Islam: Religon of Peace (Part 5: Recantation under Islam)

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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.

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About Hasan
A Muslim with a slightly different perspective. A student of history, theology and science.

5 Responses to Islam: Religon of Peace (Part 5: Recantation under Islam)

  1. Salman says:

    You should have mentioned these in your explanation as well.

    Ibn Abbaas said : The Messenger of Allah said, “Whoever changes his (Islamic) religion, kill him.” Sahih Bukhari (number 6922)

    Abd-Allah ibn Masood said : The Messenger of Allah said : “It is not permissible to shed the blood of a Muslim who bears witness that there is no god except Allah and that I am the Messenger of Allah, except in one of three cases : a soul (in case of murder) ; a married person who commits adultery ; and one who leaves his religion and separates from the main body of Muslims.” Sahih Al Bukhari number 6484 and Sahih Muslim number 1676

    In order to reconcile these hadiths with your argument, you should somehow prove that either these hadiths are false and unauthentic, or they are incomplete and then present what the incomplete parts are with additional proofs.

    My prayers and wishes for a good luck with that.

    • Hasan says:

      Dear Salman,

      The Hadith you quote has weak references, many other viewpoints of the same incident has come up, hence we cannot say for sure what really happened.

      One viewpoint is that some people started idolizing Ali (R.A.) When he stopped them he asked them to jump into the fire, they did what he commanded. We see people idolizing Ali to this day which makes more sense

  2. Pingback: Islam: Religion of Peace (Part 6: Freedom of belief) « Epimetheus

  3. Pingback: Islam: Religion of Peace (Part 6: Freedom of belief) « Epimetheus

  4. Pingback: Islam: Religion of Peace (Part 4: Contradictions about expansion of Islam) « Epimetheus

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