Religious conversion

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Conversion of Ghazan. Ghazan was born and raised as a Christian, studied Buddhism, and converted to Islam upon accession to the throne. Illustration from: "World History", Rachid Ad-Din, 14th century.

Religious conversion is the adoption of a set of beliefs identified with one particular religious denomination to the exclusion of others.

Quotes[edit]

  • If it is meant by the statement that the form of religion is something permanent and unchangeable, then it cannot be accepted. But if religion here means one's way of communion with the Divine, then it is true that that is something belonging to the inner being and cannot be changed like a house or a cloak for the sake of some personal, social or worldly convenience. If a change is to be made, it can only be for an inner spiritual reason, because of some development from within. No one can be bound to any form of religion or any particular creed or system, but if he changes the one he has accepted for another, for external reasons, that means he has inwardly no religion at all and both his old and his new religion are only an empty formula. At bottom that is I suppose what the statement drives at. Preference for a different approach to the Truth or the desire of inner spiritual self-expression are not the motives of the recommendation of change to which objection is made by the Mahatma here; the object proposed [by Dr. Ambedkar] is an enhancement of social status and consideration which is no more a spiritual motive than conversion for the sake of money or marriage. If a man has no religion in himself, he can change his credal profession for any motive; if he has, he cannot; he can only change it in response to an inner spiritual need. If a man has a bhakti for the Divine in the form of Krishna, he can't very well say, ...I will swap Krishna for Christ so that I may become socially respectable.
    • Sri Aurobindo commenting on the following statement of Gandhi in response to a call by Dr. Ambedkar for mass conversions among the depressed classes: 'But religion is not like a house or a cloak which can be changed at will. It is more an integral part of one's self than of one's body. Religion is the tie that binds one to one's Creator, and while the body perishes as it has to, religion persists even after that.'
    • Sri Aurobindo, October 19, 1935, quoted from Sri Aurobindo, ., Nahar, S., Aurobindo, ., & Institut de recherches évolutives (Paris). India's rebirth: A selection from Sri Aurobindo's writing, talks and speeches. Paris: Institut de Recherches Evolutives. 3rd Edition (2000). [1]
  • ...it is the duty of those who have accepted them [Allah's word and message] to strive unceasingly to convert or at least to subjugate those who have not. This obligation is without limit of time or space. It must continue until the whole world has either accepted the Islamic faith or submitted to the power of the Islamic state.
  • During my travels, I find a general belief that to turn a Christian is to turn European; to become self-willed, and give up self-restraint, use only foreign cloth, dress oneself in European style and start taking meat and brandy. But I think the fact is, if a person discards his country, his customs and his old connections and manners when he changes his religion, he becomes all the more unfit to gain a knowledge of God. For, a change of religion means really a conversion of the heart. When there is a real conversion, a man’s heart grows. But in this country one finds that conversion brings about deep disdain for one’s old religion and its followers, i.e., one’s old friends and relatives. The next change that takes place is that of dress and manners and behaviour. All that does great harm to the country.
    • Mahatma Gandhi in Mahadev Desai, Day-to-Day with Gandhi,Volume 7, Varanasi, 1969, as quoted in Goel, S.R. History of Hindu-Christian Encounters (1996)
  • If I had power and could legislate, I should certainly stop all proselytising. It is the cause of much avoidable conflict between classes and unnecessary heart-burning among the missionaries… In Hindu households the advent of a missionary has meant the disruption of the family coming in the wake of change of dress, manners, language, food and drink. … The other day a missionary descended on a famine area with money in his pocket, distributed it among the famine-stricken, converted them to his fold, took charge of their temple and demolished it. This is outrageous. The temple could not belong to the converted, and it could not belong to the Christian missionary. But this friend goes and gets it demolished at the hands of the very men who only a little while ago believed that God was there.
    • Mahatma Gandhi The Collected Works Volume 61, Ahmedabad, 1975, p, 46-57. As quoted in Goel, S.R. History of Hindu-Christian Encounters (1996)
  • Conversion in the sense of self-purification, self-realization, is the crying need of the hour. That, however, is not what is meant by proselytising. To those who would convert India, might it not be said, ‘physician heal thyself’?
    • Mahatma Gandhi The Collected Works Volume 46, New Delhi, 1971, pp. 28-29. As quoted in Goel, S.R. History of Hindu-Christian Encounters (1996)
  • It is no use trying to fight these forces [of materialism] without giving up the idea of conversion, which I assure you is the deadliest poison which ever sapped the fountain of truth.
    • Mahatma Gandhi The Collected Works Vol 46, p. 203. As quoted in Goel, S.R. History of Hindu-Christian Encounters (1996)
  • In my opinion, they are not examples of real conversion. If a person through fear, compulsion, starvation or for material gain or consideration goes over to another faith, it is a misnomer to call it conversion. Most cases of mass conversion, of which we have heard so much during the past two years, have been to my mind false coin… I would, therefore, unhesitatingly re-admit to the Hindu fold all such repentants without much ado, certainly without any shuddhi... And as I believe in the equality of all the great religions of the earth, I regard no man as polluted because he has forsaken the branch on which he was sitting and gone over to another of the same tree. If he comes to the original branch, he deserves to be welcomed and not told that he had committed sin by reason of his having forsaken the family to which he belonged. In so far as he may be deemed to have erred, he has sufficiently purged himself of it when he repents of the error and retraces his step.
    • Mahatma Gandhi, The Collected Works Volume 66, New Delhi, 1976, pp. 163-64. As quoted in Goel, S.R. History of Hindu-Christian Encounters (1996)
  • It [Islam] has had a calamitous effect on converted peoples. To be converted you have to destroy your past, destroy your history. You have to stamp on it, you have to say 'my ancestral culture does not exist, it doesn't matter'... This abolition of the self demanded by Muslims was worse than the similar colonial abolition of identity. It is much, much worse in fact... You cannot just say you came out of nothing.
  • Conversion from one faith to another is both psychologically undesirable and logically unwarranted.
    • Dr. S. Radha Krishnan in Religious Conversions in India Brojendra Nath Banerjee, 1982 in Religious Truth and the Relation Between Religions , David Gnanaprakasam Moses

Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895)[edit]

Quotes reported in Josiah Hotchkiss Gilbert, Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895).
  • This is always the way in which the reality of Christian conversion evidences itself. It makes the selfish man charitable: the churlish, liberal; and implants in the soul, which hitherto has cared only for the things belonging to himself, a disposition to seek also the things of others.
  • In every sound convert the judgment is brought to approve of the laws and ways of Christ, and subscribe to them as most righteous and reasonable; the desire of the heart is to know the whole mind of Christ; the free and resolved choice of the heart is determined for the ways of Christ, before all the pleasures of sin, and prosperities of the world; it is the daily care of his life to walk with God.
  • Conversion by the Holy Spirit is a spiritual illumination of the soul. God's grace lights up the dark heart. And when a man has once been kindled at the cross of Christ, he is bound to shine.
  • "Follow me!" The publican "rose up." This implies immediate action. It was now or never with him. So you must act with prompt obedience. He did the first thing Jesus bade him do. Are you willing to do as much? If not, you are deciding against Christ, and that means death.
  • Every man or woman who turns to Christ must bear in mind that they are breaking with their old master, and enlisting under a new leader. Conversion is a revolutionary process.
  • Conversion is the act of joining our hands to the pierced hand of the crucified Saviour. The new life begins with the taking of Christ's hand, and His taking hold, in infinite love, of our weak hands.
  • A man to be converted has to give up his will, his ways, and his thoughts.
  • The time when I was converted was when religion became no longer a duty, but a pleasure.
  • Conversion is not, as some suppose, a violent opening of the heart by grace, in which will, reason, and judgment are all ignored or crushed. The reason is not blinded, but enlightened; and the whole man is made to act with a glorious liberty which it never knew till it fell under the restraints of grace.
  • My observation continues to confirm me more and more in the opinion, that to experience religion is to experience the truth of the great doctrines of Divine grace.
  • You cannot find, I believe, a case in the Bible where a man is converted without God's calling in some human agency — using some human instrument.

Quran[edit]

  • Quran (8:38-39) - “Say to those who have disbelieved, if they cease (from disbelief) their past will be forgiven... And fight them until there is no more Fitnah (disbelief and polytheism: i.e. worshipping others besides Allah) and the religion (worship) will all be for Allah Alone [in the whole of the world ]. But if they cease (worshipping others besides Allah), then certainly, Allah is All-Seer of what they do.”
  • Quran (9:5) "But when the forbidden months are past, then fight and slay the Pagans wherever ye find them, and seize them, beleaguer them, and lie in wait for them in every stratagem (of war); but if they repent, and establish regular prayers and practice regular charity, then open the way for them..."

Hadith and other Islamic texts[edit]

