a Capital Crime in Islam?
By Dr. Jamal A. Badawi**
Apr. 26, 2006
Apostasy, or riddah in Arabic, literally means defection or backsliding.1
As an Islamic legal term, it means denouncing Islam as one's religion by a
Muslim. There has been a wide variety of opinions by Muslim scholars throughout
nearly fourteen centuries concerning punishment for apostasy with the majority
of the opinion that apostasy is a capital crime as it threatens the integrity
and stability of the Muslim community and state. This paper aims at critically
evaluating these views in the light of the Qur'an and Hadith.2
Apostasy is a capital crime as it threatens the integrity and stability of the
Muslim community and state.
Examination and evaluation of such diverse opinions requires clarity of the
proper methodology in the study of any topic relating to Islam. While this
methodology is the focus of a profound discipline known as 'ilm usul al-fiqh,3
or the principles of Islamic jurisprudence, there are a few fundamental general
rules that may be summed up as follows:
1. Actions of Muslims, whether or not they are claimed to be in the name of
Islam or in the name of God are not to be equated with normative authentic
Islam. It is the later that is the criterion of evaluating such actions and to
judge whether they are consistent with it or not and to what degree.
2. Normative authentic Islamic teachings are based in the first place on its
supreme source; the Qur'an which is to Muslims the verbatim word of God as
revealed to Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him). The Qur'an has
been preserved intact since its revelation and in the original language in
which it was revealed. Next to the Qur'an is Hadith, sometimes used
interchangeably with the term Sunnah4.
Hadith is defined as the words, actions, and approvals of the Prophet (peace
and blessings be upon him) in the context of understanding and implementing
In the case of Hadith, due care must be given to the degree of authenticity of
With this hierarchy of sources, we can begin our enquiry by asking if there is
any reference in the Qur'an to capital punishment for apostasy.http://www.islamonline.net/English/contemporary/2006/04/article02.shtml
Evidence from the Qur'an
There is no single verse in the Qur’an which prescribes an earthly punishment for
There is no single verse in the Qur'an that prescribes an earthly punishment
for apostasy. Verses about apostasy in the Qur'an speak only about God's
punishment of the apostate in the Hereafter.
The following Qur'anic verses illustrate two examples:
[Your enemies will not cease to fight against you till they have turned you
away from your faith, if they can. But if any of you should turn away from
his/her faith and die as a denier [of the truth] – these it is whose works will
bear no fruit in this world and in the life to come; and these it is who are
destined for the fire, therein to abide.] (Al-Baqarah 2:217)6
[Behold, as for those who come to believe, and then deny the truth, and again
come to believe, and again deny the truth, and thereafter grow stubborn in
their denial of truth — God will not forgive them, nor will guide them in any
way.] (An-Nisaa' 4:137)
It is important to note in the above verse that if the Qur'an prescribes
capital punishment for apostasy, then the apostate should be killed after the
first instance of apostasy. As such there would be no opportunity to
"again come to believe and again deny the truth, and thereafter grow stubborn
in their denial of truth". In spite of these acts of repeated apostasy, no
capital punishment is prescribed for them.7
The silence of the Qur’an on any prescribed mandatory capital for apostasy is
The silence of the Qur'an on any prescribed mandatory capital for apostasy is
quite revealing. More revealing is the fact that there is overwhelming evidence
in the Qur'an of freedom of conscious, belief, and worship.
