The following is a continuation from Exposing the call for the reformation of Islam - Part 1 and Exposing the call for the reformation of Islam - Part 2 and is the final part of this chapter.
Example 4: The punishment for apostasy
Many of the modernists attempt to cast doubt on the hudud (penal) laws of Islam and argue that they are inapplicable today. One such clear command that they dispute is the death penalty for Muslims who apostasise from Islam. Proponents of this view include S. A. Rahman, a former Chief justice of Pakistan and Dr. Hassan al-Turabi of Sudan.
S. A. Rahman, a former Chief justice of Pakistan, argues that there is no indication of the death penalty in the Quran. He said, "that not only is there no punishment for apostasy provided in the Book but that the Word of God clearly envisages the natural death of the apostate. He will be punished only in the Hereafter…" [Punishment of apostasy in Islam, S. A. Rahman, p. 54, Institute of Islamic Culture, Lahore, l972].
Other writers like Abdullah Saeed and Hassan Saeed argue that the law of apostasy and its punishment by death in Islamic law conflicts with a variety of fundamentals of Islam. They contend that the early development of the law of apostasy was essentially a religio-political tool, and that there was a large diversity of opinion among early Muslims on the punishment
Unfortunately Dr. Hassan al-Turabi is seen as a scholar of Islam by some and therefore people give more weight to his words. He also believes in the religious freedom for Muslims to apostasies, he says:
“The religious freedom not just of non-Muslims, but even of Muslims who have different views, is going to be guaranteed. I personally have views that run against all the orthodox schools of law on the status of women, on the court testimony of non-Muslims, on the law of apostasy. Some people say that I have been influenced by the West and that I border on apostasy myself, but I don't accept the condemnation of Salman Rushdie. If a Muslim wakes up in the morning and says he doesn't believe any more, that's his business. There has never been any question of inhibiting people's freedom to express any understanding of Islam. The function of government is not total.” [Quoted in Milton Viorst, "Sudan's Islamic Experiment", Foreign Affairs, Washington DC, Volume 74, Number 3, May/June 1995, p.53.]
Before demonstrating how this view cannot be considered ijtihad we need to appreciate that his mindset is of a modernist and not of a mujtahid. This is apparent if one reads through his book, ‘Tajdeed Usul Al Fiqh Al Islamiyyah’ (Modernising the Islamic principles of jurisprudence). He claims that the setup of the traditional Usul ul-Fiqh does not fit our contemporary needs. He argues that we are in need for a new outlook or understanding for rules of divorce and marriage in which we will benefit from the current social sciences and will build upon our inherited Fiqh, look into Quran and Sunnah equipped with all contemporary needs, sciences, and all Islamic and comparative Fiqh experiences. After this we will find a new way to what Allah's Shariah mandates within the context of our situation.
For example he says, “The Muslims are in need of new laws for divorce and marriage and we must take advantage of what the west has to offer…” [Tajdeed Usul Al Fiqh Al Islamiyyah , Hassan Turabi, p. 20]
More recently he has sanctioned mixed prayers so long as men and women did not sit too close to each other, in order to avoid “arousing sexual feelings” that could distract worshippers from their praying. He also promoted the permission of Muslim women to marry Christians and Jews even though this is expressly forbidden in the Quran. [Sudan Tribune, 24 April, http://www.sudantribune.com/article.php3?id_article=15219]
Let us now look at the issue of apostasy. The evidence for imposing the punishment of death for the apostate is established by the Sunnah and Ijma as-Sahaba (consensus of the companions), these are also definitive sources of law. Therefore the argument of S. A. Rahman is inapplicable.
