Thursday, October 26, 2006

"What happens to the one who leaves (apostates) Islam?"

ANSWER:

Jazakallah khair and may Allah reward you for your question regarding those who become "murtid" (apostate from Islam):
Your letter has caused me to finally sit down and prepare a complete written response this subject and it gives me the opportunity to also include this reply in our discussion boards on the Internet. I pray for you and ask Allah to reward you every time someone reads this and takes benefit from it, ameen. Please write back and let me know if the following research and presentation is of any benefit for you and for those whom you are sharing about Islam.

You probably are aware I was once a Christian music minister and preacher, coming to Islam while trying to "convert" a Muslim from
Egypt to Christianity.

(full story on our website at: http://islamalways.com/yusuf )

As you must imagine, I had some very serious concerns over this very same question, before accepting to leave Christianity for Islam. After all, I didn't think anyone would kill me for doing so. It was only in the last few years I learned there is killing going on in some countries over the issue of family members and others converting to other religions. Yes! - even in these days!
Egypt has cases of Christians killing someone for going to Islam, as well as the other way around. This is also true, according to the newspapers about someone in Israel going to Islam last year. And there is even a law in Chanai, India forbidden the public declaration of faith for anyone converting to Islam. I know that to be a fact, as I was there at the time of the tsunami and a man from Texas wanted to convert from Christianity to Islam while Dr. Zakir Naik's program was going on (the man's name was David) and the authorities would not allow it in public. They told me that there had been a series of murders as a result of a man converting from Hindu to Islam in the area and they just didn't want any more killings or civil riots. (I think "civil riots" is an oxymoron?)

I had discussed this issue of apostasy in great depth many times, even before making up my mind to leave almost 50 years of Christianity to become a Muslim. After all I thought, what if I would like to change my mind and go back to being a Christian or make some other choice along the way; what would the Muslims do to me then? So you are most correct to ask this and we will try our best to provide the answer from historical evidences of Islam.

But before we begin, I would like to observe your particular question because it is not a general question. It deals with a specific occurrence in a particular place in certain circumstances, which I would like to come back to in a brief moment.

Also there is something not correct in the question. The man did not recently convert. He was already a Christian even before the Taliban. I do not know all of the circumstances, but I have been informed by some of the actual people from Afghanistan the man in question (I think his name is Abdur Rahman or something similar) had been Christian for a long number of years and this incident was really based on something else, but what, I don't know.

The story presented in the news media these days is one of about an Afghani man who has been a Christian for over 16 years. This means he was a Christian throughout the entire time the Taliban were running the country there and obviously no one did anything to him throughout this time. Only now, with the western backed regime in place, are we hearing about this "problem." It does make a person wonder what is really going on there.

Nevertheless, we will discuss the subject of how Islam views the one who leaves Islam, if God Wills (inshallah).
To begin, there is not a hard and fast rule concerning this subject because there are perhaps as many reasons why people do what they do as there are people in the world. The answer must be based on each individual situation, as it depends largely on the person, his or her knowledge, intention and understanding as well as the conditions surrounding the circumstances.

Before we can begin, to be fair to those not familiar with Islamic terms and words, we must start by explaining to both Muslims and the non-Muslims alike, who might be wondering about the answer to such a question, what Islam is really all about and set the stage for them to better understand the actual ramifications of entering and/or leaving Islam.

First, they have to understand what all of the relevant Arabic words and terms actually mean. You should explain exactly what "ISLAM" means and what is: Tawhid (monotheism); Ibadah (worship); Shar'iah (God's Commandments in Islamic Law); Fatwah (Islamic Judge's findings in Law and their subsequent rulings); Hudud (punishment); Murtid (apostasy). It is important for anyone desiring to understand Islam's position on any subject, especially in such matters as this, to gain a firm grip on the importance of words being used and their meanings regarding the issues at hand.