The following verses gives an example of this:
[And say [O Muhammad]: 'The truth [has now come] you're your Sustainer: let,
then, him or her who wills, believe in it, and let him or her who wills, reject
it.] (Al-Kahf 18:29)
[There shall be no coercion in matters of faith.] (Al-Baqarah 2:256)
[And so, [O Prophet,] exhort them; your task is only to exhort. You can not
compel them [to believe].] (Al-Ghashiyah 88:21-22)
[Thus, [O Prophet,] if they argue with you, say, "I have surrendered my
whole being unto God, and [so have] all who follow me' – and ask those who have
been vouchsafed revelation aforetime, as well as the unlettered people, 'Have
you [too] surrendered yourselves unto Him?' And if they surrender themselves
unto Him, they are on the right path; but if they turn away – behold, your duty
is no more than to deliver the message: for God sees all that is in [the hearts
of] His creatures.] (Aal `Imran 3:20)
These and many other verses in the Qur'an are only consistent with its
depiction of the human as a free agent with the power of choice as long as that
choice does not involve violation of law or commission of a crime. They are
also consistent with the meaning of Islam based on the etymology of the word,
which means to attain peace with God, inner peace and peace with all of God's
creation (including humans, animals, vegetation, and natural resources) through
willing and voluntary submission to God and accepting His grace and guidance in
It is inconceivable to attain that peace if a person is forced or coerced into
becoming a Muslim or remaining a Muslim against his or her free will. It is
also inconceivable to say, "Yes, no one is forced to become a Muslim, but
once he or she accepts Islam willingly, it is forbidden to reject it."
Such an argument under whatever excuse or justification is inconsistent with
the many conclusive verses in the Qur'an on freedom of belief which is above
all an inner feeling of acceptance and conviction.
It is inconceivable to attain peace if any person is forced or coerced to
become a Muslim or to remain a Muslim against his/her free will.
If indeed, capital punishment is prescribed for mere individual apostasy, then
it is one of the most serious forms of "coercion" in religion, coercion
which is clearly and conclusively forbidden in the Qur'an. Furthermore, the
fear of such assumed punishment may lead many to hypocrisy; by pretending to
remain Muslims just to save their lives. In the final analysis, hypocrisy is a
greater danger to the community than apostasy in itself. Hypocrites may implode
the Muslim community from within.
More inconceivable yet, is the argument that the verse that states, [There
shall be no coercion in matters of faith] was abrogated (Al-Baqarah 2: 256).
This verse is one of many other verses that affirm the principle of free choice
of belief. As such, to claim that this verse was "abrogated" implies
that all other similar verses are abrogated too.
What is more significant, however, is that any claim of naskh (abrogation or
more correctly supersession) must be carefully examined. The entire Qur'an is
definitively authentic and well preserved intact (qat`i ath-thubut). Any claim
of naskh must be definitive also and not based on mere opinion or speculation.
As-Suyuti quotes Ibn Al-Hassar as having said the following:
It is not acceptable, in the matter of naskh, (to accept) statements of the
interpreters of the Qur'an, not even the ijtihad (reasoning) of those engaging
in ijtihad without authentic reports or clear evidence since naskh involves
removal of a ruling and affirming of (another) ruling which occurred during the
lifetime of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) and what is
acceptable in that matter is the narration and history not opinion or ijtihad.
While some scholars have claimed that hundreds of verses of the Qur'an were
abrogated, the majority of scholars reject that claim. The famous scholar of
Qur'anic sciences Jalal Ad-Din As-Suyuti narrowed the number of abrogated
verses to 19 verses. Other scholars, such as Shah Waliyyullah Ad-Dahlawi and
Sobhi As-Salih narrowed them down to a lesser number.8
None of these verses mentioned by As-Suyuti, Ad-Dahlawi, or As-Salih are
claimed to abrogate the verses prohibiting coercion in religion. A basic
principle of Islamic jurisprudence is that the Qur'an can only be abrogated by
the Qur'an or a more direct, highly authentic and explicit evidence based on
the Prophet's teachings.
It is abundantly clear that there is no conclusive evidence, indeed no evidence
at all in the Qur'an to sustain the claim that the apostate should be killed on
that sole ground.9
However, absence of evidence in the Qur'an is not sufficient though central. If
indeed there is a conclusive evidence in Hadith prescribing capital punishment
for the apostate, that conclusion must be altered.http://www.islamonline.net/English/contemporary/2006/04/article02.shtml
Evidence from Hadith
It is abundantly clear that there is no conclusive evidence in the Qur’an to
sustain the claim that the apostate should be killed
Hadith is defined as the actions, words, and approvals of the Prophet Muhammad
(peace and blessings be upon him). The crucial questions that need to addressed
are as follows:
Is there any report of apostasy that took place during the lifetime of the
What is the degree of authenticity of such report(s)?
