Qur'an, Hadith and Scholars:Apostasy
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Once 'Umar bin 'Abdul 'Aziz sat on his throne in the courtyard of his house so that the people might gather before him. Then he admitted them and (when they came in), he said, "What do you think of Al-Qasama?" They said, "We say that it is lawful to depend on Al-Qasama in Qisas, as the previous Muslim Caliphs carried out Qisas depending on it." Then he said to me, "O Abu Qilaba! What do you say about it?" He let me appear before the people and I said, "O Chief of the Believers! You have the chiefs of the army staff and the nobles of the Arabs. If fifty of them testified that a married man had committed illegal sexual intercourse in Damascus but they had not seen him (doing so), would you stone him?" He said, "No." I said, "If fifty of them testified that a man had committed theft in Hums, would you cut off his hand though they did not see him?" He replied, "No." I said, "By Allah, Allah's Apostle never killed anyone except in one of the following three situations: (1) A person who killed somebody unjustly, was killed (in Qisas,) (2) a married person who committed illegal sexual intercourse and (3) a man who fought against Allah and His Apostle and deserted Islam and became an apostate." Then the people said, "Didn't Anas bin Malik narrate that Allah's Apostle cut off the hands of the thieves, branded their eyes and then, threw them in the sun?" I said, "I shall tell you the narration of Anas. Anas said: "Eight persons from the tribe of 'Ukl came to Allah's Apostle and gave the Pledge of allegiance for Islam (became Muslim). The climate of the place (Medina) did not suit them, so they became sick and complained about that to Allah's Apostle. He said (to them ), "Won't you go out with the shepherd of our camels and drink of the camels' milk and urine (as medicine)?" They said, "Yes." So they went out and drank the camels' milk and urine, and after they became healthy, they killed the shepherd of Allah's Apostle and took away all the camels. This news reached Allah's Apostle , so he sent (men) to follow their traces and they were captured and brought (to the Prophet). He then ordered to cut their hands and feet, and their eyes were branded with heated pieces of iron, and then he threw them in the sun till they died." I said, "What can be worse than what those people did? They deserted Islam, committed murder and theft."
Then 'Anbasa bin Said said, "By Allah, I never heard a narration like this of today." I said, "O 'Anbasa! You deny my narration?" 'Anbasa said, "No, but you have related the narration in the way it should be related. By Allah, these people are in welfare as long as this Sheikh (Abu Qilaba) is among them." I added, "Indeed in this event there has been a tradition set by Allah's Apostle. The narrator added: Some Ansari people came to the Prophet and discussed some matters with him, a man from amongst them went out and was murdered. Those people went out after him, and behold, their companion was swimming in blood. They returned to Allah's Apostle and said to him, "O Allah's Apostle, we have found our companion who had talked with us and gone out before us, swimming in blood (killed)." Allah's Apostle went out and asked them, "Whom do you suspect or whom do you think has killed him?" They said, "We think that the Jews have killed him." The Prophet sent for the Jews and asked them, "Did you kill this (person)?" They replied, "No." He asked the Al-Ansars, "Do you agree that I let fifty Jews take an oath that they have not killed him?" They said, "It matters little for the Jews to kill us all and then take false oaths." He said, "Then would you like to receive the Diya after fifty of you have taken an oath (that the Jews have killed your man)?" They said, "We will not take the oath." Then the Prophet himself paid them the Diya (Blood-money)." The narrator added, "The tribe of Hudhail repudiated one of their men (for his evil conduct) in the Pre-lslamic period of Ignorance.Then, at a place called Al-Batha' (near Mecca), the man attacked a Yemenite family at night to steal from them, but a man from the family noticed him and struck him with his sword and killed him. The tribe of Hudhail came and captured the Yemenite and brought him to 'Umar during the Hajj season and said, "He has killed our companion." The Yemenite said, "But these people had repudiated him (i.e., their companion)." 'Umar said, "Let fifty persons of Hudhail swear that they had not repudiated him." So forty-nine of them took the oath and then a person belonging to them, came from Sham and they requested him to swear similarly, but he paid one-thousand Dirhams instead of taking the oath. They called another man instead of him and the new man shook hands with the brother of the deceased. Some people said, "We and those fifty men who had taken false oaths (Al-Qasama) set out, and when they reached a place called Nakhlah, it started raining so they entered a cave in the mountain, and the cave collapsed on those fifty men who took the false oath, and all of them died except the two persons who had shaken hands with each other. They escaped death but a stone fell on the leg of the brother of the deceased and broke it, whereupon he survived for one year and then died." I further said, "'Abdul Malik bin Marwan sentenced a man to death in Qisas (equality in punishment) for murder, basing his judgment on Al-Qasama, but later on he regretted that judgment and ordered that the names of the fifty persons who had taken the oath (Al-Qasama), be erased from the register, and he exiled them in Sham."
