A Rant About Apostasy in Islam

I have to admit that I really hesitated before writing this post but I felt like venting or ranting about this topic and I guess I’ll take my chances with what comments may follow. Keep in mind that I am not a scholar but you don’t need a certificate to learn and educate yourself in your own religion. If you are thinking of replying or commenting I implore you to abide by the commenting policy on this blog and discuss this issue with an open mind and open heart rather than with sinister intent. The latter brings about nothing good. At the end of the day this is more or less a rant.

In truth, I was really disgusted by the reactions over this apparent crisis of an Afghan man who converted to Christianity. Suddenly Non-Muslims were coming out of the woodworks quoting random texts about some apostasy law in Islam that I personally was not fully aware of. Some Muslims were doing the same thing as well. So I figured for a moment that hey, maybe these people know more about Islam than I do. So I searched through the Quran one more time just to be sure. Thankfully my faith was restored in the fact that no such law actually exists in the Quran.

Interpretations of Islam have always varied from the liberal to the moderate to the extreme; I would like to take the intellectual, rational and logical approach here.

There is no law in the Quran which states apostates must be killed, and even the extremists do not derive their interpretations from the divine texts. In other words God never says in the Quran that apostates must be killed, instead He promotes freedom of religion, no compulsion in religion, and as for apostates, it cannot be more clear that their punishment is up to Him and will dealt out in the hereafter. Not by man.

So everyone relies on the secondary source, the hadith of the Prophet (pbuh). The problem here is that like the Quran the hadith often address specific situations and events which happened to the Prophet Pbuh and how he dealt with them. Apostasy then was very much different from apostasy now. For example the Prophet (pbuh) did order the death punishment after polytheists who were enemies of Muslims began to convert to Islam and then apostate for the sake of causing confusion amongst Muslims; psychological warfare. Though in several instances there were people who left Islam and lived down the street from the Prophet (pbuh) but were untouched and the Prophet advised everyone to leave them alone. The key here is that the death punishment wasn’t because they left the religion; it was mixed or tied in with something else. High treason, murder, warfare, etc. The punishment for these crimes is a totally different matter but at the time it did often come hand in hand with apostasy. Leaving Islam and therefore the Muslims to go join the enemy army that is bent on killing Muslims is different from converting to Christianity and living peacefully amongst Muslims.

A verse from An-Nisaa’ describes this perfectly:

{Thus, if they let you be, and do not make war on you, and offer you peace, God does not allow you to harm them.} (An-Nisaa’ 4:90)

Even the Prophet (pbuh) could not order the death of any apostate simply because they left Islam and converted to another religion. And God says so in Al-Imran:

{And if they surrender themselves unto Him (i.e. God), they are on the right path; but if they turn away â?? behold, thy duty (O Muhammad,) is no more than to deliver the message: for God sees all that is in [the hearts of] His creatures.} (Aal `Imran 3:20)

The judgment was left up to God because obviously only He can know what is truly in the hearts of people and what their intentions are. There were even times when the Prophet (pbuh) accepted people into Islam even though they were hypocrites from the start and converted only for some personal gain. Hence the Prophet (pbuh) did not go around home to home looking for apostates and staging public executions.

Let us skip ahead to modern times. The problem with today is that many people don’t bother taking the time to actually finding out what the religion says about certain things and instead base their conclusions on judging the actions of Muslims. You can actually do the same with every religion today but Islam gets its share of the pie simply because it has become a center stage act post 9/11 and is probably the most misunderstood religion; or possibly the religion people least want to understand.

If this Afghan man had left Islam and committed treason it would be a different story, but to even consider death as a punishment after having converted for 16 years and living peacefully is just utterly absurd.

In part society is largely to blame. In many Islamic societies there is little formal or flexible education when it comes to religion. It is put into their mindset that death is the automatic punishment for an apostate when this is a far cry from the truth. Death is not part of the Hudud punishment i.e. crimes in Islam whose punishments are mandatory. This mindset is usually influenced by members of society who further this false belief. Ironically many of these people, like Non-Muslims, never take the time to learn about it on their own. Forget about the media, it is always looking for what is sensational. No member of the media is going to bother actually researching this information they’d rather say the words “A convert to Christianity who is facing an Islamic death sentence”.

Extremists and Muslim bashers are often in agreement with each other, they quote the same texts, in the same out-of-context way, in the same apathetic-to-history manner. So they do find common ground in the hate.

Though Islam is about the middle ground. Granted things can be interpreted in many ways, but so can the Mona Lisa and so can every single thing for that matter. Between the black and the white there is always the truth and it’s often as simple as that.


{Let there be no compulsion in Religion: truth stands out clear from error: whoever rejects evil and believes in Allah (one God) has grasped the most trustworthy hand hold that never breaks. And Allah hears, and knows all things.} (Qur’an, Al-Baqarah 2:256)

70 thoughts on “A Rant About Apostasy in Islam

  1. Yeah, from what I understand there is nothing in th Qu’ran advocating killing apostates. I think from what I’ve read, those who get this idea are getting it from the Hadiths. I’m no expert so I don’t know the authenticity and context of those Hadiths. From what I understand, though, most schools of Islamic thought do prescribe the death penalty for apostates.

    Many Muslim countries do punish apostates either officially under the law or semi-officially, by arresting converts using laws against defaming or insulting Islam. Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Iran and Afghanistan I believe all have the death penalty on the books. Though it is apparently rarely enforced. I believe Pakistan does also. A man in Jordan had is marriage annulled and his right to work taken away in court because he converted. Converts face informal pressure from authorities in countries like Egypt if they attempt to convert. A man in Egypt is currently being held on some sort of charge of ‘insulting Islam’ because he converted.

    What I find most disturbing about this case in Afghanistan is that it isn’t just courts and prosecutors and religious clerics that want to see this man dead, it is also the overwhelming majority of the Afghan people. Call it a misinterpretation of religion or tribalism, either way it is pretty sad.

  2. “From what I understand, though, most schools of Islamic thought do prescribe the death penalty for apostates”

    Not really no. Clerics of those schools of thought maybe but it is nevertheless not a huddud law by any interpretation otherwise it would be written in the Quran. What is sad is that some country have it set in stone.

    As for these countries none of them by any stretch of the imagination can be considered actual Islamic states when it comes to implementing the correct sharia in the intended framework. It should also be noted there is a vast difference between insulting Islam and actual apostating. The case of the man in Jordan, yes marriages do get annulled for reasons being that it’s not as simple as changing religion or changing beliefs: this also involves the religion of underage children, inheritance laws, marriage laws, and etc etc. But I’ve never heard of the right to work being taken away, that doesn’t sound correct.

    Converts do face harassment in many of these countries but it’s a two way street, converting to and from Islam. This has nothing to do with what Islam preaches as I’ve stated in my post but more to do with community. Whether you belong to the majority or the minority, societies in our part of the world are very communal and very tight packed. Very different from western nations where everyone leads an indpendent life, free from social constraints.

    As for the Afghan people, I don’t know how you concluded the overwhelming majority, maybe there was a poll that I’m not aware of. But in all possibility yes that is true. Though keep in mind who we are talking about here. People who blindly support the opinion of the majority which is based on the opinion of clerics, often they are poor, uneducated, rural. And in Afghanistan you are talking about a generation of people who were raised under extremism and know nothing else. America can put it’s flag up in that country now but changing mindsets is a different thing and takes time.

  3. “As for these questions none of them by any stretch of the imagination can be considered actual Islamic states”

    OK. That is why I said Muslim states (as in the majority of the population is Muslim) rather than ‘Islamic states’. I understand your view that these states are not implementing Islamic law properly.

    “The case of the man in Jordan, yes marriages do get annulled for reasons being that itâ??s not as simple as changing religion or changing beliefs: this also involves the religion of underage children, inheritance laws, marriage laws, and etc etc. But Iâ??ve never heard of the right to work being taken away, that doesnâ??t sound correct.”

    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20060328/ap_on_re_mi_ea/mideast_religious_freedom_3

    Unfortunately, it does not provide the name of the individual in the story, I doubt there would be many English sources with further information anyhow. Perhaps, you or somebody else in Jordan knows more about this and can fill in any details that might be missing or incorrect.

    “As for the Afghan people, I donâ??t know how you concluded the overwhelming majority, maybe there was a poll that Iâ??m not aware of. But in all possibility yes that is true.”

    I got the idea from media sources including the BBC who report that when talking to Afghanis, practically every one they are talking to favors putting this man to death. Granted, it is an informal way of finding out, but the BBC is hardly a strongly anti-Islamic news source. As you indicated, you yourself likely believe it is true. It sounds reasonable.

    As for your comments about why the Afghan people feel that way, I understand that. I also know that tribalism and the institution of religion are not easily dissociated among the Afghanis. I know that changing opinions there won’t be easy and quick.

