The Apostate Relinquishing
the Faith - Part 2
They also avow that the prophet Muhammad said it, and they practice it with those who relinquish Islam and become apostate. The scholars also teach that this is what all the Caliphs (Muhammad's successors) did after him. Contemporary scholars declare without any shame that the Muslim's freedom to change his faith is non-existent and is not recognized by Islam.
The Former Scholars
Without exception, all the former scholars agree on depriving any person the right of freedom to change his religion and they call for the death penalty for anyone who does so. I have chosen the most important and famous scholars - those who are acknowledged by all Muslims.
The Imam al-Shafi'i
In his book, "The Ordinances of the Qur'an" (part 1, p. 289), he remarks:
Al-Shafi'i is one of the four founders of the jurisprudence schools who (the Saudi scholars said) have agreed that the apostate must be put to death.
In Vol. 4, p. 316 of his volume, "The Sweetened" (Al Muhalla), Ibn Hazm says:
This famous scholar, who is called Sheikh al-Islam, says under the title of the law pertaining to the apostate,
In Vol. 32, pp. 276 and 279, he addresses this matter, namely, the killing of one who abandoned prayers. Then he speaks to husbands:
It is well-known that the majority of Muslims do not pray the daily five prayers, especially t
he wives who do not have enough time to do so. Thus, in this case, if the husband is a true Muslim, he would beat his wife to force her to pray, and if she declined to obey he must condemn her to death! God, have mercy upon us!
This judgment is not the verdict of Ibn Taymiyya only, but (as he frequently claimed), it is a verdict which all the scholars and Imams recognize. Actually our research has led us to believe Ibn Taymiyya's claim. In part 11, Vol. 8, Ibn Hazm in his book, "al-Muhalla" ("The Sweetened", p. 378), repeats the same words and declares to us that this is also the opinion of the Shafi'i and Malik, both of whom emphasize that the one who abandons prayers and does not repent must be killed. Sahih of Muslim (Vol. 1, p. 267 ) indicates that this is also the view of 'Ali Ibn Abi Talib. Yet Abu Hanifa has a slightly different opinion. He says that the one who ignores prayer will not be killed but must be scourged until he repents. If he does not repent, he must be continuously, beaten even if he dies under the punishment.
From the Inception of Islam
Sayings of Muhammad and His Successors
Prophet of Mercy and Freedom
We have already seen how the scholars of the Azhar based their resolution concerning the death penalty of the apostate on Muhammad's saying: "Who relinquishes his faith, kill him." This is quoted on the authority of Ibn 'Abbas as it is recorded in Sahih of al-Bukhari (part 9, p. 19). Not only al-Bukhari but the following scholars also ascribe this famous statement to Muhammad!
Other statements by Muhammad Related to this Issue:
In a very famous declaration, Muhammad defines three cases in which a Muslim must be killed:
What is important to us here is his phrase "Infidelity after faith." If you ask me who claimed that Muhammad said this, I will respond: All former and contemporary scholars, without exception, attest to that.
When 'Uthman Ibn 'Affan, the third caliph and the husband of Ruqayya the daughter of Muhammad, was besieged by some famous Muslim companions of the apostle, he reminded them of Muhammad's sayings and asked them: "For which of these three reasons do you intend to kill me?" and "Am I not the prince of believers?" Yet they killed him. Among those who were involved in his assassination were Muhammad Ibn Abu Bakr El Seddik and 'Ammar Ibn Yasir. (Refer to the Chronicle of al-Tabari Vol. 2, p. 669, and all the books of the Islamic history such as the "Chronicle of the Caliphs" by the as-Suyuti and Ibn Kathir).
