Apostasy in Islam
|"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." Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human
Rights. (Emphasis ours). |
|"Let there be no compulsion in the religion: Surely the Right Path
is clearly distinct from the crooked path." Al Baqarah, 2:256.
|"Those who blasphemed and back away from the ways of Allah and die
as blasphemers, Allah shall not forgive them." Suratan Nisa', Ayah 48.
|"Those who believe, then disbelieve, then believe again, then
disbelieve, and then increase in their disbelief - Allah will never
forgive them nor guide them to the path." Surah An-Nisa', 4:137.
|"Whoever changes his religion shall be killed",
|"Kill those who believe in many gods" Sura al-Tawba
|"Whosoever turns back from his belief, openly or secretly, take him and
kill him wheresoever ye find him, like any other infidel. Separate yourself
from him altogether. Do not accept intercession in his regard." Sura 4:
Note: This list once contained an entry which we suspect is disinformation
and has been removed.
|Hadith: Collections of the sayings of Muhammad (pbuh). *
|Hudud: Punishments for spiritual or religious crimes.
|Irtidăd: Literally: "turning
back". The act of apostasy -- leaving Islam for another religion or
for a secular lifestyle.
|Murtadd: Literally: "one who turns the back." An
|Murtad Fitri: Literally: apostate - natural. A person
born of a Muslim parent who later rejects Islam.
|Murtad Milli: Literally: apostate - from the community. A
person who converted to Islam and later rejected the religion.
|Shari'a: (aka Shariah) Islamic law.|
* "pbuh" means "peace be upon him." It is one of the
abbreviations used to indicate respect for Muhammad, viewed by Muslims as
the final prophet of God. It is also used whenever the name of Yeshua of
Nazareth (Jesus Christ) is written. He is viewed by Muslims as the second
A person is an apostate if they leave a religion and either adopt another
religion or assume a secular lifestyle. Historically, Islam, Christianity
and other religions have taken a very dim view of apostates. The penalty was
often execution. Today, apostasy in Islam is a very complex and
sensitive issue. There exists a range of beliefs among Muslims; two
|"Some commentators have drawn the conclusion that ...the punishment
for the mere renunciation of faith is death." 1
An adult apostate would typically be given three days to reconsider their
decision before being executed. Some believe that this sentence is to be carried out "whether
or not the apostasy occurred in an Islamic State or not." 2|
|Others believe in complete freedom of religion, such as is stated in
Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: "Everyone
has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right
includes freedom to change his religion or belief..." 3|
Apostates have been rarely executed in the 21st century. However, Muslims
feel "a powerful sense of rage...when one of their number forsakes the
community." 4 They consider it a profound insult
to Allah and to all Muslims.
There are numerous ways in which a person can be regarded as having rejected
Islam. The online book "The Penalties for Apostasy in Islam"
5 lists a few:
|They may make an explicit declaration, such as, "I associate other
gods alongside Allah" (usherek billah).
|They may make a claim that results in blasphemy, such as, "Allah
has a material substance or a shape just like other substances or shapes"
|They may make "an action that clearly resembles blasphemy, such as
carelessly discarding a Qur'an, or parts of it..." |
|They might burn the Qur'an out of contempt.
|They might soil the Qur'an, "(such as putting it in a holy place
that has become dirty, or staining it with an unclean substance, such as
turning its pages with fingers that have been licked)." 6|
|A Muslim becomes an apostate if he or she "... worships an idol, or learns and practices magic..."
This same source also claims that a Muslim becomes an apostate if he or she
enters a Christian church. That appears to be incorrect.
|They might state that the universe has always existed from eternity.
|They might believe that transmigration of souls or reincarnation
happens at death.
|"...a Muslim becomes an apostate if he defames a prophet's
character, morals, virtues, or religion, if he accuses angels of having
bad qualities, or if he questions the efficacy of a prophet's asceticism."|
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
- Ahmad Faiz bin Abdul Rahman, "Malaysian laws on apostasy
- "The punishment for apostasy from Islam," at:
- "Universal Declaration of Human Rights,"
http://www.un.org/ The text is available in
other languages at:
- Sayyid Muhammad Rizvi, "Apostacy (Irtidad) in
- "Light of Life," at:
- US military staff at the Guantanamo detention center in Cuba circulated a
three-page memorandum in 2003-JAN which discussed care of copies of the Qur'an.
It said that only chaplains or Muslim interpreters should touch the Qur'an, after
donning clean gloves in view of the prisoner may they handle the Qur'an
like a "fragile piece of delicate art."
Muslims working at the Guantanamo base in Cuba were to use both hands
when handling the Qur'an as a sign of respect, while favoring the right
hand because of cultural associations with the left hand.
Copyright © 2001 to 2011 by Ontario Consultants on Religious
Originally written: 2001-AUG-6
Latest update: 2011-FEB-20
Author: B.A. Robinson