Most Muslim ruling elites are either happy with an entirely secular form of government which is nominally democratic - i.e. only in appearance, democracy being only a tool to gain power and wealth without needing to be answerable to any Islamic principles at all, and if any only in name. Freedom without responsibility. Subversion of human values under the guise of freedom of choice. Tyranny masquerading as opportunity.
Other Muslim ruling elites have gone as far as to utilize the very principles of Islam to institute forms of government which are Islamic in name only but not in actual practice - Islam becomes for them a mere tool to keep their populace under tight and ruthless control while they also control all the power and wealth without having to be answerable to any Islamic principles themselves. Repression without accountability. Oppression and suppression in disguise. Hypocrisy of the highest order.
Where do we find the middle path here, the right balance between absolute democracy and religious extremism, that will allow Malaysian Muslims a chance to realize happiness both in this life as well as the hereafter?
While Islam in its original form must be protected, Muslims today must also learn to deal constructively with new things or bid'ah, as changes take place every second. These changes present constantly new challenges to Muslims. How do we meet them without sacrificing Islam? How do we adapt to them without ourselves changing into something which is un-Islamic?
Not everything new is un-Islamic. Muslims must continue to be in the forefront of science and knowledge and examine all things on the basis of Islam and Islamic principles and tenets.
Islamic justice must be properly understood by the scholars and ordinary Muslims alike if we are to ensure that Islam remains relevant to our lives and to reduce instances of apostasy.
There is no compulsion in religion and our duty is only to pass the message, the reception of which we have to leave to Allah. Islam has never needed to be spread by use of force.
Allah has given humans freedom of choice to accept Islam or reject it. Who are we to force it upon others or to force anyone to remain in Islam? Do we want to be continually at war with non-Muslims who reject Islam, including those “Muslims” who apostasize? Is it even necessary?
There are some things we may ultimately have to leave to Allah's judgement and included in this category is the subject of apostasy – it is completely beyond human means to enforce any punishment, other than in exceptional cases.
The problem with this is that many of the Muslim nation-states are controlled by elites who subjugate and oppress their own people. Under these circumstances it is not easy to challenge the oppressive international system, although obviously I would agree that this needs to be done.
Many Muslim countries are in fact rich in natural resources, and there is no necessity for their people to remain poor, other than for the fact that the wealth of their countries has deliberately been controlled by their elites and not equitably distributed - this is un-Islamic, but has become a norm in many Muslim countries.
“A few years ago, during question-answer session in the Islamic Center of Greater Toledo, a member inquired about the punishment for apostasy in Islam. It is an unfortunate common belief among many Muslims that Shariah prescribes death for the apostate!!!
I was once an apostate and openly declared I did not believe in Islam and rejected even the existence of Allah. Thank Allah! I was then living in a country, India, where people did not execute apostates. I thank Allah for giving me a chance to repent and return to the fold of Islam. I, being an apostate once, became free from the cultural and ethnic Islam to study true Islam with an open mind. "Islamic scholars" and imams do not anymore control my mind and beliefs unless their decrees (fatawa) are (1) in conformity with the Qur'an, (2) the hadiths that they quote do not contradict the Qur'an.
"They have taken as lords besides Allah their rabbis and their monks and the Messiah son of Mary, when they were bidden to worship only one Allah. Be He glorified from all that they ascribe as partner unto Him!” [9:31]
Now, most classical commentators of the Qur'an agree that the grave transgression alluded to here is not the literal worship of the learned people. According to Tirmidhi, the Holy Prophet was asked to explain this verse by Adi ibn Hatim, a convert (or apostate) from Christianity, and he confirmed that the sin was the people, "considering lawful what their priest declared lawful, even though it was forbidden by Allah." (Al-Jami, 44:9;IJ).
