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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 submission".

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 right mind.

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 Islamic countries.

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 death.

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.

Abd al-Masih

1. When Does a Muslim Become an Apostate?

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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 Allah.

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 resurrection.

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 killed.

2. Calling the Apostate to Repentance

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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.

3. The Case of the Female Apostate

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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 so."

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.

go to CHAPTER 4 - The Possessions of the Apostate

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