This statement is also recorded in the following:
It is obvious then, that this statement is well documented and unquestionably ascribed to Muhammad. It is also well-known that the Sahih of al-Bukhari has recorded in part 9, p. 18 that:
Deeds of Muhammad, Prophet of Mercy and Freedom
The Supreme committee of law in the Azhar mentioned that a woman by the name of Um Mirwan relinquished her Islamic faith. Muhammad ordered her to repent or to be killed. Islamic history books record also that when Muhammad conquered Mecca, he sentenced to death all who apostatized or insulted him (refer to the Chronicles of Tabari, part II, p. 160 and Ibn Hisham part 4, pp. 15, 16 in "The Biography of the Prophet").
Muhammad's Companions and Successors: What Did They Do?
Mu'adh Ibn Jabal and the Jewish Man
He was one of Muhammad's greatest companions among the "helpers." Even Muhammad himself said, "Learn (to take) the Qur'an from four (people): Mu'adh Ibn Jabal and ..." (refer to the Bukhari, part 6). The following terrifying incident is recorded in the Sahih of al-Bukhari (part 9, p. 19):
Here we see a Jewish man who was converted to Islam and later was convinced that he made a mistake. Thus, he returned to his old faith and was tied with ropes like an animal. Then Mu'adh came in and refused to sit down on a cushion unless this man was put to death immediately; so they executed him. Then, and only then, Mu'az sat, ate and drank with Abu Musa who felt at peace with himself because he believed that he had implemented the command of God and His apostle, Muhammad. His apostle and the lord of the messengers, the prophet of mercy and freedom, said, "Whosoever relinquishes his faith, kill him."
Ali Ibn Abi Talib and Some Christians
This brutal man used to burn apostates whether they were alive or dead. He was the cousin of Muhammad and his son-in-law. He was Muhammad's favorite friend and one of the ten to whom Muhammad granted paradise. Muhammad reared him before and after the death of his father and said that Ali was the best one to judge according to Islamic law.
Now let us see what was recorded about Ali Ibn Abi Talib, the fourth Caliph, who is admired by both the Shi'ites and Sunnis. In his eighth volume, part eleven of his book, "The Sweetened", Ibn Hazm says (page 189),
I would rather have killed them in another way because the apostle of God said: "Whosoever relinquishes his faith, kill him.""'
This same incident is recorded in Sahih of al-Bukhari (part 9, page 19). Ibn Hazm (in the same previous source, p. 190) also relates what 'Ali did to some ex-Muslims who were converted to Christianity. He narrates the following three episodes:
Ibn Hazm says:
"Another Muslim apostatized and became a Christian. 'Ali ordered him to repent but he refused. 'Ali killed him and did not deliver his corpse to his family. They offered him a lot of money (to do so), but 'Ali refused and burned the corpse.
"Another man from the tribe of bany 'Ijl became a Christian. They brought him to 'Ali chained in irons. 'Ali talked to him for a long time. The man said to him: I know that Isa (Jesus) is the son of God.' Ali stood up and stepped on him. When the people saw that, they, too, stood up and stepped on him. Then 'Ali told them: Kill him.' They killed him. Then 'Ali ordered them to burn him."
For God's sake, 'Ali! Is it because the minds of those men (young and old) have been convinced by Christianity that you ordered them to change their convictions? When they refused to do so you tortured them ... or killed them ... or burned them.
'Uthman Ibn 'Affan
He is the third Caliph and the husband of Raqiyya and then om Kalthom, the daughters of Muhammad. He is also one of the ten to whom Muhammad granted paradise. Someone came to 'Uthman and conveyed to him that some people from Iraq had apostatized. 'Uthman wrote to the governor there and ordered him to command them to repent and re-embrace Islam. If they refused to do so, they all were to be killed. Some of them were actually killed because they refused to return to Islam, while others yielded and returned to Islam because of fear (refer to Ibn Hazm, part 11, p. 190).
Abu Bakr and the Wars of Apostasy
All the civilized world along with people of free conscience regard these wars as tyrannical, savage and barbaric. Wars which were waged without any justification. The world will always wonder what the crime of these poor Arab tribes was and what they did that made Abu Bakr, the first Caliph, wage such long and brutal wars against them, killing tens of thousands of people. All Muslims are quick to answer that Abu Bakr was carrying out Muhammad's orders, as he himself claimed, because these Arab tribes deserted Islam as soon as Muhammad died. Therefore, the fight with them was inevitable.
