The Punishment for Apostasy in Islam

The Punishment for Apostasy in Islam (A. R. Mughal) The basic charter for human rights was acclaimed by the United Nations in 1948. It was the Holy Prophet of Islam (Peace be on him) who really set the pace 1400 years ago by proclaiming, “There is no compulsion in Deen.” (Al-Bakarah-256). The word ‘Deen’ has been purposely used here by us instead of the usual translated version “religion”. For ‘Deen’ in arabic connotes religious tenets, social systems, political behaviour and a selective way of life chosen by a people under specific conditions. The position that emerges after a survey of various verses of the Holy Quran, may be summed up by saying that not only is there complete freedom of conscience to profess, to practise or to change religious views in Islam but that no punitive measures of any sort are laid down against peaceful dissidents. This rational approach runs like a golden thread throughout the entire fabric of the Quranic teachings. Islam is a religion of preaching and guidance. It must put its own house in order before its message to the outside world could assume an aspect of credibility. The muslims were enjoined to fight against the oppressors till religious persecution had ceased and men were free to practise the religion of their choice (Al-Bakarah-194). Only abrasive deviation from the pristine text of the Holy Quran, could contrive to make distinctions between the ‘ingress’ and the ‘egress’—-two strait-jackets invented by Maulana Maudoodi —for the application of the two above-quoted verses in general terms. For in the opinion of this muslim divine, the doors of ingress to Islam were always open. No compulsion was permissible to push someone inside the fold of Islam. But henceforth, Islam was like a rat-trap. Once you were inside, the doors of egress were firmly and finally closed. Should you decide to get out of this trap, you will be immediately cut down by the sword of Damocles suspended over your head by a single hair — in this case, capital punishment for apostasy. The hostility of the orthodox theologians towards the reasonable tenets of Islam is so inveterate and implacable that they now symbolise, as it were, as evil models of a primitive faith for the outsiders. Periodic witch-hunts for apostates in Islam have been a distinctive feature 36 REVIEW OF RELIGIONS of our past history and even now fanaticism is on the rampage in a certain section of our society. In a part of the world where poverty sums up our ultimate destiny, where life wastes away unnoticed, where most things are governed by religious bias and sectarian hatreds, our only ray of hope is the Book of God in our midst. There is little that one could not do if we made up our minds to adopt the Holy Quran as our guiding principle. The doctrine of in-errance for the Muftees, the Qadhees, the jurists and least of all, the Maulvis does not exist in Islam. More than anything else, it is the Holy Quran which is the final arbiter among the Muslims owing allegiance to various sectional denominations of our faith. This is not to say that the Sunnah of the Holy Prophet (Peace be on him) the traditions, the verdicts of the Khulafai-Rashedin and the honest opinions of Muslim jurists could be under-rated in the category of partial consolations. Far from it. It is only where a fanatic’s knowledge becomes a conviction and his common philosophy acquires the negative characteristics of that which it purports to disclaim and replace, that it becomes necessary to draw a line between the religious heresies and the infallible injunctions of the Holy Quran. The questions which are qualitative and which do not lend themselves easily to scientific analysis, cannot be legitimised, much less answered, with blind faith alone. The cult of force in matters of religion, is not a phenomenon of recent origin. In the dark ages, millions of Christians — men, women and children — were hunted out of their homes, chased like wild beasts and dragged to the fiery stakes. Their sole crime was that they had been declared apostates by their co-religionists only because they read the Bible in their mother tongue. Catholic priests in France issued a ‘Fatwah’ (religious decree) that all Protestants, irrespective of age or sex, were heretics and as such were to be massacred on Bartholomeo Day — 24 August, 1662. This horrible ‘Fatwah’ was carried out to the hilt, and thousands of innocent people were put to the sword to appease the religious frenzy of some blood-thirsty Christian priests. The Clergy justified this blood-bath in the name of God and His apostles. One has to admit reluctantly that there is a curious resemblance between the conduct of the old Christian priests and the ‘Fatwas’ now being issued by some of the muslim divines for the decimation of apostates in Islam. The end result may perhaps be the same in both cases. There is nothing new in human nature. The only thing that changes, are the names we assign to objects. 