Thursday, February 20, 2014

Is Apostasy Of Any Concern To Islam?

Is apostasy of any concern to Islam?

NOT AT ALL. Nor should it be. What therefore is all the fuss about, especially in Malaysia? Is Islam or Muslims in Malaysia under attack from apostates from Islam or from proselytizing Christians and others, perhaps even atheists and secularists?

Perhaps it is time for Muslims to start thinking and behaving rationally in accordance with the real precepts of Islam instead of merely reacting emotionally.

There are unconfirmed reports of at least 100 “Muslims” converting to Christianity per month throughout Malaysia and “estimates” that there are 30,000 Malay converts in total.

This is all probably much exaggerated. Even if it is not exaggerated, there is really no cause for alarm, no matter how much Muslims may dislike or feel uneasy about such a situation.

Adverse arrogant, intolerant and irrational Malaysian Muslim reaction to this purportedly scary scenario has led to some Christian propagandists claiming that “Coercion and threat of losing life, family, or vocation is the ONLY way Islam keeps its followers faithful. Such a beggarly religion is highly suspect. If there is someone called Allah, and if the Koran is the revelation of Allah, why can the Koran and Allah not keep the Muslim faithful? Why are death threats, and laws like these in Malaysia, needed?” (Steve Van Nattan, Islam is coming apart in the seams in Malaysia).

The matter has further been politicized by the recent enforcement by Islamic religious authorities against the use of the Name “Allah” by Christians and seizure of Bibles using the Name “Allah”.

This of course is what some of the non-Muslims would like to see, and Muslims behaving irrationally gives them great delight – it is certainly part of their scheme to provoke Muslims into behaving in this manner. Why should we give them this pleasure? Islam is stronger than that and we as Muslims should strive to be strong as well.

We do not show strength by arrogance, coercion or threats or by being intolerant or irrational – these are all signs of weakness.

On the website, 12 apostates purportedly from Malaysia may be counted, 5 of whom have stated their current belief as “agnostic”, 4 “atheist” and 3 “Christianity”. Each of these different types of apostates will have to be approached differently. Are Muslim religious scholars actually equipped to dealing with any of them?

The purpose of this website is very clear – to agitate Muslims. They state “Nothing agitates a Muslim, as much as seeing a group of people who have left Islam.”

If we as Muslims become agitated then they have achieved their aim. So why get agitated?

There is nothing wrong with Islam, but as Muslims we have to accept the fact that there is either something wrong with us as a community or with the apostates themselves or perhaps both, as the reason for the occurrence of apostasy amongst us.

If there is something wrong with us, then it is within our own power to correct it if Allah wills, but if there is something wrong with the apostates, then it may not be within our power to correct it, even if we go to the extent of killing them or imposing other sanctions upon them, which will make a mockery of Islam and be of greater detriment to the Muslim community.

Islam is not mocked nor is it weakened by apostasy. Let us be clear about this.

We should not be concerned about it by being agitated, intolerant or irrational – these are entirely different things. Even if it is of no concern to Islam, we must take it seriously. We must find out why it is happening and how we should deal with it. We can only deal with it through knowledge and enlightenment.

If we and our religious scholars and politicians do not know how to deal with it other than through coercion and threat, then there is really something wrong with us as Muslims. Are we really practising Islam?

