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Apostates: Should they be killed or saved?
The sections of this article are:
1- Who are the Apostates in Islam?
2- The absolute freedom of religion in Islam.
3- So how come Muslim Fundamentalists execute those who desert Islam then?
4- My rebuttal about the historical Muslims' battles with the Apostates.
5- Does Islam really mean to force someone to Islam or else kill him?
6- Renowned Muslim scholars agreeing with not all apostates to be killed.
Note: Some of the notes in this article were taken from the commentary of the Noble Quran translation of Abdullah Yusuf Ali; may Allah Almighty rest his soul. Ameen.
1- Who are the Apostates in Islam?
Apostates or Renegades are those who decide to leave the religion of Islam. There is a widely prevailing misconception about this issue. It is generally thought that the Holy Quran (The Muslims Holy Scripture) provides the death sentence for those who desert the religion of Islam. There is not the least ground for such a supposition. The Holy Quran speaks repeatedly of people going back to unbelief after believing, but never once does it say that they should be killed or punished. Although the Holy Quran does provide the death sentence for some situations such as putting a murderer to death, but it never provided death sentence or ordered the death of those who leave Islam.
Let us look at Noble Verse 2:217 "They ask thee (Mohammed) Concerning fighting In the Prohibited Month. Say: Fighting therein Is a grave (offence); but graver is it In the sight of Allah to prevent access to the path of Allah, to deny Him, to prevent access to the sacred Mosque, and drive out its members. Tumult and oppression are worse than slaughter. Nor will they cease fighting you until they turn you back from your faith if they can. And if any of you turn back from their faith (Islam) and die in unbelief, their works will bear no fruit in this life and in the hereafter; they will be companions of the fire and will abide therein." Here in this Holy Verse we see that Allah Almighty talks about those who leave Islam, and promises them punishment in the day of judgment. Allah Almighty doesn't order the death of those people.
Let also look at Noble Verse 5:54 "O ye who believe! If any from among you turn back from his faith, soon will Allah produce a people whom He (Allah) will love as they will love Him lowly with the believers, Mighty against the rejecters, fighting in the way of Allah, and never afraid of the reproachers of such as find fault. That is the Grace of Allah which He will bestow on whom He (Allah) pleaseth. And Allah encompasseth all, and He knoweth all things." Here in this Holy Verse we see again Allah Almighty strengthening the faith of the Muslims in Islam by assuring them that whenever they see Muslims leaving Islam they will also see those who join Islam with strong faith and love to Allah Almighty.
"As most men are rebellious." (5:49), it is inevitable that there should be apostates even from such a religion of reason and common-sense as Islam. In Verse 5:54 above there is a warning to the Muslims that they should not repeat the history of the Jews, and become so self-satisfied or arrogant as to depart from the spirit of Allah's teaching. If they do, the loss will be their own. Allah's bounty is not confined to one group or section of humanity. He can always raise up people who will follow the true spirit of Islam. That spirit is defined in two ways:
1- They will love Allah Almighty and Allah Almighty will love them.
2- Amongst the Brethren, their attitude will be that of humility, but to wrongdoers they will offer no compromises, and they will always strive and fight for the truth and right. They will know no fear, either physical, or that more insidious form. They are too great in mind to be haunted by any such thought.
Let us look at Noble Verse 5:55 "(O Muslims) Your (real) friends are (No less than) Allah, His Messenger, and the (Fellowship Of) Believers, those who establish regular prayers and regular charity, and they bow down humbly (in worship)." Here we see Allah Almighty telling Muslims after he warned them from apostates in (5:54) that their real friends are: Allah Almighty, Prophet Mohammed peace be upon him, and the good Muslims who keep up with their prayers and charity, and who humbly worship their God.
Let us look at Noble Verse 3:90 "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." Here in this holy verse we see Allah Almighty rejecting the faith of those who keep coming back and forth to Islam. In order for a human being to accept Islam as his religion, he must be certain about it first. Allah Almighty's path is wide open, and his mercy is greater than this universe. This Holy Verse also does not order the death of those who leave Islam.