If there are such authentic reports, was the Prophet (peace and blessings be
upon him) in a position to implement and enforce the law?
How did the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) deal with such case(s),
in the form of action or words?
How should the actions and words of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon
him) be interpreted keeping in mind a number of widely accepted rules including
that no Hadith may be interpreted in a way that genuinely contradicts the
Qur'an or for that matter contradicting a more authentic Hadith. Following are
answers to these questions combined.
There are a few reports alleging that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon
him) ordered the killing of a few apostates who refused to repent. However, all
such reports were deemed weak (unauthentic) by Hadith scholars. For example,
the famous scholar Muhammad Ash-Shawkani (died in 1839) wrote that there were problems
with the isnad (chain of narration) of these reports and thus they are not
consider to be reliable, especially in a serious matter such as capital
None of these reports were narrated by earlier and far more reliable sources of
Hadith such as Al-Bukhari and Muslim.
More significant is the fact that a case of apostasy was reported in the most
authentic book of Hadith (Bukhari) reported by more than one reliable chain of
narration (stronger isnad). The following includes a translation of the most
Jabir ibn `Abdullah narrated that a Bedouin pledged allegiance to the Apostle
of Allah for Islam (i.e. accepted Islam) and then the Bedouin got fever
whereupon he said to the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) "cancel
my pledge." But the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) refused. He
(the Bedouin) came to him (again) saying, "Cancel my pledge." But the
Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) refused. Then he (the Bedouin) left
(Medina). Allah's Apostle said, "Madinah is like a pair of bellows
(furnace): it expels its impurities and brightens and clear its good."11
Some argued that perhaps the man in question wanted to be relieved of his oath
(bay`ah) not to leave Madinah. This argument lacks any textual or other
support. In fact, the wording of this particular hadith clearly indicates that
the subject of the oath (bay`ah) was to willingly accept Islam. Thus, his
request to be relieved from that oath meant that he wanted to leave Islam. This
incident took place in Madinah when Muslims were living in an independent
Islamic "state," where the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him)
had full authority to implement Shari`ah law.
If indeed the "revealed" prescribed punishment for apostasy is death,
the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) would have been the first to
carry out the punishment. In fact, he did not even prescribe any punishment at
all against that Bedouin, nor did he send any one to arrest him as an
"apostate," imprison, or ask him to recant or even reconsider his
decision as later jurists prescribed. Nor is there any solid ground to claim
that this and other similar hadiths were "abrogated." In fact, these
Hadiths are in conformity with the Qur'an and consistent with its central value
of freedom of conscious and rejection of any compulsion in matters of faith (Al-Baqarah
The above described event is compatible with one of the conditions of the
Treaty of Hudaybiyah, which the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him)
accepted. The Prophet stipulated that the condition that if a Muslim were to
migrate to Madinah to join the Muslim community there under the leadership of
the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) wished to leave Islam and go back
to his or her previous religion, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him)
was obliged to let the person return to Makkah.
This happened before the final victory over the Makkans and the Prophet's
victorious return to Makkah. However, one would have expected the Prophet
(peace and blessings be upon him) to have refused this condition so that he
could have been able to punish any potential apostate. It is interesting to
note that some scholars who argue for capital punishment if someone commits
apostasy justify that by the imperative of safeguarding the Muslim community
and its political entity from disintegration and defection from the faith. Such
justification would have been more relevant at the time the Prophet readily
accepted that condition of the treaty since Muslims were even more vulnerable
and still relatively insecure.