First of all, if Muslims accept the fact that the Qur'an is the literal Word of Allah that was put in the mouth of the Prophet (pbbuh), which they do, then there cannot be any contradictions, except for later verses which have abrogated other previous verses.
On this issue the Qur'an is very clear - there is no compulsion in religion - that is a basic tenet of Islam. There really is or should be freedom of choice to believe or not to believe in Islam. The Qur'an itself does not specify any temporal or worldly penalty for not believing or even for apostasy (which is essentially disbelieving after believing).
True belief does not come from force or compulsion but from inner conviction. Muslims must accept this fact and if we do then we cannot force anyone to become a Muslim nor can we force anyone to stay in Islam.
How does this square with the fact that punishment in the Hereafter is prescribed for not believing? Isn't that compulsion and isn't that therefore a contradiction?
Here one has to be extremely careful about one's position. Allah has prescribed punishment for unbelief or disbelief and He has also prescribed that there should be no compulsion in religion. What does this mean? Is Allah contradicting Himself here?
Far from it, in fact absolutely NOT.
Having prescribed a set of beliefs or truths for mankind's guidance and way of life in Islam, Allah has both also prescribed a punishment in the Hereafter for not believing and following that guidance and way of life AND given mankind the choice of whether to believe in it and follow it or not.
It cannot be any other way. The choice of whether to believe in Islam or not is and must be voluntary and of the individual's own free will, notwithstanding the other-worldly punishment for not believing and accepting Islam.
If such punishment had not been so prescribed, what would be the difference between believing and not believing then? No difference! - because whether you believed or not you wouldn't be punished. Happy bliss and real freedom of choice as far as non-Muslims are concerned! They can say what they like about Allah and His prescribed religion for humankind and get away with it - why become a Muslim then when they can enjoy life, mock Muslims and Islam and not be punished for it by Allah?
The difference is that - just as with any other belief - no one can force anyone else to follow Islam and become a Muslim. The acceptance of Islam and its beliefs must come out of real and voluntary internal conviction. This is the meaning of "there is no compulsion in religion".
It does not mean as many Muslims, even so-called scholars, seem to believe, that one is free to enter Islam but not free to leave it, i.e. apostasize.
There is no way therefore that there can be any punishment in this life for not believing or for apostasy.
Why does such a ruling or "law" even exist in Islam therefore? This issue has of course troubled many Muslim minds and been capitalised on by practically all non-Muslims who point to it as a contradiction in the precept laid down by Allah in the Qur’an that there is no compulsion in religion.
Let us be very clear about one thing - given the explanation above, such a ruling or law is not in accordance with the Qur'an or Allah's prescriptions and can therefore be regarded as non-Islamic or un-Islamic, notwithstanding any "scholarly" support for it or (mistaken) belief that it is/was prescribed by Allah or His Prophet (pbbuh).
What therefore should we make of any purported ruling by the Prophet (pbbuh) to "kill the apostates" and which has become the basis for such a law in "Islam"? Even if the majority of Muslims and Muslim scholars agreed on it, it would not be right according to the basic tenets of Islam. Yet it exists and Muslims are troubled to explain it or accept it without question or critical enquiry.
Most Muslim scholars who are against such a law point out that it is based on an unauthenticated report. Whatever the case is, it certainly cannot be accepted as a bare ruling or law which contradicts the Qur'an. The circumstances surrounding such a ruling (if the fact of it has been authenticated beyond doubt) must also be studied.
It is obvious that there can be no human law in Islam against (plain) apostasy per se or by itself. However, for example, apostasy which amounts to treason is or could be an entirely different matter. Even then it could amount only to a man-made law and not a Allah-given one. The Qur'an even cites the case of "multiple apostasy" which would not be possible if the death penalty was the penalty for even one instance of such an "offence".
Yet over the course of time, such a man-made law could become "accepted" as Islamic, even if there is no prescription for it in the real Islam. Would this make such a law "Islamic"? I don't think so.
All nations have laws against treason - most notably the penalty is death, although in some countries a more "enlightened" citizenry with more "humane" ideas has resulted in this being changed to life imprisonment, but a serious penalty nevertheless.
There is obviously more to the ruling "kill the apostates" than meets the eye and Muslims should not accept it as it is nor should non-Muslims condemn Islam on the basis of something which may not even be "Islamic" in the first place.
Many Muslims today, just like non-Muslims as well, carry with them the baggage of centuries of cultural, social and personal prejudices which to them represent "Islam" but is far from the real teachings of Islam.
Most people (Muslim and non-Muslim alike) find such entrenched prejudices self-comforting and will not make any effort to change or to even enquire about what the real situation is or should be, yet they will fight to the death and kill many innocents in the process to preserve or worse still propagate what is in reality only highly prejudiced and perverted beliefs.
There is no such thing as blindly following Islam, and any such opinion is completely ignorant and misguided.
Blindly following what one believes to be "Islam" is a different matter, as also making assumptions as to what Islam is and isn't.
There is no such thing as terrorism in Islam. Islam does not allow indiscriminate mass killing or destruction even in war and that makes any deliberate act which harms non-combatants even worse.
Enemies and detractors of Islam will say otherwise, as expected, but that does not change the truth.
The truth also is that Islam is the world's fastest growing and living religion and that all this is taking place without any compulsion or force, much to the dismay and dislike of its enemies and detractors - who see the only way to deal with this phenomenon is by force and military might.
Muslims must also realise that Islam can defend itself without any resort to terrorism (as also without resort to killing apostates), no matter how grave the provocation - that is the strength of Islam, not indiscriminate acts of violence which only cause greater hatred for Islam and Muslims.
Even the defeat of Muslims can ultimately lead to the triumph of Islam - witness the conversion of the Mongols to Islam after they had conquered the Muslims.
There is no shame in defeat or strategic retreat. Muslims must, as they always have, learn to adapt to changing circumstances without losing sight of Islam. We must learn that Islam is strong enough to withstand any assault, whether by reason of apostasy or any other factor.
Follow the example of the Prophet (pbbuh). Why fight to lose? Proper Islamic strategies must be put in place to respond to threat and provocation and proselytisation from the non-Muslims, without resort to violence.
Muslims must be self-disciplined and act properly in self-defence and not with outright aggression against wrong targets. Easier said than done of course, but still worth the effort in terms of Islam, personal salvation and human redemption.
Nobody said Islam was easy.
To defend ourselves from the assault of apostasy and proselytisation especially from some Christians and secularist forces, we need only to strive to make Islam a living force, not just a set of rules and regulations which are reluctantly followed.
Islam does not exclude common people from its decision-making process and neither is governance in Islam the exclusive province of only the religious scholars - who may also have their own narrow prejudices which can influence their interpretation of Islam.
Most Muslims are generally not bothered about making Islam a really integral part of their lives, yet become very upset about purported apostasy from Islam becoming widespread.