I believe that many Muslims are reluctant to speak up because many "Islamic" cultures today encourage docility and teach to unquestioningly accept the decisions of "qualified" scholars. This is a new phenomenon; in the time of Muhammad (s), ideas were only supported after they had been proven to be in harmony with the Qur'an. Scholars could not just pull rank, as they were expected to be able to argue their cases. In fact, in a famous incident of Islamic history, a humble woman of Medina publicly corrected the Caliph. One day, Hazrat Umar (RA) was announcing a change in the rule mahr, when the woman in the crowd suddenly stopped him in his track by loudly quoting a verse of the Qur'an which contradicted his proposal. He had to relent, saying, "The women of Medina know the Qur'an better than Umar." So, it is time for Muslims to question the imams and scholars if they deviate from the Qur'an and hadiths that do not contradict the Qur'an. We must not only be satisfied by the answer of the scholars, but we must verify the source of their references. Remember, if Hazrath Umar (RA) can make a mistake, ordinary scholars and ordinary people like us also can make greater mistakes.
The Qur'an and the sayings of the Prophet (s) require Muslims to think critically. Pagans are repeatedly berated for not questioning, for not using reason, even being compared to dumb animals on several occasions!
"When it is said unto them: 'Follow that which Allah has revealed:' they say: 'Nay! We shall follow the ways of our fathers.' What! Even though their fathers were void of wisdom and guidance?....Deaf, dumb, blind, therefore they have no sense.” [2:170-171]
"Will they not then ponder on the Qur'an? If it had been from other than Allah they would have found herein much incongruity.” [4:83]
So, the principle established here is that (1) Muslims are required to think critically and not blindly accept the authority of their scholars, and (2) that the clear message of the Qur'an is to be preferred to any isolated law interpretation which contradicts the Qur'an's clear spirit.
The Qur'an teaches that human beings are individually responsible. So, I believe that Allah would not forgive my sins on the Day of Judgment even if my sins were the result of following the advice of a certain Imam. I would not be able to hide behind any Imam or behind his fatwa even if coming from the most respected and revered Imam of any time.
Therefore, views expressed here are my opinions based on the references given. I do not claim to be a scholar, but there are sometimes cases where the violation of the Qur'an is so self-evident that all Muslims can see them.
I believe that inhuman law of apostasy has nothing to do with Islam of the Prophet (s) and it is an interpolation into Islam by fanatics among us and the selfish rulers. There are many reasons for me to believe that execution for apostasy is a manufactured law rather than divine law.
Holy Prophet (s) spent his entire life fighting in defense of fundamental human rights that everybody should be free to choose his religion; no one must be physically forced to change religion. Prophet (s) struggled with the Meccan establishment to have the freedom to invite non-believers to Islam. This was consistent with the practices of all other Prophets.
The Qur'an states:
"...There is no compulsion in religion. The right direction is here forth distinct from error...”[2:256]
In the light of the above verse, a person has to be insane to belief that Islam prescribes execution for apostasy.
In no uncertain terms, Allah commands Prophet to allow people to believe and disbelieve. If the Shariah recommends to kill an apostate, this law cannot be Islamic because it contradicts the above two verses.
The Qur'an further states:
"And so, O Prophet, exhort them, thy task is ONLY to exhort; thou canst NOT compel them to believe.” [88:21-22]
"Thy duty is to make the message reach them; it is OUR PART to call them to account." [13:40]
"Call thou (all mankind) unto thy Sustainer's path with wisdom and goodly exhortation, and argue with them in MOST KINDLY MANNER...” [16:125]
While the Qur'an commands the Prophet (s) not to compel people to believe in Islam and invite people with the most kind manner and words, fanatics among us threaten people with death mercilessly to keep them in the Muslim Ummah as hypocrites as if the dishonest hypocrites are better than honest apostates. It is a most heinous crime against Islam and Prophet (s) to manufacture inhuman law of execution of apostate. If the Qur'anic verses tell the Prophet not to compel people to believe in Islam (88:22) and the responsibility to call disbelievers to account rests with Allah only (1:40), the law of execution of apostates is of human origin.
