There is lots of compulsion in the Koran and within Sura 2, home of the famous verse 2:256 and the most quoted Koranic statement and sentence fragement, 'Let there be no compulsion in religion'. But what does this fragment mean in the context of a Sura in which 44 verses or some 15% of the chapter is entirely coercion, compulsive, supremacist and adjures violence against non-Moslems? Does one sentence fragment erase 44 verses of intolerance? Any objective thinker would say no it can't. Further what is the context of this much quoted fragment ?
2:256 Hilali Khan: There is no compulsion in religion. Verily, the Right Path has become distinct from the wrong path. Whoever disbelieves in Taghut and believes in Allah, then he has grasped the most trustworthy handhold that will never break. And Allah is All-Hearer, All-Knower.
2:256 Yusuf Ali: Let there be no compulsion in religion: Truth stands out clear from Error: whoever rejects evil and believes in God hath grasped the most trustworthy hand-hold, that never breaks. And God heareth and knoweth all things.
But keep reading:
2:257 Hilali Khan: Allah is the Wali (Protector or Guardian) of those who believe. He brings them out from darkness into light. But as for those who disbelieve, their Auliya (supporters and helpers) are Taghut [false deities and false leaders, etc.], they bring them out from light into darkness. Those are the dwellers of the Fire, and they will abide therein forever.
2:257 Yusuf Ali: God is the Protector of those who have faith: from the depths of darkness He will lead them forth into light. Of those who reject faith the patrons are the evil ones: from light they will lead them forth into the depths of darkness. They will be companions of the fire, to dwell therein (For ever).
257 makes the intent of 256 rather clear. There is indeed no compulsion in religion or with regards to Moslems and Islam. This is because Islam is clearly 'right' and the 'right path' or Sharia . Those who believe will go to paradise . Those who reject Islam will go to hell , 'Those are the dwellers of the Fire', 'They will be the companions of the Fire' . There is always a qualification in the Koran. One should never forget this. What Sura 256 is really saying is the following:
-Islam is so pure and so righteous that any intelligent and 'good' human will naturally embrace it. There is thus no need for coercion to force those who can 'see' into the Moslem cult.
-The Allah, wrongly conflated with God, will lead the good and pious human to Islam and 'into the light', meaning an after-life full of splendid pleasures [at least for Moslem males].
-Because the Allah thing is 'leading' people to paradise there is no need to compulse and force them, they should follow the Allah cult of their own volition [but keep in mind that Allah controls all and is the only free-will force in the universe, so he will lead some astray and damn them anyways....]
-Allah will punish those who reject Islam with hellfire and damnation. This is a certainty. So if someone does not want to follow the Allah cult leave him be. His demise is assured. This is especially true if the Moslem or the cult is weak or surrounded by Infidels.
256 is thus a sentence fragment with many meanings and juxtaposed by lurid calls for Jihad, war, and the extermination of non-Moslems. It cannot and should not be taken out of context. As well it is clearly supremacist. Islam is the only path to the light and paradise. All other theological choices will result in your damnation. In this vein the pious Moslem must fight for Allah:
2:216: Jihad (holy fighting in Allah's Cause) is ordained for you (Muslims) though you dislike it, and it may be that you dislike a thing which is good for you and that you like a thing which is bad for you. Allah knows but you do not know.
2:217: They ask you concerning fighting in the Sacred Months (i.e. 1st, 7th, 11th and 12th months of the Islamic calendar). Say, "Fighting therein is a great (transgression) but a greater (transgression) with Allah is to prevent mankind from following the Way of Allah, to disbelieve in Him, to prevent access to Al-Masjid-al-Haram (at Makkah), and to drive out its inhabitants, and Al-Fitnah is worse than killing. And they will never cease fighting you until they turn you back from your religion (Islamic Monotheism) if they can. And whosoever of you turns back from his religion and dies as a disbeliever, then his deeds will be lost in this life and in the Hereafter, and they will be the dwellers of the Fire. They will abide therein forever."
The above seems rather coercive. Sura 2 must in other words be read in its entirety to understand exactly what is expected of Moslems vis a vis non-Moslems.
Most people who have studied the Koran would agree with the above. On September 28 2004, expert Daniel Pipes wrote the following about Sura 2:
In fact, this deceptively simple phrase historically has had a myriad of meanings. Here are some of them, mostly premodern, deriving from two outstanding recent books, Patricia Crone's God's Rule: Government and Islam (Columbia University Press) and Yohanan Friedman's Tolerance and Coercion in Islam (Cambridge University Press), augmented by my own research. Proceeding from least liberal to most liberal, the no-compulsion phrase is considered variously to have been:
All of the above is true. But it is even simpler than the list given above. The explanation is this. Allah has chosen Moslems to rule the world and be rewarded with pious effort with a resplendent after-life. Moslems do not need be coerced into competing theologies since they are inferior. Likewise, since Allah rules and governs all humans, actions, thoughts, deeds, and manages all events, including those whom he allows to convert to Islam, there is no need for the average Moslem to compulse someone to join. Allah will do it. This is one of the main themes of course of the Koran. Allah knows all. Allah rules over all. If he wants you to join his cult, he will simply 'lead' you to the light of Islam. The explanation of this verse is really that simple.