Hudud (punishment) The punishments to be initiated by those in authority according to Shar'iah as ordered according to appropriate fatawah (plural of fatwah).

Murtid (apostasy) a Muslim who makes the choice to leave Islam (submission to God's Will).
Next let them know, no one is ever forced or coerced into accepting Islam. This always was and always will be a matter of choice left up to the individual. Muslims are not ordered to "convert" people to Islam. Rather, they are ordered to deliver the message of Islam to others through their own righteous living as an example and in respectful "reminding" as taught in the Quran.

Islam (willful submission) to Allah's Shar'iah (God's Commandments in Islamic Law) and is the very balance needed for all humans for all times and in all places (according the teachings of Islam). The
Paradise is reserved for only those who submit themeselves to the Commandments and Judgments of Almighty Allah.

There is never to be forced conversion to Islam (if it were forced, then the word "Islam" would not really apply anyway), and it is forbidden according to the Quran, in the second chapter, verse 256: "Let there be no complusion in the religion ("deen": actually means way of life as opposed to "religion"). From this we understand no one can be made to believe anything by force. Rather, it must be by their own decision.

Now be sure they understand the difference between "Islam" and "Muslims", meaning: "Islam" is perfect, but we as humans (Muslims) are not. Therefore, we can and do make mistakes. This lets us know immediately if anyone is calling for something in the name of "Islam" or the "Shar'iah", this should be viewed in the evidence of the Shar'iah itself and not just what some jurist or scholar may conclude.

Finally, judges and scholars over the centuries have held different opinions and given various rulings based on all of the above. No one can make a blanket statement and say the same rule applies to all people in all situations.
Let us review some of the evidences starting at the time of our prophet, peace be upon him.

Even during the time of our prophet, peace be upon him, there were some who "left Islam" and then they were allowed to come back if they wanted to or stay away if they so desired. One example is from the Muslims who migrated in the first migration to Ethiopia and one of them left Islam, became a Christian (the people of Abyssinia were Christians at that time) and then even told people there he was an "author" of the Quran. Of course such actions are most despicable and worthy of some kind of reprimand, especially considering the extent of the lies against the Quran and the prophet, peace be upon him. Yet, nothing was done to this man by the Muslims. His wife, Zainab, could not tolerate his lies and his turning his back against the truth of Islam and she returned back to the Muslims in
Arabia. After the man died the Christians attempted to bury him, but the next day they found his body out of the grave and laying on the ground. Considering the Muslims must have done this act, they moved him to another area and buried him there. Again, the next day they found his body out of the grave and on top of the ground. So, they took him far from there and made another grave and buried him in it. But again, the next day his body was out of the grave and laying on the ground. At this point they decided the ground would not accept his body and they left it for the wild animals. We learn from this example Allah will be the One to finally deal with these people and He may even do so in this world as well as on the Day of Judgment.

Other examples include those who entered Islam in the presence of our beloved prophet, peace be upon him, yet when they were returned back to their people (during an agreement between the pagans and Muhammad, peace be upon him) some of them reverted back to their old pagan religion. Some of them did come back to Islam again later on after Islam came to be the governing state. In this case we observe what can happen in the case of the one who is in Islam and then for whatever reason decides not to stay.

Yet another example that occurred at the time of our blessed prophet, peace be upon him, was that of some who pretended they wanted to be Muslims only to take advantage of the believers, gain some worldly benefits and then abused and slaughtered an entire group of shepherds that memorized the entire Quran, who were caring for them. They killed them in cold blood and took everything for themselves. The prophet, peace be upon him, was very disturbed over this and ordered them to be severely punished and left to die without any food or water. From this example we learn how to deal with traitors and terrorists who have no intention of doing anything except evil and spreading fitnah (evil and terror) throughout the land.
Over the centuries since the inception of Islam, we can find cases of people leaving Islam and what was their example and what the pervailing jurists decided in their particular situation. Most all of these were not punished except in the cases of treason, other acts of viloence or for propagating corruption, dissention and promoting evil along with their apostasy. Those who were found to be causing sedition or of being enemy spies during times of war or advocating the overthrow of Islamic government could understandably be courtmartialed and executed.