The path to Allah Almighty is always open and Allah Almighty will be your friend as in verse (5:55) above, and he will forgive your sins for you once you repent as in the following verse: "Except for those that repent (Even) after that, And make amends; for Allah is Oft-Forgiving Most Merciful." (3:89).
2- The absolute freedom of religion in Islam:
Some group of Muslims believe in killing apostates because they follow a Hadith (Saying) from Prophet Mohammed peace be upon him regarding the apostates. While Islam was weak and still growing among Jews, Christians and Pagans, Muslims did not have the full and complete religion that they needed. Some Jews and Christians wanted to take advantage of such situation to destroy Islam. They had a plan to adopt Islam first and then desert it, thus creating the impression that Islam was not a religion worth adopting.
Let us look at Noble Verse 3:72 "A section of the People of the Book (Jews and Christians) say: Believe in the morning what is revealed to the believers (Muslims), but reject it at the end of the day; perchance they may (themselves) turn back (from Islam)." To protect Islam from such Satanic attempts done by a group of the people of the book (Jews and Christians), Prophet Mohammed peace be upon him ordered the death of those who enter Islam and leave it. This temporary law that was put by our Prophet had stopped the hypocrites from the People of the Book who carried so much hatred toward Islam to enter Islam and desert it afterwards.
Allah Almighty ordered the Muslims to kill the pagans who fought against the Muslims. The following Noble Verse talks about all of the enemies who fought the Muslims long and bloody battles:
Let us look at Noble Verse 2:191 "And slay them wherever ye catch them, and turn them out from where they have Turned you out; for tumult and oppression are worse than slaughter; but fight them not at the Sacred Mosque, unless they (first) fight you there; but if they fight you, slay them. Such is the reward of those who suppress faith." The killing of the pagans who fought the Muslims during the time when Islam was not yet complete was essential.
Important Note: Noble Verse 2:191 above is not dedicated to the apostates as some Muslims use it to prove that the Noble Quran orders the killing of apostates. In fact, it doesn't even mention the apostates. It talks in general about slaying the pagans who declare wars on the Muslims. The pagans would obviously include the apostates who deserted Islam, but the Noble Verse certainly doesn't DIRECTLY order the killing of anyone who deserts Islam.
Allah Almighty promised that He will protect the Noble Quran from any corruption:
"We have, without doubt, sent down the Message; and We will assuredly Guard it (from corruption). (The Noble Quran, 15:9)"
"Nay, this is a Glorious Quran, (inscribed) in a Tablet Preserved! (The Noble Quran, 85:21-22)"
Let us look at Noble Verse 5:3 ".....This day those who reject faith given up all hope of your religion: Yet fear them not But fear Me (Allah). This day have I (Allah) perfected your religion for you, completed my favour upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as your (complete) religion....". So long as Islam was not organized, with its own community and its own laws, the unbelievers and the Hypocrites from the People of the Book and the Pagan Arabs had hoped to wean the believers from the new teaching. Now that hope is gone forever with the complete organization of Islam.
Let us look at Noble Verses 15:2-3 "Again and again will those who disbelieve, wish that they had bowed (to God's will) in Islam. Leave them alone, to enjoy (the good things of this life) and to please themselves: let (false) hope amuse them: soon will knowledge (undeceive them)."
Let us look at Noble Verses 10:99-100 "If it had been thy Lord's will, they would all have believed, all who are on earth! wilt thou then compel mankind, against their will, to believe! No soul can believe, except by the will of God, and He will place doubt (or obscurity) on those who will not understand."
Let us look at Noble Verse 18:29 "Say, 'The truth is from your Lord': Let him who will believe, and let him who will, reject (it): for the wrong doers We have prepared a Fire whose (smoke and flames), like the walls and roof of a tent, will hem them in: if they implore relief they will be granted water like melted brass, that will scald their faces, how dreadful the drink! How uncomfortable a couch to recline on!"
Let us look at Noble Verse 27:92 "And to rehearse the Qur'an: and if any accept guidance, they do it for the good of their own souls, and if any stray, say: 'I am only a Warner.'"
Let us look at Noble Verse 10:99 "If it had been thy Lord's will, they would all have believed,- all who are on earth! wilt thou then compel mankind, against their will, to believe!" Allah Almighty doesn't like us to compel people into belief.
