Hatred and Violence in the Qur’an Awareness Month: “Seize them and kill them wherever you find them”
Today’s hatred and violence in the Qur’an concerns the death penalty for apostasy:
They wish you would disbelieve as they disbelieved so you would be alike. So do not take from among them allies until they emigrate for the cause of Allah . But if they turn away, then seize them and kill them wherever you find them and take not from among them any ally or helper. (Qur’an 4:89)
Those who have accepted Islam but then “turn away” and now “disbelieve” should be murdered wherever they are found. The Tafsir al-Jalalayn, a venerable and respected commentary on the Qur’an, explains that a Muslim should not trust these people “until they emigrate in the way of God, a proper emigration that would confirm their belief” — that is, if they leave their homes to join up with the Muslims. “Then, if they turn away, and remain upon their ways, take them, as captives, and slay them wherever you find them.” Thus those who leave Islam should be asked to return to the Muslims, and killed if they refuse.
This idea is supported by another passage:
They ask you about the sacred month – about fighting therein. Say, “Fighting therein is great [sin], but averting [people] from the way of Allah and disbelief in Him and [preventing access to] al-Masjid al-Haram and the expulsion of its people therefrom are greater [evil] in the sight of Allah . And fitnah is greater than killing.” And they will continue to fight you until they turn you back from your religion if they are able. And whoever of you reverts from his religion [to disbelief] and dies while he is a disbeliever – for those, their deeds have become worthless in this world and the Hereafter, and those are the companions of the Fire, they will abide therein eternally. (Qur’an 2:217)
What does it mean that the works of those who “turn back from their faith and die in unbelief” will “bear no fruit in this life” as well as in the next? Let’s go for an answer to the Tafsir al-Qurtubi, a classic and thoroughly mainstream exegesis of the Qur’an. About 2:217, Qurtubi says this:
Scholars disagree about whether or not apostates are asked to repent. One group say that they are asked to repent and, if they do not, they are killed. Some say they are given an hour and others a month. Others say that they are asked to repent three times, and that is the view of Malik. Al-Hasan said they are asked a hundred times. It is also said that they are killed without being asked to repent.
Did you notice one option that Qurtubi never mentions? That’s right: he never says anything like “some say the apostate should not be killed.” The only point of contention seems to be how long the Muslim must wait before he kills the apostate.