    Correction: I mentioned in my earlier post that I thought Pakistan had the death penalty for apostates. Reading further, it is unclear whether this is true or not. Apostasy is a crime in Pakistan and apostates are often murdered in Pakistan by close relatives probably as much for threatening tribal cohesiveness as anything. I don’t know what the official punishment is for apostasy in Pakistan.

  4. Nas,

    Very well said.

    I wish extremists on both sides would take time to ask, communicate, research a situation before condemning it or blindly following the mob doing so. But unfortunately, as you said:

    “Extremists and Muslim bashers are often in agreement with each other”

    Their mere existence depends on one another, so they’ll never want to find a middle ground because without the other side, they wouldn’t have anything to attack, and vice versa.

    But the problem is that the world (media, etc.) pays more attention to extremists than it does to moderate views like yours or mine.

  5. For some weird reason, after i wrote my post, Blogger’s system stopped functioning. but here’s the bottom line of my reply, i really enjoyed your post

    The bottom line is, to all those who call for the death of ‘infidels and apostates’, if you are a religious person, good for you, may you find all the heaven that you want, but do not tell me that you are right and I am wrong, because I dont tell you that I am right and you are wrong, in fact, I really do not care about your beliefs because I am truly happy with my (non) belief. If your religion is true, then your god will judge me for my thoughts, but meanwhile, we are all humans and we are all the same.

    I bet the other abdelrahman thinks the same.

  6. Asalaamualaikum,

    Was also heavily involved in debates around this issue. I posted an article on my blog page in which the article gets to the nitty gritty in Islamic Fiqh regarding apostasy in Islam with proper reference to Quraan and hadith.

    I would have to say though that in the Quraan it is clear “There is no compulsion in religion.” and an execution for defection from Islam is nothing short of narrow-sighted and extreme.

    Wasalaam.

    Muhammad Karim.

  7. Samaritan,

    “OK. That is why I said Muslim states (as in the majority of the population is Muslim) rather than â??Islamic statesâ??. I understand your view that these states are not implementing Islamic law properly.”

    sorry, i meant “countries” not “questions”, but i guess you got that typo. But to be accurate it’s Muslim nations, there’s really no such thing as a Muslim state. A state is not based on the fact that majority of it’s people are Muslim. but either way Im glad you understood my view here.

    Thanks for the link, im still not sure about the right to work. Ive never heard of that in my life but ill look in to this story and see if that part is correct.

    As for Pakistan, yes I’ve heard of even worse things there. Suffice to say that apart from everything that I wrote in my post about Islam not allowing capital punishment when someone converts it most certainly and most definitely does not allow people to take “justice” in to their own hands and go around killing converts. I’ve read cases like that and it’s just absurd.

    The world is full of crazies, and amongst 1.5 billion people your bound to find enough of them that make the evening news.

  8. I recommend people read the opinion of Dr. Yusuf Al Qardawi on this. He explains other opinions as well. [LINK]

    My thought about this is that Islam is flexible enough to allow the ruler to not even punish the person if they revert from the religion, but that it also doesn’t prohibit their punishment, even if the punishment was death. Meaning, if the muslim ruler could deliver the death penalty to an apostate in Islam, they don’t have to, although there is nothing in Islam that says in certain cases they can’t be forced to deliver it. Omar Ibn Al Khattab was of the opinion that the apostates be jailed indefinitely, but never killed. This is the opinion of a man who was one of the prophet’s (PBUH) best friends and he was the third man after the prophet (PBUH) and Abu Bakir to lead the muslims. I think his opinion counts with a lot of weight.

    However, I do have a strong disagreement with one thing you (Nas) said somewhere I think it was on Natasha’s blog. You had said that God mad it impossible to punish someone with the death penalty. I disagree with this for two reasons:

    First, because Allah would not order people to do the impossible, do you think he would? Why would God want to confuse the people who chose to follow him? By specifying the death penalty very explicitly in some passages while scattering the rule(s) that make it actually impossible in other verses? I just doesn’t add up to me.

    Second, not only is the death penalty specified in the Quran and the prophet’s (PBUH) words, it is also specified by his (PBUH) actions. There’s the story of a muslim woman came to the prophet (PBUH) and told him that she had committed the crime of zina and that she was married. The prophet (PBUH) ordered her to be killed and later on told people not to mention her badly because she had repented in a big way, far better than any other person ever had repented, and that she was going to heaven. Even though this woman had repented truely, and even though the prophet (PBUH) knew she was going to heaven, and that she was still a muslim, a strong believer, God’s “hadd” was applied. I know you could still say that it was the prophet (PBUH) who ordered the punishment and that he is “ma3soom 3an al kha6a2”, but I don’t think that applies here, because there is no room for error even for the normal person when a confession is present. If the same case happened in present, and the sinner confessed, the guilt is proven, and the punishment is clearly stated, they would be sentenced to death in Islam. So it’s not impossible.

  9. I agree Nas,
    I believe most of what I wanted to say have been clearly said, though, I believe that every talk about the death punishment comes from the Hadith describing those who are to killed:
    حدثÙ?ا â? â?Ø¹Ù?ر بÙ? حفص â? â?Ø­Ø¯Ø«Ù?ا â? â?Ø£Ø¨Ù? â? â?Ø­Ø¯Ø«Ù?ا â? â?Ø§Ù?أعÙ?Ø´ â? â?Ø¹Ù? â? â?Ø¹Ø¨Ø¯ اÙ?Ù?Ù? بÙ? Ù?رة â? â?Ø¹Ù? â? â?Ù?سرÙ?Ù? â? â?Ø¹Ù? â? â?Ø¹Ø¨Ø¯ اÙ?Ù?Ù? â? â?Ù?اÙ? â?
    â?Ù?اÙ? رسÙ?Ù? اÙ?Ù?Ù? â? â?ØµÙ?Ù? اÙ?Ù?Ù? عÙ?Ù?Ù? Ù?سÙ?Ù? â? â?Ù?ا Ù?Ø­Ù? دÙ? اÙ?رئ Ù?سÙ?Ù? Ù?Ø´Ù?د Ø£Ù? Ù?ا Ø¥Ù?Ù? Ø¥Ù?ا اÙ?Ù?Ù? Ù?Ø£Ù?Ù? رسÙ?Ù? اÙ?Ù?Ù? Ø¥Ù?ا بإحدÙ? Ø«Ù?اث اÙ?Ù?فس باÙ?Ù?فس Ù?اÙ?Ø«Ù?ب اÙ?زاÙ?Ù? Ù?اÙ?Ù?ارÙ? Ù?Ù? اÙ?دÙ?Ù? اÙ?تارÙ? Ù?Ù?جÙ?اعة
    this hadith is in ‘Saheeh Al Bukhari’, most of the Hadith’s are as you described “aimed to specific situations” this hadith is no exception, plus, remark the language he (PBUH) is using to describe he who is to be killed, the Prophet is talking about those who reject Islam and fight muslims.

    There’s one extra thing I guess no one mentioned; among the long history of Islam either during the Prophet’s age or after that, apostasy always meant to go back and worship idols! or don’t worship anything at all, it never had to do with christianity at all, after all, christianity is a monothiest religion and Islam absolutely recognize it as to come from the same God, my point is, the fact that what the apostate ended up with does matter!

    P.S. I have one stupid note; you tend to capitalize the first letter of “Pbuh” which makes that word as the name of the prophet… forgive me if I’m being out of the subject but it’ll make a confusion among non-muslims.

  10. Interesting thoughts. But I do have a comment. It does not need a scholar to know that killing someone just because he stopped believing in your religion is wrong. No scholar is needed here, just common sense.

  11. Nas:

    I concede your point. I should have used the term ‘nation’ instead of ‘state.’ I apologize.

    oMar:

    Your commentary on this is interesting OmAr. If you are right then I wonder why nobody has bothered examining this idolatry/apostasy link you mention.

    Can we find any example in the literature of apostasy from the very early days of Islam applying to a Christian or a Jew? Do we know the earliest documented example of apostasy laws being applied to Christians or Jews in a Muslim country/nation?

    In the case of Afghanistan, like I’ve indicated before, tribal identity and national loyalty is closely tied to religion. You can tell by the comments of people in Afghanistan who want to see Rahman executed, that they seem to consider his act a matter of not only being at fault religiously but almost of national treason. They say things ‘Christianity is not allowed in Afghanistan’ and, well, wouldn’t you know, as I skipped to another tap to hunt down some of the other things Afghanis were saying about Rachman I came across this:

    http://www.csmonitor.com/2006/0327/p09s01-coop.html

    As for Nas’s use of Pbuh: there is no confusion. Anybody familiar with this abbreviation at all will know exactly what he means. I don’t know if there is some convention against doing this in Arabic but there would be none in English.

  12. Hamzeh, that is true, it is flexible to have that and Omar as well as the other 3 Caliphs (ra) did follow in the path of the Prophet Pbuh.

    I’m not sure if that’s what I said, I don’t remember but if so then I may have ommitted a word at that time Hamzeh, I meant rather that He made it almost impossible.

