiring each other with flowery discourses by way of deception. If thy Lord had so planned, they would not have done it: so leave them and their inventions alone. To such (deceit) let the hearts of those incline, who have no faith in the hereafter: let them delight in it, and let them earn from it what they may.” (6:112-3)

The Qur’an forbids compulsion, but instead commands the Prophet to spread Islam through wise words, beautiful preaching and gracious debate:

Let there be no compulsion in religion: Truth stands out clear from Error: whoever rejects evil and believes in Allah hath grasped the most trustworthy hand-hold, that never breaks. And Allah heareth and knoweth all things.” (2:256)

Invite (all) to the Way of thy Lord with wisdom and beautiful preaching; and argue with them in ways that are best and most gracious: for thy Lord knoweth best, who have strayed from His Path, and who receive guidance.” (16:125)

Say [to the Jews and Christians]: “Produce your proof if ye are truthful.” (2:111)


  • If God himself has created evil ones among jinns and men in order to lead men astray, is it right for State syariah authorities to intervene to prevent them?
  • The Qur’an enjoins the Prophet to preach and to debate graciously with non-Muslims using proofs. Imagine such a debate held by a Muslim religious scholar (`alim) in Malaysia today:
    • If the debate is held in public, is there a risk that Muslims will be confused?
    • Should the police prevent the debate on the grounds that religion is a sensitive issue?
    • If a Christian agrees to participate in the debate, will he be charged with propagating his religion to Muslims?

Punishment of non-believers and hypocrites

For God’s messengers, their duty is only to warn and to remind, but not to control. Those who disbelieve will be punished not on earth, but by God in the hereafter:

He who obeys the Messenger has obeyed Allah; but those who turn away – We have not sent you over them as a guardian.” (4:80)

So remind, [O Muhammad]; you are only a reminder. You are not over them a controller. However, he who turns away and disbelieves – Then Allah will punish him with the greatest punishment. Indeed, to Us is their return.” (88:21-25)

And whoever opposes the Messenger after guidance has become clear to him and follows other than the way of the believers – We will give him what he has taken and drive him into Hell, and evil it is as a destination.” (4:115)

And God will not accept hypocrites (munafiqun) who do not truly believe but only pretend to believe:

“Give tidings to the hypocrites that there is for them a painful punishment” (4:138)

Indeed, the hypocrites will be in the lowest depths of the Fire – and never will you find for them a helper” (4:145)


  • Which is worse in the eyes of Islam, an unbeliever (kafir) or a hypocrite (munafiq)?
  • If a Muslim is not allowed to leave Islam, he will be forced to conceal his disbelief and therefore be a munafiq. What are the consequences of having many munafiqun within the ummat Islam?

Consequences of apostasy (irtidad)

If a man believes, it is to his own benefit, and if he disbelieves, it is to his own loss. No man is responsible for another man’s soul:

Whoever is guided is only guided for [the benefit of] his soul. And whoever errs only errs against it. And no bearer of burdens will bear the burden of another.” (17:15)

There has come to you enlightenment from your Lord. So whoever will see does so for [the benefit of] his soul, and whoever is blind [does harm] against it. And [say], ‘I am not a guardian over you.’ ” (6:104)

And if they deny you, [O Muhammad], then say, ‘For me are my deeds, and for you are your deeds. You are disassociated from what I do, and I am disassociated from what you do.’ ” (10:41)

Those who turn back to unbelief will be losers, but they will not harm God; God will not forgive those who oscillate between belief and disbelief, but He will reward those who are faithful:

O you who have believed, if you obey those who disbelieve, they will turn you back on your heels, and you will [then] become losers. But Allah is your protector, and He is the best of helpers.” (3:149-150)

Muhammad is but a messenger. [Other] messengers have passed on before him. So if he was to die or be killed, would you turn back on your heels [to unbelief]? And he who turns back on his heels will never harm Allah at all; but Allah will reward the grateful.” (3:144)

Indeed, those who have believed then disbelieved, then believed, then disbelieved, and then increased in disbelief – never will Allah forgive them, nor will He guide them to a way.” (4:137)

The Qur’an does not specify any earthly punishment for disbelief, except for those who “wage war against Allah and His Messenger”. This circumstances of the revelation (asbab al-nuzul) of this verse was the murder and armed robbery committed by apostates from the Bani `Ukl/`Uraina against the Prophet’s servants.

