Ar: irtidad or riddah. An apostate is called murtad. There has been much controversy among Muslims whether the male apostate is to be put to death. Many Muslim countries prescribed the death penalty for the apostate if he continues in it. A certain grace period may be given for the apostate to for him to repent, after which he may be executed. Death bed repentance is not allowed. The female apostate is to be kept in confinement until she recant or death. If one of a husband or wife apostatize, a divorce takes place and the wife is entitled to her dowry, but if both apostatize together, then the marriage is not dissolved, but Iman Zufar regards that the marriage is annulled. However, if later, one of them returns to Islam, then divorce is necessary (Hamilton, Hidayah, vol. ii. p. 183).
According to Abu Hanifah, a male apostate is disabled from selling or otherwise disposing of his property. But Abu Yusuf and Imam Muhammad differ from their master upon this point, and consider a male apostate to be as competent to excercise every right as if he were still in the faith. (Hughes' Dictionary of Islam, p. 16, citing Hamilton, Hidaya, vol. ii, p. 235)
If a boy under age apostatize, he is not to be put to death, but to be imprisoned until he come to full age, when, if he continue in the state of unbelief, he must be put to death. Neither lunatics nor drunkards are held to be responsible for their apostasy from Islam (Hidayah, vol. ii, 246). If a person upon compulsion become an apostate, his wife is not divorced, nor are his lands forfeited. If a person become a musalman upon compulsion, and afterwards apostatize, he is not to be put to death. (Hidayah, vol. iii, 467).
The will of a male apostate is not valid, but that of a female apostate is valid. (Hidayah, vol. iv, 537).
Narrated Abu Burda:
.... 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 Muisa. 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 Muisa 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.'" (Sahih Bukhari 9.58, also Sahih Bukhari 9.271)
Ali burnt some people [hypocrites] and this news reached Ibn 'Abbas, who said, "Had I been in his place I would not have burnt them, as the Prophet said, 'Don't punish (anybody) with Allah's Punishment.' No doubt, I would have killed them, for the Prophet said, 'If somebody (a Muslim) discards his religion, kill him.' " (Sahih Bukhari 4.260)
This verses, however, do not apply to the Muslim. A Muslim is not allowed to revert.
[Jesus said:] "Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. (Matthew 10:32)
"When the desertion of the Hypocrites at Uhud nearly caused a diasaster to the Muslim cause, there was great feeling among the Muslims of Medina against them. One party wanted to put them to the sword; another to leave them alone. The actual policy pursued avoided both extremes, and was determined by these verses. It was clear that they were a danger to the Muslim community if they were admitted into its counsels, and in any case they were a source of demoralisation. But while every caution was used, no extreme measures were taken against them. On the contrary, they were given a chance of making good. If they made sacrifice for the cause ("flee from what is forbidden"), their conduct purged their previous cowardice, and their sincerity entitled them to be taken back. But if they deserted the Muslim community again, they were treated as enemies, with the additional penalty of desertion which is enforced by all nations actually at war." (Yusuf Ali's commentary on an-Nisa' 4:89)
"Whoever turns back from his belief (irtada), openly or secretly, take him and kill him wheresoever ye find them, like any other infidel. Separate yourself from him altogether. Do not accept intercession in his regard." (Al-Baidhawi, commentary on an-Nisa' 4:89, quoted by Samuel Zwemer, The Law of Apostasy in Islam, p.33f)
"The persons spoken of in this passage are the apostates, or those who 'turn from their religion'. A wrong impression exists among non-Muslims, and among some Muslims as well, that the Holy Qur'an requires those who apostatize from Islam to be put to death, but this is not true....As the plain words of the Qur'an show, what is stated here is that the opponents of Islam exerted themselves to their utmost to turn back the Muslims from their faith by cruel persecutions, and therefore if a Muslim actually went back to unbelief he would be a loser in this life as well as in the next, because the desertion of Islam would not only deprive him of the spiritual disadvantages which he could obtain by remaining a Muslim, but also of the physical advantages which must accrue to the Muslims through the triumph of Islam. And neither here not anywhere else in the Holy Qur'an is there even a hint at the infliction of capital or any other punishment on the apostate." (Maulvi Muhammad Ali, The Holy Qur'an, Arabic text with English translation and Commentary, Ahmadiyya Anjuman-i-Ishaat-i-Islam, Lahore 1920, pp.98-99. Ahmadiyya is declared a non-Muslim community by the government of Pakistan)* Many Muslims believe that the Qur'an does not prescribe the death penalty for apostasy, except when they fight against the believers (an-Nisa' 4:90). Any former Muslim who engages in proselytizing to Muslims will be considered to be fighting against believers. Others believe that the penalty is that the apostate is no under Muslim protection or obligated to avenge his death. The hadiths of Bukhari and Muslim, however, states that "if they change religion (islam), kill them."
"Forbidden is the blood of a Muslim person except under one of three (conditions) - a married person who commits adultery, a person in return for another, and one who has left his religion, separating from the community" (Bukhari and Muslim) (this is one of the forty chosen by al-Nawawi in his well-known collection. In Muslim it is "one who has left Islam")
"Forbidden is the blood of a Muslim person except under one of three - a man who has rejected belief after accepting islam, or commits fornication after marriage (lit. after chastity or fortified protection), or kills someone without (just basis due to) another." (Al-Tirmidhi, Al-Nissa'i, ibn Majah reporting from Uthman. Others include ibn Abbas and abu Huraira and Anas ibn Malik).* Some scholars have stipulated that the mere abandoning of the 5 prayers is enough to constitute abandoning Islam. (The Hadiths above from A Collection of Knowledge and Wisdoms in Explanation of 60 Hadith of the Collections of the Word, by Zein al-Deen Aby Faraj Abdul-Rahman bin Shihaab ul-Din ibn Ahmad bin Rajab al-Hanbali al-Baghdadi, 795AH)
Recommended further reading:
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