Ikrimah narrated, "Heretics (zanadiqah) were brought to Amir Al-Mu’mineen Ali (ra) so he burnt them. That news reached Ibn Abbas who said: If it were me, I would not have burnt them due to the Messenger of Allah (saw)'s saying: 'Do not punish with the punishment of Allah', no doubt I would kill them due to the Messenger of Allah (saw)'s saying: 'If somebody (Muslim) changes his deen, kill him.'" [Bukhari, Vol. 9, Book 84, No. 57]
The Prophet (saw) said, “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: In Qisas for murder, a married person who commits illegal sexual intercourse and the one who reverts from Islam (apostate) and leaves the Muslims.” [Bukhari, Vol. 9, Book 83, No. 17]
Jabir narrated, “Umm Marwan apostatised and the Prophet (saw) commanded to offer her Islam: Either she repents or she is killed.” [Ad-Daraqutni & Al-Bayhaqi]
Narrated Abu Burda that Abu Musa said, "I came to the Prophet along with two men (from the tribe) of Ash'ariyin, one on my right and the other on my left, while Allah's Apostle was brushing his teeth (with a Siwak), and both men asked him for some employment. The Prophet said, 'O Abu Musa (O 'Abdullah bin Qais!).' I said, 'By Him Who sent you with the Truth, these two men did not tell me what was in their hearts and I did not feel (realize) that they were seeking employment.' As if I were looking now at his Siwak being drawn to a corner under his lips, and he said, 'We never (or, we do not) appoint for our affairs anyone who seeks to be employed. But O Abu Musa! (or 'Abdullah bin Qais!) Go to Yemen.'" The Prophet then sent Mu'adh bin Jabal after him and when Mu'adh reached him, he spread out a cushion for him and requested him to get down (and sit on the cushion). Behold: There was a fettered man beside Abu Musa. Mu'adh asked, "Who is this (man)?" Abu Muisa said, "He was a Jew and became a Muslim and then reverted back to Judaism." Then Abu Musa requested Mu'adh to sit down but Mu'adh said, "I will not sit down till he has been killed. This is the judgment of Allah and His Apostle (for such cases) and repeated it thrice. Then Abu Musa ordered that the man be killed, and he was killed. Abu Musa added, "Then we discussed the night prayers and one of us said, 'I pray and sleep, and I hope that Allah will reward me for my sleep as well as for my prayers.'" [Bukhari, Vol. 9, Book 84, No 58]
Narrated Abu Musa: “A man embraced Islam and then reverted back to Judaism. Mu'adh bin Jabal came and saw the man with Abu Musa. Mu'adh asked, "What is wrong with this (man)?" Abu Musa replied, "He 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, Vol. 9, Book 89, No. 271]
It is narrated that, “Abu Bakr asked a woman named Umm Firqah to repent. She disbelieved after her Islam and she did not repent, so he killed her." [Ad-Daraqutni & Al-Bayhaqi]
There is a consensus (ijma) of the Mujtahideen from the different schools of thought that a male apostate must be put to death unless he suffers from a mental disorder or converted under duress, for example, due to an imminent danger of being killed. A female apostate must be either executed, according to Shafi'i, Maliki, and Hanbali schools of Sunni Islamic jurisprudence (fiqh), or imprisoned until she reverts to Islam as advocated by the Sunni Hanafi school and by Shi'a scholars. One the reasons why the Hanafi’s believe this due to the narration from Abu Yusuf, quoting from Abu Hanifa, from Aasem Ibn Abi al-Junood, from Abi Razeen who narrated that Ibn Abbas (ra) said, "Do not kill women if they apostatise from Islam. They must be imprisoned, offered the chance to return to the faith, and then forced to do so."
As for the invalidity of apostasy from the child and insane, this is because they are not legally accountable. It was narrated by ‘Ali Ibnu Abi Talib that the Prophet (saw) said, "The pen is lifted from three: The child until he matures, the one sleeping until he awakes and the insane until he recuperates." [Abu Dawud]
As for the evidence for the apostate being asked to repent, this is due to the hadith of Umm Marwan that the Prophet (saw) commanded that she be asked to repent. Abu Bakr (ra) and Umar (ra) continued in asking the apostate to repent before imposing the punishment. As for asking him to repent thrice, thrice is not a restriction but the least wherein an excuse occurs normally. Otherwise it is allowed to ask for repentance more times because the objective is offering him Islam to return to it and to be given sufficient time to return. It is narrated that Abu Musa asked the apostate whom Muadh demanded he kill and he killed to repent for two months before the arrival of Muadh. It was narrated from Umar (ra) that the period of asking to repent is three days; if he repents, his repentance is accepted and he is not killed.
