Thursday, 27 May 2010

The Punishment for Apostasy from Islam

”No way out from Islam”

During Muhammad's lifetime, and the lifetimes of the next 4 "Rightly Guided Caliphs", a number of Muslims left the faith of Islam. The punishment for leaving Islam was death. Those that had left the faith were either killed outright, or were given a few days to turn back to Islam. If they persisted in leaving Islam they were put to death. This death sentence is in effect whether or not the apostasy occurred in an Islamic state or not.

One of the more controversial topics for Muslims in the West is the punishment for apostasy from Islam. Muslims living in the Mideast have no problem with the concept of putting apostates to death. But to Muslims living in the West it is an embarrassing Islamic edict.The West values freedom of thought and freedom of speech are two virtues that have never blossomed under Islam. Consequently when asked about the Islamic law for apostatesMuslims in the West hide behind excuses such as "only a true Islamic state can execute apostates", or "punishment was carried out because those apostates were threats to the new Islamic state, and it is not needed anymore".

What exactly was the law during Muhammad's and the Caliph's time? What were the requirements for a death sentence to be carried out? Was the sentence only for a short period of time? Was it only to be administered under a "true Islamic state", or did it apply to anyone who had left Islam? A close examination of the Qur’an, Hadith, and Sirat will show that indeed, the punishment for leaving Islam, either under an Islamic government, or not, was execution.

To begin with, the Qur’an does not come out and explicitly state that apostates should be murdered. However, there are a number of Qur’anic verses that pertain to apostasy, and they shed some light on the punishment for apostates.

Starting with the Qur’an. Sura 9:73,74: "
Prophet, make war on the unbelievers and the hypocrites and deal rigorously with them. Hell shall be their home: an evil fire. They swear by God that they said nothing. Yet they uttered the word of unbelief and renounced Islam after embracing it. They sought to do what they could not attain. Yet they had no reason to be spiteful except perhaps because God and His apostle had enriched them through His bounty. If they repent, it will indeed be better for them, but if they give no heed, God will sternly punish them, both in this world and in the world to come. They shall have none on this earth to protect or help them." [Dawood]

We see here that Allah urges Muhammad to "make war" on the people who have left Islam. It also states that "Allah will punish them in this world and in the world to come".

What exactly Muhammad was to do to the people in his "making war" on them is not explicitly stated, but it can be surmised that they will be physically punished, if not outright killed. Further, Allah Himself is also going to punish those who leave Islam. What is His punishment? Whatever it is, is will be unpleasant.

Sura 47:23-28:
"If you renounced the faith, you would surely do evil in the land, and violate the ties of blood. Such are those on whom God has laid His curse, leaving them deaf and sightless.... Those who return to unbelief after God's guidance has been revealed to them are seduced by Satan and inspired by him....

Again, God is punishing people, in this world, but the totality of punishment isn't detailed... other than becoming "deaf and sightless". No doubt this is spiritual blindness, because millions have left Islam and have never become physically blind. Note also Muhammad’s fear and hatred of and toward those that have left Islam – he claims that they will “do evil in the land and violate the ties of blood.” Perhaps his mistake assumption is his justification for ordering the killing of apostates.

Additionally one could review Sura 3:86-91 and Sura 16:106. These verses clearly state that apostates will be punished in hellfire. However, though it is implied, the punishment meted out while they live is unclear. Sura 4:137, similarly shows that God will not forgive the apostates, but no mention of a earthly punishment is made.

Finally, brief mention is made of apostates in 3:72, 5:54, 9:107 but none of these shed any penetrating light on the subject.

A review of the Qur’an’s position on apostates:

Muhammad is to “make war” on them
Allah is going to punish them in this world and in the next
Allah curses them
They will be punished in hellfire

The Dictionary of Qur’anic Terms and Concepts - page 16, (written by M. Mir - a Muslim writer), defines the actual Qur’anic information as:

Arabic "irtidad". Traditional Islamic law prescribes the penalty of death for a Muslim who commits apostasy. The punishment is not stated in the Qur’an, but is said to be based on certain Hadith. The advocates and the opponents of the said penalty have, in their attempt to find Qur’anic support for their views, appealed to certain Qur’anic verses, but the fact is that none of the arguments offered do full justice to the Qur’anic context......"