    I did not say the death penelty was not specified in the Quran, the death penelty is specified in the holy books of all the monothiest religions.

    What I am saying (apostasy aside) is that when it comes to the hadd laws, the mandatory death penelty things become harder. In other words the sharia has an intricate due process system which becomes more complex as the punishment becomes harsher. The harsher the punishment the more evidence is required to prove it, and when it comes to death, the ultimate punishment on Earth, it is at times almost impossible to prove; or suffice to say in the majority of cases it becomes tougher to prove, tougher to provide evidence for and therefore tougher to carry out the sentence.

    While I’m not going to say the Prophet pbuh is “ma3soon 3an al kha6a2” it should be noted that the story you told with this case of this woman is also part of the shari3a law established in the hadith of the Prophet pbuh who said that if someone is to commit a punishable sin that they should conceal it and repent so that the crime becomes an issue between that person and their Lord as opposed to making it public and therefore having it become a public matter. Hence upon public confession the hadd law must be carried out. it is like a man and his wife getting into an arguement, if they sort things out between them then it’s done. If one of them calls the cops then it becomes a public matter.

  13. Omar, thank you for your thoughts, much appreciated. I do agree with that final point, apostasy was indeed associated with leaving Islam to worship idols based on the majority of cases. As for (pbuh) you are right about that. I usually run these long posts through a spell checker so it evidently converts the lower case to the upper case

    The Big Pharoah, you are right it does need common sense to know this, but there are always people who will accuse you of not being certified to deal out common sense, if you know what i mean.

  14. Good comments. These people calling for the death penalty act like Muslims or even Islam have something to fear. With hundreds of years of missionary work by Christians in the Middle East it is clear that Islam has nothing to fear from such things.

    To the contrary, it is the West that has seen large amounts of people converting to Islam. Be confident people, our religion stands on its own merits and doesnt need to be defended by mortals. We have God on our side.

  15. -samaritan, “nobody has bothered examining this idolatry/apostasy link you mention.”
    Who’s “nobody”? if you’re talking about the history of Islam, I guess that apostasy, for muslims, was another synonym for Idolatry! Now, about your example of Afghanistan, let me sum up, regardless of what you mean, Afghanistan is the last place on earth that would represent Islam.

    “Can we find any example in the literature of apostasy from the very early days of Islam applying to a Christian or a Jew?”, Of course we can, there’s non, if you are aware of the islamic historians at that time, you will realize that simply because they never mentioned such a case, that means it never happened. Every incident of apostasy was about tribes, or individuals, returning to their first faith i.e. idolatry. The reason that made me mention what I see as a difference between converting to idolatry and converting to Christianity is my strong conviction that if Muhammad (PBUH) faced a situation of two muslims, one coverting to Christianity and the other to Idolatry, he would treat them differently.

    As for the use of Pbuh, it is a mistake, in English they don’t capitalize the first letter of abbreviations! if you do so, it will appear as if the name of the prophet is Pbuh! “Pbuh” is a name of somthing, and “PBUH” is an abbreviation. If someone who has absolutely no clue about Islam or the Prophet, and speaks English, he will understand that we are talking about the prophet [‘booh’]!! it was a stupid note by me, and thanks to you Nas for accepting it.

  16. Very interesting post Nas, and I guess we learn something new every day
    Death penalty does not apply here in my opinion … and I am glad that a lot seem to agree

    Thanks again Nas

  17. You folks should read better, and more:
    – – – –
    4:89. They but wish that ye should reject Faith, as they do, and thus be on the same footing (as they): So take not friends from their ranks until they flee in the way of Allah (from what is forbidden). But if they turn renegades, seize them and slay them wherever ye find them; and (in any case) take no friends or helpers from their ranks;-

    90. Except those who join a group between whom and you there is a treaty (of peace), or those who approach you with hearts restraining them from fighting you or fighting their own people. If Allah had pleased, He could have given them power over you, and they would have fought you: Therefore if they withdraw from you but fight you not, and (instead) send you (guarantees of) peace, then Allah Hath opened no way for you (to war against them).

    91. Others you will find that wish to gain your confidence as well as that of their people: Every time they are sent back to temptation, they succumb thereto: if they withdraw not from you nor give you (guarantees) of peace besides restraining their hands, seize them and slay them wherever ye get them: In their case We have provided you with a clear argument against them.

    – – – –

    And if you want to quote the scriptures, you should study them a little bit. When the verse 2:256 was “revealed” there were perhaps 300 Muslims around (it was between Nakhla and Badr, check your commentaries). So it was meant only for converts TO Islam. Later on, it was interpreted otherwise, but not as you wish. It was considered (from least liberal to most liberal) to be (http://www.danielpipes.org/article/2110):
    – – – – –
    – Abrogated: The passage was overridden by subsequent Koranic verses (such as 9:73 “O Prophet! Struggle against the unbelievers and hypocrites and be harsh with them”).

    – Purely symbolic: The phrase is a description, not an imperative. Islam’s truth is so obvious that to coerce someone to become a Muslim does not amount to “compulsion”; or else being made to embrace Islam after defeat in war is not viewed as “compulsion.”

    – Spiritual, not practical: Governments may indeed compel external obedience, though they of course cannot compel how Muslims think.

    – Limited in time and place: It applied uniquely to Jews in Medina in the seventh century.

    – Limited to non-Muslims who live under and accept Muslim rule: Some jurists say it applies only to “Peoples of the Book” (Christians, Jews and Zoroastrians); others say it applies to all infidels.

    – Excludes some non-Muslims: Apostates, women, children, prisoners of war, and others can indeed be compelled. (This is the standard interpretation that has applied in most times and places).

    – Limited to all non-Muslims: Muslims must abide by the tenets of Islam and may not apostatize.

    – Limited to Muslims: Muslims may shift from one interpretation of their faith to another (such as from Sunni to Shia), but may not leave Islam.

    – Applied to all persons: Reaching the true faith must be achieved through trial and testing, and compulsion undercuts this process. Massive disagreement over a short phrase is typical, for believers argue over the contents of all sacred books, not just the Koran. The debate over the no-compulsion verse has several important implications.
    – – – – –

    It sure is true that mere common sense dictates to let people free to choose their religion. And sure Muslims do have common sense, but not so their religion. Muslims who know and respect their “sacred” texts are liabilities. Open your eyes and read. Or don’t. But stop the crap.

  18. “Of course we can, thereâ??s non, if you are aware of the islamic historians at that time, you will realize that simply because they never mentioned such a case, that means it never happened.”

    Actually Omar, to clarify what I getting at: When was the earliest point in Islamic history that they began to apply the charge of apostasy to Christians or Jews? Was it in the very early days of Islam or was it later, maybe even hundreds of years later, that converting to Christianity and Judaism became interpreted as apostasy? Can we find a particular empire or ruler or time and place where the first known implementation of apostasy laws was interpreted to include Christianity and Judaism? Can we find the earliest known example of the charge of apostasy being brought against a Christian or Jew?

    As for your comment about the use of pbuh. I suppose, if you want to be absolutely grammatically correct about it, then yes, either it should remain all lower case or, alternatively, all upper case. You could also probably get away with capitalizing the first letter if you were abbreviating it as a complete sentence.

    My point was, however, that anybody who is at all familiar with this abbreviation is going to know that it is not the name of the prophet. People who do not know what the abbreviation stands for at all, will not be helped or hurt by not capitalizing it. In fact, it would be best to put all the letters in capitals if you want to indicate that it is an abbreviation. No additional confusion will be caused simply by the capitalizing the first letter of the phrase.

    Besides, I don’t think we need to hold people to pristine English usage in a comments section on a blog. It is likely that anyone who might come across this blog is going to know who founded Islam anyhow. 😉

  19. ajm, First, please do not call my religion crap or my opinion for that matter, just because you don’t agree with it, or with me, doesn’t give you the right to insult or be offensive. As i said at the begining of the post, let us discuss this issue with some civility or not at all.

    Second, if you’re going to use daniel pipes as a source on Islam, well, suffice to say you’ve picked the cream of the crop when it comes to Islam bashing.

    Third, allow us to consider the verses you quoted, and let us put them back into their context.

    Where does it say in any of those that we should kill converts?

    Of course as you know based on what you’ve read, surat al-nissa is a meddenyeh surah. Hence these verses were revealed at a specific time in Medina where Muslims lived and where they were being attacked by Meccan polytheists. These verses were revealed to warn Muslims to be careful from the attackers, no more no less.

    If I were you I would take your own advice and “Open your eyes and read”. Quoting Danial Pipes on Islam is pretty much like quoting Hitler on Judaism.