The above hadith and similar ones are of the highest degree of authenticity and
reliability and are also quite clear and as such should be kept in mind when we
examined other authentic hadiths on the topic.
Another hadith goes as follows:
Abdullah narrated that Allah's Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him)
said, "The blood of a Muslim, who confesses that there is no God but Allah
and that I am His Apostle, cannot be shed except in three cases: In Qisas
(retaliation) for murder, a married person who commits adultery and the one who
reverts from Islam (apostates) and leaves the (Muslim) community."12
This hadith has been interpreted in more than one way. The Prophet (peace and
blessings be upon him) speaks here of three capital crimes, the third of which
is committing apostasy and parting with the (Muslim) community. By merely
committing apostasy and parting peacefully with the Muslim community without
committing any act of treason justifies the death penalty, then why did the
Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) let the man in the first hadith cited
above go unmolested? Would that show that parting with the community refers to
coupling apostasy with joining the enemies who were at war with Muslims at that
The argument that apostasy itself is an act of treason because Islam is also a
religious entity is questionable on several grounds. First, it is known that
all people of other faith communities, who are peacefully coexisting with
Muslims, are entitled to just and kind treatment and are not pressured into
accepting Islam against their will (Al-Mumtahanah 60:8-8). If a Muslim chooses
to commit apostasy, bad as it may seem from a Muslim perspective, the relevant
question is whether or not such apostasy is coupled with other crimes against
Another relevant question is whether an individual apostasy is itself an
offense (in Arabic jarimah). And if it were an offense, it would be an offense
that goes purely against God. In that case, God would hold the person
accountable on the Day of Judgment. Or, if it were automatically considered to
be a capital offense here on earth regardless of the particulars of any
specific situation. More central here is whether it is coupled with any other
This inquiry is not meant to trivialize the possible, even likely harms to the
community or the Islamic state. Nor does it ignore the possible effect of
morale of the public in Muslim cultures. In his article regarding apostasy,13
Dr. Yusuf Al-Qaradawi eloquently speaks of these problems and harms, especially
when seen among the masses of Muslims today as part of their commonly perceived
Western assault on Islam and Muslims, militarily, politically, economically,
socially, and even religiously. However, in the same Muslim communities, there
are people who still claim to be Muslim while at the same time, they wage war
on Islam and Muslims. Dr. Al-Qaradawi calls it "an intellectual
Unfortunately, more dangerous and destructive "apostasy" goes
One version of this second hadith quoted above is quite revealing and may help
answer these questions. `A'ishah, the Prophet's wife, narrated that the
Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) said the following:
"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: a married person who commits adultery; he is to be stoned and a man who
went out fighting against God and his Messenger; he is to be killed or
crucified or exiled from the land and a man who murders another person; he is
to be killed on account of it."15
This version is quite similar to Al-Bukhari's version above with respect to two
categories of capital crimes; adultery and premeditated murder of an innocent
person. However, the third category in Al-Bukhari's version is described here
more explicitly as "fighting against God and His Messenger" an act
that is inconceivable to be committed by a Muslim and is a clear indication of
apostasy as the hadith deals with one who is a Muslim in the first place.
The expression used in this version of the hadith is identical to the following
expression used in the Qur'an:
[The punishment of those who wage war against God and His Apostle, and strive
with might and main for mischief through the land is: execution, or
crucifixion, or the cutting off of hands and feet from opposite sides, or exile
from the land: this is their disgrace in this world, and a heavy punishment is
theirs in the Hereafter.] (Al-Ma'idah 5:33)
This verse, and hence the description in the above hadith, does not relate to
apostasy itself but rather to hiraabah, or organized crime involving murder,
armed robbery, and other acts that terrorize the public. It is up to the court
to determine the type of punishment suited to the degree of gravity of their
offenses. It is a reasonable conclusion as such that the third category
mentioned in Al-Bukhari's version refers to apostasy coupled with these other
crimes some of which are capital crimes. This was regarded as a viable
possibility by the medieval scholar Ibn Taymiyah.
