An apostasy in Islam ( ar|ردة, or , , an apostate from Islam is a ''murtad'' ( ar|مرتد) is commonly defined as the abandonment of Islam by a Muslim, in word or through deed. It includes not only explicit renunciations of the Islamic faith by converting to another religion (or abandoning religion altogether), but also blasphemy or heresy, through any action or utterance implying unbelief, including those denying a "fundamental tenet or creed" of Islam. While classical Islamic law calls for execution of those who refuse to repent of apostasy from Islam, the definition of this act and whether and how it should be punished, are disputed among Islamic scholars and international supporters of the universal human right to freedom of faith and conscience. , there were twelve Muslim-majority countries where apostasy from Islam was punishable by death,Laws Criminalizing Apostasy
Library of Congress (2014)
and another thirteen where there were penal or civil penalties. From 1985 to 2006, only four individuals were officially executed by governments for apostasy from Islam, but apostates have suffered from other legal and vigilante punishments -- imprisonment, annulment of marriage, loss of rights of inheritance and custody of children, and even torture.Marshall, Paul; Shea, Nina. 2011. ''Silenced. How Apostasy & Blasphemy Codes are Choking Freedom Worldwide''. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p.61 Mainly loss of life has come from killings by "''takfiri''" insurgents (ISIL, GIA, Taliban) and secret executions (in Iran) that are thought to have numbered in the thousands. Until the late 19th century, the vast majority of Sunni and Shia jurists held that for adult men, apostasy from Islam was a crime as well as a sin, an act of treason punishable with the death penalty, often (depending on the school of law) after a waiting period to allow the apostate time to repent and to return to Islam. But to protect against abuse, exemption was granted to those who were originally forced to embrace Islam, or who apostasized out of fear, or (according to the Hanafi, Maliki, Shafi'i schools) who repented.J.T. Munroe (2004), Hispano-Arabic Poetry, Gorgias Press, , p. 69. In addition, early Islamic jurists developed legal standards to limit the harsh punishment to apostasy of political kind, which in a religious society is similar to high treason, because of these standards apostasy laws were impossible to carry out except in politically motivated circumstances up until 11th century Asma Afsaruddin (2013), ''Striving in the Path of God: Jihad and Martyrdom in Islamic Thought'', p. 242. Oxford University Press. . Later jurists lowered the bar for applying the death penalty, allowing judges to interpret the apostasy law in different ways, which they did sometimes leniently and sometimes strictly. In the late 19th century, the use of legal criminal penalties for apostasy fell into disuse, although civil penalties were still applied. In the contemporary world, public (Muslim) support for capital punishment varies from 78% in Afghanistan to less than 1% in Kazakhstan; among Islamic jurists the majority continue to regard apostasy as a crime whose punishment is death. Those who disagree argue its punishment should be less than death, should be left to God,Forte, D. F. (1994), Apostasy and Blasphemy in Pakistan, Conn. Journal of Int'l Law, Vol. 10, pp. 27–41 (human punishment being inconsistent with Quranic injunctions against compulsion in belief), or should be enforced only if apostasy becomes a mechanism of public disobedience and disorder (''fitna''). Secular critics argue that the death penalty or other punishment for apostasy in Islam is a violation of universal human rights and an issue of freedom of faith and conscience.

Etymology and terminology

Apostasy is called ''irtidād'' (which means relapse or regress) or ''ridda'' in Islamic literature—the terms do not appear in the Quran. An apostate is called ''murtadd'', which means 'one who turns back' from Islam. (Another source—Oxford Islamic Studies Online—defines ''murtadd'' as "not just any kāfir (non-believer)", but "a particularly heinous type".) A person born to a Muslim father who later rejects Islam is called a ''murtad fitri'', and a person who converted to Islam and later rejects the religion is called a ''murtad milli''. ''Takfir'' (''takfeer'') ( ar|تكفير ') is the act of one Muslim excommunicating another, declaring them a ''kafir'', an apostate. The act which precipitates ''takfir'' is termed ''mukaffir''.

Scriptural references


The Quran mentions apostasy in many of its verses, expressing God's anger, impending punishment, and refusal to accept repentance towards those who have left the faith. Traditionally, the verses that are thought to "appear to justify coercion and severe punishment" for apostates are as follows (according to Dale F. Eickelman), including the traditional capital punishment. For example: There is no mention of apostasy law in Quran, scholars have pointed out that there is no mention in the Quran of the need to force an apostate to return to Islam, nor any specific corporal punishment to apply to apostates in ''this'' world —let alone commands to kill apostates—either explicitly or implicitly;Taha Jabir Alalwani (2003), ''La 'ikraha fi al-din: 'ichkaliyat al-riddah wa al-murtaddin min sadr al-Islam hatta al-yawm'', pp. 93–94. . (Verse Q.4:91 talks about "seizing and killing" those who "do not withdraw from you, and (do not) offer you peace and restrain their hands", Q.9:11-12 about "fightngthe champions of disbelief", but neither mention these people being apostates.) However, there is no mention of apostasy law in Quran, scholars have pointed out that there is no mention in the Quran of the need to force an apostate to return to Islam, nor any specific corporal punishment to apply to apostates in ''this'' world In fact, other verses emphasize mercy and lack of compulsion in belief:


The classical shariah punishment for apostasy comes from Sahih ("authentic") Hadith rather than the Quran,Sherazad Hamit (2006), Apostasy and the Notion of Religious Freedom in Islam, Macalester Islam Journal, Volume 1, Spring 2006 Issue 2, pp. 32–38 Writing in the ''Encyclopedia of Islam'', Heffening holds that contrary to the Qur'an, "in traditions .e. hadith there is little echo of these punishments in the next world... and instead, we have in many traditions a new element, the death penalty."W. Heffening, in ''Encyclopedia of Islam''. Other hadith give differing statements about the fate of apostates; that they were spared execution by repenting, by dying of natural causes or by leaving their community (the last case sometimes cited as an example of open apostasy that was left unpunished). The Muwatta of Imam Malik offers a case were Rashidun (rightly guide) Caliph Umar admonishes a Muslim leader for not giving an apostate the opportunity to repent before being executed: The argument has been made (by the Fiqh Council of North America, among others) that the hadiths above — traditionally cited as proof that apostates from Islam should be punished by death — have been misunderstood. In fact (the council argues), the victims were executed for changing their allegiances to the armies fighting the Muslims (i.e. for treason), not their personal beliefs. As evidence they point to two hadith,each from a different "authentic" (''sahih'') Sunni hadith collection where Muhammad calls for the death of apostates or traitors The wording of the hadith are almost identical, but in one, the hadith ends with the phrase "one who reverts from Islam and leaves the Muslims", and in the other it ends with "one who goes forth to fight Allah and His Apostle" (in other words, the council argues the hadith were likely reports of the same incident but had different wording because "reverting from Islam" was another way of saying "fighting Allah and His Apostle"):

What constitutes apostasy in Islam?

Scholars of Islam differ as to what constitutes apostasy in that religion and under what circumstances apostate is subject to the death penalty.

Conditions of apostasy in classical Islam

Al-Shafi'i listed three necessary conditions to pass capital punishment on a Muslim for apostasy in his ''Kitab al-Umm''. (In the words of Frank Griffel) these are: *"first, the apostate had to have once had faith (which, according to Al-Shafi'i's definition, means publicly professing all tenets of Islam, there shouldn't be slightest of doubt.); *secondly, there had to follow unbelief (meaning the public declaration of a breaking-away from Islam), (having done these two the Muslim is now an unbeliever but not yet an apostate and thus not eligible for punishment); *"third, there had to be the omission or failure to repent after the apostate was asked to do so." Three centuries later, Al-Ghazali wrote that one group, known as "secret apostates" or "permanent unbelievers" (aka ''zandaqa''), should not be given a chance to repent, eliminating Al-Shafi'i's third condition for them.


