The two statements which follow the Introduction, as well as the essential content of the Introduction, the statement from Amnesty International and the quotations from the Hadith (Canonical Tradition), are taken from Abul Ala Mawdudi's book The Punishment of the Apostate according to Islamic Law (translated and annotated by Syed Silas Husain and Ernest Hahn.
Who is the Pakistani scholar Abul Ala Mawdudi (1903-1979)? Charles Adams, for many years a professor at the Institute of Islamic Studies, McGill University, and a highly respected scholar of Islamics, writes:
What is Mawdudi's thesis regarding this law of apostasy and its punishment? He writes:
And what Islamic source materials does Mawdudi draw on for evidence of this law and its punishment? Mawdudi, as many other Muslim scholars of the past and present, finds expression of this law and its punishment within the Qur'an itself, though still other Muslim scholars understand that the Qur'an speaks of the apostate's punishment only in the afterlife. Muslim Canonical Tradition (Hadith), the recorded actions and sayings of Muhammad and the second indispensable source of Islam and Islamic law (shari`ah) - Islam is more than the Qur'an! - frequently and clearly relates how, at the time of Muhammad and his four great successors, the apostate was executed. All four Sunni Islam legal schools (Hanafi, Hanbali, Maliki, Shafi`i) and Shi`a Islam call for the execution of the male and female apostate, though Hanafi and Shi'a schools imprison the female until she returns to Islam. Highly significant, adds Mawdudi, is the well documented jihad (holy war) carried out by Abu Bakr, Muhammad's successor, with the support of Muhammad's closest companions, against the Arab tribes who apostatized from Islam immediately after Muhammad's death. (pp. 25-27)
It is true that in the past couple of centuries, Western influence in the Muslim World has modified some Muslim attitudes and legislation with respect to this law of apostasy and its punishment. Nevertheless, many Muslims in many Muslim nations and in Muslim communities within non-Muslim nations continue to recognize the validity of this law and to apply its penalties in their severest or less severe forms through the imam or even a community or family leader. Naturally, converts from Islam in these nations are also aware of these facts. Converts from Islam in the West, too, generally are keenly aware of it and fear its consequences, not only against themselves but against their families and friends here and in their native lands.
On the other hand, many Muslims today strongly oppose the traditional Muslim doctrine of apostasy and its punishment. Some of these, however, while wishing the law had never existed, are acutely aware of its existence in all Islamic legal schools and its widespread influence over Islamic society. Others of these Muslims, especially residents in the West, perhaps for reasons of ignorance or for apologetic purposes, glibly dismiss the traditional Islamic law of apostasy and its punishment as if the law did not really exist, or as if it were a relic of the past, or as if it were, in the words of a letter to The Toronto Globe and Mail, "an obscene edict from a fanatic sect in Islam".
In brief, the law of apostasy and its punishment has existed as part and parcel of Islam and Islamic law in all Islam's traditional and orthodox forms and from Islam's earliest history, regardless of whether and how the law has been implemented. The law remains quite alive and well, even in the minds of many Muslims in the West. And it continues to be a vital issue in the comparison between any Islamic declaration of human rights and the United Nations declaration of human rights. Thus Ann Elizabeth Mayer (Islam and Human Rights, Pinter Publishers, London, 1991, pp. 186, 187) writes with reference to apostasy:
Arij A. Roest Crollius (in Wie tolerant ist der Islam ed. Walter Kerber, Kindt Verlag, Muenchen, 1991, p. 42) illustrates more clearly the basic presupposition of the different charters:
Quotations from the Hadith (the Second Source of Islam) Commanding the Execution of the Apostate
This tradition has been narrated by Abu Bakr, Uthman, Ali, Muadh ibn Jabal, Abu Musa Ashari, Abdullah ibn Abbas, Khalid ibn Walid and a number of other Companions and is found in all the authentic Hadith collections.
The Messenger of God states: In no way is it permitted to shed the blood of a Muslim who testifies that "there is no god except God" and "I am the Apostle of God" except for three crimes:
The Prophet appointed and sent him (Abu Musa) as governor of Yemen. Then, later he sent Muadh ibn Jabal as his assistant. When Muadh arrived there, he announced: "People, I am sent by the Messenger of God for you." Abu Musa placed a cushion for him to be comfortably seated.
Meanwhile, a person was presented who previously had been a Jew, then was a Muslim and then became a Jew. Muadh said: "I will not sit unless this person is executed. This is the judgement of God and His Messenger." Muadh repeated the statement three times. Finally, when he was killed, Muadh sat.