Dr. Al-`Awwa, a well-known contemporary Muslim scholar, wrote the following:
Based on this hadith, Ibn Taymiyah said that the second category here stands
for the same one referred to (in Ibn Mas`ud's version) as 'someone who abandons
his religion and the Muslim community,' as abandoning the Muslim community is
achieved by waging war against Allah and His Messenger.
If this view (of Ibn Taymiyah) is correct, which I consider it to be so, then
the reasons mentioned in Ibn Mas`ud's version according to which the blood of a
Muslim may be shed are the same as those mentioned in `A'ishah's version of the
same hadith. Hence, the person who abandons his religion and the Muslim
community according to Ibn Mas`ud's version of this hadith is meant to be the
person who apostatizes from Islam and then fights against Allah and His
Messenger, not the person who merely becomes an apostate. Based on this, the
ruling on apostates who are not involved in fighting against the Muslim
community is not indicated in this hadith.
In other words, this hadith does not state the ruling concerning those who
merely apostatize from Islam; but states the ruling on those who wage war
against Allah and His Messenger, and it is established that the latter must be
killed, be they Muslims or non-Muslims. Hence, it is not valid to base the view
that the punishment for apostasy is the prescribed death penalty upon the
Prophet's permission to shed the blood of the Muslim "who abandons his
religion and the Muslim community" as mentioned in this hadith"16
Ibn `Abbas narrated that the Prophet said, "Whoever changed his religion,
then kill him".17
This hadith is perhaps the most quoted one by those who are of the view that
apostasy is a capital crime. This argument could have been more convincing if
this were the only hadith on this topic. It raises a number of questions as to
how it may be interpreted in view of the following statements:
1. The absence in the Qur'an of any earthly punishment for apostasy in spite of
its mention in many places in the Qur'an.
2. The consistent and repeated affirmation of freedom of conscious and freedom
of faith and worship in the Qur'an.
3. The hadiths in Al-Bukhari discussed earlier show that the Prophet (peace and
blessings be upon him) himself did not carry out any punishment on the man who
committed apostasy in Madinah and left the town.
4. There is no authentic hadith that narrates that the Prophet (peace and
blessings be upon him) carried out capital punishment for apostasy during his
5. As Dr. Al-`Awwa observed, the expression "kill him" does not
necessarily signify a mandatory command.18
In fact, one of the basic principles of Islamic jurisprudence is that the
command verb could mean a mandatory command (such as prayers, zakah, and
fasting). It could refer to an optional act (like optional night prayers). It could
also mean permissibility of an act and several other meanings. It is the
presence of corroborating evidence or lack thereof that determines the proper
contextual meaning. In the light of the evidence discussed above, the Prophet's
command here seems to refer to the permissibility of capital punishment, when
apostasy is coupled with a capital crime such as waging war against the
6. Dr. Al-Qaradawi suggests another possible meaning of this hadith, saying,
"There is another possibility that `Umar's opinion (against mandatory
capital punishment for an apostate) is that when the Prophet (peace and
blessings be upon him) said, 'Whoever changes his religion, then kill him,' the
Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said that in his capacity as the
leader of the community and head of state and that this was one of the
executive decisions by the authorities (one of the actions that falls within
as-syaasah ash-ahar`iyyah) and not a religious verdict (fatwa) or transmission
(of a verdict) of God which is binding on the Ummah at all times and everywhere
and under all circumstances."19
This indicates also that punishment for apostasy, if any (as the Prophet
himself did not mete to the man who committed apostasy and left Madinah), is
not a mandatory fixed punishment (hadd). Other evidence to that effect was
elaborated on by Dr. Al-`Awwa in his article.20
To justify capital punishment for the apostate, some refer to more than one
version of a hadith pertaining to an incident that happened during the
Prophet's life. A group of people from `Ukal and `Urainah came to Madinah and
accepted Islam. Subsequently, they committed apostasy and then killed and
tortured a shepherd (other version say there was more than one shepherd) and
mutilated his bodies. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) ordered
their arrest and they were executed.21
The question here is whether they were killed because of apostasy or because of
their brutal murder of innocent people. It appears certain that it was the
References to Actions and Interpretation of the Companions of the Prophet and
the First Generation After Prophet Muhammad