He said: They are threatening to kill me now. We said: Allah will be sufficient for you against them, Commander of the Faithful! He asked: Why kill me? I heard the Apostle of Allah (peace be upon him) say: It is not lawful to kill a man who is a Muslim except for one of the three reasons: Kufr (disbelief) after accepting Islam, fornication after marriage, or wrongfully killing someone, for which he may be killed.I swear by Allah, I have not committed fornication before or after the coming of Islam, nor did I ever want another religion for me instead of my religion since Allah gave guidance to me, nor have I killed anyone. So for what reason do you want to kill me?
The life of a Muslim is not lawful unless he apostasies after belief, commits illicit sex after he is muhsan, kills someone when it is not a case of retaliation, or engages in corruption in the earth or renounces the deen.
[ The exception to this inviolability is for a legal right, which refers to the three matters which he mentioned. In property, anyone who destroys something must pay for it.The cases when taking life is permitted are indicated here. In the case of apostasy, he is asked to repent for three days. "Corruption in the earth" is banditry and highway robbery. Renouncing the deen is to embrace the dogma of the people of the sects about whom the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, "They will pass through the deen like an arrow passes through game." In the Misbah, it goes through one side and comes out the other. ]
A Treatise on Maliki Fiqh (Including commentary from ath-Thamr ad-Dani by al-Azhari)(310/922 - 386/996)
Ahmad ibn Naqib al-Misri, Edited and Translated by Nuh Ha Mim Keller (p. 595)
o1.1 - Retaliation
Retaliation is obligatory (A: if the person entitled wishes to take it (dis: o3.8)) against anyone who kills a human being purely intentionally and without right. (O: Intentionally is a first restriction and excludes killing someone through an honest mistake, while purely excludes a mistake made in a deliberate injury (def: o2.3), and without right excludes cases of justifiable homicide such as lawful retaliation.) [back to top]
o1.2 The following are not subject to retaliation:
-1- a child or insane person, under any circumstances
-2- a Muslim for killing a non-Muslim;
-3- a Jewish or Christian subject of the Islamic state for killing an apostate from Islam (O: because a subject of the state is under its protection, while killing an apostate from Islam is without consequences);
-4- A father or mother (or their fathers of mothers) for killing their offspring, or offspring's offspring;-5- nor is retaliation permissible to a descendant for (A: his ancestor's) killing someone whose death would otherwise entitle the descendant to retaliate, such as when his father kills his mother.
Ahmad ibn Naqib al-Misri, Edited and Translated by Nuh Ha Mim Keller (p. 508, o1.1-2)
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.
'Abdurrahmani'l-Djaziri, The Penalties for Apostasy in Islam According to the Four Schools of Islamic Law (p. 19)
A man whose religion was Islam and his nationality is Egyptian married a German Christian and the couple agreed that the husband would join the Christian faith and doctrine.
1) What is the Islamic ruling in relation to this man? What are the punishments prescribed for this act?
2) Are his children considered Muslim or Christian?
All praise is to Allah, the Lord of the Universe and salutations on the leader of the righteous, our master Muhammed, his family and all of his companions.
This man has committed apostasy; he must be given a chance to repent and if he does not then he must be killed according to Shariah.As far as his children are concerned, as long as they are children they are considered Muslim, but after they reach the age of puberty, then if they remain with Islam they are Muslim, but if they leave Islam and they do not repent they must be killed and Allah knows best.
