Relinquishing the Faith
Regardless of whether the Muslim embraces Christianity (as is happening today with millions of the Indonesians) or becomes an atheist, Islamic law declares that he must be killed. Also, anyone who rejects any of the basic ordinances of Islam or insults the prophet or the Qur'an (as Salman Rushdie did) will be regarded as an apostate and must be killed. It is well-known that all Muslim scholars agree upon these points without exception. They also avow that the prophet Muhammad said it, and they practice it with those who relinquish Islam and become apostate. The scholars also teach that this is what all the Caliphs (Muhammad's successors) did after him. Contemporary scholars declare without any shame that the Muslim's freedom to change his faith is non-existent and is not recognized by Islam.
The Azhar University in Egypt
It is well-known that Egypt is the largest Arab/Islamic country in the world. The University of Azhar has been regarded through the years as the Mineret (light) of Islam for the entire Islamic world. The Legislative committee at the Azhar issued "The Bill of Legal Punishments. This book has been sent to all the Mosques in the West accompanied by a descriptive memorandum for these laws. The legislative committee requested Muslims to implement these penalties and comply with Islamic law. This bill was written both in Arabic and in English. It deals with the penalties imposed by Islamic law such as amputation of the thief's hand and the scourging of the wine drinker. However, we would like to deal here with the penalty for the apostate who relinquishes the Islamic faith.
Provisions Specific to Apostasy
The "Bill of Legal Punishments" says (p.12),
"A person guilty of apostasy (man or woman) shall be put to death if repentance is not made within the period allowed which shall not exceed sixty days. Repentance of a person who commits apostasy more than twice shall not be accepted.
"An apostate is that Muslim who has renounced the faith of Islam irrespective of his adoption of another creed.
"The crime of apostasy is committed in the following ways:
- making an explicit statement or committing an act definitely indicating renunciation of Islam,
- denial of essential tenets of the faith,
- bringing into ridicule through word or action, the Gracious Koran."
On page 30, we find this explanatory note:
"The ordained penalty for apostasy is based on the Sunnahh. The prophet, peace be on him, said, One who changes his faith is to be killed' (al Bukhari). It is also narrated by Al Dar Qutni that when a woman called Umm-Marwan had renounced Islam, the Prophet ordered that if she failed to repent she should be put to death. The rightly guided Caliphs continued this practice. It is fully known that Abu-Bakr the truthful fought against those who had deserted from the religion of Islam and killed many. The Gracious Companions were of the same view, and a consensus emerged on this issue."
These are the verdicts of the contemporary Azhar scholars. They are the most knowledgeable people in the laws of the Islamic traditions of Muhammad and the actions taken by his successors.
The Scholars of Saudi Arabia
In one of his speeches which was published by the Tunisian newspapers, the former President of that country assaulted the Qur'an and said it is full of contradictions. He also said that Muhammad was a desert man who wrote myths in the Qur'an. The Saudi scholars wrote a book in which they threatened him. On the cover of the book, the following was printed:
"From the publications of the Islamic League of the Madina Munawwara in Saudi Arabia:
"The Verdict of Islam: To him who alleged that the Qur'an is contradictory and includes some myths, who described the apostle Muhammad to imply that he was inflicted with vices or one who attacked his message...'
In page 13 of this book, Sheikh 'Abdul-'Aziz, along with all the Sheiks of Saudi Arabia, said:
"The verdict of Islam is to sentence to death anyone who commits such things. Thus the president Abu Ruqayba must haste to repent."
They assured him (pages 14 and 15) that all Muslim scholars have agreed that anyone who does these things must be killed. They said this is also the opinion of the heads of the four major Islamic schools. The major Islamic schools are the Shafi'i, Malik, Abu Hanifa, and Ahmad. It is well-known that the former president of Tunisia did not change his liberal opinions regarding Muhammad and the Qur'an which he mentioned in his speeches.
It is public knowledge in Tunisia that it is forbidden for a man to marry more than one woman. Thus, Western society should not have been surprised when Khomeini ordered the execution of Rushdie because this is the opinion of all Muslim scholars as well as the heads of the four leading schools.