Describing what qualifies as apostasy Christine Schirrmacher writes
there is widespread consensus that apostasy undoubtedly exists where the truth of the Koran is denied, where blasphemy is committed against God, Islam, or Muhammad, and where breaking away from the Islamic faith in word or deed occurs. The lasting, willful non-observance of the five pillars of Islam, in particular the duty to pray, clearly count as apostasy for most theologians. Additional distinguishing features are a change of religion, confessing atheism, nullifying the Sharia as well as judging what is allowed to be forbidden and judging what is forbidden to be allowed. Fighting against Muslims and Islam (Arabic: ''muḥāraba'') also counts as unbelief or apostasy;
Kamran Hashemi classifies apostasy or unbelief in Islam into three different "phenomena": * Converting from Islam to another religion (or abandoning religion altogether), also described as "explicit" apostasy. (Hashemi gives the example of Abdul Rahman, an Afghan who was arrested in February 2006 and threatened with the death penalty in a lower court in Kabul for converting to Christianity.) *Blaspheming (''sabb'') (by a Muslim) against God, Islam, its laws or its prophet, which can be defined, in practice, as any objection to the authenticity of Islam, its laws or its prophet. (An example being the Danish cartoons of the Islamic Prophet Muhammad published in September 2005.) *Heresy; or "implicit" apostasy (by a Muslim), where the alleged apostate does not formally renounce Islam, but has (in the eyes of their accusers) verbally denied some principle of belief prescribed by Qur'an or a Hadith; deviated from approved Islamic tenets (''ilhad''). (Accusations of heresy, or ''takfir'', often involve public thinkers and theologians -- Mahmoud Mohammed Taha, Nasr Abu Zayd, Hashem Aghajari—but can involve the collective takfir of a large group and mass killings -- takfir of Algerians who did not support the Armed Islamic Group of Algeria in 1997, takfir of Shia by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in 2005.

Issues in defining heresy

While identifying someone who publicly converted to another religion as an apostate was straight forward, determining whether a diversion from orthodox doctrine qualified as heresy (or blasphemy) or something permitted by God could be less so. Traditionally, Islamic jurists did not formulate general rules for establishing unbelief, instead compiling sometimes lengthy lists of statements and actions which in their view implied apostasy or are incompatible with Islamic "theological consensus". Al-Ghazali, for example, devoting "chapters to dealing with takfir and the reasons for which one can be accused of unbelief" in his work on ''The Criterion of Distinction between Islam and Clandestine Unbelief''. Some heretical or blasphemous acts or beliefs listed in classical manuals of jurisprudence and other scholarly works (i.e. works written by Islamic scholars) that allegedly demonstrate apostacy include: *to deny the obligatory character of something considered obligatory by Ijma (consensus of Muslims); *revile, question, wonder, doubt, mock or deny the existence of God or Prophet of Islam or that the Prophet was sent by God; *belief that things in themselves or by their nature have cause independent of the will of God; *to assert the createdness of the Quran, to translate the Quran;Shaykhzadeh, ''Madjma' al-anhur'' (1, p.629-37); cited in *to ridicule Islamic scholars or address them in a derisive manner, to reject the validity of Shariah courts; *to pay respect to non-Muslims, to celebrate Nowruz the Iranian New Year; *to express uncertainty such as "'I do not know why God mentioned this or that in the Quran'..."; *for the wife of an Islamic scholar to curse her husband; *to make a declaration of Prophethood (i.e. for someone to declare that they are a prophet. In early Islamic history, after Muhammad's death, this act was automatically deemed to be proof of apostasy—because Islam teaches Muhammad was the last prophet, there could be no more). (This view is alleged to be the basis of the rejection of the Ahmadiyya as apostates from Islam.)Siddiq & Ahmad (1995), Enforced Apostasy: Zaheeruddin v. State and the Official Persecution of the Ahmadiyya Community in Pakistan, Law & Inequality, Volume 14, pp. 275–89, 321–24Burhani A. N. (2013), Treating minorities with fatwas: a study of the Ahmadiyya community in Indonesia, Contemporary Islam, Volume 8, Issue 3, pp. 286–88, 285–301 While there are numerous requirements for a Muslim to avoid being an apostate, it is also an act of apostasy (in Shafi'i and other fiqh) for a Muslim to accuse or describe another devout Muslim of being an unbeliever,Nuh Ha Mim Keller (1997), Umdat as-Salik by Ahmad ibn Naqib al-Misri, Reliance of the Traveller: A Classic Manual of Islamic Sacred Law, , pp. 596–98, Section O-8.7 based on the hadith where Muhammad is reported to have said: "If a man says to his brother, 'You are an infidel,' then one of them is right." Historian Bernard Lewis writes that in early Islamic times it was common for scholars to accuse others of apostasy in "religious polemic", but attempts to bring alleged apostates to justice (have them executed) were very rare. One conservative source (Islam Question and Answer) states that, "no one may be judged to be a ''kafir'' or ''fasiq'' except the one whom the Qur’an and Sunnah indicate is a ''kafir'' or ''fasiq''". The tension between desire to cleanse Islam of heresy and fear of inaccurate takfir is suggested in the writings of some of the leading Islamic scholars. Al-Ghazali "is often credited with having persuaded theologians", in his ''Fayal al-tafriqa'', "that takfir is not a fruitful path and that utmost caution is to taken in applying it", but in other writing he made sure to condemn as beyond the pale of Islam "philosophers and Ismaili esotericists". Ibn Hazm and Ibn Taymiyyah also "warned against unbridled takfir" while takfiring "specific categories" of theological opponents as "unbelievers". Gilles Kepel writes that "used wrongly or unrestrainedly, this sanction would quickly lead to discord and sedition in the ranks of the faithful. Muslims might resort to mutually excommunicating one another and thus propel the Ummah to complete disaster." Kepel, Gilles; ''Jihad: the Trail of Political Islam'', London: I.B. Tauris, 2002, page 31 The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), for example, tafired all those who opposed its policy of enslaving members of the Yazidi religion. According to one source, Jamileh Kadivar, the majority of the "27,947 terrorist deaths" ISIL has been responsible for as of 2020 have been Muslims it regards "as kafir", as it gives fighting alleged apostates a higher priority than fighting self-professed non-Muslims—Jews, Christians, Hindus, etc. An open letter to ISIL by 126 Islamic scholars includes as one of its points of opposition to ISIL: "It is forbidden in Islam to declare people non-Muslim unless he (or she) openly declares disbelief". There is general agreement among Muslims that the takfir and mass killings of alleged apostates perpetrated not only by ISIL but also by the Armed Islamic Group of Algeria and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's jihadis were wrong, but there is less unanimity in other cases, such as what to do in a situation where self-professed Muslim(s) -- post-modernist academic Nasr Abu Zayd or the Ahmadiyya movement—disagree with their accusers on an important doctrinal point. (Ahmadi quote a Muslim journalist, Abdul-Majeed Salik, claiming that, "all great and eminent Muslims in the history of Islam as well as all the sects in the Muslim world are considered to be disbelievers, apostates, and outside the pale of Islam according to one or the other group of religious leaders".) In the case of the Ahmadiyya—who are accused by mainstream Sunni and Shia of denying the basic tenet of the Finality of Prophethood (Ahmadis state they believe Mirza Ghulam Ahmad is a mahdi and a messiah)—the Islamic Republic of Pakistan has declared in Ordinance XX of the Second Amendment to its Constitution, that Ahmadis are non-Muslims and deprived them of religious rights. Several large riots (1953 Lahore riots, 1974 Anti-Ahmadiyya riots) and a bombing (2010 Ahmadiyya mosques massacre) have killed hundreds of Ahmadis in that country. Whether this is unjust takfir or applying sharia to collective apostasy is disputed. ;Overlap with blasphemy The three types (conversion, blasphemy and heresy) may overlap—for example some "heretics" were alleged not to be actual self-professed Muslims, but to be seeking to destroy Islam from within in the interests of the religion they truly followed. (Abdullah ibn Mayun al-Qaddah, for example, "fathered the whole complex development of the Ismaili religion and organisation up to Fatimid times," was accused by his different detractors of being (variously) "a Jew, a Bardesanian and most commonly as an Iranian dualist") In Islamic literature, the term "blasphemy" sometimes also overlaps with ("unbelief"), (depravity), (insult), and (apostasy). Because blasphemy in Islam included rejection of fundamental doctrines, blasphemy has historically been seen as an evidence of rejection of Islam, that is, the religious crime of apostasy. Some jurists believe that blasphemy automatically implies a Muslim has left the fold of Islam. A Muslim may find himself accused of being a blasphemer, and thus an apostate on the basis of one action or utterance. ;Collective apostasy In collective apostasy, a self-proclaimed Islamic group/sect are declared to be heretics/apostates. Groups treated as collective apostates include zindiq, sometimes Sufis, and more recently Ahmadis and Bahais. As described above, the difference between legitimate Muslim sects and illegitimate apostate groups can be subtle and Muslims have not agreed on were the line dividing them lies. According to Gianluca Parolin, "collective apostasy has always been declared on a case-by-case basis". ;Fetri and national apostates Among Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and others in Ja'fari fiqh a distinction is made between "fetri" or "innate" apostates who grew up Muslims and remained Muslim after puberty until converting to another religion, and "national apostates"—essentially people who grew up non-Muslim and converted to Islam. "National apostates" are given a chance to repent, but "innate apostates are not. ;Children raised in apostacy Orthodox apostasy fiqh can be problematic for someone who was raised by a non-Muslim (or non-Muslims) but has an absentee Muslim parent, or was raised by an apostate (or apostates) from Islam. A woman born to a Muslim parent is considered an apostate if she marries a non-Muslim, even if her Muslim parent did not raise her and she has always practiced another religion. Someone born to an apostate from Islam, raised in their parent's new religion and who stays within that religion, is also an apostate. This is because if one of their parents was born a Muslim their offspring are considered Muslim ("according to scholarly consensus"), and whether or not they know anything about Islam, by simply practicing the (new) religion of their parent(s) they become apostates (according to the committee of fatwa scholars at Islamweb). ;Contemporary issues of defining apostasy In the 19th, 20th and 21 century issues affecting shariʿah on apostasy include modern norms of freedom of religion, the status of members of Baháʼí (considered unbeliever/apostates in Iran) and Ahmadi faiths (considered appostates from Islam in Pakistan and elsewhere), those who "refuse to judge or be judged according to the ''shariʿah,''" and more recently the status of Muslims authorities and governments that do not implement classical ''shariʿah'' law in its completeness.