"No soul can believe, except by the will of God, and He will place doubt (or obscurity) on those who will not understand. (The Noble Quran, 10:100)" Allah Almighty helps those whom He likes to be guided to His Straight Path. If anyone doesn't believe, or reverts back from Islam, it is then his loss and it is the Will of Allah Almighty.
"Say: 'Behold all that is in the heavens and on earth'; but neither Signs nor Warners profit those who believe not. Do they then expect (any thing) but (what happened in) the days of the men who passed away before them? Say: 'Wait ye then: for I, too, will wait with you.' (The Noble Quran, 10:101-102)" Notice how Allah Almighty orders us to say "Wait" to those who reject Islam. This clearly says that we can't force anyone into Islam, or punish anyone for leaving Islam.
Let us look at Noble Verse 10:108 "Say: 'O ye men! Now Truth hath reached you from your Lord! those who receive guidance, do so for the good of their own souls; those who stray, do so to their own loss: and I am not (set) over you to arrange your affairs.'" Whoever believes benefits his soul and whoever doesn't, harms it, and Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him is not in charge of people to arrange their affairs. Only Allah Almighty is.
"Say: 'Obey Allah, and obey the Messenger: but if ye turn away, he is only responsible for the duty placed on him and ye for that placed on you. If ye obey him, ye shall be on right guidance. The Messenger's duty is only to preach the clear (Message). (The Noble Quran, 24:54)" Prophet Muhammad's duty was only to preach.
"Those who pervert the Truth in Our Signs are not hidden from Us. Which is better? he that is cast into the Fire, or he that comes safe through, on the Day of Judgement? Do what ye will: Verily He seeth (clearly) all that ye do. (The Noble Quran, 41:40)" Here we clearly see Allah Almighty giving a freedom of choice for people to choose or refuse Islam.
"And those who take as protectors others besides Him - Allah doth watch over them; and thou art not the disposer of their affairs. (The Noble Quran, 42:6)" Again, Allah Almighty here told Prophet Muhammad that he has no authority over those who reject Islam.
"It is true thou wilt not be able to guide every one whom thou lovest; but Allah Guides those whom He will and He Knows those who receive guidance. (The Noble Quran, 28:56)" Again, no authority to Prophet Muhammad over those who accept or reject Islam.
Let us look at Noble Verse 2:256 "Let there be no compulsion in religion: Truth stands out clear from error: whoever rejects evil and believes in Allah hath grasped the most trustworthy handhold, that never breaks. And Allah heareth and knoweth all things." The Holy Quran prohibits Muslims to force any person into Islam. Muslims must not let people resent Islam and Muslims. They must leave people decide for themselves because the "Truth stands out clear from error" (2:256).
Compulsion is incompatible with religion: Because (1) religion depends upon faith and will, and these would be meaningless by force; (2) Truth and Error have been so clearly shown up by the mercy of Allah Almighty that there should be no doubt in the minds of any persons of good will as to the fundamentals of faith; (3) Allah Almighty's protection is continuous, and His Plan is always to lead us from the depths of darkness into the clearest light.
The following was sent to me from "Vipor Poison"; may Allah Almighty always be pleased with him:
"I found another verse in the Quran that dealt with apostates. Noble Verse 4:137 "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."
Notice that the Quran says those who reject faith and then BELIEVE and again DISBELIEVE. if a Muslim rejects faith and is then killed for doing so how will he live to again BELIEVE and then DISBELIEVE. The atmosphere of this verse is that of free will and freedom of choice to everyone. If Allah wanted he would have said something about the punishment, if there was any, of those who reject Islam after accepting it. but Allah takes this to be clearly a private matter between them and Allah.
I found many verses in the Quran that teach us NO PUNISHMENT for an apostate BUT I found no verse that says the contrary.
Here is another verse about the freedom of expression in the Quran. many translators translate this wrongly and kill the meaning of the word making it a bogus and strange statement. Noble Verse 39:18 "Those who listen to the word, then follow the best of it; those are they whom Allah has guided, and those it is who are the men of understanding."