The Egyptian State Assembly: The Highest Judicial Authority
On August 6, 1977, the most prestigious newspaper in Egypt, al-Ahram, published the following statement:
"The state assembly has approved a bill to enact the penalty for apostasy. The apostate who intentionally relinquishes Islam by explicit declaration or decisive deed must be put to death. Apostasy is established by one confirmation or by the testimony of two men. The apostate is forbidden to administer his properties. He will be given 30 days to repent before the execution of the sentence of death. But if one converted to Christianity was 10-14 years old, he will only be scourged fifty times."
This law has not been implemented in Egypt up to now. This is because of the objection of some liberal, enlightened writers such as Mustafa Amin who published an article in the Akhbar newspaper during the same month, in which he said,
"We have to think one thousand times before we approve such a law because any divine religion does not need a gallows to protect it. It does not need a sword to cut off the necks of those who disagree with it."
Mustafa Amin is a very famous person in all the Arab world for his noble character, knowledge, and boldness, but he does not know (or maybe he does know) that the religion of Islam surely does need a gallows to protect it because the law of apostasy is an Islamic law.
The most astonishing part of the statement of the Egyptian state assembly is this: "The apostasy is established by the testimony of two men." Yet it is possible that two Muslim
men may come forward and testify that they heard such-and-such a Christian man saying, "I am converted to Islam and I testify that Muhammad is the apostle of God." They may say that while actually the man has never made that claim. Still, the testimony of the Muslim witness will be accepted. In this case, that poor man has no choice but either to embrace Islam or be put to death.
It is a detestable law which is rejected by the Egyptian government (they do not implement it) though many Muslims in Egypt have already become Christians. This is because the government is a secular government and not an Islamic one, but the government is subject to increasing pressure, day after day, from the terroristic Islamic forces.
What Happens To Muslims in Egypt Who Become Christians
In January of 1986, the Egyptian authorities arrested eight people (males and females) whose ages ranged from 20-30 years. The charge was that they had embraced Christianity several years before. Eight months later, they were released from jail after their story was publicized in many of the Western newspapers and magazines. What is important to us here is that while the eight Christians were in prison, a Muslim leader wrote to the government demanding that they execute themnot just keep them under arrest. On the second of July 1986, "The Islamic Light" newspaper which is published by the Ahrar party (the freemen party), said in an article titled, "Point of Absurdity":
"Two things we find absurd. The first one is that the Egyptian church is demanding their immediate release and has contacted the International Amnesty Committee to convey its indignation for the imprisonment of eight people because of their apostasy from Islam. The second thing which we call absurdity is that the Egyptian government was content to arrest them only. It was supposed to execute Islamic law upon them; namely, death if they do not repent. The government must make this clear to all the world and be proud of this law because it is God's verdict. "
Maybe such a verdict honors this newspaper, but it does not honor the Egyptian government. It does not even honor her
to hold them in jail; that is why she released them.
This is not God's verdict, my friend. God is love and respects man's decisions. God wants to set you free from your delusions in order to bring you to the light of the truth. What really amazes us is the common impression that God is vindictive like the law would imply. What adds to our amazement is that the name of the newspaper is "The Journal of Light" and the name of your party is "The Party of the Freemen." What light and what freedom are these? This Islamic law is a shame!
The United StatesLand of Freedom and Human Rights and the United Nations
The Muslim Youth in New York publish a weekly Islamic magazine called al-Tahrir ("Liberation"). In its issue of February 5, 1983, the chief editor wrote an article under the title, "The Symptoms of Apostasy in the Islamic Society". On page 15, he said:
"The apostate is not only the person who relinquishes Islam and embraces another religion, but the symptoms of apostasy are many, and those who practice them are regarded as infidels and apostate and deserve to be killed. The symptoms of apostasy are: when the ruler does not govern by God's law (most of the Muslim rulers do that), or when the ruler derides some aspect of the religion or one of the Islamic laws as the ex-president of Egypt, al-Sadat, did when he said that the dress of the Muslim women is like a tent.
"Another symptom of apostasy is that a Muslim believes in the Qur'an only and rejects tradition; namely, the sayings and deeds of Muhammad (the Sunnahh) and attacks the apostle Muhammad by any insult or criticism of the Qur'an. Also among the symptoms of apostasy is the promotion of mottoes which may contradict the Qur'an, such as the mottoes of nationalism, patriotism, and humanism! Anyone who calls for these mottoes is regarded as an infidel and an apostate and deserves to be killed if he does not repent. Also, anyone who believes in Masonianism. "
We respond by saying that the writer is right according to the Islamic tenets, but what is the view of the American police of these claims and of this newspaper, especially since many Iranians and
Arabs in the U.S. have become Christians and American citizens. They are under the threat of death in accordance with the Islamic law.