Advanced countries and free human beings do not comprehend or accept this answer which ignores the simplest principles of human rights and personal freedom to believe in the religious doctrine of their choice. If the reader were given the opportunity to read any of the Islamic history books, he would discover by himself the outrageous brutality which was committed in these wars. Multitudes were massacred, and the survivors were forced to re-embrace Islam and pay alms to Abu Bakr El Seddik, the father of A'isha wife of Muhammad. Of course, Abu Bakr was the first to whom Muhammad granted paradise. He said about him, "Abu Bakr is the most favorite to me among men, and his daughter A'isha is the most beloved among women."
The wars of apostasy are taught in all the schools of Arab and Islamic countries for all famous Islamic chroniclers such as the Tabari, Ibn Khaldun, Ibn Kathir and Suyuti recorded them in detail. In the Chronicles of the Tabari (part 2, pp. 258, 272), we read that Abu Bakr used to tell those whom he sent to fight the apostatized tribes:
Abu Bakr frequently re-iterated these famous words to Muslim warriors 'Umar Ibn al-Khattab used to tell him that some of the tribes had returned to Islam, but they refused to pay him alms. They said that alms should be paid only to Muhammad, though they were ready to return to Islam. Abu Bakr would respond: "By God, if they refrain from giving me a rope which they used to pay to the apostle of God, I will fight them for refusing" (refer to p. 175 of Vol. I of Sahih of Muslim, interpretation of the Nawawi. Also refer to any book about the wars of the apostasy).
There is a most important contemporary book which was published by the Azhar University, entitled, "The khulafa' al-Rashidun" ("The Rightly Guided Caliphs") by Dr. Abu Zayd Shalabi, professor of Islamic civilization at the College of Arabic language . The book was published in 1967. The author presented detailed information about the Wars of Apostasy which covered 20 pages (pp. 41-60). We would like to quote the following here:
Then, Abu Zayd comments on these wars on page 60:
The point, then, Dr. Shalabi, is that by threat of death, Islam attempted to keep people against their will, in the realm of Islam. Aren't you also ashamed to record in your book, that by means of offensive wars, Islam spread all over the Middle East! Does not that motivate you to re-examine your religion? Your logic is very strange. These wars deterred anyone who intended to relinquish Islam because he would face the same fate which other Arab tribes had faced. Yet the people of Indonesia will not be deterred or intimidated; their civilized government protects them. They come to Christ by the millions and we pray that you, too, will come.
Ibn Hisham, in "Muhammad's Biography "(Al-Sirat El Nabawia, part 4, p. 180 ), says:
This was in regard to Meccans, but the majority of the Arab tribes actually turned away from Islam. Abu Bakr fought them. The ruthlessness of Khalid Ibn al-Walid was very apparent. Dr. Abu Zayd said about Khalid Ibn al-Walid that he was the one who gouged out the eyes of apostates.
Still, there are important questions in this regard which beg our attention and they are: Why did the Arabs become apostate after the death of Muhammad? Why did the Meccans intend to turn away from Islam? The familiar answer is that they had embraced Islam under the threat of the sword because Muhammad forced them to choose between Islam or death.
There are two important questions to which a large number of people would like to have answers.
The First Question: How Do Muslims Justify Killing Apostates?
The assassination of an apostate (one who turns away from his faith) is considered to be a breach of freedom of religious belief as well as an obvious contradiction of the International Declaration of Human Rights (item 18) which most of the Arab countries have signed. What do contemporary Muslim scholars say about this serious matter?
The scholars of Kuwait and Qatar dealt with this question. The weekly Kuwaiti Magazine, "The Islamic Society" in its issue of April 17,1984, p. 26 said:
Then Dr. Jabir goes on to explain that Islam does not acknowledge this sort of freedom at all; namely, the freedom of apostasy. He then begins (on page 26) to criticize Islamic governments which allow the media means to make apostasy easier, to regard it as a personal right to anyone who seeks it.