Muhammad bin Abdullah bin Abd Al-Qari narrated: "A man came forward to Abu Musa so he asked him: Is there any news from the west? He said: Yes, a man disbelieved after his Islam. He said: What did you do with him? He said: We brought him close and struck off his neck. Umar said: If only you imprisoned him three (days) and fed him a loaf of bread daily and asked him to repent. Perhaps he would have repented and return to the command of Allah? O Allah, I was neither present nor was I pleased when it was conveyed to me.” [Muwatta of Imam Malik]
Some modernists confuse between the evidences regarding rebellion against the ruler and apostasy, thus claiming that the Prophet (saw) and the Khulafah ar-Rashidoon accepted for apostates not to be killed. There is a clear distinction in Islam for the ahkam for rebellion (bughat) against the ruler are different to those of apostasy. Rebels against the Islamic state are still Muslims and effort must be made to bring them back under its authority and if they comply then they are not punished, if they do not they are fought until they submit. Allah (swt) says:
"And if two parties of the believers fight, reconcile between them. If one transgresses against the other, fight the one that rebels until it complies with the command of Allah. Then if it complies, reconcile between them justly and be equitable. Verily Allah loves those who are equitable." [TMQ 49:9]
This ayah considered those rebels believers so they did not leave their Iman by their rebellion.
Mohamed El-Awa argues that the punishment for apostasy should be categorised as a Ta’zir crime, meaning a crime for which the Qadi may exercise a discretionary sentence instead of a hudud crime for which Allah (swt) has stipulated a specific punishment. The evidences he attempts to present demonstrate that modernists often infer meanings from the texts which are completely contradictory to the actual meaning of them. He says:
”Secondly, the Prophet who said these words about apostates never himself had an apostate put to death. There were some cases in which people apostasized after converting to Islam, but the Prophet never ordered any of them to be killed. On the contrary, Bukhari and Muslim related that "an Arab (a bedouin) came to the Prophet and accepted Islam; then fever overtook him while he was still at Madina, so he came to the Prophet and said, 'Give back my pledge,' but the Prophet refused; then he came the next day and said to the Prophet, ‘Give me back my pledge,' and the Prophet refused. The Arab did the same a third day and the Prophet refused." The report goes on to say that the man afterwards left Madina unharmed. This is a clear case of apostasy in which there was no punishment. It is clear from the words of the report that the bedouin was seeking to return to his old religion, or at least to leave Islam, but in spite of this he went away unharmed.” [Punishment in Islamic Law: A Comparative Study, Mohamed S. El-Awa, Markazi Maktaba Islami, Delhi, India, 1st Edition 1983]
The hadith which quotes is actually about a bedouin asking to be relieved from the Bay’ah (pledge of allegiance) to the Prophet (saw) as a ruler and is nothing to do with apostasy. The hadith is narrated from Jabir ibn Abdullah (ra) who said that a bedouin gave Bay’ah to the Messenger of Allah (saw), but he became ill, so he said: "Relieve me of my Bay’ah", the Messenger of Allah (saw) refused; he then came back and said: "Relieve me of my Bay’ah!" He (saw) refused, so the man left. Upon this the Messenger of Allah (saw) said: "Al-Madina is like the bellows, she banishes her bad odours and manifests her sweet scent." [Bukhari]
Why would the bedouin ask to apostasise from Islam just because he became ill? Of course one can understand why he may have wanted to relieve himself from the obligations of being bound to the authority. The Bay’ah in Islam is a contract between the people and the ruler for him to rule by Islam and for them to obey him. This is clear from the multiplicity of texts upon this issue. For example, Abu Hurayra reported that the Messenger of Allah (saw) said:
"There are three types of people whom Allah would not talk to nor would He praise or purify them on the Day of Judgement, and they will be subjected to severe punishment: A man who has water to spare and would not give it to the wayfarer, and a man who gives his Bay’ah to an Imam for his own good, if he gave him what he wanted he would be loyal to him, otherwise he would not, and a man who offers another man goods for sale after Asr prayer, swearing by Allah that he was given so much price for it, and so he believed him and took the goods, while he was not given that price for it." [Bukhari & Muslim]
It is clear from this and many other texts that Bay’ah is a pledge of allegiance to an Imam (Khalifah) and it has no relationship with the issue of apostasy which is to do with rejecting the Islamic belief. Once the Bay’ah has been legitimately given those who gave it must be committed to it and have no right to take it back, this is confirmed by the refusal of the Messenger (saw) to relieve the bedouin from his Bay’ah. The Messenger (saw) did not question the belief of the man in Islam nor punish him he simply refused his request.
