Islam and Apostasy

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S. Iftikhar Murshed*


(Other societies have evolved and adjusted with the times but the Islamic world has remained static and is still a prisoner of the past. The opinions expressed by scholars centuries ago still prevail though the Qur’an specifies only a few laws thereby enabling Muslim societies to enact legislation in line with contemporary requirements. It is the Qur’an and the authentic Traditions of the Prophet that are sacrosanct, not the interpretations, often contradictory, given to these sacred texts by the founders of the various schools of Islamic jurisprudence. Thus in practically all countries of the world, apostasy is no longer an issue, but in some Muslim societies, it is still punishable, at times by death. Author).

The Qur’an and its laws

The Qur’an is Islam and there cannot be a more precise definition of the religion. The obvious implication is that whatever the Qur’an does not ordain or prohibit cannot be incorporated into the relatively limited corpus of its ordinances. This has not dissuaded a number of prominent Muslim jurists, scholars and commentators from overlaying Qur’anic teachings with their own interpretation of its laws.   Of the Qur’an’s 6,247 verses, or 6,360 if the invocation “In the name of God, the most Gracious, the dispenser of Grace” is added, only 70 deal with civil laws, 30 penal laws, 70 discuss personal laws, 100 pertain to ritual practices and 20 with jurisprudence including testimony.1

The laws of Islam are simple and few in order not to impose too great a burden on believers. This is clearly stated in the Qur’anic passage: “O you who have attained to faith! Do not ask about matters which, if they were to be made manifest to you (in terms of law), might cause you hardship; for, if you should ask about them while the Qur’an is being revealed, they might (indeed) be made manifest to you (as laws). God has absolved (you from any obligation) in this respect: for God is much- forgiving, forbearing. People before your time have indeed asked such questions – and in result thereof have come to deny the truth.”2

The obvious implication is that believers should not try to deduce additional laws from the injunctions clearly spelt out in the Qur’an and by Prophet Muhammad as that “might cause you hardship.” However this is precisely what has happened through the centuries as a consequence of which burdens have been imposed on the believers far beyond the actual stipulations of the Qur’an or the authentic pronouncements of the Prophet. It is from this verse that “some of the greatest Muslim scholars have concluded that Islamic Law, in its entirety, consists of no more than the clear-cut injunctions forthcoming from the self-evident (zahir) wording of the Qur’an and the Prophet’s commandments, and that, consequently, it is not permissible to extend the scope of such self-evident ordinances by means of subjective methods of deduction. This, of course, does not prevent the Muslim community from evolving, whenever necessary, any amount of additional, temporal legislation in accordance with the spirit of the Qur’an and the teachings of the Prophet: but it must be clearly understood that such additional legislation cannot be regarded as forming part of Islamic Law (the shariah) as such.”3

Thus contrary to perceptions, modernity and Islam are not mutually exclusive as the Quran does not place any impediments in the way of Muslim societies to adopt laws in accordance with the requirements of their times.

The possibility of difficulties arising for the believer should answers be provided to his questions about the injunctions of the Qur’an, from which the pronouncements of the Prophet are derived, is illustrated by the following authentic Tradition, as quoted by Abu-l-Husayn Muslim (d.873) on the authority of Abu Hurayrah:4  ‘In one of his sermons, the Prophet said: “O my people! God has ordained the pilgrimage (al-hajj) for you; therefore perform it.” Thereupon somebody asked, “Every year, O Apostle of God?” The Prophet remained silent; and the man repeated his question twice. Then the Prophet said: “Had I answered ‘yes,’ it would have become incumbent on you (to perform the pilgrimage every year); and, indeed, it would have been beyond your ability to do so. Do not ask me about matters which I leave unspoken: for, behold, there were people before you who went to their doom because they had put too many questions to their prophets and thereupon disagreed (about their teachings). Therefore, if I command you anything, do of it as much as you are able to do; and if I forbid you anything, abstain from it.”

Based on this Tradition, Ibn Hazm (994-1064), a Cordova-born theologian  of Arab-Persian  descent,  observed:  “It  circumscribes  all the principles of religious law (ahkam ad-din) from the first to the last – namely: what the Prophet has left unspoken – neither ordering nor prohibiting it – is allowed (mubah), that it is, neither forbidden nor obligatory; whatever he ordered is obligatory (fard), and whatever he forbade is unlawful (haram); and whatever he ordered us to do is binding on us to the extent of our ability alone.” Ibn Hazm, a staunch opponent of the Asharites, subscribed to the Zahiri (exoteric) School of Law and believed that the only level of meaning in the Qur’an was the explicit and, therefore, all attempts to find hidden connotations were inadmissible.

It was on the basis of Ibn Hazm’s principles of jurisprudence that the reformer, Muhammad Rashid Rida (1865-1935), further explains: “Many of our jurists (fuqaha) have by their subjective deductions, unduly widened the range of man’s religious obligations (takalif), thus giving rise to the very difficulties and complications which the clear wording (of the Qur’an) had put an end to; and this led to the abandonment, by many individual Muslims  as well as by their government, of Islamic Law in its entirety.”5

The distortion of Islamic laws

The Qur’an was revealed piecemeal over a period of twenty-three years and the revelations, whether entire chapters or verses, were written down and placed, not in chronological order, but in accordance with the instructions of the Prophet.  In the introduction to his English translation of the Qur’an, the first edition of which was published in

1917, Maulana Muhammad Ali wrote: “…it is a mistake to think that either Abu Bakr6  or Uthman7  was the collector of the Qur’an, though both of them did important work in connection with the dissemination of the written copies of the sacred text. Abu Bakr made the first complete written copy, by arranging the manuscripts written in the time of the Holy Prophet, in the order of the oral recitation of the Prophet’s time. Uthman’s work, on the other hand, was only the ordering of copies to be made from the written manuscript of Abu Bakr’s time and the placing of these copies in the various centres of Islamic learning, so that those who wrote the Holy Qur’an might be able to follow the standard copy.”

8 As a result, unlike some of the other scriptures, there has been only one version of the Qur’an and, even more striking, there has not been a single change from the original text either by way of addition or deletion since it was written down more than 1,400 years ago. All Muslims, regardless of the sect they may happen to belong, follow one and the same Arabic text i.e., the language in which the Qur’an was revealed. There are, of course, differences in the manner the Qur’an has been translated into various languages. The problem that arises, however, is the fanciful interpretations of the Qur’an by exegetes over the last several centuries.