The Quran tells the Muslims to listen to every thing and follow only the best of what is said. it does not tell them to kill people if they say something that is not according to the cultural norm."
The following two sets of Noble Verses were sent to me by brother Rached Blili; may Allah Almighty always be pleased with him.
Let us look at Noble Verses 109:1-6 "Say : O ye that reject Faith! I worship not that which ye worship, Nor will ye worship that which I worship. And I will not worship that which ye have been wont to worship, Nor will ye worship that which I worship. To you be your Way, and to me mine."
Let us look at Noble Verse 42:15 "Now then, for that (reason), call (them to the Faith), and stand steadfast as thou art commanded, nor follow thou their vain desires; but say: 'I believe in the Book which God has sent down; and I am commanded to judge justly between you. God is our Lord and your Lord: for us (is the responsibility for) our deeds, and for you for your deeds. There is no contention between us and you. God will bring us together, and to Him is (our) Final Goal.'"
The Noble Quran in all of the above Noble Verses is crystal clear about providing freedom of religion and choice to all people, Muslims and non-Muslims.
3- So how come Muslim Fundamentalists execute those who desert Islam then?
The interpretation of those who prohibit women from education, even though Islam clearly allows education for women, and prohibit them also from driving, and oppress men by forcing them to grow beards, even though beards are NOT mandatory in Islam, doesn't mean much to me.
As we've seen above, it is quite clear, and beyond any questioning that Allah Almighty prohibited compulsion in religion and allowed the absolute freedom of religion to everyone. When Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him executed apostates, he did it because Muslims were at war time and because Islam was still partial, and Muslims needed protection from the hypocrites of the Jews and Christians who purposely entered Islam and deserted it later to create confusion among the Muslims as shown below in the Noble Verse.
The Sayings of Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, regarding killing the renegades came when Islam was partial and the Muslims were dealing with wars all the time. So if the person wasn't with the Muslims, then he was certainly with his people, the pagans and the other non-Muslims, and he would've then had to join the evil forces to fight the Muslims. So the case back then was different than today.
I have no sympathy for those hypocrites of the Jews and Christians who got executed:
"A section of the People of the Book (Jews and Christians) say: Believe in the morning what is revealed to the believers (Muslims), but reject it at the end of the day; perchance they may (themselves) turn back (from Islam). (The Noble Quran, 3:72)"
Please read "The absolute freedom of religion in Islam" section above for more details and explanations.
Please visit Islam prohibits forming alliance with Jews and Christians and non-Muslims.
Why do some Muslims call Americans and Westerners "Great Satan"?
What is the Wisdom of Islam?
4- My rebuttal about the historical Muslims' battles with the Apostates:
According to the Islamic history, when Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him died, some of the Muslims had deserted Islam for several reasons. The biggest of those reasons was that they opposed paying the Zakah (2.5% of annual income of Islamic taxes for the poor). Keep in mind that Allah Almighty constantly Warning the Prophet and the Muslims from the hypocrites (false believers). The Arabs before Islam were used to exploiting each others. The strong ate the poor, and high interest rates were enforced on loans given to the poor to ultimately force them to sell of their cattle, sons, daughters and/or wives as slaves.
After the death of our Prophet, some of the rich hypocrites decided to join with the Pagan Arab tribes to fight the Muslims and end Islam. The leader of the apostates/renegades was Musylama Al-Kath-thab or Musylama the liar in English, started his army of infidels in what we call today the country of Oman, which is more than 1,000 miles away from Mecca and Medina where the Muslims resided.
After Musylama became strong and popular and was able to gather a big amount of pagans and hypocrites to form an army, he led them to march to Mecca and Medina to fight the Muslims. When his army finally reached the mountains near Mecca, the Muslims had fought them several battles until he ultimately was killed and his army was soundly defeated.
The objection that I have with some Muslims is for the following reasons:
1- It was the renegades or apostates that declared the war on the Muslims. The Muslims did not start the war.
2- We can't use the story of Musylama Al-Kath-thab to prove that it is ok today to kill any person who deserts Islam. Musylama was not a peaceful renegade. He wanted to destroy the Muslims through war. He had to be fought and killed. We can't use him as a standard and kill all renegades, especially those in the West for instance, who might embrace Islam and then desert it later due to the overwhelming anti-Islamic media and lies.