It is from the Hadith that we draw our understanding and information on the punishment for the apostate. From the Hadith, we find no ambiguity on the subject. All quotes will be from Bukhari's Hadith, from the 9 volume English set, translated by Dr. Muhammad Muhsin Khan.

Bukhari, volume 9, #17:
"Narrated Abdullah: Allah's Messenger said, "The blood of a Muslim who confesses that none has the right to be worshipped but Allah and that I am His Messenger, cannot be shed except in three cases: in Qisas (equality in punishment) for murder, a married person who commits illegal sexual intercourse and the one who reverts from Islam (Apostate) and leaves the Muslims."

Bukhari, volume 9, #37:
"Narrated Abu Qilaba: Once Umar bin Abdul Aziz sat on his throne in the courtyard of his house so that the people might gather before him....He replied "By Allah, Allah's messenger never killed anyone except in one of the following three situations: 1) A person who killed somebody unjustly, was killed (in Qisas,) 2) a married person who committed illegal sexual intercourse and, 3) a man who fought against Allah and His messenger, and deserted Islam and became an apostate....

In Chapter 2, from "The Book of obliging the Reversers from Islam, page 42, (following Hadith #56) it reads:

"The legal regulation concerning the male and the female who reverts from Islam (apostates). Ibn Umar Az-Zuhri and Ibrahim said, "A female apostate (who reverts from Islam), should be killed. And the obliging of the reverts from Islam to repent Allah said -

Following this chapter, a number of Qur’anic verses are given, among them are some already mentioned. They are 3:86-89, 3:100, 4:137, 5:54, 16:106-110, 2:217.

Bukhari, volume 9, #57:
Narrated Ikrima, "Some atheists were brought to Ali and he burnt them. The news of this event, reached Ibn Abbas who said, "If I had been in his place, I would not have burnt them, as Allah's messenger forbade it, saying, "Do not punish anybody with Allah's punishment (fire)." I would have killed them according to the statement of Allah's Messenger, "Whoever changed his Islamic religion, then kill him."

Bukhari, volume 9, #58:
Narrated Abu Bruda, "Abu Musa said.....Behold there was a fettered man beside Abu Musa. Muadh asked, "Who is this (man)?" Abu Musa said, "He was a Jew and became a Muslim and hen reverted back to Judaism." Then Abu Musa requested Muadh to sit down but Muadh said, "I will not sit down till he has been killed. This is the judgment of Allah and his messenger," and repeated it thrice. Then Abu Musa ordered that the man be killed, and he was killed. Abu Musa added, "Then we discussed the night prayers .....

Bukhari, volume 9, #64:
Narrated Ali, "Whenever I tell you a narration from Allah's messenger, by Allah, I would rather fall down from the sky, than ascribe a false statement to him, but if I tell you something between me and you, (not a Hadith), then it was indeed a trick (i.e., I may say things just to cheat my enemy). No doubt I heard Allah's messenger saying, ‘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, wherever you find them, kill them, for whoever kills them shall have reward on the Day of Resurrection.’"

Bukhari, volume 9, #271 [Ssimilar to #58]:
Narrated Abu Musa: A man embraced Islam and then reverted back to Judaism. Muadh Jabal came and saw the man with Abu Musa. Muadh asked, "What is wrong with this (man)?" Abu Musa replied, "He embraced Islam, and then reverted back to Judaism." Muadh said, "I will not sit down unless you kill him (as it is) the verdict of Allah and His messenger."

Bukhari, Chapter 26, from the Book of Mutual Consultation, page 339, following Hadith # 461:
"The Statement of Allah... 42:32, 3:159, ...The prophet said, "If someone changes his religion, then kill them....."


After Muhammad took Mecca, he ordered a number of people to be killed. Several of them were apostates. Here is the background.

Muhammad ordered the execution of 10 people when he took Mecca. Here is the list of names found in Ibn Sa'd "Tabaqat" The quote is from the Tabaqat, Vol. 2, page 168.

