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THE PUNISHMENT OF APOSTASY IN ISLAM

Part I: The Qur`anic Perspective

By

Dr. Ahmad Shafaat

(February, 2006)


Question

 

As-salam ‘alaykum,

 

Dear Dr. Shafaat,

 

I visited your site. There is a lot of valuable information available in your site. I have many queries regarding Islam that trouble my mind. I would be much grateful to you if you could answer those queries. To start with, I have much trouble understanding the punishment of apostasy. Do you believe that the punishment of apostasy is death according to Islam? Is this not against the freedom for an individual to adopt any faith? Please explain.

Thanks.
 
Regards,
Mohd.

 

Answer

 

Wa 'alaykum al-salam! Thank you for your email. The fact that you have many queries suggests that you think and reflect about Islamic teachings. This is wonderful, since the Book of God instructs us to do such thinking and reflection. I would insha` allah answer your questions according to the ability God grants me.

 

The question you have raised about the punishment of apostasy in Islam, like any other question related to Islam, needs to be answered in the light of the Qur`an and the authentic ahadith. I repeat this well-known principle here because many Muslims, even scholars are often influenced by some extraneous considerations in arriving at their Islamic opinions. Thus some reject the death penalty for apostasy out of a desire to “improve” the image of Islam among non-Muslims. Others, on the other hand, insist on that penalty out of a concern that rejection of the penalty will encourage apostasy. There are also some who are influenced by a tendency to stick to traditional views no matter what. At some point the death penalty for apostasy was widely accepted among Muslims and many of us feel that what our earlier generations accepted must be correct and must be accepted by us also. Since such extraneous influences can mislead us, let us first try to free our minds from them.

 

The desire to “improve” the image of Islam among non-Muslims

 

Most of the negative imaging of Islam is done by a relatively small minority of Christians and Jews and those writers and reporters who are under their power. These people are not going to simply stop if we rejected the death penalty for apostasy. They will just find something else to paint Islam negatively. The only way they can stop is if the challenge of Islam is removed and Muslims start behaving like them. The Holy Qur`an talks about such Jews and Christians when it says:

Neither the Jews nor the Christians will be pleased with you (O Muhammad) till you follow their millah. Say: “Surely, the guidance of God is the (true) guidance”. And if you were to follow their desires after what has come to you of knowledge, then you would not have any protector or helper against God. (2:120)

Here by “Jews and Christians” the Holy Qur`an does not mean “all Jews and Christians”, since elsewhere it says “they are not all alike” (3:113). What is meant in the above verse is that some or many Jews and Christians will not be pleased with you till you become like them. It is also relevant to note that the Holy Qur`an tells us that we should expect a lot of negative, hurtful, talk from some Jews, Christians, and other non-Muslims:

You shall certainly be tried and tested in your possessions and persons and you shall certainly hear from the people given the book before you and those who associate partners with God much grieving talk. But if you are steadfast and disciplined, then that is of the (required) resolve in affairs. (3:186)

Consequently, let us not even think about rejecting or accepting something as Islamic only in order to “improve” the image of Islam among non-Muslims. Islam as taught by God and the Messenger is beautiful and the best way to improve the image of Islam is to understand it properly and then represent it faithfully.

 

Concern that doing away with the death penalty may encourage apostasy

 

This attitude views rejection of the death penalty for apostasy as being soft on apostasy. But it misses the point that God, who knows everything in the heavens and the earth, and his Messenger who is guided by him, know the best way to protect Islam and Muslims. In the Holy Qur`an God tells the Prophet to say:

“Do you inform God of that which he knows not in the heavens and the earth?” (10:18; see also 13:22).

In their context these words are addressed to the non-believers who worship some beings other than God in the hope that they will act as intercessors before God. But the words are clearly applicable each time we try to ignore what God has sent down and start making Islamic rules on the basis of some other considerations, even if it be for the “good” of Islam and Muslims.

 

But is the death penalty for apostasy really “good” for Islam and Muslims? Does it prevent apostasy? The death penalty may indeed discourage some from apostasy, but it would also encourage hypocrisy. And is it really better to have a lot of hypocrites among Muslims than to have a lot of apostates?

