The word “Ikrah” means “force, coercion, compulsion etc.” and “Mukrah,” which comes from the word “ikrah,” literally means “one who is forced.”
“Whoever disbelieved in Allaah after his belief, except him who is forced thereto and whose heart is at rest with Faith but such as open their breasts to disbelief, on them is wrath from Allaah, and theirs will be a great torment. That is because they loved and preferred the life of this world over that of the Hereafter. And Allaah guides not the people who disbelieve.” [an-Nahl 16:106-107]
ibn Abbas said: “This verse was revealed about ‘Ammar ibn Yasir. The idolaters had taken him away along with his father Yasir, his mother Sumayyah, Suhayb [al-Rumi], Bilal [ibn Rabah], Khabbab [ibn al-Aratt] and Salim [the client of Hudhayfah] and tortured them. As for Sumayyah, she was tied up between two camels and stabbed with a spear in her female organ. She was told: ‘You embraced Islam for the men’, and was then killed. Her husband Yasir was also killed. They were the first two persons who were killed in Islam. As for ‘Ammar, he was coerced to let them hear what they wanted to hear. Rasoolullaah, saAllaahu alayhi wa salam, was told that ‘Ammar has renounced faith, but he said: ‘Never, ‘Ammar is filled with faith from his head to his toes; faith is admixed with his flesh and blood!’ ‘Ammar then went to see the Rasoolullaah, saAllaahu alayhi wa salam, crying. Rasoolullaah, saAllaahu alayhi wa salam, wiped his tears with his own hand and said: ‘if they return to you, let them hear again what you told them.’ Then, Allaah, exalted is He, revealed this verse”.
Imaam Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahhab said regarding these verses:
“So Allaah didn’t excuse anyone except the Mukrah whose heart is firm upon Imaan and Tawhid. And it’s known by necessity that it’s impossible to coerce someone to change his beliefs; but it’s possible to change his speech and actions. So this verse has clarified that whoever utters a word of kufr, or does an action of kufr, then he has indeed become a kaafir with the exclusion of the Mukrah who is firm upon Tawhid in his heart. And as mentioned in the verse, he becomes a kaafir because he preferred the worldly life, not because he changed his beliefs.” (Tarikh ibn Ghannam)
Imaam Sulayman ibn Abdullaah stated in his book “ad-Dala’il Fi Hukm Muwalat Ahlul-Ishrak” under the ‘Fourteenth Evidence’ commenting on these verses of an-Nahl 106-107:
“So He (Allaah) has made a judgment that is unchangeable- That whosoever turns back from his deen to kufr, then he is a kaafir. Regardless of whether he had the excuse of khawf (fear) for his life, wealth, family, or not; and whether he committed kufr both internally (with his heart) and externally (through actions), or only externally and not internally (i.e. only through actions, without the heart); and whether he committed kufr through his actions and his speech, or with just one of the two and not the other; and whether or not he committed kufr because of his desire to attain some worldly benefit from the mushrik; he becomes a kafir in each and every situation – except for the Mukrah. And he is the ‘Maghsub’ in our language. (Derived from “Ghasaba Yaghsibu”- which implies the meanings of “coerce, compel, force, extort, seize unlawfully, conquer, subdue, rape, etc.” And Maghsub is the one who is “coerced, compelled, forced, subdued, etc.” According to classical linguists: “Someone who is forced to do something he dislikes by means of subjugation and compulsion.” See Lisan Al-‘Arab 3/526, and Al-Misbah Al- Munir 2/729)
So if a person is forced to do kufr; and it is said to him ‘Commit kufr! Or else we shall kill you- or we will torture you’; or the mushrik take him and beat him (severely) – and it is not possible for him to be rid (of this torment) except by agreeing with them; then it is permissible for him to agree with them externally (through actions or speech) – with the condition that his heart rests upon Imaan – meaning firmly established upon it and believing in it. But as for him agreeing with them with his heart, then he is a kaafir- even if he is a Mukrah.
And what is apparent from the words of Imaam Ahmad, is that in the first situation, he would not be a Mukrah- unless the mushrik had tortured him. Because when Yahya Ibn Ma’een entered upon him while he was ill, he (Yahya) greeted him with Salaam but he (Imaam Ahmad) did not return his Salaam. So Yahya began to appeal to him saying: “The hadeeth of ‘Ammar (O Ahmad)! And Allaah said ‘excluding he who is forced thereto while his heart is at rest with Imaan’.” So Ahmad turned his face to the other side; so Yahya exclaimed, ‘He does not accept an excuse?!’ So when Yahya was leaving, Imaam Ahmad said, ‘He uses the hadeeth of Ammar as proof, and the hadeeth of Ammar is ‘I passed by them (the mushrik) while they were insulting you (O Rasoolullaah) – so I forbid them (to say such things), so then they tortured me…’ And you, it is said to you ‘We want to torture you’.” (Meaning that ‘Ammar was actually tortured, and Imaam Ahmad was saying that they themselves were not in that condition yet, but rather were merely being threatened. So mere threats are not a valid Ikrah which would permit kufr.) So Yahya said, “I swear by Allaah! I have not seen anyone under the surface of the sky of Allah who understands the deen of Allaah better than you.’ (Ibn Abu Ya’la in his At-Tabaqat 1/404, and Ibn Al-Jawzi in Manaqib Al-Imaam Ahmad on the authority of Abu Bakr Al-Marwathi 474)
Then He informed that those murtad, who opened their hearts to kufr, even though they are sure of the haqq; and that they said ‘We did not do this except because of khawf’- but still ‘on them is wrath from Allaah, and theirs will be a great torment.’
Then He informed that the reason for this kufr and eternal punishment – is not because they believed in shirk; nor because of ignorance about tawhid; nor because of hatred for the deen; nor because of love for kufr- rather, the reason is merely because of a bit from the bits of the dunya (worldly life), which he preferred above the deen and the pleasure of the Lord of the Worlds.
So He said,
“That is because they loved and preferred the life of this world over that of the Hereafter. And Allah does not guide the kafir. (Al-Nahl 16:107-109)
So He has made takfir of them. And He informed that He will not guide them, even though they try to excuse themselves with the plea that they (only did it out of) lust for the dunya.
Then He informed that these are murtad, because they preferred the life of the dunya rather than the akhirah; they are the ones whose hearts, hearing, and sight Allah has sealed, and that they are the oblivious ones; then He informed (us of their) confirmed reality:
‘That in the Hereafter, they will be the losers.’ (An-Nahl 16:109)