The Former Scholars
Without exception, all the former scholars agree on depriving any person the right of freedom to change his religion and they call for the death penalty for anyone who does so. I have chosen the most important and famous scholarsthose who are acknowledged by all Muslims.
The Imam al-Shafi'i
In his book, "The Ordinances of the Qur'an" (part 1, p. 289), he remarks:
"If someone becomes a Muslim then apostatizes, he would be asked to repent; if he does not repent, he should be killed."
Al-Shafi'i is one of the four founders of the jurisprudence schools who (the Saudi scholars said) have agreed that the apostate must be put to death.
In Vol. 4, p. 316 of his volume, "The Sweetened" (Al Muhalla), Ibn Hazm says:
"Any of the infidels who said, There is no God but God, and Muhammad is the apostle of God', he became a Muslim obligated to Islamic laws. If he rejected that later on, he would be subject to death. But if he was one of the people of the Book (namely, from the Jews or Christians), in order to become a Muslim, he must say, I have embraced Islam.' Then he becomes a Muslim obligated to the Islamic laws. If he rejected them, he would be killed."
This famous scholar, who is called Sheikh al-Islam, says under the title of the law pertaining to the apostate,
"The Muslim who does not pray must be ordered to pray; if he refuses to pray, he must be put to death, because he would be an infidel and apostate, according to the scholars and Imams, even if he said that Muhammad is the apostle of God, and even if he was convinced of the purposes of prayers" (Vol. 35, pp. 105-106).
In Vol. 32, pp. 276 and 279, he addresses this matter, namely, the killing of one who abandoned prayers. Then he speaks to husbands:
"If a wife abstain from praying, she would be asked to repent. The husband may scourge her to repent, otherwise she must be killed."
It is well-known that the majority of Muslims do not pray the daily five prayers, especially t
he wives who do not have enough time to do so. Thus, in this case, if the husband is a true Muslim, he would beat his wife to force her to pray, and if she declined to obey he must condemn her to death! God, have mercy upon us!
This judgment is not the verdict of Ibn Taymiyya only, but (as he frequently claimed), it is a verdict which all the scholars and Imams recognize. Actually our research has led us to believe Ibn Taymiyya's claim. In part 11, Vol. 8, Ibn Hazm in his book, "al-Muhalla" ("The Sweetened", p. 378), repeats the same words and declares to us that this is also the opinion of the Shafi'i and Malik, both of whom emphasize that the one who abandons prayers and does not repent must be killed. Sahih of Muslim (Vol. 1, p. 267 ) indicates that this is also the view of 'Ali Ibn Abi Talib. Yet Abu Hanifa has a slightly different opinion. He says that the one who ignores prayer will not be killed but must be scourged until he repents. If he does not repent, he must be continuously, beaten even if he dies under the punishment.
From the Inception of Islam
Sayings of Muhammad and His Successors
Prophet of Mercy and Freedom
We have already seen how the scholars of the Azhar based their resolution concerning the death penalty of the apostate on Muhammad's saying: "Who relinquishes his faith, kill him." This is quoted on the authority of Ibn 'Abbas as it is recorded in Sahih of al-Bukhari (part 9, p. 19). Not only al-Bukhari but the following scholars also ascribe this famous statement to Muhammad!
° Ibn Hazm, pp. 129 and 401, part 8 Vol. 11
° Ibn Hisham, p. 284, part 3, of Muhammad's biography, al rawd al-Anaf.
° Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya, p. 45, part 5 of his book Zad al-Ma'ad in which he asserts that Muhammad uttered these words and condemned anyone who relinquished his faith.
Other statements by Muhammad Related to this Issue:
In a very famous declaration, Muhammad defines three cases in which a Muslim must be killed:
"The blood of the Muslim is not lawful [to be shed] except in three cases: Infidelity after faith, adultery after marriage, and killing a soul without any right."