There are differences of opinion among Islamic scholars about whether, when and especially how apostasy in Islam should be punished, From 11th century onwards, apostasy of Muslims from Islam was forbidden by Islamic law, punishable by death and also by civil liabilities such as seizure of property, children, annulment of marriage, loss of inheritance rights. (A subsidiary law, also applied throughout the history of Islam, forbade non-Muslims from proselytizing Muslims to leave Islam and join another religion, because it encouraged Muslims to commit a crime.) Starting in the 19th century the legal code of many Muslim states no longer included apostasy as a capital crime, and to compensate some Islamic scholars called for vigilante justice of hisbah to execute the offenders (see Apostasy in Islam#Colonial era and after). In contemporary times the majority of Islamic jurists still regard apostasy as a crime deserving the death penalty, (according to Abdul Rashied Omar), although "a growing body of Islamic jurists" oppose this, (according to Javaid Rehman) as inconsistent with "freedom of religion" as expressed in the Quranic injunctions (-) and ("there is no compulsion in religion"); and a relic of the early Islamic community when apostasy was desertion or treason. Still others suggest a "centrist or moderate position" opposing "calls for execution of those whose apostasy is not unambiguously provable"; and reserving the death penalty for those who make their apostacy public. According to Christine Schirrmacher, "a majority of theologians" embrace this stance.

Who qualifies for judgement for the crime of apostasy

As mentioned above, there are numerous doctrinal fine points outlined in fiqh manuals whose violation should render the violator an apostate, but there are also hurdles and exacting requirements that spare (self-proclaimed) Muslims conviction for apostasy in classical fiqh. One motive for caution is that it is an act of apostasy (in Shafi'i and other fiqh) for a Muslim to accuse or describe another innocent Muslim of being an unbeliever, based on the hadith where Muhammad is reported to have said: "If a man says to his brother, 'You are an infidel,' then one of them is right." According to sharia, to be found guilty the accused must at the time of apostasizing be exercising free will, an adult, and of sound mind, and have refused to repent when given a time period to do so (not all schools include this last requirement). The free will requirement excludes from judgement those who embraced Islam under conditions of duress and then went back to their old religion, or Muslims who converted to another religion involuntarily, either force or as concealment out of fear of persecution or during war (Taqiyya or Kitman). Nor are those who mistreat a copy of a Quran or do not pray Salat out of ignorance and misunderstanding (provided they do not continue to do so after being warned not to). Some of the requirements being used as loopholes to exonerate apostates (apostasy charges against Abdul Rahman, were dropped on the grounds he was "mentally unfit").)

Death penalty

In classical fiqh

Traditional Sunni and Shia Islamic fiqhs, or schools of jurisprudence (maḏāhib) agree on some issues—that male apostates should be executed, and that most but not all perpetrators should not be given a chance to repent (the excluded include those who practice magic (''subhar''), treacherous heretics (''zanādiqa'', and recidivists"). They disagree on issues such as whether women can be executed,Frank Griffel (2001), Toleration and exclusion: al-Shafi 'i and al-Ghazali on the treatment of apostates, Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, 64(03), pp. 348–349David F Forte (2011)
Islam’s Trajectory
, Revue des Sciences Politiques, No. 29, pp. 93, 97–98, 92–101
whether apostasy is a violation of "the rights of God",Mohamed El-Awa (1993), Punishment in Islamic Law, American Trust Publications, , pp. 53–54, 1–68 whether apostates who were born Muslim may be spared if they repent, whether conviction requires the accused be a practicing Muslim, or whether it is enough to simply intend to commit apostasy rather than actually doing it. *Hanafi – recommends three days of imprisonment before execution, although the delay before killing the Muslim apostate is not mandatory. Apostasy is not a Hudood crime. Unlike in other schools it is not obligatory to call on the apostate to repent. Apostates men must be killed, while women must be held in solitary confinement and beaten every three days till they recant and return to Islam. Penalty for Apostasy limited for those who cause Hirabah after leaving Islam, not for personal religion change. *Maliki – allows up to ten days for recantation, after which the apostate must be killed. Apostasy is a Hudood crime. Both men and women apostates deserve death penalty according to the traditional view of Sunni Maliki fiqh. Unlike other schools, the apostate must have a history of being "good" (i.e. practicing) Muslim. *Shafi'i – waiting period of three days is required to allow the Muslim apostate time to repent and return to Islam, failing repentance execution is the recommended punishment for both men and women. Apostasy is not a Hudood crime. *Hanbali – waiting period not necessary, but may be granted. Apostasy is a Hudood crime. Execution is traditional recommended punishment for both genders of Muslim apostates. *Ja'fari – Male apostates must be executed, states the Jafari fiqh, while a female apostate must be held in solitary confinement till she repents and returns to Islam. Apostasy is a Hudood crime. The "mere intention of unbelief" without expression qualifies as apostasy. Unlike the other schools only "national apostates" who were not born Muslims but converted to Islam before apostasizing can be spared execution by repenting. "Innate" apostates, who grew up Muslims and remained Muslim after puberty and until converting to another religion, should be executed whether or not they return to Islam.