Initial reluctance of the people of Arabia to accept Islam disturbed Prophet (s). Then the following verse was revealed:
"And had your Lord willed, whoever in the earth would have believed all together, will you then coerce people to become believers?” [10:99]
According to the above verse, even Allah will not coerce people to become Muslims or remain as Muslim once a person accepts Islam. So, Muslims must condemn the law of apostasy and save innocent Muslims becoming intolerant and violent by the henious indoctrination by fanatics among us because Allah says:
So, religious belief is a personal matter. It is Allah alone -- not the state or religious authorities -- who know what is in the heart of the people. If the highest human authority, Prophet (s), cannot call anyone to account for belief or disbelief, no sane person can believe that religious scholars and the state have the authority to execute people for their personal belief.
The Qur'an states:
"A section of the People of the Book say: 'Believe in the morning what is revealed to the believers, Bur reject it at the end of the day; perchance they may (themselves) turn back." [3:72]
A section of People of the Book used a tactic to create doubt among the Muslims in the hope that some of them might thereby be beguiled into repudiating Islam. How could it be possible for non-Muslims to have enacted this plan to entice Muslims to believe one day and reject next, if death was the penalty for apostasy? This tactic of a group of People of the Book mentioned in the Qur’an exposes apostasy law of the Muslim fanatics as un-Islamic. In spite of the deceptive behavior, the above verse cautions Muslims that “perchance they may themselves turn back” truly to Islam. The Qur’an does not rule to kill the apostates.
Abdullah b. Ubayy b. Salul was the leader of the munafiqun (hypocrites). But Prophet (s) took no action against him. Prophet (s) prayed for him and stayed at the grave until he was buried. Those fanatics among us must explain the reason for Prophet (s) not executing the known hypocrites like Abdullah b. Ubayy. Ubbay lived until death plotting to destroy Islam and Prophet (s) knew it. He was not executed for apostasy. This suggests that apostasy law is not a divine law but interpolation by fanatics among us.
Another verse states:
"Those who believe, then reject Faith, then believe (again) and again reject Faith, go on increasing in Unbelief -- Allah will not forgive them nor guide them on the Way.” [4:137]
An apostate cannot enjoy the repeated luxury of believing and disbelieving if punishment is death. A dead man has no further chance of again believing and disbelieving. Furthermore, if taken at face value, this verse indicates that Allah will only withdraw His guidance after repeated rejections. It does not tell Prophet (s) to kill these apostates. So, what right do these religious authorities and imams have to deprive a person of access to the divine guidance after the first?
The Qur'an states:
It is obvious from these verses that no punishment is to be inflicted by one man or another for apostasy. By no stretch of the imagination can the phrase, "curse of Allah," be interpreted to be a license to murder anyone who he considers to be an apostate. If any such commandment was prescribed it would have been clearly defined as all other punishments are in the Holy Qur'an.
The fact is that the Qur'an even mentions that apostates can be forgiven if they amend and repent. How could they repent if apostates are killed? By forced repentance? Then, does not Qur'an state that there is no compulsion in religion? The one verse that states that there is no compulsion in religion should be enough for a fair minded person to realize that Islam does not teach death to apostates.
Finally, can any one hadith suggesting to kill the apostate invalidate all the Qur'anic verses quoted earlier? We, Muslims, blame the West for anti-Muslim reporting. What do you expect from the West if we provide the sticks to beat us up? Will Muslims object the persecution of the new Muslim convert for his/her apostasy by his/her erstwhile co-religionists? If we believe that it is injustice to kill a new Muslim by non-Muslims for his/her apostasy from his/her former faith, you must give the same just treatment to Muslims who become Christians, Jews, Hindus, atheists, etc. Let Allah call to account those people who left Islam.
I, like many Muslims, am still bitter over smear jobs done on my religion by Western media over the Gulf war, and the Rushdie affair. So, the last thing that I want is to see Islam slandered all over again because of the barbaric and un-Islamic apostasy law. Ask yourselves: what kind of religion kills people for simple choice of faith, a change of heart? Not a religion of love and peace, not a religion worthy of respect! Perpetuation of the law to kill apostates can only increase or create doubts in the heart of the Muslims and potential Muslims, as people everywhere are already bombarded by negative images of Islam.