 

Muslims generally do not leave their religion. In recent times the number of Muslims converting to Christianity has increased but that is because: a) Christians have power and wealth which they use in very aggressive missionary effort; b) Muslims have fallen into ignorance and poverty due to the ineffective leadership of our `umara` and ‘ulama`. Consequently, the best way to reduce apostasy is to increase knowledge of Islam and to combat poverty, ignorance and other problems that plague the Muslim world.

 

Tendency to stick to the traditional views

 

If some Muslims insist on the death penalty for apostasy out of a concern to discourage apostasy, others do so simply because of a tendency to cling to traditional views no matter how much evidence exists against them. This attitude is un-Qur`an since the Book of God says:

When it is said to them: “Follow what God has sent down,” they say, “Nay! We shall follow what we found our fathers following.” What! Even if their fathers did not understand (ya‘qilun) anything and they were not guided? (2:170)

And when it is said to them: “Come to what God has sent down and to the Messenger,” they say, “Enough for us is that which we found our fathers following.” What! Even if their fathers did not know anything and they were not guided? (5:104; see also 43:23-24)

The tendency to follow without thinking the ideas passed on by earlier generations is what misled many Jews and Christians, as we learn from the following verse:

Say (O Prophet): “O people of the book! Exceed not the limits in your religion ignoring the truth, and do not follow the vain desires of people who went astray before and who misled many, straying from right path. (5:77)

It is true that these verses are addressed to non-Muslims, but there is no reason to think that the attitude condemned here cannot be found among Muslims. Every error that was or is committed by non-Muslims can be and is committed by some Muslims also and therefore what the Qur`an says to non-Muslims also has a message for us.

 

Hence let us not be overly influenced by the fact that the death penalty for apostasy has been held to be Islamic by a majority of people in many previous generations of Muslims. Let us examine the evidence of the Qur`an and the authentic ahadith and then reach a decision. Some will say that the previous generations of Muslims also reached their decisions on the basis of the Qur`an and the authentic ahadith. This is true but if this means that the majority in previous generations could not be wrong, then that is precisely the sort of attitude that the Qur`an is condemning in the above verses.

 

If we turn to the Qur`an and authentic ahadith after freeing ourselves from the extraneous influences of the type I have mentioned above, the situation becomes crystal clear: there is no legal punishment for apostasy in Islam, whether death or any other. The Qur`an and authentic ahadith teach us to treat apostates like other kuffar, whose treatment varies from kindness to killing depending on the circumstances and on the degree of hostility they show towards Islam and Muslims. I will insha allah present evidence for this view in two parts. In this first part, I will insha allah show that the death penalty or any other legal punishment for apostasy is contrary to the Qur`an. And in the second part I examine the ahadith about apostasy and show with God’s permission that those ahadith that prescribe the death penalty do not come from the mouth of our and God’s beloved Prophet (may God bless and honor him evermore).

 

 

WHAT IS APOSTASY?

 

Before discussing the question of punishment of apostasy, it is well to define what apostasy is.

 

A person commits apostasy (irtidad) or becomes an apostate (murtadd) if he describes himself a Muslim and then at a later time takes one of the following actions in a public way:

 

1) Converts to another religion, e.g. becomes a Christian or Buddhist or Baha`i etc.

2) Rejects a part of the Qur`an after recognizing it to be a part of the Qur`an. For example, all those “Muslims” who opposed the Shari‘ah-based arbitration in family and business disputes in Ontario[1] have become apostates if they knew well that a great part of the Shari‘ah that they opposed is based on the Qur`an. May Allah guide them back to Islam.

 

3) In some cases when the whole ummah agrees that a certain interpretation of some Qur`anic verses or ahadith is unacceptable, then the person who holds such an interpretation may become an apostate by a decision of the ummah. For example, Ahmadis insist on being called Muslims and they indeed profess and practice much of Islam like most Sunni Muslims. But they believe that Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadiyan in the British colonial India was a prophet and in order to prepare room for this belief they interpret khatm nubuwwah in a way different from the rest of the ummah.. The ummah has rejected their interpretation of khatm nubuwwah  and Mirza’s claims for which this interpretation is devised. The ummah has also declared this group as non-Muslims and banned their entry into Makkah. Finally, the falsehood of Mirza’s claims has been proved by history[2]. Consequently, all converts from Islam to Ahmadism are apostates.