  20. Acronyms are normally capitalized in written American; IE Peace be upon him would be PBUH. But formal rules ONLY Apply to Formal writing and using an acronym in a graded paper or something that will be published just isn’t done. In the first place, the professor will knock off points bigtime and question your sanity, in the second, the Editor will either tell you to change it or change it theirself, depending on your relationship. In non formal writing, it doesn’t matter, you do what ever you want.
    That is in America, the other Colonies have their own habits and I neither know nor care what they do in England. We stole their language fair and square and will do what we want with it.
    I think a good place to look for Islamic treatment of whole sale apostasy would be the early Crusades. While the Crusaders were rough with the inhabitants of Juersalem (most of which were Jewish), they didn’t kill them all. Plus you have all the other cities the Crusaders captured. Some of those inhabitants converted to Christianity to avoid being slaughtered or a future as a Frankish slave. What happened to them after Sala-din re-captured those cities?
    I think the present rigor of Islamist fundamentalists is a response to the threat their religion is under. That threat isn’t another religion, which could be fought along religous lines, but an assualt of culture. You can burn a church or a senagogue, but how do you fight against Barbie dolls, lipstick and Ti-Vo’s? Not to mention Hollywood with it’s near naked, fully developed, provocatively clad women; fast cars, dark bars and all the other seductive aspects of modern society. One Playboy or James Bond movie will corrupt how many souls? The seriously devout, such as Osama and his Ilk, understand that this is a battle they cannot win. So they have decide to go down fighting.

  21. Why are writing this in English? Shouldn’t it be directed to your fellow Arabs? Maybe you feel that they will label you a heretic, or worse, that you are committing apostasy!

    I’ve heard the complaint that Arabs have with the Jews. It goes along the lines of “they stopped following the rules of their religion, therefore Allah established Islam.” I think the same can said of many Muslims. Quite simply, Muslims have stopped following THEIR rules handed down by Allah.

    Allah knows best.

  22. I just can’t let go of this quote:

    “The Prophet Muhammad has said several times that those who convert from Islam should be killed if they refuse to come back,” says Ansarullah Mawlafizada, the trial judge.

    “Islam is a religion of peace, tolerance, kindness and integrity. That is why we have told him if he regrets what he did, then we will forgive him,” he told the BBC News website.

    Am I wrong to assume that the trial judge has nothing but a formal religious education?

    I do thank you for taking the time to put the Quâ??ran in historical perspective. I’m just not so certain that the interpretation as put forth by the trial judge is perceived as radical or extremist by the Afghani people or perhaps even by your neighbors in Saudi Arabia.

  23. “Why are writing this in English? Shouldnâ??t it be directed to your fellow Arabs? Maybe you feel that they will label you a heretic, or worse, that you are committing apostasy!”

    There are several Arabs who regularly post on this board, BF. Many other Arabs can understand English as well. I don’t mind a little sarcasm if it is mixed a some valid commentary but I don’t see anything in your post but sarcasm. Why not contribute something a little more useful to this discussion?

    “Quite simply, Muslims have stopped following THEIR rules handed down by Allah.”

    You can see by my posts on this board, that I’m not the biggest fan of Islam, neverthless it should be kept in mind that adherents of other religions are not perfect either. Take child-molesting Roman Catholic priests for example.

  24. Brain, I write in English because I choose to write in English, that why it’s called my blog. I don’t understand what it has to with the Arabic or Arabs but it doesn’t matter, someone can call me a heretic in English. I dont descriminate with language 😉

    Arabs have no complaint with Jews other than the fact that some of them are Zionists and therefore supporters of an occupation of an Arab people and land. I suppose however you mean Muslims? Muslims have no complaint against Jews either, they are one of the People of the Book we are told to respect.

    Lastly, do not generalize, some Muslims have stopped following their religion as dictated by Allah (swt); many of us however have not.

  25. Lillian, yes the Prophet (pbuh) has said this but again he was telling this statement to his people during a time when pagans were waging phychological warfare by converting to Islam and then leaving it to cause confusion amongst the people. These pagans were at war with Islam, their conversion to Islam was accepted but when it was realised what they were doing the Prophet suggested this law as a deterent.

    “Am I wrong to assume that the trial judge has nothing but a formal religious education?”

    I don’t know what his education is but keep in mind Lillian these guys are not exactly Harvard graduates. Be it judges or clerics these days in some places in the Muslim world they are suffering from a miseducation. It is practically a “running joke” in some countries that if a person decides to study religion in university it usually means they had such bad grades in high school they couldn’t get into any other program. I have always been of the opinion that they should have no less of a 99% average but that’s just me.

    Suffice to say this judges interpretation is a misinterpretation. He has taken what the Prophet (pbuh) has said in specific situations to certain people and applied it to all people in all times. He probably wants to keep his job.

  26. Lillian’s question
    “Am I wrong to assume that the trial judge has nothing but a formal religious education?”

    is an important one, because you ARE wrong. The judge, and most of the judges in Afghanistan are, in fact, also clerics. And this is the point.

    I have checked out a number of sites that have been discussing this. A lot of Muslim laymen have commented. Many of them have said, unequivocally, as you did, that the idea of the death sentence for apostasy is totally against the Qur’an. A smaller, but substantial number have said, equally unequivocally, that ‘there is no debate. The Qur’an requires him to be put to death.’ (A few took the interesting position that while he is required to be put to death, only the Cailph can do it, and since there is no Caliph…)

    I cannot, as an outsider and total non-believer, question each of the speakers on their Qur’anic knowledge. But what bothers me is that these are laymen. It was clerics in Afghanistan who made the most barbarous statements about organizing a mob to kill Rahman — one even said he should be ‘pulled to pieces.’ And while I know of many LAYMEN who spoke against the trial, the only prominent CLERIC who publicly opposed it was a high-ranking cleric in Malaysia. (Perhaps there have been others, but I don’t know of them.) And while CAIR in America spoke out — I have no doubt they were sincere, but I also think they were, after the response to the cartoons and Samara — forced to speak out to maintain any influence. The governments of many secular Western couyntries spoke out, as did the Pope. But no government of a Muslim country protested.

    You see my dilemma, here, and in so many situations that have occurred recently. Time after time there are moderate Muslim laymen arguing on what i see as the sensible side. There are some intelligent laymen taking the reverse. “The mob” acts, frequently violently. And when I look to the supposed learned clerics, either they are silent or support the mob’s position.

    (To give one example, posted long before this situation was newsworthy, from the — admittedly ridiculously conservative — “Islam Q&A” site.
    “66. Make no excuse; you disbelieved after you had believedâ?

    [al-Tawbah 9:65,66]

    What you have to do is to remind this slanderer and advise him, and warn him that all his good deeds are to no avail, and that if he does not repent, he will meet Allaah when he is guilty of major kufr.

    Tell him that the punishment that he deserves in this world is execution, because the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: â??Whoever changes his religion, execute him.â? Narrated by al-Bukhaari, 3017. ”

    Now the site claims “Responses are composed by Sheikh Muhammed Salih Al-Munajjid, a known Islamic lecturer and author.” Who am I to say that the shiek doesn’t understand his religion — okay, I can because I’ve read other questions on the site — and that a Jordanian layman does? And that is a sincere question.)

    And the political leaders in Muslim countries, the ones that are in power, or significant opposition parties, are not challenging the most extreme of Muslims, so they are offering me no guidance either.

  27. Jim, you make some valid points no doubt. Like I informed Lillian many of these clerics/judges spread all over the Islamic world are misguided. We are in a time where institutions are no longer setting a high bar for enterance, and as a result many unintelligable clerics are give a “lisence” to preach and most of them simply follow in the footsteps of their more extremist mentors; hence no progressivness. To top this off many of these institutions are now heavily influenced by politics and money. No one can deny this. Even a few mosques here in Toronto have been criticised by being funded by wealthy extremists from abroad, and therefore the teaching begin to lean towards the right, and sometimes so out of sight from the mainstream. The problem is that clerics are figures of authority by social standards despite the fact that the line between the “layman” and the “cleric” these days has been growing thin.

    That being said many clerics and many scholars have spoken out against this, but either their voice is too small or their words fall on deaf ears especially in the media. In my opinion its a mixture of both. Muslim leaders cannot really say anything, they have no authority to speak publically on such matters. Bush and the Pope can say whatever they want but they are not Muslims at the end of the day.

    Lastly some clerics and scholars that I know are very vocal about this issue and almost all of them live outside the Muslim world. Those that live in it, well that’s the irony I suppose. Islam as a religion and Mohammad pbuh as a Prophet, preached a moderate Islamic life and understanding but with all that is going on in the world Islamic societies have been, usually out of defensive mechanism, leaned to the right so many of the moderate clerics are silent out of fear for themselves.

    thank you for your comment

  28. Here’s an Islamic scholar who disagrees with your view Nas.

    “Abdelsabour Shahin, an Islamist writer and academic at Cairo University, told the BBC that although Islam in principle enshrined freedom of belief, there were severe restrictions on that freedom.”

    “If someone changes from Islam to kufr (unbelief), that has to remain a personal matter, and he should not make it public,” he said.