The punishment of those who wage war against Allah and His Messenger, and strive with might and main for mischief through the land is: execution, or crucifixion, or the cutting off of hands and feet from opposite sides, or exile from the land: that is their disgrace in this world, and a heavy punishment is theirs in the Hereafter.” (5:33)


  • If a person quietly changes his religion because of his personal belief, does she harm anyone else?
  • If a person quietly changes his religion because of his personal belief, can she be said to “wage war against Allah and His Messenger”?
  • What role should the State and syariah authorities play in controlling someone’s personal belief?

Andrew (@drewyong) is an afficionado of the poetry of Dr Seuss and the music of the Muppet Show. In his spare time he seeks to take over the world.

24 replies on “Freedom of Religion in the Holy Qur’an”

  1. i hate malays. biggest hypocrites in the world, and most sensitive people in the world.

  2. I have seen many converts suffer. Alienated from society and to see the offspring having no knowledge of their fathers background. Then they have to face the day to day intimidaion tactics of the politicians who try to score political points out of their grief. The spouse knows that she has the upperhand and has trapped the man and so goes full steam ahead to align the children into her islamic beliefs and malay cultures. It creates enormous disatisfaction and hatred and pain and the politicians keep on tightening the HOOD over and over again around their neck of the unfortunate spouse.It hits a persons ego right smack in the chest when he is forced to convert for the love of a woman.
    I always ask HOW COME theres no recourse for the other party. Look at India and the recent marriage of Saif Ali Khan. There was compulsion of religion on either part Instead they had an Indian wedding.
    We cant go on like this. I remember back in my hometown, a poor Indian family whose father died could hardly fend for themselves. as all job opportunities were for Bumis, the poor mother had to tap rubber to eke out a living. Than the welfare officer came in one day and took the children. The MIC head shut both his eyes. Today all the children are muslims and the siblings have lost contact of each other. HOW can this be .WE ARE A DEMOCRATIC NATION.

  3. I find this whole episode very sad.

    1. News reports can't confirm if she did or did not say freedom of religion is acceptable for Muslims
    2. If she did say it. Did she or did she not mean apostasy?
    3. If she mean apostasy is it or is it not ok?

    Seems like we can't even agree what we're arguing about?

  4. Actually the hypocrites mentioned are mainly to those that are pretending to be muslims and trying to destroy Islam from the inside. during that time and the present

    1. dontbetorational, but the core of many religion, my religion as a christian at least, is the knowledge we are all hypocrites, and offenders of many hideous actions. Christianity dealt with the knowledge that we are hypocrites with our hope and faith that God has forgiven, shown through deeds of Jesus, and Holy Spirit will continue to guide us away from being hypocrites through small acts of love and forgiveness (which at times has not worked, that even our Saint Paul admitted). Apart from Jesus and God's forgiveness, we, Christians, are hypocrites. Apart from the guidance of our Originator, there is nothing that us Christians have done, or could do to carry ourselves forward in the scale our Originator would measure us, especially, in terms of whether we would be accepted. To Muslims, Christian's faith and hope is indeed hypocritical. Without acts and deeds of submission via the 5 pillars, everything that Christian says and does is a lie to ourselves. If my past reading about the Heart of Islam is correct, the 5 pillars of submission is the deeds that will be accepted, irregardless of differences within various Islamic traditions. Doing the act of submission, pretending or not, is the core of religion. That is the struggle that each Muslim has to go through.

      dontbetorational: Christians and Muslims alike would admit at the core we are hypocrites, and that is why we do what we do. If I am not mistaken, many Buddhist tradition carry the same knowledge also.

      dude: Yes, it is sad. In reality, as regards to one's acceptance into the Creator's kingdom, why would what Nurul Izzah says or does not say matter. Reading the text of 4:89, reading a little ahead and after, we will notice that there are various conditions to dictate whether one should exercise 4:89 ( Given that, it is sad that the nation get involved into this discussion, initiated by the forum aptly titled 'Whose Islam'.