3- As I proved in this article, Allah Almighty in the Noble Quran talked about the apostates several times, and not a single command exists in the Noble Quran that orders the killing of any of them.
4- The Sayings of Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, regarding killing the renegades came when Islam was partial and the Muslims were dealing with wars all the time. As I said above, if the person wasn't with the Muslims, then he was certainly with his people, the pagans and the other non-Muslims, and he would've then had to join the evil forces to fight the Muslims. So the case back then was different than today.
5- Today, if a week-hearted and easily persuaded person for instance decides to embrace Islam and then gets easily persuaded to leave Islam, and then gets easily persuaded to embrace Islam again, and then gets easily persuaded to leave it and so on, then how is it right for us to apply the things that were applied to the hypocrites and Musylama Al-Kath-thab during and after our Prophet's time to this innocent individual?
6- We must never forget Allah Almighty's Command that honors the freedom of religion and choice in Islam in Noble Verse 2:256 and the others as shown in this article.
7- Some Muslims claim that the Caliphs did not apply Noble Verse 2:256 and others to the renegades, because the Caliphs knew that these Noble Verses are not applicable to them. My response to this is that we:
5- Does Islam really mean to force someone to Islam or else kill him?
Please visit Does Islam really mean to force someone to Islam or else kill him?
6- Renowned Muslim scholars agreeing with not all apostates to be killed:
Also visit: www.alislam.org/library/books/mna/chapter_7.html.
Emphasis below are mine.
From: "Just Flow" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
To: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, Munir0728@yahoo.com
Subject: Apostacy-Support from orthodox scholars, hanafi, maliki, hanbali scholars agree
Date: Tue, 28 Mar 2006 01:29:47 +0200
Salaam dear brother, i think the next article which i quote below, will be a great support and addition for your article located at: http://www.answering-christianity.com/apostates.htm
There are too orthodox scholars who agree with you, i don't mean just some
scholars, but famous renowned orhodox scholars , like Ibn tamiyya and the maliki
scholar Abul Walid al-Baji support our stance on apostacy, therefor your article
is and stance is also a right orthodox view, where no one has the right to
criticize you, since renowned scholars confirmed our stance. Check the article
below, let me know what you think of it, and if you would add it to the article.
Volume 4, Book 52, Number 260:
Ali burnt some people and this news reached Ibn 'Abbas, who said, "Had I been in his place I would not have burnt them, as the Prophet said, 'Don't punish (anybody) with Allah's Punishment.' No doubt, I would have killed them, for the Prophet said, 'If somebody (a Muslim) discards his religion, kill him.' "
Many prominent scholars throughout the centuries have held the view that
apostasy is not a hadd (singular for hudud = capital) offence. This view is
founded on the fact that the Qur'an is completely silent on the death penalty
for apostasy. In fact, freedom of religion is a fundamental tenet of Islam. In
Surah al-Baqarah, 2:256, Allah explicitly states:
"Let there be no compulsion in religion". This
Medinan verse was revealed when some Companions asked the Prophet for permission
to compel their relatives to profess Islam. It has been widely interpreted to
mean that no one can be compelled to embrace Islam because religion depends upon
faith and will, and this would be meaningless if induced by force. Islam itself
means submission to the will of God; and the willing submission of the self to
belief must be attained through conviction and reason, not through coercion and duress.
Islam began by inviting and persuading people to embrace it on the merit of its rationality and truth. In Surah Yunus, 10:99, a verse revealed in Mecca at the advent of Islam, Allah says: "Had your Lord willed, everyone on earth would have believed. Do you then force people to become believers?" This and verse 2:256, together with the norm of Shari'a which affirms freedom of religion, have led many Muslim countries today to include in its Constitution an article on freedom of religion as a fundamental right.
