Freedom was a basic standard upon which the Islamic State (during the lifetime of the Prophet and rightly-guided Caliphs) was established. It was the responsibility of the Islamic government to ensure all types of freedoms for all people, as long as such freedoms do not contradict the teachings of the Holy Quran and the Sunnah of the beloved Prophet (PBUH).
While Islam gave people the right to choose their own Religion – a freedom, which was not in those times ensured to the citizens of non-Muslim nations – it invited individuals to attain and secure the most vital freedom of all: It encouraged them to release their own selves from the shackles of slavery to all people, and be the true slaves of their True Lord by worshipping Him sincerely.
By ransoming oneself from the chains of polytheism, one not any longer concerns about pleasing others, causing them to be angry, winning respect and gratitude of others or achieving their love.
By freeing oneself from polytheism, he starts loving his True Lord and pleasing Him. Even any true Muslim or believer attempts to please any of his Muslim fellows, he does so particularly intending to please Allah (SWT), as a result he perceives, for example, that his Lord orders him to be kind and gentle to others.
The Islamic concept of freedom is frequently confused with some other concepts, like the mutual consultation, justice, equality, and mercy. It is due to each of these concepts – which are especially encouraged by Islam- cannot be recognized and achieved without the existence of freedom.
This vital standard of freedom assisted the rightly-guided Caliphs in spreading Islam. When the True Religion, Islam prevailed to neighboring lands of Arabian Peninsula, the individuals of such lands were amazed to witness the standard to which this True Religion respects human kinds and secures their freedom. Therefore, it was not difficult to satisfy them to quit their false religion and to embrace in its place the True Religion of Islam.
The Islamic State was established on the basis of equality, justice, and freedom, on the other hand, the two main superpowers of that time – the Roman and Persian Empires – were founded on the principles of tyranny, oppression and barbarism. The individuals in such lands were politically considered refugees and religiously weak and minorities; they forcibly endured all types of tyranny and persecutions of such Empires.
For instance, the Roman Empire forced the supporters of the Yaqubi sect – particularly those who lived in Egypt and Syria and their surrounding areas – to become followers of the Milkani sect, which was formally promoted sect of the existing state.
In such non-Muslim countries, it was common for religious minorities to face persecutions, and though some of them were killed for their beliefs. Many people were burned alive due to their Faith, while others were put into bags that were also filled with sand, then were cast into the depths of the sea. Such methods of barbarism were used by rulers and leaders of the Roman Empire.
As for the Persian Empire, with the long passage of its existence, their rulers were also known for their barbarism and oppression in persecuting the adherents of divinely-revealed Religions, exclusively Christians.
On the contrary, in the Islamic State, the situation was totally opposite: All people were treated equally and given all of their due rights, because of which they were able to believe and follow the Religion of their own choice.
Therefore, Islam does not allow the states established on its principles or any Muslim to force non-Muslims to embrace this True Religion. Allah (SWT) says in His Noble Book:
“There is no compulsion in religion. Verily, the Right Path has become distinct from the wrong path.” (Al-Baqarah 2:256).
In fact, the above-mentioned verse confirms, that Muslims are commanded to allow people to decide for themselves what Religion they want to follow and that is the reality of Islam.
The religion Islam is plain and clear, and its proofs and evidence are plain and clear too. Therefore, there is no need to force anyone to embrace Islam. Rather, whoever Allah directs to Islam, opens his heart for it and enlightens his mind, will embrace Islam with certainty. Whoever Allah blinds his heart and seals his hearing and sight, then he will not benefit from being forced to embrace Islam.