17 Hadiths Proving Why Islam Forbids Killing an Apostate
Apostasy is generally the renouncing of faith. The person who renounces his or her faith generally believes in another form of faith or settles down to being an Atheist or agnostic.
In Islam, the term form apostasy is "Murtadd" and if a Muslim decides to renounce Islam and leave the religion for another religion or ideology, the term Murtadd is applied. Apostasy occurs due to a multiple of reasons such as, leaving Islam due to ignorance, fear, poverty, anger and unintentional reasons. The term apostasy can only be applied according to these reasons and the Hadiths mention many incidence of showing mercy to the apostates.
Among the talked about topics in the international media about Islam is the topic of Apostasy (Riddah). This issue is used to hard hit at Muslims and to criticize Islam. Islam is a religion of peace,mercy,forgiveness and kindness and let us analyze the hadiths that tell to kill the apostates.
1. Ibn Abbas arrated,
The prophet(Sal) said,
“Whoever changes his religion, put him to death.”
2. Abdullah Ibn Masud narrated that the prophet (Sal) said,
“It is not permissible to shed the blood of a Muslim who bears witness that there is no god except Allaah and that I am the Messenger of Allaah, except in one of three cases: a soul for a soul (i.e., in the case of murder); a previously-married person who commits zina; and one who leaves his religion and separates from the main body of the Muslims.”
(Bukhari and Muslim)
From face value when we look at these two hadiths and similar more hadiths, it might look that it is an obligation to kill a person who leaves Islam but a verdict cannot be reached without analyzing all the available evidence in Islam. There are two kinds of apostasy. One is the the apostasy where a person leaves Islam and he does not cause any mischief like hurting or plotting to harm the Muslims or to cause discord and divisions among Muslims. The second kind of apostasy is the person leaves Islam and then causes discord and mischief and this kind of apostasy is severe. It is not always necessary to kill a person who leaves Islam and Islam is a religion of mercy and kindness. The killing of apostates is strongly prescribed only to those who spread mischief in the land. In the Quran Allah(swt) said,
3. "But if they repent and perform the Salah, and give the Zakah, then leave their way free. Verily, Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful".
Ibn Kathir mentions in his tafsir that Abu Bakr (Rali) used the above ayah as proof for fighting those who refused to pay Zakath after the death of the prophet (Sal). Some new converts became disbelievers by refusing to pay Zakath. These apostates spread corruption by bringing new innovations in to the religion of Islam. In a hadith,
4. Some people of ‘Ukl or ‘Urainah’ came to the Messenger of Allah (Sal) and found Madinah unhealthy. So the Messenger of Allah (Sal) ordered them to go to the camels (of the sadaqah) and ordered them to drink some of their urine and milk. They went there when they became well, they killed the herdsman of the Messenger of Allah (Sal) and drove off the camels. The news about them reached the prophet (Sal) early in the morning. So he sent people in pursuit of them, and they were brought when the day had risen high. He ordered and their hands and feet were cut off and nails were drawn into their eyes, and they were thrown out of Harrah. They begged for water but were not supplied water. Abu Qilabah said: They were people who had stolen, killed, apostatized after their faith and fought against Allah and his Apostle (Sal).
(Abu Dawud- Graded Sahih bu Albani)
In the above hadith the prophet(Sal) ordered the men who killed the herdsman and drove off the camels to be killed because not only did they apostatize, they also spread mischief in the land. Allah (Swt) says in the Quran,
5. "The recompense of those who wage war against Allah and His Messenger and do mischief in the land is only that they shall be killed or crucified or their hands and their feet be cut off on the opposite sides, or be exiled from the land"
Ibn Kathir explains this verse by saying,
`Wage war' mentioned here means, oppose and contradict, and it includes disbelief, blocking roads and spreading fear in the fairways. Mischief in the land refers to various types of evil".
There is clear evidence to prove that killing an apostate is not necessary.
6. Ibn Abbas narrated,
"Abdullah ibn Sa’d ibn Abu Sarh would write to the Messenger of Allah but the devil deceived him and he joined the unbelievers. The Messenger of Allah ordered that he should be killed on the day of liberation, but Uthman ibn Affan sought protection for him, so the Messenger of Allah granted him protection".
(Abu Dawud-Graded Hasan Sahih by Sheikh Albani)
In the above hadith it is clear that Sa'd bin Abu Sarh became an apostate and if the death penalty was a must then the prophet (Sal) would have refused to give protection for him. Take the example of stealing. In a hadith narrated by Aisha,
7. "The Quraysh had been anxious about a woman who had committed theft and they said, “Who will speak to the Messenger of Allah about her?” Some said, “Who would dare to but Usama, one beloved by the Messenger of Allah?” Thus, Usama spoke to him and the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “Do you intercede regarding a punishment prescribed by Allah?” The Prophet then stood up and addressed the people, saying, “O people, those who came before you were destroyed because if a person of high status committed theft among them, they would spare him, but if a person of lower status committed theft, they would apply the punishment upon him. By Allah, if Fatima the daughter of Muhammad were to steal, I would have cut off her hand.”
In the above hadith the prophet (Sal) refused forego the law of cutting the hands of thief but that was not the case when 8. Uthman (Rali) sought protection for the apostate. The prophet (Sal) gave the apostate protection.
