Friday, 10 June 2016

Death Penalty for Leaving Islam

Even in the 21st century, a dangerously high percentage of Muslims support death penalty for those who leave Islam (apostates). We have Saudi, Iran, Afghanistan, Sudan, Yemen, Qatar, Brunei, Mauritania and Somalia which have laws punishing apostasy with death (typically after giving time to "repent" and return to Islam). In many other countries, there are laws nullifying the inheritance, marriage and child custody rights of apostates. Here is a detailed article explaining the apostasy laws in various Muslim majority nations:

It is important to note that the percentage of Muslims who support death for apostasy generally increases in nations with higher and higher percentages of Muslim population. According a poll conducted by the Pew Research Centre (an unbiased research institute), 78% of all Muslims in Afghanistan support death for apostasy. The percentage is 64 in Pakistan as well as Egypt, 59 in Palestine, 58 in Jordan, 53 in Malaysia, 36 in Bangladesh, 21 in Thailand, 13 in Indonesia. Read more:

In Muslim majority countries like Pakistan and Bangladesh where there is no law punishing apostasy with death, people go around killing apostates and critics of Islam in broad daylight. Even in countries like India, there are many muslim majority areas such as parts of Hyderabad and Uttar Pradesh where leaving Islam puts the apostate at a big risk of death or expulsion from the community. Hell, even in many Muslim minority areas, apostates are at the risk of rift with their own families in case their disbelief gets public. Has this anything to do with Islam? Ofcourse yes. Death for apostasy is clearly prescribed in atleast 23 authentic (sahih) hadiths. Not one or two. Not four or five. Atleast twenty-three sahih hadiths! This is what a sensible person would call a mountain of proof.

Therefore, two things are clear - Firstly, there is a huge problem for apostates in the Muslim majority world. Secondly, this has got everything to do with the books of Islam. However, what normally happens when people point out this lack of freedom of religion in the Muslim world is that many Muslim apologetics jump in and show some verses of the quran such as "no compulsion in religion", "to you your religion and to me my religion" etc. ignoring that these verses actually came earlier than the later, violent verses that partially override the earlier verses. They evade and ignore the issue of lack of religious freedom in the Muslim world or try to make it seem that it is some power hungry folks in Saudi and Iran who are responsible for these laws. The real cause of the problem is thus hidden from many and it is made to appear that this has got nothing to do with Islam. The result? The very same books supporting these laws are preached widely, both online and offline and most Muslims do nothing against this.

To state it in very simple words - Death for apostasy is commanded MANY times in books that are regarded as authentic by a majority of Muslims. These books are very popular and is used widely for preaching by Muslim preachers. When an attempt is made to establish Islamic Law in Muslim majority nations, noone will even bother surveying the personal opinions of Muslims. Islam is essentially a religion that considers the words of Muhammad far above the social consensus.

As we look through this article, we will first see the authentic hadiths that outline death for apostasy. And next we will see the common arguments made by moderate Muslims to make it seem that there is no punishment for apostasy in Islam. What is a better way to increase the popularity of Islam in countries like USA where most sane people wont accept these laws? Many of them are waiting to change colours once the percentage of Muslims increase.

I) Death for Apostasy - Proof from Authentic Hadiths

1) Sahih al-Bukhari 9:84:57
Narrated `Ikrima:
Some Zanadiqa (atheists) were brought to `Ali and he burnt them. The news of this event, reached Ibn `Abbas who said, "If I had been in his place, I would not have burnt them, as Allah's Messenger () forbade it, saying, 'Do not punish anybody with Allah's punishment (fire).' I would have killed them according to the statement of Allah's Messenger (), 'Whoever changed his Islamic religion, then kill him.'"

2) Sahih al-Bukhari 9:83:17

Narrated `Abdullah:
Allah's Messenger (
) said, "The blood of a Muslim who confesses that none has the right to be worshipped but Allah and that I am His Apostle, cannot be shed except in three cases: In Qisas for murder, a married person who commits illegal sexual intercourse and the one who reverts from Islam (apostate) and leaves the Muslims."