324 years previously, people had the same troubles as we have now. Religious fanaticism then was the same as it appears to us today. Only the people have changed. The only thing new in the world, is the history we do not know. If Bartholomeo Day could be celebrated again in the present times — with perhaps a different name — the result could be identical or even worse. Our country is full of peaceful and law-abiding citizens. The man in the THE PUNISHMENT FOR APOSTASY IN ISLAM 37 street is more or less gentle and usually pays scant attention to the rantings of the Maulvis. Eventually, perhaps even sooner, the saner elements in our society, are bound to react to the fanatics’ outcry for death to the apostates and put an end to this theological madness. For in default, the Maulvis could engineer an outrage which could only be measured by the size of its aftermath. Islam, basically, is a religion of peace. “There is no compulsion whatsoever in religion”, says the Holy Quran. Again it says “whosoever obeys the Messenger, obeys Allah, and whosoever turns away (then) we have not sent thee as a warder over them”. Again it says: “Proofs have come unto you from your Lord, so whosoever sees it, is for his own good and whosoever is blind, is blind to his own hurt; and I am not a keeper over you”. These Quranic injunctions prove, if nothing else, that Islam disavows compulsion in religion in any form or manner. The people who are immune to any penitential feelings may not like the intent of the above-quoted verses and persist in pursuing the ghost of apostasy to its bitter end. For persons such as these, we can only pray to Allah for guiding them to the right path. Nothing but a bold orientation of Islam, to separate the vital from the lifeless and to convert the muslims into citizens of the present world from the archaic incongruity that they are today, is what is needed most at the moment. The Maulvis’ hold on the masses is undoubtedly massive and apparently one does not yet see any light at the end of the tunnel. But let there be no misgivings about one thing! Whosoever believes in the Unity of God and the Prophethood of Muhammad; declares himself a muslim and is a peaceful and law-abiding citizen; renegade or no renegade, he is under the protection of Allah and His Prophet. The Punishment for Apostasy in Islam There are three main and specific sources of guidance in Islam: (a) The Holy Quran. (b) TheSunnah. (c) The Traditions. The foremost and before anything else, is the Holy Quran, which emphasises, beside other things, the Unity of God, and the exalted status of the most glorious and Merciful Being. The Quran contains injunctions regarding each-and every facet of our religion and nothing of importance, pertaining to the well-being and social problems of the believers and the humanity at large, is left undecided in the Book of God. It is completely unambiguous about the basic principles which should govern an Islamic polity. All that is against the verdict of the Quran is to be rejected outright without fear or favour. For there is nothing than can supersede the word of. God in any way or manner whatsoever. Islam is not like a high-school seminar where everyone has an opinion of his own and insists to be heard, the stupidity 38 REVIEW OF RELIGIONS of his views notwithstanding. The Quran is the supreme arbiter in all disputes and its decisions are final and binding in all cases at all times. The second source of guidance, is the Sunnah of the Holy Prophet (Peace be on him). In matters of disputes and friction among the Muslims, the Sunnah is the first sign-post which leads us to the solution of our problems according to the Quran. The Sunnah and the traditions are two entirely distinct and separate entities. For the traditions were compiled 150—200 years after the demise of the Holy Prophet (Peace be on him). The Sunnah on the other hand, followed step by step the revelation of the Holy Quran and existed simultaneously as the verses of the Quran were being sent down, spread over a span of 23 years. The Sunnah does not refer to any past events of doubtful authenticity. For, as already pointed out, it closely followed behind the descent of the Quran. There is no concept of uncertainty in the fact that the Muslims were following the injunctions of the Holy Quran in respect of vital matters like war against the disbelievers, treatment of prisoners of war, spoils of war, the administration of the occupied territories, the punishment for rebellion against the Islamic State and innumerable other matters both physical and otherwise. All this was being done when there was no trace of the traditions yet; because the Holy Prophet (Peace be on him) was still alive and available for guidance at all times and occasions. The third source of guidance in Islam, is the ‘Hadees’. This source does not function independently but comes into force only in support of its fore- runners, the Quran and the Sunnah. The traditions were pressed into service primarily for the benefit of those not fully comprehending the Word of God with all its implications. There are some muslim sects, who give preference to Hadees over the Holy Quran. They forget that, at best, the only sure thing about the Hadees is the uncertainty about its sources. Again, there are others who say that they could not be a party in believing something which was compiled centuries after the demise of the Holy Prophet and as such there was no way that they could have a firm position about the Hadees one way or the other. It is not the intention to discuss here the problem of the authenticity of the Hadees. Enough to say that Hadees is a source of guidance for the muslims in many ways and should be ignored only in cases where it conflicts with the dictates of the Quran. This preamble was necessary before taking up the issue whether simple apostasy without any political strings attached is at all punishable in Islam. In the Holy Quran, there are many verses which mention apostasy sometimes expressly and sometimes by import. One point on which there is no argument from any side that there is not a single verse in the Quran, from its beginning to the end which stipulates the death penalty for apostasy, expressly or by inference. One may be mentally ill, over-cautious or —the ultimate putdown — suffering from acute theological bigotry; yet