Making Islam a really integral part of their lives and not just a set of rules and regulations to be abided by is probably the one thing that will rid all Muslim lands of oppression, suppression and repression, both from Muslims themselves as well as non-Muslims.

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.

Nation-states for the time being are the only effective means to organise. In this age of American hegemony and imperialist ambitions, Muslims must first, along with the rest of the oppressed peoples of the world, challenge the American and European-led and oppressive international system which subjugates the majority of the globe so the interests of the West, and more specifically America, are served. Once Muslims countries improve their economies, standards of living etc. only then can we really speak of unity. It won't work as long as half of the people are starving.

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 former apostate writes in Apostasy & Islam: Through the eyes of A Former Apostate by T.O. Shanavas, the author of the book, CREATION AND/OR EVOLUTION An Islamic Perspective (ISBN 1-4134-6581-1):

“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.

Many Muslims today practice an ironic form of idolatry (in Islamic terminology, shirk, the one sin Allah does not forgive). We, Muslims, criticize other religions for not being truly monotheistic, yet so many of us are guilty of another, more subtle form of shirk: we worship our scholars instead of Allah! We commit the sin for which other people are condemned by Allah in 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]

"He it is Who has sent down to thee the Book: In it are verses basic or fundamental (of established meaning); they are the foundation of the
Book.....” [3:7]

"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.

The Qur'an further states:
"Say (Muhammad) it is the truth from the Lord of all. Whosoever will, let him believe, and whosoever will, LET him disbelieve.” [18:29]

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:

"Who can be more wicked than the one who invent a lie against Allah,...” [6:93]

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:

"How shall Allah guide those who reject Faith after they accepted it and bore witness that the apostle was true and that clear signs had come unto them? But Allah guides not a people unjust. Of such the reward is that on them (rests) the curse of the Allah, of His Angels, and of all mankind; -- In that will they dwell; nor will their penalty be lightened, nor respite be their lot; -- except for those that repent (even) after that, make amends; For verily Allah is oft-forgiving, most merciful.” [3:86-89]

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.”

There is only one cure for that - education and critical thought, especially on the real basis and tenets of Islam - the path in Islam has been clearly set – worship of Allah, prayer, spirituality, righteousness, piety, knowledge, good thought, good action, good behaviour, good deeds, trust, humility, kindness, tolerance, justice, equity, legitimacy, faith, reason, rationale, charity, peace, forgiveness, compassion, mercy, brotherhood and love.