Vigilante application

In contemporary situations where apostates, (or alleged apostates), have ended up being killed, it is usually not be through the formal criminal justice system, especially when "a country's law does not punish apostasy." It is not uncommon for "vigilante" Muslims to kill or attempt to kill apostates or alleged apostates (or force them to flee the country). In at least one case, (the high profile execution of Mahmud Muhammad Taha), the victim was legally executed and the government made clear he was being executed for apostasy, but not the technical "legal basis" for his killing was another crime or crimes, namely "heresy, opposing the application of Islamic law, disturbing public security, provoking opposition against the government, and re-establishing a banned political party." Post-modernist professor Nasr Abu Zayd loss of his case for apostasy in the Giza Lower Personal Status Court meant only forcable divorce from his wife (who did not want to divorce), but it put the proverbial target on his back and he fled to Europe.Professor Nasr Hamed Abu Zaid: Modernist islamic philosopher who was forced into exile by fundamentalists
|By Adel Darwish | 14 July 2010 |The Independent

Civil liabilities

In Islam, apostasy has traditionally had both criminal and civil penalties. In the late 19th century, when the use of criminal penalties for apostasy fell into disuse, civil penalties were still applied. The punishment for the criminal penalties includes death or prison, while In all madhhabs of Islam, the civil penalties include: :(a) the property of the apostate is seized and distributed to his or her Muslim relatives; :(b) his or her marriage annulled (''faskh''); ::(1) if they were not married at the time of apostasy they could not get married :(c) any children removed and considered ward of the Islamic state. :(d) In case the entire family has left Islam, or there are no surviving Muslim relatives recognized by Sharia, the apostate's property is liquidated by the Islamic state (part of ''fay'', الْفيء). :(e) In case the apostate is not executed -- such as in case of women apostates in Hanafi school -- the person also loses all inheritance rights.Kazemi F. (2000)
Gender, Islam, and politics
Social Research, Vol. 67, No. 2, pp. 453–74
Hanafi Sunni school of jurisprudence allows waiting till execution, before children and property are seized; other schools do not consider this wait as mandatory. ;Social liabilities The conversion of a Muslim to another faith is often considered a "disgrace" and "scandal" as well as a sin, so in addition to penal and civil penalties, loss of employment, ostracism and proclamations by family members that they are "dead", is not at all "unusual". For those who wish to remain in the Muslim community but who are considered unbelievers by other Muslims, there are also "serious forms of ostracism". These include the refusal of other Muslims to pray together with or behind a person accused of kufr, the denial of the prayer for the dead and burial in a Muslim cemetery, boycott of whatever books they have written, etc.

Supporters and opponents of death penalty

;Support among contemporary Preachers and scholars "The vast majority of Muslim scholars both past as well as present" consider apostasy "a crime deserving the death penalty", according to Abdul Rashided Omar writing circa 2007. Some of the leading lights include: *Abul A'la Maududi (1903-1979), who "by the time of his death had become the most widely read Muslim author of our time", according to one source. *Mohammed al-Ghazali (1917–1996), considered an Islamic "moderate" and "preeminent" faculty member of Egypt's preeminent Islamic institution—Al Azhar University− as well as a valuable ally of the Egyptian government in its struggle against the "growing tide of Islamic fundamentalism", was "widely credited" with contributing to the 20th century Islamic revival in the largest Arabic country, Egypt. (Al-Ghazali was on record as declaring all those who opposed the implimentation of sharia law to be apostates who should ideally be punished by the state, but "when the state fails to punish apostates, somebody else has to do it"; he also called on the government to appoint a committee to measure the faith of the population and give wayward Egyptian Muslims time to repent, but "those who did not should be killed".) *Yusuf al-Qaradawi (b.1926), another "moderate" Islamist, chairman of the International Union of Muslim Scholars, who is "considered one of the most influential" Islamic scholars living today,No.9 Sheikh Dr Yusuf al Qaradawi, Head of the International Union of Muslim Scholars – "The 500 most influential Muslims in the world 2009", Prof John Esposito and Prof Ibrahim Kalin – Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University *Zakir Naik, Indian Islamic televangelist and preacher, Shukla, Ashutosh
"Muslim group welcomes ban on preacher"
. ''Daily News and Analysis''. 22 June 2010. Retrieved 16 April 2011. 7 August 2011.
whose Peace TV channel, reaches a reported 100 million viewers, and whose debates and talks are widely distributed,"Maldivian renounces Islam, gets attacked by Zakir Naik audience"
May 2010. Retrieved 7 August 2011
7 August 2011.
supports killing apostates from Islam but only those who "propagate the non-Islamic faith and speak against Islam". *Sayyid Muhammad Rizvi, a Shia scholar born in India, studied in Qum, Iran, and as of 2021 the Imam-e Jum‘a and Resident ‘Ãlim of the Jaffari Islamic Center in Canada. *Muhammad Saalih Al-Munajjid, a Syrian Islamic scholar, considered a respected scholar in the Salafi movement (according to Al Jazeera); and founder of the fatwa website IslamQA, one of the most popular Islamic websites, and (according to Alexa.com as of November 2015) the world's most popular website on the topic of Islam generally (apart from the website of an Islamic bank).Deutsche Welle: "Women in Islam: Behind the veil and in front of it"
retrieved September 2, 2016
;Opposing the death penalty *Intisar Rabb, faculty director of the Program in Islamic Law at Harvard Law School. *Shafi`i jurists Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa of EgyptGrand Mufti Ali Gomaa
Gomaa's Statement on Apostasy
, ''The Washington Post'', 25 July 2007.
*Fiqh scholar Taha Jabir Alalwani *Grand Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri *Grand Ayatollah Hussein Esmaeel al-Sadr *Javed Ahmad Ghamidi, a Pakistani Muslim theologian, Quran scholar *Tariq Ramadan, a Swiss Muslim academic, philosopher, and writer. He was a professor of contemporary Islamic studies *Reza Aslan, an Iranian-American scholar of religious studies, writer *Jonathan A.C. Brown, a Muslim American scholar of Islamic studies *Rudolph F. Peters, Gert Vries, scholars of Islam *Khaled Abou El Fadl, scholar of Islamic law *S. A. Rahman, a former Chief Justice of Pakistan *Mahmud Shaltut, the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, 1958–1963) *Mirza Tahir Ahmad, head of the worldwide Ahmadiyya Muslim Community from 1982-2003

