What is Apostacy?
Technically, apostacy means to leave a religion. It means to once have been a member or believer in a faith and then to cease to believe or to convert to another faith or to question an important aspect of ones faith.
What is the prescribed punishment for Apostacy in Islam?
Execution for apostasy is not Qur'anic:
The only reference I could find is in (47:25-28). "When the angels take their souls at death and smite their faces and backs". However Prophet Muhammad did kill a number of people who deserted Islam and so the punishment is Sunnah (actions and sayings of Muhammad) and hence Shariah, Islamic Law. One whose name has been left to posterity was Abdullah ibn Saud, one of Muhammad's scribes (Muhammad was illiterate). Abdullah had come to the conclusion that Muhammad himself, and not Allah, was the author of the Qur'an and left Islam.
The Hadith ---Sayings and actions of Prophet Muhammad
Abu Dawud 38:4357 When the Apostle of Allah cut off the hands and feet of those who had stolen his camels and apostacised and had their eyes put out by fire, Allah reprimanded him and revealed: "The punishment of those who wage war against Allah and His Apostle and strive with might and main for rnischief through the land is execution or crucifixion." (38A359).. or the cutting off of hands and feet from opposite sides or exile from the land" This was "revealed about polytheists and if any of them repent before they are arrested it does not prevent from inflicting on him the prescribed punishment which he deserves"
Muslim 623 The Prophet said: "It is not permissible to take the life of a Muslim except in one of the three cases: the married adulterer, a life for a life (if the person is Muslim), and the deserter of Islam."
Bukhari 9:89:271 A man 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"
Bukhari 4:52:260 Ali burnt some people (Zanadiqa, atheists 9:84:57) although the Prophet had said, "Don?t punish anybody with Allah's punishment (Fire)" if a Muslim discards his religion, kill him"
What actually happens to Apostates who are caught in Muslim countries?
Ruhollah Rowhani, 52, was executed in 1998 for converting to the Baha'i faith from Islam. The US State Department has called on Iran "to protect the lives of 15 other imprisoned Baha'is. Three of them, Ata'ullah Hamid Nasirizadih, Sirus Dhabih- Magadamme and Hidayad Kashifi, have already been sentenced to death. Moderate President Khatami can do little to help as the courts are controlled by religious hardliners.
The Reverend Mehdi Dibaj had converted from Islam to Christianity 45 years ago. On 21/12/93 he was sentenced to death on charges of apostasy. Released on appeal his body was found on 5 July 1994. The Reverend Haik Mehr, Superintendent of the Church of the Assemblies of God, who had campaigned against Dibaj's death sentence was found dead on 20/1/94. On 2 July 1994 the body of the Reverend Tatavous Michaelian, Chairman of the Council of Protestant Ministers in Iran was found with several gun shots to the head.
We wish to raise what, at first glance, may appear to be an inconsequential or even humorous matter [at least in Australia where a good proportion of partners are unmarried]. A Cairo court has ordered the divorce of a couple who wish to stay together. Islamists have claimed that Professor Nasser Hamed Abu Zaid is guilty of heresy in writing that "Islam's teachings should evolve with changes in society." However, a Muslim woman cannot be married to a heretic, a non-Muslim. He and his wife, Ibtihal, also an academic have appealed against the ruling and can remain together for the time being. However if the prosecution stands, they could lose their jobs or even be killed .by fanatics as "adulterers ("living in sin") or as apostates ("deserters of Islam") [From "Some Islamic History]
While there are, as yet, no laws against apostasy from Islam, the missionary or the convert may be convicted on other charges, for example "threatening social peace and intercommunal relations". There is, however, a Supreme Court ruling that a Moslem who apostacises is legally dead. He loses all rights and powers. He cannot withdraw funds from his accounts. Any person who kills him does not commit murder from a legal point of view because he is already legally dead. The "dead" person cannot marry or inherit. Nor is it possible for an apostate to have his identity card changed to "Christian". More than one hundred and fifty Muslims who have adopted Christianity have been detained in maximum-security prisons. They have been accused of threatening national unity.