Whereas all authorities agree that the authenticity of the Quran is indisputable, there are   reservations about the accuracy of many of the reported Traditions of the Prophet because most of these were recorded and compiled some 230 years after his death.   In his controversial but insightful book, From Jinnah to Zia, the former chief justice of Pakistan, Mr. Muhammad Munir, commented: “That most of the Ahadis (Traditions) were invented does not admit of any doubt…And several compilations were burnt during the Khilafat-i-Rashida (the rightly guided Caliphs). This was done lest the authority of the Qur’an be affected. ‘My words do not’ the Prophet had said ‘abrogate the word of God, but the word of God can abrogate my sayings.’ The Holy Prophet himself burnt one collection, two others were burnt, one by Hazrat Abu Bakr and the other by Hadrat Uthman.9” In several well-authenticated Traditions of the Prophet, his widow Aishah is reported to have said on many occasions that “his way of life (khuluq) was the Qur’an.”10

Thus any of the reported Traditions that differ from the teachings of the Qur’an cannot be considered authentic and must be rejected insofar as the laws of Islam are concerned.

Returning to the Qur’an, the subjective interpretations of its tenets by some of the supposedly learned religious authorities have resulted in the enactment of laws that are sharply at variance with, if not contrary to, what the Holy Book prescribes. In the absence of proper education in most Muslim societies, these legal distortions, which include harsh punishments, have been blindly accepted as the shariah or Islamic law.  The consequence is, as correctly stated by Rashid Rida, “the abandonment, by many Muslims” of the Islamic code “in its entirety.”

The laws, for instance, pertaining to apostasy, adultery, and the consumption of intoxicants that have been adopted by some purportedly Muslim societies are not in accord with the Quran but have been justified on the basis of spurious Traditions of the Prophet or on the writings of the founders of the major schools of Islamic jurisprudence. These laws need to be evaluated in the context of the actual teachings of Islam i.e., whether or not they are in consonance with the relevant verses of the Quran as well as the authenticated Traditions of the Prophet. Because of its obvious fallout on interfaith harmony and international human rights instruments, the issue of apostasy in Islam has to be considered separately from the other laws that have been adopted by some Muslim countries in the belief, often unjustified, that they constitute an integral part of the shariah . The Qur’an unambiguously rules out any form of compulsion in religion in several of its passages. For instance: “There shall be no coercion in matters of faith. Distinct has now become the right way from (the way of) error: hence, he who rejects the powers of evil and believes in God has indeed taken hold of a support most unfailing, which shall never give way: for God is all-hearing, all-knowing.”11  In yet another verse the formulation is: “…The truth (has now come) from your Sustainer: let, then, him who wills, believe in it, and let him who wills, reject it…”12 Despite these and other clear injunctions, a number of jurists have ruled that apostasy is punishable by death and this has been thoughtlessly or, even worse, deliberately distorted by obscurantist dispensations, and promulgated as law.

Regarding apostates the Qur’an declares “…Satan has embellished their fancies and filled them with false hopes” 13  and “…But if any of you should turn away from his faith and die as a  denier of the truth … these it is who are destined for the fire, therein to abide.”14 A declaratory renunciation of Islam under duress or persecution, while the person remains inwardly steadfast in his belief, is not even considered a sin.15 In none of the twenty instances where apostasy is mentioned in the Qur’an, is there any indication of punishment in this world, leave aside the death penalty, because the apostate, according to another former chief justice of Pakistan, Mr. S.A.Rahman, “will be punished only in the hereafter.” Rahman questions the chain of transmission (isnad) in the hadith which proclaims “…kill whoever changes his religion…” 16

There is also always a possibility that a person can be wrongly accused of apostasy or of being a non-believer.  The Qur’an forbids accusing people of disbelief on mere assumptions:  “(Hence,) O you who have attained to faith, when you go forth (to war) in God’s cause, use your discernment, and do not – out of a desire for the fleeting gains of this worldly life – say unto anyone who offers you the greeting of peace, ‘Thou art not a believer’: for with God there are gains abundant….” 17

Thus even at a time when the Quraysh of Mecca had waged war against the Prophet and vowed to exterminate Islam, all that was required to be considered a Muslim was the customary Islamic “greeting of peace.” However, despite this, clerics have not hesitated issuing fatwas declaring those who differ with them as kafirs or non-believers. The earliest occurrence of the word kafir in the Qur’an is in verse 10 of chapter 74 titled Al-Muddaththir (“The Enfolded One”) which, according to all authorities was the second in order of revelation. The categorical assertion in the next verse is “leave Me alone (to deal)” with the deniers of the truth. Thus from the very beginning the Qur’an is clear that the punishment for disbelief, which includes apostasy, is exclusively for God.18

Wael Hallaq, professor of Islamic Law at McGill University, is considered one of the world’s foremost scholars in Sunni jurisprudence and Islamic legal thought. His dissertation, which refuted the notion propagated by traditionalist clerics that “the door of ijtihad (reasoning on matters not covered by the Qur’an and the Sunnah) had been closed,” attracted considerable attention. On apostasy, Hallaq is of the view that nothing of the laws on this issue is derived from the Qur’an.19 He wrote that the death penalty was a later innovation and “does not stand in accord with the deeds of the Prophet.”20

Sheikh Muhammad Sayyid Tantawi, the Grand Imam of Al Azhar Mosque and the Grand Sheikh of Al Azhar University since 1996, the author of a seven thousand page exegesis of the Quran which took him a decade to complete, ruled that a Muslim apostate should be left alone so long as he does not pose a threat. Tantawi, who led the prayers at Yasser Arafat’s funeral, has been described, notably by Professor Juan Cole of the University of Michigan, as “perhaps the foremost Sunni Arab authority”21 of the contemporary era.  Similarly, the Shafi’i Grand Mufti of Egypt, Sheikh Ali Goma’a and the Shi’a Grand Ayatollah, Hossein-Ali Montazeri, a one-time designated successor to Ayatollah Khomeini, have argued or issued fatwas (decrees) that either there is no punishment for apostasy or that the offence is punishable only under restricted circumstances.22

The Munir Committee Report

The Committee formed by the Pakistan government to inquire into the 1953 anti-Ahamadi disturbances in Lahore was headed by Justice Muhammad Munir and included Justice M.R. Kayani as its member. The demand of the agitators, instigated and led by the so-called religious political parties, was that Ahmadis should be excommunicated and declared a non-Muslim minority. The Committee submitted its findings, which ran into some 387 closely typed pages, to the government in April the following year. Scores of acknowledged religious scholars as well as the leadership of the Islamist parties of Pakistan were consulted and asked to define what a Muslim was. The Committee observed: “Keeping in view the several definitions of a Muslim given by the Ulema, need we make any comment except that no two learned divines are agreed on this fundamental.”23