    “In other words, an apostate in a Muslim society, according to this view, forfeits his freedom of expression. If he goes public he should be executed, says Dr Shahin
    He says there is an authoritative and unambiguous hadith (saying of the prophet) which calls for the killing of the apostate – “He who changes his religion should be killed”, says Dr Shahin, quoting from the sayings of the prophet.
    But Dr Shahin says the mere fact that someone goes public with his apostasy “amounts to fitna (sedition, or civil strife), he is thus like someone fighting Islam, and should therefore be killed.”

    http://www.afghannews.net/index.php?action=show&type=news&id=371

    Peace, please

  29. Anon, thanks for the comment. I am sure there are many who will agree and many who will disagree with me. That’s fine with me. I don’t like the methodology of enforcing my opinion on others. All religions face similar disagreements but there is no central authority in Islam that decrees 1+1=3 and that’s the end of the story.

    Now about making things public, I’ve never heard of an instance of the Prophet (pbuh) applying this to other issues as Hamzeh mentioned in the comments here. I’m thinking this person is interpreting the text of the Prophet (pbuh) to say that simply by announcing you are an apostate then therefore it is the equivelent of declaring war on Islam. Does that make sense? If we are to take this Afghan man’s case as an example, did he wait 16 years to fight some war?

    It should also be noted as Professor Abdelmouti Bayoumi says in this article there are other hadiths which restrict the first one and I’ll tell you why. In the Quran verses are revealed according to situations. It was not revealed at once but in stages and these stages reflect a certain history or the progression of it. When a battle occured God would say this and that. When a confusing situation arose, God would send down another verse addressing it. The hadith does the same thing but to an even greater extent obviously because it is a record of what the Prophet pbuh said or did. Verses in the quran were never changed and remain infinite. The Prophet pbuh on the other hand did change what he said or what he did according to a certain circumstance. He did this to address a major problem, creating a temporary solution until people got used to it and then he’d introduce something a little more moderate. So if you read through the hadiths you will see instances where he will say to his followers ‘I once advised you to do such and such and now….etc’. It would not be a contradicting or opposite view of the original, simply an addition to it, or a reforming of it.

    So since the quran says nothing about apostasy, and everyone here is relying on the Prophet pbuh’s words and actions then an even greater detail to historical context must be applied. We compare to what the Prophet pbuh said at one point to what he said later on; and this at times means he is making void what he said before.

  30. Nas and Samaritan,

    Samer is the man mentioned in Natasha’s blog and the ME Human rights report (although he is not named). He is a good friend of our family, as he married our ‘daughter’. He is a man of integrity, honor and conviction. Because of his case, I have been paying for attention to cases like his.

    It wasn’t that his right to work was taken away, it was his right to sign documents by relegating his status to that of ‘minor’, underage. Who can get a decent job if the have the official status of 17 year old? Or make a living without being able to sign a contract?

    At his sentencing, the Jordanian (not Afghani) judge declared that his blood was on his own head, and although they could not pass down that sentence, others surely would. So as a Palestinian, he is now twice exiled.

    Samer told us that most people like him, when brought before the judge, are scared into recanting officially, but practice their adopted faith quietly.

    Abu Sinan

    As I mentioned in Natasha’a blog, the converts to Christianity I have heard of had no outside influence in making their changes. They made an informed decision after their own study.

    Please take note of Algeria, and how their government is trying to contain the fact that tens of thousands of Muslims have become Christians in recent years (and that 40% of the population would change if given the chance).

    God is “on the side” of those who diligently seek Him. I am a diligently seeker of God, and don’t claim He is on my side (a statement unworthy of His holiness) but can state with humility and surety that I am on His – His hand of guidence is daily moving me. I am glad you are also a diligent seeker of God.

    NAS, thanks for posting this…some Christian bloggers I know are waiting to hear this.

  31. Salomon, David & Co. were both Kings AND Prophets, inspiring generations of Hebrew and Arab theocratic â??holy warriorsâ?, and the 17th century Protestant bigots of Switzerland and New England were literally obsessed with the imperatives â??Godâ??s Lawâ?- they even burned â??witchesâ? and other straying heretics!

    So itâ??s not like OBL and his friends invented some kind of â??newâ? religious paradigmâ?¦

    As for the ancient law commanding the automatic execution of apostates, last time I checked this was a Hebrew invention: Israelâ??s Sicaris even executed observant Jews for being â??westernizedâ?!

  32. Dr Victorino de la Vega:

    I don’t think the point you are trying to make is a particularly valid one. The Sicarii were zealots who killed people on or sympathetic to the Roman cause during a civil war around 2000 years ago. This is hardly the equivalent to setting down a law or interpreting a particular verse in a religion as giving grounds for killing apostates. Back when this was going on, the interpretation of who was Jewish was predominately an ethnic one. Conversions to Judaism were rather rare. This would be even more so for those who actually lived in Judea at the time. I doubt that Muslims got the idea for killing apostates from the zealots during the Judeo-Roman war you are referring to; I have seen no evidence of that.

    Judaism, as I understand it, recognizes somebody as Jewish (whether they were Jewish by birth or by conversion) regardless of whether they change their religion at a later point. There is no punishment to be handed down per se – they simply regard the conversion as a lapse, not as a criminal act. Modern Catholicism, I believe, is similar.

    Update to the Afghan apostate story: “Afghan Lawmakers Demand Convert Be Held”:

    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20060329/ap_on_re_as/afghan_christian_convert

  33. UPDATE:

    Rahman is apparently out of Afghanistan, safe from potential mobs that would want to “tear him to pieces” as one cleric indicated. He is being granted asylum in Italy.

    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20060329/ap_on_re_as/afghan_christian_convert

    Unfortunately, other Christian converts in Afghanistan are not out of the woods. A few others are now in custody. Unfortunately, we know nothing about the identities of these individuals.

    http://www.compassdirect.org/en/newslongen.php?idelement=4273

    This issue, kind of like the Danish cartoon issue, is probably not going away anytime soon.

  34. Can someone explain the logic or sense in the following — the idea that parts of the Qur’an were written for ‘specific situations.’
    I am God. I have repeatedly sent a message to mankind through various Messengers or Prophets. Mankind keeps getting it wrong. I am giving it one more try, through my Messenger Mohammed (pbuh). But this is the last time. (“The Book of Prophecy is closed, the pen is put away, the inkwell has run dry.” I don’t know where that comes from, but it is so beautifully said I (prup)keep using it.)

    I have already decided to be EXTREMELY repetitious this time so that mankind gets my message. I am aware that the human mind is finite, that this will be remembered for years before it is gathered together. And I know that mankind will be around (at least) another 1400 years.

    Why, then, am I wasting precious time and space in what is a relatively small book, talking about something that is going to be true only for the next few days, rather than discussing principles and ideas that will last for the centuries? Why am I contradicting myself, saying something now, then, after the battles are won, changing it?

    Can anyone explain why that makes sense? If you accept the Qur’an as having been written by Mohammed, it does, but as ‘God’s final message,’ I just don’t get it. (And don’t ask ‘who are we to question God?” because that begs the question. Thousands of people have claimed to get ‘messages from God to mankind’ from Zoroaster to Pat Robertson. The only way to tell which, if any, are true, is by the content of the message.)

  35. I have a question regarding this issue. At the time of the revelation of the Koran, every muslim was a convert, none were born into Islam. Today, nearly all muslims are born muslim, very few comparitively convert from other religions. Since there is no compulsion in religion, aren’t the vast majority of muslims having Islam forced upon them? And then, with this extremist view of apostacy, being forced to remain muslim upon pain of death?

    Peace, salaam, shalom, pace.

  36. The Jewish religion no longer has a death penality and has not had one since the second temple period.

    Any religious issue that had ‘death’ as a punishment is viewed as by ‘yod hashem’which means by the hand of g-d. And no human is allowed to do it.

    To mention jewish zealots in todays context makes no sence. Curently the most that would happen to some one who converted out of the Jewish religion would be that they would be shuned. I.e. no one would talk to them. Or have other kinds of dealing with them.

    Jews are required to fellow the law of the land in anycase.

  37. Prup, that is a good question. Allow me to attempt to answer it.

    The Quran addresses specific situations that are meant to act as guidence to Muslims at the time when they were facing that situation. It, like many historical stories in the quran, serves as an example for the rest of mankind in the future. Though the other side of the Quran is filled with verses which consist of rules and guidelines to worship, and laws. What is made haram (forbidden) and what is made halal (allowed) is revealed in those verses as clear as day. Now the chapters or verses that address specific situation are examples for us to learn from. How to act and how to behave according to what God commanded. This means when we want to base future knowledge and future reference to those verses we are forced to take their context in to consideration. They become part of a learned experience. So for example on a daily basis you encounter situations in your life which you assess according to learned behaviour and learned experience. With learned behaviour it is as simple as knowing this is a law and that is a law and so you live your life around social rules that you dont even question. With learned experience it usually helps you get through a present situation that is new to you, but nevertheless, even that old experience you are applying here cannot be taken out of it’s context. It addressed a specific situation in the past which may not not be 100% the same situation right now, but it’s enough for you to derive some piece of experience from to apply to this situation.