These are all powerful weapons against oppression, wrongdoing and injustice.

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).

Did Allah give any Muslim the right to do what many assume they can do in His Name and in the name of Islam, when it is only their own egos which make such assumptions?

The Shari'ah (Islamic Law) is only one part of Islam. In the Qur'an and Sunnah (Examples or Way of the Prophet (pbbuh)) will be found the basis of Islam and the Shari'ah. When there is an apparent "conflict" between Sunnah and Qur'an, then depending upon the context and situation, the Qur'an takes precedence.

Everything in Islam is logical. Study of plain texts must always take into account the context, situation and explanation of any ruling and further purported rulings which are based on it. Rulings in Shari'ah also do take into account, among other matters, present circumstances - as long as the basics are adhered to and not changed.
When scholars disagree, usually the ruling with the more "merciful" interpretation is to be preferred. There is no question of any logic-chopping or white-washing in Islam, except in the fertile and futile imaginations of its detractors.
What passes off as Shari'ah in some Muslim countries and which defies logic is simply un-Islamic. Any law purportedly in the Shari'ah which provides for death for plain apostasy (irrespective of circumstances) is un-Islamic and is based on a non-logical interpretation of both the Qur'an and Sunnah.
Unfortunately, there do exist illogical Muslims, as with other communities as well.
The fact is that the basic tenet in Islam that there is no compulsion in religion has never been abrogated. If this is a myth, conqueror would not have taken on the religion of the conquered and Islam would have become a dead religion long ago. The truth is clear from error.
At worst, Muslims can say that anyone who leaves Islam is stupid, but they do not have the right to kill him because of that. We can only leave it to Allah to deal with such persons on Judgement Day.
My view is that the penalty for apostasy in Islam is as stated in the Qur'an below:

"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:

"Is Killing An Apostate in the Islamic Law?" by Ibrahim B. Syed, Ph.D.
President of the Islamic Research Foundation International, Inc.

Ridda or Irtidãd: Literally means "turning back". The act of apostasy -- leaving Islam for another religion or for a secular lifestyle.
Murtadd: Literally means "one who turns the back." An apostate.
Murtad Fitri: Literally means apostate - natural. A person born of a Muslim parent who later rejects Islam.
Murtad Milli: Literally means apostate - from the community. A person who converted to Islam and later rejected the religion.

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.

Allah (SWT) says in the Glorious Qur’an (39: 53-54: Say: “ O you servants of Mine who have transgressed against your own selves! Despair not of Allah’s mercy. Behold Allah forgives all sins, for verily He is much forgiving, a dispenser of grace! Hence, turn toward your sustainer and surrender yourselves unto him before the suffering (of death and resurrection) comes upon you for then you will not be succored.”

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)

The quotation from Surah An-Nisa', 4:137, shown above, seems to imply that multiple, sequential apostasies are possible. That would not be possible if the person were executed after the first apostasy.

From the above verses it can be argued that religious freedom and the absence of compulsion in religion requires that individuals be allowed adopt a religion or to convert to another religion without legal penalty.

Hence the death penalty is not an appropriate response to apostasy.

The former Chief Justice of Pakistan, SA Rahman, has written that there is no reference to the death penalty in any of the 20 instances of apostasy mentioned in the Qur'an.

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.

This is why some scholars distinguished between individual apostasy and apostasy which is accompanied by high treason. So, it cannot be confused with the freedom of conscience for every individual, which has been guaranteed in the Qur'an through hundreds of verses.

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".

Thus, in view of the above facts, we are left with one option only. We can only say that either the saying has been wrongly ascribed to the Prophet (pbuh), as it is clearly contradictory to the Qur’an and the Prophet could not have said anything contradictory to the Qur’an, or that the saying ascribed to the Prophet (pbuh) relates not to all apostates but to a particular and specific people.

Shaykh Subhani

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.”