      Instead, I question why Muslims of the land would put on additional tax, which they don't impose to themselves, to friendly non-Muslims for more than half a century. The prophet didn't always impose additional tax to non-believers.

      1. Taxes :| ? Actually the Muslims had already pay the zakat, that's why maybe there are additional taxes. Plus, If i'm not mistaken ,there were taxes for the Non-Muslims during the time of the Prophet.

  5. Andrew missed the quote of 4:89, for a fair deeper discussion into this subject matter.

    = But if they (Apostate) turn renegades, seize them and slay them wherever ye find them.

    Existing wikipedia has some good references on this subject matter. A few of us (penumpang Malaysians in US) got to meetup with Zainah Anwar from Sisters-in-Islam last weekend in Silicon Valley. The subject matter of whether we are allowed to re-read the Koran in some of the lighter matter of family affairs became a topic of discussion, and that we realize the nation has to decide individually, and culturally, beyond political means. As a Malaysian Christian living in the US, I am saddened by the fact how Christianity has hurt itself when striving to change society through political means, rather than cultural means.

    Speaking of evangelical work, there is serious discussion on the means and ends of sharing of our Gospel to our Muslim cousins, as we know the harm that would cause, and not to mention God's will in this subject matter. A lot of us Christians are unwilling to learn something from the text we inherited, such as idea expressed in this journal,…. As a people of the Book, we should appreciate the call to be meek and humble and acknowledge the fact that the beginning of our Wisdom is merely knowing God 's love and justice goes beyond what we can phantom. Even the prophet Jonah, which Jesus quoted, has been wrong in hating the Ninevites (enemy of the Jewish nation), as God accepted Nineveh's repentance. (

    On a deeper soul searching note, at times I wonder if my faith would be more sincere, if I had been able to 'submit' willingly, without any peer pressure from Christian friends and family around me. Yet, in reality it doesn't matter. I know it's not because of how I 'submit' that I was chosen, as I know I am still imperfect, as I 'submit'. It's God's grace that I get to live through each day that I still have hope and longing for a better place beyond this world, despite of many flaws that I still struggle with. I know what counts is that faith of hope. That faith on an 'out-of-this-world' hope is what make our life beautiful, amidst chaos and imperfection.

    I commend my Muslim cousin in his/her effort to submit themselves passionately in this subject matter, no matter where one stands on this subject matter. This is 'jihad' as we walk through this life together.

  6. You forgot this is in Malaysia where whatever is taught is Islam does not apply or interpret accordingly here !
    In Malaysia one can even call on Allah to be your witness that you have never met the mongolian beauty, elsewhere a muslim cannot just swear in the name of Allah to be your witness to your behavior.

  7. It is erroneous to say that I'm a Socialist, but I don't really understand Socialism.

    I will just leave it to the party officials who are more knowledgeable than I am to define and decide what Socialism and how it should be run, and I shall give the party my vote, decision-making powers, make my life choices for me and prosecution powers over me without taking time to understand, reflect, and give my opinion on how I want to be regulated in society. To just follow blindly without questioning, like a cow led with a leash through a nose ring.

    If you choose to subscribe to a particular theological concept, in this case Islam, it is your duty to "Iqra bismirakbikallaziholaq" [96:1] Read in the name of your Lord and understand it yourself.

    It's nice to have someone appointed to regulate the system but it is run by humans with human failings, and therefore prone to err. Since they are appointed by men they are subject and accountable to other fellow Muslims and should have an open mind to constructive criticism.

    In this case, it concerns regulations pertaining to freedom of religion, and the ridiculous procedures imposed on non-Muslims who just happened to be categorized as a Muslim on a piece of paper.

    I suggest you read this ->

    Ask yourself, is this what Islam is all about?

