All four Islamic schools (madhah) agree on that: death
Let’s give a look to what each school teaches about apostasy:
All references can be found here: Link
- Hanbali: Founded by Ibn Hanbal (780-855 AD). He was the one that exposed the doctrine of the uncreated Qur’an. The apostate is given three days of time, otherwise he has to be killed.
- Shafi’i: three day of time, afterwards he will be killed.
- Maliki: same ruling
- Hanafi: no deadline is given, the apostate has to be killed immediately. And the one who will kill the apostate is immune from persecution. He will be granted a special place in paradise.
However, the Hanbali school is considered as the most strict madhad: Wahabism, going through Taymiyya, derives directly from it. It is considered the most strict and pure form of Islam. This is because the other schools make as well reference to “ra’y” (personal opinions) and “qiyas” (analogy). The Hanbali school relies only to the Qur’an and the ahadith.
1) the Qur’an doesn’t say to kill apostates (punishment will be after death)
2) during Muhammad’s time, apostasy was comparable to treason. This implied the death sentence.
3) only Muhammad could decide to kill someone
Here are my replies:
1) The Qur’an has no clear answers on a number of important issues. For example, it doesn’t mention the five daily prayers, it doesn’t say anywhere that the Sabbath is abrogated and that Muslims have different rules. It doesn’t give an answer on apostasy either. However, if it went against the Qur’an and thus it was so un-Islamic, then, why did Abu Bakr and Ali do it? Actually, the Qur’an talks just about severe physical chastisement, without detailing. In the ahadith we find that it means actually “death”. There is no ambiguity about that. Apostates have to be killed everywhere. Give a look to Surah 2:217 “And if any of you Turn back from their faith and die in unbelief, their works will bear no fruit in this life and in the Hereafter; they will be companions of the Fire and will abide therein” (Yusuf Ali). For Shafi: “it makes reference to apostates that have to be killed”. This view is endorsed as well by Muhammad ar-Razi and Thalibi). The same is true for Surah 4:89 “They wish that you should disbelieve as they disbelieve, and then you would be equal” (Arberry). See the Tafsir of Badsawi and Maududi and ibn Kathir (d 1373) on that: all agree that killing is the right punishment for apostasy. The same for more “enlighted” people like Averroe (who was qadih of the Maliki school in Spain): “apostates have to be killed because the Prophet said “Whoever changed his Islamic religion, then kill him.'"”) Vol 2 p552.”
2) This is not true: a) because there is no distinction between religious and temporal rule in Islam. Thus, if the killing was all right before, it still should be ok nowadays. But the important element to point out actually, is that it was a religious and not a “state” affair: Muhammad said: “if someone changes religion, kill him”, full stop. All four Islamic schools agree on that. There is no distinction between State and theology, between sacred and secular. This is a Jewish-Christian distinction.
3) Again, see the examples of Abu Bakr, Ali and others. Again, the madhah say otherwise. It is true that Muhammad didn’t kill directly anyone, but he ordered several to be killed. For example, when Muslims entered Mecca, he ordered to kill all those who resisted and a list of people he had (readers of this blog already know the story of Abdullah bin Sa’d (Muhammad’s personal scribe that left Islam because Muhammad had changed the words of the Qur’an). Muhammad left him go, so the rest of the Muslims asked why he didn’t say anything. He replied by saying that he hoped that they would kill him.
Mahmud Muhammad Taha has tried to reform Islam, by trying to minimize the role of the Qur’an as source of legislation in Sudan. He has been declared apostate in 1968, and hanged.
What do the ahadith detail in the case of punishment for apostasy?
There are several ahadith that talk about apostasy. They are mainly. Bukhari 9.84.57 “Whoever changed his Islamic religion, then kill him'"; Bukhari 9.84.58 (Abu Muisa said, "He was a Jew and became a Muslim and then reverted back to Judaism." Then Abu Muisa requested Mu'adh to sit down but Mu'adh said, "I will not sit down till he has been killed. This is the judgment of Allah and His Apostle (for such cases) and repeated it thrice”; Bukhari 9.84.59 “Allah's Apostle said, 'I have been ordered to fight the people till they say: 'None has the right to be worshipped but Allah”; Bukhari 9.84.64 “During the last days there will appear some young foolish people who will say the best words but their faith will not go beyond their throats (i.e. they will have no faith) and will go out from (leave) their religion as an arrow goes out of the game. So, where-ever you find them, kill them, for who-ever kills them shall have reward on the Day of Resurrection”; Bukhari 5.59.632 “Abu Musa said, "(He was) a Jew who embraced Islam and has now turned apostate." Muadh said, "I will surely chop off his neck!"; Bukhari 9.83.17 “Narrated 'Abdullah: Allah's Apostle said, "The blood of a Muslim who confesses that none has the right to be worshipped but Allah and that I am His Apostle, cannot be shed except in three cases: In Qisas for murder, a married person who commits illegal sexual intercourse and the one who reverts from Islam (apostate) and leaves the Muslims";
Still in these days you could hear some Muslim say “who renounces Islam is an apostate and deserves to be killed”. Would you think that this has been said by al-Qaeda? Not at all, it has been said by an exponent of moderate Islam, Soad Saleh, rector of Al-Azhar, the major Sunni University in the world.
This is the reason why apostasy is regulated by the State (death) and not by single believers in several Muslim states (like Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, KSA, Yemen, Sudan and Mauritania)