Misconception about Apostasy

Many claim that the punishment prescribed in Islam for apostasy is a violation against human rights. The modern concept of human rights ensures freedom of religion to all people. This punishment, they claim, contradicts what Allah the Exalted and Almighty said in the Glorious Qur'an:

Let there be no compulsion in religion.
(2:256)

Reply to the Misconception about Apostasy

Islamic Shari'ah decrees execution for the person who apostatizes after accepting Islam as a way of life, and rejects Islamic beliefs and laws. The well known tradition of the Prophet states,

The blood of a Muslim may not be legally spilt other than in one of three (instances): the married person who commits adultery; a life for a life; and one who forsakes his religion (of Islam) and abandons the community.
Reported by Bukhari no. 6935 and Muslim no. 6524.

The Prophet also said:

Whosoever changes his religion (of Islam) kill him.
Reported by Bukhari no.2854.

Rejecting Islam as a way of life after its acceptance implies malicious propaganda against Islam and a disgrace to the immediate Muslim community where the apostate lives. Such rejection will not only discourage people from accepting Islam as a way of life, but will encourage all varieties of criminality and blasphemy. The example of rejecting Islam indicates that the person who joined it was only testing it, but was not serious about his commitment to this way of life. Therefore, this rejection will tend to attack Islam and attempt to rebel from within. Therefore, such a punishment was prescribed, Allah knows best.

Declaring general disbelief and rejection is unacceptable in Islamic Shari'ah because such a person does not honor the sacred commitment to his or her faith. He is more dangerous and worse than an original non-believer who never was a Muslim. Allah states in the Glorious Qur'an:

Those who believe, then reject Faith, then believe (again) and (again) reject Faith, and go on increasing in disbelief, Allah will not forgive them nor guide them on the way.
(4:137)

We should take the following points into consideration concerning apostates from Islam.

The killing of an apostate from the Islamic faith implies that such a person has violated the basis of Islam and attacked Islam openly and publicly with treachery and blasphemy. As such, he threatens the very basis of the moral and social order. This treachery may precipitate the beginning of internal revolution and dangerous rebellion within the Islamic society. This kind of crime is the most serious in any society, and therefore is called 'High Treason'. A convicted apostate is given a chance for three consecutive days to return to the fold of Islam. Qualified Islamic scholars sit with him and explain to him the major sin he is committing, against his own soul, his family, and the community, and to remove whatever misconceptions he had been subjected to. If this person returns to the fold of Islam he will be let free without punishment. Execution of such an apostate is, in reality, a salvation for the rest of the society members from the maliciousness and violence he would spread if left to propagate his disbelief and blasphemy among the other members of the society. If such a person confines his disbelief and apostasy to himself, and does not proclaim and propagate it, he is left to Allah and the punishments of the hereafter. Allah knows best who believes and who rejects faith, who is sincere and who is a hypocrite. Muslim authorities only base their judgments and sentences upon open external matters and leave the internal realties to Allah .

On the other hand, this ruling illustrates that the acceptance or rejection of Islam is a very serious matter. Any potential convert must take time to study, research, evaluate and examine all the aspects of Islam as a way of life prior to joining it and committing to its rules and regulations. Such a severe punishment will not give any slim chance to those who would like to play around, experiment with Islam, and act treacherously in the ultimate treason.

Islam does not treat rejection of the faith as a personal matter but rather a rejection that harms the entire system. This rejection is a seed of internal revolution and instigation towards rebellion in the society. Islam does not condone that which leads to mischief and confusion in the society.

This law for apostasy in Islam is somewhat similar and yet more moderate than many modern political systems which treat any activities to overthrow an existing regime or government as illegal and ultimate treason, punishable by execution, exile, imprisonment and confiscation of personal wealth of these individuals. Even the relatives of such persons are often subjected to the harassment and punishment. Islam only punishes the apostate himself with the simple, direct and very effective deterrent.