  8. Many many many people do not agree with what Nurul said but I truly understand what she is trying to say. In this country, you are taught in school "tiada paksaan di dalam Islam" yet the Islamic enforcers bug my non Muslim friends (who look Malay) during Ramadhan every year, yet they force non Muslims to become Muslims in order to marry a Muslim. They fail to realise the rules apply differently in the holy Quran. To Malays in this country, Malay = Islam. Malay is a race while Islam is a beautiful religion. Asal ada je org bukan Melayu yang masuk Islam, they think that person masuk Melayu.
    Wake up, Malays. Open your eyes. Read the holy Quran. Stop living within your man made rules.

    1. NURUL was trying to say this to win some non Malay votes, while, abandoning some Malay votes. I don;t think you understand this my dear Anonymous. Politics is all about how to influence people using the sentiments of emotion.

  9. If we all kept quiet, we would be giving more power to it. If she didn't bring this up, we would not be talking about this now. Props to you, NURUL!!!

    Good article.

    1. sigh….recipe for 'destruction' ala oppa politic style.

      the ideal people to even talk about this topic should come from those ulama & ustaz mouth. Coming from a politician mouth??? Gosh….is like asking a cook to handle explosives

      1. Actually we need to take responsibility to understand and interpret what the word of God means to each of US. God wanted us to decide and believe for ourselves, The current state of affairs is BECAUSE others interpret ( to their advantage). Of course those with vested interest ( losing their grip and power on the followers) may interpret to favour themselves. This has been seen over and over and over in all religions and all civilizations. They are only human after all. What do the verses above mean to you?. For if you are asked on judgement day as to your beliefs, you cant say …my ulama told me so!…

  10. I assumed this article was written due to the NURUL IZZAH's recent statement of which is making big waves in the media. From my point of view, regardless whether NURUL's statement had been brought out of context or otherwise….politicians should refrain from bringing religion matters into politics especially when religion & race matters are so sensitive in this country. NURUL should have spoken on other things rather than a mere uncalled for topic of 'Religion Compulsion'. Had NURUL been running out of topic to talk or what knowing very well BN controlled media are always ever-ready to spin whatever that comes out from her mouth. This lady should had been a little wiser & that's to refrain from touching anything near religion. She should have just leave that kind of topics to PAS instead. Trying to be smart when she shouldn't is a sure "NO, NO". Her statements are likened to playing fire with a match stick although knowing very well she is handling the fire of the matchstick in the correct manner but rivals would be fast to say she's showing a bad example by instigating people to play with fire with matches of which would cause hazard. Time to wise-up, NURUL!!!

    1. absolutely right… i share the same opinion. Religion is one area besides being multiple…. has no end when it comes to debate and a hundred people can easily have a thousand version of whats right, and wrong and what nots. Besides…. there is always PAS or MAIS to look into these matters. Althought personally …. I do not know which is better an unbeliever or a hyprocrite…. I would rather have these addressed by the knowledgeable authorities rather than have a definition of my own. This a little a kin to abortion issue in the western world…. agree and face the anger of hald the pupulation, and diasgree and also face the anger of the other half of population…. go fugure. Cheers…


      UMNO has for 55 years used race and religion to control and divide and rule both Malays and Non-Malays under its supremacist aparttheid system.

      Part of the problem was that the departing British rulers muddied the water by installing a semi-feudal apartheid class system in 1957. This was later imposed on Sabah and Sarawak in 1963 with the slightly revamped "Malaysian constitution".

      All bush lawyers should check out this anti human rights document and see how they amended and tacked a couple of clauses to the "constituion" to annex Sabah and Sarawak territory as the 13th and 14th states of Malaya.

      These are comments posted in Hornbill Unleashed:


      Currently there is a national debate sparked off by PKR Nurul’s comments on the issue of freedom and human rights under the Constitution.

      There have been open debates on many other issues since the new millenium and the internet but this one has never happened in the history of Malaya or Malaysia.

      This happening in the context that a Malay has directly challenged a tabooed subject – the freedom of everyone including Malays choose their own religion. This also challenges the restrictions on our democratic freedoms and human rights placed on citizens by the Malayan/M’sian Constitution and host of repressive laws.

      This debate while over due seems to be creating a risky situation for the opposition as it can cause an adverse reaction against them from Malays who have not decided to go against UMNO. UMNO will exploit this issue to the fullest extent.