Now let us breifly compare the treatment of conversion and apostasy with other civilizations and societies over the centuries.
The Roman civilization would not tolerate someone who accepted the benefits of citizenship and the turned against the government. These people were made short work of as entertainment for the people, while gladiators tortured and killed them for public sport. (see: Encyclopedia Britanitca;
Rome).

It may benefit us to take into consideration Judaism and Christianity to better understand the difference between what is being taught as the religion and what some people do. The Book of Genesis in the Torah (Old Testament) tells of an incident referred to by Scholars such as Rabbi Allison Bergman Vann, as the "Rape of Dinah." (note#3 & #4 below)
It is easy to conclude the offer of circumcizing and coming to their religion was only a trick to defeat the men while they were in such pain and suffering (keep in mind, in those days there were no clinics or even sterile conditions for such operations).
Another reference to "conversion and apostasy" regarding Jews during the years after Jesus, peace be upon him, occurred in the south of
Arabia in Yemen. Yusuf Dhu Nawas, a Jewish leader in Yemen, attacked the Christians of Najran ordering them to embrace Judaism or be burned in a pit of fire. Estimates put the number of those killed between 20,000 and 40,000.

(note #5 below)
The Catholic Church at one time forced people to enter into their religion at the point of the sword and with torture chambers (see: Crusades, 1095 to 1200 A.D.; and Inquisition, 1492 to 1520 A.D.) Those who wished to remain or change to Islam or Judaism or even another form of Christianity were put to the most vile of tortures and even executed. However, this cannot be said to in any way, represent the teachings of Jesus or the New Testament.
Now let us consider the realities of balance in Islam in light of today's world:
There is no existing Islamic state with a khilafah. This means the hudud (punishment according to Islam) of the Shar'iah (Islamic Law) cannot be appropritely applied. Additionally, anyone not being a citizen living in an Islamic state could hardly be tried and convicted by the state in a proper manner.

(note #6 below)
Some would claim the Protestants are not the same as the Catholics. Read what the first real "protestant," Martin Lurther, had to say about this (taken from Jamal Udeen Zaraboza's article).

Let us consider the follow example for comparison:
There is a person living in Russia decides he wants to become a citizen of the United States and goes to the United States Embassy and begins the procedure of immagration and naturalization. Later on he changes his mind, doesn't like things the
US is doing and decides to give it up.

Now he cancels his immagration process. This would could lessen his chances of getting citizenship in the future but would not bring about retaliation against him from the US.

Then, if he begins to publicly speak out against the US policy and puts up websites, sends out emails makes speeches calling for acts of violence against America, he definitely is going to have a problem ever getting a chance a citizenship later if he should change his mind and like to become an American.

Next, he goes so far as to actually recruit people and train them at some paintball place while telling them they are preparing to attack America.

Question: Is he going to be listed as a terrorist and enemy to America?
What about those who joined him for paintball practice and listened to his talks? Would they be listed along with him, as terrorists?

Would they be tortured (in some other country) and then spend the rest of their lives in prison?

! After all, they are enemies to the state and should be treated as such. Right?

To conclude, Islam comes from Allah, the actual Creator and Sustainer of the universe. Islam provides for all situations and dictates what are the rights and limitations. This all seeks to provide a safe enviornment for all people to learn the correct message of Almighty Allah and how to live as upright citizens in a place of pleace and mutual cooperation for all humans, regardless of their beliefs.

If a person wants to accept this belief and way of life, then they should be free to do so. If another person would reject this even though the evidence is clearly in favor of Islam, they are free to make this choice but would live in the society still receiving the benefits and services available, such as food, shelter, clothing, protection and charity. However, they would pay a larger tax on their wealth due to their not being conscripted to serve in the military and so on.

