On Apostasy

Selections of the ahadith below are from Muwatta’ of Imam Malik, translated by Prof. Muhammad Rahimuddin, those in the brackets and notes are by author, with some addition by others. Numbers at end of the hadith are those in the original.

[1] Mujahid reported that ‘Abd Allah b. ‘Umar took some dirhams as loan and paid back better dirhams.  He said: O Abu ‘Abd al-Rahman, these are better than the dirhams I had loaned out to you.  ‘Abd Allah b. ‘Umar replied: Yes, I know, but I have paid out of my own good will and pleasure.  [1368]


The extra money we give (without force on the part of the lender or he expecting such an addition) in addition to the loan we have taken is for gratitude and that’s Gift. But the extra money we pay (which if we refuse at the first place would not be lent some money we desperately need, despite all other lawful source) in addition to the loan we have taken is a forced extraction and that’s Usury. Fine as a punishment for delay in paying ‘fees’ might also fall under this category. ‘Fine’ as a punishment for damage caused is allowable.

[2] Rafi’ b. Khadij reported that the Apostle of Allah – Peace be up him – prohibited the renting of land against a part of its produce.  Hanzilah said: I asked Rafi’ b. Khadij whether they could be rented out in lieu of gold and silver1.  He replied there is no harm in (taking) gold and silver.  [1384]


1. That is, usually money.

[3] Muhammad b. ‘Abd Allah b. ‘Abd al-Qari reported that a man came to ‘Umar b. al-Khattab from Abu Musa Asha’ri (from Yemen).  ‘Umar b. al-Khattab asked him about the condition of the people there.  He gave the information.  ‘Umar b. al-Khattab then said: Have you anything extraordinary to report?  The man said: Yes.  A man had left the fold of Islam and became an infidel.  He asked: What treatment had been meted out to him?  He replied: We caught him and beheaded him.1  ‘Umar declared: It would have been better if you had cast him in prison for three days and given him one bread2 each day and asked him to repent.3  Perhaps, he would have repented and obeyed the Commands of the Lord. ‘Umar added: My Lord I was not present there, neither did I give any order, nor did I feel happy when I learnt it.  [1411]



There is no compulsion in religion…” goes the Qur’anic verse.

(Islamic) legal rulings are carried out only in an Islamic/Muslim country.  Muslims in non-Muslim countries are bound by the rules of the land if it does not go against the tenets of Islam. 

1. They might have given the death penalty as the final verdict after consideration.  There is of course a hadith that metes out death sentence for apostasy – “Zaid b. Aslam reported that the Messenger of Allah declared that the man who leaves the fold of Islam should be executed.”  [1410]

First and foremost Islamic-sense (read – rulings/ more precisely – Mercy) cannot be brought about by just one article for such a serious case (i.e. by just referring to one hadith regarding the subject).

Generally secular rulings are formulated by referring to various acts under different sections.

Islamic rulings are formulated first by consulting the Qur’an second Prophetic sayings (Sunnah and Ahadith) and third by analogical-consultation of jurist-authorities (Qiyas and Shoura council) within the framework of the two basic source.

Minors are generally exempt from punishment and their parents are responsible for their deeds until puberty.  Here parents and family environment play the crucial role.

As of those post-puberty “No man carries the sin of the another.”  Father’s sin is his and son’s sin is his – but Father has an edge over others as a head of the family, and he along with ones mother should be obeyed if it doesn’t go against the tenet of Islam.  “There’s no obedience against the disobedience to the Creator.” 

2. Generally speaking any food.

3. Here ‘… asked him to repent’ is –

(a) He might be well educated but not in Islamic studies.  Not to forget the family background and environment, he (they) might be ignorant of Islam, and he needs to be educated Islamically, made to see reason and convince him of it. Once he repents, he is let free as a ‘practising’Muslim.

(b) The punishment for apostasy is only for those who were well educated both secularly and ‘Islamically’ except that ‘something’ made them denounce it. They also should be cleared off their doubts or ‘grudge’ of something in Islam.  Once they repent and realize their mistake they must be let free.

If they are still stubborn in their ‘abandonment’ despite they being cleared off their doubts, made to see reason, several attempts to convince them and despite several more days/ months of imprisonment, then the death penalty is carried.  Allah knows best.

‘Apostasy’ in the true sense of the word is rarest of the rare among the Muslim community, even if they are ‘ignorant’.

[4] Hiram b. Sa’d b. Muhayyisah reported: The she-camel of Bara’ b. ‘Azib entered a person’s garden and did some damage.  The Prophet declared that it is for the owner of the garden to keep watch during the day, but if an animal should enter a garden at night and do damage, the owner of the animal shall be held responsible.  [1430]


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