  • Sahih Muslim (1:33) The Messenger of Allah said: "I have been commanded to fight against people till they testify that there is no god but Allah, that Muhammad is the messenger of Allah, and they establish prayer and pay zakat."
  • Sahih Muslim (19:4294) - "When you meet your enemies who are polytheists (which includes Christians), invite them to three courses of action. If they respond to any one of these, you also accept it and withhold yourself from doing them any harm. Invite them to (accept) Islam; if they respond to you, accept it from them and desist from fighting against them ... If they refuse to accept Islam, demand from them the Jizya. If they agree to pay, accept it from them and hold off your hands. If they refuse to pay the tax, seek Allah's help and fight them"
  • Sahih Bukhari (84:59) - "Allah's Apostle said, 'I have been ordered to fight the people till they say: 'None has the right to be worshipped but Allah.' And if they say so, pray like our prayers, face our Qibla and slaughter as we slaughter, then their blood and property will be sacred to us and we will not interfere with them except legally and their reckoning will be with Allah.'"
  • Sahih Bukhari (53:392) - "While we were in the Mosque, the Prophet came out and said, "Let us go to the Jews" We went out till we reached Bait-ul-Midras. He said to them, "If you embrace Islam, you will be safe. You should know that the earth belongs to Allah and His Apostle, and I want to expel you from this land. So, if anyone amongst you owns some property, he is permitted to sell it, otherwise you should know that the Earth belongs to Allah and His Apostle."
  • Sahih Bukhari (2:24) - "Allah's Apostle said: "I have been ordered (by Allah) to fight against the people until they testify that none has the right to be worshipped but Allah and that Muhammad is Allah's Apostle, and offer the prayers perfectly and give the obligatory charity, so if they perform a that, then they save their lives and property from me except for Islamic laws and then their reckoning (accounts) will be done by Allah."
  • Sahih Bukhari (59:643) - One day while he was using them (i.e. arrows of divination), Jarir stopped there and said to him, "Break them (i.e. the arrows) and testify that None has the right to be worshipped except Allah, or else I will chop off your neck." So the man broke those arrows and testified that none has the right to be worshipped except Allah
  • Narrated Abu Huraira: The Verse:--"You (true Muslims) are the best of peoples ever raised up for mankind." (3:110) means, the best of peoples for the people, as you bring them with chains on their necks till they embrace Islam.
    • Sahih Bukhari 6:60:80
  • Narrated Anas bin Malik: Allah's Apostle said, "I have been ordered to fight the people till they say: 'None has the right to be worshipped but Allah.' And if they say so, pray like our prayers, face our Qibla and slaughter as we slaughter, then their blood and property will be sacred to us and we will not interfere with them except legally and their reckoning will be with Allah." Narrated Maimun ibn Siyah that he asked Anas bin Malik, "O Abu Hamza! What makes the life (دَمَ) and property of a person sacred?" He replied, "Whoever says, 'None has the right to be worshipped but Allah', faces our Qibla during the prayers, prays like us and eats our slaughtered animal, then he is a Muslim, and has got the same rights and obligations as other Muslims have."
    • Sahih Bukhari 1:8:387
  • Narrated Qais: Jarir said "Allah's Apostle said to me, "Won't you relieve me from Dhul-Khalasa?" I replied, "Yes, (I will relieve you)." So I proceeded along with one-hundred and fifty cavalry from Ahmas tribe who were skillful in riding horses. I used not to sit firm over horses, so I informed the Prophet of that, and he stroke my chest with his hand till I saw the marks of his hand over my chest and he said, O Allah! Make him firm and one who guides others and is guided (on the right path).' Since then I have never fallen from a horse. Dhul-l--Khulasa was a house in Yemen belonging to the tribe of Khatham and Bajaila, and in it there were idols which were worshipped, and it was called Al-Ka'ba." Jarir went there, burnt it with fire and dismantled it. When Jarir reached Yemen, there was a man who used to foretell and give good omens by casting arrows of divination. Someone said to him. "The messenger of Allah's Apostle is present here and if he should get hold of you, he would chop off your neck." One day while he was using them (i.e. arrows of divination), Jarir stopped there and said to him, "Break them (i.e. the arrows) and testify that None has the right to be worshipped except Allah, or else I will chop off your neck." So the man broke those arrows and testified that none has the right to be worshipped except Allah. Then Jarir sent a man called Abu Artata from the tribe of Ahmas to the Prophet to convey the good news (of destroying Dhu-l-Khalasa). So when the messenger reached the Prophet, he said, "O Allah's Apostle! By Him Who sent you with the Truth, I did not leave it till it was like a scabby camel." Then the Prophet blessed the horses of Ahmas and their men five times.
    • Sahih Bukhari 5:59:643
  • Allah says: "There is no compulsion in religion", meaning: do not force anyone to embrace Islam, because it is clear and its proofs and evidences are manifest. Whoever Allah guides and opens his heart to Islam has indeed embraced it with clear evidence. Whoever Allah misguides blinds his heart and has set a seal on his hearing and a covering on his eyes cannot embrace Islam by force...hence Allah revealed this verse. But, this verse is abrogated by the verse of "fighting...Therefore, all people of the world should be called to Islam. If anyone of them refuses to do so, or refuses to pay the Jizya they should be fought till they are killed. This is the meaning of compulsion. In the Sahih, the Prophet said: "Allah wonders at those people who will enter Paradise in chains", meaning prisoners brought in chains to the Islamic state, then they embrace Islam sincerely and become righteous, and are entered among the people of Paradise.[9]
    • Tafsir of Ibn Kathir, Al-Firdous Ltd., London, 1999: First Edition, Part 3, pp. 37-38. Tafsir of Ibn Kathir, Surah Al-Baqarah, ayat 253 to 286, Surah Al-Imran, ayat 1 to 92, abridged by Sheikh Muhammad Nasib Ar-Rafa‘i [Al-Firdous Ltd., London, 1999: First Edition], Part 3, pp. 37-38

External links[edit]

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