    So while the Quran is completely infinite in nature it can be categorised into parts which are dependent on stories that act as examples for future reference, and parts which establish laws and guidelines. The former will always need historical context.

    thanks

  38. Rocket Ray,

    “Since there is no compulsion in religion, arenâ??t the vast majority of muslims having Islam forced upon them? ”

    But arnt people born into a religion everyday? hence can we not say that everyone born today in this world has a religion forced on them. Also no compulsion in religion refers to forcing people to convert to Islam, when it comes to forcing people to stay Muslims this involves the freedom of religion outlined in the Quran.

    Also I disagree about the very few convert to Islam. It has one of the highest conversion rates in major religion

    thank you

  39. Kinzi, thanks for filling us in. I knew that someone was familiar with this case but I forgot that it was you.

    Anyways, suffice to say what happened to him or what is happening to him is terrible. I have never been a big fan of law in Jordan because it is all over the place. They send people to Christian courts to Islamic courts to state security courts. There is no unified law, it is like one giant quilt, and Shari3a does not, and was not intended, to work in this manner at all. You can’t apply it when you want, and apply it as you wish.

    More importantly though is that converts are left to deal with the wrath of society. Be they convert to Islam or converts from Islam our communities are still very communal and traditional in nature and they do not like abandonment. People have died in Jordan over lesser reasons than just religious conversion. We’re still dealing with honor crimes.

  40. Salam Naseem,
    I have had problems with the issue of Apostasy for a while, and while I’ve found many “personal opinions” of why it should be this and not that, I was extremely happy to finally find a scholarly opinion on this issue by a prominent figure.
    Rashid Ghannoushi, the head of Islamic Brotherhood of Tunisia (in exile in England/France) wrote a GREAT book called “Common Rights in Islam” (Al-7oriyat Al-3ammah fil Islam) in which he discusses apostasy, democracy, and many other controversial issues and shows a plathora of opinions on each, and truly provides meaningful answers to many of these issues.

    His point is close to what you argue – that Apostasy was punished when it was associated with something else.

    good luck,
    Muhammad

  41. I’m afraid it’s a tad too late to intellectualize on the matter. Parliament and official clerics called for a personâ??s death just because they are being who and what they are.

    Now he has escaped to Italy, and Iâ??m glad for him.

    But Iâ??m very, very sad for the world as a whole.

    A quote from a news article after he was released:
    =====
    Muslim clerics condemned Rahmanâ??s release, saying it was a â??betrayal of Islam.â? They threatened to incite violent protests.
    =====
    So, they are very upset that they didnâ??t get to kill a person that served Afghan refugees in Pakistan.

    Thatâ??s what it comes down to. How depressing is that? Just checked my calendar again and it really is 2006.

  42. Nas,

    Do you punish an individual and not punish the society that forced him to act in this way? A theive that steals because they are hungry, and steal enough to eat for themselves, are not punnishable in Islam. The Amir is for allowing a poor Muslim to exist.

    Can’t you say this man’s society failed him and he saw a better alternative elsewhere? Whatever “better” means.

    His tribal elders and scholars have no right to condemn him when they are partly responsible for his apostasy by infighting, corruption, intellectual stagnation and general failure at running the society.

  43. While I agree that there are lots of different views among Muslims, One can hardly blame hardliners for coming to the conclusions they do. While some may argue as to whether or not these passages are prescriptive or descriptive of unbelievers, it is pretty plane that our hides are not worth a damn.

    At least in America we are just the most distrusted minority and are generally alowed to live.

  44. very quick, but I would say that in early islamic period, leaving the religion was akin to defying the ruler and the state.

    It was treasonous, as oppossed to being ‘heathen’ of ‘kafir’

    sorry have to run

  45. M Arabbi, yes this is definitely an excellent book on the matter. I did have it in mind when formulating my post.

    ——–

    Aslan, his situation is a sad one indeed and unnecessary.

    ——–

    Rami, I agree with you but I feel that instead of punishing an entire society for miseducation, it would be better to educate them in these matters.

  46. Nas – Great post and I really feel there has been some great dialogue lately both on Natasha’s blog (yours of course as well) and other middle eastern blogs. First I agree that a mjor problem is not the Qur’an but by the interpretaions by uneducated (at least on multi-cultural issues) imams. I do believe ignorance of others cultures and lack of respect for a persons beliefs is what we are fighting against. Whether it is those who claim to behead this convert or whether it is those who wish to come to this site and degrade Nas, rather than debate. I am not trying to compare actions or say what is better or worse of the actions. I am not into comapring beheadings of school girls with honor killings by christian families…because they are both wrong on human levels…doesn’t matter who was the responisble one. We should condem them togther…..like Nas, SM, Big Pharoah,tomanbay and almost everyother blig written by a Muslim have. And we should also never let those (I am an American Christian) who wish to degrade our muslim brothers and sister get away with it. Do not let people get away with the cheap tactic of simplifing the debate by framing it us against them. Change does not happen overnight and occurs by civil debates. This is why the Blogs authored by Arabs/Middle Easterners/ Muslims are very related to the American Federalist papers. Lets get these issues in the open and hear what each other has to say.

  47. Nas, your response to Prup’s question is the best explanation I have heard, though my experience here is limited. I am not Muslim, but I think it would be better to say verses were revealed, or that Muslims believe they were revealed, for different circumstances rather than written.

    I might also note that one might a similar question to Prup’s for why God chose to reveal any text or send any prophet at one time as opposed to a different.

    Someone commented on the relationship between apostacy and fitna. As an observer and from a socio-historical perspective that has been my impression as well, though I had not made the final step to fitna. But I do think Islam to a large extent a communal faith. I believe the open practice of other religions has historically been seen, and still is seen by many, as a threat to that community. In apostacy an individual is choosing to remove himself from the community. Further apostacy, especially if public, raises a challenge to that community if only implicitly, so I can see how the relationship to fitna could be a factor.

    I persoanlly believe in freedom of faith, but I see the question of how to balance that with Islam as a community as a fundamental question here

  48. mas said:

    “But I do think Islam to a large extent a communal faith.”

    and

    “I believe the open practice of other religions has historically been seen, and still is seen by many, as a threat to that community. In apostacy an individual is choosing to remove himself from the community.”

    Communal faith? Oh, yes that must be the new, more politically correct term for something people used to call ‘tribalism’.

    We are talking about people losing their lives over a disagreement of conscience here and the best teminology you can come up with is that dissenting individuals are perceived as removing themselves from the ‘community’ and threatening ‘communal faith’?

    I think I’ll stick to the term ‘tribalism’ – I think that describes this situation in more appropriate language and doesn’t whitewash the seriousness of this issue. Sorry if that sounds judgemental, but c’mon!

  49. samaritan, I would have to disagree with you there. I belong to a tribe myself but most Muslims and most Arabs do not. So I know the difference between tribalism and community. Community has a much larger context and Islam does in fact operate in such a manner. It looks at what is best for the community, the society…the constant use of the word “ummah” i.e. the greater Islamic society. It looks at the benefit of the whole as opposed to the benefit of the one. very much like modern day systems of law which imprison people whom they feel is a danger to the whole. Islam is very communal in this way.

    With regards to apostasy it is as mas said seen as one abandoning the community, however as i’ve stressed upon here in my post, to abandon Islam and to declare war on it are two different matters. One is seen as a change of faith and therefore a large part of the greater community, and the other is seen as an actual attack on the community. Which begs the question: which person is seen as a danger to his community?

  50. Nas said:

    “I belong to a tribe myself but most Muslims and most Arabs do not. So I know the difference between tribalism and community.”

    OK. I don’t mean the use of the term ‘tribalism’ at its most literal or anthropological. I mean it in a broader and more abstract way. I’m describing a dangerous quality that can affect not only literal tribes but entire nations or even institutions beyond the bounds of nations. The tribalism I’m describing is all the worst (and none of the best) features you might find in a literal tribe and possibly extending to entire societies and even beyond individual societies.

    Nas said:

    “Community has a much larger context and Islam does in fact operate in such a manner.”

    I’m certain you are correct about this Nas, but the term ‘communal religion’ could describe practically any religion. Christianity and Judaism both make lay out many rules that may not benefit the individual but benefit society as a whole. Hinduism (as it has been traditionally interpreted) lays out an entire caste system that governs, for better or worse, relations within communities. All religions make laws that specify what rights the individual possesses versus what responsibilities individuals have to their communities and what individual rights may not supercede community interests. There may be things that make Islamic communities unique and exceptional, but the term ‘communal religion’ hardly specifies what they are.

