The best approach to apostacy in Islam is via the Hanafi Fiqh in the Mughal Empire (the Ottomans seem to have a much more aggressive interpretation). MGA and his team of writers never commented clearly on apostacy in Islam and purposely. Apostacy in Islam is decided by islamic governments, not by people. In fact, the Mughal Empire and Ottoman Empire had their own unique interpretation of apostacy. In the Mughal Empire, penalty for Apostasy limited for those who cause Hirabah after leaving Islam, not for personal religion change.

Apostacy via the Hanafi Fiqh
Hanafi – recommends three days of imprisonment before execution, although the delay before killing the Muslim apostate is not mandatory. Apostates who are men must be killed, states the Hanafi Sunni fiqh, while women must be held in solitary confinement and beaten every three days till they recant and return to Islam. Penalty for Apostasy limited for those who cause Hirabah after leaving Islam, not for personal religion change.

Other schools of thought
Maliki – allows up to ten days for recantation, after which the apostate must be killed. Both men and women apostates deserve death penalty according to the traditional view of Sunni Maliki fiqh.[84]Shafi’i – waiting period of three days is required to allow the Muslim apostate to repent and return to Islam. After the wait, execution is the traditional recommended punishment for both men and women apostates.[84]Hanbali – waiting period not necessary, but may be granted. Execution is traditional recommended punishment for both genders of Muslim apostates.[84]Ja’fari – waiting period not necessary, but may be granted according to this Shia fiqh. Male apostates must be executed, states the Jafari fiqh, while a female apostate must be held in solitary confinement till she repents and returns to Islam.


File:Islam's Non-Believers Panel Discussion.webm

Ex-Muslim Fauzia Ilyas, co-founder of Atheist and Agnostic Alliance Pakistan, tells her story (15:53–19:02).

Inheritance and property rights for apostates were prohibited by Pakistan in 1963.[21] In 1991, Tahir Iqbal, who had converted to Christianity from Islam, was arrested on charges of desecrating a copy of the Qur’an and making statements against Muhammad. While awaiting trial, he was denied bail on the presumption by a Sessions Court and the appeals Division of the Lahore High Court that conversion from Islam was a “cognizable offense”. This decision was upheld by the High Court. The judge hearing the case, Saban Mohyuddin, rejected the idea that Iqbal should be sentenced to death for conversion, saying that Iqbal could only be sentenced if it could be proven he had committed blasphemy. The case was then transferred away from Mohyuddin.[307]

While there was no specific formal law prohibiting apostasy,[308] the laws against apostasy have been effectuated through Pakistan’s blasphemy laws.[309] Under Article 295 of its penal code, any Pakistani Muslim who feels his or her religious feelings have been hurt, directly or indirectly, for any reason or any action of another Pakistani citizen can accuse blasphemy and open a criminal case against anyone.[310] According to the Federal Shariat Court, the punishment for any type of blasphemy is death.[311] AbdelFatteh Amor has observed that the Pakistani judiciary has tended to hold apostasy to be an offence, although Pakistanis have claimed otherwise.[312] The UN expressed concern in 2002 that Pakistan was still issuing death sentences for apostasy.[313]

The Apostasy Act 2006 was drafted and tabled before the National Assembly on 9 May 2007. The Bill provided an apostate with three days to repent or face execution. Although this Bill has not officially become law yet, it was not opposed by the government which sent it to the parliamentary committee for consideration.[314] The principle in Pakistani criminal law is that a lacuna in the statute law is to be filled with Islamic law. In 2006 this had led Martin Lau to speculate that apostasy had already become a criminal offence in Pakistan.[315]

In 2010 the Federal Shariat Court declared that apostasy is an offence[316] covered by Hudood under the terms of Article 203DD of the Constitution.[317][318] The Federal Shariat Court has exclusive jurisdiction over Hudood matters and no court or legislation can interfere in its jurisdiction or overturn its decisions.[318] Even though apostasy is not covered in statutory law, the Court ruled that it had jurisdiction over all Hudood matters regardless of whether there is an enacted law on them or not.[319]

Other views on punishment

Various early Muslim scholars did not agree with the death penalty, among them Ibrahim al-Nakha’i (d. 715) and Sufyan al-Thawri and their followers, who rejected the death penalty for woman only and instead prescribed indefinite imprisonment until repentance. The Hanafi jurist Sarakhsi also called for different punishments between the non-seditious religious apostasy and that of seditious and political nature, or high treason.[91][92]

