From Women Living Under Muslim Laws: News and Views, a book review by a moderate Muslim who comes out against the Islamic law mandating death for those who leave Islam. That is, he sort of comes out against it. Ali Dashti, who kindly sent me this link, observes: “you will notice that people like Ibn Warraq and Ali Sina, who will be judged as being active in ‘conspiracies’ against the Islamic state, would still be deserving of death, according to this “reformist”. And his arguments are weak.” Indeed.
Nowhere in the Qur’an, Subhani notes, is the death penalty for apostasy mentioned. The Qur’an refers to apostasy in some ten verses, but the punishment for it is clearly suggested as being reserved for the afterlife, not in this world itself. Hence, Subhani argues, killing apostates simply because of their change of faith goes against the express commandments of the Qur’an itself. Forcing people to declare themselves as Muslims when they do not actually believe in Islam is nothing short of hypocrisy, which the Qur’an considers a heinous sin.
Not finding support for their position in the Qur’an, advocates of the death punishment for apostasy draw on the corpus of Hadith, traditions attributed to the Prophet. Subhani mentions a number of such traditions or ahadith in which the Prophet is said to have ordered the killing of apostates. He accepts some of these as genuine reports, but argues that they need to be seen in what he regards as their proper historical context. Further, he argues that they must also be understood in the light of the Qur’anic dictum ‘There is no compulsion in religion’.
Subhani’s point is that many of the ahadith that lay down death for apostates relate specifically to those Muslims who abandon Islam and actively engage in treason or what what Subhani calls ‘conspiracies’ against Islam and the Islamic state. These ahadith that do not apply to other apostates, who are free to choose any religion they want.
So Subhani seems to be advocating the position that as long as an ex-Muslim remains quiet and uncritical of Islam, he will be unmolested. This is not genuine freedom of conscience, and it is not enough.