Thursday, December 27, 2007

Apostasy and Dissent II

I didn't want this to be buried in my comments section, so this is an addendum to my first post on this topic, and is response to temporal and alien. Also, alien, I would like to comment on your comment about the verse that came down when Muslims were fighting with their backs against the wall. A religion, revealed or otherwise (to me at least) should be universal and applicable. Putting that verse into the book crystallized it and made it an immutable part of the religion. So, it's not just a historical relic it is religious text. It justifies similar acts in modern times because depending on someone's perspective they can justify that an extreme act is warranted because the situation can be argued to be similar to the time of the said verse.

Now, I am not someone who remembers verses and numbers but I do remember stories and words. And I remember long ago verses and stories from the Quran and Hadith that I read as a child. However, I wanted to quote from the actual text.

Now, there is no specific sentence in the Quran that says death to apostates. However, there are many things that are allowed or forbidden that are not expressly stated in so many words. Stories and/or incidents are used for illustrative purposes. And, of course, the Quran is not the only source for Islamic law and practice. Forget the shariah and the schools of jurisprudence, there is also the Hadith, incidents from the life of the prophet, incidents others relate about what he said or did that are supposed to guide the lives of Muslims. I had to dig around to find the actual places.

So, here goes:

The Quran on Apostasy

During a four month period, and when the haj was going on, immunity was declared against all those fighting against Allah and his messenger. This was in A.H. 9. During these four months they could accept Islam, leave the country (and nothing would hinder their departure), or do neither and stay and be dealt with by the sword. Some of these people were known as the hypocrites, i.e., they had accepted Islam verbally but were still not fully committed to it. In other words they had confessed Islam and then renounced it, which is part of the definition of apostasy. The punishment here was the war waged against the leaders of this kufr or infidelity (9:11-12)

There is some commentary and debate about this next one, though many Islamic scholars believe in the interpretation of one verse from the Cairo edition of the Quran that states, either that all the deeds of an apostate become null and void in this world and the next and he must be killed OR that an apostate should be killed and lose his wife and heritage.

Ibn Fakhri fil Adab as Sultaniya also relates that Abu Bakr killed all of Mecca's apostates after the death of the prophet.

Apostasy in the Hadith

There are quite a few hadiths about this topic. According to Bukhari (volume 9, # 17), the prophet said: The punishment of death is prescribed for murder, adultery and the one who reverts from Islam and leaves the Muslims.

(vol 9, # 57 relates an eye-witness account by Ikrima): Ali burnt some atheists who were brought to him. Hearing this Ibn Abbas said, that the messenger of Allah forbade burning them but that they did deserve death, because the prophet said, whoever changed his Islamic religion, then kill him."

(vol 9, verse 58) A Jew who became a Muslim and then reverted back to Judaism was brought in fetters to Abu Musa and Muadh. When told of his crime Muadh said he would not sit until the man was killed. And so the man was.

Imam Malik (Book 016, # 4152)
Zaid b. Aslam reported that the prophet declared that the man who leaves Islam should be executed.

Historical Records

The prophet's life and actions form the basis of conduct for the believing Muslim. So, I present this example. After the taking of Mecca, ten people were ordered to be killed by the prophet, all ten of whom were apostates.

Furthermore, no matter their other disagreements all the schools of Islamic jurisprudence do agree on one thing, that the punishment for apostasy is execution.

However, one of the problems in pinning anything to the Quran or Hadith is that there are so many contradictory verses and events, which really muddy the water. So there are verses in which the prophet actually did nothing about some apostates. Ultimately I believe it comes down to one's own personal beliefs.

Perhapy my fundamental problem is that I expect a book of divine revelation to be consistent and clear, leaving no room for the kind of doubt that either does or does not prescribe death for apostates. In countries with Islamic law, because of the schools of jurisprudence and the hadith and the few verses from the Quran do form the basis for apostasy laws. Since there is nothing expressly forbidding death for apostasy but there is some evidence for harsh punishment for apostasy this law is applied. For all intents and purposes, this is agreed-upon Muslim law.

How a few enlightened people interpret these verses of hadiths in their homes doesn't matter when vast swathes of the Muslim world believe death for apostasy a fair exchange, and it is upheld by law.


P.S. Alien and temporal, I still consider you guys my friends and like the fact we can discuss this topic in a respectful manner. Cheers!

3 comments:

Alien in Pakistan said...

I think according to what I understand of what I've read, their crime wasn't just apostasy, but claiming to believe in Islam and the messenger, and then going to the enemies of Islam and saying "We aren't really Muslim, we just said that, but we're really on your side" and helping the enemies of Islam covertly. In that sense it was a crime of treason rather than of apostasy.

Taken in that way, it makes a lot of sense to me. Someone who just leaves Islam and never has anything to do with it again is an apostate but not a traitor, so I don't think the death penalty would be applicable to them. It could be simplistic, but in the spirit of the religion, and taken with other verses of the Quran that say "To you your religion to me mine" and "There is no compulsion in religion" I think it makes sense to look at it in that way. Muslim scholars argue that it's all about context and I tend to agree with them.

Jawahara Saidullah said...

I think if it was just that verse in isolation I might agree, but taken in context with sayings from the hadith, historical references, and other Quranic verses about the fate of unbelievers I don't. Also, technically an apostate is one who goes away from his/her religion, and the hypocrites did just that, bolstering the case that they were not just traitors but also apostates.

Alien in Pakistan said...

You'd be amazed how many words in arabic get mistranslated or given the wrong nuance in other languages. The same has happened with the verse 4:34 where chauvinistic scholars translated "daraba" as "beat them" intsead of "separate from them". I'm pretty sure if we examined the word in Arabic, we could find a similar (possibly deliberate) mistranslation.

As far as the other Hadiths, some say the one attributed to the Prophet ("Kill them") is weak. Who really knows the truth... as for the fate of unbelievers in the Quran, it's pretty clear that God is the one to decide their fate, not other human beings, who are dumb enough in general to take something that happened at one point in time and try to apply it to everything ever after.

I just had lunch at an Italian restaurant called "Pompeii" so it reminded me of your trip - how was it?