Conditions are really what bring about the different rulings on dealing with those who enter Islam and then leave it, with the clear intention of bringing about descention and unrest amongst the people. Also, those who seek to convert people away from Islam into other faiths or to destroy the Islamic government would naturally be considered as traitors and then dealt with as such.

All knowledge is with Allah and for any mistakes I seek Allah's forgiveness and beg the pardon of anyone whom I may have offended in this writing.

Again, may Allah reward you for your effort and accept from you and all of us, ameen.
Salam alaykum,
Yusuf Estes
PS - Please include this link in the bottom of all your emails (and include this request for others to do the same, inshallah) - http://islamalways.com/muhammad

Note #1:
Regarding the "Oneness" (monotheism) of God in the Bible (even today's English translations):
There are so many Biblical passages teaching God is only One and without any partners. This is a basic premise throughout the entire teaching of the Bible. The many explicit passages clearly declare this as a cardinal truth.
Each of the following 27 passages explicitly teach that there is one — and only one — true and living God.
Please note that the King James Version (used here) designates the Hebrew name Jehovah (or Yahweh) with "LORD" spelled with all letters capitalized; Adonai, meaning "Lord" or "Master," is designated by "Lord;" and "Elohim," is translated as "God." Thus, in Duet.
4:35, for example, the phrase "the LORD he is God," would be literally translated, "Jehovah, he is Elohim." (In those instances were Adonai is used as a compound with Jehovah, the latter term is spelled GOD, so that the compound name "Lord GOD" designates the Hebrew, "Adonai Jehovah").
1. DEUTERONOMY 4:35,39 — Unto thee it was shown, that thou mightiest know that the LORD he is God; there is none else beside him. (39) Know therefore this day, and consider it in thine heart, that the LORD he is God in heaven above, and upon the earth beneath: there is none else.
2. DEUTERONOMY 6:4 — Hear, O
Israel: The LORD thy God is one LORD. [Note in Mark 12:28-34 how Jesus and a Jewish scribe he encountered understood this text.]
3. DEUTERONOMY 32:39 — See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god with me: I kill, and I make alive; I wound, and I heal: neither is there any that can deliver out of my hand.
4. 2 SAMUEL 7:22 — Wherefore thou art great, O LORD God; for there is none like thee, neither is there any God beside thee, according to all that we have heard with our ears.
5. 1 KINGS 8:60 — That all the people of the earth may know that the LORD is God, and that there is none else.
6. 2 KINGS 5:15 — And he returned to the man of God, he and all his company, and came, and stood before him: and he said, Behold, now I know that there is no God in all the earth, but in Israel; now therefore, I pray thee, take a blessing of thy servant.
7. 2 KINGS 19:15 — And Hezekiah prayed before the LORD, and said, O LORD God of Israel, which dwells between the cherubims, thou art the God, even thou alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth; thou hast made heaven and earth.
8. NEHEMIAH 9:6 — Thou, even thou, art LORD alone; thou has made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth, and all things that are therein, the seas, and all that is therein, and thou preserves them all; and the host of heaven worship thee.
9. PSALM
18:31 — For who is God save the LORD? or who is a rock save our God?
10. PSALM 86:10 — For thou art great, and doest wondrous things: thou art God alone.
11. ISAIAH 37:16,20 — O LORD of hosts, God of
Israel, that dwells between the cherubims, thou art the God, even thou alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth: thou has made heaven and earth. (20) Now therefore, O LORD our God, save us from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that thou art the LORD, even thou only.
12. ISAIAH 43:10,11 — Ye are my witnesses, saith the LORD, and my servant whom I have chosen: that ye may know and believe me, and understand that I am he: before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me. I, even I, am the LORD; and beside me there is no savior.
13. ISAIAH 44:6,8 — Thus saith the LORD the King of
Israel, and his redeemer the LORD of hosts; I am the first, and I am the last; and beside me there is no God. Fear ye not, neither be afraid; have not I told thee from that time, and have declared it? ye are even my witnesses. Is there a God beside me? yea, there is no God; I know not any.
14. ISAIAH 45:21 — Tell ye, and bring them near; yea, let them take counsel together: who hath declared this from ancient time: who hath told it from that time? have not I the LORD? and there is no God else beside me; a just God and a Savior; there is none beside me.
15. ISAIAH 46:9 — For I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me.
16. HOSEA 13:4 — Yet I am the LORD thy God from the land of Egypt, and thou shalt know no god but me; for there is no savior beside me.
17. JOEL 2:27 — And ye shall know that I am in the midst of Israel, and that I am the LORD your God, and none else: and my people shall never be ashamed.
18. ZECHARIAH 14:9 — And the LORD shall be king over all the earth: in that day shall there be one Lord, and his name one.
19. MARK 12:29-34 —And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these. And the scribe said unto him, Well, Master, thou hast said the truth: for there is one God; and there is none other but he: And to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love his neighbor as himself, is more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices. And when Jesus saw that he answered discreetly, he said unto him, Thou art not far from the
kingdom of God. And no man after that durst ask him any question.
20. JOHN 17:3 — And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.
21. ROMANS 3:30 — Seeing it is one God, which shall justify the circumcision by faith, and uncircumcised through faith.
22. 1 CORINTHIANS 8:4-6 — As concerning therefore the eating of those things that are offered in sacrifice unto idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is none other God but one. For though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth, (as there be gods many, and lords many,) But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him.
23. GALATIANS 3:20 — Now a mediator is not a mediator of one, but God is one.
24. EPHESIANS 4:6 — One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.
25. 1 TIMOTHY 1:17 — Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be Honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.
26. 1 TIMOTHY 2:5 — For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.
27. JAMES 2:19 — Thou believes that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.
Note# 2. Dawah (inviting or calling to Islam) is prescribed in Quran as a duty to Muslims. It implies living an exemplary life and sharing the message of monotheism and obedience to Allah's Shar'ah with others. Muslims are ordered not to dispute with others about the matters, only to conduct dialogs in a way that is better.
http://islamtomorrow.com/dawah

