Islam Under Scrutiny by Ex-Muslims

Shaming the Shameless Apologists of Islam (I): Apostasy in Islam

Secret Iranian execution: Iran legislated
death for apostasy

We at Islam-watch have taken it upon ourselves to reveal the truth about Islam to Non-Muslims as well as those Muslims who are mistaken about their religious beliefs. Yet we find countless apologists in the face of massive evidences to deny bare facts about Islam which have been recorded in the countess traditions of Islam. These traditions come to us mostly from the Authentic sources which were reported by either the Prophet Muhammad, the Sahabas (Muhammad's companions) etc. For any Muslim to deny these sources is the equivalent of denying Islam. Hence I address this series of articles to shaming those shameless apologists who love telling lies while they reveal their real intents.

Today we shall be discussing Apostasy in Islam in depth. We shall be seeing the Fatwas by various schools of thought both Sunni as well as Shia.

What does Apostasy mean in Islam?

Apostasy is commonly defined as the rejection of Islam in word or deed by a person who has ever been a Muslim. This includes those born into Islam as well as those who are converts. There are no exceptions at all.

The four major Sunni Madh’hab (schools of Islamic Jurisprudence) and the Twelve Shi’a Jafari Madh’hab agree that any sane adult male apostate must be executed. However they differ on the punishment for a female apostate-while some schools call for death, there are others which call for imprisonment. The jurist Al-Shafi’i , after whom the Shfi’i sect was formed, interpreted Qu'ranic verse 2:217 as providing the main evidence for apostasy being a capital crime in Islam.

A minority of medieval Islamic jurists, such as Hanafi jurist Saakshi, Maliki jurist Abu al-walid Al-Baji and Ibn Taymiyya And the Shi’a Grand Ayotollah Hoseein-Ali Motantazi Argued that issuing fatwas issued for the purpose of the execution of Apostates was not valid. However these opinions are in a negligible minority.

What constitutes apostasy in Islam?

Apostasy is not a small issue in Islam. Over the years Islamic Jurisprudents developed a system to identify an Apostate. Let us go through the various conditions which render a person as an Apostate.

Regarding monotheism and polytheism

  1. A public declaration or conduct that denies Islam, its beliefs, symbols or its principal actors such as statements as "I believe in gods other than Allah", or "God has a material form."

  2. Worshiping an idol

  3. Trinity: Saying that God is three in One; God the Father, God the Son, Holy Spirit, or Al lat, Al'Uzza and Manat (known as the daughters of Allah to the pre-Islamic Arabs). In Islam, God does not beget nor is He begotten (Al-Ikhas) and He alone has the right to be worshiped (Surah Al-Fatihah).

  4. Denying the existence of of God or in simple words, Atheism, Agnosticism, etc.

  5. Saying the world has always existed from eternity, in such a way that it denies the existence of God as a creator

  6. Saying that the world is everlasting and without end, in such a way that it could be interpreted as a denial of resurrection.

Regarding prophethood of Muhammad

  1. Rejecting Muhammad’s claim to be a prophet, or denying the concept of prophethood.

  2. Implying that one can become a prophet through spiritual exercise, since that would imply the possibility of a prophet after Muhammad.

  3. Saying that there were prophets after Muhammad.

Regarding beliefs

  1. Any clearly blasphemous action, such as burning the Qur’an out of contempt, and every manner of soiling it out of contempt or hatred. The same may also apply to the Hadiths books.

  2. Contradicting the positions that are upheld by a consensus (ijima) of Muslim scholars (Ulema), such as saying that prayers or fasting are not obligatory, or that the prohibition of adultery does not have to be followed. Not following these doctrines does not make one an apostate, but saying they need not be followed does.

In Islamic society apostasy must be determined by the testimony of two adult Muslim witnesses, who must be free men and not slaves. Also, any death penalty case has to be determined by the testimony of four adult Muslim witnesses, in respectable standing, whose accounts agree, for the execution to occur.

References from Islamic Scriptures and Traditions with regards to Apostasy

Qur'anic references

Let us see what the Qur’an has to say for Apostates from Islam

YUSUFALI: A section of the People of the Book say: "Believe in the morning what is revealed to the believers, but reject it at the end of the day; perchance they may (themselves) Turn back;
PICKTHAL: And a party of the People of the Scripture say: Believe in that which hath been revealed unto those who believe at the opening of the day, and disbelieve at the end thereof, in order that they may return;
SHAKIR: And a party of the followers of the Book say: Avow belief in that which has been revealed to those who believe, in the first part of the day, and disbelieve at the end of it, perhaps they go back on their religion.

