The renaissance of Islam has been stimulated strongly through a repeated
increase in the price of oil since 1973. With this has come a new awareness of
legislation in the Islamic states.
The legal basis of Islam is the Sharia, Islamic law, that controls and
orders all areas of life. It is not a moral law for the sensitising of
conscience but is a penal law, requiring the punishment of violators through an
instrument of the state. Islam demands a religious state as an executor to
enforce the law.
A Muslim is not free to believe or do what he wishes. He is under Islamic
law, which was derived and assimilated from the Qur´an, the example of
Muhammad (sunna), the final analogy (qijas) and consensus (idjmaa).
Islam describes Muslims as worshippers and slaves of Allah (ibaad
Allah). They have submitted themselves to him and are therefore his
possession. The word Islam means, "surrender, devotion and
Whoever falls away from faith in Islam commits -- from an Islamic
perspective -- an unforgivable sin. He takes himself away from Allah, his owner
-- which is theft -- and weakens the Islamic state, an action branded as revolt
or insurrection. He who falls away from Islam must, according to the Sharia, be
prosecuted, taken into custody by force, and called on to repent. If necessary,
his return is to be "helped" along with torture. He who does not
embrace Islam again has, according to the Sharia, forfeited his life and is to
be put to death by the state. According to the daily paper, Al Alam,
King Hassan II of Morocco, who is also the imam of his country, presented the
following state of affairs before a human rights commission on May 15, 1990:
"If a Muslim says, 'I have embraced another religion instead of Islam,'
he -- before he is called to repentance -- will be brought before a group of
medical specialists, so that they can examine him to see if he is still in his
After he has then been called to repentance, but decides to hold fast to the
testimony of another religion not coming from Allah -- that is, not Islam -- he
will be judged."
Such thinking abounded in Christian churches during the Middle Ages, too.
The Inquisition took on violent proportions and carried out the governmental
functions of punishment. However, this madness in Church history was in direct
opposition to the law and spirit of Christ. Indeed, the New Testament upholds
the teaching of eternal punishment for the godless and for those who fall from
living faith in Christ; but with the Parable of the Lost Son (Luke 15:11-24),
Jesus teaches that the father waited for the rebellious son until he returned,
and then he rushed out to meet him. The father did not have him searched for,
kept under surveillance, followed, locked up, tortured, starved or killed. The
spirit of Christ grants freedom and does not kill. But the revelations of Allah
in the Qur´an require the death of all apostates. The grace and love of
Christ are greater than the hate and law of Islam; this grace and love oppose
the efforts of all inquisitors. Whoever follows Christ loves apostates and does
not condemn them.
Islamic states are presently renewing their legislation, replacing it with
earlier Islamic structures, and are trying to rid themselves of the influence of
colonial powers. In most of the Islamic countries, endeavours are underway to
make the Qur´an and the Sunna the basis of modern legislation.
Not all Muslims agree with this retreat into the Islamic Middle Ages of
earlier times. Our world has become smaller through modern travel and
telecommunication. The influences of humanism, rationalism, technology and
modern living have left their mark on many Muslims. One-third to one-half of the
Muslim population in Algeria, Egypt, Turkey, Pakistan and Indonesia resists the
introduction of the Sharia. They do not wish to come under the yoke of
oppression again -- one which would demand that thieves have their hands and
feet amputated, adulterers be whipped, and converts be killed.
However, one-fourth to one-third of the Islamic population passionately
demands the immediate introduction of the Sharia and is prepared, in some
places, to enforce it with the help of terrorism and revolutions. In each
Islamic country, fundamentalists and liberals wrestle over the Sharia. In Syria,
these differences led to a civil war in 1982 -- one in which the army brutally
defeated the uprising of the Muslim Brotherhood. Turkey was already rid of the
Sharia by 1926, emerging as a secular state. But in other countries a
re-Islamisation is underway -- especially in Morocco, Libya, Sudan, Saudi
Arabia, Iran and Pakistan, where the Sharia or the Qur´an have been legally
introduced as fundamental law. Until now, the enforcement rulings have not been
enacted in detail, nor have they been abandoned. The establishing of the Sharia
and its enforcement is subject to a continual developmental process in all
The punishment of apostates from Islam is being demanded again and again by
Islamic jurists and fundamentalists who stimulate public opinion; individual
converts are persecuted by fanatics or placed under pressure by their own
families. The slander against these witnesses of Jesus Christ and their
subsequent imprisonment have been an acknowledged and ever-recurring fact during
the last 20 years in Morocco, Egypt, Turkey, Iran and Pakistan. Many have been
tortured. Some have died during their imprisonment. Parents have locked up their
daughters in storage chambers, letting them die of thirst. Islam is an
intolerant spirit. According to Western ideas of freedom of religion, Islam
consistently resists basic human rights.