The enemies of Islam often use the issue of the punishment of apostasy in order to attack Islam. They misportray the ahkam shariah relating to apostasy and give the impression that the apostate is an innocent victim and that anyone has the right to kill him. This is not true. It is worth mentioning that in most societies in the world they have death penalties for certain crimes such as treason. Although apostasy from Islam is technically different to treason, the punishment for it is applied when it is done in an open manner in a society where the punishment of it is known. In reality if someone wanted to commit apostasy individually without creating an impact in society, they could either hide their disbelief in which case they would be a munafiq (hypocrite) and would not be punished as their disbelief would not be known. Or they would leave the country and move to a non Muslim country and apostatise, even the Khalifah cannot punish those living outside the authority of the Islamic state. The fact that someone would commit open apostasy in a country where the punishment for it is well known highlights that its nature as a deliberate action like a statement of rebellion against the ideology of society. Contrary to how it is portrayed in the media only the state has the authority to execute the punishment of apostasy and according to Islamic law if an ordinary citizen killed an apostate they would be punished just as if they had killed any non-Muslim citizen.
There are many other examples apart from the ones mentioned where the modernists are attempting to change Islam by claiming ijtihad in areas of law where difference of opinion is not possible. Some other prominent examples are the obligation of the khimar (headscarf) for the Muslim woman, the definitive prohibition of making peace with an occupier of Muslim land such as the illegal Israeli state, the prohibition of nationalism and the prohibition of Muslim women marrying non-Muslims.
We must take heed from the words of our master Muhammad (saw) who warned us of such people.
It is narrated by the Istinad (chain) of the men of Sahih that Awf b. Malik al-Ashja'i narrated that the Messenger of Allah (saw) said: “My Ummah will become divided into some seventy sects, the greatest will be the test of the people who make analogy to the deen with their own opinions, with it forbidding what Allah has permitted and permitting what Allah has forbidden.” [Al-Tabarani in Al-Kabeer wal-Bazaar & Al-Haithami in Majma' Al-Zawaa'id]
The Prophet (saw) said, “The thing that I fear the most for my Ummah is a hypocrite with an eloquent tongue who argues with the Quran.” [Ahmed, Bazaar, Ibn ‘Abd al-Barr. P. 439]
The Prophet (saw) said, “Whoever speaks about the Quran without any knowledge, then let him seek his place in the fire of hell.” [Tirmidhi & Abu Dawud]
Abu Shamah had narrated, via the Sanad of Abi Ziyad bin Hudayr, saying: "Omar said to me: Do you know what destroys Islam? I said, No! He said: A mistake made by a scholar, the argument of a hypocrite in writing and the ruling of leaders who wish for people to stray."
It was narrated by Anas that the Prophet (saw) said, "Whoever cheats my Ummah has the curse of Allah, the Angels and the people combined, upon him. They asked: What is cheating, oh Prophet of Allah? He said: If he invented an innovation for them, and they acted upon it." [Al-Daraqtuni in Al-Afrad]
Abu Ismael al-Beirawi