What is important to us here is his phrase "Infidelity after faith." If you ask me who claimed that Muhammad said this, I will respond: All former and contemporary scholars, without exception, attest to that.
When 'Uthman Ibn 'Affan, the third caliph and the husband of Ruqayya the daughter of Muhammad, was besieged by some famous Muslim companions of the apostle, he reminded them of Muhammad's sayings and asked them: "For which of these three reasons do you intend to kill me?" and "Am I not the prince of believers?" Yet they killed him. Among those who were involved in his assassination were Muhammad Ibn Abu Bakr El Seddik and 'Ammar Ibn Yasir. (Refer to the Chronicle of al-Tabari Vol. 2, p. 669, and all the books of the Islamic history such as the "Chronicle of the Caliphs" by the as-Suyuti and Ibn Kathir).
This statement is also recorded in the following:
° Sahih of Muslim Vol. I, p. 267 (the interpretation of Nawawi).
° Shafi'i, "The Ordinances of the Qur'an", part 2, p. 46.
° Ibn Hazm, part 11, Vol. 8, p. 377 and restated also on p. 400.
° The Sheikh Shaltute in his famous book, "Islam: a Dogma and a Law", p. 322.
° Dr. Afifi 'Abdul-Fattah, in his widespread book, "The Spirit of the Islamic Religion", p. 408.
It is obvious then, that this statement is well documented and unquestionably ascribed to Muhammad. It is also well-known that the Sahih of al-Bukhari has recorded in part 9, p. 18 that:
"The apostate has to be killed based on God's saying in the Qur'an: And whosoever of you turns from his religion and dies disbelieving..."' (the Chapter of Cow: 217).
Deeds of Muhammad, Prophet of Mercy and Freedom
The Supreme committee of law in the Azhar mentioned that a woman by the name of Um Mirwan relinquished her Islamic faith. Muhammad ordered her to repent or to be killed. Islamic history books record also that when Muhammad conquered Mecca, he sentenced to death all who apostatized or insulted him (refer to the Chronicles of Tabari, part II, p. 160 and Ibn Hisham part 4, pp. 15, 16 in "The Biography of the Prophet").
Muhammad's Companions and Successors: What Did They Do?
Mu'adh Ibn Jabal and the Jewish Man
He was one of Muhammad's greatest companions among the "helpers." Even Muhammad himself said, "Learn (to take) the Qur'an from four (people): Mu'adh Ibn Jabal and ..." (refer to the Bukhari, part 6). The following terrifying incident is recorded in the Sahih of al-Bukhari (part 9, p. 19):
"Mu'adh Ibn Jabal went to visit Abu Musa the governor of Yemen. He offered him a cushion to sit on. A man tied with ropes was there. Mu'adh asked Abu Musa: What is this?' He answered, This man was a Jew, then he was converted to Islam, later he apostatized and turned a Jew again.' Mu'adh said to him: I will never even sit down on a cushion until this man is put to death. (This is) the verdict of God and His apostle.' (The governor) ordered him to be killed. (Only after that) Abu Mu'adh sat."
Here we see a Jewish man who was converted to Islam and later was convinced that he made a mistake. Thus, he returned to his old faith and was tied with ropes like an animal. Then Mu'adh came in and refused to sit down on a cushion unless this man was put to death immediately; so they executed him. Then, and only then, Mu'az sat, ate and drank with Abu Musa who felt at peace with himself because he believed that he had implemented the command of God and His apostle, Muhammad. His apostle and the lord of the messengers, the prophet of mercy and freedom, said, "Whosoever relinquishes his faith, kill him."
Ali Ibn Abi Talib and Some Christians
This brutal man used to burn apostates whether they were alive or dead. He was the cousin of Muhammad and his son-in-law. He was Muhammad's favorite friend and one of the ten to whom Muhammad granted paradise. Muhammad reared him before and after the death of his father and said that Ali was the best one to judge according to Islamic law.
Now let us see what was recorded about Ali Ibn Abi Talib, the fourth Caliph, who is admired by both the Shi'ites and Sunnis. In his eighth volume, part eleven of his book, "The Sweetened", Ibn Hazm says (page 189),
"Ali brought apostates and burned them. When Ibn 'Abas received the news he said: If it were me instead of (him), I would not have burned them but
I would rather have killed them in another way because the apostle of God said: "Whosoever relinquishes his faith, kill him.""'