Medieval Islamic scholars differed on the punishment of a female apostate: death, enslavement, or imprisonment until repentance. Abu Hanifa and his followers refused the death penalty for female apostates, supporting imprisonment until they re-embrace Islam. Hanafi scholars maintain that a female apostate should not be killed because it was forbidden to kill women under Sharia.[92] In contrast, Maliki, Shafii, Hanbali and Ja’fari scholars interpreted other parts of Sharia to permit death as possible punishment for Muslim apostate women, in addition to confinement.[93]

Contemporary reform Muslims such as Quranist Ahmed Subhy Mansour,[94] Edip Yuksel, and Mohammed Shahrour have suffered from accusations of apostasy and demands to execute them, issued by Islamic clerics such as Mahmoud Ashur, Mustafa Al-Shak’a, Mohammed Ra’fat Othman and Yusif Al-Badri.[95] Despite claiming to have received death threats, Edip Yuksel also believes that high-profile apostates who are controversial should be killed. He wrote, “Apostasy is not what gets one killed. It’s a combination of being controversial and having a high profile.”[96]

Prominent recent examples of writers and activists killed because of apostasy claims include Mahmoud Mohammed Taha, executed by the Sudanese government, as thousands of demonstrators protested against his execution,[97][98] and Faraj Foda, victim of Islamic extremists who were later arrested and imprisoned for 20 years.[99][100] The Egyptian Nobel prize winner Najib Mahfouz was injured in an attempted assassination, paralyzing his right arm.[101] The case of Abdul Rahman, an Afghan who converted from Islam to Christianity, sparked debate on the issue. While he initially faced the death penalty, he was eventually released as he was deemed mentally unfit to stand trial.[102] Additionally, some, although not all Islamic states that do not directly execute converts from Islam sometimes instead indirectly facilitate extrajudicial killings performed by the apostate’s family, particularly if the apostate is vocal.[103]

Opposition to execution

Over the centuries a number of prominent ulema, including the Maliki jurist Abu al-Walid al-Baji (d. 474 AH) held that apostasy is not a hadd crime and thus is liable only to a discretionary punishment (ta’zir).[81] Some early authorities, such as Ibrahim al-Nakhai and Sufyan al-Thawri, as well as the Hanafi jurist Sarakhsi (d. 1090), believed that an apostate should be asked to repent indefinitely and never condemned to death.[81][104] According to Sarakhsi, apostasy from Islam is a great offense, but its punishment is postponed until the Day of Judgement.[104] The view that the Quran speaks only of otherworldly punishment for apostasy was also held by the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar (1958–1963) Mahmud Shaltut, who held that the prescription of death penalty for apostasy found in hadith was aimed at prevention of aggression against Muslims and sedition against the state.[81] Contemporary scholar Mirza Tahir Ahmad quotes a number of companions of Muhammad or early Islamic scholars (Ibn al-Humam, al-MarghinaniIbn Abbas, Sarakhsi, Ibrahim al-Nakh’i) to argue that there was not an ijma (consensus among scholars or community) in favor of execution of murtadd in early Islam.[105]

Contemporary Islamic Shafi`i jurists such as the Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa[106][107] and fiqh scholar Taha Jabir Alalwani[108] along with Shi’a jurists such as Grand Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri[109] and Grand Ayatollah Hussein Esmaeel al-Sadr[110] and some jurists, scholars and writers of other Islamic sects,[who?] have argued or issued fatwas that the changing of religion is not punishable, but these minority opinions have not found broad acceptance among the majority of Islamic scholars.[citation needed] However others have successfully argued that the majority view, in both the past and the present, wasn’t a severe punishment for mere apostasy.[111]

Javed Ahmad Ghamidi writes that punishment for apostasy was part of divine punishment for only those who denied the truth even after clarification in its ultimate form by Muhammad (Itmaam-i-hujjat), hence, he considers it a time-bound command and no longer punishable.[112]

Tariq Ramadan states that given “the way the Prophet behaved with the people who left Islam (like Hishâm and ‘Ayyash) or who converted to Christianity (such as Ubaydallah ibn Jahsh), it should be stated that one who changes her/his religion should not be killed”. He further states that “there can be no compulsion or coercion in matters of faith not only because it is explicitly forbidden in the Qur’an but also because free conscious and choice and willing submission are foundational to the first pillar (declaration of faith) and essential to the very definition of Islam. Therefore, someone leaving Islam or converting to another religion must be free to do so and her/his choice must be respected.”[113]