It should be noted that this incident took place during the blessed life of the Prophet. At that time, Abu Musa represented the Prophet as governor and Muadh as vice-governor. If their action had not been based on the decision of God and His Messenger, surely the Prophet would have objected. (pp. 19, 20)
Several years ago a Lebanese family in Germany requested official information from the Office of the Mufti in Lebanon regarding the law of apostasy in Islam. The response in Arabic, which the family received, appears at the end of this statement. The translation of the response is as follows:
"In the Name of the Merciful and Compassionate Allah, Dar al-Fatwa in the Republic of Lebanon, Beirut. Praise be to Allah, the Lord of the Universe; blessings and peace be upon our Master Muhammad, the Apostle of Allah, and upon his Family, his Companions, his Followers and those who have found the way through him.
A question has come: `What is the stand of the Islamic Law regarding the Muslim who has renounced Islam and embraced another religion?' The answer is, with Allah's help: Etymologically, raddah (renouncing) means to go back on a thing to something else. As far as religious law is concerned, it means the severing of the continuity of Islam. The murtadd (apostate) is the one who has renounced Islam. The state of raddah (apostasy), should it continue and he die in it, will nullify the value of his work. Such a person will have died outside Islam. This is based on the saying of the Exalted One (i.e., Allah, in the Qur'an): `Those who among you renounce their religion and die as unbelievers, their works would have failed them.'
The loss of the merit of one's works is linked to two conditions: apostasy, and dying in the state of apostasy. These two conditions are necessary and are not the same. Should the apostate renounce his apostasy and return to Islam, his status would be valid as long as he gave these two testimonies:
The person who renounces his apostasy is not obliged to repeat the performance of everything he had accomplished prior to his apostasy (i.e., while he was still a practicing Muslim), such as the hajj (pilgrimage) and the prayers. His works will no longer be counted as having failed him, now that he has returned to Islam. But he must perform all that he has missed during the raddah and the period leading up to it. For he is still under obligation, (even) while he was in the state of apostasy, to perform all that is required of a Muslim.
Now, should the apostate (male or female) persist in his apostasy, he should be given the opportunity to repent, prior to his being put to death, out of respect for his Islam. A misunderstanding on his part may have taken place, and there would thus be an opportunity to rectify it. Often apostasy takes place on account of an offer (of inducement). So Islam must be presented to the apostate, things should be clarified, and his sin made manifest. He should be imprisoned for three days, so that he may have the opportunity to reflect upon his situation. This three-day period has been deemed adequate. But if the man or the woman has not repented of his or her raddah, but has continued to persist in it, then he or she should be put to death. (This is in harmony with) Muhammad's saying, may Allah's blessings and peace be upon him: `Kill him who changes his religion', as related by the Hadith authority, al-Bukhari, (in his Hadith collection). He, who executes the apostate, is the imam (ruler or leader in Islam) or, with his permission, his deputy. When a person deserves capital punishment, in accordance with the will of Allah, the carrying out of the penalty is left to the imam or the one he has authorized. But if some person, other than the imam or his deputy, has not abided by this rule and executed the apostate, that person should be punished because he has usurped the function of the imam. This punishment is not specifically described. It is left to the judge to decide the amount of the punishment in order that it will keep people from usurping the role of the imam.
An apostate may not be buried in the cemetery of the Muslims, since by his apostasy he has departed from them.
According to Imam Abu Hanifah, may the mercy of Allah be upon him, the female apostate should not be put to death, but must be imprisoned until she islamizes. Reference is then made to Khatib al-Sharbini, Ibn Hajar al-Haythami, and other authorities. Allah knows best. May Allah bless our Master Muhammad, his Family and his Companions. Thanks be to God, the Lord of the universe."
Beirut, the 14th of Rabi` al-Thani in the year 1410 A.H. 13 November 1989.
Deputy to the Mufti of the Republic of LebanonNote:
 A mufti, a skilled legal expert in Shari`a (Muslim canonical law) who issues a legal opinion in the form of a fatwa (Islamic legal pronouncement) in response to a question. Dar al-Fatwa, lit., "the house of pronouncement".
The following Shi`ite pronouncement on apostasy in Islam appeared in Kayhan International, March 1986.Introduction
In Islam, apostasy is a flagrant sin and guilt for which certain punishments have been specified in fiqh (Islamic law). Apostasy means, to renounce the religion or a religious principle after accepting it. In other words, one's departure from Islam to atheism is called apostasy.