In his book, The Punishment for Apostasy in Islam, the former Chief Justice of Pakistan, SA Rahman, noted that even though the subject of apostasy occurred no less than 20 times in the Qur'an, the Holy Book remained silent on death as a punishment. Surah An-Nisa', 4:137-138, state that "Verily, those who believe, then disbelieve, then believe again, then disbelieve, and then increase in their disbelief - Allah will never forgive them nor guide them to the path. Give to the hypocrites the tidings that there is for them a painful torment." If indeed it was Allah's intention to impose the death penalty for apostasy, then such occasion of repeated apostasy could have provoked such a punishment. But neither the first instance of apostasy, nor repeated apostasy brought about capital punishment.
Those who advocate the death penalty for apostasy based their reasoning on a hadith which proclaims, "kill whoever changes his religion". But this hadith is open to varying interpretations on several grounds.
First, this hadith is considered a weak hadith with just a single isnad (this means there is only one chain of transmission or narration) and thus according to the rules of Islamic jurisprudence, it is not enough to validate the death penalty.
Second, this hadith is also considered a general ('amm) hadith in that it is in need of specification (takhsis); for it would otherwise convey a meaning that is not within its purpose. The obvious reading of the hadith would, for example, make liable the death punishment on a Hindu or Christian who converts to Islam. This is obviously not the intention of the hadith. According to the rules of Islamic jurisprudence, when a text is interpreted once, it becomes open to further interpretation and specification. Therefore, many scholars interpret this hadith to apply only to cases of high treason (hirabah), which means declaring war against Islam, the Prophet, or God or the legitimate leadership of the ummah.
Third, and most importantly, there is no evidence to show that Prophet Muhammad saw or his Companions ever compelled anyone to embrace Islam, nor did they sentence anyone to death solely for renunciation of the faith.
Based on these three reasons and the Qur'anic principle of freedom of religion, prominent ulama (scholars) from the seventh to the twentieth centuries have come out with the position that there can be no death penalty for apostasy. According to Professor Hashim Kamali in his award-winning book, Freedom of Expression in Islam, two leading jurists of the generation succeeding the Companions, Ibrahim al-Naka'I and Sufyan al-Thawri, both held that the apostate should be re-invited to Islam, but should never be condemned to death. The renowned Hanafi jurist, Shams al-Din al-Sarakhsi wrote that even though renunciation of faith is the greatest of offences, it is a matter between man and his Creator, and its punishment is postponed to the Day of Judgement. The Maliki jurist Abul Walid al-Baji and the renowned Hanbali jurist Ibn Taymiyyah have both held that apostasy is a sin which carries no hadd punishment.
In modern times, the celebrated Sheikh of al-Azhar University, the late Mahmud Shaltut who was esteemed for his vast knowledge of Islamic jurisprudence and Qur'anic interpretation, wrote that many ulama are in agreement that hudud cannot be established by a solitary hadith and that unbelief by itself does not call for the death penalty. The current Sheikh of al-Azhar, who was Egypt's former Grand Mufti, Dr Mohammed Sayed Tantawi, also declared that apostasy is not a capital crime.
Many scholars, including Ibn Taymiyyah, Shaltut and Tantawi, said that the death penalty was not meant to apply to a simple change of faith, but to hirabah, that is, when apostasy is accompanied by rebellion against the community and its legitimate leadership.
As we clearly see from the Noble Verses above, apostates are no longer to be killed in Islam. I am not here promoting apostates, but there is no reason to kill someone who doesn't deserve to be killed. Certainly if the apostate is hostile toward the Muslims and joins the enemy in a war against them, or tries to corrupt the Muslims in the Muslim lands by trying to convert them to his/her new deviant religion, then the matter becomes different. But if a Westerner today for instance embraces Islam for a while and then changes his position due to the overwhelming false anti-Islamic media, then certainly killing that person would be a grave sin and a big mistake.
Apostates in the Bible- Instant death to those who desert their religion in both the Old Testament and the New Testament.
The law of apostasy in Christianity.
Allah, Islam, Quran, Muhammad questions and answers.
What is the place of Jews, Christians and non-Muslims in Islam.
Human rights and equality in Islam V.S. Christianity.
Ask me any question.
Prophet Muhammad is a Murderer for KILLING the enemies? WHAT ABOUT THE BIBLE'S PROPHETS' MURDERS that were blessed by GOD?
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