The Munir Committee report noted that a pamphlet had been circulated by Maulana Shabbir Ahmad Usmani, later to acquire the grandiloquent title of Sheikh-ul-Islam-i-Pakistan, in which he attempted to demonstrate from the Qur’an, the sunnah (the Traditions), the ijma (consensus among the religious authorities), and qiyas (deduction by analogy) that the Islamic punishment for irtidad (apostasy) is death. The authors of the report observed: “The death penalty for irtidad has implications of a far-reaching character and stamps Islam as a religion of fanatics, which punishes all independent thinking. The Quran again and again lays emphasis on reasoned thought, advises toleration and preaches against compulsion in religious matters, but the doctrine of irtidad as enunciated in the pamphlet strikes at the root of independent thinking when it propounds the view that anyone who, being born a Muslim or embraced Islam, attempts to think on the subject of religion with a view, if he comes to that conclusion, to choose for himself any other religion he likes, has the capital punishment in store for him. With this implication, Islam becomes the embodiment of complete intellectual paralysis.”24 The two judges go on to observe that no express text in the Qur’an prescribes the death penalty for apostasy.

Qiyas, which means “measure” or “scale” or “exemplar” and hence “analogy,” is built around the principle of applying the laws of the Qur’an and the Traditions of the Prophet on matters that neither of these two sources is explicit. One of the primary developers of qiyas was imam Ash-Shafi (767-820), who interpreted Qur’anic verse 2:217 (Al- Baqarah) as providing the main basis for awarding capital punishment for apostasy. How he reached such a conclusion is inexplicable because there is no mention of any punishment in this world for apostates in the verse in question or in any other passage of the Qur’an.

The question whether or not the principle of qiyas is admissible as a method of determining the laws of Islam warrants examination. In one of its passages, the Quran declares: “For, most of them follow nothing but conjecture: (and,) behold, conjecture can never be a substitute for truth. Verily, God has full knowledge of all that they do.” 25  On this verse, some of the most outstanding exponents of Islamic law notably, Ibn Hazm, base their categorical rejection of qiyas for deriving religious laws which are “supposedly implied in the wording of the Qur’an or of the Prophet’s teachings, but not clearly laid down in terms of law.” In his own commentary on the verse, Razi endorses this opinion and adds: “They say that every deduction by analogy is a conjectural process and is, therefore, inadmissible (in matters pertaining to religion) for conjecture can never be a substitute for truth.”26  Almost identical comments are made by some of the foremost authorities of Islamic law on verse 10

Chapter 42 (Ash Shura or Consultation). Despite this, clerics such as Shabbir Ahmad Usmani have no hesitation in attempting to derive laws which they describe as the sharia on the basis of analogy or qiyas. Apostates are thus to be sentenced to death on mere “conjecture” about what some of these exegetes believe is implied by the Qur’an and the commandments of the Prophet. It may also be mentioned that qiyas was one of the elements embodied in the infamous Nizam-e-Adl Regulations concluded on 16 February 2009 between the government of the North West Frontier Province in Pakistan and the Tehreek-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat- e-Muhammadi of Maulana Sufi Muhammad for the imposition of the Sharia in Swat.

Maulana Abul Ala Maududi (1903-1979), the founder of the Jamaat- i-Islami, was among the religious leaders who appeared before the Munir Committee. When asked to define a Muslim, he responded that a person is a Muslim if he believes in: (a) one God, (b) all the prophets, (c) all the books revealed by God, and (d) the Day of Judgement. It is surprising that Maududi did not include in his definition of a Muslim the belief that Muhammad was the last of the prophets.27  The Rabwah Ahmadis regard the founder of their sect, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (1835-1908), a prophet and consider those who do not subscribe to this view to be non- Muslims, as such, they are not only far removed from the categorical assertion in the Qur’an that Muhammad was the last of a long line of prophets but also as extremist in their pronouncements as the religious right in Pakistan. The entire agitation for excommunicating them from Islam was because of this and they were declared non-Muslims some twenty years later through the second amendment to Pakistan’s 1973 Constitution. On the question of the Muslim minority in India, Maududi told the Munir Committee: “I have no objection even if the Muslims of India are treated in that form of government (based on the Hindu religion) as shudras and malishes and Manu’s laws are applied to them depriving them of all share in the government and the rights of a citizen.”28

Contradictory views of modern and medieval scholars

In his writings on apostasy, Maududi justified the death penalty as this was the unanimous opinion of the four major schools of Islamic jurisprudence. His interpretation of the Qur’anic principle that there is no compulsion in religion was “we do not compel anyone to come into our religion. And this is truly our practice. But we initially warn whoever would come and go back that this door is not open to come and go. Therefore anyone who comes should decide before coming that there is no going back.” 29The absurdity of such an assertion is self-evident. In the words of Dr. Irfan Ahmad, the President of the World Council of Muslims and Chair of the Interreligious Project “freedom of faith and religion is meaningless without the freedom to change one’s faith.”

Many Islamic scholars, notably Dr. Yusuf al-Qaradawi, share Maududi’s categorical assertion “all four Schools, without doubt, agree on the point that the punishment for apostasy is execution.”30 The four founding imams of these schools of law, Abu Hanifa (d. 767), Malik (d. 795), Shafi’i (d.820) and Ahmad bin Hanbal (d. 855) were, according to Justice Munir, expounding law in the abstract because they never held any official position. The law, he continued, is best explained when it is applied to the concrete facts of an actual case and this was not possible for the four imams for the reason that they were working in a vacuum.31

The perceived ijma or consensus on death penalty for apostasy among the four major schools of Islamic jurisprudence is also open to question. For instance, the eminent Hanafi jurist and author of Kitab al-Mabsut, Abu Bakr al-Sarakhsi (d.1106), who lived and worked in Transoxiana, wrote: “…Renunciation of the faith and conversion to disbelief is admittedly the greatest of offenses, yet it is a matter between man and his Creator, and its punishment is postponed to the day of judgement. Punishments that are imposed in this life are those which protect the peoples’ interests, such as just retaliation, which is designed to protect life.”32 Al-Sarakhsi is sometimes referred to the as “the Hugo Grotius of the Muslims.”To Abu al-Walid Al-Baji (d.1081), the famous Maliki jurist and poet from Al Andalus and a contemporary of Ibn Hazm, “…apostasy is a sin which carries no prescribed penalty (hadd), and that such a sin may only be punished under the discretionary punishment of ta’zir.” The noted Hanbali jurist Ibn Taymiyyah (d.1328), on whose writings Osama bin Laden bases his skewed interpretation of jihad, also believed that the changing of religion is not punishable in Islam.33