A person who abandons Islam and adopts atheism is called an apostate. There are special laws concerning apostates in the Islamic fiqh. In this lesson, we will be familiarized with them. With regard to the above-mentioned points, we will continue to discuss the issue of apostasy and apostates in the following parts: (There follows an outline.)
1. Types of apostasy: As it was mentioned, apostasy means to return from Islam to atheism and polytheism. That is why it can also be called "reaction". Therefore, from the standpoint of Islam and the Islamic fiqh, reaction is to actually give up Tawhid (monotheism) and return to atheism and polytheism. Reaction is to abandon monotheism and take up paganism, idolatry and materialism. Reaction is to return from faith and knowledge to ignorance. Therefore, the exact examples of reaction in the current world, especially Muslim-inhabited regions, are apostate materialists, Marxists, and polytheistic capitalists and Zionists who have abandoned Tawhid and resorted to Trinity and racism. Heretical groups in the Muslim world, such as Ba`athists and the likes of them are reactionary and apostate. Because by denying the genuineness of Islam, or many of its rules, they have practically become apostate and contracted the fatal disease of apostasy and reaction.
Apostasy has two types: one is "voluntary" apostasy and the other is "innate" apostasy. Therefore, there are also two types of apostates: voluntary apostates and innate apostates who are treated according to different rules. In the jurisprudential book of Tahrir al-Wassilah voluntary and innate apostates are defined as follows:
"An apostate, that is, one who abandons Islam and takes up atheism, may be of two types:
a. Voluntary apostate: a person whose parents, or either of them, were Muslim at the time of his or her development in the mother's womb and who takes up atheism after growing up.
b. Innate apostate: a person who is born of atheist parents and who accepts Islam after growing up, but returns to atheism later."
2. The way to prove one's apostasy: After the meaning of apostasy and its two types have been clarified, this question may come to mind: How can a person's apostasy be proven?
In response, I should say that, since Islam is an easy religion, it has adopted an easy and untroubled manner in this connection, which does not involve any slander and accusation. Here, before anything else, the judge attaches importance to the confession of the accused person. Whatever the charged person says about himself or herself, the judge takes it as an evidence. If the charged person confesses to his apostasy, his word will be accepted; if he denies the charge of apostasy and claims Islam, again his word will be taken as valid.
Tahrir al-Wassilah reads so in this regard: "Apostasy is proven in two ways: First, the person himself confesses to his apostasy twice. Second, two just and truthful men bear witness to the person's apostasy. But women's testimonies do not prove apostasy in any case; either they bear witness individually, in a group or beside a man."
There should also be several conditions or prerequisites in a person charged with apostasy to be convicted of this guilt. These conditions are: adulthood, wisdom, free will, and intention. Therefore, apostasy does not apply to children, lunatics, and those who have been forced to pretend it. Also, apostasy does not apply for a Muslim who utters a blasphemous word or commits a blasphemous act neglectfully or jokingly and without intention, or in a coma, or in anger; that is to say, he is still a Muslim and considered a Muslim.
"If a person utters or does something indicative of apostasy, and he claims that he was compelled to do so, or did not have real intention and uttered it unconsciously, his or her claim is accepted, even though there is already ample proof of his having done a blasphemous act."
3. The punishment of apostates: The punishment that Islam has considered for voluntary and innate apostates differ.
a. Voluntary apostate: If this apostate is a man, the following punishment will be imposed upon him: "His wife is separated from him (that is, she becomes forbidden to him) and, as though her husband is dead, she should not marry another man for a certain period of time and after that period, she can marry someone else if she wants.
"In addition to this, the property of a male apostate is divided among his lawful heirs. In this division, they won't await his death and his property is distributed among them while he is still living; of course, his debts are first repaid (and the apostate himself is executed). The repentance of a voluntary apostate is not accepted and has no effect in regaining his property and wife. His inward repentance will be accepted by God (that is to say, the other worldly chastisement will be lifted from him).
"In some cases, a voluntary apostate's apparent repentance is also accepted and as a result his prayers and worship will be accepted, his body will be clean and touchable again; he will be allowed to gain new property through legitimate ways such as trade, work, and inheritance. He can also marry a Muslim woman or marry his former wife again."
This is the punishment of a male voluntary apostate. As you observe, Islam considers him a dead person and issues the rule of the dead about his property and wife.
