They *can* kill apostates

August 5, 2006 at 6:28 am (Arabic, Islam, Islamism)

This post is about the punishment for apostasy from Islam according to Islamic authorities.

عن ابن عباس رضي اللہ عنھما: لما بلغھ ان علیا رضي اللہ عنھ حرق قوما بالنار، فقال: لو کنت انا لم احرقھم، لان النبي صلی اللہ علیھ وسلم قال: “لا تعذبوا بعذاب اللہ”۔ ولقتلتھم، کما قال النبي صلی اللہ علیھ وسلم: “من بدل دینھ فاقتلوہ”۔

cani-bni cabbaasin raDiya-llaahu canhumaa: lammaa bala(gh)ahu anna caliyyan raDiya-llaahu canhu Harraqa qawman bi-nnaar[i], faqaala: “law kuntu anaa lam uHarriqhum, li’anna-nnabiyya Sallaa-llaahu calayhi wa-sallam qaala: “laa tuca(dh)(dh)iboo bica(dh)aabi-llaah[i]”. walaqataltuhum, kamaa qaala-nnabiyyu Sallaa-llaahu calayhi wa-sallam: “man baddala deenahu fa-qtulooh[u]”.

Narrated ‘Ikrima (may God be pleased with him): Ali (may God be pleased with him) 1 burnt some people and this news reached Ibn ‘Abbas (may God be pleased with him) and he said, “Had I been in his place I would not have burnt them, as the Prophet (may God bless him and bestow on him peace) said, ‘Don’t punish (anybody) with Allah’s Punishment.’ No doubt, I would have killed them, for the Prophet (may God bless him and bestow on him peace) said, ‘If somebody (a Muslim) discards his religion, kill him.’”

1. Ali bin Abi Talib, cousin and son-in-law of Muhammad.

Text and translation from: Muhammad Musin Khan. Summarized Sahih Al-Bukhari. Riyadh, Saudi Arabia: Maktaba Dar-us-Salam, 1996, p. 613. Blessings after names are translated by me. In the original, the author has the blessings in Arabic.

This post is to show how capital punishment for apostates can be and is justified.

This sunnah/hadith is number 260 in book 52 (concerning jihad) of volume 4 of Sahih al-Bukhari.

In Islam, there are four collections of sunnah (from “sunnah”, “example,” referring to the example provided by Muhammad and his Companions (senior members of the Islamic community in Muhammad’s lifetime)) and hadith (Hadee(th), plural aHadee(th), referring to the sayings and quotes of Muhammad as narrated by those who heard them) that are considered canonical. When Muslims say that they must rely on the Qur’an and the sunnah for guidance, they mean the collection of sunnah which provide sunnah and hadith.

There is a spectrum of authenticity regarding narrations of sunnah and hadith. How authentic a sunnah/hadith may be is determined by a number of factors, such as the line of narrators (“isnad”), the circumstances and context of the sunnah/hadith, the applicability of the sunnah/hadith, how well the sunnah/hadith relates to other sunnah/hadith.

The four canonical collections – Sahih al-Bukhari, Sahih Muslim, Sahih Abu Dawud, and Sahih Malik (I think; I am not sure about the last one) – are considered the most authoritative and dependable sources on sunnah/hadith. Although other collections do exist, any sunnah/hadith from these four collections would be considered authentic, dependable, and valid. In short, every sunnah/hadith in these four (for the most part) is considered authoritative and incumbent on Muslims.

Of the four, the most popular one and the one considered to be the most authentic and authoritative is Sahih al-Bukhari. So, for this sunnah/hadith to be in Sahih al-Bukhari is no small issue.

Let us turn to another source. There is a book published long ago which summarizes fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence) and (sh)areecah (Islamic law) for travelers. Although it’s based on the (sh)aaficee ma(dh)hab (Shafi’i school of Islamic jurisprudence), it is nevertheless considered to be an excellent source and guide for fiqh and (sh)areecah. This book is cumdat as-saalik wa cuddat an-naasik”, (“The Reliance of the Traveler and Tools of the Worshiper”), which is often simply shortened to cumdat as-saalik” (“The Reliance of the Traveler”).

Under the book on justice, it has a section on apostasy from Islam (called “riddah”). I will post most of the translation of the section. I’m not posting the original Arabic nor the lengthy list at the end that lists which acts can be considered apostasy. In the following, according to what the translator set down, “O:” refers to commentary and notes by Umar Barakat, “A:” refers to commentary and notes by Abd al-Wakil Durubi. “[…]” indicates notation omitted.

(O: Leaving Islam is the ugliest form of unbelief (kufr) and the worst. It may come about through sarcasm, as when someone is told, “Trim your nails, it is sunna,” and he replies, “I would not do it even if it were,” as opposed to when circumstance exists which exonerates him of having committed apostasy, such as when his tongue runs away with him, or when he is quoting someone, or says it out of fear.)

o8.1. When a person who has reached puberty and is sane voluntarily apostatizes from Islam, he deserves to be killed.

o8.2. In such a case, it is obligatory for the caliph (A: or his representative) to ask him to repent and return to Islam. If he does, it is accepted from him, but if he refuses, he is immediately killed.

o8.3. If he is a freeman, no one besides the caliph or his representative may kill him. If someone else kills him, the killer is disciplined […] (O: for arrogating the caliph’s prerogative and encroaching upon his rights, as this is one of his duties).

o8.4 There is no indemnity for killing an apostate (O: or any expiation, since it is killing someone who deserves to die).

o8.5 If he apostatizes from Islam and returns several times, it (O: i.e. his return to Islam, which occurs when he states the two Testifications of Faith […]) is accepted from him, though he is disciplined […].

[o8.6 omitted; o8.7 consists of the list mentioned above]

Nuh Ha Mim Keller. Reliance of the Traveller. Delhi, India: Aamna Publishers, 1994, pp. 595-596.

I think the issue—how apostates from Islam must be treated according to Islam’s authorities—is abundantly clear. This is dedicated to Isaac Schrödinger, fellow apostate.

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