( 2 ) : The penalty of apostasy between Islam and the Sunny jurisprudence



 The penalty of apostasy between Islam and the Sunny jurisprudence


In the name of Allah, The Gracious, The Almighty


"Slay not the soul, the slaying of which Allah has

forbidden, except for a just cause"

(6:151) - (17:33)

Truthfully speaks Allah the Great!


In the Name of Allah, the Gracious, the Almighty



It is very important to start by calling things by their real name in order to do justice to the great religion of Islam, apart from the attitude of some Muslims.


First of all, we have to differentiate between Islam and the Muslims.


Islam is believed to be the religion of Allah, the Great, Who commands justice, beneficence and urges to adopt high moral values. The Holy Qur’an is believed to be the true charter for this godly religion. The practice of the Messenger, is considered to be the practical and literal application of the Holy Qur’an. The Prophet was known to be the embodiment of the "Qur’anic Morals", as he was described by God to have: i.e. "Great Morals". These "Great Morals" are derived from "The Great Qur’an".


It is natural to find a gap between the laws of the "Great Qur’an", as were truly applied in practice by the Prophet, and the jurisprudence of some Muslims during the periods in history following the period of the Prophet and that of AI-Khilafat-Ur Rashida, i.e. the Rightly-guided "Successor-ship".


The period of the Prophet and that of the Rightly-guided Khilafat was the period in which the Holy Qur’an was revealed and its teachings were put into practice. It is regrettable, though, that much of the recording of the Islamic literary heritage took place during the periods which followed, i.e. during the dictatorships of the Umayyad and the Abbasid dynasties. During such periods, political efforts tried to color this heritage with a religious color in order to bridge the gap between the teachings of the Qur’an, on one side, and the attitudes of the Khulafa (i.e. Successors) and the clerics, on the other side. Bridging such a gap was done by fabricating certain traditions (i.e. sayings of the Prophet) and attributing them to the Prophet. Needless to say that such fabricated traditions were in contradiction with the teachings of the Qur’an and the practice of the Prophet.


The penalty of apostasy was born during such periods as an expression of certain political circumstances that required shedding the blood of opponents of various regimes. Since the teachings of the Holy Qur’an prevented categorically blood-shedding except for lawful reasons (as a penalty for murder or in defensive wars to suppress aggression), the clerics invented the penalty of apostasy by fabricating two traditions and attributing them to the Holy Prophet. They wanted to provide the totalitarian rulers with a religious justification to eliminate their opponents.


The present advocates of political Islam keep demanding that Islamic Shari'ah, i.e. religious jurisprudence, should be applied as the law of the land. They do not have the time, nor the urge, to enquire which Shari'ah they demand to be applied: Is it the jurisprudence of the Holy Qur’an or that of the clergy in the Abbasid period? It seems that the advocates of political Islam prefer much better the jurisprudence of the Abbasid clergy because it provides them with a sharp sword to be used against their political foes and opponents. Such sharp sword is the penalty of apostasy. It would be easy for the leaders of political Islam to accuse their opponents of apostasy and then raise such a sword at their faces. It will be easy for the leaders of political Islam to terrorize their foes by accusing them of apostasy if such foes should demand of them to come up with a practical political program that defines their theoretical mottos of "Islam is the solution" and "Ruler-ship belongs to God".


Again, if any person asks the advocates of political Islam to accept some progressive opinions in order to solve the economic, social and political problems that lie in the way of applying Islamic jurisprudence, they will be able to accuse such a person of opposing the application of Shari'ah. Such opposition will be interpreted as committing apostasy. Accordingly, such a person can be terrorized by the penalty of death.


The Egyptian thinker Dr. Farag Foda paid with his life as a price for daring to challenge, in his writings and debates, the advocates of political Islam, to come up with a specific and detailed political program. Shortly before his assassination he demanded of those advocates to come up with modern laws derived from Islamic Shari'ah. Although he made it very clear that he was in full support of the current Egyptian constitution which is based upon Islamic Shari'ah, yet their answer to him was his assassination, thereby they gave their actual and practical way of dealing with their intellectual and political opponents.

They have succeeded in converting the trial of Farag Foda's killers to a trial for Farag Foda himself. They made out of that trial an occasion to terrorize their opponents. The defense in the case demanded that the testimony of some advocates of political Islam should be heard. Their leader gave his verdict that whoever opposes the application of Islamic Shari'ah is an apostate who deserves to be executed, and that any person from the public who kills him should not be punished by the authorities, even though such a person has taken away the right of the state by taking the law into his own hands.


This bloody verdict was transmitted to the public through the media. The newspapers of political Islam very happily welcomed it. No less enthusiasm was shown by their supporters working in the government official newspapers.


A political and intellectual debate, for and against, erupted around the penalty of apostasy. It was discovered during this debate that there was nothing in the Holy Qur’an to support the penalty of apostasy, and that this penalty was based upon two dubious traditions attributed to the Prophet. It also came to be known that the Messenger has never executed anyone of the hypocrites, who were the first to be condemned by the Holy Qur’an as apostates. Consequently, it was concluded that had there been a penalty for apostasy, the Messenger would have had applied it.


The author of this book belongs to the school of fundamental thinking, but he is on the side of true fundamentalism. He believes that Islam today requires someone who is ready to struggle in order to bring to light its facts. Islam does not need those who use its great name in their own world of politics to serve their personal worldly objectives. It is the duty of everyone who loves God, His Messenger and the religion of Islam to defend this great religion against the evils attributed to it during the dictatorship era. One of such evils is the penalty of apostasy.


What is known as the penalty of apostasy is based upon two traditions only. One of such traditions was reported by Bukhari, which states: "Whoever changes his religion should be killed". The other tradition was reported by Saheeh Muslim which states: "It is not lawful to shed the blood of a Muslim except in three situations: A life for a life, a married man who commits adultery and a man who leaves his religion and abandons his people".


The way this book deals with the subject of the penalty of apostasy starts by tracing the subject in the Holy Qur’an as well as during the era of the Messenger, then during the era of the Rightly-guided Khilafat, followed by the era of the Umayyads and the Abbasyds. It studies the two traditions upon which the alleged authenticity of the penalty of apostasy was based. It is a fundamental study of the traditions' reporters, the categorization of the traditions, the chains of reporters and the opinions of the scholars regarding the validity of any law based upon a tradition categorized as being: "Ahaad', (i.e. a tradition which was heard by one person); in addition to the opinions of the scholars of Al Azhar Institution. At the end, the author presents a conclusion in which he underlines the con-sequential dangers of legislating a penalty for apostasy. Thus, he presents his testimony for history in order to do justice towards Islam and to purify its name from the sins of some Muslims.


Allah is sought for help.


Dr. Ahmad Subhy Mansour


August 1993

The penalty of apostasy between Islam and the Sunny jurisprudence
( The penalty of apostasy in fundamental historical study () was my Arabic book translated into English . Then I wrote another article in English in the same subject. Now the old book and the later article are published here in this book ( Penalty of apstacy between Islam and Sunny Jurisprudence )