One example from a Coptic press release, concerned the case of Dr. Abdul-Rahman who has been held in Cairo without trial for two years for breaking with Islam. He is in solitary confinement but his will has not been broken. He is undoubtedly being used as a warning to anyone else contemplating apostasy
One story recorded by a Spanish monk, Haedo, of the sixteenth century concerns a young Arab. He had been captured by the Spanish, had embraced Christianity and been baptized as Geronimo. He was recaptured in 1569 by Barbary pirates and taken to Algiers. When threats and pleadings failed to make him apostacise back to Islam, Geronimo was condemned to death. Bound hand and foot he was thrown into a mould in which a block of concrete was about to be made and the liquid concrete poured in upon him. The block containing his body was built into the Fort of the Twenty Four Hours in Algiers.
In 1853, the fort was demolished by French military engineers and, in the spot named by Haedo, the block containing the skeleton of Geronimo was found. His bones were canonized as those of a martyr, Saint Geronimo, and were buried in the Cathedral of St. Philippe. Plaster of Paris was run into the concrete mold and a perfect model obtained showing the agonized features of the youth and the cords which bound him. The cast is in the Algerian Museum.
Bit by bit the Islamic fundamentalists, the Ikhwan, were able to consolidate their power in Khartoum. In September 1983 a version of Shariah, the "September Law" was introduced. Many floggings, amputations and stonings were carried out. Incorporated in the law was ijtihad or "free interpretation". If the qazi was unable to find a relevant law to convict a defendant he could search the Qur'an and Hadith at his discretion. For example Mahmoud Taha, the 76 year old leader of the Republican Brothers was hanged in January 1985 for apostasy, although it was not a crime at that time.
A number of southerners living in the north had changed their names to Arabic ones to improve their business prospects. They discovered that they had done a dangerous thing; now they were expected to be practising Muslims and could not use their original names without being subject to the death penalty for apostasy. Similarly at risk were non-Muslim families who adopted Islam or an Islamic name so that they could qualify for relief supplies during a famine. Also trapped were non-Muslim men who had "embraced" Islam so that they could marry Muslim women or to be able to obtain easy divorces.
15/7/98 Mekki Kuku is held in a Khartoum jail awaiting trial on a charge of apostasy from Islam to Christianity. Sudan has the death penalty for "deserting Islam."
"Every Muslim guilty of the crime of apostasy, whether by word or action, will be invited to repent over a period of three days. If he does not repent within this time limit, he is to be condemned to death as an apostate and his property will be confiscated by the Treasury
Every Muslim who refuses to pray will be invited to fulfill the obligation of prayer in the prescribed time limit. .. If he persists in his refusal he will be punished by the death penalty."
The Muhtasib saw to it that the Muslims did not omit the five daily prayers and the fasts of Ramadan. State musicians and singers were pensioned off. The death penalty for apostasy from Islam was enforced.
Rushdie claimed (1985) to be a non-Muslim and so is not bound by Shariah blasphemy laws. If he was born of Muslim parents then the Shariah does not allow him to leave Islam even in childhood. The penalty under Muslim law for apostasy is death. Did you know that Islamic leaders in Britain want Muslim religious law to rate as equal to existing British law? A British Pakistani father murdered his daughter for converting to a Jehovah's Witness. He would, of course, have been acquitted, under Shariah which the Muslim fundamentalists are trying to bring into England.
Theologians from Chechnya and Dagestan ordered Muslims to carry out the death sentence against Gov. Aman Tuleyev "at the first possible opportunity". He has been accused of being baptized as an Orthodox Christian on June 25.
The death penalty for apostasy ("deserting Islam") is not Qur'anic but it is Shariah (Islamic Law) as Prophet Muhammad executed a number of apostates.
Tuleyev denies the report that he had been baptized and says he is not religious. Thus he is still technically an apostate as, being of Kazakh origin, he is "a member of a predominantly Muslim ethnic group" as the theologians say.