Note# 3. Vann says in a speech to his congregation on
December 12, 2003:
The story, known commonly of the rape of Dinah, is shocking. A few minutes ago, I read from the introduction of the story. Let me summarize the entire drama:

Dinah goes out to visit her sisters in the land. Along the way, she encounters Shechem, who has intercourse with her. He then speaks tenderly to her, and falls in love with her. Shechem asks his father Hamor to get Dinah for him as a wife. Meanwhile, Jacob had heard that Shechem had defiled his daughter and was distressed, but as his sons were in the field, he decided to wait for them to come home before taking action.
Hamor comes to speak with Jacob to ask for Dinah's bride price. At this time, Dinah's brothers return home from the field. They were angry and distressed, for Shechem had committed an outrage in
Israel by lying with Dinah. Jacob's sons refused to give Dinah to Shehem, because they were not circumcised. On the condition that all of Hamor's men become circumcised, could Dinah become Shechem's wife. Shechem immediately became circumcised, and shortly after that, all the men in the town also did the deed.

On the third day after their circumcision, when they were in the most pain, Simeon and Levi took their swords and went to the town. They killed all the men while they were unable to defend themselves. They seized the women, children and the property of Hamor and his men, and also took Dinah from Shechem's home. When Jacob heard what they had done, he said, “ You have brought trouble upon me, making me odious among the inhabitants of the land”.
Simeon and Levi responded: “Should ours sister be treated like a whore?”
href="http://www.beth-elsa.org/abv121203.htm">http://www.beth-elsa.org/abv121203.htm

