The Hanafites: The activities of the apostate are dealt with in
- Valid through consensus: having children (his children qualify as having
been born in wedlock); divorce, because it no longer demands the right of
disposal, even when the separation occurred on account of the apostasy.
- Invalid through consensus: marriage and blood sacrifice, because both must
belong to the religion -- whereas the apostate does not have a religion, and his
crossing over to a religion is not acceptable, because he is to be killed,
because of apostasy.
- Under probation by consensus: negotiation, when an apostate negotiates
with a Muslim. The negotiation is under probation. When the apostate returns to
Islam, a contract is valid. However, if he dies or is killed, or joins a
blasphemous camp at war with Muslims, the negotiation becomes invalid, because
negotiations demand equality, whereas a Muslim and an apostate are not
- Contested: buying and selling, the freeing of slaves, mortgaging, and the
handling of a Muslim's possessions in the case of apostasy. Abu Hanifa -- the
mercy of Allah be upon him -- said:
"In the case of apostasy all these dealings are to be placed under
probation. If he returns to Islam, his contracts are to become operative, but if
he dies in his apostasy, or is killed, or resides in 'The House of War,' they
are nullified, because he now (in apostasy) qualifies as a frivolous or crazy (mutahauwir)
warrior (harbi) -- 'he who is at war with Muslims.' His dealings are to
be rendered null and void, according to his legal position. Thus, the warring
enemy and the apostate are to be treated the same. The apostate deserves the
death sentence. There is no reason for him to enjoy the protection of Islam any
longer. Consequently, he is incompetent, unlike the adulterer and murderer who,
although they deserve death because of a crime, still enjoy the protection of
Islam, since the reason for protection still exists: Islam. Thus, the adulterer
and murderer do not lose their property. He is also unlike the apostate woman
who is not a warring enemy and who is therefore not killed after apostasy. As
for the apostate man, he is to lose all his property, as was already mentioned."
According to Abu Yusuf and Muhammad Ibn Shaiban, the transactions of the
apostate are valid, and his contracts are legally binding, because legitimacy
depends on legal capability, and validity depends on proprietary right. Because
he can be spoken to, he is legally capable. As far as his right to property is
concerned, it is valid until his death and does not stop on account of his
apostasy, since he is considered a needy taxpayer who cannot pay the tax, unless
out of what he possesses. So his possessions remain until he is killed. For this
reason, his son inherits from him after his death.
They said: If the apostate returns to Islam as a Muslim, after having joined
a faction warring against Islam, he has the right to receive back from his heirs
whatever he can find of his former possessions, since the heir succeeds him in
using the property, by virtue of his death effected when he joined the faction
warring against Islam. When he returns as a Muslim, he needs his property
returned, so he is to be given priority over his heir. But if the heir has
removed him from his possessions, legally through injustice, it cannot be
abrogated (unlike the mothers of his children and dealers, since judgement has
become enforced by virtue of an operative proof). If the apostate returns to
Islam before the sentence of a judge, he is to be treated as if he were still a
Muslim who had never apostatised; all his property is to remain as before, and
all the debts are still due and can be settled.
The Hanafites: The apostasy of a lad who is mentally sound is a "competent
apostasy" (irtidadun namin), and the regulations of the Sharia,
with regard to the apostate, also apply to him: His marriage is annulled, he
loses his rights of inheritance, and he is to be forced to embrace Islam, but is
not to be killed. If, as an apostate, he matures, he is to be imprisoned, as in
the case of the female apostate.
A lad's faith in Islam, if he is mentally sound, is valid, because Ali b.
Abi Talib became a Muslim when he was only five years of age, and the Prophet
himself confirmed his being a Muslim. A further proof for this is the fact that
the Prophet offered Ibn Sayyed the religion of Islam while a youth.
Some said it would be an abomination for one to learn the Qur´an and
its teachings, pronounce both articles of faith, perform the ritual prayer, and
yet not be at a point where one could be called a Muslim.
Divine truths cannot be altered; as far as eternal happiness and salvation (nadjat)
beyond the grave are concerned, these are privileges given to the Muslim.
Therefore, in this case, a fundamental verdict (al-hukmu'l-asli) is at
issue. Everything else is added to this base. Therefore, it is not important
whether the lad or his faith suffered harm, for his obligatory prayer and
fasting will be accepted and rewarded by Allah. Apostasy is indeed a fact, and a
fact cannot be denied, but since it is not appropriate to pardon his apostasy,
he will be forced to embrace Islam, but will not be killed, based on his own
interest. Death is a penalty (uquba) and the penalties are lifted in the
case of youths, as a mercy.