3) Muwatta of Imam Malik 36:15

Yahya related to me from Malik from Zayd ibn Aslam that the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, "If someone changes his deen - strike his neck!" 

The meaning of the statement of the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, in our opinion and Allah knows best, is that "if someone changes his deen, strike his neck!" refers to those who leave Islam for other than it - like the heretics and their like, about whom it is known. They are killed without being called to tawba (repentence) because their tawba is not recognised. They were hiding their kufr and publishing their Islam, so I do not think that one calls such people to tawba, and one does not accept their word. As for the one who goes out of Islam to something else and divulges it, one calls him to tawba (repentance). If he does not turn in tawba, he is killed. If there are people in that situation, I think that one should call them to Islam and call them to tawba. If they turn in tawba, that is accepted from them. If they do not turn in tawba, they are killed. That does not refer as we see it, and Allah knows best, to those who come out of Judaism to Christianity or from Christianity to Judaism, nor to someone who changes his deen from the various forms of deen except for Islam. Whoever comes out of Islam to other than it and divulges that, that is the one who is referred to, and Allah knows best!

4) Sahih al Bukhari 4:52:260
Narrated `Ikrima:
`Ali burnt some people and this news reached Ibn `Abbas, who said, "Had I been in his place I would not have burnt them, as the Prophet () said, 'Don't punish (anybody) with Allah's Punishment.' No doubt, I would have killed them, for the Prophet () said, 'If somebody (a Muslim) discards his religion, kill him.' "

5) Sahih Muslim 16:4152
'Abdullah (b. Mas'ud) reported Allah's Messenger () as saying:
It is not permissible to take the life of a Muslim who bears testimony (to the fact that there is no god but Allah, and I am the Messenger of Allah, but in one of the three cases: the married adulterer, a life for life, and the deserter of his Din (Islam), abandoning the community.

6) Sahih al-Bukhari 9:89:27

Narrated Abu Musa:
A man embraced Islam and then reverted back to Judaism. Mu`adh bin Jabal came and saw the man with Abu Musa. Mu`adh asked, "What is wrong with this (man)?" Abu Musa replied, "He embraced Islam and then reverted back to Judaism." Mu`adh said, "I will not sit down unless you kill him (as it is) the verdict of Allah and His Apostle.

7) Sahih Muslim 16:4154
Abdullah (b. Mas'ud) reported:
Allah's Messenger (
) stood up and said: By Him besides Whom there is no god but He, the blood of a Muslim who bears the testimony that there is no god but Allah, and I am His Messenger, may be lawfully shed only in case of three persons: the one who abandons Islam, and deserts the community [Ahmad, one of the narrators, is doubtful whether the Prophet () used the word li'l-jama'ah or al-jama'ah), and the married adulterer, and life for life.
8) Sunan Ibn Majah 3:20:2535

It was narrated from Ibn`Abbas that the Messenger of Allah () said:
“Whoever changes his religion, execute him.”

9) Sunan Ibn Majah 3:20:2534

It was narrated from 'Abdullah, who is Ibn Mas`ud, that the Messenger of Allah () said:
“It is not lawful to shed the blood of a Muslim who bears witness that none has the right to be worshiped but Allah (SWT), and that I am the Messenger of Allah (
), except in one of three cases: a soul for a soul; a married person who commits adultery, and one who leaves his religion and splits from the Jama`ah.”

10) Sunan Abu Dawud 39:4341

Narrated Mu'adh ibn Jabal:
AbuMusa said: Mu'adh came to me when I was in the Yemen. A man who was Jew embraced Islam and then retreated from Islam. When Mu'adh came, he said: I will not come down from my mount until he is killed. He was then killed. One of them said: He was asked to repent before that.

11) Sahih al Bukhari 5:59:630 
12) Sahih al-Bukhari 5:59:632
13) Sahih al-Bukhari 9:84:58
14) Sahih Muslim 20:4490
15) Sunan Abu Dawud 40:4487
16) Sunan an-Nasai 5:37:4069
17) Sunan an-Nasai 5:37:4070
18) Jami at-Tirmidhi 3:15:1458
19) Sunan an-Nasai 5:37:4065
20) Sunan an-Nasai 5:37:4024
21) Sunan Ibn Majah 3:20:2533

23) Jami at-Tirmidhi 3:14:1402

II) Common apologetic arguments

Here are some common arguments made by modern Muslim apologetics to make it seem that there is no penalty for apostasy in Islam, and thus whitewash its face.

