Now here is an actual substantive case made on the basis of Islamic tradition for the overturning of the traditional Islamic death penalty for apostasy. Contrast this to the mountains-from-molehills exercise here, which offers nothing against the large number of authorities who support the practice.
“SIS: Many of opinion apostasy not capital crime,” by Jacqueline Ann Surin in Sun2Surf.com, with thanks to DFS:
PETALING JAYA (Dec 1, 2006): There is a significant body of opinion among the ulama from the earliest Islamic history that apostasy is not a capital crime, and not punishable by death, Sisters in Islam (SIS) said.
SIS programme manager Norhayati Kaprawi said the Quran was silent on the worldly punishment for apostasy, and Surah al-Baqarah 2:256 explicitly states: “Let there be no compulsion in religion”.
“Surah Yunus 10:99 also states that ‘Had your Lord willed, everyone on earth would have believed. Do you then force people to become believers?’,” she said in a press statement yesterday.
Norhayati said noted International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM) scholar Prof Hashim Kamali, who wrote Freedom of Expression in Islam, has also highlighted that two leading jurists of the generation succeeding the Prophet’s Companions – Ibrahim al-Naka’I and Sufyan al-Thawri – both held that apostates should never be condemned to death.
“The renowned Hanafi jurist, Shams al-Din al-Sarakhsi, wrote that even though renunciation of faith is the greatest of offences, it is a matter between man and his Creator, and its punishment is postponed to the Day of Judgment.
“The Maliki jurist Abul Walid al-Baji and the renowned Hanbali jurist Ibn Taymiyyah have both held that apostasy is a sin which carries no hudud punishment, that is, death.
“The Sheikh of al-Azhar, who was Egypt’s former grand mufti, Dr Mohammed Sayed Tantawi, also declared that apostasy is not a capital crime.”
Norhayati said SIS viewed with concern the opinions of two IIUM lecturers at a convention on Wednesday that apostasy was punishable by death and was also a crime under the Federal Constitution….
The SIS case is welcome. Still, it will face an uphill battle. Muhammad’s statement من بدل دينه فاقتلوه — if anyone changes his religion, kill him — is amply attested in the Hadith, and is accepted as authentic by virtually all Islamic scholars. It appears in various forms in Bukhari, Ibn Majah, An-Nasai, Tayalisi, Malik, Tirmidhi, Abu Dawud, and other authorities.
Nor does Muhammad make any exception when enunciating the principle in this way: “The blood of a Muslim who confesses that none has the right to be worshipped but Allah and that I am His Apostle, cannot be shed except in three cases: In Qisas for murder, a married person who commits illegal sexual intercourse and the one who reverts from Islam (apostate) and leaves the Muslims” (Bukhari, vol. 9, bk. 83, no. 17).
I am glad to see the SIS invoking Islamic authorities against all this. Now they will need to construct a case for why these traditions should be rejected by Muslims. Then and only then might they start making headway in Islamic communities worldwide.