Last night I had been reading my book, We Are One, prior to sending it off for editing. I had been reading the conversation which my character, Angela, has with God about Islam and the issues which Angela has with certain passages in the Qur’an.
I realised that one issue which hadn’t been discussed in the book was apostasy.
Apostasy for Muslims is said to be “conscious abandonment of Islam by a Muslim in word or deed” and can be punishable by death.
I went looking for information about how this came about and whether it is still used.
What I realised was that apostasy is still very much an issue within many Muslim countries. I found that the laws regarding apostasy are very much like the blasphemy laws – causing fear in those countries in which these laws are upheld.
Why is it a crime to leave your religion? According to Sheikh Muhammed Salih Al-Munajjid at islamqa.info:
“The evidence that the apostate is to be executed is the words of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him): “Whoever changes his religion, execute him.” (Narrated by al-Bukhaari, 2794). What is meant by religion here is Islam (i.e., whoever changes from Islam to another religion).
The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “It is not permissible to shed the blood of a Muslim who bears witness that there is no god except Allaah and that I am His Messenger, except in one of three cases: a soul for a soul (i.e., in the case of murder); a married man who commits adultery; and one who leaves his religion and splits form the jamaa’ah (main group of Muslims).” (Narrated by al-Bukhaari, 6878; Muslim, 1676)”
If “there is no punishment as deterrent, how will that affect him and others who enter the religion?
Do you not see that this would make the one true religion, that everyone should follow, like a shop or store which a person can enter when he wants and leave when he wants, and it may encourage others to forsake the truth.
Moreover, this is not someone who has never known the truth and practiced it and worshipped in accordance with it; rather this is a person who has known the truth, and practiced the religion and done the rituals of worship, so the punishment is no greater than he deserves. Moreover, such strong rulings as this are only applied to such a person whose life is no longer considered to be useful, because he knew the truth and followed the religion, then he left it and forsook it. What soul can be more evil than the soul of such a person?
In conclusion, the answer is that Allaah is the One Who revealed this religion and enjoined it. He is the One Who ruled that the one who enters it and then leaves it is to be executed. This ruling does not come from the Muslims’ ideas or suggestions. As this is the case, then we must follow the ruling of Allaah so long as we are content to accept Him as our Lord and God.”
However, Dr Aslam Abudullah on Islamcity.com quotes from 18:29 of the Qur’an:
“The Quran lays down the following permanent principle when it states: “Say, “The truth is from your Lord”: Let him who will believe, and let him who will, reject (it)”
He states that: “It is clear that the Quran gives absolute freedom to people in matters pertaining to faith and does not prescribe any punishment for those who change of faith.
It is unimaginable that the Prophet might have said anything that would contradict the Quran or would promote a system that would stifle the freedom given by the divine.”
I am inclined to agree with Dr Aslam Abdullah when he says that the hadith, or words of the prophet, have been taken out of context.
It is my belief that the words of Muhammad which have been used to condone execution of apostates were referring to particular people, who were not only leaving their religion, but conspiring with the enemy in a war situation, and were designed, not to instil fear in his followers, but to keep them alive.
What would be the point of having a lot of people following a faith out of fear? They are unlikely to form a connection to the one true god. What would be the point of a religion without such an aim?
If allowing apostates to forsake the truth and get away with it is such a worry for those in power because it would encourage others of the faithful to do the same, then there must be nothing keeping people following the faith other than fear. What a sad, sad situation.
Rather than a useless life, how do they know that Allah doesn’t have a grand plan for the apostate – perhaps leaving to join a group of atheists and then bringing them back to the fold of Islam?
During my searches regarding apostasy, I came across Amnesty International’s document on death sentences, where I saw that in Iran some people were sentenced to death for the crime of “enmity against God”. Surely an all-powerful God can strike down his own enemies, without asking other people to do it for him.
I also noticed, in this document, mention of qisas, which allowed the family of the victim of a murder to decide whether the perpetrator should be executed. I wondered why God doesn’t get such a right, if crimes of apostasy and blasphemy are meant to be against God.
The Qur’an instructs Muslims to requite evil with good (41:34), and every surah starts with the words: “In the name of Allah, the Compassionate, the Merciful”. I open the Qur’an at random to 2:173 and find a quote: “Allah is Forgiving, Merciful”.
Could it be that if left to God, to Allah, the apostate would be allowed to go freely into whatever religion or lack of religion he chooses?
I wonder how Muslims would answer if they were emulating the Merciful Allah, rather than fearing retribution?