1) That the Quran guarantees freedom of religion:

Answer: Only under certain conditions! All the verses (except verse 2:256) that grant religious freedom are from the Meccan period when Muhammad was weak and powerless. The verse 2:256 is from the early Medinan period when he was somewhat powerful. However, this was partially abrogated by verse 9:29 which imposes a religious tax on all non Muslims unwilling to accept Islam. At this point, Muhammad probably considered the partially abrogated verse 2:256 no hindrance to kill apostates, instead of letting them pay a religious tax. For those who are unaware of the concept of abrogation in Quran, do read verses 16:101 and 2:106

Now, let us examine the verses that are commonly cited by modern Muslims to claim that Quran grants religious freedom.

Pickthall's translation: There is no compulsion in religion. The right direction is henceforth distinct from error. And he who rejecteth false deities and believeth in Allah hath grasped a firm handhold which will never break. Allah is Hearer, Knower.

Analysis: In one look, it seems like the Quran guarantees from of religion. Well, then let us look at the verse 9:29 of the Quran - "Fight against such of those who have been given the Scripture and believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, and forbid not that which Allah hath forbidden by His messenger, and follow not the Religion of Truth, until they pay the tribute readily, being brought low." 

So, if we take 2:256 as a general rule, then 9:29 is a general rule as well. This begs the question - Which verse came later? The answer is 9:29. That implies that there is compulsion in religion unless the non-Muslim is willing to pay a special religious tax (Jizya). Another problem is that when we look at the context of verse 2:256 as per the Islamic tradition, we see that the verse was given to stop forced conversion of a Jew to Islam. This was not on an occasion where anyone wanted to leave Islam.

Sunan Abu Dawud 14:2676

Narrated Abdullah ibn Abbas:
When the children of a woman (in pre-Islamic days) did not survive, she took a vow on herself that if her child survives, she would convert it a Jew. When Banu an-Nadir were expelled (from Arabia), there were some children of the Ansar (Helpers) among them. They said: We shall not leave our children. So Allah the Exalted revealed; "Let there be no compulsion in religion. Truth stands out clear from error."

b) Quran 109:1-6

Pickthall's translation:
Say: O disbelievers!
I worship not that which ye worship;
Nor worship ye that which I worship.
And I shall not worship that which ye worship.
Nor will ye worship that which I worship.
Unto you your religion, and unto me my religion.

c) Quran 10:99

Pickthall's translation:
And if thy Lord willed, all who are in the earth would have believed together. Wouldst thou (Muhammad) compel men until they are believers?

These are both verses from Mecca, when Muhammad was rather weak, without much followers. You will see that Muhammad's teachings took a rather violent turn once he migrated to Medina and started picking strength.

d) Quran 4:137

Lo! those who believe, then disbelieve and then (again) believe, then disbelieve, and then increase in disbelief, Allah will never pardon them, nor will He guide them unto a way.

While this is infact a Medinan verse and Muhammad was powerful by this time, this verse in no way grants religious freedom. Apologists ask - "How is it possible for a person to believe and disbelieve and then again believe if the punishment for apostasy is death?" It should be noted that Muhammad probably did not issue his apostate-killing law yet by the time of issuing 4:137, but gave it after the verse 9:29 (ie, once the "no compulsion" was abrogated). Even ignoring that, this verse could merely be talking about disbelief in secret. Also be reminded that apostates are typically given a chance to return to Islam. Thus it is possible that death for apostasy is valid even in context of this verse.