YUSUFALI: But those who reject Faith after they accepted it, and then go on adding to their defiance of Faith,- never will their repentance be accepted; for they are those who have (of set purpose) gone astray.
PICKTHAL: Lo! those who disbelieve after their (profession of) belief, and afterward grow violent in disbelief: their repentance will not be accepted. And such are those who are astray.
SHAKIR: Surely, those who disbelieve after their believing, then increase in unbelief, their repentance shall not be accepted, and these are they that go astray.

YUSUFALI: Any one who, after accepting faith in Allah, utters Unbelief,- except under compulsion, his heart remaining firm in Faith - but such as open their breast to Unbelief, on them is Wrath from Allah, and theirs will be a dreadful Penalty.
PICKTHAL: Whoso disbelieveth in Allah after his belief - save him who is forced thereto and whose heart is still content with the Faith - but whoso findeth ease in disbelief: On them is wrath from Allah. Theirs will be an awful doom.
SHAKIR: He who disbelieves in Allah after his having believed, not he who is compelled while his heart is at rest on account of faith, but he who opens (his) breast to disbelief-- on these is the wrath of Allah, and they shall have a grievous chastisement.

YUSUFALI: Those who believe, then reject faith, then believe (again) and (again) reject faith, and go on increasing in unbelief,- Allah will not forgive them nor guide them nor guide them on the way.
PICKTHAL: Lo! those who believe, then disbelieve and then (again) believe, then disbelieve, and then increase in disbelief, Allah will never pardon them, nor will He guide them unto a way.
SHAKIR: Surely (as for) those who believe then disbelieve, again believe and again disbelieve, then increase in disbelief, Allah will not forgive them nor guide them in the (right) path.

So we can see in the above verses that Allah clearly hates the Apostates and will never guide them again, which means that they are clearly going to eat the out of the thorny plants and have their skin burnt repeatedly in the hell prepared.

Sunni Hadith References

Now let us examine what the Sunni Hadiths have to say about Apostates and their treatment.

Sahih Bukhari 9:84:57:

Narrated 'Ikrima:
Some Zanadiqa (atheists) were brought to 'Ali and he burnt them. The news of this event, reached Ibn 'Abbas who said, "If I had been in his place, I would not have burnt them, as Allah's Apostle forbade it, saying, 'Do not punish anybody with Allah's punishment (fire).' I would have killed them according to the statement of Allah's Apostle, 'Whoever changed his Islamic religion, then kill him.'"

Sahih Bukhari 9:84:58:

Narrated Abu Burda:
Abu Musa said, "I came to the Prophet along with two men (from the tribe) of Ash'ariyin, one on my right and the other on my left, while Allah's Apostle was brushing his teeth (with a Siwak), and both men asked him for some employment. The Prophet said, 'O Abu Musa (O 'Abdullah bin Qais!).' I said, 'By Him Who sent you with the Truth, these two men did not tell me what was in their hearts and I did not feel (realize) that they were seeking employment.' As if I were looking now at his Siwak being drawn to a corner under his lips, and he said, 'We never (or, we do not) appoint for our affairs anyone who seeks to be employed. But O Abu Musa! (or 'Abdullah bin Qais!) Go to Yemen.'" The Prophet then sent Mu'adh bin Jabal after him and when Mu'adh reached him, he spread out a cushion for him and requested him to get down (and sit on the cushion). Behold: There was a fettered man beside Abu Muisa. Mu'adh asked, "Who is this (man)?" Abu Muisa said, "He was a Jew and became a Muslim and then reverted back to Judaism." Then Abu Muisa requested Mu'adh to sit down but Mu'adh said, "I will not sit down till he has been killed. This is the judgment of Allah and His Apostle (for such cases) and repeated it thrice. Then Abu Musa ordered that the man be killed, and he was killed. Abu Musa added, "Then we discussed the night prayers and one of us said, 'I pray and sleep, and I hope that Allah will reward me for my sleep as well as for my prayers.'"