Such is the case in the matter of a mentally sound lad. As far as the
mentally ill youth is concerned, his apostasy is not valid, for he does not have
discretion. The matter is similar with his faith in Islam, which is not
This is also true for the insane whose apostasy is not accepted through
consensus, just as his faith in Islam would carry no weight, since he is not a
taxpayer; neither is he under any obligation according to the Noble Tradition (al-hadith
Abu Yusuf says the apostasy of a sensible lad is no apostasy, and his faith
in Islam is accepted.
The Shafi´ites: Neither the apostasy of a mentally sound lad
nor his faith in Islam is valid, because, with regard to Islam, he follows his
parents. This cannot be regarded as foundational. His being a Muslim carries
with it certain obligations which (in case he does not fulfil them) could cause
him harm and for which he is not legally capable, since he is not a taxpayer and
does not have the power of free choice.
The case is the same with the insane whose apostasy is not valid, because he
does not qualify as being of sound mind, nor is he a taxpayer. One cannot pay
serious attention to the apostasy or the faith of the lad and the insane.
The apostasy of him who was forced (mukrah) to accept Islam is also
not valid. But if he accepted Islam with full assurance and faith prior to his
apostasy, he qualifies as an apostate and is to be killed.
As for the Muslim who, without being previously called to repentance,
becomes an apostate and, thereafter, loses his mind, he is not to be killed,
because he may return to his senses and convert to Islam. If he is killed while
being insane, his murderer is not guilty, yet, according to the opinion of the
judge, he may be punished. In the Holy Qur´an (Sura al-Nahl 16:106-108)
Allah says: "Whoso disbelieves in Allah, after he has believed -- excepting
him who has been compelled, and his heart is still at rest in his belief -- but
whosoever's breast is expanded in unbelief, upon them shall rest anger from
Allah, and there awaits them a mighty chastisement; that, because they have
preferred the present life over the world to come...."
The Hanafites: The apostate must not be killed in the following four
1. If the lad, who became a Muslim like his parents, reaches maturity as an
apostate, he must not be killed. He is to be imprisoned until he repents, since
his faith in Islam occurred while he was dependent on others.
This is also the opinion of the Hanbalites who say that he is not to
be killed. He is to be forced to return to Islam by being arrested and beaten.
According to the Shafi´ites and Malikites, the mature
lad qualifies as an apostate even when he follows his parents; he will be called
to repentance from his apostasy. If he repents and returns to Islam, his
decision will be accepted, but if he does not, he is to be killed like every
2. If the lad became a Muslim as a child and then later apostatised, he is
not to be killed, because the sincerity of his faith in Islam is disputed, owing
to his youth. This is also the opinion of the Shafi´ites. If
someone kills him prior to his conversion, he is not guilty. If a Muslim
relative dies after the lad's apostasy, he cannot inherit his estate.
The Malikites and Hanbalites say that the lad who
apostatised prior to reaching maturity must be killed, if he reaches maturity as
an apostate. All the stipulations of an apostate are to be applied to him.
3. If the lad apostatises prior to reaching maturity, his apostasy is not
accepted. He is to be imprisoned and beaten until he repents, because Islam is
more beneficial for him. For this reason, he is to be beaten severely until he
converts and repents.
4. The apostate who is forced to return to Islam is not to be killed,
because the demands on his being a Muslim were met, according to outward
appearance. The Shafi´ites are likewise of this opinion: Since he has no
inner conviction, and was forced to accept Islam, a punishment is out of the
The four Islamic theologians agreed: If the parents fall into apostasy --
may Allah forbid it! -- and the lad, like them, also apostatises, and they all
reside in "The House of War," which has been confirmed by a judge, the
apostasy of the lad is legitimate, and he is to be categorised as an unbeliever.
If he should return to Islam, this is to be accepted from him. He cannot then
inherit from his unbelieving parents, but he can inherit from his Muslim
relatives who die after his turning to Islam. His marriage to a polytheist is
not valid, but he is allowed to marry a Muslim woman. He is not permitted to
consume either wine or pork.
If the man and the woman apostatise -- may Allah forbid it! -- and reside in
"The House of War," and the woman becomes pregnant in "The House
of War," and delivers a child while in this condition, and grandchildren
are born to her from this child, she and her husband (the grandparents) are
considered as "booty" -- because apostates are enslaved. The children
are to be forced to accept Islam, whereas the grandchildren are not, because
they followed their father, not their grandfather. The Prophet -- the blessing
and peace of Allah be upon him -- said: "Every baby is born with a natural
leaning toward religion. It is the parents that make him a Christian or a Jew"
The Hanafites, Malikites and, according to their traditions,
the Hanbalites: The drunkard who is not in full possession of his
faculties, and who has lost his power of distinction and reason, is like the
insane from whom neither apostasy nor faith in Islam is taken into
According to a teaching of the Hanafites, the apostasy of a drunkard
is valid, and he is not to be excused if he has, willingly and without force,
drunk anything forbidden.