A number of medieval Muslims scholars, for instance, Sufyan al- Thawri (716-778) the renowned Kufa-born scholar and jurist, who regarded jihad an obligation only as a defensive war, as well as some of the contemporary authorities such as the Sudanese Islamist political leader, Hasan al-Turabi, believe that the Traditions of the Prophet frequently cited to justify capital punishment for apostasy applies only to a political betrayal of the Muslim community rather than for reasons of religion. However this is precisely the argument Maududi employs to validate the death penalty in Islam for apostates. In his view, Islam is ‘no mere “religion” but a state which is constructed on a religion.’ He develops the argument that a state “has the right to protect its own existence by declaring those acts wrong which undermine its order” and therefore apostasy is equivalent to treason.34

The Pakistani scholar, exegete and educationist, Javed Ahmad Ghamidi (b. 1951) does not accept Maududi’s view and considers apostasy in Islam as a “part of Divine punishment for only those who denied the truth even after clarification in its ultimate form” by Prophet Muhammad,  hence  it  was  time-bound  and  no  longer  punishable.35

Ghamidi  was  influenced by  his  mentor, Amin Ahsan  Islahi  (1904-1997) and bases his religious philosophy on hermeneutics and ijtihad. He is considered a modernist because of his insistence on the historical contextualization of the revelations that came to Prophet Muhammad in order to grasp their true moral import. Ghamidi initially worked closely with Maududi for about nine years till the two fell apart and, as a consequence of which, he was expelled from the Jamaat-i-Islami in 1977. His critique of Maududi was based on the views expressed by Wahid al-Din Khan (b. 1925) who maintained that Maududi had completely inverted the Qur’anic worldview. Ghamidi is also in accord with Khan that the purpose of Islam is not to establish a world order but to serve God which entails help and guidance to humankind in order to enable them to fulfill the obligations for which the religion was revealed. Therefore the question of Muslims, or an Islamic state, perpetually at war with non-believers just did not arise and, furthermore, the establishment of such a state was not even an obligation for Muslims.36 The noted scholar and lawyer, A.G. Noorani, also asserts convincingly, citing important Muslim and non-Muslim commentators, that there is no sanction for an Islamic state in the Qur’an or the hadith and, furthermore, such a state has not existed in history.37

The undisputed precedents established by Prophet Muhammad and the early Muslims

The only report during the Prophet’s lifetime of apostates being put to death pertains to a group of people from the ‘Ukl tribe. Soon after the latter converted to Islam, they complained about Medina’s harsh climate and were accordingly shifted to a nearby place where the weather was more temperate and the camels belonging to the Muslims of city were grazed. It was here that they renounced their religion, killed the keepers of the herds and absconded with the animals. They were pursued and put to the sword for murder and not because they had abandoned their faith. This event is cited by commentators in their analysis of verse 33 in chapter 5 of the Quran which deals with punishment of those “who make war on God and His apostle, and endeavour to spread corruption on the earth.”38The incident involving the ‘Ukl occurred at a time when the Quraysh of Mecca along with other tribes had declared war on the small Muslim community in Medina and had vowed to exterminate Islam permanently from the Arabian peninsula. Under these circumstances renunciation of the religion could have been construed as desertion to the enemy but it was for murder and not apostasy that the ‘Ukl tribesmen were executed.

During the Medina period of Prophet Muhammad’s mission, a Bedouin, who had pledged fealty to him and had converted to Islam, fell ill some months later and requested the Prophet to redeem him from his pledge. When this was refused he renounced his religion and left the city whereupon the Prophet said: “Medina is like a pair of bellows: it expels its impurities and brightens and clears its good.”39 The apostate went away of his own accord and was neither pursued nor was any punishment imposed on him.40

In the third year of the Prophet’s ministry, he began to preach his faith openly and was at first ridiculed by the Quraysh of Mecca. However when he started to denounce their idols, the Quraysh responded by persecuting the early converts, who were mostly from the poorest segments of society. This increased in intensity and became so severe that in the year 616 the Prophet advised those who could, to proceed to Abyssinia which was ruled by a Christian king. Among the first group of around 83 refugees was Ubaidullah ibn Jahsh, who later renounced Islam and converted to Christianity but, despite this, remained close to the Muslims. The question of imposing any form of punishment on him just did not arise.

Perhaps the most compelling evidence that Islam does not prescribe punishment for apostasy is to be found in chapter 48 of the Qur’an, titled, Al-Fath (Victory), the opening verse of which reads: “Verily, (O Muhammad), we have laid down before thee a manifest victory.” The “victory” referred to here is the Truce of Hudaybiyyah that Prophet Muhammad concluded with the pagan Quraysh of Mecca towards the end of the sixth year of the hijrah41  i.e., 628. The truce was to last ten years during which any minor or dependent from Mecca going over to the Muslims without the permission of his or her guardian was to be returned to the latter while the Quraysh were not required to reciprocate in the event of defections from Medina.  The Prophet agreed to these apparently unequal terms because “coercion in matters of faith” had been forbidden by the Qur’an.

The same principle of free will, not compulsion, is evident from the concessions made by Prophet Muhammad when the truce was being negotiated with Suhayl ibn Amr, the emissary of the Meccans. According to several well-authenticated Traditions, the Prophet began to dictate the text of the proposed agreement to Ali ibn Abi Talib: “Write  down, ‘In the name of God, the Most Gracious, the Dispenser of Grace;’” but Suhayl interrupted him and said: “We have never heard of (the expression) ‘the Most Gracious’ write down only what we know.” Whereupon the Prophet said to Ali: “Write, then, ‘In Thy name, O God.’

’’ Ali wrote as he was told; and the Prophet continued: “This is what has been agreed upon between Muhammad, God’s apostle, and the people of Mecca…” But Suhayl interrupted again: “If thou wert (really) an apostle of God, (this would be an admission on our part that) we have been doing wrong to thee; write, therefore, as we understand it.” And so the Prophet dictated to Ali: “Write thus: ‘This is what has been agreed upon between Muhammad, the son of Abd Allah, the son of Abd al- Muttalib, and the people of Mecca…’ ’’42 Thus none other than Prophet Muhammad agreed, in the interest of peace, not to describe himself as God’s Apostle and, furthermore, if he believed that apostasy was punishable, he would have insisted that defectors from Medina should be returned. Six married women are known to have gone over to Mecca in the two years that the truce lasted. In each case the husbands were compensated for the dowries they had paid from the communal treasury of the Muslims in Medina.43

It must have appeared strange to the Muslims that the Qur’an should have described the Truce of Hudaybiyyah, which it seemed was weighted against them, as a victory. They could not have foreseen that the cessation of six years of hostilities would enable the Muslims and the Quraysh of Mecca to interact and the latter would have the opportunity to understand the Qur’anic message with its emphasis on reason. The consequence was the conversion of thousands of non-believers to Islam. The reaction of the Quraysh to this mass defection was that they violated the treaty two years later by attacking a tribe allied to the Prophet and slaughtering them even within the sanctuary of Mecca. This prompted the Prophet to march on Mecca with thousands of his followers. The Quraysh cavalry put up a perfunctory resistance but were overpowered without bloodshed and the Prophet thus returned to the city of his birth as a conqueror with virtually no violence. A general amnesty was declared except for a few criminals and even many among these were eventually pardoned.