Included in the books of Hadith are actions of the Prophet's Companions, the
books contain either their explicit statements of what the Prophet said or
their actions which are presumed to be based on what they learned from the
Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him). While the place of consensus
(ijmaa`) of the Prophet's Companions as a source of Islamic Shari`ah has been
debated, it is a valid source especially if there are other supporting
evidence. However, the Prophet's direct words and actions are of higher
authority since only the Prophet was the recipient of revelations in matters of
A few hadiths refer to incidents when `Ali, Mu`adh, and Abu Musa carried out
capital punishment on some people who had committed apostasy. In one instance,
Mu`adh was quoted as having said that this punishment was the judgment (qadaa')
of God and His Messenger. Referring to these incidents, however, may not give a
conclusive evidence of a mandatory capital punishment for the following
1. The prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) himself did not carry out a
punishment in any authentic hadith. His action takes priority over words.
2. Other authentic hadiths relating to punishment has been interpreted
differently as detailed above.
3. It is possible that when a companion like Mu`adh says, "This is the
judgment of God and His Messenger," he was expressing his interpretation
of the verses and hadiths cited above.
4. As Dr. Al-Qaradawi and Dr. Al-`Awwa have suggested, these reports of capital
punishment were not mandatory, but rather executive decisions based on their
particular circumstances, a matter that varies considerably with time and
place, and not a fatwa "religious verdict" that is "binding on
the Ummah (Muslim community) at all times and everywhere and under all
It is important to note that `Umar, a famous Companion of the Prophet, was
disappointed when he learned that an apostate was killed. When asked what he
would have done in that situation, he suggested that the apostate should have
been detained and given an opportunity to reconsider his decision. He did not speak
of any time limit, which may negate the notion of mandatory capital punishment.
The same view was held by Ibrahim An-Nakh`i and Sufian Ath-Thawri, two members
of the first generation after Prophet Muhammad. Some scholars argue that
apostasy, in the early days of Islam, was considered in the context of security
and war situation. For example, Jamal Al-Banna suggested the following:
The notion of apostasy in the time of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon
him) was coupled with animosity against Islam and waging war against it. So,
one who believed in him (the Prophet) was endeavoring to support him, and one
who committed apostasy was endeavoring to wage war against him and join the
He then gives an example the case of `Abdullah ibn Abi As-Sarh who accepted
Islam and then committed apostasy and returned to Makkah to instigate the
Quraish tribe to fight against the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him).http://www.islamonline.net/English/contemporary/2006/04/article02.shtml
There is no firm ground for the claim that apostasy is in itself a mandatory
fixed punishment (hadd), namely capital punishment.
The preponderance of evidence from both the Qur'an and Sunnah indicates that
there is no firm ground for the claim that apostasy is in itself a mandatory
fixed punishment (hadd), namely capital punishment.
References to early capital punishment for apostasy were not due to apostasy
itself, but rather other capital crimes that were coupled with it.
In the context of the besieged early Muslim community, apostasy was a major
threat to the nascent Muslim community. Taking a passive attitude towards it
would have jeopardized the very emergence of the Muslim community. This may be
one reason why the consensus of scholars is that apostasy is an offense (in the
context of an Islamic society) is an offense. However, there are wide
divergence of views about its suitable punishment. Sheikh `Abdul-Majeed Subh
argues that "we can conclude that the issue of the penalty prescribed for
apostasy is dependent on the public interest of the nation. Therefore, there is
no harm in ignoring the apostasy of an individual as long as he or she does not
harm the nation. On the other hand, if a group of apostates endangers the
security and interests of the Muslim community, then the Muslim ruler should
consider them to be a danger and threat to society."24
As religious opinions (fatwas) change with the changing time, place, custom,
and circumstances, this issue should be reexamined within the basic boundaries
of Islamic jurisprudence and not simply of pressures of others. No Muslim is
required to change the indisputable stable and fixed aspects of Shari`ah for
the sake of pleasing others or earning the title "moderate" or
"open minded." In the meantime, jurisprudent rulings and
interpretations in the non-fixed area need not be permanent either.