      On the other hand it questions and challenges UMNO’s monopoly of using religion as an emotional issue to blackmail and control the Malays and non-Malays.

      However, despite the risks this debate is nevertheless of the greatest importance in Malayan/M’sian constitutional history because the public is actually engaged on this special issue as never before.

      The Malayan Constitution was drafted by the British in 1957 and simply amended to incorporate Sabah and Sarawak 1964 (not 1963) despite a stipulation that a new constitution was to be drafted in the 18/20 Points Agreement.

      The debate is timely to highlight our unique and superior Sarawak constitution where the Rajah of Sarawak promised in 1941 on the Centenary of Brooke Rule to resign and let the people rule.

      Sarawak as an independent country from 1841 to 1941 has its own very unique and more democratic Constitution promulgated on the eve of Japanese invasion. That invasion unfortunately stalled the Sarawak nation evolving further on basis of this constitution. Sarawak with Sabah became a British colony in 1946 and then annexed into Malaysia as Malayan colonies in 1963.

      Sorry Malayan friends, the use of the words “Malayan colony” is not intended to offend anyone but to describe the real colonial relationship with Malaya.

      There are many Malayan progressives who believe by twigging the system such as “giving them” 20% oil royalty and other “concessions” would appease Sabahans and Sarawakians’ demands for real independence and preserve the concept of Malaysia- despite its colonial nature. Forget about our terms and conditions in the 18/20 Points Agreement.

      If you did not know, the oil belonged to us in the first place. This is on Sabah and Sarawak territory. It is a an extremely condescending attitude which we have to put up with for 49 years not to mention the grand theft of our oil to develop Malaya and enrich all the UMNO elites and cronies and puppets.

      If you are interested in the history there are 2 pre-Malaysia Sarawak documents you need to familiar yourself with as these will constantly come up in discussions. There are the Sarawak 9 Cardinal Principles (in the preamble of our Sarawak Constitution) and the 18 Points Agreement with Malaya prior to forming Malaysia in 1963.

      This is the link to discussions on the subject:

      It is important that we all should join in and broaden the debate to question the relevance of the Constitution as our right to do so.

      Sarawak Nationalist

      1. Further comments form HornbillUnleashed



        Nine Cardinal Principles of the rule of the English Rajah
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        The Nine Cardinal Principles of the rule of the English Rajah is the Preamble of the Sarawak Constitution 1941, the document setting forth the Sarawak Constitution 1941 opened by enunciating the Cardinal Principle were edict by Charles Vyner Brooke, the White Rajah of Sarawak on 24 September 1941 known as the Nine Cardinal Principles of the rule of the White Rajah later adopted into the Nine Cardinal Principles of the rule of the English Rajah,[1] these were;

        1. That Sarawak is the heritage of Our Subjects and is held in trust by Ourselves for them.

        2. That social and education services shall be developed and improved and the standard of living of the people of Sarawak shall steadily be raised.

        3. That never shall any person or persons be granted rights inconsistent with those of the people of this country or be in any way permitted to exploit Our Subjects or those who have sought Our protection and care.

        4. That justice shall be freely obtainable and that the Rajah and every public servant shall be easily accessible to the public.

        5. That freedom of expression both in speech and in writing shall be permitted and encouraged and that everyone shall be entitled to worship as he pleases.

        6. That public servants shall ever remember that they are but the servants of the people on whose goodwill and co-operation they are entirely dependent.

        7. That so far as may be Our Subjects of whatever race or creed shall be freely and impartially admitted to offices in Our Service, the duties of which they may be qualified by their education, ability and integrity duly to discharge.

        8. That the goal of self-government shall always be kept in mind, that the people of Sarawak shall be entrusted in due course with the governance of themselves, and that continuous efforts shall be made to hasten the reaching of this goal by educating them in the obligations, the responsibilities, and the privileges of citizenship.

        9. That the general policy of Our predecessors and Ourselves whereby the various races of the State have been enabled to live in happiness and harmony together shall be adhered to by Our successors and Our servants and all who may follow them hereafter.







        Comment by ORANG2BANGKIT — November 14, 2012 @ 3:14 PM | Reply


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