one thing is certain. The Word of God has the final say in all matters. It can neither misguide nor misjudge THE PUNISHMENT FOR APOSTASY IN ISLAM 39 (Al-Tariq — 14-15). The cardinal rule in the Quran is: “There is no compulsion in religion”. (Al Bakarah — 256). This basic concept of Islamic teaching finds endorsement in many other verses of the Holy Quran. A man is free to choose between truth and falsehood at all times. Freedom of conscience is thus the life-blood of all Islamic teachings. This principle is always to be kept in view when studying incidents and effects of Ahadees, the practice during the Caliphates or the opinions of the Fuqha. Everyone, without exception, must be judged by the letter and spirit of the Book of God. No deviations, variations or interpretations are to be accepted — no matter from what source — which run counter to the Quranic verses. An effort is being made at present in our country to transform spiritual concepts into political ones. A group of Ulema, who originally opposed the creation of Pakistan, are at the helm of the controversy regarding apostasy in Islam. It is not that these Ulema see the truth differently from us. A situation is being created out of nothing to get maximim political benefit for themselves and their henchmen. The question of apostasy in Islam has been discussed thread-bare in the Sub-Continent during the last 50 years or more. There is nothing new in this and it could have been treated with the contempt it deserved; were it not for the fact that some responsible quarters might be misled by the persistent uproar of the Ahrar Maulvis. It is for this reason alone that we are constrained to air our views for perhaps the hundredth time all over again, Islam is basically a liberation theology. It is steadily attracting more and more scholars from the West and other parts of the world. The die-hards think it a fundamental danger for the faith. But the Holy Quran is on the side of the liberals. Says the Holy Quran: “There is no compulsion in religion. Surely the right way has become distinct from error” (2-256). The meanings of this verse are self-evident as has already been explained by us. Again it says: “And obey Allah and obey the Messenger, and be on your guard. But if you turn away (from Islam) then know that Our Messenger is responsible only for conveying Our Message.” (Al-Maida 92). This verse indicates a clear reference to apostasy but prescribes no worldly punishment for anyone. In fact it says in unmistakable terms that the responsibility of the Messenger is limited to Conveying to the people, the message of God. Again the Quran says; “He who follows the right way, follows it only for the good of his own soul; and he who goes astray, goes astray only to his own loss. And no bearer of burden shall bear the burden of another.” (Bani-Israel •—• 15). It is crystal clear from the above verse that everyone carries his own cross in matters of faith. No body will lift the burden except his own. Perhaps the Ulema know too much or may be too little. It is their dark side of genius which prompts them to assume the role of the Divine warders where none were required. Even the Holy Prophet’s role has been confined to that of a preacher only (5-92). 40 REVIEW OF RELIGIONS Nowhere in the above-quoted verses, the Holy Prophet (Peace be on him) or his followers have been permitted to put to the sword the old or the new opponents (apostates), or if possible, to stone them to death. The killing of dissidents — barring those engaged in actual hostilities •—• is a primitive habit and such folly as this could squander the moral standing of the Muslims for all times. We would now revert to specifics and like to quote some verses of the Holy Quran which deal exclusively with the issue of apostasy in Islam. Says the Holy Quran: “And they will not cease fighting you until they turn you back from your Faith, if they can. And whosoever from among you becomes an apostate and dies in the condition, it is they whose works shall be vain in this world and the next. These are the inmates of the Fire and therein shall they abide.” Nothing could be clearer and more explicit than the above verse in so much as the one question that counts most, has been decisively answered in it. The verse deals primarily with those who turn back from their Faith. There is no mention whatsoever of killing or stoning to death of such persons. This interpretation is not confined to us only. A renowned Muslim scholar interprets the above verse as under; “It contains a warning against apostasy but at the same time urges the apostates to repent during their lifetime to avoid Hell-fire.” (Tafseer Ruhul-Bayan vol. 1, p. 227). Again the Holy Quran says: “Whosoever forsakes Islam for another faith, it shall not be accepted of him, and in the Hereafter, he shall be among the losers.” (Al-Imran — 85). This verse also provides a standout example for freedom of choice in matters or religion. This, in essence, is the message of the verse under reference. It applies equally to apostates and other disbelievers and falls short of making any distinction between the two categories. Punishment for both is reserved in the Hereafter. It is a pity that the Ulema did not have a say in this matter. Otherwise a considerable number of innocent people would have lost their lives at the altar of ignorance. In fact it would have been a rout either way for the real disbelievers as well as the victims of the Fatwah- mongers. Again, the Holy Quran says: “How shall Allah guide a people who have disbelieved after believing and who had borne witness that the Messenger was true and to whom clear proofs had come