Rationale, arguments, criticism for and against killing apostates

The question of whether apostates should be killed, has been "a matter for contentious dispute throughout Islamic history". (p. 121) ;For the death penalty Some arguments offered for a death penalty for those who leave Islam: *The issue should be decided not by "reasoning" or ones "whims and desires", but "before all else" by following Islamic scripture (Quran and Hadith) and "the texts and rulings of shariʿah", which all call for killing apostates (Islam Question and Answer). *Among early Muslims, among the schools of fiqh both Sunni and Shia, among scholars of shari'ah "of every century ... available on record", there is unanimous agreement that the punishment for apostate is death, and that "no room whatever remains to suggest" that this penalty has not "been continuously and uninterruptedly operative" through Islamic history (Abul Ala Mawdudi); evidence from early texts that Muhammad called for apostates to be killed, and that companions of the Prophet and early caliphs ordered beheadings and crucifixions of apostates has never been declared invalid over the course of the history of Islamic theology (Christine Schirrmacher). **"Many hadiths", not just "one or two", call for the killing of apostates (Yusuf al-Qaradawi); **Verse Q.2:217 — "hindering ˹others˺ from the Path of Allah, rejecting Him, and expelling the worshippers from the Sacred Mosque is ˹a˺ greater ˹sin˺ in the sight of Allah" — indicates the punishment for apostasy from Islam is death (Mohammad Iqbal Siddiqi), Quranic verses in general "appear to justify coercion and severe punishment" for apostates (Dale F. Eickelman). **If this doctrine is called into question, what's next? — ritual prayer (salat)? fasting (sawm)? even Muhammad's mission? (Abul Ala Mawdudi); *It "does not merit discussion" because he advocates maintainapostasy from Islam is so rare, (Ali Kettani), (Mahmud Brelvi); there was virtually no apostasy from Islam (Syed Barakat Ahmad); **there are numerous qualifications or ways for the apostate to avoid death (to be found guilty they must openly reject Islam, have made their decision without coercion, be aware of the nature of their statements, be an adult, be completely sane, refused to repent, etc.) so the punishment is "rarely invoked" (Religious Tolerance website). *While it is true that the Quranic states there is "no compulsion in religion" (Q.2:256), this "does not contradict the command to execute the apostate" (Islam Question and Answer); **because the verse applies only to entering Islam, when it comes to leaving Islam, "the rules change"; Q.33:36 states: "No believing man and no believing woman has a choice in their own affairs when Allāh and His Messenger have decided on an issue" (Sayyid Muhammad Rizvi); (Islam Question and Answer). **or because the verse only forbids compulsion to believe "things that are wrong", when it comes to accepting the truth, compulsion is allowed (Peters and Vries explaining a traditional view); **Others maintain that verse Q.2:256 has been "abrogated", i.e according to classical Quranic scholars it has been overruled/cancelled by verses of Quran revealed later, (IOW, compulsion was not allow in the very earliest days of Islam but this was changed by devine revelation a few years later) (Peters and Vries explaining traditional view); *The issue should not considered through the lens of freedom of belief for individuals. Islam is the one true religion, and not one religion among many competing in a marketplace of beliefs. It is not limited to persuasion to keep its adherents in the fold. **"Those who bleat about personal freedom and freedom of belief" should consider that apostasy is "leaving the true religion and rejecting the shariʿah". Islam was revealed by Allah to "bring justice and fairness to all" (Islam Question and Answer); Islam can "not allow its followers to lower themselves from the sublime status of 'surrendering to the will of Allah--Islam'" to that of willful ignorance (Sayyid Muhammad Rizvi). **The apostate provides a terrible example to other Muslims, opening "the way for everyone who wants to leave the faith, thus spreading apostasy and encouraging it" (Islam Question and Answer). If early Muslims "had gotten rid of the apostasy punishment, Islam wouldn't exist today." (Yusuf al-Qaradawi b.1926) **To allow "any other religion to spread its message as competition to the religion of God" is wrong, and leaving apostates alive gives "evil ... an opportunity to raise its head against" Islam (Abul Ala Mawdudi). **While the death penalty may seem harsh, the apostate is "casting doubt on the truth and honesty of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) as the Messenger of God," which is worse (Sayyid Muhammad Rizvi); **Islam should "be judged on its own terms, and not by the secular ideals ... the western powers" keep the "cards of human rights, democracy, and minority rights ... up their sleeves" to play "against any country that they do not like" (Sayyid Muhammad Rizvi). *Apostasy should not be thought of as a personal choice of belief, but as treason—not military treason as the term is used in the West, but as "spiritual and cultural" treason (Sayyid Muhammad Rizvi); **Because "the social order of every Moslem society is Islam", apostasy constitutes "an offense" against that social order, "that may lead in the end to the destruction of this order" (Muhammad Muhiy al-Din al-Masiri); **Apostasy is usually "a psychological pretext for rebellion against worship, traditions and laws and even against the foundations of the state", and so "is often synonymous with the crime of high treason ... " (Muhammad al-Ghazali); **A person who has "known the religion which Allaah revealed" yet rejects it, has demonstrated such monumental ingratitude that they do "not deserve to live on the earth of Allah and eat from the provision of Allah" (IslamQA). ;Against death penalty Arguments against the death penalty contradict those in favor of it, most popular one seems to be that the death penalty was actually intended for treasonous behavior; that it is a misinterpretation of scripture to apply the punishment to those who only change their personal belief. * How can it be claimed that there was a consensus among scholars or community (''ijma'') from the beginning of Islam in favor of capital punishment, when a number of companions of Muhammad and early Islamic scholars (Ibn al-Humam, al-Marghinani, Ibn Abbas, Sarakhsi, Ibrahim al-Nakh'i), opposed the execution of ''murtadd''? (Mirza Tahir Ahmad); **in addition there have been a number of prominent ulema (though a minority) over the centuries who argued against the death penalty for apostasy in some way, such as ... ***The Maliki jurist Abu al-Walid al-Baji (d. 474 AH) held that apostasy was liable only to a discretionary punishment (known as ''ta'zir'') and so might not require execution. ***The Hanafi jurist Al-Sarakhsi (d. 483 AH/ 1090 CE) and Imam Ibnul Humam (d. 681 AH/ 1388 CE) and Abd al-Rahman al-Awza'i (707–774 CE), all distinguished between non-seditious religious apostasy on the one hand and treason on the other, with execution reserved for treason. ***Ibrahim al-Nakhaʿī (50 AH/670 - 95/96 AH/717 CE) and Sufyan al-Thawri (97 AH/716 CE - 161 AH/778 CE) as well as the Hanafi jurist Sarakhsi (d. 1090), believed that an apostate should be asked to repent indefinitely (which implies he would not be sentenced to death). *There are problems with the scriptural basis for sharia commanding the execution of apostates **Quran (see Quran above) *** Compulsion in faith is "explicitly" forbidden by the Quran ('Abd al-Muta'ali al-Sa'idi), Quranic statements on freedom of religion -- 'There is no compulsion in religion. The right path has been distinguished from error' (Q.2:256) (and also 'Whoever wants, let him believe, and whoever wants, let him disbelieve,' (Q.18:29) -- are "absolute and universal" statement(s) (Jonathan A.C. Brown), (Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa), "general, overriding principle(s)" (Khaled Abou El Fadl) of Islam, and not abrogated by hadith or the Sword Verse (Q.9:5); After all, if someone has the threat of death hanging over their head in a matter of faith, it cannot be said that there is "no compulsion or coercion" in their belief (Tariq Ramadan).Tariq Ramadan on Apostasy
(25 July 2007)