Reza Aslan argues that the idea that apostasy is treason rather than exercise of freedom of religion is not so much part of Islam, as part of the pre-modern era when classical Islamic fiqh was developed, and when “every religion was a ‘religion of the sword'”.[114]

This was also an era in which religion and the state were one unified entity. … no Jew, Christian, Zoroastrian, or Muslim of this time would have considered his or her religion to be rooted in the personal confessional experiences of individuals. … Your religion was your ethnicity, your culture, and your social identity… your religion was your citizenship.[114]

The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, a minority sect found in South and Southeast Asia, rejects any form of punishment for apostasy whatsoever in this world, citing hadith, Quran, and the opinions of classical Islamic jurists to justify its views.[115] However, Ahmadiyya Muslims are widely considered as non-Muslim apostates and persecuted by mainstream Islam, because of their beliefs.[62][64]


The basis for an opposition to execution for mere apostasy in the Qur’an stems from the following:[116][117][118]

There is no compulsion in religion; truly the right way has become clearly distinct from error; therefore, whoever disbelieves in the Shaitan and believes in Allah he indeed has laid hold on the firmest handle, which shall not break off, and Allah is Hearing, Knowing.

— Quran 2:256

Say, “The truth is from your Lord”: Let him who will believe, and let him who will, reject (it): for the wrong-doers We have prepared a Fire whose (smoke and flames), like the walls and roof of a tent, will hem them in: if they implore relief they will be granted water like melted brass, that will scald their faces, how dreadful the drink! How uncomfortable a couch to recline on!

— Quran 18:29

And if your Lord had pleased, surely all those who are in the earth would have believed, all of them; will you then force men till they become believers?

— Quran 10:99

Therefore do remind, for you are only a reminder. You are not a watcher over them;

He said: “O my people! See ye if (it be that) I have a Clear Sign from my Lord, and that He hath sent Mercy unto me from His own presence, but that the Mercy hath been obscured from your sight? shall we compel you to accept it when ye are averse to it?

— Quran 11:28

Jonathan A.C. Brown explains that “According to all the theories of language elaborated by Muslim legal scholars, the Qur’anic proclamation that ‘There is no compulsion in religion. The right path has been distinguished from error’ is as absolute and universal a statement as one finds. The truth had been made clear, and now, ‘Whoever wants, let him believe, and whoever wants, let him disbelieve,’ the holy book continues (2:256, 18:29). “, and hence the Qur’an granted religious freedom.[116] Peters and Vries, in contrast, write that the Quranic verse 2:256 was traditionally interpreted in a different way, considered abrogated (suspended and overruled) by later verses of Quran by some classical scholars.[119] Peters and Vries note that some interpreted this verse has been that it “forbids compulsion to things that are wrong but not compulsion to accept the truth”.[119] However, that isn’t true since Muslim scholars have established the abrogated verses and (2:256) isn’t among them,[120][121] moreover, many Qur’anic commentators and Muslim scholars interpret (2:256) by reasoning that the truth of Islam is so self-evident that no one is in need of being coerced into it; and embracing Islam because of coercion would not benefit the convert in any case.[122][123][124][125][126]

Khaled Abou El Fadl claims that the verses (88:21–22) emphasizes that even Muhammad does not have the right to think of himself as a warden who has the power to coerce people. This is reaffirmed by many of the historical reports regarding the Qur’anic revelation that emphasize that belief and conviction cannot be coerced. He further states that moderates consider the verse (2:256) to be enunciating a general, overriding principle that cannot be contradicted by isolated traditions attributed to the Prophet. He concludes that moderates do not believe that there is any punishment that attaches to apostasy.[127]

S. A. Rahman, a former Chief Justice of Pakistan, argues that there is no indication of the death penalty for apostasy in the Qur’an.[128] W. Heffening states that “in the Qur’an the apostate is threatened with punishment in the next world only.”[129] Wael Hallaq holds that nothing in the law governing apostate and apostasy derives from the letter of Quran.[130] The late dissenting Shia jurist Grand Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri stated that the Quranic verses do not prescribe an earthly penalty for apostasy.[109]