The frequent reprinting of this book which, since 1934, has undergone eight
revisions, makes the often bitter clashes over the Sharia and its implementation
in individual countries even more apparent. The translator of the following
extract, who is a graduate from an Islamic school of law, has translated similar
texts from the Arabic -- texts which present and explain the penalty for
apostasy in Islam.
Those responsible for harbouring refugees should not let themselves be
deceived by Muslim translators who claim that there is no religious persecution
in their countries; rather, they should study the legal demands of the Sharia
explained in this book. Liberal theologians and everyone who is concerned with
establishing peace among religions should consider this discussion of law, not
remaining imprisoned by the ideas of the Enlightenment. Responsible Christians
must realise that Islam is an anti-Christian religion that never allows the
conversion of a Muslim to Jesus, for the fundamentals of Islamic law demand his
This translation is not intended as a Christian apologetic but serves to
clarify the discussions between the religions objectively, leading the reader to
a foundational legal understanding of Islamic law, free from mystical
speculation and humanistic wishful-thinking.
Apostasy -- Allah forbid it -- is the unbelief of a Muslim who had publicly
confessed faith in Islam willingly, according to his knowledge of the
fundamentals of Islam, by professing the two main articles of faith (al-shahadatain):
There is no god but Allah. Muhammad is his messenger.
Apostasy can occur by an explicit declaration, such as, "I associate
other gods alongside Allah" (usherek billah), or by a claim that
results in blasphemy, such as, "Allah has a material substance or a shape
just like other substances or shapes" (kufr), or by an action that
clearly resembles blasphemy, such as carelessly discarding a Qur´an, or
parts of it, or even a word of it (not as an honourable way of disposing it, or
as a treatment for the sick), as well as burning the Qur´an out of
contempt, and every manner of soiling it (such as putting it in a holy place
that has become dirty, or staining it with an unclean substance, such as turning
its pages with fingers that have been licked).
The same holds true for "the most beautiful names of Allah," the
Hadith collections (traditions), the works of Islamic law and theology, when the
Sharia and its regulations are thereby treated with disrespect or contempt, as
well as the names of the prophets, or the wearing of a belt -- assigned to
unbelievers -- as a leaning toward unbelief. But if a Muslim does this in jest,
it is regarded only as a forbidden action (haram).
The same holds true when a Muslim enters a church, worships an idol, or
learns and practises magic, for by magic one glorifies a name other than Allah
and ascribes predestination, knowledge and control of fate to someone other than
A Muslim loses his faith when he says that the world has always existed from
eternity (qadim), for this assumption denies the existence of the
Creator, or when he says that the world is everlasting and without end, since
this is a denial of resurrection -- even if he himself believes in the
A Muslim also becomes an unbeliever and blasphemer when he denies the
existence of Allah, believes in the transmigration of souls (reincarnation) --
since this is a denial of resurrection -- or when he denies a decision agreed
upon unanimously by the Islamic community (ummah), such as the
obligatory necessity of prayer and fasting or the prohibition of adultery. He
also becomes a blasphemer when he denies that which is allowed (halal)
-- things over which the scholars of law agree, concerning what can be
definitively concluded according to religion based on the Qur´an and the
unbroken, traditional Sunna (the path, lifestyle and manners) of the Prophet.
A Muslim loses his faith when he suggests the possibility of prophethood
being acquired through spiritual exercise, since that would imply the possible
arising of a prophet after Muhammad. The same holds true when he curses a
prophet or denigrates an angel whose positions are unanimously upheld by the
consensus of the Umma. Apostasy also occurs if he, when talking about a prophet
or angel, says, "As for me, I am not an adulterer or a magician," if
he accuses a prophet of having a deficiency -- even a physical one, such as a
limp or paralysis -- or if he questions the perfection of his knowledge, since
each prophet is the most knowledgeable person of his age (but the master of
prophets is the Prophet Muhammad -- Allah pray for him and grant him peace
-- for he is absolutely the most knowledgeable in all creation). Furthermore, a
Muslim becomes an apostate if he defames a prophet's character, morals, virtues,
or religion, if he accuses angels of having bad qualities, or if he questions
the efficacy of a prophet's asceticism.
Muslim scholars (imams) have said: Apostasy must be determined by the
testimony of two upright adult witnesses whose accounts agree. When a judge asks
how the Muslim fell from the faith, the witness must say, "He says such and
such or does such and such."
All four imams (the founders of the four schools of Islamic law) --
may Allah have mercy upon them -- agree that the apostate whose fall from
Islam is beyond doubt -- may Allah forbid it -- must be killed, and his
blood must be spilled without reservation. The hypocrite and heretic (zindiq)
who poses as a Muslim but has secretly remained an unbeliever must also be
The Hanafites: When the Muslim falls away from Islam -- may Allah
forbid it! -- he is first asked to return. If he has doubts, he is to express
them; one can then clear up his doubts, for it may be that he truly has
questions with regard to the faith -- questions in need of explanation. By this
it is possible to deal with his evil deed (sharr) through the best of
two possibilities: death or the acceptance of Islam. However, it remains
desirable to offer him the acceptance of Islam again, although this is not
obligatory, because the message had already been offered him once.