Umar Ibn Abdul Aziz (died 720), who is variously known in Islamic history as the second Umar or the fifth of the rightly guided caliphs, merely re-imposed the jizyah44  on his Muslim subjects who renounced their religion. In line with the teachings of the Qur’an and the precedents established by Prophet Muhammad, he did not impose any punishment for apostasy and this was also conveyed in writing to Maimoon bin Mahran, the governor of one of his provinces where some converts to Islam had decided to leave the faith.45

Apostasy laws in contemporary Muslim societies

Though the Qur’an, the authenticated traditions of the Prophet and the findings of some of the most outstanding jurists from the medieval to modern times rule out any form of punishment for apostasy, the contrary view prevails among mainstream Muslims. A belief has emerged that the male apostate has to be put to death unless there are mitigating circumstances such as mental disorder or conversion under duress. The execution of a minor is held in abeyance till he comes of age.  It is claimed that under the Shafi’i, Maliki, and Hanbali schools of Sunni Islamic jurisprudence, the female apostate is also to be killed, whereas the Hanafi School as well as Shi’a scholars prescribe imprisonment till she reverts to Islam.46  The execution of an apostate is preferably to be carried out by an imam.47 Some writers are of the view that all schools of Islamic jurisprudence agree that a Muslim can kill an apostate without fear of any punishment.48Under what is described as traditional Islamic law an apostate is to be first incarcerated, given three days to repent and revert to Islam failing which, the death sentence is unavoidable.49    A marriage is automatically dissolved if either spouse should renounce the religion.  Differences prevail in respect of the property and holdings of the apostate as well as the status and rights of such a person’s family.

There is historical evidence that apostates were often tortured before execution. For instance at the time when the Mamluk Sultan Baybars II (1223-1277) ruled Egypt, a female who had renounced Islam was dragged through the streets of Cairo on her posterior, strangled on a boat in the middle of the Nile after which her body was thrown into the river. Such cruelty is not confined to the Muslims. In Judaism apostates are to be killed, “… thou shalt surely kill him; thine hand shall be the first upon him to put him to death, and afterwards the hand of all people…”

50 In Christianity, though the Jewish tradition was inherited through the Old Testament, governments have, with the approval of the Church, punished apostates and heretics, for instance, during the Inquisition and the Albigensian Crusade of the early 13th  century in which thousands were executed.

But the difference is that other societies have evolved and adjusted with the times while the Islamic world has remained static and is still a prisoner of the past. The opinions expressed by scholars centuries ago still prevail though, as noted earlier, the Qur’an specifies only a few laws thereby enabling Muslim societies to enact legislation in line with contemporary requirements. It is the Qur’an and the authentic Traditions of the Prophet that are sacrosanct, not the interpretations, often contradictory, given to these sacred texts by the founders of the various schools of Islamic jurisprudence. Thus in practically all countries of the world, apostasy is no longer an issue, but in Muslim societies, it is still punishable, at times by death.

Although the freedom of belief, conscience, thought and opinion is guaranteed in the constitutions of many Muslim countries and, with the exception of Sudan and Mauritania, apostasy is not addressed in their penal codes. Under article 126.2 of the Sudanese Penal Code, 1991: “Whoever is guilty of apostasy is invited to repent over a period to be determined by the tribunal. If he persists in his apostasy and was not recently converted to Islam, he will be put to death.” Here a distinction is made between a murtad fitri i.e., an apostate born of Muslim parents and a murtad milli which implies a convert to Islam who later renounces the religion. Article 306 of the Mauritanian Penal Code of 1984 states: “…All Muslims guilty of apostasy, either spoken or by overt action will be asked to repent during a period of three days. If he does not repent during this period, he is condemned to death as an apostate, and his belongings confiscated by the State Treasury.”

The non-inclusion of apostasy in the penal codes of most Muslim countries is offset by the application of the sharia as interpreted by the ulema (clerics) because many of these countries, particularly in the Middle East and North Africa, maintain parallel systems of justice in which secular as well as religious courts operate alongside each other.

Thus the Sudanese national, Mahmud Muhammad Taha, was hanged in 1985 even though at that time apostasy had not been included in the penal code of the country.

Muhammad Omer Haji, a Somali who had been living in Yemen since 1994, converted to Christianity. He was arrested and put on trial for apostasy in June 2000 under article 259 of Yemen’s criminal law. The accused was served a court ultimatum to renounce Christianity and revert to Islam or face execution as an apostate in accordance with the sharia law of Yemen. When the news of the proceedings appeared in the international media, the Yemini authorities halted the trial and later the government of New Zealand accepted Muhammad Omer Haji and his family for emergency resettlement. Expediency therefore had priority over the government of Yemen’s “Islamic” pretensions under which it threatened to put a person to death for abandoning his religion although the Qur’an does not ordain any punishment for such an offence.

In March 2006 a 41-year-old national of Afghanistan, Abdur Rahman, who had converted to Christianity 16 years earlier, was put on trial for apostasy and faced the death penalty. This prompted a strong reaction by the international community as a result of which the charges against Rahman were dismissed by the court on technical grounds after the intervention of President Hamid Karzai. The accused was subsequently granted asylum by Italy.51 Since then two other converts to Christianity have been arrested and their fate is uncertain.52

The Algerian parliament approved a law on 21 March 2006 under which imprisonment between two to five years and a fine ranging from five to ten thousand euros is to be imposed on anyone “trying to call on a Muslim to embrace anther religion.” The same punishment is to be given to any person who “stores or circulates publications or audio- visual or other means aiming at destabilizing attachment to Islam.”53

Human rights groups have reported that since the early 1990s, death squads have been used against converts from Islam in Iran.54 These reports also allege that under the Mahmoud Ahmadinejad government, a campaign was launched to track down, reconvert or kill apostates.55