Islamist author Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi argued that verses [Quran 9:11] of the Qur’an sanction death for apostasy. In contrast, Pakistan’s jurist S. A. Rahman states “that not only is there no punishment for apostasy provided in the Book but that the Word of God clearly envisages the natural death of the apostate. He will be punished only in the Hereafter…”[131] Rahman also highlights that there is no reference to the death penalty in any of the 20 instances of apostasy mentioned in the Qur’an. Ahmet Albayrak explains in The Qur’an: An Encyclopedia that regarding apostasy as a wrongdoing is not a sign of intolerance of other religions, and is not aimed at one’s freedom to choose a religion or to leave Islam and embrace another faith, but that on the contrary, it is more correct to say that the punishment is enforced as a safety precaution when warranted if apostasy becomes a mechanism of public disobedience and disorder (fitna). At this point, what is punished is the action of ridiculing the high moral flavour of Islam and posing a threat to public order. Otherwise, Islam prohibits spying on people and investigating their private lives, beliefs and personal opinions.[27]

Enayatullah Subhani argues that death penalty mentioned in the Hadith is not for the apostates, rather it is the punishment of collective conspiracy and treason against the government.[132]


Writing in the Encyclopedia of Islam, Heffening holds that contrary to the Qur’an, “in traditions [i.e. hadith], there is little echo of these punishments in the next world… and instead, we have in many traditions a new element, the death penalty.”[133][page needed] Wael Hallaq states the death penalty reflects a later reality and does not stand in accord with the deeds of Muhammad.[130]

Ayatollah Montazeri holds that it is probable that the punishment was prescribed by Muhammad during early Islam to combat political conspiracies against Islam and Muslims, and is not intended for those who simply change their belief or express a change in belief. Montazeri defines different types of apostasy; he argues that capital punishment should be reserved for those who desert Islam out of malice and enmity towards the Muslim community, and not those who convert to another religion after investigation and research.[109]

Historic impact

The charge of apostasy is often used by religious authorities to condemn and punish skeptics, dissidents, and minorities in their communities.[41] From the earliest history of Islam, the crime of apostasy and execution for apostasy has driven major events in Islam. For example, the Ridda wars (civil wars of apostasy) shook the Muslim community in 632–633 AD, immediately after the death of Muhammad.[41][134] These apostasy wars split the two major sects of Islam – Sunni and Shia, and caused numerous deaths.[135][136] Sunni and Shia sects of Islam have long called each other as apostates of Islam.[137]

The term Zindīq refers to a freethinker, atheist or a heretic. Originally it referred to a dualist and also the Manichaeans, whose religion for a time threatened to become the dominant religion of the educated class and who experienced a wave of persecutions from 779 to 786. A history of those times states:[138]

“Tolerance is laudable”, the Spiller (the Caliph Abu al-Abbās) had once said, “except in matters dangerous to religious beliefs, or to the Sovereign’s dignity.”[138] Mahdi (d. 169/785) persecuted Freethinkers, and executed them in large numbers. He was the first Caliph to order composition of polemical works to in refutation of Freethinkers and other heretics; and for years he tried to exterminate them absolutely, hunting them down throughout all provinces and putting accused persons to death on mere suspicion.[138]

The New Encyclopedia of Islam states that after the early period, with some notable exceptions, the practice in Islam regarding atheism or various forms of heresy, grew more tolerant as long as it was a private matter. However heresy and atheism expressed in public may well be considered a scandal and a menace to a society; in some societies they are punishable, at least to the extent the perpetrator is silenced. In particular, blasphemy against God and insulting Muhammad are major crimes.[138]

From the 7th century through the 18th century, atheists, materialists, Sufi, and Shii sects were accused and executed for apostasy in Islam. In the 8th century, apostates of Islam were killed in West Asia and Sind.[139] 10th-century Iraq, Sufi mystic Al-Hallaj was executed for apostasy; in 12th-century Iran, al-Suhrawardi along with followers of Ismaili sect of Islam were killed on charges of being apostates;[41] in 14th-century Syria, Ibn Taymiyyah declared Central Asian Turko-Mongol Muslims as apostates due to the invasion of Ghazan Khan;[140] in 17th-century India, Dara Shikoh and other sons of Shah Jahan were captured and executed on charges of apostasy from Islam by his brother Aurangzeb.[141]