"The apostle of Allah entered through Adhakhir, [into Mecca], and prohibited fighting. He ordered six men and four women to be killed, they were (1) Ikrimah Ibn AbiJahl, (2) Habbar Ibn al-Aswad, (3) Abd Allah Ibn Sa'd Ibn Abi Sarh, (4) Miqyas Ibn Sababah al-Laythi, (5) al-Huwayrith Ibn Nuqaydh, (6) Abd Abbah Ibn Hilal IbnKhatal al-Adrami, (7) Hind Bint Utbah, (8) Sarah, the mawlat (enfranchised girl) of Amr Ibn Hashim, (9) Fartana and (10) Qaribah.


The information below corresponds to # 3 on the list.

The apostle had instructed his commanders when they entered Mecca only to fight those who resisted them, except a small number who were to be killed even if they were found beneath the curtains of the Kaba. Among them was Abdullah Sa'd, brother of the B. Amir Luayy. The reason he ordered him to be killed was that he had been a Muslim and used to write down revelation; then he apostatized and returned to Quraysh [Mecca] and fled to Uthman Affan whose foster brother he was. The latter hid him until he brought him to the apostle after the situation in Mecca was tranquil, and asked that he might be granted immunity. They allege that the apostle remained silent for a long time till finally he [Muhammad] said yes [granting Abdullah immunity from the execution order].

We find that although a severe physical punishment is mentioned in the Qur’an, we are not told what that punishment is. However, we find in Bukhari's Hadith, that the punishment is death. There is no ambiguity about this. Muhammad clearly taught that apostates are to be put to death

Further, we find in contrast to what many Muslim apologists assert, that these apostates are to be killed wherever they are as per Bukhari, vol. 9, #64.

So, wherever you find them, kill them, for whoever kills them shall have reward on the Day of Resurrection."

We see from this that Muslims are instructed to kill apostates. Further, those who commit the murder will get a reward in heaven.

Tying into this, we find from both Ibn Sa'd and Ibn Hisham, that those who had apostatized prior to the incorporation of an Islamic state in Mecca, were ordered to be executed. These people were Muslims living in Medina, and later left Islam. When Muhammad was able to order their deaths, he did so. These people would correspond to Muslims living in the West, who left Islam. Following the Sunnah, these Muslims are already under a death sentence. It would not be against Islamic law for Muslims to murder these ex-Muslims. If anything, they would have a reward waiting for them in heaven.

I am reminded of Jesus words, "
In fact a time is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is offering a service to God"... John 16:2.

Indeed, many Muslims who have converted to Christianity have paid the price with their very lives.

When I lived in a Muslim country, I spoke with a number of Muslims about the punishment for apostates. Several educated Muslims told me that there were Muslim death squads operating in Europe, and that they were trying to form similar death squads in the USA. One of their purposes was to murder those who left Islam. While Muslims in the West would be quick to deny that, or denounce that, Muslims living in the Mideast support it. When I asked my Muslim friends in the Mideast if they supported those death squads, they all said yes.

This aspect of Islam portrays one of its most ugly sides - i.e. the murder of those who think for themselves.
Look today at the Islamic world, we see it backwards, regressive, and primitive. The poor people who have grown up into Islam, who have had to adopt this dark system, are kept in bondage. It is no wonder that their countries continue to regress since freedom of thought, freedom of creativity, freedom of expression is stifled. We see the Muslim states falling further behind the rest of the world in areas like education, science, and the arts.The more Islamic a state becomes, the farther it regresses.

1) What is to be made of a religion that forbids a man to think and choose for himself? In effect, Islam is a type of religious slavery. "Leave Islam, and you die".
2) How does this mental bondage affect society, and its ability to provide for its people?
3) Leaving Islam doesn't necessarily mean a person is now at war with his people. Isn't it possible for a person who is born a Muslim to serve his country, and do no harm to its people?

Muhammad taught that apostates are to be murdered, wherever they are. This death sentence can be carried out wherever these Muslims are found, either in a Muslim country, or in a non-Muslim country. The Qur’an supports this notion, and both the Hadith and Sirat establish this portion of Islamic law.

Sources: short version:

Long version:


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