In a hadith that was graded Hasan Sahih by Shaikh Albani in Muwatta of Imam Malik and narrated by Muhammad Ibn Abdullah who said,
9. A man came to Umar ibn Al-Khattab from Abu Musa Al-Ashari. Umar said, “Do you have any recent news?” He said, “Yes, a man has become an unbeliever after his Islam.” Umar said, “What have you done with him?” He said, “We let him approach and we struck his neck.” Umar said:
"Did you not imprison him for three days and feed him each day with bread and call him to repent and return to the command of Allah? Then Umar said, "O Allah, I was not present and I did not command it and I was not pleased when I heard it!"
10. Anas bin Malik narrated,
Abu Musa sent me to Umar, may Allah be pleased with him, and Umar asked me about six people among tribe of Bakr ibn Wail who had committed apostasy from Islam and joined the idolaters. Umar said, “What has been done to the people of Bakr ibn Wail?” I said, “O leader of the believers, some people committed apostasy from Islam and joined the idolaters, so their fate was only to be killed.” Umar said:
"That I accept their surrender would have been more beloved to me than whatever is touched by the rays of the rising sun"
I said, “O leader of the believers, what would you have done if you had seized them?” Umar said:
"I would have presented to them the gate from which they went out that they might enter it again. If they did so, I would have accepted it from them. Otherwise, I would have left them in prison".
(Musannaf Ibn Abudur Razzaq with an authentic chain of narration).
From the above hadiths it is clear that Umar (Rali) did not kill the apostates. If apostasy was a must then Umar (Rali) would have definitely implemented it. We must note that Umar (Rali) was very strict when implementing the law. In a hadith narrated by Anas (Rali), the prophet (Sal) said,
“The most compassionate of my ummah towards my ummah is Abu Bakr; the strictest of them in adhering to the command of Allah is ‘Umar"
(Tirmidhi and Graded Sahih by Albani)
being a strict person, Umar (Rali) did not accept the killing of apostates. A bedouin came to the prophet(Sal) and gave the pledge of allegiance for embracing Islam. The next day he came with a fever and he said, “Please cancel my pledge.” The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, refused three times and he said "Medina is like a furnace. It expels its impurities and collects what is pure".
Some Muslims try to argue that an apostate must be killed by quoting the below hadith.
11. Abu Musa narrated,
"A man embraced Islam and then reverted back to Judaism. Mu`adh bin Jabal came and saw the man with Abu Musa. Mu`adh asked, "What is wrong with this (man)?" Abu Musa replied, "He embraced Islam and then reverted back to Judaism." Mu`adh said, "I will not sit down unless you kill him (as it is) the verdict of Allah and His Apostle".
We must understand that the verdict of Muadh Bin Jabal (Rali) is not the verdict of all the companions and there is no evidence to prove that we must follow the sunnah of Muadh Bin Jabal (Rali). The prophet (Sal) told the Muslims only to follow the Sunnah of the four rightly guided khaliphs. Islam encourages a Muslim judge to rule leniently and to forego a person in punishing him because every life is valuable.
12. Aisha (Rali) narrated that the prophet (Sal) said,
"Avert the legal penalties from the Muslims as much as possible, if he has a way out then leave him to his way, for if the Imam makes a mistake in forgiving it would be better than making mistake in punishment."
(Tirmidhi-Graded Sahih by Imam Suyuti and Hakim)
13. In another hadith, the prophet (Sal) said,
“The most restrained of people in killing are the people of faith.”
Musnad Ahmed-Graded Sahih by Ahmed Shakir)
It is clear that Islam emphasises on compassion than punishment of an individual. Regarding the punishing of an apostate, Sheikh Salih al Fawzan mentioned in Maraaji'aat fee Fiqh il-Waaqi,
"The judgement of apostasy and expelling someone from the religion is only appropriate for the people of knowledge who are firmly grounded in knowledge, and they are the judges in the various Sharee’ah law courts, and those who are able of giving legal verdicts. And this is just like the other matters, and it is not the right of every person, or from the right of those who are learning, or those who ascribe themselves to knowledge, but who have deficiency in understanding. It is not appropriate for them to make judgements of apostasy (upon others). Since, mischief will arise from this, and sometimes a Muslim might be judged as an apostate but he is not actually so".
The Kawarij groups like ISIS and others have given judgements based on their weak intellects and due to their ignorance and harshness, many innocent people could be wrongfully killed due to the Kawarij lack of compassion. The Salaf who were foremost in following Islam in it's pristine purity were always kind and merciful. There is so much evidence to prove that Islam gives priority to compassion than punishment and it is clear beyond doubt that unlike what the western media has portrayed Islam, Islam is a religion of mercy and kindness.
14. Narrated by Abdullah ibn Amr, The prophet (Sal) said,
“The merciful will be shown mercy by the Most Merciful. Be merciful to those on the earth and the One in the heavens will have mercy upon you.”
(Tirmidhi-Graded Sahih by Imam Tirmidhi)
15. The prophet (Sal) said,
"Allah is only merciful with those who show mercy to others."
16. The prophet (Sal) said.
"He who does not show mercy to others, will not be shown mercy."
17. Abu Hurayrah narrated,
The prophet (Sal) said,
"Mercy is taken away only from him who is miserable".
(Abu Dawud-Graded Hasan Sahih by Albani)
Islam is a religion of mercy and kindness and the apostate need not necessarily be put to death unless he is a person who is doing a lot of harm and mischief to Muslims and trying to cause divisions among the Muslims.
C J Ahmed