On 15 May 2009, 15 converts to Christianity were arrested and charged with apostasy while, according to the Gulf News, a new law is on the anvil envisaging the death penalty for who those renounce Islam on the internet.56 The definition of apostasy also seems to have been somewhat stretched. For instance, two Iranian nationals, Hashem Aghajari and Hassan Youssefi Eshkevari were arrested for apostasy, not because they had converted to another religion, but for statements and activities considered by the courts to be against Islam. In a speech Aghajari had urged Iranians “not to blindly follow”57 the clerics while Eshkevari was accused of taking part in a conference in Berlin on the theme, ‘Iran after the Elections.”58The ridiculous extent to which clerics can go in their fatwa-wars is evident from one issued on 17 June 2009 against President Ahmadinejad by Yusuf bin Abdullah Al-Ahmad, a mufti from the Al- Imam University in Riyadh. The latter declared that the Iranian president should be executed because he had allegedly been severely critical of several of the companions of Prophet Muhammad in a statement on 14 June.59

Muhammad Hegazy, an Egyptian national who converted to Christianity received death threats not only from clerics but also from his own family. His case is unique inasmuch as he is the first Egyptian to seek official recognition for his conversion. The judge ruled: “He (Hegazy) can believe whatever he wants in his heart, but on paper he can’t  convert.”  In  February  2009  another  Egyptian,  Maher Ahmad El-Mo’otahssem Bellah El-Gohary, also sought legal approval of his conversion to Christianity. Lawyers opposing him have called for the imposition of capital punishment on him for apostasy. 60

Violence against apostates in Muslim majority countries usually does not emanate from governments but from persons instigated by self-appointed clerics. Bangladesh, for example, does not have apostasy laws but this does not stop some of the imams from issuing fatwas encouraging the killing of those who renounce Islam. Thus in March 2005, a Bangladeshi who had become a Christian evangelist was stabbed on his way home from a film on the Gospel of Luke.61Similar incidents perpetrated by vigilantes keep recurring elsewhere in Islamic countries for instance in November 2005 an Iranian national, Ghorban Tourani, was stabbed to death for renouncing Islam. The following month a Nigerian pastor, Zacheuos Habu Bu Nagwenche was attacked for hiding a convert. In these and other instances the governments remained passive bystanders.

The poet-philosopher of Pakistan, Allama Iqbal (1877-1938) had no doubt that the declaration of Turkey as a republic in 1923 was not at variance with Islam. After the departure of Muhammad VI, the Grand National Assembly chose Abdul Hamid as his successor but the caliphate was abolished in March 1924. Though the Constitution of 1924 had declared Islam as the state religion, this clause was removed in 1928 and, by 1939, Turkey was completely secularized.62  However despite this there have been incidents of violence against apostates. In January 2006, Kamil Kirgolu was ruthlessly beaten and then threatened with death unless he renounced Christianity and became a Muslim.63

Similarly, on 18 April 2007 two converts to Christianity, Necati Aydin and Ugur Yuksel, were brutally murdered by a group of fanatics who claimed that they committed the crime to defend the state and their religion.64

Blasphemy Laws

General Zia-ul-Haq introduced Section 295 B in the Penal Code of Pakistan in 1982 under which “defiling the Holy Qur’an” is to be punished by life imprisonment. Subsequently, in 1986, Section 295 C was added mandating capital punishment for the “use of derogatory remarks in respect of the Holy Prophet.” In 2004, the National Assembly approved legislation to reduce the scope of these Blasphemy Laws. The amendment requires the police to thoroughly investigate accusations of blasphemy prior to filing criminal charges. Despite this, the law has been misused against religious minorities, political adversaries or for personal revenge. In July 2005, Catholic Bishops in Pakistan alleged that since 1988, 650 people had been falsely accused and arrested. Though the death penalty has never actually been implemented, the bishops claimed that some twenty people had been killed for alleged blasphemy during the same period.65

Blasphemy laws exist in several countries including those in the west. Such laws are incorporated in the penal and criminal codes, for instance, of Austria (article 188,189), Finland (section 10 of chapter 17), Germany (article 166), New Zealand (section 123 of the Crimes Act 1961), Switzerland (article 261), Norway (section 142), Denmark (section 140), Spain (article 525) and others. Although the First Amendment of the US Constitution guarantees almost unlimited right of free speech some American states still have blasphemy laws, for example Chapter 272 of the Massachusetts General Laws prescribes imprisonment “for not more than one year or,” alternatively, “a fine of not more than three hundred dollars.” The punishment is generally mild and, it is claimed that, there is a move towards reform to include blasphemy towards any religion.

However the laws against blasphemy in western societies are seldom applied and this, at times, results in unleashing vicious propaganda against those subscribing to a different faith. A relatively recent example was the publication of twelve highly offensive cartoons of Prophet Muhammad by the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten on 30 September 2005. There was justified public outrage in the Islamic world but, to add insult to injury, the cartoons were reprinted in the newspapers of more than fifty other countries on the pretext of free speech. Though the Danish Prime Minister at the time, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, described the fallout as the worst international crisis faced by his country since World War II, he did not agree to a request for a meeting from eleven ambassadors of Muslim countries and, instead, the envoys were told in a letter: “The freedom of expression has a wide scope and the Danish government has no means of influencing the press.” In October 2005, a number of Muslim organizations filed a complaint with the police against Jyllands-Posten under sections 140 and 266b of the Danish Criminal Code. However in January 2006, the Regional Prosecutor of Viborg terminated the investigation on the ground that the cartoons did not constitute a criminal offence. In fact, since 1938 the only instance when a sentence was awarded under section 140 was against an anti- Semitic group.66

Several Muslim majority countries as well as those in the west go to diametrically opposite extremes in their laws on blasphemy. The former impose harsh penalties, including capital punishment, in the name of religion though these were never specifically authorized either by the Qur’an or the authentic Traditions of the Prophet; the latter, in the guise of  unfettered freedom of expression, unwittingly condone the infliction of verbal violence and insult on entire communities for no better reason than their religious denominations. A former Chief Justice of the East Pakistan High Court, Mr. S.M. Murshed wrote: “The foundation of law rests in the acquiescence of citizens in the thesis that it must be obeyed for the good of all. It is in such a sense that its voice is regarded as a kind of universal harmony. Therefore, good law, as Aristotle maintains, means good order. It is a pledge that the citizens will not only receive but also do justice to one another. It has been rightly said that the common good of all is the supreme law.”67 The need for rationalizing the laws on blasphemy is self-evident.

Muslim majority countries and international human rights conventions

The severe punishment for apostasy, including the death penalty, that several Muslim countries have adopted on the untenable premise that such legislation is in line with the Qur’an and the true Traditions of the Prophet, has resulted in the stigmatization of Islam as a harsh and intolerant religion. Furthermore these laws also violate international human rights conventions.

Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948, originally stated: “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.” This clause was included at the behest of the Lebanese delegate, Dr. Charles Habib Malik (1906-1987), who was also the rapporteur for the Commission on Human Rights  in 1947 and 1948. Malik had represented his country at the San Francisco Conference which established the United Nations, and was later to become the Foreign Minister of Lebanon from 1956-1958. While introducing the proposal guaranteeing the right to change one’s religion, he said that his country had accepted many people fleeing persecution on religious grounds and, was particularly vehement in his criticism of the apostasy laws in several Muslim majority countries. Article 18 was resisted by several Muslim delegates, notably the representative from Egypt, who unconvincingly argued that “very often a man changes religion or his convictions under external influences with goals that are not recommendable such as divorce” and furthermore the proposal would unwittingly promote “the machinations of certain missions well-known in the East, which relentlessly pursue their efforts with a view to converting to their faith the populations of the East.”

Significantly, Lebanon was supported by Pakistan’s delegate, Al Hajj Sir Chaudhry Muhammad Zafrullah Khan (1893-1985), an Ahmadi who became the country’s first Foreign Minister and served in this capacity from 27 December 1947 to 25 October 1954. He translated the Qur’an into English in 1970 and the same year was elected President of the International Court of Justice. Sir Zafarullah believed that “Apostasy means a plain and clear repudiation of Islam of a professing Muslim… Simple apostasy, which is not aggravated by rebellion, treason or grave disorderliness, in not punishable in any manner in this life…”68

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was finally adopted on 10 December 1948 with forty-eight countries voting in favour, none against and eight abstentions which included all the Soviet bloc states (i.e., Byelorussia, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Ukraine, the USSR) and Yugoslavia, South Africa and Saudi Arabia which became the only Muslim country not to adhere to the Declaration. In 1966 Saudi Arabia and Egypt again tried to have Article 18 amended to exclude the right to change one’s religion from the text. A compromise amendment proposed by the Philippines and Brazil was finally adopted under which the formulation “the freedom to change his religion or belief” was replaced by “the freedom to have or adopt a religion or belief of his choice.” In 1982 the representative of post-revolution Iran to the United Nations, Said Rajaie Khorassani, stated that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was “a secular understanding of the Judeo-Christian tradition” which cannot be implemented by Muslim countries without violating the sharia.69The implication, therefore, is that those Islamic countries that had supported the Declaration were guilty of transgressing the tenets of their religion.

Earlier, in 1981 when the Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and Discrimination Based on Religion and Belief was being discussed, Iran told the participants that in Islam, apostasy was a crime punishable by death. Such statements, which are so starkly at variance with the actual teachings of the religion, have done more damage to Islam than its critics. On 30 June 2000, the Organization of the Islamic Conference resolved to endorse the Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam of 5 August 1991 article 22 (a) of which states: “Everyone shall have the right to express his opinion freely in such a manner as would not be contrary to the principles of the Shariah.” Such formulations evade the issue of the freedom to change ones religion. Dr. Ann Mayer of the Michigan University, an expert on human rights issues and Middle East Law, writes: “The lack of support for the principle of freedom of religion in the Islamic human rights schemes is one of the factors that most sharply distinguishes them from the International Bill of Human Rights, which treats freedom of religion as an unqualified right. The (Muslim) authors’ unwillingness to repudiate the rule that a person should be executed over a question of religious belief reveals the enormous gap that exists between their mentalities and the modern philosophy of human rights.”

The death penalty, or any other punitive measure, for apostasy violates the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948 as well as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights of 16 December 1966 which came into force on 23 March 1976 and has been signed by 174 countries, including Pakistan which became a signatory on 14

April 2008. Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was reinforced by General Comment No 22 adopted by the 48th session of the UN Human Rights Commission 1993 which declares: “Article 18 protects theistic, non-theistic and atheistic beliefs, as well as the right to profess any religion or belief. The term ‘belief’ and ‘religion’ are to be broadly construed.”70

By their adherence to laws that impose harsh punishments neither sanctioned by the Qur’an nor the authentic Traditions of the Prophet, Muslims have undermined their own interests. They have been major victims of human rights abuse for instance in Palestine and Kashmir as well as genocide in Srebrenica in 1995 and ethnic cleansing during the 1992-95 Bosnian war. Yet the international reaction to these outrages has been relatively mild because of the perception that Muslims have scant regard for fundamental rights. Richard Nixon commented on the indifference of the West to the suffering of the Muslims during the Bosnian war in his last book, Beyond Peace, which was published posthumously: “It is an awkward but unavoidable truth that had the citizens of Sarajevo been predominantly Christian or Jew, the civilized world would not have permitted the siege to reach the point it did on February 5, when a Serbian shell landed in the crowded marketplace. In such an instance the West would have acted quickly and would have been right in doing so. The siege of Sarajevo can have a redeeming character only if the West learns…that enlightened people cannot be selective about condemning aggression and genocide.”71

There is no priesthood in Islam and it is time for Muslims to reclaim their religion from fanatics who preach violence and hate. Extremism in the name of the religion can only be defeated through understanding the actual message of the Qur’an and not merely chanting its verses. Any form of punishment for apostasy was never envisaged by the Qur’an which states: “And so, (O Prophet,) exhort them; thy task is only to exhort: thou canst not compel them (to believe).”72


All quotations from the Qur’an are from Muhammad Assad’s The Message of the Quran, The Book Foundation, Bristol, England, 2003.


1     Haleem, Abdel, M.A.S; The Qur’an, A new translation, Oxford University Press,  New York, Introduction, p.xviii.

2     Qur’an, “Al-Maaidah (The Repast),” verses 101-102 (5:101-102).

3     Asad, Muhammad; The Message of the Qur’an; The Book Foundation, Bristol; 2003; p.190.

4              Abu Hurayra (Lit. “the father of the kitten’). A companion of the Prophet, very fond of cats, whose real name was ‘Abd ar-Rahman Dawsi. He is the source of more Hadith than any other individual, and is the link in a number of initiatic chains. (Glasse, Cyril; The Concise Encyclopaedia of Islam, revised edition, Stacey International; London, 2002;p.23).

5              Asad, Muhammad; The Message of the Qur’an; pp. 190-192.

6              Abu Bakr was the first of the four “rightly guided” caliphs. He died in the second year of his caliphate in 634.

