No Punishment for Apostasy in Islam: Part II
By Dr. Bashir Ahmad
St. Louis, MO

In my article published in the Pakistan link dated 04/07/06 on this subject, I had quoted a number of t Quran verses and ahadees supporting the fact that there is no punishment at all for apostasy in Islam. In an article published recently in The Pakistan Link, Dr. Khan Dawood L Khan has given reference to a hadith in Bukhari in which instruction were given to kill the person who changes his religion from Islam.
Ikramah, the narrator of this hadith, has attributed it to only one person, Ibn-Ahhas who was an eminent scholar of Islam. In this article, I have compiled his background, which amply shows that he was uncouthly, and regarded as a liar.
Ikramah relates that he heard that some Zindeeqs were presented before Hazrat Ali whereupon he directed the burning alive of those people. Ibn Abbas stated that had it been him, he would not have ordered this because the Holy Prophet had said that torment of fire may only be decrees by God, but the Prophet had also said (slay whoever changes his religion.). (Bukhari MishKat (Egypt) ) 9-10; Bukhari and Fateh Al Bari, Hadilh, no6922 (Egypt) Vol. 12-267).
The Qur’an strongly contradicts this tradition which is in stark contradiction with the Holy Qur’an. “Who so seeks a religion other than Islam, it shall not be accepted from him, and in the life to come he shall lie among the losers. How shall Allah guide a people who have disbelieved after having believed and who had borne Witness that the Messenger is true and to him clear proofs had come? Allah guides not the wrong doers of such punishment is that on them shall be the curse of Allah and of angels and of men, all together; there under shall they abide. This punishment shall not be lightened nor shall they be granted respite; except in the case of those who repent thereafter and amend. Surely, Allah is most Forgiving, ever Merciful. Those who disbelieve after having believed, and then continue to advance in disbelief, their repentance shall not be accepted. Those are they who have gone astray. From anyone of those who have disbelieved, and die while they are disbelievers, there shall not-be accepted even an earthful of gold, though he offer it in ransom. For those there shall be grievous punishment, and they shall have no helper.) – Quran 3/86-92
It is absolutely obvious that no punishment is to be inflicted by one man on another for apostasy. The words (there under shall they abide) clearly refers to his life thereafter. By no stretch of imagination can a saved person interpret the words of “the curse of Allah” to be a license to murder whom he considers apostate. On the contrary, the Holy Qur’an mentions the possibility of repentance by an apostate and subsequent forgiveness of God. How can anyone repent and atone for his sins in this world if he has already been killed?
The Holy Qur’an very sternly dictates against this dubious tradition.
“ If Thy Lord had enforced HIS WILL, surely all those on the earth would have believed without exception, will thou then take it upon thyself to force people to become believers? Except by Allah’s permission no one can believe and He will afflict with His wrath those who will not use their understanding.” – Qur’an 10/100-101
When God himself does not force people to believe, who are we to advocate capital punishment for apostasy? The advocates of capital punishment for apostasy, it is obvious, accept literally ahadees compiled hundreds of years after the Holy Prophet, which are contradictory to the teaching of The Holy Qur’an, and some of them were concocted by confirmed liars.
The Holy Prophet spent his entire life fighting in defense of fundamental human rights that every one should be free to choose his religion, no one could change the other person’s religion by force, and everybody has a right to change his own religion, whatever that religion maybe. Ikramah has attributed this tradition only to one person- Ibn Allas. Whenever the name of Ibn Abbas appears at the head of a chain of narrators, the vast majority of Muslim scholars are overawed; they forget the fact that because of his name and reputation concoctors of false tradition tended to trace their fabricated chain of narrators back to him. Therefore, all traditions with his name of Abbas must be carefully examined and evaluated. It is probably the revered name of Abbas that found their concocted tradition in Bukhari, and later found its place with some variation in Tirmidhi, Abu Dand, Al-Nisai and Ibn Majahi.
Who was Ikramah? Ikramah (not to be confused with Ikramah bin Abu-Jahl) was a slave of Ibu Abbas, and also his pupil —a very indifferent pupil. He himself confirms this by saying that Ibn Abbas was so infuriated with his lack of interest in his studies and by his truancy that he would bind his hand and foot to compel him to remain present during his sermons.
– (Ibn Saad, Altabga Al-Kabir Vol. 2, 386)
He was an opponent of Hazrat Ali, the forth caliph of Islam, and was inclined towards the Khawarig in particular at the time when differences between Hazrat Ali and Ibn Abbas began to emerge. Later, during the Abbaside period (the Abbasides, it should be borne in mind, were extremely antagonistic to all those who were in any way allied to Hazrat Ali’s progeny because of political apprehension). Ikramah acquired great respect as a versatile scholar because of his hostility towards Hazrat Ali and links with Khawarig (Mizan Al-Aitadal Vol2, 208.). It has generally been observed that the tradition of capital punishment for apostasy emanated mainly from incidents in Basra, Kufa and Yemen. The people of Hejaz (Mecca and Medina) were totally unfamiliar with it. The tradition from Ikramah, under discussion, is known as an Iraqi tradition. Famous Meccan Iman, Taus bin Kaisan, used to say that Iraqi traditions were generally doubtful. – (Abu Daud, Vol 11, 35).
A great scholar, Yahya bin Saeed, Al Ansari, has strongly censured IKramah for his unreliability in general and has gone to the extent of calling him a Kadhab, that is an absolute liar (Abu Jajar Muhammed bin Amrlin Musa bin Hamad Al-Agbli Al-Mulki, Kital al-soafa Al-Kabir. Al Safr 111, 1983, 373). Abdullah bin Al Harith quotes a very interesting incident which he himself witnessed when he visited Alli Bin Abdullah bin Abbas. He was deeply shocked and dismayed to find Ikramah bound to a post outside the door of Abi bin Abdullah bin Abbas. He expressed his shock at this cruelty by asking Ali bin Abidullahben Abbas if he had no fear of God in him. What he meant was that Ikramah, with all his renown of pity, did not deserve such a cruel treatment at the hands of his late master’s own son. In response to this Ali bin Abdullah bin Abbas justified his punishment by pointing out that Ikramah had the audacity to attribute false things to his late father, Ibn Ablias. (Abu Jasar Muhammad bin-Amr bin, Musa bin, Hamad Al-Agblial-Mulki, op,cit.) What better judge of the character of Ikramah could there be than Ali bin-Abdullah bin Abbas. It is important to remember that Iman Malik bin Anas (95-179AH), the pioneer compiler of Ahadees and Iman of jurisprudence held in the highest repute throughout the Muslim World, held that the tradition narrated by Ikramah were unreliable. (Misan Al-Aitadal Vol. 2, 209.)
The following scholars of great repute have declared that Ikramah had strong disposition towards exaggeration: Imanyahya bin Saeed Al Ansari, Alibin, Abdullah bin, Abbas and Ataban-Abi Rabae. – (Fateh Al-Bari).

