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On Apostasy and Islam: 100+ Notable Islamic Voices affirming the Freedom of Faith - Part 7


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

By Dr. Mohammad Omar Farooq

April 2, 2007

91.     Mustafa Akyol

[a Turkish Muslim writer]

"In the early Muslim state, apostasy became regarded as a crime because it was seen as a rebellion against the state. In other words, the real consideration was political and, by time, this turned into a religious rule as well. This is, of course, a deviation we Muslims should rid ourselves today." [Symposium: Convert or Die]

92.     Dr. Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin

[Youngest national mufti, Malaysia]

Islamic leaders must squarely address the questions of apostates and other challenges, and not further damage the Muslim community by their own failure to live up to religious values. ...

Asked to comment on tensions raised by the issue of apostasy, Asri said religious leaders were culpable because they divert focus from the reasons that lead Muslims to apostasise. Instead, they issued threats of punitive measures against apostates and non-Muslim supporters. [Malaysia: Nation's youngest mufti speaks out on apostasy]

93.     Ibrahim Hooper

[National Communications Director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations]

"Islam advocates both freedom of religion and freedom of conscience. That position is supported by the Quran, Islam's revealed text, the traditions of the Prophet Muhammad and the opinions of Islamic scholars both past and present. ... Islamic scholars say the original rulings on apostasy were similar to those for treasonous acts in legal systems worldwide and do not apply to an individual's choice of religion. ... Freedom from coercion also implies freedom to practice another faith. ... Religious decisions should be matters of personal choice, not a cause for state intervention. Faith imposed by force is not true belief. [Islam and religious freedom]

94.     Ahmad Faiz bin Abdul Rahman

[Researcher with the Institute of Islamic Understanding, Malaysia (IKIM) and a Pro-temp Committee Member of the International Movement for a Just World (JUST)]

One of the manifestations of personal liberty is the freedom of the individual to profess the religion of his or her choice without compulsion. ... Freedom of religion under Islam would therefore imply that non-Muslims are not compelled to convert to Islam, nor are they hindered from practicing their own religious rites. However, many tend to forget or take for grant that this also applies to Muslims, in that they are not to be compelled or be put under undue influence so as to become apostates. In other words, both Muslims and non-Muslims are entitled to propagate the religion of their following, as well as to defend it against attacks or seditious provocation, regardless of whether such an action is launched by their co-religionists or by others." [Malaysian Laws on Apostasy Inadequate]

95.     Mirza A. Beg

[Geologist and columnist; US]

“The Quran has many references to apostasy. It does not call for a temporal punishment; it specifically reserves the judgment for God. On the contrary there are many verses that clearly prohibit compulsion in religion … It is important and valid to oppose all the encroachments by others on the Muslim lands and Islam, but it is suicidal to use it as an excuse to cover the festering wound intolerance. The more grievous fault is lies within.” [Apostasy Laws – An Injury To Islam By Muslims]

96.     Iman al-Qahtani

[Saudi journalist. She is also an author and activist in Saudi Arabia]

"There is no basis for executing an apostate in Islam. It is nothing more than an invention by narrow-minded men who accuse everyone in disagreement with them of apostasy." [I don't believe it]

97.     Dr. Sohirin Solihin

[Pofessor of Qur'ranic studies, International Islamic University, Malaysia]

... The Koran forbids Muslims to abandon their faith, but it doesn't specify the penalties ... [Losing Faith in Malaysia]

98.     Imam Kamara AbdilHaqq Muhammad

[Islamic Teacher and Associate Imam at ADAMS Centre of Northern Va., USA]

"Of the many things we try to remember, we must remember this clear fact: Allah is not in need of anyone or anything in His creation.' Therefore it is neither a loss to Him nor a strain to Him if any of the Children of 'Aadam turn away from His established agenda of Al-Islam. 'Laa 'Ikraha Fid Diin' means exactly what it says: 'No compulsion in the Diin (religion). Allah has not made it compulsory that we must worship and pray to Him, rather He has allowed us to make that choice with our free wills that He so kindly gave us. I have found that the less educated people are in the Qur’an and social life, the harder they are on others. "The Prophet never punished those around him who sometimes said Shahadah in the morning and change to something else in the evening.

When any among the Children of 'Aadam choose in their own heart to submit their will to Allah it is their gain and blessing, likewise when any among the Children of 'Aadam elect to reject to submit their will to Allah it is their own loss and their loss only. Be patient in all matters and we get the best outcome."

99.     Asim Siddiqui

[Chairman of the City Circle, a network body of mainly young Muslim professionals; UK]

"To argue for capital punishment for apostasy goes against the very principles of Islam." [Freedom of conscience in Islam]

100.   Sherazad Hamit

[Student, Macalester College]

“ … the sentencing to death of apostates goes against Qur’anic decrees on apostasy, and is therefore un-Islamic, given the context of the apostate in question. …” [Apostasy and the Notion of Religious Freedom in Islam]

101.   Organization: Sisters in Islam

[Sisters in Islam (SIS) is an independent non-governmental organisation, formed in 1988, which believes in an Islam that upholds the principles of equality, justice, freedom and dignity]