Isaac Sachs brings it even closer to home, in this explanation appropriately entitled, "The Rape of Dinah: Genesis 34"
In the story, Shechem, the son of a local king falls in love with Dinah, daughter of Jacob, sleeps with her and asks his father to request her hand for him. His father, King Hamor, paid a ceremonial visit to Jacob’s house, where he offered peaceful coexistent with the new immigrants,

“Please let my son marry your daughter, and let us marry each other; give us from your daughters and take from ours. And the land shall for you to settle, to trade and to posses.”
(Genesis 34:8)
Shechem also made the customary and lawful offer: “Please let me pay the required Mohar (dowry) and marry your daughter”.
(Genesis 34:12)

Indeed, the only other mention of Mohar (Mahr in Arabic) in the whole Bible is in the story of Shechem and Dinah! It is as if the story was made to illustrate the concept of peaceful resolution to pre-marital sex.
But before Jacob could accept or reject the Mohar, his sons jumped in, saying “we would like to take-up your offer, but you see, we have this custom called circumcision, and we could not possibly intermarry with people who are not circumcised. Now, if you and your entire male population were to circumcise, we would be glad to grant your wish”.
Incredibly, Shechem promptly takes the request to his people and convinces them to circumcise. On the third day, as the newly circumcised people of Shechem are hurting, two of Dinah’s brothers, Simeon and Levy (yes, the archetype of organized-professional priesthood), swords in hands, massacred every male in the city of
Shechem.

Note: #4
Although the word rape is never actually, mentioned in the story, it becomes the basis for the recounting of the story in Sunday schools culture. To make things worst, the girl’s words or thoughts are not reported in the story, testifying to the low level of relevance biblical- era Middle Eastern (and today’s Islamic) societies accord to their women.
In the story, Shechem, the son of a local king falls in love with Dinah, daughter of Jacob, sleeps with her and asks his father to request her hand for him. His father, King Hamor, paid a ceremonial visit to Jacob’s house, where he offered peaceful coexistent with the new immigrants: “Please let my son marry your daughter, and let us marry each other; give us from your daughters and take from ours. And the land shall for you to settle, to trade and to posses.” (Genesis 34:8). Shechem also made the customary and lawful offer: “Please let me pay the required Mohar (dowry) and marry your daughter” (Genesis 34:12). Whether the Law of Moses is divine or just a codification of local customs, it specifies that one must offer a Mohar after sleeping with an available woman, and then he must marry her. This is all described in Exodus
22:15, and is subject to acceptance by her father. (If he refuses, he will just take the money). Indeed, the only other mention of Mohar in the whole Bible is in the story of Shechem and Dinah! It is as if the story was made to illustrate the concept of peaceful resolution to pre-marital sex. But before Jacob could accept or reject the Mohar, his sons jumped in, saying “we would like to take-up your offer, but you see, we have this custom called circumcision, and we could not possibly intermarry with people who are not circumcised. Now, if you and your entire male population were to circumcise, we would be glad to grant your wish”. Incredibly, Shechem promptly takes the request to his people and convinces them to circumcise. On the third day, as the newly circumcised people of Shechem are hurting, two of Dinah’s brothers, Simeon and Levy (yes, the archetype of organized-professional priesthood), swords in hands, massacred every male in the city of Shechem. Not only do they reduce the circumcision ritual to an act of macho-challenge, but they also call attention to the fact that the case of rape is really a case of prohibited seduction between two lovers who dare cross imaginary boundaries set by narrow-minded self-appointed spiritual leaders. To the chagrin of later date clergy, the Bible goes out of its way to tell us that Jacob’s son put forth the circumcision challenge with deception in mind! (Genesis 34:13) And the fact that they threatened to have Dinah removed from Shechem’s house during the negotiations (Genesis 34:17), implies that she was there as guest, not as a hostage! Jacob, who saw through the brother’s pretentious performance as defenders of the family honor, reproached his two sons: “you made me look ugly in front of the inhabitants. They are many and they could retaliate and finish me off!” (Genesis 34:30) Not one word about moral issues!

