Islam: Religon of Peace (Part 5: Recantation under Islam)
November 19, 2010 5 Comments
The concept of apostasy, as it existed in medieval Christianity and expounded by the Muslim scholars of today, is a total alien to Islam. There is not even a word for it in the Arabic language. There is no doubt that some early Muslim scholars of law (fiqh) considered recantation from Islam to be a capital offence, but their definition of ‘Muslim’ was so broad that no one calls himself a Muslim could be called a recanter.
The Prophet of Islam (peace be upon him) gave us two definitions of a Muslim. At the time of the first census of Medina, the Prophet said:
Write down for me the name of everyone who calls himself a Muslim.
(Sahih al-Bukhari, Bab Kitabat al-Iman al-Nas)
On another occasion the Prophet said:
‘Whoever prays as we pray and turns to our Qiblah and eats what we ritually slaughter is a Muslim; He is Allah (God)’s responsibility and my responsibility. So do not put Allah in contravention of his responsibility.’
(Ibid., Kitab al-Salat, Bab Fadl Istaqbal al-Qiblah)
On the contrary the radical Muslim scholars, supporting dictatorships and autocracies in Muslim countries, have added various qualifications to the Prophet’s simple definition. According to the Holy Qur’an, no Muslim has the right to declare any other Muslim an apostate. The Chapter ‘Al-Kafirun’ (The Unbelievers), revealed that in the early period of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him)’s ministry, is a direct statement of policy on the subject of freedom of conscience. The Prophet was asked to tell unbelievers there was absolutely no meeting-point between their beliefs and his. As they were in complete disagreement, not only with regard to the basic concepts of religion, but also with regard to its details and other aspects, there could not possibly be any compromise between them. Hence, the Qur’an says:
‘For you, your religion, for me, my religion.’
(Ch. 109 verse 7)
The first verses after migration where the subject of freedom of conscience was discussed, is in Al-Baqarah (Ch 2. The Cow). The 257th verse of the chapter contains the clearest pronouncement on the subject:
‘There shall be no compulsion in religion. Surely guidance has become distinct from error, whosoever refuses to be led by those who transgress and believes in Allah has surely grasped a strong handle which knows no breaking. And Allah is All-Hearing, All-Knowing.’
This is the confident declaration of a prophet who has organized a colony in a town where his power is supreme. Lest the subject of jihad be misunderstood, Muslims are told that true virtue lies in good works and good faith (Ch.2 v.255–258) and the Majesty of God is called to mind in the Throne verse (Ch.2 v.256). The commandment of ‘no compulsion in religion’ comes immediately after the Throne verse. Readers of the Qur’an might have thought God wanted Muslims to spread Islam by force, because of its call to fight the enemies and to offer special sacrifices to Allah. However, the verse tells Muslims in no uncertainty terms not to resort violence in the name of conversion.