I have a question regarding the inheritance of Islam through the father. As I have read in the Quran, religion is not supposed to be compulsory (2:256) and it is haram to force religion on another human being. Many Islamic scholars also stress the importance of God-given freedom of choice and autonomy, even in matters concerning choosing one’s religion. Thus, it seems somewhat contradictory to me that Islam is passed down from the father to the children and if the child then chooses to refute Islam, they are considered an apostate (from my understanding). How is this now compulsion of religion and therefore, how can this be considered Islamic when the Quran directly prohibits compulsion? I would like to know where this practice of passing down the religion came from and whether it is laid out in the Quran, Sunnah, Hadith, etc? I am unable to find this out but would really like an answer to this question as it has truly been perplexing me!
Thank you in advance for your time in answering my question!
Islam, in its generic meaning, is in fact in the heart of any human being as we read in the Qur’an (30:30) that “surrendering to one God” is in the nature of people. From this perspective it is not wrong to say that every newborn is Muslim and that only later he/she might choose not to remain in the path of surrendering to the Almighty.
However, Islam in its specific meaning, that is, the specific set of rules and worships that have been promoted by the last messenger of God, is in no way inherited. It is, of course, normal that everyone who is born in a family initially is considered and does adopt the faith of that family. A new born in a Muslim family is called Muslim just as a new born in a Christian family is called Christian.
Every individual however has a chance to do a research within the limitations of his own capacity and then decide whether he would like to be associated with the faith of his family or if he considers another faith or belief to be closer to the truth.
As for a person becoming apostate if he decides to choose another faith or belief, this practically has little implications at our time. The concept of apostasy was a serious one at the time of the Prophet (pbuh). Even a short time after him when, as the result of the divine support, the fact that Islam was the true religion of God was so obvious and manifested to the direct addressees of the Prophet (pbuh) and his followers that the only reason one (among the direct addressees) would reject it was his/her own arrogance (rather than not being convinced). Arrogance, that causes a person rejecting the truth despite knowing that it is the truth, is the main reason that can lead some one to hell (39:60).
Moreover at that time there were people (from among People of Book) who would scheme to accept Islam (using the terminology of the Qur’an 3:72) in the morning and then reject it at the end of the day only to damage the reputation of Islam and Muslims. There were also those who (as explained in the above paragraph) would leave Islam because of arrogance rather than finding a more convincing faith. As such, they earned themselves the punishment of the Almighty both in this world and the hereafter.
Recognising and reacting (as appropriate) to each of the above cases was important at the early stages of Islam. We however a this time (as a collective Ummah) are no longer benefiting from the divine support of the Almighty in presenting Islam as the true faith, since we (collectively) failed to deserve that divine support.
As the result, the concept of apostacy really has no practical implications at our time. Every individual has a responsibility as a human being to search for the truth in this messy amalgamation of truth and false in our era. In doing so, if any one found that truth, as he sees it, is not in the religion of Islam, then while we would disagree him as Muslims and might want to share our understanding with him, we will have no choice but to respect the person’s endeavor for truth and to respect his decision.