“Based on these three reasons and the Qur'anic principle of freedom of religion, prominent Ulema from the seventh to the twentieth centuries have come out with the position that there can be no death penalty for apostasy. According to Professor Hashim Kamali in his award-winning book, Freedom of Expression in Islam, two leading jurists of the generation succeeding the Companions, Ibrahim al-Naka'I and Sufyan al-Thawri, both held that the apostate should be re-invited to Islam, but should never be condemned to death. The renowned Hanafi jurist, Shams al-Din al-Sarakhsi wrote that even though renunciation of faith is the greatest of offences, it is a matter between man and his Creator, and its punishment is postponed to the Day of Judgement. The Maliki jurist Abul Walid al-Baji and the renowned Hanbali jurist Ibn Taymiyyah have both held that apostasy is a sin which carries no Had punishment. …Those in the vanguard of the Islamic movement that wants to turn this country into an Islamic state must ask themselves, why would Malaysians support the concept of an Islamic state which assert different rights for Muslim men, Muslim women and non-Muslims and minorities, rather than equal rights for all? Why would those whose equal status and rights are recognised by a democratic system support the creation of such an Islamic state? If an Islamic state means a dictatorial theocratic political system that condemns those who question or challenge its authority as apostates or deviants, and then impose the death penalty on them, then why would those whose fundamental liberties are protected by a democratic state support such an intolerant concept of an Islamic state?” [Islam, Apostasy and PAS]

102.   Dr. Mohamed Azam Mohamed Adil

[Lecturer at the Centre for Islamic Thought and Understanding at Mara University of Technology; Bachelor of Shari’a, University of Malaya; PhD, University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies].

"The notion of the right to freedom of religion is one of the fundamental rights guaranteed in Islam. ... However, most of the classical Muslim jurists’ writings, apparently, did not articulate the subject. ... The subject of the rights of the individual especially in relation to the right to freedom of religion seems lacking in most Islamic fiqh books. Indeed, the majority of classical Muslim jurists think that the right to freedom of religion is not applicable to Muslims. Muslims who leave the Islamic faith or who have apostatised should be condemned and put to death. In reality, punishment of apostasy has not been prescribed by the Qur’ān and had never been practised by the Prophet (S.A.W.). The Muslim jurists have been confused with such punishment, considering that all apostates must be put to death after they refused to repent. The fact was that the Prophet (S.A.W.) had proclaimed a death penalty upon apostates because their acts were contemptuous and hostile towards Islam. Muslims who merely renounced the Islamic religion were only required to undergo a process of tauba (repentance)." [Abstract: Punishment for Apostasy: Conflict between criminal sentence and the right to freedom of religion, p. 32]

103.   Mike Mohamed Ghouse

[Founder, World Muslim Congress; Founder, Foundation for Pluralism; Dallas, Texas]

"We, the Muslims request you to honor the life given by Allah to Abdul Rahman and grant him his freedom to practice his faith. Lakum Dinukum Waliya Deen.To him his faith is dear, as our faith is to us." [American Muslims' Plea to Afghan Judges In the case of Apostate Abdul Rahman]

104.   Haris Aziz

[PhD candidate and professional journalist at Warwick University]

“The Quran talks about apostasy at least twenty times but does not mention any worldly punishment. The only warning given is about the consequence in the life here after. Moreover there is a good possibility that the referred Ahadith have a specific context of Hirabah [high treason], breaking away from the authority, breaking a treaty, defying the direct commands of a living prophet in violent times and incitement to wage war against Muslims when the very survival of a small Muslim community was in danger. Many celebrated jurists have alluded to this kind of Takhsis [specification] to conclude that an apostate should be re-invited to Islam but not condemned to death. It is critical that the Ulema [scholars] address this issue. Moreover if some Muslim country does not allow non-Muslims to observe their religion freely, it is totally against Islamic principles of justice and fair play and should be tackled.” [Affirmation of Freedom of Expression and Belief in the Quran]

105.   Shah Abdul Halim

[Chairman of Islamic Information Bureau, Bangladesh]

“In fact there is not a single instance that Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) did treat apostasy as a prescribed offence under hudud (capital punishment) only for leaving Islam. The Prophet (pbuh) never put anyone to death for apostasy alone rather he let such person go unharmed. No one was sentenced to death solely for renunciation of faith unless accompanied by hostility and treason or was linked to an act of political betrayal of the community. As a matter of fact the Quran is completely silent on the question of death as a punishment for apostasy. Apostasy does not qualify for temporal punishment.” [Islam & Pluralism: A Contemporary Approach]

106.   Imam Ahmad Sa'd

[Ex-Imam of Calgary Muslim Community, Alberta, Canada and now Imam in Ar-Rahma Mosque, Egypt.]

"A close study of the life of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), which serves as an example for all Muslims to learn how to practice Islam and carry out its injunctions, will show us that he never killed people who changed their religion or left Islam, for the reason of their leaving Islam.

In incidents when the Prophet commended the killing of some people, it was because they had committed an offense to the Muslim community, threatening its safety, or because they had killed someone and were killed themselves in retaliation. Therefore, killing them had nothing to do with their apostasy.

In fact, many Islamic scholars support the view that there is no prescribed punishment (Hadd) for apostasy. In doing this, they use both reason and strong evidence from Qur'an and Sunnah." [Should an Apostate Be Killed?]

107.   Kashif Ahmed Shehzada

[Researcher on the Qur'an and comparative religion; Karachi, Pakistan]

"The question of forcing someone to believe does not arise at all, because the Qur'an identifies 'Iman' i.e. belief as something not just professed by the lips, but something which has entered one's heart deeply, and that is possible only if a person analyses the message through his reason and accepts it willingly. ... The Qur'an proclaims that man has the freedom of choice to accept or reject the permanent values of God. He CANNOT be forced to accept those values, but has the free will to accept them, ... Had the punishment for Apostasy been prescribed as 'Death' then the above verse (3:89) would not have accommodated the room for amending one's conduct and repentance, but with the inclusion of a condition of repentance and amending one's conduct, the Qur'an confirms that for Apostates the punishment is not death." [Can People be Forced to Accept Islam? A Qur’anic Perspective]

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