The words of the great Faqih Imam Khomeini indicate that, if a voluntary apostate repents, he will be relieved of death punishment. However, some of the earlier Faqihs such as Allamah Helli believed that a voluntary apostate should be executed immediately and that his repentance was not acceptable.
Imam Khomeini's statement in this regard is based on common law and rationality. Some of the former Faqihs like Eskafi and Sahib al-Massalik were of the same opinion. Concerning the documents invoked by the opponents of this opinion, Sahib al-Massalik says: "... Reliable jurisprudential documents generally indicate that an apostate's repentance is acceptable, and any different interpretation of these documents is doubtful."
A similar statement has also been narrated from the Sunnis. For example, Taliha Ibn Khowailad Assadi, a well-known apostate in the early years of Islam, who was defeated after apostasy and rebellion against Muslims, repented after some time (and thus was pardoned). In the Nahavand battle, he was one of the commanders of the Muslims' army and was killed in that battle.
But the punishment of a female voluntary apostate is as follows: "Her property remains in her ownership and is not transferred to her lawful heirs, unless she dies. (A female apostate is not executed on charges of apostasy.) She is separated from her husband without any need to remain unmarried for a certain period, of course if no intercourse has taken place between her and her husband. But if they have had sexual intercourse, she should remain unmarried for a certain period as of the moment of her apostasy just as if she were divorced. If the woman repents in the middle of the period of remaining unmarried, she will become the wife of her former husband without any need to hold marriage ceremonies again."
Therefore, a female apostate is never executed but is imprisoned.
b. Innate Apostate: An innate apostate is treated in this way: "His or her property is not transferred to the heirs as a result of apostasy. An innate man or woman is separated from his or her spouse as a penalty for apostasy. In case of repenting before the expiration of the period that the woman has to remain unmarried, they will again belong to each other. But if repentance is uttered after the expiration of this special period, they will no longer be each other's wife and husband."
An innate apostate is not executed if he repents. This is a matter agreed on by all faqihs (Islamic jurists).
4. Apostate's Repentance: The case of an apostate's repentance has become clear and, therefore, there is no need to explain it again.
5. A View of the Qur'anic Verses About Apostasy: There are many verses in the Glorious Qur'an and numerous narrations in Islamic historical and narrative books that help us have a deep understanding of the phenomenon of apostasy. Let us take a look at some of them:
1. "O you who believe! Whoever from among you turns back from his religion, then Allah will bring a people, He shall love them and they shall love Him, lowly before the believers, mighty against the unbelievers, they shall strive hard in Allah's way and shall not fear the censure of any censurer; this is Allah's grace, He gives it to whom He pleases, and Allah is Ample-giving, Knowing."
2. "... And they will not cease fighting with you until they turn you back from your religion, if they can; and whoever of you turns back from his religion, then he dies while an unbeliever - these it is whose works shall go for nothing in this world and the hereafter; and they are the inmates of the fire; therein they shall abide."
3. "Surely (as for) those who return on their backs after that guidance has become manifest to them, the Shaitan has made it a light matter to them; and He gives them respite.
"That is because they say to those who hate what Allah has revealed: We will obey you in some of the affairs; and Allah knows their secrets.
"But how will it be when the angels cause them to die, smiting their backs.
"That is because they follow what is displeasing to Allah and are averse to His pleasure, therefore He has made null their deeds."
4. "O you who believe! If you obey a party from among those who have been given the Book, they will turn you back as unbelievers after you have believed."
5. "And Muhammad is no more than an apostle; the apostles have already passed away before him. If then he dies or is killed, will you turn back upon your heels? And whoever turns back upon his heels, he will by no means do harm to Allah in the least, and Allah will reward the grateful."
As you observe, these verses have approached apostasy from different aspects and meditation upon them will shed light on many issues.
6. Answer to a Controversial Question: In connection with the subject of apostasy and the punishment that the holy religion of Islam has considered for it, the narrow-minded or the enemies of justice and truth may attempt to create doubt in the people's minds by raising a question and taking advantage of it opportunistically in their anti-Islamic propaganda. This is the question: Do the Muslims not claim that Islam is the religion of the freedom of belief and creed and that there is no compulsion in choosing one's opinion? Then why has Islam considered such heavy penalties and punishment for apostasy?