2) That the hadiths about death for apostasy were specific to a time of war and only those who fought against Muhammad were killed:

You can scroll through the list of 23 sahih hadiths I wrote above, and you will see that these were all general punishments gave by Muhammad. There is no indication in any of these hadiths that death for apostasy is specific to times of war. You can also see that even atheists were killed for leaving Islam, as per the order of Muhammad. They did not even have an organized community in Arabia during Muhammad's time to put up any sort of revolt. Even the Jew who turned to Islam and back to Judaism had no other charge against him.

Conclusion: It wont help if we pretend that Islam guarantees freedom to leave it, when that is clearly not true according to the Islamic books. And worse, there is very less freedom to leave Islam in most Muslim-majority regions, both due to the Law and due to the threats/emotional responses by the community/family.


  1. Source:

    The possible rationale behind this ruling may be understood through the death penalty executed in almost 60 countries. For some criminal convictions where the death penalty is carried out are:

    The United States of America

    A person is condemned to death because he has committed an unforgivable crime. A country is based on certain entrenched values. There is no compromise on such values.

    One who opposes these values is convicted of treason. The penalty of treason in many countries is death. If death is the consequence of rebelling against man made laws which are deficient, then shouldn’t rebellion against the laws of Allah which are perfect be viewed more seriously.

    An apostate fuels widespread disorder and confusion. His apostasy prompts others to question their beliefs. He is the seed of imbalance. Hence, it is better to uproot the mischief before it is deep rooted in the ground. For example, if there is a basket of apples wherein there is one rotten apple, what will the owner of the apples do? He will get rid of the rotten apple to preserve the rest of the apples. If he keeps the rotten apple merely because it is an apple, he will be deemed foolish. In the very same manner, an apostate carries rotten beliefs; he must be removed from the basket of the world to preserve the spiritual welfare of others. Anything which is a threat to Imān will be uprooted.

    You further enquire regarding the following verse:

    لَا إِكْرَاهَ فِي الدِّينِ قَدْ تَبَيَّنَ الرُّشْدُ مِنَ الْغَيِّ فَمَنْ يَكْفُرْ بِالطَّاغُوتِ وَيُؤْمِنْ بِاللَّهِ فَقَدِ اسْتَمْسَكَ بِالْعُرْوَةِ الْوُثْقَى لَا انْفِصَامَ لَهَا وَاللَّهُ سَمِيعٌ عَلِيمٌ (سورة البقرة 256)
    “There shall be no compulsion in [acceptance of] the religion. The right course has become clear from the wrong. So whoever disbelieves in Taghut and believes in Allah has grasped the most trustworthy handhold with no break in it. And Allah is Hearing and Knowing.” (Quran 2:256)

    This verse orders the believers not to coerce anybody into accepting the fold of Islam. This verse has nothing at all to with an apostate. In this verse, Muslims are being reminded not to make people accept Islam by means of compulsion. Hence, history testifies that all the cities which accepted Islam in the earlier times was due to them exercising their free will. Forcing somebody to accept has no benefit at all. It just creates more enemies from within.

    An apostate had already entered Islam with his own will and then he defected. He will not be forced to accept Islam. He will be given an opportunity of three days to repent. After three days, the apostate will be sentenced to death.[ii]

    You also ask vis-à-vis chapter 109 titled surah al-kāfirūn. Before explaining this chapter, it is necessary to understand that all these contradictions and misunderstandings are due to understanding texts out of their context. One must study under a qualified and genuine scholar to really comprehend the message of the Qur’an.

    Firstly, this verse was revealed in Makkah. Hence, it preceeds any ruling in relation to apostates. Secondly, this chapter was revealed with regards to a specific occurrence. Once the disbelievers came and proposed to the Prophet salallahu alaihi wasallam that they should practice on a ‘multi-faith’; for one year, everybody should worship the idols and the next year everyone will worship Allah.[iii] It was after this that the Prophet was told to respond to them with the statement:

    لَكُمْ دِينُكُمْ وَلِيَ دِينِ (سورة الكافرون 6)
    “For you is your dīn for me is my dīn.” (Quran 109:6)

    In conclusion, if opposition to the values of manmade laws is unforgiveable, imagine the severity of going against the core values of Islam, namely Tawhīd?

    And Allah Ta’āla Knows Best

  2. This is why Islam is a terrible religion.