  51. Nas,

    Thank you for hosting this interesting discussion. The comments about community led me to think about how difficult it is for an WASP variety American in Los Angeles like myself to understand much of what goes on in the world. I understand, intellectually, what you say about community. However, I have lived, and still live, in a culture which is so diverse, transient, and ignorant of even recent history that any sense of community in the way I think you mean is difficult to imagine.

    Certainly, there is a sense of community among the various groups I belong to: church, my boating club, the folks at work. But the membership of these groups change with some frequency, none of these groups overlap, and none of the members of these groups are neighbors, or people I see shopping, or at the movies, or the voting booth, etc. I live in an apartment block with 12 units and I would be hard pressed to name three people from the other apartments. What I say, or believe, or even how I act within reason and legality are of no concern to the average person I meet on the street and not of much concern to members of these “communities” to which I belong. I know this is NOT the way most of the world lives. I KNOW it but, because it is unfamiliar, I find it hard to empathise with those for whom community defines much of who they are.

    I am a Christian, an American, of European ancestry, a Democrat (among other things) and would not willingly choose to be other. However, concerns about religious, national, ethnic, or political identity are not at the forefront of how I identify myself or the other people I meet. Nor do I expect others to have these concerns about themselves or me. When they do, they seem odd and out of the mainstream but I can see that to them I might seem rootless, uncommitted, and lacking in social responsibility.

    One thing I do know, with increased communications, the world becomes smaller all the time. We are ALL members of one community: humankind. The sooner we all develop that identity and a sense of common membership and responsibity to that group the better off we all will be.

    With respect to the main thrust of this discussion, I collected the following quote by Thomas Macaulay (from Macintoshâ??s History of the Revolution) for my “sayings” file some time ago. I was struck by how right he is:

    “The doctrine which, from the very first origin of religious dissensions, has been held by bigots of all sects, when condensed into a few words and stripped of rhetorical disguise, is simply this: I am in the right, and you are in the wrong. When you are the stronger, you ought to tolerate me; for it is your duty to tolerate truth. But when I am the stronger I shall persecute you; for it is my duty to persecute error.”

    It can’t be to soon to consign this doctrine to the trashcan of history.

  52. samaritan, you are right, many religion approach things from a communal perspective. Although I do believe it is evident to a much larger sense in Islam. Especially in the implementation as we see it today in most Islamic nations. This is obviously just my opinion though based on nothing more than observation and experience of living half my life in the East and half my life in the west.

  53. Jeff, I don’t necessarily agree with Macaulay but I enjoyed your perspective. The west is a different environment than most of the world. I am refering to the more multi-cultural nations like the US, Canada, UK etc. In the Arab world for example people share ethnicity, language, culture, tradition, history, and religion. Everyone identifies with these elements and therefore with a much larger community. In Jordan the mosques are packed on Friday and the Churches are packed on Sunday. Not everyone is necessarily there for religion 100%, there’s community.

    This is one of the main reasons the western world has difficulty understanding our side of the world and vice versa.

  54. Nas, you say you think that Islam has a larger communal perspective than other religions. I am interested in hearing you elaborate further if you would:

    What differences do you see between Islamic communities and Christian and Jewish communities for example?

    Could you tell me of some of the ways that Islam attempts to balance community needs and individual responsibilites. What is the role of the individual in relation to the community? How are predominantly Muslim states doing implementing (or not implementing as the case may be) this balance? What do you think needs to be changed?

  55. samaritan, that is an elaboration that deserves a post unto itself i would think 😀

    i’ll keep it in mind for a future post God willing. 😉

  56. Nas, first an apology. My comment about revealed/written was meant for Prup, I wrote it poorly. But more than that, I did not mean to correct anyone on his religion. I’m sorry if it came across that way.

    I agree with your comment about distinguishing between simply leaving the community and attacking it. Interpreting apostacy of itself as an attack is an extreme view, but I can see how the chain of thought might lead to that view. I am not arguing in favor of that view, just trying to understand.

  57. echnaton, i dont appreciate spam or anti-Islamic rantings. I ask that you simply approach the subject with respect and tolerance as opposed to comments which seek to insult the religion and its followers. if you do not respect the comment policy of this blog then feel free to close the window. I also do not appreciate threats.

    thanks

  58. I got into a long discussion about this and one reply i got from many Muslims was that the bible and the torah both have an equivalent of “hadd el raddeh” but since Christians follow a wrong version of the bible they are not following their religion like they should. So an apostate should be killed according to Islam, Christianity, and Judaism, but only Muslims are following the teachings of their religion.

  59. Nabil, please read my commenting policy. If you wish to discuss Islam in a civil manner that’s fine but please do not call it evil.

  60. my father has always been saying: “there is noone that doesn’t hear like the one that doesn’t want to hear”
    …but hey guys, your are dealing with hot water as it was driking water!
    …Nas, you are telling everyone that you are not a scholar etc etc, but the proof of your thesis are very very limited, and the little ones that you brin forward do not stand out vs criticism. You have a lot of statements that are just “allgemeinwissen” or “luoghi comuni”. Every people from the street could say things like that. And , to add, it stands in opposition with ortodoxy, while you are telling everyone that this is “the right way”!
    Sorry for that but , moreover, you actually introduce your arguments with quite a lots of locical fallancies.
    There are a lot of people around that would like to cook their own soup (but still utilising always the same ingredients they utilised 1000+ times, with very bad results), in order to be “traquille” with their conscience, while at the same time closing all eyes and ears to what is said, written and done everywhere in the world.
    Could it depend to the “forma mentis”?

    A quosque tandem abutere patientia mea?
    I’ll come back, if you allow, detailing
    ea

  61. ennedi, i am saying this is what i personally consider to be the right interpretation, and this by the way is the opinions of many Muslims including Islamic scholars who do have the authority to speak on such matters. at the end of the day most of what i am saying is based on their moderate teachings.

    so please do not tell me that i am blind, deaf and dumb, simply because you choose to listen to the more extreme views. that is your decision but do not enforce it on me; do not say the opinion of the extreme must be the true opinion and therefore no one can disagree with that. because whether you are a Muslim or not, you are doing their work for them.

    i do not believe my statements to be any more or less fallicious than those who subscribe to the other view.

    at the end of the day there is always more than one view, and their 1.5 billion of us who share them.

    if you would like to describe this issue than please do so with respect to my commenting policy and i will have no problem. also if you feel the need, feel free to email me.

    thanks

  62. [Nas, my objective is not to take the side of extremists or to critisize Islam,
    but just to sonar the facts that have lead to this apostasy situation. I
    know that you might feel that this helps extremism, but as you are a sensible
    persone, the important issue is not to keep it simple-minded, but to look for
    reality!] Hope this helps

    PS: I would like you to explicitly mention your sources while writing (you have
    some quotes from the Qurân), but your links related to the life of Mohammad
    (Sira and hadits) are not available, and this makes the discussion with you
    difficult as I dont know what you are referring to. Thanks

    I have to admit that I really hesitated before writing this post but I felt like
    venting or ranting about this topic and I guess I’ll take my chances with what
    comments may follow. Keep in mind that I am not a scholar [dont bother I’m
    no scholar either ;-)] but you don’t need a certificate to learn and educate
    yourself in your own religion. If you are thinking of replying or commenting I
    implore you to abide by the commenting policy on this blog and discuss this
    issue with an open mind and open heart rather than with sinister intent. The
    latter brings about nothing good. At the end of the day this is more or less a
    rant.

    In truth, I was really disgusted by the reactions over this apparent crisis of
    an Afghan man who converted to Christianity. Suddenly Non-Muslims were coming
    out of the woodworks [this are allegations ad personam, without
    detailing, I’m sorry but this is not a big sign of respect, isn’t it?]
    quoting random texts about some apostasy law in Islam that I personally was not
    fully aware of [not fully means? is it possible you didn’t know about that?].
    Some Muslims were doing the same thing as well. So I figured for a moment that
    hey, maybe these people know more about Islam than I do [it would be enough to
    see what the main schools of jurisprudence say about apostasy: THIS IS THE
    POINT, not what I or you think about (although our opinions have some worth),
    but what is deemed to be orthodox]. So I searched through the Quran [why not go
    to the sharia manual as well?] one more time just to be sure. Thankfully my
    faith was restored [by talking like that you let the people thnk that
    your faith is quite superficial] in the fact that no such law actually exists in
    the Quran [but you know that Islam is not just the Quâran, that’s common
    knowledge].

    Interpretations of Islam have always varied [actually the one related to the
    killing of apostates has been aroound (time of Mohammad included) since the
    second Caliph and has not changed since] from the liberal to the moderate to the
    extreme; I would like to take the intellectual, rational and logical approach
    here [ok, the Mutazilites approach. I would like that to be the mainstream
    Islam, but reality is that it has been banned as eretic thanks to al-Ghazali
    (1058-1111) ].