The answer to this irrelevant question is this: Yes, Islam and the Glorious Qur'an have denied compulsion and coercion in belief, and the Exalted God says so in the Glorious Qur'an:
"There is no compulsion in religion" (Surah Baqarah, verse 256). But the issue of apostasy differs from the free adoption of an opinion or belief.
In other words, I should say that from the viewpoint of the Islamic fiqh, there is a skeptic who is seeking the truth and there is also an obstinate apostate. These two are basically different from each other.
A skeptic is one who does not want to take up a creed and follow a religion in a hereditary way. He or she is doubtful and hesitant of what parents and family or society have inculcated upon his or her mind about God and Islam, and doubts whether they are true or not. That is why he doubts and thus embarks on studying and searching for the discovery of truth and reality.
Not only is this doubt not reproachable and bad from the viewpoint of Islam, but it is also praised. Because the Glorious Qur'an reproaches ancient nations for having imitated their ancestors in religion and creed. Even research facilities should be provided for the searching and studying of a skeptic out of the Muslims' public treasury. Because the root of this doubt lies in honesty, sincerity, and knowledge. Doubt is a very good passageway, but a very bad place to stop in.
However, apostasy is a matter of treason and ideological treachery, which originates from hostility and hypocrisy. The destiny of a person who has an inborn handicap is different from the destiny of one whose hand should be cut off, due to the development of a dangerous and infectious disease.
The apostasy of a Muslim individual whose parents have also been Muslim is a very infectious, dangerous, and incurable disease that appears in the body of an ummah (people) and threatens people's lives, and that is why this rotten limb should be severed.
An apostate is an adversary who has penetrated the Islamic ummah as the faith column of the enemy of Islam and Muslims and who has taken advantage of his natural situation.
Apostasy is escape from the pattern of creation and nature and that is why the word "voluntary" has been adopted for such an apostate and that is the reason why the punishment of a voluntary apostate is heavier than that of an innate apostate. Can the penalty of escaping from the path and pattern of nature and creation be anything other than annihilation? This is the same thing that has been crystallized in the penal code of Islam.
The anti-apostasy punishments of Islam are proper laws to rescue mankind from falling into the cesspool of treason, betrayal, and disloyalty and to remind the human being of his ideological commitments. A committed man should not violate his promise and vow, especially his promise to God. All the punitive laws of Islam have a similar goal. For example, they ask, why is a thief's hand cut for stealing five hundred or one thousand tomans? This is the denial of the value of the human being! But the fact is that a thief's hand is not cut off for the sake of a hundred or a thousand tomans, but his hand is severed for having deprived the human society of security. In other words, a thief's hand is cut for the revival of human values.
An objective and real proof of the fact that apostasy always has a treacherous and warlike nature and revolves around high political and social positions indeed, and not around the free adoption of a belief, as it is alleged, can be seen in the events of the early days of Islam.
After the demise of the Prophet of Islam (SAWA), most Arab tribes became apostate under the influence of their errant, arrogant, and idolatrous chiefs. These apostates were led by the false claimers of prophethood. Their first step after the Prophet's death was to attack Medina and other centers of Islam. In the wars that the bellicose apostates waged against Muslims, fifty or sixty thousand people were killed and the number of casualties is unprecedented in Arab history.
Their most heinous ringleaders were "Ablaha ibn Ka`b" known as "Asswad Ghassi"; in Yemen "Mosailimah Kadhdhab" at Hadra Moat, and "Taliha Ibn Khowailad Assadi" in the Bani Assad tribe. These wars, and similar wars, which occurred later, show the tyrannical nature of apostasy and justify the necessity of a decisive combat against it.
Another example, which is expressive of the insincere nature of the sinister phenomenon of apostasy, is the ruthless inhuman murder of faithful Muslims by Marxian apostates in Iran under the Shah's regime under the pretext of "changing their ideology". They committed these crimes as "revolutionary assassinations". Yet, instead of assassinating the ringleaders of SAWAK (the Shah's secret police), they murdered anti-Shah and anti-U.S. Muslims who worshipped God. This is the shameful face of apostasy.Notes
Statement from Amnesty International
From Amnesty International, Law and Human Rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran, February 1980, MDE/13/03/80.
Apostasy and a Period for Repentance
In most schools (of Islam), the apostate is given the chance to return from error and follow the ordained path. If this is not done he or, according to the Shi`a Imamiya, she will be executed. The period which is given to the apostate to return varies according to the schools but the Shi`a Imamiya are particularly harsh in that they say that whoever was born into Islam and turns away from it should be killed and no repentance accepted.