It takes sincerity of heart to acknowledge the Absolute Unity or Oneness of Allah. This is the very essence of Islam and is the very 1st Commandment of ALL the Prophets.
Allah is Allah. There is nothing else like Him. Anything else other than Allah is not Allah. Only He alone is worthy of worship. To Him alone do we pray to guide us to the Straight Path (the Right Way).
Each person is responsible only for his own sins. Sincere repentance will lead to Allah's forgiveness, the consequence of which is as stated in the Qur'an, Surah Al Furqan (25:70):
"...Except he who repents, believes, and does righteous deeds, for Allah will change the evil deeds of such persons into good deeds, and Allah is ever Forgiving, Most Merciful..."
True sincerity in Islam means that one does not do or avoid doing anything for rewards or out of fear of punishment. This however does not exclude ordinary sincerity where one does anything or avoids doing anything for the rewards which Allah has promised believers or because of punishment Allah has decreed for transgressors.
What more could anyone ask for? That is about as simple as it gets. There is no necessity for all kinds of convoluted and contrived doctrines and no need to argue about or harm or kill anyone over anything. All else is embellishment and perversion of the True Essence of Islam.

Al Tugauw



2.                                 "Islam, Apostasy and PAS," 1999-JUL-22, at:

3.                                  S.A. Rahman, "Punishment of apostasy in Islam," Kazi Publ., (1986). (Limited availability from online bookstore).

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Allah Says: "Let There Be No Compulsion In Religion"

ONE of the very basic principles of Islam that is stated by Allah in the Qur’an is simply this:

Let there be no compulsion in religion. Truth has been made clear from error. Whoever rejects false worship and believes in Allah has grasped the most trustworthy handhold that never breaks. And Allah hears and knows all things.” [Sûrah al-Baqarah: 256]

Many Muslims themselves do not know that this verse exists in the Qur’an, let alone its true meaning. Some scholars have even tried to establish (wrongly) that this verse has been abrogated. Therefore we have today misguided Muslims trying to force others, both Muslims and non-Muslims alike, to their erroneous point of view, totally against this basic principle of Islam.

The result of course is bigotry and violence in the name of religion, with Muslims fighting against Muslims and also non-Muslims, out of an ignorance that they try to pass off as knowledge. Even misguided ulamas and purported scholars are not immune to this propensity, born of their own racial and other prejudices.

The irony of the fact, that they themselves cannot guarantee their own place in Heaven yet they perversely and misguidedly try to force others to follow their viewpoint, eludes them.

Religion in Islam has always been a personal issue, with individuals responsible only for their own personal salvation and not that of others. This is how Islam and Muslims have managed not only to survive but to thrive even under non-Muslim governments, while in many cases suffering under the tyranny of purportedly “Islamic” governments.

The truth of the matter is that Islam does not need the state to fight for it or to police Muslims or non-Muslims. Any attempt by the state or any government to do so is misguided.

States, including so-called “Islamic” states, have been notoriously ineffective in protecting their poorer citizens, but only serve the interests of the ruling, administrative and business elites. This is against Islam.

This verse was revealed when some of Ansar (the people of Madinah who had accepted Muhammad (s.a.w.) as their leader), converted to Islam and tried to force their children to accept Islam as well.

Scholars have said that this verse applies to every individual person. Islam allows an individual to practice his own religion freely and tells us not to force anyone to accept Islam.

Without going into too much detail about the concept and principles of abrogation in the Qur’an, suffice it to say that no better or similar verse has replaced this one, directly or indirectly.

This conclusion is based on the following, the only two verses in the Qur’an that talk of abrogation or change:

“Whatever Verse (Revelation) we abrogate or cause to be forgotten, we bring a better one or similar to it. Do you not know that Allah is Able to do all things? [Surah al-Baqarah: 106]; and

“And when We substitute a verse in place of a verse - and Allah is most knowing of what He sends down - they say, "You, [O Muhammad], are but an inventor [of lies]." But most of them do not know”. [Surah An-Nahl:106].

Some of the verses in the Qur’an used to justify abrogation of the “non-compulsion” verse actually related to a limited historical context of battle as a last resort against further non-Muslim hostilities and cannot be seen as abrogating a general principle such as that of non-compulsionn in religion.

To those Muslims, especially in Malaysia, who say that the Name “Allah” cannot be used by non-Muslims, the answer is in the Qur’an itself:

“[They are] those who have been evicted from their homes without right - only because they say, "Our Lord is Allah." And were it not that Allah checks the people, some by means of others, there would have been demolished monasteries, churches, synagogues, and mosques in which the name of Allah is much mentioned. And Allah will surely support those who support Him. Indeed, Allah is Powerful and Exalted in Might.” [Surah Al-Haj: 40] (emphasis added).