***Neither verse Q.2:217, (Mirza Tahir Ahmad), or any other Quranic verse says anything to indicate an apostate should be punished ''in the temporal world'', aka ''dunyā'' (S. A. Rahman), (W. Heffening),Muhammad S. Al-Awa (1993), ''Punishment in Islamic Law'', p. 51. US American Trust Publications. . (Wael Hallaq), (Grand Ayatollah Hussein-Ali Montazeri), the verses only indicate that dangerous, aggressive apostates should be killed, (Mahmud Shaltut), (e.g. "If they do not withdraw from you, and offer you peace, and restrain their hands, take them and kill them wherever ye come upon them" Q.4:90), (Peters and Vries describing argument of Islamic Modernists).1 Samuel M. Zwemer, ''The Law of Apostasy in Islam: Answering the Question Why There are so Few Moslem Converts, and Giving Examples of Their Moral Courage and Martyrdom'', (Amarko Book Agency, New Delhi: 1975. First edn. published by Marshall Bros. Ltd., London: 1924) p. 9. Zwemer cites from 'Apostasy and its Consequences under Islam and Christianity' in ''Islamic Review'', November 1916, p. 485ff, in his own Bibliography p.163. cited in ***Another verses condemning apostasy — Q.4:137, "Those who believe then disbelieve, then believe again, then disbelieve and then increase in their disbelief -- God will never forgive them nor guide them to the path" — makes no sense if apostasy is punished by death, because killing apostates "would not permit repeated conversion from and to Islam" (Louay M. Safi), (Sisters in Islam); ***Another **Hadith and Sunnah (see hadith above) ***"According to most established juristic schools, a hadith can limit the application of a general Qur'anic statement, but can never negate it", so the hadith calling for execution cannot abrogate the "There is no compulsion in religion" verse (Q.2:256) (Louay M. Safi); *** The Prophet Muhammad did not call for the deaths of contemporaries who left Islam (Mohamed Ghilan), for example, apostates like "Hishâm and 'Ayyash", or converts to Christianity, such as "Ubaydallah ibn Jahsh"; since what The Prophet did is by definition part of the Sunnah of Islam, this indicates "that one who changes her/his religion should not be killed" (Tariq Ramadan); ***another reason not to use the hadith(s) stating “whoever changes his religion kill him” as the basis for law is that it is not among the class of hadith eligible to be used as the basis for "legal rulings binding upon all Muslims for all times" (Muhammad al-Shawkani (1759–1834 CE)); *** The hadith(s) "calling for apostates to be killed are actually referring to "what can be considered in modern terms political treason", not change in personal belief (Mohamed Ghilan), (Adil Salahi); punishment of collective conspiracy and treason against the government (Enayatullah Subhani); (Mahmud Shaltut); and in fact, translating the Islamic term ''ridda'' as simply "apostasy" — a standard practice — is really an error, as ''ridda'' should be defined as "the public act of political secession from the Muslim community" (Jonathan Brown). ***another argument casts doubts on their authenticity, noting the hadith "belong to the category of Traditions .e. hadithrelying on only one authority (''khadar al-ahad'') and were not widely known amongst the Companions of the Prophet," and so ought not abrogate Quranic verses of tollerance. (Peters and Vries describing argument of Islamic Modernists) Wael Hallaq questions the authenticity of the hadith calling for death for apostates. *The punishment or lack for apostasy should reflect the circumstances of the Muslim community which were very different when the death penalty was established. **Unlike some other sharia laws, those on how to deal with apostates from Islam are not set in stone but should be adjusted according to circumstances based on what best serves the interests of society. In the past, the death penalty for leaving Islam "protected the integrity of the Muslim community", but today this goal is no longer met by punishing apostasy. (Jonathan Brown) **the "premise and reasoning underlying the sunna rule of death penalty for apostasy were valid in the historical context" where 'disbelief is equated with high treason' because citizenship was 'based on belief in Islam', but doesn't apply today. (Abdullahi An-Na'im, et.al.) the prescription of death penalty for apostasy found in hadith was aimed at prevention of aggression against Muslims and sedition against the state. (Mahmud Shaltut) it's a man-made rule enacted in the early Islamic community to prevent and punish the equivalent of desertion or treason (John Esposito), it is probable that the punishment was prescribed by Muhammad during early Islam to combat political conspiracies against Islam and Muslims, and is not intended for those who simply change their belief or express a change in belief. Montazeri defines different types of apostasy; he argues that capital punishment should be reserved for those who desert Islam out of malice and enmity towards the Muslim community, and not those who convert to another religion after investigation and research. (Ayatollah Hussein-Ali Montazeri) **the concept of apostasy as treason is not so much part of Islam, as part of the pre-modern era when classical Islamic ''fiqh'' was developed, and when "''every'' religion was a 'religion of the sword'". (Reza Aslan) and every religion "underpinned the political and social order within ... the states they established" (Jonathan Brown); “…the premodern period was an era in which citizenship was defined by religion. In the worlds of Islam and Christendom alike, to declare allegiance to another religion while continuing to reside in the land where one’s original religion was dominant, was to renounce allegiance to one’s co-religionists in a way tantamount to treason.” (Intisar Rabb) "This was also an era in which religion and the state were one unified entity. ... no Jew, Christian, Zoroastrian, or Muslim of this time would have considered his or her religion to be rooted in the personal confessional experiences of individuals. ... Your religion was your ethnicity, your culture, and your social identity... your religion was your citizenship." ***For example, the Holy Roman Empire had its officially sanctioned and legally enforced version of Christianity; the Sasanian Empire had its officially sanctioned and legally enforced version of Zoroastrianism; in China at that time, Buddhist rulers fought Taoist rulers for political ascendancy, (Reza Aslan); Jews who abandoned the God of Israel to worship other deities "were condemned to stoning". (Jonathan Brown) **transcending tribalism with religious (Islamic) unity could mean prevention of civil war in Muhammad's era.(Mohamed Ghilan) **capital punishment for apostasy is a time-bound command, applying only to those Arabs who denied the truth even after having Muhammad himself explained and clarified it to them. (Javed Ahmad Ghamidi) **now the only reason to kill an apostate is to eliminate the danger of war, not because of their disbelief (Al-Kamal ibn al-Humam 861 AH/1457 CE) these days, the number of apostates is small, and does not politically threaten the Islamic community (Christine Schirrmacher describing the "liberal" postition on apostasy). it should be enforced only if apostasy becomes a mechanism of public disobedience and disorder (''fitna'') (Ahmet Albayrak).Ahmet Albayrak writes in ''The Qur'an: An Encyclopedia'' that regarding apostasy as a wrongdoing is not a sign of intolerance of other religions, and is not aimed at one's freedom to choose a religion or to leave Islam and embrace another faith, but that on the contrary, it is more correct to say that the punishment is enforced as a safety precaution when warranted if apostasy becomes a mechanism of public disobedience and disorder (''fitna''). Oliver Leaman, ''The Qur'an: An Encyclopedia'', pp. 526–27. *In Islamic history, laws calling for severe penalties against apostasy (and blasphemy) have not been used to protect Islam, but "almost exclusively" to either eliminate "political dissidents" or target "vulnerable religious minorities", (Javaid Rehman) which is hardly something worthy of immitating. *Executing apostates is a violation of the human right to freedom of religion, and somewhat hypocritical for a religion that enthusiastically encourages non-Muslims to apostacize from their current faith and convert to Islam. (Non-Muslims and liberals Muslims)