and Allah guides not the wrong doers. As for such people, their reward is the curse of Allah on them, and of angels and of men all together . . . except those who repent thereafter and amend. Surely Allah is Most Forgiving, Merciful.” (Al-Imran — 86-89). If our Ulema are honest in their professions of faith, they should immediately fold their campaign of hatred against the so-called apostates. The above verse emphatically demolishes the sand-hill of their arguments. If the apostates were to be put to the sword after renunciation of Islam, there would not be any time-lag available to them for the purposes of Tauba, etc. There is no deadline fixed for repenting. This aspect clearly repudiates the concept of violence or terror against those guilty of apostasy. Once again, says the Book of God: “Those who believe, then disbelieve, then again believe, THE PUNISHMENT FOR APOSTASY IN ISLAM 41 then disbelieve and thereafter go on increasingly in disbelief; Allah will never forgive them nor will He guide them to any way of deliverance.” (Al-Nisa — 138). If a person had to be killed for his very first defection; he could not possibly have a history of conversions. This verse provides the decisive showdown between us and our adversaries. The Ulema can never have it their way unless they include this verse also in the list of the other more than 500 verses of the Holy Quran which, according to them, have been abrogated and, therefore, no longer operative. There are numerous other verses in the Holy Quran which establish beyond a shadow of doubt that no compulsion is permissible in matters of faith. It is because faith is a matter of conscience and by its very nature conscience cannot be compelled. Human nature revolts against the doctrine of compulsion and there is no evidence in its favour either in the Quran or in the practice of the Holy Prophet or of his succeeding Caliphs. The Word of God clearly envisages the natural death of an apostate and any punishment in this sphere is reserved for him in the Hereafter. The Quran itself places hypocrites at par with the apostates; but in their case, history bears out a most humane and liberal policy of tolerance by the Holy Prophet. So much so that the Holy Prophet said the Jinaza (funeral) prayer for Abdullah Bin Ubayi Bin Saloul, the chief of the hypocrites of Madina. Let no one say that the Quran had a soft corner for the hypocrites. Far from it. The Holy Quran specifies the lowest depth of the Fire for the hypocrites (Al-Nisa —146). It is inconceivable that the Quran could formulate two different patterns of punishment for the hypocrites and the apostates because both the groups had first believed and then disbelieved. Thus there is nothing whatsoever in the Holy Quran from which any inference could be drawn that apostasy is punishable with death or indeed with any worldly penalty. This meets just about every criterion for freedom of conscience and fundamental human rights. As pointed out the second source of guidance for the Ummah is the Sunnah of the Holy Prophet. There is not a single instance in the life-time of the Holy Prophet (Peace be on him) when any man or woman was smitten on account of apostasy only. The following incidents occured after the Holy Prophet’s Hijra to Madina which have definite bearing on the punishment of apostasy: (a) A beduin came to Madina and embraced Islam at the hands of the Holy Prophet. He was afflicted with fever after sometime and considering this an ill-omen, asked the Holy Prophet to abrogate his covenant of Baiat. He saw the Holy Prophet on more than one occasion for this purpose, but his request was turned down. Eventually the beduin left Medina for his desert home (Sahih Bukhari). This incident provides ample proof that there was no such thing as death for apostasy in the days of the Holy Prophet. Otherwise this beduin would have been put to death, the first time he declared his disbelief in Islam. 42 KEVEEW OF RELIGIONS (b) An article in the treaty of Hudaibiyyah stipulated that if any of the Meccans embraced Islam and sought refuge at Madina, they would be returned to the Meccans. On the other hand if a Muslim repudiated Islam and wanted to identify himself with the Meccans, he would be allowed to do so. (Sahih Bukhari) (Egyptian edition — vol. II p. 76). The above details clearly establish the fact that apostasy was not an offence! at least not in the life-time of the Holy Prophet. (c) Abdullah bin Abi Sarha was one of the scribes of the Holy Prophet. He became an apostate and joined the Meccans in their war against the Muslims. When Mecca fell to the Muslim Army, Abu Sarha was one of those who were refused amnesty by the Holy Prophet. He, being the foster-brother of Hazrat Usman, took shelter with him for some days. When order was restored in Mecca, Hazrat Usman requested the Holy Prophet spare Sarha’s life. The Holy Prophet, after some hesitation, forgave Abu Sarha (Tafseer by Imam Razi — vol. IV p. 484). On this point, it could be proved conclusively from both ends of the pencil that there was no penalty for apostasy in Islam. There is ample evidence available In Ahadees that the Holy Prophet never accepted intercession In the matter of the ‘Hudood’. (d) Some people from Uraina came to Madina and accepted Islam. The local climate did not appear to suit them, so the Holy Prophet gave them permission to live in the suburb of Madina along with the keepers of the State herds. These miscreants not only tortured and killed the keepers of the herds but also drove away with all the camels and goats ect. An armed party of muslims was sent after them who took them prisoners and brought them back to Madina. These people were executed under the orders of the Holy Prophet for committing murder and robbery. There is nothing in this Hadees which lends support to the view that apostasy is punishable with death. The apostates from Araina were not killed for apostasy but for the triple crime of torture, murder and robbery. (e) “A woman became an apostate on the day of Uhad. She was executed by orders of the Holy Prophet because she refused to repent.” This Hadees is palpably false on the face of it as the Holy Prophet never directed the killing of women for apostasy. One of the narrators of this Hadees was Muhammad B. Abdul Malik who revelled in fake Ahadees and as such had been rejected as a true source by eminent Muslim theologians. The third source of guidance for the Ummah are the Traditions. Some reported sayings of the Holy Prophet whose circumstantial antecedents cannot be fully determined, must receive specific interpretation so as to bring them Into conformity with the Quran and Sunnah. It must be borne in mind THE PUNISHMENT FOR APOSTASY IN ISLAM 43 that all these sayings were recorded 150—200 years after the demise of the Holy Prophet. The following are some of the traditions which pertain to the subject in issue: (a) Anyone who changes his allegiance or loyalty, should be executed, (saying attributed to the Holy Prophet by various sources). To see reason at its worst, if one could examine this Hadees at some length, it would mean that conversion from any other religion into Islam or vice-versa, would render the convertee liable to capital punishment. There is obvious thinness in this argument and even our opponents would not readily agree to this interpretation. Maulana Maudoodi has translated this Hadees as under: Anyone (that is to say, Muslim) who changes his religion, should be executed. (MurtadkiSaza Island QanoonMa’ne— p. 12). The words within brackets (that is to say, Muslim) are only an interpretation and merely an innovation of the Maulana Sahib. This innovation or fabrication could not withstand an even-handed discussion of the word ‘Deen’. The Arabic connotation of this word means religious tenets, allegiance to a political system or the way of living of a Community. The Hadees only implies that changing of allegiance or loyalties when a state of war exists between two parties or communities, would amount to high treason and, therefore, punishable with death. This is a common code of war recognised by all the nations of the world. To apply it specifically to apostasy would be a far cry from the truth. If our Ulema had searched deeply, they could have discovered the glimmer of a correct interpretation of his Hadees. (b) Said the Holy Prophet: “The killing of a Muslim is permissible only for three reasons: (i) An adulterer, (ii) One who becomes an apostate and wages war against God and His Prophet, (iii) A murderer.” (Abu Dawood-Kitabul-Hudood). There are two or three similar Ahadees and the killing of apostates is invariably linked with their waging war against God and his Prophet. It does not require any deep thinking to realise that even if a Muslim waged war against a Muslim state he would be treated as a traitor and dealt with accordingly. It is no use saying things which the Ulema know to be untrue A Muslim State makes no distinction between a Muslim rebel and an apostate rebel. It is not known why such traditions are quoted in support of death for simple apostasy. (c) Abu Musa Asha’ri was appointed Governor for Yemen by the Holy Prophet. After some time Mua’z Bin Jabal was also despatched to Yemen to assist Abu Musa Asha’ri. When Mua’z reached the 44 REVIEW OF RELIGIONS Government House, he saw a Jew sitting there. This Jew had previously embraced Islam but reverted to his faith afterward. Mua’z recognised him and ordered his immediate execution. Mua’z repeated his demand three times until the Jew was executed on the spot. (Murtad Ki Saza by Maulana Maudoodi — p. 14). The inference drawn by Maulana Maudoodi is that this Jew was an apostate and therefore was put to the sword by the Muslim rulers. The conclusion arrived at by Maulana Maudoodi is incorrect for the following reasons: (i) No saying of the Holy Prophet has been quoted in this case. Someone has narrated a doubtful incident in which a Sahabi used his own initiative in the killing of a Jew. Ijtehad of even august Sahabis cannot be accepted as a binding precedent if it flagrantly contravenes the verses of the Holy Quran and the practice of the Holy Prophet. (ii) This Jew had previously embraced Islam. Afterwards he j oined the forces of Musailma Kuzzab and had tortured and killed some Muslims from Banu Haneefa. This was the reason why he was executed by the order of Mua’z Bin Jabal. Much is being made of the war waged by Hazrat Abu Bakr against the rebel tribes around Madina and other places in Hejaz. There were, in all, eleven tribes of Murtaddin who had defected from Islam, three of them having done so in the Holy Prophet’s own time and the remaining eight in that of Hazrat Abu Bakr. Tabari has given a full account of all the rebel tribes who had refused to pay taxes to the Central Government at Madina. Actually it was not a simple case of defiance against the Divine Commandmant of Zakat. This was not an issue with the common people. The core of the problem was that rebel tribes resented the supremacy of the Quraish over the rest of the Arab tribes. Some of the tribes even had the effrontry to attack Madina but were beaten back by forces led by Hazrat Abu Bakr himself. According to Tabari, the revolt of the tribes against Madina was not a case of Irtidad (apostasy). Even if it was, then it was more a political than a religious defection. There are clear indications that the first Caliph had never acted on the principle that a change of faith, even though peaceful, would have to be suppressed by force. Abu Bakr’s wars, without exception, were waged against the rebels. Tabari also mentions in his History, that Khalid bin Walid refused to pardon the rebels unless they first surrendered those of their comrades who had burnt to death Muslims or mutilated their bodies. Professors Wellhausen and Laetani (Encyclopedia of Islam) have also expressed the view that the THE PUNISHMENT FOR APOSTASY IN ISLAM 45 rebellions in the days of Khulafai-Rashedeen had pure political hues and had less than nothing to do with Islam and apostasy. The plea of our Ulema that Hazrat Abu Bakr waged wars against the apostates only, is borne out neither by history nor by the flimsy data produced by the zealots in support of their claims. It is a pity that our Ulema continue to believe that the Murtaddin were poor harmless people who under some evil influence had defected from Islam. Muslim divines like Maulana Maudoodi still imagined that the Murtaddin had committed no wrong beyond with-holding a few dinars of Zakat and that they never fought against the Muslims nor hurt anyone. Our Maulvis also believe that the Murtuddin had no quarrel with the Islamic state. All this goes to show the depth of ignorance of some of our Muslim scholars. Morbidity had replaced intelligence and good sense so much that a number of our theologians felt oddly restless until they could endanger the lives of some innocent people with their Fatwahs. Ibne Khalladun has recorded that’ Abs and Zubian were the first among the rebel tribes who spearheaded the attack on Madina. If it was a gentle case of with-holding of Zakat by some ignorant people, then the fault lay with Hazrat Abu Bakr who took the initiative in the fighting. But all the great Muslim historians maintain that it was the rebellious tribes who set the tone in the severe fighting that ensued immediately after the demise of the Holy Prophet. It would be a sheer travesty of facts to accuse Hazrat Abu Bakr of initiating a civil war merely because some people were not offering their regular prayers and were with-holding some goats from the Zakat levy. The apostates had not only made secret plans to occupy Madina, but had also murdered the sincere Muslims among them who persistently opposed rebellion against the Centre. According to Tabari, as soon as the intimation of the death of the Holy Prophet was received, Banu Zubian and ‘Abs attacked and killed all the devoted muslims around them. Their example was followed by other tribes and scores of true believers were tortured, killed and burnt in the most atrocious manner. These are facts of history which only the stark blind could deny. A fringe element among our Ulema (including Maulana Maudoodi and Shibbir Ahmad Usmani) has flirted with the notion that even genuine repentence by an apostate cannot save his neck from the guillotine. It is, therefore, no wonder that such extremists as these would perhaps never be dissuaded from foreclosing the redemption of misguided people. But in a situation like this, such fanatics would be at odds with their own version of the wars waged by Kulafai-Rashedeen against the Murtuddin. For there is irrefutable evidence available that Hazrat Abu Bakr, much to the discomfiture of our Maulana, never indulged in mass slaughter of the apostates. Even in the Battle of Yamamah against Musailmah Kuzzal — 46 REVIEW OF RELIGIONS which was the fiercest — the lives of thousands of people were spared by Khalid bin Walid. The situation in a nutshell, was that the Murtuddin had rebelled openly against the authority of the Islamic State. They killed hundreds of devoted Muslims and were determined to wipe out and destroy the Islamic State and Islam itself. Allama Ami who wrote a commentary on Sahih Bukhari says: “Hazrat Abu Bakr waged war against the tribes not because they withheld Zakat but because they had rebelled against the State in the first instance and had killed a large number of Muslims.” (Ami — vol. II p. 236). There is not the slightest doubt that had Hazrat Abu Bakr not used maximum force against the apostate tribes, there would have survived no Muslim and no Islam. The consensus of opinion among the Muslim and non-muslim historians is that the Murtuddin were clearly the aggressors. They not only refused to pay the Government taxes but took up the sword against the Muslims and thus commenced hostilities. The thesis that the apostasy of the tribes was confined to a difference of doctrine, is altogether false as has been proved abundantly in the preceding paragraphs. When Bani Asad, Ghatafan, Hawzan, Bani Sulaim and Bani Tsi were finally crushed and defeated, Khalid bin Walid granted amnesty to the remainder only when the persons who had burned the muslims alive, and mutilated their dead bodies, were produced before him for punishment. The Murtuddin were really infidels who in the heyday of Muslim power, had accepted Islam only as a political expendiency. The opportunity to take revenge of their defeats at Mecca and Hunain was furnished to them when the Holy Prophet died so unexpectedly and the muslims felt like orphans in the midst of hostile multitudes. Had it not been for the valour and wonderful courage and strategy of Hazrat Abu Bakr, there would have been left no Muslims and no Islam itself. The people who think that Hazrat Abu Bakr staked the very existence of the Islamic State and Islam merely because a few people did not believe in paying the Zakat, are either ignorant of the early history of Islam or they deliberately seek to mislead the unwary. There are some Ulema who take delight in believing that spiritual evolution in Islam has come to an end and that God has now finally decided to withdraw all His Blessings and Bounties from the human beings till eternity. We are not indulging in any arguments regarding the finality of prophethood in this paper. This is hardly our subject in the present instance. But when the Maulvis gleefully cite the example of Musailma Kuzzal and other imposters in the days of the Holy Prophet, we are just not sure what the Maulvis want to prove. Do they want to prove that Hazrat Abu Bakr fought and vanquished the false Prophets because this was left undone by the Holy Prophet himself? According to the Maulvis, the first Caliph fought Musailma and others because they had become apostates after laying claims to Prophethood. What THE PUNISHMENT FOR APOSTASY IN ISLAM 47 the Maulvis forget very conveniently is that Musailma and other false prophets had claimed prophethood in the life-time of the Holy Prophet. In fact Musailma came to Madina in person with a delegation of B anu Haneefah and proposed to the Holy Prophet that he would withdraw his claim to prophethood if he was nominated his (The Holy Prophet’s) successor. The Holy Prophet turned down his offer but never ordered his arrest nor issued any instructions for executing him as an apostate and an imposter. Could some bright Maulvi enlighten us with the solution of this mystery? Most probably not. The only plausible reason was that Musailma at that stage had not revolted against the authority of the Islamic State. It is only on this account that he was not molested in Madina, his claim for prophethood notwithstanding. There is a similar case of Ibne Sayyad. This man lived in Madina and had claimed prophethood in the life-time of the Holy Prophet. There is a record of dialogue between Ibne Sayyad—the pseudo-prophet and the Holy Prophet. Hazrat Umar wanted to kill him but the Holy Prophet forbade him to do so. Where are the protagonists of killing peaceful citizen-prophets or no prophets? Can any Maulvi explain this contrast of behaviour between the Holy Prophet and the first Caliph? Well, here is the explanation. Masailma, when he came to Madina, was unarmed and a peaceful citizen of the Islamic State. The Holy Prophet had, therefore, no occasion to molest him or order his execution for laying false claim to prophethood. But when he confronted Khalid bin Walid—the representative of Hazrat Abu Bakr —• at Yamamah, he was at the head of an extremely powerful army consisting of more than 40,000 soldiers and was heading towards Madina in order to destroy the Islamic State and Islam itself. The writer of this paper is confident that any person with fear of God in his heart, would at once realise the difference between the two situations. He would also realise that Musailma was completely left alone in Madina in spite of his apostasy and claim to prophethood because he had arrived there as a peaceful citizen. Later when he took up arms against the Islamic State, he was dealt with according to law for the traitors and the rebels. It is hoped that the arguments of supporters of death penalty for for apostasy, have been finally clinched. There appears to be no need to go into further details of the doings of Khulafa succeeding Hazrat Abu Bakr. Before closing this paper, we will deal briefly with a verse of the Holy Quran advanced by Maulana Maudoodi in support of his executionary role against the apostates. He quotes from the Holy Quran: “But if they repent and observe prayer and pay the Zakat, then they are your brethren in Faith. And we explain the signs for a people who have knowlege. But if they break their oaths after their covenant and attack you on account of your religion, then fight these leaders of disbelief — surely they have no regard for their oaths •— that they may desist.” (Al-Taubah—11-12). There is nothing in the above verses which could incite someone to kill peaceful and law-abiding 48 REVIEW OF RELIGIONS apostates. In fact there is no mention of apostacy in these verses and only persons with extraordinary intelligence and fancy could have innovated the image of the murtuddin between the lines. The Maulana, instead of a comprehensive commentary on this verse — the only one he could find on the subject of apostasy in the Holy Quran, has abruptly tried to sidestep the issue which was beginning to irritate the minds of a large number of people besides his own. After an excessively brief explanation of the verse, he has quickly shifted his posture towards some Ahadees •— most of which are weak and therefore not dependable. According to Maudoodi Sahib, the word ‘Ahd’ in the verses, means a covenant to accept Islam. This interpretation has already been rejected by the following well-known muslim scholars! Maulana Shah Abdul Qadir, Maulana Ashraf AJi Thawnvi, Maulana Mohammad Hussan Deobandi, Maulana ‘Shibbir Ahmad Usmani, Maulana Ahmad Raza Khan Brailwi, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad. Mr. Abdullah Yusuf AH and Nawab Siddique Hasan Khan of Bhopal. Such renowned scholars as above, have shattered the ant-hill of Maulana Maudoodi in no uncertain manner. The matter does not end here. There is none in the long list of recongisable names of the Muslim divines, who ever offered the verses (11-12) in Surah Tauba in support of the thesis that Murtuddin should be executed. However, we have discussed this subject in detail in this paper and leave the judgement now to our readers. There are some Ulema in our country who would let the fate of the nation go hang as long as they get their full share of the spoils of lawlessness and disorder. There is an apparent contradiction between our social philosophy and system of religious faith. More than anywhere else in the world, there are hate-pedlars in our midst whose sole job is to pour more and more oil on the already inflamed atmosphere of religious intolerance. Pakistan is a sacred heritage for all of us — innocent men, women and children — who would wish to live in peace with their neighbours. Islam itself is a religion of peace and provides protection to all those who are peaceful citizens of this God-given country. It must never be overlooked that Pakistan was not achieved by conquest but as the result of a negotiated agreement between communities inhabiting the sub-continent. The minorities in both Pakistan and India were entitled to have equal rights and protection under the law. Nobody has got extra-proprietory or territorial rights in this land, least of all, the Maulvis who opposed the creation of Pakistan. All religious groups and factions in this country should learn to practise moderation in their behaviour towards each other. Amen! What is Islam? Islam literally means Peace, surrender of one’s Will; and to be in amity and concord. The significance of the name Islam is the attainment of a life of perfect peace and eternal happiness through complete surrender to the Will of God. The Quran.— the Holy Book of the Muslims — interprets it to be the religion whose teachings are in consonance with human nature. Islam, as the Quran has stated (5:4), is the completion of the religion inaugurated by God in the beginning of the world, on His sending the Quran through the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of God be on him). As a child is taught his alphabet, so God taught the religion to the world gradually and little by little, by sending His prophets at different times and to different peoples. When the world reached that stage of understanding when it was ready for the final lesson, He sent the last and complete Book through the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of God be on him).. This Book not only corrects the errors which had found their way into various religions, but preaches the truths which have not been preached before, on account of special circumstances of the society or the early stage of its development. At the same time it gathers together in itself the truths which were contained in any Divine revelation granted to any people for the guidance of men (The Quran 98:4). Lastly, it meets all the spiritual and moral requirements of an ever advancing humanity. This is Islam which is wrongly called Muhammadanism. According to Islam, the object of man’s life is its complete unfoldment. Islam does not support the idea that man is born in sin. It teaches that everyone has within him the seed of perfect development and it rests solely with a person himself to make or mar his fortune. We created man in the best make says the Holy Quran (95:5). The cardinal doctrine of Islam is the Unity of Godhead. There is none worthy of worship but the one and only God, and Muhammad is His Prophet. He is free from all defects, Holy and Transcendent. He is All Good, All Mercy and All Power. He has no partner. He neither begets nor is He begotten, because these are the traits of frail and weak humanity. Furthermore, Islam helps us to establish a permanent relationship with God and to realise Him during our earthly life as our Helper in all our affairs and undertakings. This Unity of God is the first and foremost pillar of Islam and every other belief hangs upon it. Islam requires belief in all the prophets, including Abraham, Moses, Jesus, Krishna, Buddha, Confucious and Zoroaster. We regard them all (and many more not mentioned here) as heavenly teachers born to reform and regenerate man and lead him to God. Adherents of some other-religions may consider it an act of piety to use disrespectful words and heap abuse on the prophets of other religions, but if a Muslim were to show the slightest disrespect towards the founder of any other faith, he does so at the cost of his own faith. He has to utter the respectful benediction Alaihis-Salam (peace be on him) after mentioning the name of every prophet. Thus Islam establishes peace between all religions. The REVIEW of RELIGIONS The Review of Religions is the oldest magazine of its kind published in the English language in the Indo-Pakistan Sub-Continent. Its first issue was published in 1902 and it has been continuously published since. It bears the distinction that it was initiated under the direction of Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian, the Promised Messiah himself. During more than eighty-one years the message of Islam has been conveyed through this magazine to hundreds of readers and many fortunate persons have recognised the truth of Islam and accepted it through studying it. The articles published in it deal not only with the doctrines and teachings of Islam but also set forth a comparative appreciation of the teachings of other faiths. One of its outstanding features is the refutations of the criticism of Islamicteachings by orientalists and non-muslim scholars. It also presents solutions in the light of Islamic teachings of the problems with which the Islamic world is from time to time confronted. A study of this magazine is indispensable for the appreciation of the doctrines of the Ahmadiyya Movement and the teachings of its holy Founder. Printed by The Eastern Press Ltd, London and Reading Published by The Review of Religions, The London Mosque, 16 Gressenhall Road, London, SW18 5QL


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