Other sources say that executions of apostates have been “rare in Islamic history”.[25] While Al-Hallaj was officially executed for possessing a heretical document suggesting hajj pilgrimage was not required of a pure Muslim, it is thought he would have been spared execution except that the Caliph at the time Al-Muqtadir wished to discredit “certain figures who had associated themselves” with al-Hallaj.[142] (Previously al-Hallaj had been punished for talking about being at one with God by being shaved, pilloried and beaten with the flat of a sword. He was not executed because the Shafi’ite judge had ruled that his words were not “proof of disbelief.”[142]) According to historian Bernard Lewis, in the “early times” of Islam, “charges of apostasy were not unusual, and … the terms ‘unbeliever’ and ‘apostate’ were commonly used in religious polemic … in fact such accusations had little practical effect. The accused were for the most part unmolested, and some even held high offices in the Muslim state. As the rules and penalties of the Muslim law were systematized and more regularly enforced, charges of apostasy became rarer.”[143] When action was taken against an alleged apostate, it was much more likely to be “quarantine” than execution, unless the innovation was “extreme, persistent and aggressive”.[143]

During the colonial era, death for apostasy was abolished in many Muslim-majority colonies. Similarly, under intense European pressure, death sentence for apostasy from Islam was abolished by the Edict of Toleration, and substituted with other forms of punishment by the Ottoman government in 1844; the implementation of this ban was resisted by religious officials and proved difficult.[144][145] A series of edicts followed during Ottoman’s Tanzimat period, such as the 1856 Reform Edict. Despite these edicts, there was constant pressure on non-Muslims to convert to Islam, and apostates from Islam continued to be persecuted, punished and threatened with execution, particularly in eastern and Levant parts of the then Ottoman Empire.[144] The Edict of Toleration ultimately failed when Sultan Abdul Hamid II assumed power, re-asserted pan-Islamism with sharia as Ottoman state philosophy, and initiated Hamidian massacres in 1894 against Christians, particularly of ArmeniansAssyrians and crypto-Christian apostates from Islam in Turkey (Stavriotes, Kromlides).[146][147][148][not specific enough to verify]

In “recent decades” before 2006, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom listed four cases of execution for apostasy in the Muslim world: one in Sudan in 1985; two in Iran, in 1989 and 1998; and one in Saudi Arabia in 1992.[25]

Apostasy in the recent past

Penalties (actual or proposed) for apostasy in some Muslim-majority countries as of 2020.

  Death penalty
  Converting a Muslim is a crime

  Loss of child custody/marriage


More than 20 Muslim-majority states have laws that declare apostasy by Muslims to be a crime.[31] As of 2014, apostasy was a capital offense in Afghanistan, Brunei, Mauritania, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen.[31] Executions for religious conversion have been infrequent in recent times, with four cases reported since 1985: one in Sudan in 1985; two in Iran, in 1989 and 1998; and one in Saudi Arabia in 1992.[31][25] In Mauritania, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Yemen apostasy laws have been used to charge persons for acts other than conversion.[31] In addition, some predominantly Islamic countries without laws specifically addressing apostasy have prosecuted individuals or minorities for apostasy using broadly-defined blasphemy laws.[149] In many nations, the Hisbah doctrine of Islam has traditionally allowed any Muslim to accuse another Muslim or ex-Muslim for beliefs that may harm Islamic society. This principle has been used in countries such as Egypt, Pakistan and others to bring blasphemy charges against apostates.[150]

The violence or threats of violence against apostates in the Muslim world in recent years has derived primarily not from government authorities but from other individuals or groups operating unrestricted by the government.[151][page needed] There has also been social persecution for Muslims converting to Christianity. For example, the Christian organisation Barnabas Fund reports:

The field of apostasy and blasphemy and related “crimes” is thus obviously a complex syndrome within all Muslim societies which touches a raw nerve and always arouses great emotional outbursts against the perceived acts of treason, betrayal and attacks on Islam and its honour. While there are a few brave dissenting voices within Muslim societies, the threat of the application of the apostasy and blasphemy laws against any who criticize its application is an efficient weapon used to intimidate opponents, silence criticism, punish rivals, reject innovations and reform, and keep non-Muslim communities in their place.[152]

Similar views are expressed by the non-theistic International Humanist and Ethical Union.[153]

Public opinion

A survey based on face-to-face interviews conducted in 80 languages by the Pew Research Center between 2008 and 2012 among thousands of Muslims in many countries, found varied views on the death penalty for those who leave Islam to become an atheist or to convert to another religion.[154] In some countries (especially in Central Asia, Southeast Europe, and Turkey), support for the death penalty for apostasy was confined to a tiny fringe; in other countries (especially in the Arab world and South Asia) majorities and large minorities support the death penalty.

In the survey, Muslims who favored making Sharia the law of the land were asked for their views on the death penalty for apostasy from Islam.[154] The results are summarized in the table below. Note that values for Group C have been derived from the values for the other two groups and are not part of the Pew report.[154]


Links and Related Essay’s

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