And what is God’s position? Having nothing to do with moral behavior, He is smart enough to stay out of the story altogether.

The impartiality of the storyteller proves once again that the integrity of the Bible is far greater than that of its characters, even if they are claimed to be our ancestors.

Note: #5 According to Raheeq Al-Makhtum (THE SEALED NECTAR) Author: Saifur Rahman al-Mubarakpuri, Jamia Salafia -
India, translated by : Issam Diab:
Judaism was introduced into
Yemen by someone called As‘ad Abi Karb. He had gone to fight in Yathrib and there he embraced Judaism and then went back taking with him two rabbis from Bani Quraizah to instruct the people of Yemen in this new religion. Judaism found a fertile soil there to propagate and gain adherents. After his death, his son Yusuf Dhu Nawas rose to power, attacked the Christian community in Najran and ordered them to embrace Judaism. When they refused, he ordered that a pit of fire be dug and all the Christians indiscriminately be dropped to burn therein. Estimates say that between 20-40 thousand Christians were killed in that human massacre.
http://www.al-sunnah.com/nektar
Note: #6: From Jamal Udeen Zarabozo's Article
Could God Legislate Death for Apostasy?
Many Christians, in particular, seem abhorred by the fact that Muslims could believe that God has legislated death for apostasy. This author has personally heard Christians claim, once again, that Islam must be some barbaric religion to believe in such a penalty. This attitude is very perplexing to this author. It is one thing to say, “We no longer believe in such a law” and quite another to say, “We do not believe in a God that would legislate such a penalty.” In the former case, the individual is simply turning his back on what may have been part of his religion. Such an approach is common for modernist Jews, Christians and Muslims. However, the latter approach clearly denies what is stated in their holy books. (Unfortunately, this is also not uncommon for modernists. However, many less-extreme Jews, Christians and Muslims do not allow themselves to go that far.)
An in-depth study of all of the relevant Biblical texts is well beyond what is needed here. Hence, only one or two verses shall be commented upon.[1]
Exodus 22:20 reads:
“He that sacrificeth unto any god, save unto the LORD only, he shall be utterly destroyed.” Famed and widely respected Biblical commentator Matthew Henry had the following to say about this verse:
IV. Idolatry is also made capital, v. 20. God having declared himself jealous in this matter, the civil powers must be jealous in it too, and utterly destroy those persons, families, and places of Israel, that worshipped any god, save the Lord: this law might have prevented the woeful apostasies of the Jewish nation in after times, if those that should have executed it had not been ringleaders in the breach of it.[2]
Numbers 25:1-5 reads:
1 And Israel abode in Shittim, and the people began to commit whoredom with the daughters of Moab. 2 And they called the people unto the sacrifices of their gods: and the people did eat, and bowed down to their gods. 3 And Israel joined himself unto Baal-peor: and the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel. 4 And the LORD said unto Moses, Take all the heads of the people, and hang them up before the LORD against the sun, that the fierce anger of the LORD may be turned away from Israel. 5 And Moses said unto the judges of Israel, Slay ye every one his men that were joined unto Baal-peor.
Another passage, Deuteronomy 13:6-11 is also quite telling:
6 If thy brother, the son of thy mother, or thy son, or thy daughter, or the wife of thy bosom, or thy friend, which is as thine own soul, entice thee secretly, saying, Let us go and serve other gods, which thou hast not known, thou, nor thy fathers; 7 Namely, of the gods of the people which are round about you, nigh unto thee, or far off from thee, from the one end of the earth even unto the other end of the earth; 8 Thou shalt not consent unto him, nor hearken unto him; neither shall thine eye pity him, neither shalt thou spare, neither shalt thou conceal him: 9 But thou shalt surely kill him; thine hand shall be first upon him to put him to death, and afterwards the hand of all the people. 10 And thou shalt stone him with stones, that he die; because he hath sought to thrust thee away from the LORD thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage. 11 And all Israel shall hear, and fear, and shall do no more any such wickedness as this is among you.
2 Chronicles 15:8-19 has the law being applied even to the young among the apostates. The relevant verses in that passage are verses 12-13 which read,
