ISLAM AND THE PUNISHMENT OF APOSTACY

by Sabri Lushi
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One of the topics that the western secularists prefer to use against Islam is the punishment that it prescribes for an apostate – someone who publicly abandons the religion of Islam. This topic is also difficult for many Muslims themselves to grasp, as well as to explain it to non-Muslims, especially in the context of a western secular mindset. This is a scholarly, theological and judicial matter, so there are books written about it, but I am simply trying to give a quick thought as an attempt to shed light on why this topic has become controversial when it is, in my view, very easy to understand and accept.  

To being with, the execution of an apostate is one of the few cases when the Islamic penal code prescribes such a form of punishment, and it is based on clear religious texts. At the same time, it is necessary to underline that this type of punishment is relevant only and only if there is a society with Muslim majority, there is a Muslim ruler – who is given allegiance by the members of that society, and who rules according to the Islamic law. So, we are talking about a context when there is an Islamic state, which has a government and a formal legal and judicial system, and which faces normal and common political challenges and threats. So, this case falls directly on the category of aspects of the Islamic law that are applicable only and only if there is a formal Muslim government. We are not talking here about chaos and assassinations.

In addition, the fact that the Islamic law does not tolerate people to embrace Islam and then renounce it, as if it is a kind of game, shows its confidence in the absolute truth. In other words, Islam prescribes this punishment, in the circumstances of the existence of a central Muslim government and judicial system, based on the assumption that it is the absolute truth and absolutely confident that it is not wronging people – it has clear grasp of the motivations of people for recounting Islam.

At the same time, whenever we deal with topics related to social norms, laws, rules, codes and political issues, we should not fall into the trap of assuming the western secularism of some sort of default and neutral standard. Indeed, the western secularism is a system, similar to worldly religion, which has been adopted by the British Empire – as the ruling empire of the world, and for that reason, it has gained such a high political status. It is the official religion of the Empire; it is not by any means the standard, not does it hold the monopoly of the truth. On the contrary, secularism has proven itself to be a false ideology, which has flagrantly failed to live up to its ideals and to deliver what it has promised to the world.

In order to better understand this stance of Islam on apostates and that it does not contradict the freedom of religious consciousness, let’s look at the factors and reasons which would motivate one to abandon it publicly. Again, we are talking about renouncing Islam publicly in a Muslim society and becoming activists on that new ideology. We are not talking about private cases, when people lose faith and commit sins. Islam does not approve the idea of police officers patrolling the streets and looking for people’s mistakes. Islam is a transparent religion, which frowns upon espionage and betrayal, spying on people and reporting their sins. Actually, it promotes just the opposite in multiple texts. It is the opposite of a secular western political system, which employs everything at its disposal in order to rule on people, including a massive spying system, which has turned people all against all. Western secular political system is a spy system; Islam is not. Thus, the punishment of apostacy is about public cases, not about personal sins, even when certain people have lost faith.

In my view, a Muslim society, which applies the Quran and the tradition of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), offers the best of what any ideology or religion can ever offer. Not only does it offer the best theology, the best and most just law, but it offers the best spiritual nurturing or psychological condition. In addition, Islam offers the best worldly legal system and way of life. In a real situation, why would a Muslim renounce Islam and become Christian, Jew, Hindu or whatever? If one believes in God or a Creator, Islam offers the best and most rational system of belief – it strictly promotes monotheism and the belief in all prophets. In the real world, it is hard to believe that one genuinely renounces Islam in order to embrace another religion because they are missing something in Islam. So, let’s put aside the secularist propaganda, and focus on a real situation.

On might argue that one wants to leave Islam, as he or she is not convinced any longer in the divine validity of the religion, so they want to free themselves from the obligations of the Islamic law and its restrictions. Strictly speaking, one does not believe in God and prophethood of Muhammad (peace be upon him). For example, one wants to leave Islam and start to sell drugs, loan money with interests, sell alcohol etc. because they no longer believe in God and in the Islamic law. They could claim that they genuinely are not convinced in Islam and its legislation.

The answer to this is very easy and simple. As long as that society is a Muslim majority one and it is ruled by a Muslim government – which applies the Islamic law, everyone will be subject to that legal system. By merely renouncing Islam does not free one from these laws. So, if one loses faith in God, it would be foolish to propagate that publicly, especially if they do so in the hope to be excluded from laws because that won’t happen.

By the same token, even in a secular society, no one will be excluded from the legal restrictions and laws of that land if one no longer believes in secularism and becomes a Muslim. The declaration of personal belief will not exclude anyone from the laws of a land. Secularism, for example, has chosen not to punish legally people who abandon it publicly while Islam – as a divine and confident religion, prescribes a capital punishment based on a due process. However, in the real world, secularism persecutes those who renounce it or become Muslims, restricts them, limits their chances to succeed, make it difficult to find a job, excludes them from certain positions and attacks them on the media. In fact, there are cases when secularism has banned the practice of the religion of Islam, as it was the case of Albania for five decades, which declared secular atheism as its official religion. Even currently, certain countries apply fines, including jail, for women who cover their faces for religious reasons. So, the western secularism, indeed, punishes those who renounce it in a more dishonest, insidious and well-organized way, contrary to what they propagate, such as freedom and liberty. These are slogans and lies, not reality.