Middle way

An medieval scholar, Maliki jurist Abu al-Walid al-Baji (d. 474 AH) held that apostasy was liable only to a discretionary punishment (''ta'zir'') which would not have required the death penalty because it was not a hadd crime (with fixed penalties). At least some conservative jurists and preachers have attempted to reconcile following the traditional doctrine of death for apostasy while addressing the principle of freedom of religion. Some of whom argue apostasy should have a lesser penalty than death. At a 2009-human rights conference at Mofid University in Qom, Ayatollah Mohsen Araki, stated that "if an individual doubts Islam, he does not become the subject of punishment, but if the doubt is openly ''expressed'', this is not permissible." As one observer (Sadakat Kadri) noted, this "freedom" has the advantage that "state officials could not punish an unmanifested belief even if they wanted to". Zakir Naik, the Indian Islamic televangelist and preacher takes a less strict line stating that only those Muslims who "propagate the non-Islamic faith and speak against Islam" after converting from Islam should be put to death.

In practice -- historical impact

The charge of apostasy is often used by religious authorities to condemn and punish skeptics, dissidents, and minorities in their communities. From the earliest history of Islam, the crime of apostasy and execution for apostasy has driven major events in Islam. For example, the Ridda wars (civil wars of apostasy) shook the Muslim community in 632–633 AD, immediately after the death of Muhammad. These apostasy wars split the two major sects of IslamSunni and Shia, and caused numerous deaths. Sunni and Shia sects of Islam have long called each other as apostates of Islam. Some Christian converts to Islam who reportedly reverted to Christianity and were executed include "Kyros" who was executed by burning in 769 CE, “Holy Elias” in 795 CE, “Holy Bacchus” in 806 CE.Khoury, Adel Theodoro. 1994. Christen unterm Halbmond. Religiöse Minderheiten unter der Herrschaft des Islams. Freiburg: Herder, p. 101–192; quoted in Historian David Cook writes that "it is only with the 'Abbasi caliphs al-Mu'taṣim (218-28 AH/833-42 CE) and al-Mutawakkil (233-47 /847-61) that we find detailed accounts" of apostates and what was done with them. Prior to that, in the Umayyad and early Abbasid periods, measures to defend Islam from apostasy "appear to have mostly remained limited to intellectual debates" He also states that "the most common category of apostates"—at least of apostates who converted to another religion -- "from the very first days of Islam" were "Christians and Jews who converted to Islam and after some time" reconverted back to their former faith. Some sources emphasize that executions of apostates have been "rare in Islamic history". According to historian Bernard Lewis, in "religious polemic" in the "early times" of Islam, "charges of apostasy were not unusual", but the accused were seldom prosecuted, and "some even held high offices in the Muslim state". Later, "as the rules and penalties of the Muslim law were systematized and more regularly enforced, charges of apostasy became rarer." When action was taken against an alleged apostate, it was much more likely to be "quarantine" than execution, unless the innovation was "extreme, persistent and aggressive". Another source, legal historian Sadakat Kadri, argues execution was rare because "it was widely believed" that any accused apostate "who repented by articulating the ''shahada''" (''LA ILAHA ILLALLAH'' "There is no God but Allah") "had to be forgiven" and their punishment delayed until after Judgement Day. This principle was upheld "even in extreme situations", such as when an offender adopted Islam "only for fear of death" and their sincerity seemed highly implausible. It was based on the hadith that Muhammad had upbraided a follower for killing a raider who had uttered the shahada. ''The New Encyclopedia of Islam'' also states that after the early period, with some notable exceptions, the practice in Islam regarding atheism or various forms of heresy, grew more tolerant as long as it was a private matter. However heresy and atheism expressed in public may well be considered a scandal and a menace to a society; in some societies they are punishable, at least to the extent the perpetrator is silenced. In particular, blasphemy against God and insulting Muhammad are major crimes. The famous Sufi mystic of 10th-century Iraq, Mansur Al-Hallaj was officially executed for possessing a heretical document suggesting hajj pilgrimage was not required of a pure Muslim (i.e. killed for heresy which made him an apostate), but it is thought he would have been spared execution except that the Caliph at the time Al-Muqtadir wished to discredit "certain figures who had associated themselves" with al-Hallaj. (Previously al-Hallaj had been punished for talking about being at one with God by being shaved, pilloried and beaten with the flat of a sword. He was not executed because the Shafi'ite judge had ruled that his words were not "proof of disbelief.") David Cook maintains the issue of apostasy and punishment for it was not uncommon in Islamic. From the 7th century through the 18th century, atheists, materialists, Sufi, and Shii sects were accused and executed for apostasy in Islam. In the 8th century, apostates of Islam were killed in West Asia and Sind. in 12th-century Iran, al-Suhrawardi along with followers of Ismaili sect of Islam were killed on charges of being apostates; in 14th-century Syria, Ibn Taymiyyah declared Central Asian Turko-Mongol Muslims as apostates due to the invasion of Ghazan Khan; in 17th-century India, Dara Shikoh and other sons of Shah Jahan were captured and executed on charges of apostasy from Islam by his brother Aurangzeb. ''Zindīq'' (often a "blanket phrase" for "intellectuals" under suspicion of having abandoned Islam" or freethinker, atheist or heretic who conceal their religion) experienced a wave of persecutions from 779 to 786. A history of those times states:

Colonial era and after

From around 1800 up until 1970, there were only a few cases of executions of apostates in the Muslim world, including the strangling of a woman in Egypt (sometime between 1825 and 1835), and the beheading of an Armenian youth in the Ottoman Empire in 1843. Western powers campaigned intensely for a prohibition on the execution of apostates in the Ottoman Empire. British envoy to the court of Sultan Abdülmecid i (1839–1861), Stratford Canning, led diplomatic representatives from Austria, Russia, Prussia, and France in a "tug of war" with the Ottoman government. In the end (following the execution of the Armenian), the Sublime Porte agreed to allow "complete freedom of Christian missionaries" to try to convert Muslims in the Empire. The death sentence for apostasy from Islam was abolished by the Edict of Toleration, and substituted with other forms of punishment by the Ottoman government in 1844. The implementation of this ban was resisted by religious officials and proved difficult.Selim Deringi (2012), Conversion and Apostasy in the Late Ottoman Empire, Cambridge University Press, , Chapter 1 and 2 A series of edicts followed during Ottoman's Tanzimat period, such as the 1856 Reform Edict. This was also the time that Islamic modernists reformers like Muhammad Abduh (d.1905) and Rashid Rida (d.1935), argued that to be executed it was not enough to be an apostate, the perpetrator had to pose a real threat to public safety. Efforts to convert Muslims to other religions were extremely unpopular with Muslims. Despite these edicts, there was constant pressure on non-Muslims to convert to Islam, and apostates from Islam continued to be persecuted, punished and threatened with execution, particularly in eastern and Levant parts of the then Ottoman Empire. The Edict of Toleration ultimately failed when Sultan Abdul Hamid II assumed power, re-asserted pan-Islamism with sharia as Ottoman state philosophy, and initiated Hamidian massacres in 1894 against Christians, particularly the Genocides of Armenians, Greeks, Assyrians, and crypto-Christian apostates from Islam in Turkey (Stavriotes, Kromlides). In the colonial era, the death penalty for apostasy was abolished in Islamic countries that had come under Western rule or in places, such as the Ottoman Empire, Western powers could apply enough pressure to abolish it. Writing in the mid 1970s, Rudolph Peters and Gert J. J. De Vries stated that "apostasy no longer falls under criminal law" in the Muslim world, but that some Muslims (such as 'Adb al-Qadir 'Awdah) were preaching that "the killing of an apostate" had "become a duty of individual Moslems" (rather than a less important collective duty in ''hisbah'' doctrine) and giving advice on how to plead in court after being arrested for such a murder to avoid punishment.'Abd al-Qadir 'Awdah, ''al-tashri al-djina'i al-Islam muqaran bi-al-qanun al-wadi'', Bayrut: Dar al-Kitab al-'Arabi, n.d. 2 volumes; v.1 p.535-8; quoted in Some (Louay M. Safi), have argued that this situation, with the adoption of "European legal codes ... enforced by state elites without any public debate", created an identification of tolerance with foreign/alien control, and rigid literalist interpretations (such as the execution of apostates), with authenticity and legitimacy. Autocratic rulers "often align themselves with traditional religious scholars" because grassroots discontent took the form of angry pious traditionalists. In "recent decades" before 2006, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom listed four cases of execution for apostasy in the Muslim world: one in Sudan in 1985; two in Iran, in 1989 and 1998; and one in Saudi Arabia in 1992.

In practice in the recent past

While as of 2004 apostasy from Islam is a capital offence in only eight majority-Muslim states,Laws Criminalizing Apostasy
Library of Congress (2014)
in other states that do not directly execute apostates, apostate killing is sometimes facilitate through extrajudicial killings performed by the apostate's family, particularly if the apostate is vocal. In still other situations, it is not uncommon for "vigilante" Muslims to kill or attempt to kill apostates or alleged apostates, in the belief they are enforcing sharia law that the government as failed to.