Islam grants full freedom in the choice of religion
Islam demands commitment and obligation from Muslims to constantly endeavor to change the faith of all non-Muslims around them by peaceful means.
The Holy Qur’an states, “Call unto the way of thy Lord with wisdom and good by exhortation, and reasons with them on the basis of that which is best. Thy Lord knows best those who have strayed away from His ways; and He knows best those who are rightly guided.” – Qur’an 16/126.

Concoction and Perversion of Verses
God Almighty has decreed that the final and complete revealed book, the Holy Qur’an, shall be safeguarded forever. The Holy Qur’an mentions the Jews did attempt to concoct or pervert verses. “Woe, therefore, to those who write their book with their own hands, and then say, (This is from Allah) that they may take for it a paltry price. Woe, then, to them for what their hands have written, and woe to them for what they earn.” – Qur’an 2/80.
This verse points out that Israelites are committing two offences: 1) writing down a thing falsely, and 2) doing it with the intention of earning some worldly benefit.
The Qur’an also points to a party of Israelites who indulged in perverting the verses of the Holy Qur’an after they had understood them.
“Do you expect that they will believe you when a party of them hear the word of Allah, then pervert it after they have understood it, and they know the consequences thereof.” – Qur’an 2/76.
In conclusion, it may be stated that the naive and bigoted advocates of inhumane doctrine of death upon apostasy never realize the international and inter-religious repercussions and human relationships. According to their view of Islam, adherents of all religions have a fundamental right to change their faith and accept Islam, but Muslins are not allowed to do so – they face death as a punishment for apostasy. This view is not true.



Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
2004 . All Rights Reserved.