The International Declaration of Human Rights
In order to understand the response of Islam to this declaration, let us go to another Arab Islamic country. Dr. Ahmad from Qatar has a response to this declaration. Dr. Ahmad is a contemporary Muslim scholar and a reputed professor of Islamic law at the University of Qatar. In 1981, he published a famous book under the title, "Individual Guarantees in Islamic Law". If we turn to pages 15 and 16 of this book, we find him saying:
What did you mean, Dr. Ahmad, when you said: "Even if changing one's faith would be conducive to harm one's self?" Is this your personal point of view or is it the point of view of the person himself? Why do you impose your personal point of view on all peoplebecause you think that it is a sound view? You believe that relinquishing Islam causes harm to the person who does it, but this is your own conviction. What if somebody else believes differently and is convinced that to continue as a Muslim will bring him harm? If for his own welfare, he wants to be converted to Christianity and to believe in the One who died for him so that he may live a life of peace, joy, love and holiness, why do you come to that person and tell him, "We forbid you! We do not grant you the freedom to change your faith. If you do that, we will kill you lest you harm yourself!"
Maybe it was for this reason that Muhammad, Ali and 'Uthman killed the apostates and Abu Bakr fought those who turned away from Islam, killing tens of thousands ... "lest they harm themselves" !
In regard to your statement that the one who relinquishes his faith will shake faith in the hearts of others: this has nothing to do with his conviction. It is their problem with their own creed and not with him. He is seeking his own spiritual welfare and is persuaded to embrace another religion. Maybe it is better for those people to doubt their faith or even to have it uprooted from their hearts, because it may be a mere fruitless illusion which would lead to destruction.
There is something called human rights, Dr. Ahmad. That is, a man has the right to be freely and intellectually convinced to embrace the creeds he wants and to worship God according to his own persuasion. The civilized countries as well as the United Nations have acknowledged that, ignoring of course, the command of your prophet: "Whoever changes his faith, kill him!"
You said that the apostate spreads viciousness in the land. Does the one who is converted to the Christianity with its noble spiritual principles included in the Gospel spread corruption on earth, or is it the one who holds to Islam that kills those who change their faith? Christianity is clearly manifest in the Gospel. It calls us to worship the one God and it emphasizes loveeven for our enemies. It calls for a life of holiness and peace.
The Second Question: How Can Muslims Deny the Compulsion of Force?
Most often Muslims who really desire to know the truth and who believe that their faith respects man's freedom, cite the Qur'anic phrase, "There is no compulsion in faith" as an evidence to their claim. Those people do not know its meaning as it was interpreted by the Muslim scholars. We have already seen that Islam states that the apostate must be killed, but in order to understand the meaning of "There is no compulsion in faith," refer to the answers of the contemporary and former scholars of Islam.
The Sheikh Muhammad Mutawilli al-Sha'rawi
He is one of the most famous contemporary scholars in Egypt. Millions of people in the Islamic world watch his television programs as he constantly attacks Christianity. He claims that Christians are infidels, and he stirs Muslims in Egypt to attack Christian churches, burn them and kill the infidels. Local Egyptian newspapers and magazines report this, too. I have not met this man nor have I watched his program, but I have read all of his books. In one of his famous books, "You Ask and Islam Answers", I found the following (page 52 of part 2):
Sha'rawi's statement is in full conformity with the law of killing the apostate. It acknowledges the law and validates it. In his interpretation of this verse, Ibn Hazm, al-Baydawi agrees fully with the Sha'rawi. A man (be he a Christian or a Jew) is free to believe or disbelieve; that is, he has the option either to accept Islam or to pay the poll tax. If he is not religious, he is not free to choose another religion, but must become a Muslim. Ibn Hazm remarks that:
What is of greatest significance to us in the Sha'rawi's claim is that whoever believes in Islam does not have freedom to relinquish it, otherwise he must be put to death.