Muslims are enjoined to uphold justice for all people, Muslim and non-Muslim. Allah is not the Lord of Muslims (“Allah Rabbil Muslimin”) alone but the Lord of All Creation (“Allah Rabbil Alamin”). There is no mention of “Allah Rabbil Muslimin” in the Qur’an but numerous mentions of “Allah Rabbil Alamin”.

Muslims do not have any rights to coerce non-Muslims to accept Islam or its religious laws against their will. Non-Muslims should also not come under any threat or harm from Muslims just because they do not accept or follow Islam.

Even Abu Bakr, the first Caliph, said to his army sent to Syria to fight the Romans, “You are going to find a group of people who have devoted themselves to the worship of Allah (i.e. monks), so leave them to what they are doing.”

Umar, the second Caliph, defined by precept of Islam and by his own example, the rights and privileges of non-Muslims, for example the following contract with the Christians of Jerusalem:

"This is the protection which the servant of Allah, 'Umar, the Ruler of the Believers has granted to the people of Eiliya [Jerusalem]. The protection is for their lives and properties, their churches and crosses, their sick and healthy and for all their coreligionists. Their churches shall not be used for habitation, nor shall they be demolished, nor shall any injury be done to them or to their compounds, or to their crosses, nor shall their properties be injured in any way. There shall be no compulsion for these people in the matter of religion, nor shall any of them suffer any injury in account of religion...Whatever is written herein is under the covenant of Allah and the responsibility of His Messenger, of the Caliphs and of the believers, and shall hold good as long as they pay Jizya [the tax for their defence] imposed on them."

"Those non-Mulsims who took part in defence together with the Muslims were exempted from paying Jizya, and when the Muslims had to retreat from a city whose non-Muslims had paid this tax for their defence, the tax was returned to the non-Muslims. The old, the poor and the disabled of Muslims and non-Muslims alike were provided for from the public treasury and from Zakat funds." 

The general principle in Islam of non-compulsion in religion is further emphasized by the following verses:

“If it had been your Lord’s will, all of the people on Earth would have believed. Would you then compel the people so to have them believe?” [Surah Yunus: 99];
“So if they dispute with you, say ‘I have submitted my whole self to Allah, and so have those who follow me.’ And say to the People of the Scripture and to the unlearned: ‘Do you also submit yourselves?’ If they do, then they are on right guidance. But if they turn away, your duty is only to convey the Message. And in Allah’s sight are all of His servants.” [Surah Al ‘Imran: 20];
“The Messenger’s duty is but to proclaim the Message.” [Sûrah al-Mâ’idah: 99].

So why is it that ordinary Muslims perversely try to take it upon themselves to do more than this? Out of a guilty conscience? Or as a tool of political control?

On a final note, this is a covenant that the Prophet Muhammad himself made via a Charter of Privileges to Christians (in a letter to the monks of St. Catherine Monastery):

"This is a message from Muhammad ibn Abdullah, as a covenant to those who adopt Christianity, near and far, we are with them.

Verily I, the servants, the helpers, and my followers, defend them because

 Christians are my citizens: and by Allah! I hold out against anything that displeases them.

No compulsion is to be on them.

Neither are their judges to be removed from their jobs nor their monks from their monasteries.

No one is to destroy a house of their religion, to damage it, or to carry anything from it to the Muslim's homes.

Should anyone take any of these, he would spoil God's covenant and disobey His Prophet. Verily they are my allies and have my secure charter against all that they hate.

No one is to force them to travel or oblige them to fight.

 The Muslims are to fight for them.

If a female Christian is to be married to a Muslim, it is not to take place without her approval. She is not to be prevented from visiting her church to pray.

Their churches are to be respected. They are neither to be prevented from repairing them nor the sacredness of their covenants.

No one of the nation (Muslims) is to disobey the covenant till the Last Day (the end of the world)."

What can be clearer than this? Muslims have to ask themselves whether they have continued to fulfill this permanent covenant or have disobeyed it, their Prophet and Allah.

Al Tugauw