7              Uthman ibn Affan was the third caliph. He died in 656,

8              Ali, Muhammad; The Holy Quran; p.ii.

9              Munir, Muhammad; From Jinnah to Zia; Vanguard Books Ltd.; second edition, 1980; p.143.

10  This statement is recorded in several compilations of the hadith including those of Muslim, Tabari and Hakim, on the authority of Sa’id ibn Hisham; Ibn Hanbal, Abu Daud, and Nisai, on the authority of Al-Hasan al-Basri; Tabari; on the authority of Qatadah and Jubayr ibn Nufayl. Also cited in Muhammad Asad’s The Message of the Qur’an, p.1109.

11   Quran, “Al-Baqarah (The Cow),” verse 256 (2:256).

12   Ibid.,”Al-Kahf (The Cave),” verse 29 (18:29).

13   Qur’an, “Muhammad,” verse 25 (47:25)

14   Ibid., “Al-Baqarah (The Cow), verse 217 (2:217).

15   Ibid., “An-Nahl (The Bee), (16:106)

16   Rahman, S.A.; Punishment of Apostasy in Islam, Institute of Islamic Culture, Lahore,

1972,  pp. 10-13.

17   Qur’an, Al-Nisa (Women)” verse  94. (4:94)

18   Asad, Muhammad; The Message of the Qur’an,  pp.1036-1037.

19   Encyclopedia of the Quran, “Apostasy.”

20   Ibid.

21   Informed Comment, Professor Juan Cole, 5 September 2005.

22   What Islam says on religious freedom, Magdi Abdelhadi, BBC Arab Affairs analyst, 27 March 2007; Fatwa on Intellectual Apostasy, text of fatwa by Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi; S.A. Rahman, Punishment of Apostasy in Islam, Institute of Islamic Culture, Lahore,

1972, pp.10-13; The Punishment of Apostasy in Islam, view of Dr. Ahmad Shafaat on apostasy.

23   Munir Committee Report, 1954, p. 218; cited in From Jinnah to Zia, p.45

24   Ibid., pp. 218-220; cited in From Jinnah to Zia, p.47.

25   Qur’an, Yunus, (Jonah), verse 35 (10:35).

26   Asad, Muhammad; The Message of the Qur’an; p.334.

27   Munir, Muhammad; From Jinnah to Zia; pp.58-59.

28   Munir Committee Report, p. 228, cited in From Jinnah to Zia, p.65 quoted also by A.G Noorani in “The Islamic State: A Mirage, Criterion, Vol. 4 No.3.

29   Maududi, Abul Ala; The Punishment of the Apostate According to Islamic Law, chapter III.

30   Ibid.

31   Muhammad, Munir, From Jinnah to Zia; p. 145.

32   Al-Mabsut, X. p.110

33   Mohammad Hashim Kamali (1998), “Punishment in Islamic Law: A Critique of the Hudud Bill of Kelantan, Malaysia,” Arab Law Quarterly, 13 (3): 203-234, Brill Publishers.

34   Maududi, Abul Ala; The Punishment of the Apostate According to Islamic Lae.

35   Ghamidi,  Javed Ahmad;  “The  Punishment  for Apostasy,”  Renaissance,  Al-Mawrid Institute, 6(11), November 1996.

36   Wikipedia, “Javed Ahmad Ghamdi.”

37   Noorani, A.G.; “The Islamic State: A Mirage,” Criterion, Vol. 4, No. 3, July-September 2009.

38  Ali, Muhammad; The Holy Quran, Brock and Rankin, Chicago, Illinois; 1963 (fifth edition); p.92.

39   Sahih al-Bukhari Vol ix no. 318.

40   Subhani, Asad, M.E.; Apostasy in Islam, Global Media Publications, New Delhi, 2005, pp.23-24.

41   Emigration to Medina in 622 which became the first year of the Islamic era.

42   Asad, Muhammad; The Message of the Qur’an; p. 898.

43   Asad, Muhammad; The Message of the Qur’an; p. 978.

44   A tax formerly levied on non-Muslims

45   Mussanaf of Abdur Razzaq ibn Humana, cited in M.E. Asad Subhani’s Apostasy in Islam pp. 23-24.

46   Heffening, W., “Murtad.”  In P.J. Bearman, Th. Bianquis, C.E. Bosworth, E. van Donzel and W.P. Heinrichs. Encyclopedia of Islam, Online Edition. Brill Academic Publishers, ISSN 1573-3912.

47   Ibid.

48   Abdul Qadir Oudah, (1999); Kitab Bhavan; New Delhi. ISBN 81-7151-273-9, Volume II

pp. 258-262; Volume IV pp. 19-21.

49  According to Abdurrahmani’l-Djaziri’s Kitabul’l-fiqh ‘ala’l-madhahib’il-‘arba’a i.e., Apostasy in Islam according to the Four School of Islamic Law, Vol.5, pp.422-440, first English edition (Vallach), 1997.

50   Deuteronomy 13: 6-10.

51   Ibid.

52   Ibid.

53   “Apostates from Islam: The case of the Afghan convert is not unique.”

54   According to the US think tank Freedom House.

55   “Apostates from Islam: The case of the Afghan convert is not unique.”

56   Gulf News, “Iran is considering death penalty for web-related crimes,”  2 July  2008.

57, 9 November 2002, “Iran: Academic’s Death Sentence Condemned.”

58   Iran: Trial for Conference Attendees.

59 17 June 2009. Source 17 June 2009.

60   “Egypt: Islamic Lawyers Urge Death Sentence For Convert.” Compass Direct.

61   “When Muslims Convert, by Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, Commentary magazine 4 March 2005.

62   Munir, Muhammad; From Jinnah to Zia; p.147.

63   “Apostates from Islam: The case of the Afghan convert is not unique.” By Paul Marshall, The Weekly Standard, 2 April 2006.

64   BBC, “Three killed at Turkish publisher,” BBC, “Ten arrested over Turkey murders,” Spiegel Online, “After the Missionary Massacre: Christian Converts Live in Fear In Intolerant Turkey.”

65   Complaint of the Pakistani Catholics Bishops’ Peace Commission, July 2005.

66   Wikipedia, Jyllands-Posten Muhammad Cartoons.

67   M.R. Kayani; A Judge May Laugh and Even Cry, Pakistan Writers’ Co-operative Society, Lahore,  1983, “Forward,”

68   Khan, Chuadhry Muhammad Zafarullah; Punishment of Apostasy in Islam, p.59.

69   Littman, David; “Universal Human Rights and Human Rights in Islam,” Midstream; February-March 1999.

70   HRI/GEN/1/Rev.6 of 22 May 2003, pp. 155-56.

71   Nixon, Richard; Beyond Peace; Random House, Inc., New York, 1994; p. 154.

72   Qur’an; “Al-Ghashiyah (The Overshadowing Event), verses 21-22 (88: 21-22).