12 And they entered into a covenant to seek the LORD God of their fathers with all their heart and with all their soul; 13 That whosoever would not seek the LORD God of Israel should be put to death, whether small or great, whether man or woman.
From the New Testament, one finds in Romans 1:20-32 that Paul approves of the death of idolaters, homosexuals and other sinners. This passage reads,
19 Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath showed it unto them. 20 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: 21 Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22 Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, 23 And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and four footed beasts, and creeping things. 24 Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: 25 Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen. 26 For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: 27 And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet. 28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; 29 Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, 30 Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, 31 Without understanding, covenant-breakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: 32 Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.
The above examples should be sufficient. The interested reader may further consult Deuteronomy 13:12-18 and Deuteronomy 17: 1-7.
Actually, as is well-known, the history of the official Christian church and many of its leaders on issues of this nature is very dark indeed. One did not need to be an apostate to be killed in the history of Christianity. Apostasy is to be distinguished from heresy, as is clear in the following passage from the Encyclopedia Britannica,
[Apostasy is] the total rejection of Christianity by a baptized person who, having at one time professed the faith, publicly rejects it. It is distinguished from heresy, which is limited to the rejection of one or more Christian doctrines by one who maintains an overall adherence to Jesus Christ.
Two examples from the history of Christianity dealing simply with heretics—not apostates—should suffice here. The Cathars, a pacifist heretical group of southern France, were crushed. Pope Innocent III declared a crusade against them. Here is how two Christian authors described part of that crusade:
In 1209, Arnold Amaury, abbot of Citeaux, called for the collective slaughter of all Cathars in the town of Beziers. His motto, which has carried forth into modern expression, stated, "Kill them all, the Lord knows those who are his." Only a small minority of the town, perhaps five hundred, was made up of Cathars, but all the city paid the price for guilt by association. Twenty thousand were killed. Thus began the wholesale slaughter of thousands of Cathars in the thirteenth century.[3]
Non-Catholics, of course, may respond to the above by putting the blood of those deeds on the hands of the evil Catholics. However, one should not forget Martin Luther’s ruling concerning the Anabaptists, another pacifist heretical group who had the audacity to have themselves re-baptized when adults.[4] Martin Luther stated that such heretics are not to be tolerated and the only fitting punishment for them was hanging.[5]
This approach is in compelling contrast to the legacy of Islam. Not long after the death of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), the caliph Ali had to face the crisis of the heretical group known as the Khawarij. Although he sent people to preach to them to correct their misunderstandings, his approach was that they were not to be physically attacked by the state as long as they did not commit any acts of violence against the Muslims. The Khawarij did become violent, and it became necessary for Ali to fight and defeat them. Afterwards, he was asked about them. He was asked if they were polytheists, and Ali replied that they, by holding the beliefs they held, were attempting to flee from falling into polytheism. When he was asked if they were hypocrites, he replied that hypocrites rarely remember and mention Allah. Finally, they asked him, “What are they?” He replied, “They are our brethren who revolted against us and we fought them only due to their revolting against us.”[6]

[1]
The author would like to thank Br. Hadi Hashmi for his research paper, “Verses dealing with the Death Penalty for the Apostate.”
[2]
Taken from The Bible Suite Collection (ValuSoft, 2006).
[3]
Ergun Mehmet Caner and Emir Fethi Caner, Christian Jihad (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 2004), p. 183.
[4]
One can only wonder what Martin Luther would have to say about today’s “born again” Christians.
[5]
See Caner and Caner, p. 162.
[6]
Abu al-Fidaa Ismaaeel ibn Katheer, Al-Bidaayah wa al-Nihaayah (Beirut: Maktabah al-Maarif, n.d.), vol. 7, p. 290.

1 comment:

R2K said...

: )