|Title:||Apostasy in Islam: A Historical and Scriptural Analysis|
|Authors:||Taha Jabir Al alwani|
|Publisher:||International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT) (January 1, 2012)|
|Number of pages:||28|
This study aims to demonstrate a lack of consensus concerning the existence of a legally prescribed punishment, set down in the Qur’an and clarified in the Sunnah, for apostasy in the sense this term is used. The body of evidence regarding apostasy includes the words and actions of the Prophet (SAAS) as transmitted to us in relevant hadiths and traditions, attributed to his companions, which allows us to evaluate if there is or is not a specified, legally prescribed punishment in Islam for the crime of altering one’s beliefs, so long as no other criminal action is associated with it. In essence, the Qur’an and practices of the Sunnah confirm the freedom enjoyed by humans regarding their wills, intentions, thoughts, expressions, and actions.
To this end, the study also analyzes various juristic schools of thought, wherein the majority of Muslim jurists have based their claim that the apostate must be put to death on the verbal Sunnah and consensus. This study’s methodological approach is philosophical, analytical, and inductive/historical, including traditional approaches to the study of Islamic textual sciences and other relevant fields of knowledge. The Qur’an is the foundational source for all rulings on basic principles and foundations. The Sunnah is treated as the source that clarifies the meaning of the Qur’an in a binding manner.
In seeking to determine the meanings of linguistic terms that appear in the Qur’an, the following criteria are used: the Qur’an’s own usage of such terms; the Prophet’s explanatory statements in the Sunnah; and the Arabs’ customary usage of such terms in their various dialects, literary styles, and rhetoric. By following this order of priority, one ensures that Arab linguistic usages of terms are not allowed to determine the meanings of the Qur’an. Finally, Islamic law’s governing values and intents are universal, lighting the path for those seeking the truth and meanings of particular texts regarding apostasy.
To address such a controversial question as punishment for apostasy, Muslim jurists engage in the practice of exhaustive interpretation, or ijtihad. The fundamental issue addressed in this study is individual apostasy: a change in an individual’s doctrinal beliefs and a resulting modification in thought, conceptions, and behavior. The individual has not associated the act of changing his doctrinal beliefs with rebellion against the community or its statutes, nor against its legitimate leadership, whether political or religious. He has not threatened the community in any way, and has only changed his doctrinal position. Rather than become a public advocate of his newly adopted position, he has kept his apostasy to himself.
This study addresses the following questions: Has God established death as the legally sanctioned punishment for such a person, with or without the community’s first having urged him to repent? And is it, therefore, the duty of the Muslim community, represented by its rulers, to carry out the penalty by putting him to death for no reason but that he has changed his beliefs? And is this the case even if the change in this person’s beliefs has not been accompanied by any other crime such as those we have mentioned? If some member of the Muslim community were to kill this individual, would he be exempt from punishment or retaliation for anything other than having taken the law into his own hands?
Similarly, is it the Muslim community’s duty to compel this person and others like him to return to Islam by force? Or does the Qur’an deny the legitimacy of such compulsion? Further, has there been unanimous agreement since the dawn of Islam that it is the Muslim community’s duty to put the apostate to death? Or has this view been the subject of disagreement that has not been brought sufficiently to light? Is apostasy to be viewed as a mere departure from Islam, or as an act of aggression against it? Do the majority of those who support the death penalty for apostasy view it as a political crime, or as a felony? Moreover, assuming that it is a legally prescribed penalty and that, as is stated explicitly in authoritative Islamic texts, the legally prescribed penalties serve to atone for a person’s sin, is the death penalty for apostasy to be considered a form of purification or atonement?
The aim of this study is to provide a methodology to serve as a model which one can use to place Islamic tradition under the authority of the Qur’an, thereby bringing it into full conformity with Qur’anic teachings
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