This same incident is recorded in Sahih of al-Bukhari (part 9, page 19). Ibn Hazm (in the same previous source, p. 190) also relates what 'Ali did to some ex-Muslims who were converted to Christianity. He narrates the following three episodes:
Ibn Hazm says:
"They brought an old man to 'Ali who was originally a Christian, then embraced Islam, and later reconverted to Christianity. 'Ali told him: Maybe you apostatized to Christianity in order to acquire an inheritance, and after that you would come back to Islam.' The (old man) said: No.' 'Ali asked him: Maybe you apostate to Christianity in order to get married to a Christian girl and after that you would return to Islam.' The old man said: No.' 'Ali told him: Then, re-embrace Islam.' The old man said: No, not before I meet Christ.' 'Ali ordered him (to be killed). They beheaded him.
"Another Muslim apostatized and became a Christian. 'Ali ordered him to repent but he refused. 'Ali killed him and did not deliver his corpse to his family. They offered him a lot of money (to do so), but 'Ali refused and burned the corpse.
"Another man from the tribe of bany 'Ijl became a Christian. They brought him to 'Ali chained in irons. 'Ali talked to him for a long time. The man said to him: I know that Isa (Jesus) is the son of God.' Ali stood up and stepped on him. When the people saw that, they, too, stood up and stepped on him. Then 'Ali told them: Kill him.' They killed him. Then 'Ali ordered them to burn him."
For God's sake, 'Ali! Is it because the minds of those men (young and old) have been convinced by Christianity that you ordered them to change their convictions? When they refused to do so you tortured them ... or killed them ... or burned them.
'Uthman Ibn 'Affan
He is the third Caliph and the husband of Raqiyya and then om Kalthom, the daughters of Muhammad. He is also one of the ten to whom Muhammad granted paradise. Someone came to 'Uthman and conveyed to him that some people from Iraq had apostatized. 'Uthman wrote to the governor there and ordered him to command them to repent and re-embrace Islam. If they refused to do so, they all were to be killed. Some of them were actually killed because they refused to return to Islam, while others yielded and returned to Islam because of fear (refer to Ibn Hazm, part 11, p. 190).
Abu Bakr and the Wars of Apostasy
All the civilized world along with people of free conscience regard these wars as tyrannical, savage and barbaric. Wars which were waged without any justification. The world will always wonder what the crime of these poor Arab tribes was and what they did that made Abu Bakr, the first Caliph, wage such long and brutal wars against them, killing tens of thousands of people. All Muslims are quick to answer that Abu Bakr was carrying out Muhammad's orders, as he himself claimed, because these Arab tribes deserted Islam as soon as Muhammad died. Therefore, the fight with them was inevitable.
Advanced countries and free human beings do not comprehend or accept this answer which ignores the simplest principles of human rights and personal freedom to believe in the religious doctrine of their choice. If the reader were given the opportunity to read any of the Islamic history books, he would discover by himself the outrageous brutality which was committed in these wars. Multitudes were massacred, and the survivors were forced to re-embrace Islam and pay alms to Abu Bakr El Seddik, the father of A'isha wife of Muhammad. Of course, Abu Bakr was the first to whom Muhammad granted paradise. He said about him, "Abu Bakr is the most favorite to me among men, and his daughter A'isha is the most beloved among women."
The wars of apostasy are taught in all the schools of Arab and Islamic countries for all famous Islamic chroniclers such as the Tabari, Ibn Khaldun, Ibn Kathir and Suyuti recorded them in detail. In the Chronicles of the Tabari (part 2, pp. 258, 272), we read that Abu Bakr used to tell those whom he sent to fight the apostatized tribes:
"Call them to re-embrace Islam; if they refuse, do not spare any one of them. Burn them with fire and kill them with force and take the women and children as prisoners of war."
Abu Bakr frequently re-iterated these famous words to Muslim warriors 'Umar Ibn al-Khattab used to tell him that some of the tribes had returned to Islam, but they refused to pay him alms. They said that alms should be paid only to Muhammad, though they were ready to return to Islam. Abu Bakr would respond: "By God, if they refrain from giving me a rope which they used to pay to the apostle of God, I will fight them for refusing" (refer to p. 175 of Vol. I of Sahih of Muslim, interpretation of the Nawawi. Also refer to any book about the wars of the apostasy).