The Shafi´ites say that the apostasy of a drunkard who, owing
to his condition, has committed punishable infringements against the law, is
valid, just as his other deeds, such as divorce, are punishable. As far as the
validity of the call to repentance is concerned, which was offered him during
his drunkenness, the majority are of the opinion that it is indeed valid, just
as his apostasy was valid; yet it is desirable to postpone it until he returns
to his senses. However, the apostasy of the drunkard who committed no lapse,
despite his state of intoxication (that is, if he became drunk by compulsion),
is not valid. This also applies to his divorce. This school of thought tends to
accept the validity of the alcoholic's faith, even if he apostatises with a
sober mind and then returns to Islam in a state of drunkenness. His statements
are to be considered as if he were sober. The acknowledgement of his Islam in a
state of drunkenness needs another confirmation after he has regained sobriety.
When he recovers, he is to be offered Islam again. If he identifies with it, he
is considered a Muslim from the moment of identification. But if he upholds his
apostasy, he is considered an apostate from that moment. If he does not repent,
he is to be killed immediately.
The Shafi´ites: A witness for the prosecution in the matter of
apostasy is accepted in any case. This is ratified without a detailed
explanation, because the witness, on account of the severity of apostasy, would
only burden the individual concerned. Afterward, the judge is to say to him, "Pronounce
the two articles of faith!" There is no need to ask about the reason. If he
refuses, this is evidence of apostasy, and one does not need to inquire about
the reason behind the apostasy.
Others are of the opinion that the witness must be questioned thoroughly,
and that a detailed explanation must be demanded from him, because the schools
of thought are different regarding the charge of apostasy, and the verdict on it
is very weighty. Therefore, one must proceed with caution.
The Malikites say that the witness can be accepted only after a
detailed explanation has been given, because the repentance of an apostate is
The Hanafites are of the opinion that the charge of apostasy against
a Muslim can only be accepted from two "eligible (adl) witnesses."
The judge should ask him about the reason behind his apostasy, for it could be
that he may have said something which indeed was no heresy, yet which was
understood to be. If he rejects the accusation, this qualifies as repentance and
a return to Islam.
The Hanafites: The apostate must deny all other religions except
Islam and say: "I have repented and returned to the religion of Islam. I am
freed from every religion except Islam!" It is desirable (mustahabb)
for him to express his faith on the Day of Resurrection (ba'th) and the
Resurrection (nushur). He must say so, since he has no religion. If he
only confirms the religion he has just adopted -- Islam -- that is enough to
reach the goal.
Al-Tahawi reports: Abu Yusuf was asked how the male apostate becomes a
Muslim again. He said: "He must say that there is no god but Allah and that
Muhammad is his Messenger. He confesses Islam, which Muhammad brought from
Allah, and renounces the religion he had previously embraced. If he pronounces
both articles of faith and says that he is freed from the religion to which he
had converted, this qualifies as repentance."
As for the conversion of a Christian to Islam, he is to pronounce both
articles of faith and renounce Christianity. The same is true for Jews and
adherents of other religions. As for the non-Muslims living among us, they
cannot become Muslims solely by pronouncing both articles of faith, because
they, even if they pronounce both articles of faith, may still claim that Islam
is only for the Arabs (in order to secretly protect their religion). But if an
unbeliever residing in "The House of War" is attacked by a Muslim and
says, "I confess that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah," or "I
have joined the religion of Islam or the religion of Muhammad," this is a
proof of his being a Muslim. What is then the case if he would add to that the
two articles of faith! One then decides whether he is really a Muslim and then
lifts the death penalty. If he thereafter apostatises again, we will kill him.
But when the Muslim apostatises twice, we will accept his repentance. This is
true also if he apostatises three or four times. He can request the postponement
of the penalty from the imam each time; but after the fourth time, the imam will
grant him no further postponement of penalty. If he immediately returns to Islam
again, it is good; if not, he is to be killed.
Al-Karkhi says in his abridged edition:
If he repents, after he has apostatised four times, he is to be severely
beaten and then imprisoned. The judge is not allowed to release him until his
humiliation through repentance becomes visible and until his condition as a
person of upright heart becomes apparent. When he has done this, he is to be
released. If he again apostatises, this same procedure is repeated until he
again returns to Islam, for the following Quranic verse is applicable in all
cases: "But when they repent, perform the prayer, and give alms, then let
them go their way! Allah is merciful and ready to forgive" (Sura al-Tawba
According to a tradition from Ibn Umar and Ali, the repentance of him who
repeatedly apostatises is not accepted, just as it is the case with the heretic.