Some principles of Islamic jurisprudence may be helpful in any such endeavor.
Considering ma'alaat al-af`aa, or considering the results of adopting a
particular interpretation. Even if an act was permissible or desirable but
could cause harm to the cause of Islam, it should be avoided. For example, The
Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) was conscious of the imperative of safeguarding
the name of Islam and its reputation. When it was suggested to him that
`Abdullah ibn Ubayy ibn Salul should be killed because of the divisive and
subverting role he had played in Madinah, the Prophet answered that he feared
that people will say that "Muhammad is killing his companions."
Weighing harms and benefits of a particular act since there is no sense to do
some good if that results in greater harm. Applying these rules in our
contemporary world where the setting is vastly different from the past, a few
pertinent questions are as follows:
Would the insistence on a particular view, common in Muslim jurisprudence
heritage as it may be, really enhance the reputation of Islam and Muslims and
correct the already severely blemished unfair image?
Just as the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) and early Muslims
considered the context of their times in non-fixed matters (ghair thawaabit)
shouldn't our scholars today do the same?
Whatever opinion is held, as Dr. Al-Qaradawi and others suggest, a great deal
of caution must be exercised when dealing with any alleged apostasy case as
there are many legal consequences of apostasy pertaining to family law in
Islam. The benefit of doubt must be given and only those in legitimate
authority and knowledge may deal with such situation as no one is allowed to
take the law in their own hands.
If there is anything in this paper that is accurate, it is only by the Grace of
Allah and because of what I have learned from scholars for whom I have great
love and respect, even though I am not one of them. If there is anything that
is erroneous, it is my doing and I seek Allah's forgiveness for it. If there
are people who disagree with these preliminary reflections, there is no offense
in engaging in brotherly and objective dialogue with the prayer that Almighty
Allah may show us all the truth and help us to act upon it. The last of our
prayer is all grace is due to Allah.http://www.islamonline.net/English/contemporary/2006/04/article02.shtml
** Dr. Jamal Badawi is a professor at Saint Mary's University in
Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, where he is currently a cross-appointed faculty
member in the Departments of Religious Studies and Management. He completed his
undergraduate studies in Cairo, Egypt and his Masters and Ph. D. degrees at
Indiana University in Bloomington, In.Dr. Badawi has authored several books and
articles on Islam. He also researched, designed and presented a 352-segnment
television series on Islam, shown in many local TV stations in Canada and the
US and in other countries as well. Audio and video copies of this series are
widely available thought out the world. Some Titles of His Published Works are:
Selected prayers, Gender Equity in Islam, Muhammad in the Bible, Status of
Women in Islam, Polygamy in Islamic Law, The Earth and Humanity : An Islamic
Perspective, Islam: A Brief Look, Muslim Woman’s Dress According to the Qur’an
and the Sunnah and Islamic Ethics.In addition to his participation in lectures,
seminars and interfaith dialogues in North America, Dr. Badawi was invited as a
guest speaker in various functions throughout the world. He is also active in
several Islamic organizations, including the Islamic Society of North America
and is the Founder/chairman of the Islamic Information Foundation, a non-profit
foundation seeking to promote a better understanding of Islam and the Muslims
towards non-Muslims. He has lectured extensively in North America and abroad,
and is an excellent speaker on a variety of topics including Islam &
Christianity. He is an expert in Christian-Muslim Dialogues. Dr. Badawi is also
a member of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) Fiqh Council. He is
also a member of both the Fiqh Council of North America, and the European
Council for Fatwa and Research.