There is a most important contemporary book which was published by the Azhar University, entitled, "The khulafa' al-Rashidun" ("The Rightly Guided Caliphs") by Dr. Abu Zayd Shalabi, professor of Islamic civilization at the College of Arabic language . The book was published in 1967. The author presented detailed information about the Wars of Apostasy which covered 20 pages (pp. 41-60). We would like to quote the following here:
"Abu Bakr sent eleven Muslim generals against eleven cities to fight the apostates. Many were forced to re-embrace Islam. Among those countries were Bahrin which was invaded by al-'Ala' Ibn al-Hadrami, and Yemen which was attacked by Suwayd Ibn Maqrin. Kalid Ibn al-Walid went to fight against Tulayha, the tribe of Bany Asad and its neighboring Arab tribes."
Then, Abu Zayd comments on these wars on page 60:
"The victories gained by Muslims in the wars of apostasy had one very significant result: These victories deterred anyone who intended to apostatize from Islam."
The point, then, Dr. Shalabi, is that by threat of death, Islam attempted to keep people against their will, in the realm of Islam. Aren't you also ashamed to record in your book, that by means of offensive wars, Islam spread all over the Middle East! Does not that motivate you to re-examine your religion? Your logic is very strange. These wars deterred anyone who intended to relinquish Islam because he would face the same fate which other Arab tribes had faced. Yet the people of Indonesia will not be deterred or intimidated; their civilized government protects them. They come to Christ by the millions and we pray that you, too, will come.
Ibn Hisham, in "Muhammad's Biography "(Al-Sirat El Nabawia, part 4, p. 180 ), says:
"When Muhammad died, most Meccans were about to turn away from Islam and wanted to do so. Suhayl Ibn 'Amru stood up and said: 'Anyone who relinquishes Islam, we will cut his head off.' People changed their minds and were afraid."
This was in regard to Meccans, but the majority of the Arab tribes actually turned away from Islam. Abu Bakr fought them. The ruthlessness of Khalid Ibn al-Walid was very apparent. Dr. Abu Zayd said about Khalid Ibn al-Walid that he was the one who gouged out the eyes of apostates.
Still, there are important questions in this regard which beg our attention and they are: Why did the Arabs become apostate after the death of Muhammad? Why did the Meccans intend to turn away from Islam? The familiar answer is that they had embraced Islam under the threat of the sword because Muhammad forced them to choose between Islam or death.
There are two important questions to which a large number of people would like to have answers.
The First Question
How Do Muslims Justify Killing Apostates?
The assassination of an apostate (one who turns away from his faith) is considered to be a breach of freedom of religious belief as well as an obvious contradiction of the International Declaration of Human Rights (item 18) which most of the Arab countries have signed. What do contemporary Muslim scholars say about this serious matter?
The scholars of Kuwait and Qatar dealt with this question. The weekly Kuwaiti Magazine, "The Islamic Society" in its issue of April 17,1984, p. 26 said:
"Somebody may say: Do you want to deny freedom to people?' We say to him: If what is meant by freedom is to disbelieve in God's religion, or the freedom of infidelity and apostasy, then that freedom is abolished and we do not recognize it; we even call for its eradication, and we strive to oppress it. We declare that publicly and in daylight"' (Quoted from Dr. Taha Jabir's article).
Then Dr. Jabir goes on to explain that Islam does not acknowledge this sort of freedom at all; namely, the freedom of apostasy. He then begins (on page 26) to criticize Islamic governments which allow the media means to make apostasy easier, to regard it as a personal right to anyone who seeks it.
The International Declaration of Human Rights
In order to understand the response of Islam to this declaration, let us go to another Arab Islamic country. Dr. Ahmad from Qatar has a response to this declaration. Dr. Ahmad is a contemporary Muslim scholar and a reputed professor of Islamic law at the University of Qatar. In 1981, he published a famous book under the title, "Individual Guarantees in Islamic Law". If we turn to pages 15 and 16 of this book, we find him saying:
"Item 18 of the International Declaration of Human Rights states that each individual has the full right to change his faith or to relinquish it as he wishes in order to protect the freedom of thought and the freedom of belief. We wonder if this freedom of changing one's faith would be conducive to harm him along with others? Or even if the purpose of changing the faith is to sow the seeds of riots and spread viciousness in the land or to waver the faith from the hearts of others?"
