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On Apostasy and Islam: 100+ Notable Islamic Voices Affirming The Freedom Of Faith - Part 6


" ... Let there be no compulsion in religion: Truth stands out clear from Error ..." [2:256]

By Dr. Mohammad Omar Farooq

April 2, 2007

76.     Javed Ahmad Ghamidi

Pakistani Islamic scholar, exegete, and educationist; director of Al-Mawrid Institute of Islamic Sciences; member of Council of Islamic Ideology since 2006]

"Instead of interpreting the Hadith in the light of the relationship between the Qur’an and Hadith, they [the jurists]have interpreted it in the absolute sense, totally against the context of the Qur’an. Consequently, in their opinion the verdict pronounced in the Hadith has a general and an unconditional application. They have thereby incorporated in the Islamic Penal Code a punishment which has no basis in the Shari‘ah." [Islamic Punishments: Some Misconceptions]

77.     Dr. Reza Aslan

[Research Associate at the University of Southern California's Center on Public Diplomacy; author of "No God But God]

"It's important, first of all, to understand that the Koran says nothing about apostasy at all. There is no punishment in apostasy. This idea of death as a punishment for apostasy actually arose at a time in which Islam and the state were one. So, apostasy and treason were considered the same thing. And, therefore, the punishment of death was for all of it.

Not all Islamic law -- schools of Islamic law actually agree upon this, just the very conservative ones. And there are few more conservative schools of law than in Afghanistan." [Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees: Death to Christian Converts?]

78.     Dr. Ahmad Shafaat

[Distinguished Mathematician and currently, professor, Department of Decision Sciences and MIS, Concordia University, Montreal, Quebec. A noted scholar in his own profession, Shafaat also specialized in Comparative Religon and has authored many books and pamphlets about Islam, Christianity, and Judaism.]

“It is a significant fact that the Book of God does not prescribe any punishment for apostasy. Many Muslims would immediately say, The Qur`an does not tell us everything. We need to go to the Hadith to find guidance on matters not touched by the Qur`an. But … The punishment for apostasy is not a detail that we can expect God to leave for ahadith, especially if that punishment is death, since taking the life of a person, if done without a just cause, is regarded by the Qur`an as tantamount to killing all human beings (5:32).” [The Punishment of Apostasy in Islam]

79.     Shaikh Dr. Ahmad Kutty

[Scholar, Islamic Institute of Toronto]

“Even though the penalty for treason was the death penalty (as was the case in the Law of Moses as well), there was no targeting of people who simply chose to leave Islam without any implication of treason. To simply kill anyone who chooses to follow a religion other than Islam is against the fundamental teachings of the Qur’an. Freedom of conscience is a fundamental principle of the Qur’an that is clearly stated in many Qur'anic verses.” [On Apostasy]

80.     Organization: Islamic Center of San Deigo

The position of ICSD on the apostasy case in Afghanistan is the position taken by CAIR and MAS Freedom Foundation, namely that ICSD:

“oppose(s) the possible execution of Mr. Abdul Rahman on both humanitarian and religious grounds. To pursue such an action would not only be a flagrant violation of the standards of human rights which the Karzai regime claims to embrace, but it also runs contrary to the Holy Quran, which forbids compulsion in religion.” [ICSD Response to Apostasy Case In Afghanistan]

81.     Dr. Shahid Athar

[Islamic activist and author; Indianapolis, IN, USA]

"There is no death penalty in the Qur’an for apostasy. The Qur’an says “Let there be no compulsion in religion, truth stands out from falsehood. Whosoever rejects falsehood and believes in one God has grasped the most trustworthy hand that never breaks, and God hears and knows all things.” (2:26). In order to be a true Muslim, the faith has to accepted in the heart of the person. A court cannot force him to become Muslim." [Reflections on God’s Grace, Salvation, Heaven & Hell]

82.     Zainah Anwar

[Executive Director, Sisters in Islam, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia]

... even though apostasy is a great sin it is not a capital offence in Islam. Therefore a personal change of faith merits no punishment. Yet in its attempt to introduce the hudud law in the 21st century, the Islamic party in power in Terengganu chose the most extremist juristic opinion to codify into law. It is a well-known fact that the Qur'an is explicit in its recognition of freedom of religion and there exists as well within the Islamic juristic heritage a position that supports freedom of religion. [Islamisation and its Impact on Democractic Governance and Women's Rights in Islam]

83.     Dr. Muqtedar Khan

[Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science and International Relations at the University of Delaware]

"... religious minorities in some Islamic states, such as Afghanistan under the Taliban, suffer institutionalized discrimination because of these states’ legalist orientation and their obsession with the Islamic jurisprudence. Some of the legalist positions in Islamic states are so strict that non-Muslim minorities find it a challenge to live normal lives. Blasphemy laws and apostasy laws are well known for the problems they cause minorities." [Islamic State and Religious Minorities]

84.     Dr. Ibrahim B. Syed

[President of the Islamic Research Foundation International, Louisville, Kentucky]

“And there is no bigger misconception-strengthened with misunderstanding of Islamic beliefs over the years-other than the belief that Islam doesn't tolerate apostasy. The Christian missionaries and the Western world are cashing in on it. Ulama have tried to strengthen their point of view and several leading Muslim reformists have failed to tackle the issue. This misconception has also presented Islam as a medieval and killer religion. Islam bashers have time and again tried to carry the point by pointing out that Islam orders the killing of a person if he or she reverts to another religion from Islam.No body is forthcoming to challenge this widely held belief as well as put forth a convincing argument about the misinterpretation of Qur'anic teachings by Ulama.The Qur’an is completely silent on any worldly punishment for apostasy and the sole Tradition that forms the basis of rulings is open to many interpretations.” [Is Killing An Apostate in the Islamic Law?]