My message to those Muslims who, like me, yearn to project true compassionate face of Islam is that Dawa will never be successful in the West as long as crazy nonsense of law of apostasy is unchallenged by Muslims. If Muhammed Ali, Cat Stevens, and Murad Hoffman were harassed by a reactionary Christian group, the Muslims will be up in arms! We must be consistent in our attitude and compassionate to those Muslims who want to leave Muslim community.
"Believers, men and women, are protectors, one of another: they enjoin what is just, and forbid what is evil....” [9:71]
Therefore, let us protect the rights of all people to have freedom to believe and disbelieve. In closing, Islam is only vulnerable when Muslims abandon its clear teaching of reason, religious freedom, tolerance, and peace.”
Muslims have to figure out for themselves where they are going wrong if they wish to avoid getting frustrated by oppressive and unjust conduct of other Muslims as well as non-Muslims - to the extent that they are willing to blow themselves up along with innocent victims and call for the killing of apostates who do Islam and the Muslim Community no harm (they only harm themselves after all).
"Those who believe, then disbelieve, then again believe, then disbelieve and thereafter go on increasing in disbelief, Allah will never forgive them, nor guide them to any way of deliverance". (4:137)
I think that it would immediately be obvious that if a person were to be put to death for apostasy, i.e. for disbelieving, it would not be possible to "believe, then disbelieve, then again believe, then disbelieve..."
A basic tenet in Islam is that there is no compulsion in religion. Death for apostasy therefore does not make any sense, unless such apostasy was accompanied by a betrayal of or treason or enmity/fighting against the Islamic state/community.
Perhaps it may be useful to look into the context and circumstances of the hadiths decreeing the death penalty so that this controversial (and to me unnecessary) subject is laid to rest.
My opinion is close to that in the following article:
President of the Islamic Research Foundation International, Inc.
Due to lack of education and critical thinking several myths have taken root in the Muslim world over the ages, and there have not been any efforts in the past to clear these doubts. On the contrary, there has been a sort of effort to strengthen these myths and misconceptions. These misinterpretations of Islamic teachings have taken their toll on the Muslim world and have strengthened a misplaced perception that Islam is a symbol of obscurantism, a religion of intolerance and answers everything with the sword.
And there is no bigger misconception - strengthened with misunderstanding of Islamic beliefs over the years - other than the belief that Islam doesn't tolerate apostasy. The Christian missionaries and the Western world are cashing in on it. Ulama have tried to strengthen their point of view and several leading Muslim reformists have failed to tackle the issue. This misconception has also presented Islam as a medieval and killer religion. Islam bashers have time and again tried to carry the point by pointing out that Islam orders the killing of a person if he or she reverts to another religion from Islam.
Nobody has come forward to challenge this widely held belief as well as put forth a convincing argument about the misinterpretation of Qur'anic teachings by Ulama (Muslim religious scholars).
The Qur’an is completely silent on any worldly punishment for apostasy and the sole Tradition that forms the basis of rulings is open to many interpretations.
Prophet (pbuh) is reported to have said: ‘Whosoever changes his religion, kill him (man baddala Dinahu faqtuluhu)’”. It is this last quote from the Prophet that forms the basis of the said ruling.
While jurists are agreed on the authenticity of this tradition, they differ very widely on the appropriate interpretation and thus, the law concerning apostasy. Understanding the different viewpoints, and arriving at the truth is crucial to our discussion of this subject.
This tradition does not refer to Muslims who leave the religion of Islam for other religions. Finally, there is the crucial dispute over the nature of the punishment and the crime. Al-Nakha’ee and, according to Sha’rani, al-Thawri, hold that the apostate is a grave sinner who should however be continuously called back to the fold for the rest of his life, and not killed.
By implication, they do not consider the offence a hadd (fixed penalty) offence with a fixed punishment that must be carried out. This view is similar to the view that apostasy is a sin that carries no fixed punishment, and any penalty for it is discretionary (ta’zeer). This is a view held by the Hanbali scholar, Ibn Taimiya and he attributes it as well to the Maliki Imam al-Baji. Among Hanafites, the jurist Shamsuddeen al-Sarakhshi holds the same view. He says in al Mabsut that the fixed penalties or hudud are generally not suspended because of repentance, especially when they are reported and become known to the Imam. He then adds in the case of apostasy “renunciation of the faith and conversion to disbelief is admittedly the greatest of offences, yet it is a matter between man and his Creator, and its punishment is postponed to the day of Judgement. (“fa’l jaza’ ‘alayha mu’akhkhar ila dar al-jaza”).
If repentance is accepted, then apostasy is not a hadd offence with a fixed punishment. Secondly, once scholars accept that a Muslim apostate has the right to be given the opportunity to repent, they lose the right to set a time limit for his repentance.
Any scholar who says the death sentence applies to leaving the faith, then the convict is to be given a life-time to repent, and this is the view of Sufyan al-Thawri, Ibrahim al-Nakha’ee, Shamsuddeen al-Sarakhshi, Imam al-Baji and, by strong implication, Ahmad Ibn Taimiya. One must conclude that the death sentence is not for “simple apostasy” (mujarrad al-ridda), but for apostasy accompanied by treason and sedition, or by the abuse and slander (sabb) of the Noble Prophet.
Freedom to convert to or from Islam
"Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance." Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
The Glorious Qur'an says, "Let there be no compulsion in the religion: Surely the Right Path is clearly distinct from the crooked path." Al Baqarah, 2:256.
"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." Surah An-Nisa', 4:137.
For example, the Qur'an says: "Let him who wishes to believe, do so; and let him who wishes to disbelieve, do so." (Al-Kahf: 29)
In another verse, Allah Almighty says: "Yours is only the duty to convey the message; you are not a guardian over them." (Al-Ghashiyah: 21- 22)
Hence the death penalty is not an appropriate response to apostasy.
Muslims who support the death penalty for apostasy use as their foundation the above cited hadith, in which the Prophet (pbuh) is reported to have said: "Kill whoever changes his religion." But this is a weak foundation because this hadith was only transmitted from Muhammad (pbuh) by one individual. It was not confirmed by a second person. According to Islamic law, this is insufficient confirmation to impose the death penalty. The Shari`ah has not fixed any punishment for apostasy.
The hadith is so generally worded that it would require the death penalty for a Christian or Jew who converted to Islam. This is obviously not the prophet's intent. The hadith is in need of further specification, which has not been documented. Many scholars interpret this passage as referring only to instances of high treason. (e.g. declaring war on Islam, Muhammad (pbuh), Allah, etc.).
There is no historical record, which indicates that Muhammad (pbuh) or any of his companions ever sentenced anyone to death for apostasy.
The issue of killing a murtad or the apostate is not a simple one. Scholars have debated it from various angles and it is not simply an issue of killing someone for choosing one religion or another.
The question of apostasy has been debated among scholars based on their interpretations of some hadiths since the Qur'an does not specify any worldly punishment for it. For example, there was a case at the time of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) where a man came to him in three consecutive days and told him that he wanted to apostate. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) never took any action against him, and when the man finally left Madina, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) never sent anyone to arrest him, let alone kill him.
For example, one version of a hadith narrated by `A'isha (RA) concerning apostasy relates to one who left his religion and fought against Muslims.
The Qur’an has referred to the issue of apostasy at more than one place (for example see Al-Baqarah 2: 217, Al-Baqarah 2: 108, A’l Imra’n 3: 90, Al-Nisa’ 4: 137 and Al-Nahl 16: 106). But at none of these places does the Qur’an mention the punishment of death for such people who change their religion. The Qur’an does mention that such people shall face a terrible punishment in the hereafter but no worldly punishment is mentioned at any of these instances in the Qur’an. This situation obviously raises a question mark in the mind of the reader that if Allah had wanted to give the punishment of an apostate a permanent position in the Shari`ah, the punishment should have been mentioned, at least at one of the above mentioned places. If the Qur’an had kept completely silent about the apostate, the matter would have been different. But the strange thing is that the Qur’an mentions apostasy, and still does not mention the punishment (if any) it wants the apostate to be subjected to.