What did you mean, Dr. Ahmad, when you said: "Even if changing one's faith would be conducive to harm one's self?" Is this your personal point of view or is it the point of view of the person himself? Why do you impose your personal point of view on all peoplebecause you think that it is a sound view? You believe that relinquishing Islam causes harm to the person who does it, but this is your own conviction. What if somebody else believes differently and is convinced that to continue as a Muslim will bring him harm? If for his own welfare, he wants to be converted to Christianity and to believe in the One who died for him so that he may live a life of peace, joy, love and holiness, why do you come to that person and tell him, "We forbid you! We do not grant you the freedom to change your faith. If you do that, we will kill you lest you harm yourself!"
Maybe it was for this reason that Muhammad, Ali and 'Uthman killed the apostates and Abu Bakr fought those who turned away from Islam, killing tens of thousands ... "lest they harm themselves" !
In regard to your statement that the one who relinquishes his faith will shake faith in the hearts of others: this has nothing to do with his conviction. It is their problem with their own creed and not with him. He is seeking his own spiritual welfare and is persuaded to embrace another religion. Maybe it is better for those people to doubt their faith or even to have it uprooted from their hearts, because it may be a mere fruitless illusion which would lead to destruction.
There is something called human rights, Dr. Ahmad. That is, a man has the right to be freely and intellectually convinced to embrace the creeds he wants and to worship God according to his own persuasion. The civilized countries as well as the United Nations have acknowledged that, ignoring of course, the command of your prophet: "Whoever changes his faith, kill him!"
You said that the apostate spreads viciousness in the land. Does the one who is converted to the Christianity with its noble spiritual principles included in the Gospel spread corruption on earth, or is it the one who holds to Islam that kills those who change their faith? Christianity is clearly manifest in the Gospel. It calls us to worship the one God and it emphasizes loveeven for our enemies. It calls for a life of holiness and peace.
The Second Question
How Can Muslims Deny the Compulsion of Force?
Most often Muslims who really desire to know the truth and who believe that their faith respects man's freedom, cite the Qur'anic phrase, "There is no compulsion in faith" as an evidence to their claim. Those people do not know its meaning as it was interpreted by the Muslim scholars. We have already seen that Islam states that the apostate must be killed, but in order to understand the meaning of "There is no compulsion in faith," refer to the answers of the contemporary and former scholars of Islam.
The Sheikh Muhammad Mutawilli al-Sha'rawi
He is one of the most famous contemporary scholars in Egypt. Millions of people in the Islamic world watch his television programs as he constantly attacks Christianity. He claims that Christians are infidels, and he stirs Muslims in Egypt to attack Christian churches, burn them and kill the infidels. Local Egyptian newspapers and magazines report this, too. I have not met this man nor have I watched his program, but I have read all of his books. In one of his famous books, "You Ask and Islam Answers", I found the following (page 52 of part 2):
"Some ask: How does Islam say that there is no compulsion in faith, and yet it commands the killing of the apostate? We say to them: You are free to believe or not to believe, but once you embrace the faith you are not free (anymore) and you should be bound to Islam otherwise you will suffer punishment and the restrictions, among them is the killing of the apostate; that is, there is no compulsion in embracing the faith but, if you do, you are not free to relinquish it."
Sha'rawi's statement is in full conformity with the law of killing the apostate. It acknowledges the law and validates it. In his interpretation of this verse, Ibn Hazm, al-Baydawi agrees fully with the Sha'rawi. A man (be he a Christian or a Jew) is free to believe or disbelieve; that is, he has the option either to accept Islam or to pay the poll tax. If he is not religious, he is not free to choose another religion, but must become a Muslim. Ibn Hazm remarks that:
"It was truly related to us that Muhammad used to force the Arab pagans to embrace the faith. He used to give them the option either to accept Islam or death. That is forcing people to accept Islam (refer to Vol. 8, part 11, p. 196, "The Sweetened" Al Mohalla)."
What is of greatest significance to us in the Sha'rawi's claim is that whoever believes in Islam does not have freedom to relinquish it, otherwise he must be put to death.