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Apostasy in Islam: The Case of the Afghani Convert to Christianity
ING affirms Islam’s principal of freedom of religion, which is emphasized by numerous Qur’anic verses and principals, such as the following:
“There is no compulsion in religion” (Qur’an: 2:256)
“Had thy Lord willed, everyone on earth would have believed. Do you then force people to become believers?” (Qur’an: 10:99)
“And if they turn away, We have not sent you [Prophet Muhammad] as a guardian over them. Your duty is but to convey the message.” (Qur’an: 42:48)
“Those who believe then disbelieve, then believe again, then disbelieve and then increase in their disbelief -God will never forgive them nor guide them to the path.” (Qur’an: 4:137)
No where in the Qur’an does it mention punishment for apostasy, although the subject of disbelief is mentioned repeatedly, and the last verse mentioned above specifically describes a person who disbelieves repeatedly without any mention of punishment.
Numerous scholars of Islam have affirmed this position throughout history (see Kamali, Freedom of Religion), as reflected in such documents as the Universal Islamic Declaration of Human Rights, issued by the Islamic Council of Europe, which states that: “Every person has the right to freedom of conscience and worship in accordance with his religious beliefs.” Similar provisions are included in the constitutions of many contemporary Muslim populated countries, such as Malaysia and Pakistan.
Mention of capital punishment in hadith, or Prophetic traditions must be understood in the context of the nascent Muslim community 1400 years ago, in which desertion of religion meant possible sedition against religion and a state which was under siege. Therefore, according to numerous Islamic scholars, the death penalty was meant, not for simple acts of apostasy, but for political betrayal of the community, or treason, which is punishable in numerous societies. “Neither the Prophet himself nor any of his Companions ever compelled anyone to embrace Islam, nor did they sentence anyone to death solely for renunciation of the faith.” (Kamali, p. 6)
In fact, there are numerous instances of the Prophet Muhammad pardoning those who embraced Islam, then renounced it, and re-embraced it; this was followed by his Companions who left unharmed the numerous people who renounced Islam immediately after the death of the Prophet and then returned to their faith after a time.
ING calls on all Muslims to re-examine universal Islamic principals that uphold the rights of all people to freedom of religion.