Abdullah al-Mishadd, Head of the Fatwa Council of Al-Azhar, Al-Azhar University, September 23, 1978
“And whosoever of you turns back from his religion and dies as a disbeliever, then his deeds will be lost in this life and in the Hereafter, and they will be the dwellers of the Fire. They will abide therein forever”
And it was proven that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Whoever changes his religion, execute him.” Narrated by al-Bukhaari in his Saheeh. What this hadeeth means is that whoever leaves Islam and changes to another religion and persists in that and does not repent, is to be executed. It was also proven that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “It is not permissible to shed the blood of a person who bears witness that there is no god but Allaah and that I am the Messenger of Allaah except in three cases: a life for a life, a previously-married person who commits adultery, and one who leaves Islam and forsakes the jamaa’ah.” Narrated by al-Bukhaari and Muslim.
This harsh punishment is for a number of reasons:
1 – This punishment is a deterrent to anyone who wants to enter Islam just to follow the crowd or for hypocritical purposes. This will motivate him to examine the matter thoroughly and not to proceed unless he understands the consequences of that in this world and in the Hereafter. The one who announces his Islam has agreed to adhere to all the rulings of Islam of his own free will and consent, one of which rulings is that he is to be executed if he apostatizes from the faith.
2 – The one who announces his Islam has joined the jamaa’ah (main body) of the Muslims, and whoever joins the main body of the Muslims is required to be completely loyal and to support it and protect it against anything that may lead to fitnah or destroy it or cause division. Apostasy from Islam means forsaking the jamaa’ah and its divine order, and has a harmful effect on it. Execution is the greatest deterrent that will prevent people from committing such a crime.
3 – Those Muslims who are weak in faith and others who are against Islam may think that the apostate has only left Islam because of what he has found out about its real nature, because if it were the truth then he would never have turned away from it. So they learn from him all the doubts, lies and fabrications which are aimed at extinguishing the light of Islam and putting people off from it. In this case executing the apostate is obligatory, in order to protect the true religion from the defamation of the liars and to protect the faith of its adherents and remove obstacles from the path of those who are entering the faith.
4 – We also say that the death penalty exists in the modern laws of man to protect the system from disorder in some situation and to protect society against certain crimes which may cause its disintegration, such as drugs etc. If execution can serve as a deterrent to protect man-made systems, then it is more appropriate that the true religion of Allaah, which Falsehood cannot come to it from before it or behind it [cf. Fussilat 41:42], and which is all goodness, happiness and tranquility in this world and in the Hereafter should punish those who commit acts of aggression against it and seek to extinguish its light and defame its image, and who fabricate lies against it to justify their apostasy and deviation.Fataawa al-Lajnah al-Daa’imah, 21/234-231.
Islam Q&A, Fatwa No. 12406
"It is not right to deny the punishment of apostasy claiming that it has not been reported in the Qur'an, because it has been recorded in the mutawatir (Hadith which has been reported by at least four of the Companions in different times and places in a way that make a person sure that such Hadith is not fabricated) and the non-mutawatir Sunnah of the Prophet (peace and blessing be upon him). Hudud (Islamic punishment specified for certain crimes) may, of course, be based on the non-mutawatir Sunnah."
Detailing the issue and showing some of the evidence for the punishment of apostasy, the prominent Muslim scholar Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, states:
"All Muslim jurists agree that the apostate is to be punished. However, they differ regarding the punishment itself. The majority of them go for killing; meaning that an apostate is to be sentenced to death.
Many authentic Hadiths have been reported in this regard. Ibn `Abbas reported that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, "Whoever changes his religion, you kill him." (Reported by all the group except Muslim, and at-Tabarani also reported it with a sound chain of narrators. Also recorded in Majma` Az-Zawa'id by Al-Haythamiy.)
There is also the Hadith of Ibn Mas`ud that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, "The blood of a Muslim individual who bears witness that there is no god but Allah and that I am the Messenger of Allah, is not to be shed except in three cases: in retaliation (in murder crimes), married adulterers (and adulteresses), and the one who abandons his religion and forsakes the Muslim community." (Reported by the Group)The actual example of one of the greatest Companions, `Ali ibn Abi Talib (may Allah be pleased with him) gives credit to this also. He himself carried out the punishment on some people who had deified him. He gave them three days respite to repent and go back to their senses. When they proved adamant, he put them to fire.”
