Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Questions on Islamic law: Apostasy, in light of Qur'an and Hadeeth

The following is an old post I made on other sites, in response to questions posed about the usual notion that a person who decides to "leave Islam" is to be executed. The question seems to get repeated of late, so below is a brief statement on the subject. Comments are always welcome, thanks and Salaam.

Salaam all,

A] Islam is a faith of utmost intellectual and spiritual conviction. We know this when we have only a cursory look at the Qur'an. Repeatedly, it points to Ayaat [signs] in the creation, even in ourselves, as evidence of Allah's power as well as his being the source of the Qur'an.

[B] Yes, the Qur'an says "No compulsion in the Deen" [Laa Ikraha Fid deen]. The reason for that is "The right guidance is very clear, distinct from confusion or misguidance" [Qad TabayyanaR-Rushdoo min al Ghiyy]. Allah does not need our salaah, fasting, Shahaadah or any of that. We require those things. For our guidance and spiritual salvation. If Allah does not need our 'Ibaadah, then why should we execute someone?

[C] The Prophet [Sall-Allahu 'alayhi wa sallam] was, without doubt, the best Daa'ee. As such, there are very few reports in the hadeeth books dealing with the Prophet and "apostasy". Where such reports do exist [if we accept the reports as accurate & complete renderings of the events] we always see it in connection with something else. For example, there's a report that the Prophet executed "apostates" after sending them missionaries, at their request, but the report clearly states that the particular group laid a trap for the Muslim missionaries, killing them and plundering their goods. So, the punishment here was not for apostasy necessarily, but rather for murder.

[D] "Apostasy" was just another word for treason, or rebellion against the authorities. Such is clearly what occurred in the early days of Abu Bakr's rule.

[E] There has been debate for generations about some aspects of all this. For example, a Muslim who recognizes that Allah is One God, and Muhammad is his Prophet, yet prays only on fridays or the 'Eid [which is the case for many today], or, does not pray at all. Many would see such a person as an "apostate". My point being, if a government punishes people for "apostasy", it's going to be very subjective, and in the end accomplish nothing.

[F] Personal conviction and practice is, in the end,the business of the person and God. Unless he or she starts to attack Islam, with the purpose of destroying the UMMAH , we should leave them alone, both as a Muslim state and as individuals.

[G] Because of the logic inherent in Islam, there has historically been very few cases of apostasy. Moreover, in those days, all religious communities saw apostasy as punishable by execution, so it would have been logical for muslims to assume the same, even if never seen or done in their lifetime. It's one of those things people may never really think about because it never happens.

[H] Finally, back to the Qur'an. It tells us "And a party of Ahlil Kitaab asserted among themselves 'proclaim Imaan in that which has been sent to those who believe [meaning, pretend to believe just as Muslims do], in the beginning of the day, and [then proclaim] disbelief [wa akfurooo] in the night, so that hopefully, they [the Muslims] will return back [to Jaahiliyyah, i.e. reject Islam themselves] [La'allahum Yar ji'oon.] "[3:71].

Their plot was simple, this is a reference to Jews here, according to all Mufassireen. They would say the Shahaadah, etc.. and then "give it up", in order to demoralize the naive Muslims, convincing them that Islam was not a worth-while religion. The Qur'an clearly records their plot, something which scholars have acknowledged as well. Such a plot would be unthinkable had the punishment for apostasy [remember, this was in Madinah, where the Prophet was in charge] been the death penalty.

Any reports coming from the time of the Prophet, if we accept as accurate, are clearly with regards to treason, murder etc.. and not because someone was not intellectually convinced that he [Muhammad, 'Alayhis salaatu was salaam] was a Prophet.

Wallaahu A'laam,