 

Normally, however, having an interpretation of a part of the Qur`an or Hadith different from the one held by other Muslims does not result in apostasy. For example, if the people who rejected Shari‘ah-based arbitration in Ontario would have said that the way rules of Shari‘ah are interpreted and applied is not faithful to the teachings of God and his Messenger and argued for more discussion about correcting the interpretation and the application before adopting Shari‘ah-based arbitration, they would not have committed apostasy. But they opposed Shari‘ah as such and for this reason they should be considered apostates.

 

An apostate is different from a hypocrite (munafiq). A hypocrite is a person who is outwardly willing to say/do what a Muslim says/does but in his heart has decided not to believe in Islam. An apostate, in contrast, is someone who openly and knowingly does or says something that makes him a non-Muslim after he had called himself a Muslim.

 

It also needs to be pointed out that we should distinguish apostasy from a state of kufr that many Muslims may privately pass through during the process of their growth towards the state of iman. In most Muslim families we have some members who express disbelief about the existence of God or about divine revelations or about the hereafter. Muslims have wisely and correctly tolerated such disbelief because they recognize that the way to iman is not always smooth and may pass through doubts and confusion (cf. Qur`an 6:76-79, 93:7). However, if a Muslim expresses his disbelief in the form of a declared position and insists on its truth publicly, then he will be considered an apostate.

 

 

THE ABSENCE FROM THE QUR`AN OF ANY PENALTY FOR APOSTASY

 

It is a significant fact that the Book of God does not prescribe any punishment for apostasy. Many Muslims would immediately say, The Qur`an does not tell us everything. We need to go to the Hadith to find guidance on matters not touched by the Qur`an. But while this is true of matters of detail, this is not true of fundamental issues. God knew that while the Qur`an would be preserved faithfully, the authenticity of ahadith will remain subject to doubts in most cases. Therefore, he would make sure that all the basic teachings would be included in the Qur`an while leaving some details to ahadith so that the size of the Qur`anic text remains manageable for memorization. Looked in this way the absence in the Qur`an of any punishment for apostasy becomes very significant.

 

The punishment for apostasy is not a detail that we can expect God to leave for ahadith, especially if that punishment is death, since taking the life of a person, if done without a just cause, is regarded by the Qur`an as tantamount to killing all human beings (5:32). Even lesser penalties for theft (cutting of hands, 5:38), illicit sexual intercourse (100 lashes, 24:2), and unsubstantiated accusation of adultery (80 lashes, 24.4) were not considered by God as matters of details to be left to the ahadith. Therefore there is no reason why God would consider the more serious penalty of death for a more serious sin of apostasy as a matter of detail to be left to ahadith.

 

It is also significant that the Qur`an refers to apostasy several times (2:217, 3:86-90, 4:137, 9:66, 9:74, 16:106-109, 4:88-91, 47:25-27) and yet does not prescribe any punishment for it. Had the Qur`an not mentioned apostasy at all, we could have perhaps argued that there was no occasion for the Qur`anic revelation to deal with this subject and it was therefore left for the Holy Prophet to deal with. It may also be noted that almost all the verses that refer to apostasy are found in surahs said to be belonging to the Madinan period when the Islamic state had been established and penalties for crimes could be prescribed and applied. Only 16:106-109 appears in a surah identified as Makkan.

 

It is thus a natural conclusion to draw that the absence of any legal penalty for apostasy in the Qur`an means that God never intended any such penalty to become part of Islamic Shari‘ah.

 

 

THE DEATH PENALTY FOR APOSTASY CONFLICTS WITH THE QUR`AN

The evidence against any legally prescribed penalty for apostasy in Islam does not rest only on the fact that the Qur`an does not prescribe any such penalty while referring to the subject of apostasy many times. We can go further and state that:

 

a)      There is no mandatory death penalty in the Qur`an for any crime.