Furthermore, the Qur’an has strictly disallowed the imposition of the death penalty except in two specific cases. One of them is where the person is guilty of murdering another person and the other is where a person is guilty of creating unrest in the country (fasa’d fil-ardh) like being involved in activities that create unrest in a society, for example activities like terrorism etc. The Qur’an says:
“Whoever kills a person without his being guilty of murder or of creating unrest in the land, it is as though he kills the whole of mankind.” (Al-Ma’idah, 5: 32)
Obviously, apostasy can neither be termed as "murder" nor "creating unrest in the land".
Shaykh Inayatullah Subhani (author of the book “Apostasy doesn't carry the death penalty in Islam”) says that neither Islam forces any person to embrace neither Islam nor it forces him to remain within its fold. He writes, "Apostasy has been mentioned several times in Qur'an. It also describes the bad treatment that will be meted out for committing apostasy, but it never talks of punishment for the crime in this world." The learned scholar mentions three Ayaat (verses) from Qur'an on apostasy (Al-Baqara 217, Muhammad 25-27 and Al-Maida 54) and then says that none of these Ayaat prescribes any punishment for that though these Ayaat pass strictures on the people who commit it. There are several other Ayaat on the same issue and none of them prescribes either death penalty or any other punishment for apostasy in this world. He then adds that had there been some punishment in Islam for apostasy there was no reason as to why the issue was mentioned repeatedly in Qur'an but no punishment was prescribed.
Misinterpretation of the hadith, Man baddala Dinahu faqtuluh (kill him who changes his religion) has caused the problem. This order has been made to look general and permanent, though it was said in a particular circumstance for a particular group. Shaykh Subhani writes that this order was made to counter a scheme prepared by Jews of Madinah. They had planned that some of them embrace Islam for some time and then return to their old religion. Then some other people do the same. It was aimed to create restlessness among Muslims against their own leadership so that the strong Muslim unity should start crumbling. It was made clear in Qur'an in (Aal Imran, 3: 72-73).
To counter this planning the Prophet (SAW) ordered his companions to act in such a manner. Despite this order lengthy investigations were made to ascertain that the case was true and the person concerned was given adequate time to explain before the punishment was carried out.
Shaykh Subhani says lack of clear grasp of Qur'an misguided even leading Ulama. Otherwise it was not difficult to understand the hadith. Qur'anic teachings on the issue were not kept in mind.
He emphasizes that people who were awarded death penalty for reverting to other religions from Islam during the time of the Prophet (SAW) or during the reign of his caliphs were not given the punishment for the crime of apostasy but for the fact that they were at war with Muslims and Islamic government.
Shaykh Subhani regrets that punishment that was prescribed for certain people under special circumstances was made to look like a general order. He says that it was the order for people who posed threat to Islamic state and became at war with Islam and not for any person who reverts to other religion.
A number of Islamic scholars from past centuries, Ibrahim al-Naka'I, Sufyan al-Thawri, Shams al-Din al-Sarakhsi, Abul Walid al-Baji and Ibn Taymiyyah, have all held that apostasy is a serious sin, but not one that requires the death penalty. In modern times, Mahmud Shaltut, Sheikh of al-Azhar, and Dr Mohammed Sayed Tantawi have concurred.
In conclusion, we must never confuse the issue of killing a murtad with the freedom of conscience guaranteed in the Glorious Qur'an. For a detailed discussion, one should read (1) the Dr. Yusuf Al-Qaradawi's book on this issue: Jareemat ar-riddah wal murtadd (The Crime of Apostasy and Apostate) - published by Ar-Risalah foundation.
(2) Apostasy doesn't carry death penalty in Islam (Book: Tabdili-e-Mazhab aur Islam) by Maulana Inayatullah Asad Subhani)-published by Idara Ihya-e-Deen, Bilariya Ganj, Azamgarh (UP, India) Pages: 108, Price Rs 30.”