Monday, 16 August 2010
Apostasy in Islam
بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ
The Qur’an Itself Promises us that there is no compulsion on religion:
Let there be no compulsion in religion. Truth stands out clear from Error; whoever rejects evil and believes in Allah hath grasped the most trustworthy handhold, that never breaks. And Allah Heareth and Knoweth all things. (Surah al-Baqarah:256)
Since we are not compelled to believe and convert, we are also not compelled to stay if that belief is inadequate since faith Belongs to Allah (s.w.t.). The Punishment for disbelief is the Province of Allah (s.w.t.) Alone. We cannot judge on belief for the simple reason that we do not know the hearts of men and their intentions. Neither can we judge the circumstances of faith or apparent lack of it. This is the only verse that Mentions the Punishment for apostasy in Islam, and it is by Allah (s.w.t.) Alone.
Anyone who, after accepting faith in Allah, utters unbelief - except under compulsion, his heart remaining firm in Faith - but such as open their breast to unbelief - on them is Wrath from Allah, and theirs will be a dreadful Penalty. This because they love the life of this world better than the Hereafter: and Allah will not guide those who reject Faith. Those are they whose hearts, ears, and eyes, Allah has Sealed Up and they take no heed. Without doubt, in the Hereafter, they will perish. (Surah an-Nahl:106-109)
In any case, how do we even know if we have faith? Faith is from Allah (s.w.t.). It is His Capacity. It is not our capacity.
The desert Arabs, say, “We believe.” Say, “Ye have no faith; but ye (only) say, ‘We have submitted our wills to Allah,’ for not yet has faith entered your hearts. But if ye obey Allah and His Messenger, He will not belittle aught oft your deeds: for Allah is Oft-Forgiving Most Merciful.” (Surah al-Hujraat:14)
Firstly, it is important to define what constitutes apostasy in Islam. A person commits apostasy, irtidad, or becomes an apostate, murtad, if he acknowledges himself a Muslim and then at a later time takes one of the following actions: converts to another religion; rejects a part of the Qur’an after recognising it to be a part of the Qur’an; disbelieves or deviates from any of the core tenets of the faith and practices; or ascribes divinity to anything other than Allah (s.w.t.). In the practise of any of the above, even should a person still call himself a Muslim, he has deviated from the faith until he repents.
Having an interpretation of a part of the Qur’an or ahadits different from the one held by other Muslims does not result in apostasy. There is room for differences of opinion in the interpretation of verses of the Qur’an and the hadits. But should a person hold for example that there is an error in the Qur’an or rejects any of it in totality, he has left the faith. Similarly, to argue as to the admissibility or relevance of ahadits in various rulings is acceptable although it might be bad adab if there is a lack of knowledge. But if a person rejects the concept of ahadits in totality, he has left the faith since it is the second source of shari’ah. There are people who claim they are Muslims but are against the shari’ah or argue for the reformation of the Qur’an and the shari’ah. They are technically apostates.
There are many verses that speak about how hateful it is in the Sight of Allah (s.w.t.). But none speak about the punishment under hudud. This is significant since the vast majority of these verses are from the Madinan Period, when the fledgling Islamic State was already established. The mandate of Punishment lies with Allah (s.w.t.). Revelations during the Madinan Period consisted largely of laws to govern an Islamic State. To them were Revealed the penalties for crimes such as theft and murder; the resolution of legal disputes and the administration and division of property. But nothing about the penalty for apostasy. From the sirah, we know that there were several incidences of apostasy but there was no Revelation explicitly dealing with punishment for it. What is significant is that there was Revelation concerning the waging of war against the ummah. This was normally preceded by apostasy on the part of some of the protagonists and the reneging of treaties.
The punishment for apostasy is a serious issue. If Allah (s.w.t.) Meant for it to be death, it would be part of the hudud and be in the Qur’an. It would not be something that Allah (s.w.t.), in His Wisdom, would leave for ahadits. In any case, from a logical point of view, if the penalty of apostasy were explicitly death, Muslims would have killed each other off a long time ago due to every little disagreement. As it is, extremists are already using takfir as an excuse to kill their fellow Muslims. A lot of people with vested interests or simply an intense dislike of the faith or of Muslims makes much about hadits that deal with apostasy. Ahadits are not automatically ahkam, rulings, to be read literally without understanding their context.