 

b) The death penalty for apostasy in fact conflicts with the Qur`an.

The truth of the above statements can be seen by examining the verses: 5:32-33, 45, 2:178 and 4:88-91.

 

Qur`an 5:32-33, 45, 2:178

 

In 5:32, after relating the story of the murder of Habil by his brother Qabil, God says:

On that account We ordained for the Children of Israel that if any one slew a person - unless it be for murder or for spreading mischief in the land - it would be as if he slew the whole humanity: and if any one saved a life, it would be as if he saved the whole humanity. Then although there came to them Our Messengers with clear (guidance), yet, even after that, many of them continued to commit excesses in the land. (5:32)

In the context of an emphasis on preserving the life of each and every individual the above verse mentions only two crimes for which a person can be killed:

 

1)      Murdering another human being;

2)      Spreading mischief (fasad) in the land.

 

Nowhere else the Qur`an mentions any other crime for which the death penalty is considered. There are, of course, verses that mention killing during a war in the way of God. But that is different from killing as a penalty for a crime. Moreover, in the Qur`anic understanding the objective of even killing in a war is to stop or punish crimes similar to the two mentioned in the above verse -- violence and mischief -- when committed in an organized way by a tribe or nation ((2:191-193, 2:217, 4:88-91 etc)).

 

Hence the above-mentioned two crimes exhaust all possible cases for which the Qur`an considers the death penalty[3]. And in both of these cases, the death penalty is not mandatory in the Qur`an.

 

In case of spreading mischief in the land, the Qur`an says in the next verse:

The recompense for those who wage war against God and his Messenger[4], and strive with might and main for mischief through the land[5] is: execution, or crucifixion, or the cutting off of hands and feet from opposite sides, or exile from the land. That is their disgrace in this world, and for them in the hereafter is a severe punishment. (5:33)

There is no prescribed mandatory death penalty here. Even when the person wages war against God and his Messenger along with striving in the land for mischief, death is considered only one of several options, starting from exile. If such is the case with persons who wage war against God and his Messenger and actively seek to spread mischief in the land, then the question of death as a prescribed penalty for an apostate who continues to lead a peaceful life after his sin of apostasy can hardly arise within a Qur`anic perspective.

A little later in the same surah, al-Ma`idah, the Qur`an deals with the other crime – murdering another human being -- for which death penalty can be applied:

And We ordained for them in [the Torah]: “Person for person, eye for eye, nose for nose, ear for ear, tooth for tooth, and wounds equal for equal.” But if anyone remits the retaliation as charity, it shall be an expiation for him. And whoever does not judge by what God has sent down, such are the transgressors (zalimun)[6]. (5:45) 

The above verse refers to what God commanded the Jews through the Torah, but in the following verse the Qur`an gives a more balanced law to the Muslims:

O you who believe! Retaliation is prescribed for you in the matter of the slain, the free for the free, and the slave for the slave, and the female for the female. But if one (who killed) is forgiven by the brother of (the one killed) against ransom, there should be follow up in fairness and payment to the heir in handsome gratitude. This is a concession from your Lord and a mercy (from him). Then whoever exceeds the limit (of the ransom agreement) after this he shall have a painful chastisement. (2:178)

Again there is no mandatory death penalty. If the relatives of the murdered person accept ransom, the death penalty can be removed.

Hence: a) there is no mandatory death penalty in the Qur`an for any crime; and b) since the Qur`an does not prescribe the death penalty even for crimes more serious than simple apostasy, death penalty for apostasy as such has no place within the Qur`anic perspective.