Rohi. Al-Mawrid: A Modern Arabic-English Dictionary. Dar El-Ilm Lilmalayin:
Beirut, 15th Edition, 2001, p. 582.
2. Hadith is defined as the actions, words and approvals of the Prophet
Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him).
3. For a more detailed discussion of these issues, see Kamali, Mohammad Hashim,
Principles of Islamic Jurisprudence. Islamic Texts Society, Cambridge, 1991.
4. While some scholars argue that there are fine differences between
"Hadith" and "Sunnah," the majority of scholars consider
the two terms to be interchangeable. For more details on this, see Al-Saleh,
Sobhi, `Ulum Al-Hadith Wa-Mostalahoh (Arabic). Dar El-Ilm Lilmalayin: Beirut,
13th Edition, 1981, PP. 3, 11.
5. For the distinction between the legal (As-Sunnah At-Tashri`iyyah) and
non-legal Sunnah, see Kamali, op. cit., pp. 50-57. See also Al-Saleh, Sobhi,
Mabaahith Fi `Ulum Al-Qur'an, Dar Al-`ilm Lilmalayeen: Beirut, 14th Ed., 1982,
6. Translation of the meaning of the Qur'an was based mainly on Muhammad
Asad's, The Message of the Qur'an. Dar Al-Andalus: Gibralter, 1984. Some minor
adjustments were made by this author to provide for greater clarity.
7. For other verses on apostasy, see 3:62; 86; 90, 5:57, 9:75, 16:106 and
8. See Al-Saleh, Sobhi. Mabaahith Fi `Ulum Al-Qur'an. Dar Al-`ilm Lilmalayeen:
Beirut, 14th ed., 1982, pp. 272-274.
9. Some may argue that in the Qur'an (9:74) speaks of God's punishment in this
life and in the hereafter. However, both the textual and historical context of
this verse deals with the hypocrites not the apostates. In spite of their lack
of faith, hypocrites continue to claim that they are believers and do not
declare that they had "committed apostasy." The basic rule is to
accept hypocrites' claim (of faith) and leave it to God to punish them in his
own way, in this life and the life to come.
10. Ash-Shawkani, Muhammad Bin `Ali. Nayl Al-Awtaar (in Arabic). Dar Al-Jeel:
Beirut, 1973, Vol. 8, pp.2-3.
11. Sahih Al-Bukhari. (translated by Muhammad Muhsin Khan), Maktabat Al-Riyadh
Al-Hadithah: Riyadh, 1982, Vol.9, hadith 316, pp. 241. Similar hadiths narrated
by other chains of narration include Hadiths 318, P. 242; 323, p. 246.
12. Al-`Asqalaani, Ibn Hajar. Fath Al-Bari Bisharh Sahih Al-Bukhari (in
Arabic). Edited by M. Abdul Baaqi and M. Al-Khatib, Dar Al-Rayyan Lilturaath:
Cairo, 2nd Printing, 1987, Vol.12, Baab Ad-Diyaat, hadith 6878, p. 209,
translated by this author.
updated April 14, 2006. l
15. Al-Azdi, Abu Dawud Sulaiman (died AH 275), Sunan Abu Dawud (Arabic) ,
Edited by M.M. Abdul Hamid, Al-Maktabah Al-Asriyyah, Beirut, no date, Vol. 4,
hadith 4353, P. 126, translated by this author.
16. Islamonline, op. cit.
17. Sahih Al-Bukhari, op. cit., Vol. 9, hadith 57, p. 45.
18. Islamonline, op. cit.
19. Islamonline Arabic website. Translated by this author.
21. Sahih Al-Bukhari, op. cit., Vol. 8, hadiths 794, 795, 796, 797, pp.
22. Islamonline, op. cit.
23. Islamonline Arabic website. An article by Jamal Al-Banna, Translated by the
24. Islamonline, op. cit.
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