On the other hand, Islam is fair and transparent. It clearly tells people that you are encouraged to embrace it, as it is the ultimate truth and the only God-revealed religion unaltered and unchanged, as it is the best way to rectify the worldly and the spiritual affairs, but it warns them against any political game – by claiming to embrace it and then renounce it, by giving the impression that this religion is false, or as an attempt to infiltrate into a Muslim society and then start a political activity against them.

If we look at Islam’s history at its very beginning, this is exactly what the corrupt Jews of Madinah attempted to do in the time of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). As a strategy to spread doubts and confusion among Muslims, a group of corrupt Jews made a plan to accept Islam in the morning and renounce it in the evening, by giving the impression that it is a false religion. Of course, in that time, Jews were more knowledgeable than the Arabs because they had a book, i.e., Torah, so they were recognized as being learned and scholars. Therefore, they wanted to use the strategy of accepting Islam in the morning and then renouncing it in the evening in order to give the message to people that this religion, i.e., Islam, is false, that’s why they left it. This story has been reported by the divine revelation, “And a fraction of the People of the Book said: ‘Believe in the morning what has been revealed to those who believe, and then deny it in the evening that they may thus retract (from their faith),” (Quran 3:72). However, with the introduction of the capital punishment of apostates, the corrupt Jews could not use that strategy any longer.

As it is clear from this historical context, the capital punishment for apostates is a legal mechanism against political strategies of the enemies that Muslims face. The Quran gives a precious insight into the fact that in this world there are enemies who make plans. This is the real world. To this very day, we see clear plans of the West against Muslims. When the western secularists speak of freedom and liberty, they falsely what to convince Muslims to relax, as no one is planning against them while the reality is completely the opposite.

Anyway, genuinely speaking, there is no acceptable reason for a Muslim or a recent convert to abandon Islam in an Islamic country. Are they looking for a better God? Are they trying to free themselves from laws? – this cannot happen. Laws will not change only because one claims to not believe in God. Besides, if a Muslims loses faith and wants to embrace another religion, they are free to leave that country and go live in another society, where they think is better.

In reality, there is one major reason why certain people seek to abandon Islam publicly and even spread their propaganda in a Muslim society: when they are paid by other countries and political entities – the enemies of Islam – to do so. So, when a Muslim renounces the religion of Islam publicly – with the intention to spread his or her propaganda in a Muslim country, ruled by a Muslim government, he or she is either a direct spy of other countries and paid by them – the enemies of Islam who make plans against Islam and Muslims, or they are foolish and stupid who are being used by others. Either case, we are not dealing with a genuine pursuit of truth and happiness. We are talking about political plans and agendas.

Having said that, Islam is not at all afraid of logical debates, questions, arguments, discussions and research on the validity or truthfulness of the divine revelation. Any Muslim who has doubts, they can raise questions. They are most welcomed. At the same time, Islam does not promote a spy society and the investigation and reporting of personal sins and shortcomings. However, the religion of Islam – as the only true and divine religion and whose enemies are plenty, does not tolerate spies and agents, who infiltrate into Muslim societies and want to spread their misguided political ideologies against Islam and Muslims, not because they are motivated by the truth, but mainly because they are spies paid by the enemies of Islam.

To conclude, the Islamic criminal code prescribes a capital punishment for apostates – for those who renounce Islam publicly in a Muslim society ruled by a Muslim government. It goes without saying that the execution is subject to a very strict legal investigation and due process and is applicable only and only if there is a Muslim government. In reality, it is barely applied. At the same time, Islam is the most clear, transparent and merciful religion. It does not promote the concept of spying on people and looking for their personal sins, contrary to the western secularism, which promotes espionage, spying on people, looking for mistakes, ruining people’s reputations by making public their mistakes and shortcomings, by excluding them from a normal life if they have a criminal record, by even applying persecution on the family members of a person who is considered a political enemy. Islam, however, does not tolerate those spies and agents who are infiltrated in a Muslim society, who appear to accept the religion of Islam and then renounce it, in order to spread chaos. This shows the confidence of Islam in the divine truthfulness, as well as it teaches Muslims that there are enemies out there who plot and make plans against them, who would not spare any strategy to fight against them, as it was the case of the corrupt Jews in the time of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).

The punishment for apostates does not contradict one of the most important principles of Islam, “Let there be no compulsion in religion, for the truth stands out clearly from falsehood. So whoever renounces false gods and believes in Allah has certainly grasped the firmest, unfailing hand-hold. And Allah is All-Hearing, All-Knowing.” Quran 2:256.

The western secularists do not care and have no interests in defending religions freedom. Their concern is simply their agenda against Islam and its annihilation, so by promoting religious freedom in Muslim countries and criticizing the concept of legal punishment for apostates, they want to pave the way for spies and agents in Islamic societies and their activism to bring down the foundation of Islam. It’s all about politics, not about genuine freedom.

Sabri Lushi

Independent Writer

October 02, 2022