More than 20 Muslim-majority states have laws that punish apostasy by Muslims to be a crime some de facto other de jure. As of 2014, apostasy was a capital offense in Afghanistan, Brunei, Mauritania, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen. Executions for religious conversion have been infrequent in recent times, with four cases reported since 1985: one in Sudan in 1985; two in Iran, in 1989 and 1998; and one in Saudi Arabia in 1992. In Mauritania, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Yemen apostasy laws have been used to charge persons for acts other than conversion. In addition, some predominantly Islamic countries without laws specifically addressing apostasy have prosecuted individuals or minorities for apostasy using broadly-defined blasphemy laws.Which countries still outlaw apostasy and blasphemy?
Pew Research Center, United States (May 2014)
In many nations, the Hisbah doctrine of Islam has traditionally allowed any Muslim to accuse another Muslim or ex-Muslim for beliefs that may harm Islamic society, i.e. violate the norms of sharia (Islamic law). This principle has been used in countries such as Egypt, Pakistan and others to bring blasphemy charges against apostates. The source of most violence or threats of violence against apostate has come from outside of state judicial systems in the Muslim world in recent years, either from extralegal acts by government authorities or from other individuals or groups operating unrestricted by the government.Paul Marshall and Nina Shea (2011), ''Silenced: How Apostasy and Blasphemy codes are choking freedom worldwide'', Oxford University Press, There has also been social persecution for Muslims converting to Christianity. For example, the Christian organisation Barnabas Fund reports: Similar views are expressed by the non-theistic International Humanist and Ethical Union. Author Mohsin Hamid points out that the logic of widely accepted claim that anyone helping an apostate is themselves an apostate, is a powerful weapon in spreading fear among those who oppose the killings (in at least the country of Pakistan). It means that a doctor who agrees to treat an apostate wounded by attacker(s), or a police officer who has agreed to protect that doctor after they have been threatened is also an apostate -- "and on and on". Contemporary reformist/liberal Muslims such as Quranist Ahmed Subhy Mansour, Edip Yuksel, and Mohammed Shahrour have suffered from accusations of apostasy and demands to execute them, issued by Islamic clerics such as Mahmoud Ashur, Mustafa Al-Shak'a, Mohammed Ra'fat Othman and Yusif Al-Badri.

Apostate communities

;Christian apostates from Islam Regarding Muslim converts to Christianity, Duane Alexander Miller (2016) identified two different categories: #'Muslims followers of Jesus Christ', 'Jesus Muslims' or 'Messianic Muslims' (analogous to Messianic Jews), who continue to self-identify as 'Muslims', or at least say Islam is (part of) their 'culture' rather than religion, but "understand themselves to be following Jesus as he is portrayed in the Bible". #'Christians from a Muslim background' (abbreviated CMBs), also known as 'ex-Muslim Christians', who have completely abandoned Islam in favour of Christianity. Miller introduced the term 'Muslim-background believers' (MBBs) to encompass both groups, adding that the latter group are generally regarded as apostates from Islam, but orthodox Muslims' opinions on the former group is more mixed (either that 'Muslim followers of Jesus' are 'heterodox Muslims', 'heretical Muslims' or 'crypto-Christian liars'). ;Atheist apostates from Islam Writing in 2015, Ahmed Benchemsi argued that while Westerners have great difficulty even conceiving of the existance of an Arab atheist, "a generational dynamic" is underway with "large numbers" of young people brought up as Muslims "tilting away from ... rote religiosity" after having "personal doubts" about the "illogicalities" of the Quran and Sunnah. Immigrant apostates from Islam in Western countries "converting" to Atheism have often gathered for comfort in groups such as Women in Secularism, Ex-Muslims of North America, Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain, sharing tales of the tension and anxieties of "leaving a close-knit belief-based community" and confronting "parental disappointment, rejection by friends and relatives, and charges of "trying to assimilate into a Western culture that despises them", often using terminology first uttered by the LGBT community -- "'coming out,' and leaving 'the closet'". Atheists in the Muslim world maintain a lower profile, but according to the Editor-in-chief of FreeArabs.com:
When I recently searched Facebook in both Arabic and English, combining the word ‘atheist’ with names of different Arab countries I turned up over 250 pages or groups, with memberships ranging from a few individuals to more than 11,000. And these numbers only pertain to Arab atheists (or Arabs concerned with the topic of atheism) who are committed enough to leave a trace online.

Public opinion

A survey based on face-to-face interviews conducted in 80 languages by the Pew Research Center between 2008 and 2012 among thousands of Muslims in many countries, found varied views on the death penalty for those who leave Islam to become an atheist or to convert to another religion. In some countries (especially in Central Asia, Southeast Europe, and Turkey), support for the death penalty for apostasy was confined to a tiny fringe; in other countries (especially in the Arab world and South Asia) majorities and large minorities support the death penalty. In the survey, Muslims who favored making Sharia the law of the land were asked for their views on the death penalty for apostasy from Islam. The results are summarized in the table below. (Note that values for ''Group C'' have been derived from the values for the other two groups and are not part of the Pew report.) Overall, the figures in the 2012 survey suggest that the percentage of Muslims in the countries surveyed who approve the death penalty for Muslims who leave Islam to become an atheist or convert to another religion varies widely, from 0.4% (in Kazakhstan) to 78.2% (in Afghanistan). The Governments of the Gulf Cooperation Council (Saudi Arabia, UAE, Oman, Qatar, Bahrain and Kuwait) did not permit Pew Research to survey nationwide public opinion on apostasy in 2010 or 2012. The survey also did not include China, India, Syria, or West African countries such as Nigeria.

By country

The situation for apostates from Islam varies markedly between Muslim-minority and Muslim-majority regions. In Muslim-minority countries "any violence against those who abandon Islam is already illegal". But in Muslim-majority countries, violence is sometimes "institutionalised", and (at least in 2007) "hundreds and thousands of closet apostates" live in fear of violence and are compelled to live lives of "extreme duplicity and mental stress."

Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Laws prohibiting religious conversion run contrary to Article 18 of the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states the following:
Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.
Afghanistan, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan and Syria voted in favor of the Declaration. The governments of other Muslim-majority countries have responded by criticizing the Declaration as an attempt by the non-Muslim world to impose their values on Muslims, with a presumption of cultural superiority, and by issuing the Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam—a joint declaration of the member states of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference made in 1990 in Cairo, Egypt. The Cairo Declaration differs from the Universal Declaration in affirming Sharia as the sole source of rights, and in limits of equality and behavior in religion, gender, sexuality, etc. Islamic scholars such as Muhammad Rashid Rida in Tafsir al-Minar, argue that the "freedom to apostatize", is different from freedom of religion on the grounds that apostasy from Islam infringes on the freedom of others and the respect due the religion of Islamic states.

Literature and film

Films and documentaries

*''Leaving the Faith – Former Muslims'' (2014) – for Deutsche Welle *''Ex-Muslim: Leaving Religion'' (2015) – Benjamin Zand for BBC News *''Islam's Non-Believers'' (2016) – Deeyah Khan for Fuuse *''Among Nonbelievers'' (2015) – Dorothée Forma for HUMAN *''Non-believers: Freethinkers on the Run'' (2016) – Dorothée Forma for HUMAN *''Rescuing Ex-Muslims: Leaving Islam'' (2016) – Poppy Begum for Vice News *''Diary of a Pakistani Atheist'' (2017) – Mobeen Azhar for BBC World Service *''Becoming Ex-Muslim: The secret group for Aussies who've left their faith'' (2017) – Patrick Abboud for ''The Feed''

Books by ex-Muslims

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See also

*Al-Baqara 256 *Apostasy in Christianity *Apostasy in Judaism *Ex-Muslims of North America *Islam and blasphemy *List of former Muslims *List of ex-Muslim organisations *Anwar Shaikh *Superstitions in Muslim societies *Takfir *Zandaqa




Further reading

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External links

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Apostasy, Freedom and Da'wah: Full Disclosure in a Business-Like Manner
by Dr. Mohammad Omar Farooq * * *
Apostasy: Oxford Bibliographies, Islamic Studies
Andrew March (2010), Oxford University Press {{DEFAULTSORT:Apostasy in Islam Category:Disengagement from religion Category:Islamic criminal jurisprudence Category:Persecution of atheists Category:Persecution of Christians by Muslims Category:Islam and capital punishment