Indeed, the only Muslim author to have cast doubts on male circumcision has had legal action brought against him and might be sentenced to death for apostasy. I am speaking of (retired) Judge Mustafa Kamal Al-Mahdawi, a personal friend of mine, who is today under a ferocious attack lead by Libyan religious circles in the mosques as well in the press. The preacher of the Mosque of the Prophet, in Medina, Saudi Arabia, published in July 1992 a pamphlet handed out free of charge in Libya. In this pamphlet, he asks the Muslim Arab League and the Islamic Conference to set up a collective fatwa of all Muslim scholars against this judge and to execute him as an apostate if he does not retract. As for his book, the preacher asks that it be removed from the shelves, burned and forbidden to any reader. He blames the judge for having, among other things, denied that male circumcision is compulsory when there is unanimity in favour of it and when Mohammed was Himself circumcised 54.
Why is Apostacy such a terrible crime in Islam?
Apostasy (Irtidad) in Islam
?If a person is raised in a society which protects his soul from the impurities of kufr and shirk, or if a person is shown the Right Path accepts it willingly - can such a person reject the Islamic faith? Is he allowed to apostate (become murtad)? Can he declare that he does not believe in God, Prophet Muhammad and the Day of Judgement?
Once a person enters into the fold of Islam, the rules change. As soon as you become a Muslim by your own choice, you are expected to submit yourself to Allah totally and completely. "O You who believe! Enter into submission, kaffatan!" (2:208) he surrenders the right of making decisions to Allah and His Messenger. No believing man and no believing woman has a choice in their own affairs when Allah and His Messenger have decided on an issue." (33:36)
Now even the question of apostasy, irtidad or deserting of one's faith, for a Muslim, becomes a shar'i/religious issue - even in this issue he is governed by the laws of Islam. And Islam clearly says: No! You cannot become an apostate.After coming into the fold of Islam, rejection of the fundamentals is not tolerated. If there are doubts in your mind about the fundamental beliefs of Islam, then discuss, question, debate, study and solve them BUT you are not allowed to leave Islam, desert your own fitra!
On the issue of openly rejecting Islam, Islam cannot just stand aside and see one of its followers going astray. It would allow discussions to understand and solve the problems, but not allow its followers to lower themselves from the sublime status of "surrendering to the will of Allah-Islam" to the status of those "who have hearts but do not understand, ears but do not hear, and eyes but do not see."
Apostasy is Equal to Treason
Why does Islam not allow apostasy? Apostasy or irtidad in Islam is equal to treason. ?In Islam, the concept of treason is not limited to political and military affairs, it also has a spiritual and cultural dimension to it. In the Islamic order of sacredness, Allah then the Prophet and then the Qur'an occupy the highest positions. Tawhid, nubuwwa, and qiyama form the constitution of Islam. Just as upholding and protecting the constitution of a country is a sign of patriotism, and undermining it is a form of treason - in the same way open rejection of the fundamental beliefs of Islam by a Muslim is an act of treason. Apostasy i.e. the public declaration of rejecting the fundamentals of Islam, has also negative influence on the Muslim society, it is indeed a major fitna.
And that is why Islam has prescribed harsh punishment for irtidad. It must be emphasized that irtidad which we are dicussing here involves open rejection without any force and with the realization of what one's statements or actions imply. The punishment prescibed by the shari'a for apostasy is death.
Even the terms used by the shari'a for apostates give the idea of treason to this whole phenomenon. "Murtad" means apostate. Murtad can be of two types:
fitri and milli:
(1) Murtad Fitri means a person born of a Muslim parent and then he rejects Islam. Fitri means nature or natural. The term "murtad fitri" implies that the person has apostacized from his nature, the nature of believing in God.
(2) "Murtad Milli" means a person who converted to Islam and then later on he rejects Islam. Milli is from millat which means a community. The term "murtad milli" implies that the person that the person has apostacized from his community.
In the first case, the apostasy is like treason against God, whereas in the second case, the apostasy is like treason against the Muslim community. Probably, that is why there is also a difference in dealing with these two kinds of murtad.
A former kafir who becomes a Muslim and then apostates (Murtad Milli) is given a second chance; if he repents then he is not to be killed.
But one who is born as a Muslim and then apostates (Murtad Fitri) he is to be killed even if he repents. His repentance might be accepted by Allah but he still has to go through the punishment prescibed for his treason in this world.
This punishment is only applicable in case of apostasy by men; in case of women the punishment is not death but life imprisonment. And if such a woman repents, then her repentance is accepted and the punishment is suspended.
(Excerpts from "Left Shoe News")