If he needs time to reconsider, it is desirable that the judge allow him a
three-day extension, during which he is to remain in custody. If he accepts
Islam thereafter, it is good; if not, he is to be killed, for Allah says to "kill
those who believe in many gods" (Sura al-Tawba 9:5), without fixing
a deadline. The Prophet also said, "Kill him who changes his religion,"
without mentioning a delay, because the apostate is surely a hostile unbeliever
and no asylum seeker (musta'min) who has asked for protection;
furthermore, he is no dhimmi (a non-Muslim under Islamic rule), for no
poll tax is demanded of him. Therefore, he should be killed without reservation.
The Hanafites are of the opinion that it does not matter whether the
apostate is a freeman or a slave.
The Shafi´ites: If a Muslim becomes apostate -- Allah forbid!
-- the imam should grant him three days' grace; he is not to be killed before
this period expires, for the apostasy of a Muslim from his faith often results
from his confusion. Therefore a grace period is necessary, so that he can
reflect, and that the truth can become clear to him again. We, the Shafi´ites,
have determined that this time should consist of three days, whether he asks for
it or not.
It has been told about our master, Umar b. al-Khattab -- may Allah be
pleased with him -- that a man was sent to him by Abu Mosa al-Ashaari. Umar
asked him: "Do you have any good news?"; the man said, "Yes, a
man apostatised from Islam, so we killed him." Umar said: "Did you
first take him into custody for three days, giving him one loaf per day, so that
he may repent? O Allah -- you are a witness -- I was not there, neither did I
give any orders, nor did I concede to that action." This story was
mentioned by Malek the imam in his book, Al-Muwattu, to the effect that
Umar disapproved of what they did. Thus, one can conclude from this event that
an apostate must be given a three-day time limit before he is put to death.
If the apostate repents, or utters the two main articles of faith (al-shahadatain),
or confesses faith in the oneness of Allah (monotheism), he will be released.
But if he does not repent, he is to be killed by the sword immediately. This
punishment cannot be evaded, because apostasy is the most atrocious and severe
form of blasphemy, and it deserves the cruellest judgement, which invalidates
all of a Muslim's previous deeds. Allah says: "And for those among you who
allow themselves to be led astray from their religion, and who die as
unbelievers, their works are invalid now and in eternity" (Sura al-Baqara
2:217). If the apostate returns to Islam, he need not repeat the pilgrimage
which had been performed before the apostasy. This is unlike the Hanafites who
said: If the apostate repents, he must repeat the pilgrimage, because his
apostasy has nullified it.
The Malikites: The imam should grant the apostate three days and
nights -- beginning with the day on which his apostasy was committed, and not
with the day of his unbelief or the day upon which the accusation was brought
against him. The three days of confinement are to follow in succession, and the
day on which the apostasy was proven should not be considered as part of the
time limit, if it was preceded by dawn. During his confinement, he is to be
given food and drink, which are to be paid out of his assets, while his wife and
children are not being cared for by his assets. If he has no assets, he is to be
cared for by the public treasury or House of Property (bait ulmal),
whether he promises to repent or not. He is not to be beaten in prison, even if
he persists in his apostasy. He is surely to be given many chances to repent
within this time-limit, in order to prevent bloodshed or punishment resulting
from doubts. This should clear up his doubts and give him time to reconsider, so
that he may change his mind and repent. If the judge decides on his death before
the end of this grace period, his decision is legally binding, because he has
ruled on a disputed issue. If he repents after three days, he is to be released;
but if he does not, he is to be killed on the third day, at sunset. His corpse
is to be neither washed nor embalmed. He is to be buried neither in the
cemeteries of the Muslims nor of the unbelievers (kuffar), for he is not
one of them, having once been a Muslim. In fact, his body is to be thrown upon
the ground as a public example.
The Hanbalites: There are two opinions on this issue. Some believe
that the apostate should be given a period for repentance consisting of three
days, while others are of the opinion that he is to be granted no time for
reconsideration but should only be offered Islam. If he accepts the offer, he is
to be set free; if not, he is to be put to death immediately.