85.     Dr. Hasan Zillur Rahim

[Former editor of IQRA, South Bay Islamic Association; Physicist]

"Many Muslims have already pointed out the absurdity, illegality and immorality of apostasy-killing as the hapless Rahman's impending fate filtered out of Afghanistan. The most powerful indictment comes, of course, from the Quran: Let there be no compulsion in religion (2:256). ...

Hopefully, killing for apostasy and stoning to death (only women need apply) for adultery will soon be a thing of the past as absolutist clerics realize that their hold over Muslim minds and hearts is rapidly dissipating. ...

Even in conservative societies, Muslims are beginning to realize that faith is a matter of personal responsibility and not a consequence of authoritarian decree. The days of religious leaders thundering: 'I am right, you are dead' will soon, let us pray, be over once and for all." [Lessons from the case of the Afghan apostate]

86.     Dr. Shehzad Saleem

[Director, Al-Mawrid, Institute of Islamic Sciences; Editor, Renaissance, a monthly Islamic journal; Pakistan]

"It is shown on the basis of the above mentioned feature that the following directives of Islam are specific to the age of the last Rasul and his companions and cannot be related to later Muslims: 1. Apostasy ..." [Understanding the Qur’an: A Fundamental Premise]

87.     Shah Abdul Hannan

[Chairman, Islamic Economic Research Bureau; former Chairman, Islami Bank Bangladesh Ltd., former deputy governor, Bangladesh Bank; Author/Scholar; Bangladesh]

"On this issue of punisment of apostasy I hold the same view as that of Dr. Jamal Badawi, Dr. Hashim Kamali, Dr. AbdulHamid AbuSulayman and such scholars ... who hold that apostasy has no punishment unless in conjunction with rebellion or violence. This is my view." [comment sent directly by email]

88.     Adil Salahi

[Journalist and author of many books, including Muhammad: Man and Prophet]

"Many are the Qur’anic verses that make clear that all people are free to choose the faith they want. There can be no compulsion with regard to faith. Indeed, over the fourteen centuries since Islam began, compulsion was never a policy of any Islamic government anywhere in the world. On the contrary, followers of other faiths, including those who worship idols, lived freely among Muslim communities. Today, you find Christian and Jewish communities, as well as followers of other faiths, in the overwhelming majority of Muslim countries. This testifies to the fact that Islam operates a policy of freedom of faith and worship. The Hadith you have mentioned is often quoted in support of the death penalty for apostasy. Many scholars mention that this penalty is mandatory, which means that it is prescribed and cannot be changed. However, a fair number of profoundly perceptive scholars are of the view that this punishment is discretionary, which means that it can be reduced or even waived. This is the view that seems to be better supported by Qur’anic and Hadith texts.

... It is 'deserting the community', which means that the person concerned did not merely choose to follow a religion other than Islam, but also he deserted his community and stood in opposition to it. Scholars make clear that the Arabic statement implies rebellion. They cite cases of people who changed their faith after adopting Islam during the time of the Prophet (peace be upon him) and his two immediate successors, Abu Bakr and Umar, and none of them was executed. It is to that early period of Islam that we look for practical guidance in understanding Islamic rules. Had the death penalty for apostasy been mandatory, none of them would have refrained from enforcing it." [What Is the Punishment for Apostasy?]

89.     Dr. Bashir Ahmad

[Wildwood, Missouri; USA]

"Islam emphatically affirms full freedom of conscience and belief. Simple apostasy, which is not aggravated by rebellion, treason or grave disorderliness, is not punishable in any manner." [No Punishment for Apostasy in Islam]

90.     Organization: Islamic Networks Groups

[Based in the San Francisco Bay Area, ING, an entreprenurial, educational outreach organization with affiliates and partners in 20 states, Canada and the United Kingdom. ING promotes interfaith dialogue and education]

"No where in the Qur’an does it mention punishment for apostasy, although the subject of disbelief is mentioned repeatedly, and the last verse mentioned above specifically describes a person who disbelieves repeatedly without any mention of punishment. ... according to numerous Islamic scholars, the death penalty was meant, not for simple acts of apostasy, but for political betrayal of the community, or treason, which is punishable in numerous societies. ... ING calls on all Muslims to re-examine universal Islamic principals that uphold the rights of all people to freedom of religion." [Apostasy in Islam]

URL of Part 5: