A fundamental fault line runs through contemporary Islamic thought. That is, the fault line between a textually-based, and a conscience-based, ethics. This is the demarcation which progressive Muslim thought is straining to prevent becoming a barrier. Essentially, it is the dilemma between scripturalism – the recourse to the authority of a written text – and independent moral judgment.
In all religious traditions believers have been content to understand that independent moral judgement somehow enriches the doctrinal heritage. This debate, however, has not yet been settled among the Islamists, for whom textualism still trumps independent ethical thought. (almuslih.org)
On the punishment for Apostasy
Babikir Faysal Babikir, Almuslih Website
Apostasy in Islam is commonly defined in Islam as the rejection in word or deed of one’s former religion by a person who was previously a follower of Islam.
In a bold article published by the Al-Ra’y al-ʽĀm newspaper on April 26, 2011, Professor ‘Alī Muhammad al-Hasan Abū Qināya criticised the Islamic Law Academy on many of its standpoints, rulings and fatwas… He also opposed the law academy’s monopoly on the issuing of fatwas and considered this to run counter to Islamic Sharīʻa.
Professor Abū Qināya stated: “The Islamic law academy does not carry out legitimate rulings in that it runs counter to the judgement of the Sharīʻa on the question of one who apostatises from his Islamic faith, apostasy being a right which God Almighty has licensed and for which the reckoning is to take place in the next world before God, not before the Islamic Law Academy whose rulings against the apostate do not constitute the rulings of God.”
The Quran confirms man’s freedom to choose
whether to believe or disbelieve.
The present writer agrees with the opinion, expressed by Professor Abū Qināya, that the reckoning of the apostate is something that is to take place before God in the afterlife, and that no institution has a right to prosecute the apostate at any time in this present life.
The universal legal foundation for this is to be found in the Noble Qur’ān, as confirmed by verse 256 of the sūrat al-Baqara: “There is no compulsion in religion. The right direction is henceforth distinct from error.”
The Qur’ān confirms man’s freedom to choose whether to believe or disbelieve, and in return the responsibility they bear for this freedom will be made manifest on the Day of Reckoning when God shall judge them as to the choices they have made.
This was confirmed by verse 29 of the sūrat al-Kahf: “Say: (It is) the truth from the Lord of you (all). Then whosoever will, let him believe, and whosoever will, let him disbelieve….“
Neither in the Qur’ān nor in the mutawātir hadith is there any mention of a this-worldly punishment for one who apostatises from his faith, nor is it recorded that the Prophet ordered the killing of anyone for his apostasy from Islam. …
Those who say that that punishment exists for apostasy in the Sharīʻa do not present evidence from the sound, mutawātir hadith but instead rely on two āhād hadith.
“The Āhād or solitary Hadith is the Hadith which fails to fulfill the requirement of Mutawātir. Āhād Hadith may be sound (Sahih), good (Hasan) or weak (Da’eef). It is a Hadith which does not impart positive knowledge on its own unless it is supported by extraneous or circumstantial evidence.” Mufti Muhammad Ibn Adam al Kawthari
The first hadith is a hadith of ‘Abd Allāh ibn Masʽūd, which was related by al-Bukhārī and Muslim, and which runs: “the blood of a Muslim may only be prescribed for three reasons: for one who commits an unjust slaying, for one who commits adultery with a divorcée or widow, and for one who forsakes his faith and abandons the community”.
The second hadith is that of Ibn ʽAbbās, reported by al-Bukhārī in his Sahīh: “He who changes his religion, kill him.”
There is a consensus among scholars that āhād hadith are of dubious reliability and therefore only considered to be valid for purposes of reflection, and not held to be definitive. For which reason they are not considered useful to scholarship nor do they require to be acted upon.
Is it therefore right to take such āhād hadith as authoritative corroboration for putting someone to death?
If the principles of the Qur’ān clearly defined the issuance of religious freedom and surrounded it with every guarantee, and stipulated that the punishment of the apostate was for God Almighty alone to carry out in the next life, one cannot expect the Sunna to oppose this.
This is particularly the case in that the issue does not appear in a single Qur’ānic verse, whereas something like 200 unequivocal verses concur on confirming the freedom of religious belief.
There is no link between the ‘Apostasy Wars’
and the penalty for apostasy
With the death of Muhammad, several leaders claimed the title of successor to Muhammad. While it was believed that Ali ibn Abi Talib should become khalifah (Muhammad’s cousin who also married Fatima, Muhammad’s longest lived daughter) he was thought to be to young to do so. The Muslim community in Mecca/Medina agreed that it would be Abu-Bakr who would be the central leader of Islam and so it was decided so it was decreed.
With Abu-Bakr’s rise to power, leaders, seeing how Muhammad like any mortal could and did die, began splitting apart as they did in pre-Islamic or Jahiliya times, seeing Muhammad and his religion as something of the past. Abu-Bakr sought to punish them and retain control of the disorderly tribes. (Source)
There is no link between the ‘Apostasy Wars’ and the penalty for apostasy, for the Apostasy Wars were a political endeavour undertaken by Abu Bakr, since by means of them he was able to maintain the cohesion of the Islamic state in the face of a rebellion that would have lead to its dissipation.
It serves mostly a political purpose.
We have evidence of this in our experience in modern day Sudan when President Jaʽfar Numeiri ordered the execution of Professor Mahmud Muhammad Taha after he was condemned for apostasy, while he was arrested basically on the charge of propagating a ‘political’ programme that was inciting opposition to the government. …
In Iran a verdict of execution was promulgated against the reformist thinker Hashem Aghajari following his conviction on the charge of apostasy for having said: “Muslims are not apes that should unthinkingly imitate the religious clerics.”
The verdict issued against him provoked a widespread wave of popular protest which forced the government to reduce the verdict to one of five years imprisonment, following a retrial on charges of attacking the principles of Islam and spreading propaganda opposing the Islamic regime, and publishing false materials intended to disturb public order. These are all political charges which have no relation to apostasy.
People are free to believe or to disbelieve, a freedom entrusted to them by the Lord who created them… No individual or religious institution has the right to snatch away this freedom granted by the Creator to His creation.
You have to be a righteous person
Proclaim a woeful punishment to the unbelievers, except to those idolaters who have honoured their treaties with you in every detail and aided none against you. With these keep faith, until their treaties have run their term. God loves the righteous. (Quran 9:4)
Almuslih (Arabic for ‘The Reformer’) aims to maximize the exposure and distribution of journalism and analyses promoting progressive thought in the Arab Middle East and the Muslim world. This new publishing project focuses on freedom of expression and progressive thinking, on religious pluralism and diversity.
We are particularly interested in allowing courageous and counter-intuitive opinion to be heard, amid the growing tide of anti-democratic cultural forces and cultural interpretations that prioritize identity and collectivism at the expense of the liberty and integrity of the individual.