The Shafi´ites, Hanbalites and Malikites say:
The verdict for the female apostate is the same as for the male. She must be
called on to return to Islam for three days, prior to her death, for an
evil-doer may have confused her understanding; thus the possibility exists for
her being released from her confusion. Offering the apostate a time limit for
repentance has been approved. According to a tradition related by Daruqutni,
quoting from Djabir b. Abdillah, the Prophet offered Islam to a woman named Ummu
Rumman who had previously apostatised. Furthermore, the Prophet said, "It
is good if she repents. If she does not, she is to be killed, since by apostasy
she should be treated like a woman who has fought against Muslims, being taken
captive in a holy war (jihad); thus it is lawful to kill her with the
sword. Moreover, her guilt is far more abominable than women who are taken
captive in a holy war, since she has become a Muslim."
The Prophet -- the blessing and peace of Allah be upon him -- said, "He
who changes his religion must be killed"; this holds true both for men and
women. The apostasy of a man calls for putting him to death. It is unanimously
agreed upon that apostasy is a horrible crime deserving a horrible punishment.
The apostasy of a woman is no less horrible. Therefore, it too deserves a
corresponding punishment: death.
The Malikites: The death of a nursing woman must be postponed until
the time for nursing her infant has been completed, if either no wetnurse can be
found or if the babe cannot accept another woman in place of its mother. The
death of a married woman and of a divorced woman who was given the option of
returning (talaqu radj'a) must also be postponed. As for the divorced
woman who refuses to return, she must be killed without hesitation, unless she
is menstruating (even if she should menstruate only every five years). If she
has no period, owing to a weakness or questionable menopause, she is to be left
in peace for three months, in case she is thought to be pregnant. If she is not
thought to be pregnant, she is to be killed immediately after being called to
repent. If unmarried, she is not to be acquitted.
The Hanafites: The apostate woman is not to be killed; but if she
kills someone, she is not to be taken into custody, be she a free woman or a
slave, for the Prophet has forbidden that women should be killed. It is also
better to postpone punishment to the afterlife, since hastening it violates the
concept of tribulation (mabada' al-Ibtila'). The only acceptable
exception to this rule is for war (al-Harab). However, women, unlike
men, are no real danger in war time, so the apostate woman is to be treated like
one who has never been a Muslim. Every punishment has to be stipulated, having
some benefit for us in this world; that is, the punishment for slander,
drinking, adultery, theft. Thus, punishment has been legalised to protect
people, honour, minds, relationships and money. The death sentence upon an
apostate should be with the aim of preventing evil, not as a retribution for
apostasy, since Allah will repay an apostate with a greater retribution. So,
punishment is confined to those who can fight (that is, men). That is why the
Prophet -- the blessing of Allah be upon him -- forbid putting women to death,
since they are not involved in battles. This is according to tradition.
(According to one tradition, the Prophet allowed an apostate woman to be killed,
not only for her apostasy but also for her being a witch and a poet who mocked
him and incited her thirty sons against him.)
The apostate woman is to be thrown in prison until she returns to Islam or
dies, being whipped thirty-nine times every day -- which is nothing less than
death; uninterrupted whipping inevitably leads to death. She must be imprisoned,
because she, after being a Muslim, did not give Allah the rights due him; so she
must be obliged to pay back these rights by being imprisoned.
According to a tradition in al-djamius's-sagir, the woman, whether
free or slave, must be forced to embrace Islam. A concubine is forced by her
master, because two rights are being dealt with: the right of Allah and the
right of the master. The free woman who apostatises is not to be enslaved, as
long as she remains in the House of Islam. But she is to be beaten excessively
every day, in order to force her to return to Islam and regain her heritage;
otherwise, her Muslim husband will inherit all her belongings.
Abu Yusuf, quoting from Abi Hanifa, quoting from Aasem Ibn Abi al-Gonood,
quoting from Abi Razeen, quoting from Ibn Abbas -- the peace of Allah be upon
them -- said: "Do not kill women if they apostatise from Islam. They must
be imprisoned, offered the chance to return to the faith, and then forced to do
It is quoted from Ibn Umar that a woman was killed during one of the
Prophet's conquests. Therefore, the Prophet of Allah -- peace be upon him --
forbid the killing of women and children. Muhammad narrated: "It came to
our knowledge that Ibn Abbas said, 'If a woman apostatises from Islam, she must
be imprisoned.'" Such an opinion is not an interpretative one.
It is said, quoted from Moaz Ibn Gabal -- peace be upon him -- that the
Prophet of Allah -- peace and blessings be upon him -- said to him when he was
resurrected to the right: "Any man who apostatises from Islam is to be
given the chance to return to the faith. If he repents, accept his repentance.
But if he does not, cut off his head. Any woman who apostatises from Islam is to
be offered the chance to return. If she repents, accept her repentance. If she
does not repent, give her a second chance, etc." (Hadith).
It is quoted from Imam Ali that Daruqutni -- peace be upon him -- said in
his Hadith collection that an apostate woman is to be given a chance to repent.
She should not be put to death.
There is evidence that the Hanifites said that the apostate woman should not
be killed but should be only imprisoned and beaten.
CHAPTER 4 - The Possessions of the Apostate
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