By Irfan Waheed, New Age Islam
February 7, 2013
The perennial Islam basher Robert Spencer has put one more intellectual challenge to the scholars of Islam who vociferously claim that the Quran does not prescribe death for apostasy. They say that nowhere in the Quran there is a verse that directly or indirectly supports the killing of apostates. All the verses dealing with the Quran explicitly speak of a punishment for apostasy in the hereafter though God, the angels and the people on Earth (Muslims) hate such persons. The verses about apostasy are quoted below:
“And whosoever of you turns back from his religion and dies as a disbeliever, then his deeds will be lost in this life and in the Hereafter, and they will be the dwellers of the Fire. They will abide therein forever." (Al Baqura: 217)
“Verily, those who believe, then disbelieve, then believe (again), and (again) disbelieve, and go on increasing in disbelief; Allah will not forgive them, nor guide them on the (Right) Way.“ (Al Nisa: 137)”
“How shall God guide a people who have disbelieved after they believed, and bore witness that the Messenger is true, and the clear signs came to them? God guides not the people of the evildoers. Those -- their recompense is that there shall rest on them the curse of God and of the angels and of men, altogether, therein dwelling forever; the chastisement shall not be lightened for them; no respite shall be given them.” (Al Imran: 86-88)
It is clear from the verses quoted above that the Quran does not prescribe death sentence for apostasy in the world.
According to the Quran, apostasy is a major sin. God has warned the apostates of grave torments in the Hereafter. The Quran says that an apostate invites the wrath of God, and the curse of the angels and all the creatures on the earth. They are destined to live in the hell for ever because by denying the existence and oneness of God they join the ranks of the non-believers.
However, it is to be noted that despite declaring apostasy one of the gravest sins (kabair), the Quran does not prescribe death or any other physical punishment for the apostates whereas it prescribes physical punishments for other social crimes like theft, murder, violence and rioting and adultery and so on. For theft the punishment is hand amputation:
“Cut off (from the wrist joint) the (right) hand of the thief, male or female, as a recompense for that which they committed, a punishment by way of example from Allah. And Allah is All-Powerful, All-Wise. “(Al Maidah: 38)
For adultery, the punishment is hundred lashes:
“The woman and the man guilty of illegal sexual intercourse, flog each of them with a hundred stripes. Let not pity withhold you in their case, in a punishment prescribed by Allah, if you believe in Allah and the Last Day. And let a party of the believers witness their punishment. “(Al Noor: 2)
For rioting and unjustified violence the punishment is death or the noose or amputation of hand and leg or exile:
“The recompense of those who wage war against Allah and His Messenger and do mischief in the land is only that they shall be killed or crucified or their hands and their feet be cut off on the opposite sides, or be exiled from the land. That is their disgrace in this world, and a great torment is theirs in the Hereafter. “(Al Maidah: 33)
However, there are some Hadiths that show that apostates were killed during the Prophethood. There is a Hadith:
Muhammad (pbuh) said: "Whoever changed his Islamic religion, then kill him" (Bukhari 9.84.57).
Islamic scholars argue that the killing of apostates during the life of the prophet (pbuh) and during the caliphate of Hadhrat Abu Bakr was due to the political situation of that time and not because of their turning their back on Islam as is generally publicised by the detractors of Islam today. However, in an article in his website JihadWatch, Robert Spencer has tried to prove that not only the Hadiths, but the Quran itself has verses that sponsor the killing of apostates and also the tradition of honour killing has its base in the Quran.
To prove that the Quran supports death for apostasy, Spencer quotes the following verse of the Quran:
“They but wish that ye should reject Faith, as they do, and thus be on the same footing (as they): But take not friends from their ranks until they flee in the way of Allah (From what is forbidden). But if they turn renegades, seize them and slay them wherever ye find them; and (in any case) take no friends or helpers from their ranks;- (4:89)
According to Spencer, the verse explicitly calls for the slaying of the apostates wherever they are found and thus rejects the arguments of the defenders of Islam that the Quran does not support death sentence to the apostates as God Himself has taken up the responsibility of giving them a befitting punishment to them in Hereafter.
Another point which he has raised is of honour killing of sons and daughters by Muslim parents for turning apostates. Three years ago, Rifqa Bary, a seventeen-year-old girl converted from Islam to Christianity and fled from her home and father after he threatened to kill her. She had reportedly said to her saviour, a pastor:
“My parents are Muslim…I don’t know if you know about honor killing…They have to kill me…Because if they love Allah more than me, they have to do it. It’s in the Quran. And you can, like, give them knowledge about it [gestures to someone off camera, who says something unintelligible].”
During the same year, two sisters Amina and Sarah Sayid of Texas were killed by their father whom their brother provided the gun for carrying out the honour killing as girls had become westernized and been ‘bringing dishonour’ to the family. To prove his point that honour killing has precedence in the Quran, he cites the incidents of Hadhrat Khidhr where he kills a young boy whom Moses calls pious for being an infidel as he might cause troubles and burden to their Muslim parents. The following verses deal with the incident:
“So they set out, until when they met a boy, al-Khidhr killed him. [Moses] said, "Have you killed a pure soul for other than [having killed] a soul? You have certainly done a deplorable thing." (Al Kahf: 74)
“And as for the boy, his parents were believers, and we feared that he would overburden them by transgression and disbelief. So we intended that their Lord should substitute for them one better than him in purity and nearer to mercy. (Al Kahf: 80-81)”
Spencer suggests that the killing of the infidel boy by Hadhrat Khidhr to save his believing parents from troubles and dishonour sets the precedence for honour killing in Islam.
Therefore, by citing the verses and the incident involving Moses and Hadhrat Khidhr, Spencer argues that it is the very Quran that supports the slaying of apostates and sisters and daughters who bring dishonour to the family. I invite the scholars of Islam who still believe that the Quran does not support the killing of apostates to counter his argument.