 

Qur`an 4:88-91

 

The four verses, 4:88-91, when carefully examined, also show that the Qur`anic perspective conflicts with the death penalty for apostasy. The first two verses state:

Then what is the matter with you that you are divided into two groups regarding the hypocrites? God has cast them backward (arkasa) because of what they have earned. Do you want to guide him whom God has made to go astray? And he whom God has made to go astray, you will not find for him any way. They wish that you reject faith as they have done, so that you all become the same. So take not protectors/friends from them till they emigrate in the way of God. But if they turn away, seize them and kill them wherever you find them, and take neither protectors/friends from them nor helpers. (4:88-89)

This passage begins by talking about hypocrites, that is, people who had declared themselves Muslims but in their hearts had decided not to believe in the teachings of Islam. The demand that they should do hijrah fi sabil allah (emigrate for the sake of God) shows that they are not the hypocrites of Madinah but are living among non-Muslims in Makkah and possibly elsewhere. Verse 98 of the same surah shows that these people were not doing hijrah despite the fact that they were able to. The reason for their not doing hijrah was their hypocrisy. Makkan non-believers who had persecuted Muslims for years, would not have tolerated in their midst any true Muslims. They would have accepted among them only those “Muslims” who had stopped taking their “islam” seriously and felt more comfortable among non-believers, hostile to Islam, than among Muslims. These hypocrites pretended to be Muslims because they wanted to be secure from both sides (see 4:91). And Makkan non-believers did not force them to publicly renounce their “islam” because they found them useful for gathering information about Muslims or for some other subversive actions against the ummah.

 

In order to defeat these hypocrites in their game and force them to clearly choose between Islam and kufr, God commanded them to do hijrah. Their obedience to this command meant that they had chosen Islam and their disobedience meant that they had chosen kufr. Those who chose kufr in this way became apostates, since previously they called themselves Muslims. Thus the verses are a source of guidance for us regarding the way the apostates are to be treated.

 

At first sight the words “seize them and kill them wherever you find them” would suggest that they are to be killed. But this is quickly seen to be wrong if we read the next two verses:

Except those who join a group between you and whom there is a (peace-) treaty or those who approach you with their hearts restraining them from fighting you or fighting their own people. Had God willed he would have given them power over you and they would have fought you. So if they withdraw from you and do not fight you but give you (guarantees of) peace, then God has opened no way for you against them.

 

You will find others that wish to gain your confidence as well as that of their people. Every time they are sent back to temptation they give in to it. If they do not withdraw from you nor give you (guarantees) of peace, nor restrain their hands, seize them and kill them, wherever you find them. In their case We have provided you with a clear warrant against them. (4:90-91).

These verses clarify the command “seize them and kill them”. The apostates who rejected Islam by failing to emigrate as commanded by God are divided into three categories:

 

1)      Those who ally themselves with a group with whom Muslims have a peace treaty;

2)      Those who want to keep neutrality, committing themselves to peace with both the Muslims and their own people who had not accepted Islam;

3)      Those who provide no real guarantee of peace to Muslims and by all indications ally themselves with non-believers engaged in hostilities towards Islam.

 

The first two types of apostates are to be left in peace while the third one is to be treated like any non-believers in a state of war: they are to be seized and killed wherever they are found. Notice that the Qur`an uses the words “God has opened no way for you against them” in connection with the apostates of the first two types. This means that the Qur`an actually prohibits killing those apostates who want to live in peaceful terms with the Muslims.

 

Thus according to the Qur`an the apostates are to be treated like other kuffar: If they want to live in peace with the Muslims, they are to be left in peace and if they assume a hostile attitude, then they are to be treated accordingly.

 

Additional Evidence

 

There are some other Qur`anic verses that, although not as conclusive as those discussed above, nevertheless reveal a perspective that is at odds with a legal penalty for apostasy. Thus the Qur`an is very emphatic that victory belongs to truth. It says:

“Truth has come and falsehood has vanished. Surely, falsehood was bound to vanish” (17:81)

“Nay, We fling the truth against falsehood and it destroys it and behold it then vanishes” (21:18)

In other passages it predicts the victory of Islam because it is the religion of truth:

He it is who has sent his Messenger with guidance and the religion of truth that he may make it prevail over all (corrupted expressions of) religion (48:28; see also 9:32-33, 61:8-9).

