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When is an apostate to be killed

Reader comment on item: Arguing over "Can Islam Be Reformed?"
in response to reader comment: you are not telling the truth about Ibn Katheer

Submitted by Alain Jean-Mairet (Switzerland), Oct 11, 2013 at 04:43

an apostate is not to be killed or fought unless he boast about his apostasy in public and speak against Islam. - such as you

As I said here in another comment, we can ascertain the prevalent interpretation of the texts by studying the jurists' consensus and those have been neatly exposed in Averroès' The Distinguished Jurist's Primer: Bidayat al-Mujtahid Wa Nihayat al-Muqtasid (Great Books of Islamic Civilization), 2 volumes. Garnet Publishing Ltd. Now let see. First the general consensus of the death penalty for apostasy:

56.10 Chapter on the Hukm of the Murtadd

An apostate, if taken captive before he declares war, is to be executed by agreement in the case of a man, because of the words of the Prophet (God's peace and blessings be upon him), "Slay those who change their dīn". They disagreed about the execution of a woman and whether she is to be required to repent before execution. The majority said that a woman (apostate) is to be executed. Abū Hanīfa said that a woman is not to be executed and compared her to an originally non-believing woman. The majority relied upon the general meaning implied (in the tradition). One group held a deviant opinion saying that she is to be executed even if she reverts to Islam.

But then what exactly is apostasy. Well, lots of things, actually. Here is an example, also from Averroes' Bidayat al-Mujtahid:

The book of prayer, 2.1.4. Issue 4: The obligation arising from intentional relinquishment

With respect to the obligation in the case of the person who relinquishes it intentionally, and when he is ordered to pray refuses to do so, but does not deny its obligation, a group of jurists said that he should be executed, while another group said that he is to be punished and confined. Among those who maintained that he is to be executed, some made his execution obligatory as a result of his disbelief (kufr). This is the opinion of Ahmad, Ashaq, and Ibn al-Mubarak. Others, who upheld his confinement and punishment till he resumes praying, determined it as a hadd penalty, which is the opinion of Malik, al-Shafi, Abu Hanifa, his disciples, and of the Zahirites.

The reason for this disagreement stems from the conflict of traditions. It is established from the Prophet (…) who said, "Shedding the blood of a Muslim does not become lawful, except in three cases: disbelief after faith, fornication after marriage, and killing a human being when it is not in retaliation for another life". It is also related from the Prophet (…) in the tradition of Burayda that he said, "The distinguishing factor between them and us is prayer, so he who relinquishes it has committed disbelief". In the tradition of Jabir, the Prophet (…) said, "It is the (basis for) distinction between obedience and disbelief", or he said, "Polytheism is nothing but the relinquishment of prayer". Those who understood from the term disbelief here to be actual rejection deemed this tradition to be a commentary on the words of the Prophet (…) "disbelief after faith [occurring in the tradition quoted above]". Those who deemed it (the use of the term disbelief here) merely as censure and reproach said that it means that his acts are like those of the disbelievers and that he resembles the disbelievers. It is just like saying, "a fornicator does not commit fornication and remain a believer" or "a thief does not commit theft and remain a believer". Thus, they held that hadd penalty is not to be imposed in the case.

Averroes' style is quite slick. Let see how this goes in some standard Muslim law books. Here in An-Nawawi's Minhaj al-Talibin:



A SANE adult Moslem who refuses to pray and denies the obligation is an apostate and punishable as such; even if he has merely neglected prayer through laziness, without denying its obligation, he is none the less punishable with death. Capital punishment is liable to be incurred by the omission of even one single prescribed prayer, the moment its time is passed, if done designedly and without offering any excuse. One should begin by exhorting the culprit to repentance, and if this be unavailing strike him upon the neck. Some authorities prefer that he should be pricked with a sharp instrument until he either prays or dies. After his death, however, his body is washed and wrapped in a winding sheet. Prayers are said for the repose of his soul, and he is buried among the faithful. Nor does the law insist upon removing ail trace of the grave in which he is laid.

Or here in Ahmad ibn Naqib al-Misri's dat al-sālik wa 'uddat al-nāsik:

Someone raised among Muslims who denies the obligatoriness of the prayer, zakat, fasting Ramadan, the pilgrimage, or the unlawfulness of wine and adultery, or denies something else upon which there is scholarly consensus (…) and which is necessarily known as being of the religion (…) thereby becomes an unbeliever (kafir) and is executed for his unbelief.

This is how knowledgeable Muslims do interpret the Koran and Tradition in a position of force. And Guardian of Deen's version is, well, something else.


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