Group of Muftis, Islam Online, July 26, 2003
(2) The one who has known the religion which Allaah revealed, entered it and practised it, then rejected it, despised it and left it, is a person who does not deserve to live on the earth of Allaah and eat from the provision of Allaah.
(3) By leaving Islaam, the apostate opens the way for everyone who wants to leave the faith, thus spreading apostasy and encouraging it.
(4) The apostate is not to be killed without warning. Even though his crime is so great, he is given a last chance, a respite of three days in which to repent. If he repents, he will be left alone; if he does not repent, then he will be killed.
(5) If the punishment for murder and espionage (also known as high treason) is death, then what should be the punishment for the one who disbelieves in the Lord of mankind and despises and rejects His religion? Is espionage or shedding blood worse than leaving the religion of the Lord of mankind and rejecting it?(6) None of those who bleat about personal freedom and freedom of belief would put up with a neighbour’s child hitting their child or justify this as "personal freedom," so how can they justify leaving the true religion and rejecting the sharee’ah which Allaah revealed to teach mankind about His unity and bring justice and fairness to all?
Sheikh Muhammed Salih Al-Munajjid, Islam Q&A, Fatwa No. 811
[Quotes Al-Bukhaari (6922), Al-Bukhaari (6484), and Muslim (1676)]
The general meaning of these ahaadeeth indicates that it is essential to put the apostate to death whether he is waging war on Islam (muhaarib) or not.
The view that the apostate who is to be put to death is the one who is waging war on Islam (muhaarib) only is contrary to these ahaadeeth. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said that the reason why he should be put to death is his apostasy, not his waging war against Islam.
Undoubtedly some kinds of apostasy are more abhorrent than others, and the apostasy of one who wages war against Islam is more abhorrent than that of anyone else. Hence some of the scholars differentiated between them, and said that it is not essential to ask the muhaarib to repent or to accept his repentance; rather he should be put to death even if he repents, whereas the repentance of one who is not a muhaarib should be accepted and he should not be put to death. This is the view favoured by Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyah (may Allaah have mercy on him).
Apostasy is of two types: ordinary apostasy and extreme apostasy, for which execution is prescribed. In both cases there is evidence that it is essential to execute the apostate, but the evidence indicating that the sentence of death may be waived if the person repents does not apply to both types of apostasy. Rather the evidence indicates that that is allowed only in the first case – i.e., ordinary apostasy – as will be clear to anyone who studies the evidence that speaks about accepting the repentance of the apostate. In the second type – i.e., extreme apostasy – the obligation to put the apostate to death still stands, and there is no text or scholarly consensus to indicate that the death sentence may be waived. The two cases are quite different and there is no comparison between them. It does not say in the Qur’aan or Sunnah, or according to scholarly consensus, that everyone who apostatizes in word or deed may be spared the death sentence if he repents after he is a captured and tried. Rather the Qur’aan and Sunnah, and scholarly consensus, differentiate between the different kinds of apostates.
Al-Saarim al-Maslool, 3/696
. . .
Islam Q&A, Fatwa No. 14231
Sheikh Muhammed Salih Al-Munajjid, Islam Q&A, Fatwa No. 696
A: The issue of killing the apostate is a function of the state. His judgment belongs with the Islamic government. This is not the concern of Islamic foundations, associations, or centers. A group of Salafis and Imams are of the opinion that not every apostate should be killed, but rather only those who openly commit apostasy, or call for fitna, or voice harmful things against Allah and His Prophet (peace be upon him) and the believers. [The apostate] is killed in order to protect the religion and the community from his corruption, and not to restrict freedoms, as he by his action is infringing on the rights of others. The interests of the state and the society come before individual self-interest. In truth, this issue is similar to what is termed in contemporary law as “high treason” because of the harm to the public that it causes.
European Council for Fatwa and Research, August 16, 2008
Mufti of the Republic of Lebanon, Beirut, Fatwa issued November 13, 1989
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