These verses show that the Qur`an is founded on a complete confidence in the validity of the following three principles:

 

1.      Truth is bound to win over falsehood.

2.      Islam is founded on truth.

3.      Islam will therefore prevail.

 

Within this perspective Islam has no need for keeping people under its fold at pain of death. Such measures befit those systems that are essentially built on falsehood because that is the only way their followers can hope to slow down their inevitable march to defeat and disappearance. For a “religion of truth” it is more advantageous if people are free to examine ideas and then choose the religion or ideology or system they want. This is why the Qur`an establishes the following famous principle:

There is no compulsion in religion. Right has become distinct from wrong. So whoever rejects evil and puts faith in God has grasped the most trustworthy hand-hold that never breaks. And God is hearing, knowing. (2:256)

This verse is usually understood to mean that people cannot be compelled to become Muslims but they can be compelled to stay Muslims. But the words, “no compulsion in religion” are very general. They should apply equally to entering or leaving any religion, including Islam. One may try to argue against this general understanding of the verse as follows:

 

A person cannot be compelled to enter Islam but a person who is a Muslim is subject to the laws of Islam and those laws require death for leaving Islam.

 

This argument would have had force only if we are able to establish that the Qur`an prescribes the death penalty for apostasy like it prescribes penalties for theft, zina` etc. But in the absence of any such prescription, we must take the words “no compulsion in religion” in their general sense and understand them to be applicable for both entering and leaving Islam[7].

 

Moreover, apostasy is a move from islam to kufr. But what if we cannot establish the islam of a person? For example, consider a person born in a Muslim family who at one point described himself as a Muslim according to custom but he never really believed in Islam. If he then renounces Islam, is he really moving from islam to kufr? Is he really bound by the laws of Islam considering that he never really made a choice to live by them?

 

From the confident conviction that the message of the Qur`an is based on truth and therefore will prevail, comes also the Qur`anic condemnation of  fitnah, persecuting people for their religion, which is described as worse than killing in battle:

And fight in the way of God those who fight you but do not transgress due limits … al-fitnah is worse than killing (in battle). … Fight them till there is no fitnah and the religion is for God (alone) (2:191-193; see also 2:217).

These verses refer to the fighting that the non-believers were waging against the Prophet and his followers. This fighting was part of their fitnah or persecution of Muslims, aimed at suppressing the Islamic movement. The verses commanded the Muslims to fight back because fitnah is worse than killing in battle and so they should choose the lesser of the two evils. The fighting should continue till there is no more fitnah and the religion is for God. The words “the religion is for God (alone)” are closely related to “there is no more fitnah” and mean that the choice of religion is a matter between a person and God and not to be determined by force. Contrary to what some commentators suggest the words do not mean, “till everyone accepts Islam” because it is definitely known that the Prophet made peace with many tribes even though they had not accepted Islam (see e.g. 4:90 discussed earlier) and because the Qur`an explicitly states that when the non-believing opponents incline to peace the Prophet should do the same (8:61).

 

That the death penalty for apostasy conflicts with the Qur`anic perspective is also shown by those verses in which it is stated that the Messenger came not as a watcher over people but only as one who clearly declares the truth: 5:92, 99, 13:40, 16:35, 82, 24:54, 29:18, 36:17, 42:48, 64:12. Significantly, the first of these verses is addressed to the believers, since it is after explicitly addressing the believers and giving to them some laws (5:90-91) that the verse says:

“And obey God and obey the Messenger and beware (and fear God). Then if you turn away, know that our Messenger’s duty is to simply convey (the message) clearly. (5:92)

The Qur`an then continues addressing believers, giving some further regulations, and then says again:

On our Messenger there is no obligation but conveying (the message). And God knows what you reveal and what you conceal (5:99)

In 5:92 and 99 the Muslims are not told that if you turn away then death penalty awaits you but rather they are told that the Messenger has done his duty by conveying the message to you and now it is up to you whether you want to stay faithful to him or whether you want to turn away from him[8].

 

DEALING WITH APOSTASY

 

As observed above the Qur`an expects us to deal with apostates like other kuffar. Therefore the Qur`anic guidance for dealing with the apostates is essentially the same as its guidance for dealing with other kuffar. Briefly, this guidance is that we should treat them according to the degree of friendship or hostility they show to Islam and Muslims. To translate this into more specific guidance we can divide apostates in three categories and see how each category is to be treated:

 

1) An  apostate leaves Islam because of ignorance of Islam or some confusion that leads him to think that his new religion or way is truer and better. Such a person will be willing to listen to the Muslims if they want to show him that he has made a mistake. The Muslims should treat him kindly and argue with him in the best possible way. (60:8, 16:125). But Muslims should be careful not to show him more kindness than they show to other Muslims, for, otherwise the apostate may be encouraged to stay an apostate.

 

2) An apostate leaves Islam, not out of a belief that he is moving to something truer and better, but to satisfy some of his worldly desires, e. g., to get greater importance or more comfortable life or greater acceptance of his lifestyle such as homosexual lifestyle. A sign of such an apostate is that he shows little inclination to listen to any reasoning. If such an apostate does not engage in any hostile activity against Islam and Muslims, he should not be subjected to any active hostility (4:90). But since he has clearly preferred kufr over iman the following commandment of God will apply: 

 

O you who believe! Do not take for friends and allies (even) your fathers and your brothers if they love disbelief more than faith: if any of you do so, they are the wrong doers. (9:23)

According to some traditions “this ayah was revealed concerning those nine men who after apostasy went to Makkah”. (Panipati, Tafsir Mazhari)

 

Beyond avoiding friendship and alliance with apostates of this second type, the Muslims can impose boycott against them, since such boycott was imposed by the Prophet on the three Companions mentioned in 9:118. These three Companions did not commit apostasy but simply failed to join the Muslims in jihad without a good reason.

 

3) The third type of apostate is one who leaves Islam and then engages in hostile actions against Islam and Muslims, e.g. knowingly engages in propaganda against Islam and Muslims blatantly ignoring facts that he is expected to know well, passes secrets to the enemy, takes part in fighting against the Muslims. Such an apostate can be punished by anything from exile to death.  

 

And God knows better!

 

APPENDIX

 

Here we reproduce the Qur`anic verses about apostasy that have not been already discussed:  

 

2:17 They ask you about fighting in the sacred month. Say: “Fighting therein is a great (offence); but preventing (people) from following the way of God, denying him, preventing access to the Sacred Masjid, and driving out its people is a greater (offence) and al-fitnah (oppression) is worse than killing (in battle).” And they will not cease fighting you until they turn you back from your religion if they can. And if anyone among you turns back from his religion and dies as a disbeliever, then the works of such as these will be lost in this life and in the hereafter they will be the dwellers of the fire, abiding therein forever.

 

 

3:86 How shall God guide those who reject faith after their belief and after they bore witness that the Messenger was true and after clear (signs) had come unto them? God guides not unjust people.

 

3:87 They are those whose recompense is that on them (rests) the curse of God, of the angels, and of all humankind.

 

3:88 They will abide therein. Their torment will not be lightened and they will not be given any respite -

3:89 Except for those that repent after that, and make amends (by righteous deeds), for, verily God is forgiving, most merciful.

 

3:90 But surely those who disbelieved after their belief and then went on increasing in their disbelief, never will their repentance be accepted; for they are those who have gone astray.

 

4:137 Surely those who believe, then disbelieve, then believe (again) and (again) disbelieve, and go on increasing in disbelief, God will not forgive them nor guide them nor guide them on the way.

 

9:66 Make no excuses. You have disbelieved after your belief. If We pardon some of you, We (may) punish others amongst you, for they are guilty.

 

9:74 They swear by God that they did not say, but they did say the word of disbelief and they disbelieved after their islam and meditated a plot which they were unable to carry out. And (by this) they avenged nothing except that God and his Messenger had enriched them of his bounty! If they repent, it will be better for them; but if they turn away, God will punish them with a grievous penalty in this world and in the hereafter. And there is none for them on earth as a protector or helper.

 

16:106 Whoever disbelieved in God after his belief – not he who is forced to do so while his heart is content with faith but he who opens his breast to disbelief - on such wrath from God, and theirs will be a great torment.