Sahih Bukhari 9:89:271:

Narrated Abu Musa:
A man embraced Islam and then reverted back to Judaism. Mu'adh bin Jabal came and saw the man with Abu Musa. Mu'adh asked, "What is wrong with this (man)?" Abu Musa replied, "He embraced Islam and then reverted back to Judaism." Mu'adh said, "I will not sit down unless you kill him (as it is) the verdict of Allah and His Apostle

Sahih Bukhari 9:83:17:

Narrated 'Abdullah:
Allah's Apostle said, "The blood of a Muslim who confesses that none has the right to be worshipped but Allah and that I am His Apostle, cannot be shed except in three cases: In Qisas for murder, a married person who commits illegal sexual intercourse and the one who reverts from Islam (apostate) and leaves the Muslims."

According to Tafsir

More recently, Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi, a noted 20th century Islamic Scholar argued that verses 9:11 of the Quran sanctions the death for an apostate. Mawadudi gave the following argument in suppoet of his claim that Apostasy is a an offence punishable by death:

"The following is the occasion for the revelation of this verse: During the pilgrimage (hajj) in A.H. 9, God Most High ordered a proclamation of an immunity. By virtue of this proclamation all those who, up to that time, were fighting against God and His Apostle and were attempting to obstruct the way of God's religion through all kinds of excesses and false covenants, were granted from that time a maximum respite of four months. During this period they were to ponder their own situation. If they wanted to accept Islam, they could accept it and they would be forgiven. If they wanted to leave the country, they could leave. Within this fixed period nothing would hinder them from leaving. Thereafter those remaining, who would neither accept Islam nor leave the country, would be dealt with by the sword." In this connection it was said: "If they repent and uphold the practice of prayer and almsgiving, then they are your brothers in religion. If after this, however, they break their covenant, then war should be waged against the leaders of kufr (infidelity). Here "covenant breaking" in no way can be construed to mean "breaking of political covenants". Rather, the context clearly determines its meaning to be "confessing Islam and then renouncing it". Thereafter the meaning of "fight the heads of disbelief" (Qur’an 9:11) can only mean that war should be waged against the leaders instigating apostasy."

Mawadudi’s interpretation is supported by various other Muslim scholars, let us take the example of Afzal ur-Rehman the author of Muhammad, Blessing for Mankind, Seerah Foundation, London, Revised Second edition, 1988, p. 218 under Apostasy states:

"People who turn away from Islam and do not repent but wage war and create mischief in the land are also considered as murderers. "But if they break their oaths after making compacts and taunt you for your faith, you should fight with these ringleaders of disbelief because their oaths are not trustworthy: it may be that the sword alone will restrain them" 9:12). And in Surah Al-Nahl, "But whosoever accepts disbelief willingly, he incurs God's Wrath, and there is severe torment for all such people" (Quran 16:1067).

Punishment for Apostasy in Islam

According to Islamic law (Sharia), the consensus view is that a male apostate must be put to death unless he suffers from a mental disorder or converted from Islam under duress, for example, due to an imminent danger of being killed. A female apostate must be either executed, according to Shafi’I, Maliki and Hanbali schools of Sunni Islamic jurisprudence (fiqh), or imprisoned until she reverts to Islam as advocated by the Sunni Hanafi School and by Shi’a scholars.

Preferred form of execution

Most Islamic scholars agree that the appropriate punishment for apostasy is beheading Mamuluk Sultan Bayars also practiced torture of apostates. A case is recorded when a woman who had apostatized was led through the streets of Cairo on an ass, then strangled in a boat in the middle of the Nile and thrown into the river. In modern times, followers of the Ahmadiyya sect in Afghanistan were stoned to death. The execution for apostasy was abolished in most Muslim lands in the 19th century either through European pressure or through the direct European rule; however, cases of imprisonment and deportation of apostates still occurred. Nevertheless, even nowadays apostates are not sure of their lives, as their Muslim relatives frequently try to kill them Ideally, the one performing the execution of an apostate must be an imam. At the same time, all schools of Islamic jurisprudence agree that any Muslim can kill an apostate without punishment.

Apostasy is itself is a huge topic of study in Islam, to discuss all the issues that concern Apostasy are beyond the scope of this article, hence I will close down my article here and let the readers make up their minds as what Islam actually says about Apostasy and how the Apologetics of Islam lie, telling us that Apostasy is not an offence in Islam.

Ibrahim Lone is Kashmir-born ex-Muslim.

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