Contextualizing Qur’an 2:62: Does It Advocate for Religious Pluralism?

Over the years, the following verse has been misused by some figures to suggest that Islam does not require others to adopt it as a religion and people can suffice with merely believing in Allah, the Day of Judgment, and doing good deeds:

إِنَّ ٱلَّذِینَ ءَامَنُوا۟ وَٱلَّذِینَ هَادُوا۟ وَٱلنَّصَـٰرَىٰ وَٱلصَّـٰبِـِٔینَ مَنۡ ءَامَنَ بِٱللَّهِ وَٱلۡیَوۡمِ ٱلۡـَٔاخِرِ وَعَمِلَ صَـٰلِحࣰا فَلَهُمۡ أَجۡرُهُمۡ عِندَ رَبِّهِمۡ وَلَا خَوۡفٌ عَلَیۡهِمۡ وَلَا هُمۡ یَحۡزَنُونَ

“The [Muslim] believers, the Jews, the Christians, and the Sabians- all those who believe in God and the Last Day and do good- will have their rewards with their Lord. No fear for them, nor will they grieve.”

[Qur’an 2:62]

I want to quickly address this because it recently caused controversy again when a popular figure in the Muslim world used this as evidence to make this false claim. It is a grave misrepresentation of the verse and how Muslim scholars from the dawn of Islam understood this verse. Historically, we can divide them into two broad categories:

1 – Those who say that this verse was abrogated

They argue that this was in the early part of Islam and that later Allah made it explicitly clear that He will not accept any religion other than Islam. They say that the following verse abrogated this verse:

وَمَن يَبْتَغِ غَيْرَ الإسْلامِ دِينًا فَلَنْ يُقْبَلَ مِنهُ

“Whoever seeks a way other than Islam, it will never be accepted from them.”

[Qur’an 3:85]

This view is attributed to the companion Ibn Abbas and a number of scholars of tafsir.

2 – Those who say that this verse is not abrogated

They argue that it is in reference to those folks who existed before the arrival of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ. This is made even more clear due to the reason behind the revelation of this verse, which was sent down when Salman al-Farsi asked the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ about the fate of some of his Christian teachers, who used to engage in fasting, prayer, worship, and testify that a prophet would soon be sent, but died before he ﷺ was given the message. Salman told the Prophet ﷺ that, “If they had encountered you, they would have believed in you and followed you.” In reply to this question, Allah sent down this verse. In fact, it is reported that the Prophet ﷺ told Salman al-Farsi, “This verse came down about your companions. Whoever dies following the religion of Jesus before hearing about me will be in a good state, and whoever hears about me and does not believe in me will perish.” [Mawsoo’ah al-Tafseer]

This explicitly makes it evident that this verse is about those righteous people who existed before the advent of the last Prophet ﷺ.

Imam Al-Wahidi said in his tafsir Al-Wajeez about this verse, “The evidence has been established that whoever does not believe in Muhammad ﷺ, his deeds will not be [considered] good.”

Ibn Jawzi’s Zaad al-Maseer is one of the best books which collects different views on verses throughout the whole Qur’an. Under the section related to this verse, he mentions five opinions that have been held historically on the verse and none of them pertain to religious pluralism. These five views are as follows:

  1. They are a people who believed in Jesus before the sending of Muhammad ﷺ.
  2. They are a people who believed in Moses and acted according to his law until the coming of Jesus. Then they believed in him and acted according to his law until the coming of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ.
  3. They are the hypocrites [i.e. they embraced true faith sincerely after being fake believers].
  4. They are those who used to seek Islam [before the coming of Muhammad ﷺ]. Examples include Buhaira, Waraqah Ibn Nawfal, Salman al-Farsi, etc.
  5. They are the believers of this nation.

As we can see from the above, it is a grave mistake to understand this verse outside of the above points. Think about it, if Christianity and Judaism suffice, then why would Allah send down so many verse criticizing the trinity, Jewish rejection of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ, explicitly calling Islam the ‘true religion’, attributing true belief to those who believe in all of the prophets and not just some, etc.

May Allah keep us all on the firm path which is straight without any crookedness.

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