 

16:107 This is because they loved the life of this world more than the hereafter and God does not guide those who disbelieve.

 

16:108 They are those upon whose hearts, ears, and eyes God has set a seal, and they are heedless.

 

16:109 No doubt, in the hereafter they will be losers.

  

47:25 Surely those who have turned back (to their state of kufr) after the guidance was made manifest to them, Shaytan has enticed them and filled them with false hopes.

 

47:26 This is because they said to those who hate what God has revealed: "We will obey you in part of the matter”. But God knows their secrets.

 

47:27 Then how (will it be) when the angels take their souls at death, smiting their faces and their backs?

 


 

 

[1] This refers to a decision made by the government of Ontario, Canada, to allow Muslims to settle family and business disputes according to the Shari‘ah, just as the Jews and Christians had been allowed for years to settle similar disputes according to their laws and traditions. But even though the decisions made by the Shari‘ah arbitration were subject to approval by the Ontario courts and going to the arbitration was completely voluntary,  there was great hue and cry against the idea of Shari‘ah arbitration. The most negative role was played by some “Muslims” who did not want anything to do with Shari‘ah under any shape or form. Finally, the Ontario government decided to do away with all faith-based arbitration.

 

[2] Mirza seems to have been encouraged if not produced by the British colonialists, whose hatred of Islam and practice of subversive and divisive activities among Muslims is well known. Their role in creating two of the world’s most dangerous problems – the Israeli problem and the Kashmir problem – and their recent invasion of Iraq as junior partners of the USA war machine are manifestations of the same tendencies among their ruling class.

 

Mirza’s claims changed over time and he finally settled for the claim that he was both the returned Jesus (may peace be upon him) and Imam Mahdi. These claims have been proved false because Mirza died without achieving any of the main things that Imam Mahdi or the returned Prophet Jesus is expected to do in his lifetime, regardless of whether we refer to Jewish or Christian or Islamic expectations.

 

[3] Some scholars would assert that even when a Qur`anic list is exhaustive, the Hadith can add new items to the list. For example, in 4:23-24 the Qur`an lists the categories of women with whom marriage is prohibited. After giving the list the Qur`an explicitly says: “All other women are lawful” for marriage. However, there is widespread consensus among scholars on another prohibition: marriage at the same time with a woman and her maternal or paternal aunt. This prohibition is supported by a hadith. But: 1) there are grounds for raising reasonable doubt about the authenticity of this hadith (see my book, Punishment for Adultery in Islam: A Detailed Examination, Chapter 1, Note 5, www.islamicperspective.com); 2) even if the hadith is authentic, prohibition of marriage with a woman and her aunt is a minor detail and is not to be compared with taking the life of a person.

 

[4] This is applicable equally to those who rebel against a properly constituted Islamic state as to those rulers who force people to disobey the laws of God, e.g. by prohibiting the wearing of hijab or jailing or torturing or executing people for criticising the rulers in the light of Islamic teachings. If Islamic forces get upper hand on such rulers they can be exiled, maimed, crucified or otherwise executed.

 

[5] This is applicable not only to highway robbers and other armed criminals but also to rulers who by their repressive rule cause corruption in the land and betray Islamic causes.

 

[6] This verse provides an illustration of the fact that even when the Qur`an explcitly refers to an earlier tradition it improves it. The provision and encouragement to forgive by not retaliating or by accepting ransom is not found in the extant Torah tradition, which only talks of retaliation. See Exodus 21:23-25, Leveticus 24:20 and Deutronomy 19:21. This last passage in fact says: “Show no pity”.

 

[7] Some Muslims understand the words “there is no compulsion in religion” to mean that even Muslims cannot be obliged to follow the laws of Islam. This is an error. The freedom given in the Qur`an is the freedom to choose a religion. But once a religion has been chosen, a person can be obliged to follow some of its laws (5:43, 47). In particular, once a person has freely chosen to accept Islam, he or she can and in some cases must be obliged to follow its laws. This is similar to the way a person who freely enters a country is obliged to follow the laws of that country.

 

[8] Here the reader should once again avoid confusion by recalling what was said in the previous note (7). 


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