His death is obligatory.
The Malikites and Hanbalites: The repentance of the
unbeliever who apostatises (the unbeliever who apostatises after his conversion
to Islam) is not accepted if repeated, and he must be killed, based on the
following Quranic verse: "Those who believe, and then disbelieve, and then
believe, and then disbelieve, and then increase in unbelief -- Allah is not
likely to forgive them, neither to guide them on any way" (Sura al-Nisa´
4:137). If someone kills him prior to his call to repentance, he is neither
punished nor required to pay blood money.
The Shafi´ites: The repentance of a heretic or an apostate is
accepted, if he requests it and returns to Islam, even if he continually
apostatises and returns to Islam. He is to be killed only when he refuses to
The Hanafites: As for the heretic's repentance being accepted, there
are two schools of thought (riwayatan: "two traditions").
According to one, the repentance is not accepted; this is also the opinion of
the scholar Malik (Ibn Anas) and Ahmad (Ibn Hanbal). According to the other
school of thought, the repentance is valid if the heretic returns to Islam, as
The Hanafites: A country becomes apostate, the country qualifies as
a "House of War" when three conditions of apostasy have arisen:
- When the laws of unbelief become visible.
- When there are no more Muslims or dhimmis ("Jews and
Christians" enjoying the guarantee of protection by the Islamic state).
- When the region immediately borders a "House of War".
Abu Bakr al-Seddik -- may Allah be pleased with him -- was the first to
fight against the apostates because they abstained from paying taxes. They said:
"We pay tax only to him whose prayer is a source of security to us"
(meaning the Prophet -- Allah's blessing and peace be upon him). So their city
became a warring place.
The Malikites, Shafi´ites and Hanbalites say:
The laws of unbelief becoming visible in a region make it a "House of War".
The Hanafites and Malikites say: When the inhabitants of a
region apostatise, we can neither enslave their descendants nor treat them as
booty. If they have reached maturity, they are to be forced to accept Islam. If
they do not convert to Islam, they are to be imprisoned, and the judge will
threaten them with beating in order to compel them to accept Islam.
According to their most widespread interpretation, the Shafi´ites
are of the opinion that the descendants of the apostates should not be enslaved;
whereas the others say that not only can their descendants be enslaved, but also
that their descendants' descendants can be enslaved. The Hanbalites are
also of this opinion, "for the descendants follow their fathers in
Al-Bukhari, quoting Ibn Abbas, related the following tradition, after
hearing that Ali Ibn Abi Talib burned a great many people: "If I were in
your place, I would not have burned them, because the Prophet -- may Allah grant
him peace -- said: 'Do not punish people with the punishment of Allah!' I would
have killed them, as the Prophet said: 'Kill him who changes his religion!'"
Ali -- peace be upon him! -- fought the heretics who joined the sect of
Manichaeism -- those who believe in the eternity of light and darkness, and who
say that the world was born out of this duality.
The Hanafites: Apostasy invalidates the reward for all the good
deeds that a Muslim performed prior to falling away from Islam. When he repents
and returns to Islam, he must repeat the prayer, after the performance of which
he apostatised. In the same way, he must repeat the pilgrimage if he performed
it prior to his apostasy. And one should not forget that the forfeiture of
reward for a deed does not invalidate the deed itself, for a prayer in an
occupied country is indeed valid and can abrogate judgement, but the Muslim
(according to most scholars) is not rewarded by Allah.
The Shafi´ites: Apostasy, when followed immediately by death,
invalidates good deeds: "...Whoso of you turns from his religion, and dies
disbelieving -- their works have failed in this world and the next...; 'If thou
associatest other gods with Allah, thy work shall surely fail and thou wilt be
among the losers'; Whoso disbelieves in the faith, his work has failed, and in
the world to come he shall be among the losers" (Suras al-Baqara 2:214;
al-Zumar 39:65; al-Ma´ida 5:8). There are other verses that reveal that
good works (in the case of apostasy) become invalid and the reward is lost.
Therefore, he who returns to Islam must repeat the pilgrimage which was
performed prior to the apostasy.
Whoever reads the reports and testimonies of those who are persecuted by
their state, Islamic culture, or even their own families, will realise by their
shocking experiences and suffering how the law against apostasy in Islam is
still making itself felt today.
The law of Islam cannot be changed by Muslims, for it is understood to be
divine revelation. Considered to be above and beyond all discussion, it fights
against basic human rights in critical issues. This law functions as a drawn
sword, dangling over the head of every convert as long as he lives. As soon as
the control of a state is in the hands of Islamic fundamentalists, or when the
masses chaotically rush through the streets during religious unrest, one must
reckon with the death of individual converts; for the law demands their death
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