    There is no law in the Quran which states apostates must be killed [ok, tt must
    be conceded that death for apostasy is not as prominent a theme in the Quran as
    one would expect. For instance, these verses condemn apostasy, but its
    punishment is reserved for divine judgment in the Last Day, or its punishment is
    not clearly stated as taking place down here on earth: Suras 2:217; 3:72, 86-87,
    90; 4:137; 5:54; 16:106; 33:14; 73:11; and 74:11], and even the extremists do
    not derive their interpretations from the divine texts [that’s half right, bcs
    for their actions they often cite 9.29, 5.33, 9.50 and various hadiths. But you
    are right related to apostasy: However: there is no disagreement between all
    Islamic schools of jurisprudence, and moreover, as there is no clear advise in
    the Qurân, muslims should turn to the life experience of Muhammad (Sunna, as
    the Quran alone doesn’t seem sufficient]. In other words God never says in
    the Quran that apostates must be killed, instead
    He promotes freedom of religion no compulsion in religion [do you mean
    2.256?…it is the earliest medinan Sura, and it has been abrogated by later
    ones, did you hear about that? Btw: you talk about random texting by people,
    but especially if you take the circumstances that lead to 2.256, that means
    putting it into context, you will see that just in case of weak positioning by
    the Umma you can come out with this statement. This has been quite reversed with
    later much more aggressive ones. It seems that you are advocating some rules for
    extremists and non-muslims that yourself don’t follow], and as for apostates,
    it cannot be more clear that their punishment is up to Him and will dealt out in
    the hereafter. Not by man [this is a very sensible point].

    So everyone relies on the secondary source, the hadith of the Prophet (pbuh).
    The problem here is that like the Quran the hadith often address specific
    situations [so as the hadith literature speakS of Punctual situations, does in
    entail that the Sunna is not worth any more, as the situation is now very very
    different compared to 1400 years ago?] and events which happened to the Prophet
    Pbuh and how he dealt with them. Apostasy then was very much different from
    apostasy now [apostasy per se is the same, but even implications are the same].
    For example the Prophet (pbuh) did order the death punishment after polytheists
    who were enemies of Muslims began to convert to Islam and then apostate for the
    sake of causing confusion amongst Muslims; psychological warfare [but can you
    not see the signs of time even in what is happening today? Lots of Muslims think
    that Islam is under attack, is in this situation apostasy no comparable to
    psychological warfare? The problem with your
    intutition that it is very subjective and not correlated with reality]. Though
    in several instances there were people who left Islam and lived down the street
    from the Prophet (pbuh) but were untouched and the Prophet advised everyone to
    leave them alone [Quotes?]. The key here is that the death punishment wasn�t
    because they left the religion; it was mixed or tied in with something else.
    High treason, murder, warfare, etc. [Quotes?]. The punishment for these crimes
    is a totally different matter but at the time it did often come hand in hand
    with apostasy [it seems today is the same]. Leaving Islam and therefore the
    Muslims to go join the enemy army that is bent on killing Muslims is different
    from converting to Christianity and living peacefully amongst Muslims [you must
    be joking? Do you think it is possible in any arab/muslim country to go through
    the street and to say: hey, I’m with you, I’m not pro US/UK/Israel etc etc
    but I believe now in Jesus/Buddha/etc etc? I would
    like you to invite to a demonstration through the street of your hometow with
    banners that advocate free religion, would you dare to come with me?].

    A verse from An-Nisaa� describes this perfectly [context?]:

    {Thus, if they let you be, and do not make war on you, and offer you peace, God
    does not allow you to harm them.} (An-Nisaa 4:90)

    [Ok, you are right but you are just quoting early Medinan Suras, that were
    peaceful, Mohammad was coming from Mecca, and all muslims were not more that 30,
    what should he have said? I’ll kill you all? You understant that it would not
    be the best tactic] Even the Prophet (pbuh) could not order the death of any
    apostate simply because they left Islam and converted to another religion. And
    God says so in Al-ImranÃ? [context?]:

    {And if they surrender themselves unto Him (i.e. God), they are on the right
    path; but if they turn away behold, thy duty (O Muhammad,) is no more than
    to deliver the message: for God sees all that is in [the hearts of] His
    creatures.} (Aal `Imran 3:20)

    [the same for Sura 3, early Medinan, how could he have ordered apostates to be
    killed while so weak?] The judgment was left up to God because obviously only He
    can know what is truly in the hearts of people and what their intentions are.
    There were even times when the Prophet (pbuh) accepted people into Islam even
    though they were hypocrites from the start and converted only for some personal
    gain [again, where are the sources and the context?]. Hence the Prophet (pbuh)
    did not go around home to home looking for apostates and staging public
    executions [this is not right; he allowed apostates to be killed. Take for
    exemple the case of Abdullah ibn Khatal (Ishaq 819), and see Bukhari 9.84.57 &
    9.82.388 & 9.83.17&9.45.46¦in all this cases Muhammad speaks of killing the
    apostates (with no caveat), even contemplating the context].

    Let us skip ahead to modern times. The problem with today is that many people
    don’t bother taking the time to actually finding out what the religion says
    about certain things and instead base their conclusions on judging the actions
    of Muslims [has not been around someone that has been saying ââ?¬Å?You will
    recognize them by their fruits ;-] ]. You can actually do the same with
    every religion today [ok, I accept the challenge, give me some examples] but
    Islam gets its share of the pie simply because it has become a center stage act
    post 9/11 and is probably the most misunderstood religion; or possibly the
    religion people least want to understand [could it be related to the fact that
    till now the moderates have just produced two fatwas against the
    perpetrator of 911 and the London bombings? The one issued by Spanish muslims is
    based on no islamic script/elements and is just general bla bla bla,
    therefore has no legal valor. The one issued in the UK cites and stops at Q
    5.32,
    without going on to 5.33, and moreover it does not calculate the context in
    which it has been revealed. It seems to me that yes, it is a misunderstood
    religion, but not in the way and by the people you are referring to, at the
    opposite, interest about Islam in the West has been huge].

    If this Afghan man had left Islam and committed treason it would be a different
    story, but to even consider death as a punishment after having converted for 16
    years and living peacefully is just utterly absurd [yes yes].

    In part society is largely to blame. In many Islamic societies there is little
    formal or flexible education when it comes to religion. It is put into their
    mindset that death is the automatic punishment for an apostate when this is a
    far cry from the truth. Death is not part of the Hudud punishment [partly right
    bcs apostasy in included in this list by most scholars] i.e. crimes in Islam
    whose punishments are mandatory. This mindset is usually influenced by members
    of society who further this false belief [but if this is true why doesn’t
    al-Azhar or the grand Mufti of Mecca come out and explaining that? Who dares to
    go out demonstrating in the streets that this is a false belief?]. Ironically
    many of these people, like Non-Muslims, never take the time to learn about it on
    their own [it sounds strange to me that you depict non-muslims always as not
    able to understand. At the opposite there are a lots of as-well-stupids like the
    terrorists, that every time they go around
    killing either come out with a statement or a video citing directly the
    Qurân/hadiths. Have you seen people of Hamas demonstrating with a little book
    called ââ?¬Å?the universal declaration of human rights or with the Qurân in
    their hands?]. Forget about the media [I agree, but I suppose not for the same
    reason ;-)], it is always looking for what is sensational. No member of the
    media is going to bother actually researching this information they’d rather
    say the words convert to Christianity who is facing an Islamic death
    sentence.

    Extremists and Muslim bashers are often in agreement with each other, they quote
    the same texts, in the same out-of-context way [as far as I have seen you
    don’t put into context either. But even trying to put it into context, it
    doesn’t change a lot, try it!], in the same apathetic-to-history manner. So
    they do find common ground in the hate [it’s not always hate, sometimes is
    just following prescriptions¦have you taken into consideration that fact that
    possibly, might be, there is a remote possibility that this is what actually the
    text is telling?].

    Though Islam is about the middle ground. [sources? Exemples? I think, very very
    sorry for that, but you are loosing some credibility here (I know you are
    well-intentioned). Where do you find this middle ground? I don’t want to go
    into teological issues or items like same rights vs other
    religions/unbelievers/homosexuals/women/slaves, just keep it on the ground of
    democracy (Aristoteles was already talking about that and this brought (well
    it’s a little more complicated) democracy, the art of compromise]. Granted
    things can be interpreted in many ways, but so can the Mona Lisa and so can
    every single thing for that matter. Between the black and the white there is
    always the truth and it’s often as simple as that.

    {Let there be no compulsion in Religion: truth stands out clear from error:
    whoever rejects evil and believes in Allah (one God) has grasped the most
    trustworthy hand hold that never breaks. And Allah hears, and knows all things.}
    (Qurân, Al-Baqarah 2:256)

    [This is the great mistification: muslim leaders are always talking of the
    religion of peace, by citing this verse! But actually as you said, it is taken
    out of context, and anyway abrogated, and this on solid islamic orthodoxy!!]
    Regards
    e

Your Two Piasters: