Note 1: Arabic Terms & Qur’anic References.
Note 2: Terms of Reverence.
Note 3: Quotations Dishonestly Presented.
Note 4: Judge a Religion by its Teachings.
Note 5: Beware of Biased Experts!
Note 6: One Side of the Picture.
The penalty of apostasy in the light of the Holy Qur’an and the true practice of the Messenger
Firstly: The word “Hadd”, generally interpreted to mean “penalty” or “punishment”, is used in the Holy Qur’an to mean “the truth” or ” the law”, not to mean punishment.
Secondly: The position of the Holy Qur’an regarding accusation of apostasy.
Thirdly: The position of the Holy Qur’an regarding the verdict of executing someone outside the principle of: “a life for a life”.
Fourthly: The penalty of apostasy in the light of the true practice of the Messenger.
The penalty of apostasy in the books of ancestors and in the history of Muslims.
Firstly: The events in the Prophet’s life negate the existence of a penalty for apostasy.
Secondly: The penalty of apostasy and the war with the apostates.
Thirdly: Developing the penalty of apostasy between the two scholars “Al-Awza’ee” and “lkremah”.
The Tradition of Al-Awza’ee As Reported In Sahih Muslim
Discussing Ikremah’s Hadith in: “Sahih-ul-Bukhari”
Fourthly: Is it permissible to put people to death based on traditions that have been reported by one person?
The penalty of apostasy, a verdict to kill all people
Note 1: Arabic terms & Qur’anic References.
The western reader may find some difficulty in understanding the few Arabic terms used in this translation, therefore every Arabic term in the book is followed by an English explanation which may not be necessarily present in the original Arabic text. Gender references are to both males and females unless otherwise stated. Qur’anic references follow immediately the English translation of Qur’anic verses between two parenthesis in the format of two numbers separated by a colon. The first number refers to the number of the Chapter from the Holy Qur’an, while the second number refers to the number of the verse in that Chapter. Some publishers of the Holy Qur’an count the opening verse: In the name of Allah, the Gracious, the Merciful; as the first verse of every Chapter in which it appears, other publishers do not. The author followed the referencing of the later publishers. Readers whose Holy Qur’an are published by the former publishers should add 1 to the verse number of the Qur’anic references mentioned in this book.
Note 2: Terms of Reverence.
The western reader may not be familiar with the terms of reverence used generally by Muslims in conjunction with names of some personalities. Therefore, it is better to present an explanation of such terms:
1. “sa” following the name of “the Prophet or “the Messenger” is an abbreviation of: Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam, which mea Alaihi Wasallam, which means: Peace and blessings of God be upon him. This term of reverence is usually reserved for the Prophet Muhammad. Also whenever the term “Prophet or “Messenger” is mentioned without specifying a name, then such term refers exclusively to the Holy Prophet Muhammad. Needless to explain that the term “Holy” when used with the name of the Prophet does not mean in any way that the Prophet Muhammad is divine or being worshipped beside God. It is just a term of reverence used in English language to indicate that a specific person has a special relationship with God, as it is usually referred to a prominent religious personality by the term: “His Holiness”. Also the Qur’an is referred to by the term: “The Holy Qur’an”, meaning that the Qur’an is a divinely revealed book, as it is usually referred to the Bible by the term: The Holy Bible.
2. “as” is an abbreviation of Alaihis Salam; which means: Peace be on him. This term of reverence is usually reserved for the prophets of God.
3. “ra” is an abbreviation of: Radiya-llahu Anhu; which means: May God be pleased with him or her. This term of reverence is usually reserved for prominent companions of the prophets, males and females.
It is not essential in Islam to pronounce these terms of reverence every time the name of a person is being mentioned. In fact, the term of reverence is not to be pronounced when the name of a person is mentioned in conjunction with the name of God. For example, in the article of faith, it is said: There is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah. Here, the name of the Holy Prophet is to be mentioned without the term of reverence; i.e. without saying Muhammad. There is no abbreviation nor there is any specific term of reverence for the name of God. The Exalted, the Great, the All-Mighty and all other Divine Attributes can be used as terms of reverence when mentioning the name of God.
Note 3: Quotations Dishonestly Presented.
In order to explain the historical background of the events leading to legislating a penalty for apostasy in Islamic jurisprudence, it is necessary to present the views of some fanatic Muslim scholars in order to show how the opinions of these scholars are in complete contradiction with the peaceful and logical teachings of Islam.
It is very unfortunate though, that some people, who are themselves fanatic opponents of Islam, take the quoted views of the fanatic Muslim scholars out of context and give such quotations wide spread publicity, misleading the reader by presenting the quotations as if they were actually the teachings of Islam. A quotation was taken out of context from the book: “Murder in the name of Allah” and was published on the Internet. The dishonest person who published the quotation did not have any sense of shame to make him desist from adding a comment warning the readers against being misled by what he called Islamic propaganda. He emphasized that the quotation which he dishonestly quoted represented the true teachings of Islam.
It is indeed very sad to know that there are such dishonest people who are willing to commit these kinds of nefarious actions in order to oppose and misrepresent Islam, or any other religion for that matter. However, such nefarious actions should not hinder any author from presenting the facts as they are. Caution should be taken though. The author does not have to publish the actual quotation or the reference of such a quotation, if it can be misused by the opponents of Islam. This was the course of action followed in translating this book, as much as possible, without any compromise to the integrity of the translation.
Note 4: Judge a Religion by its Teachings.
In order to form an unbiased opinion concerning any religion, it is imperative for every sensible person to judge the actual teachings of a religion, as presented by its holy book, not as presented by the opinion of its followers or by their actions. If, for example, we were to judge Christianity as presented by the opinion of Christian scholars in the medieval era of Europe, or by the actions of Christian people throughout the ages, we must conclude that Christianity is a terrible religion. Yet we know that Jesus as was a peace-loving person who preached peace and love. However, the atrocities committed by the Christian Priesthood in the medieval ages are unparalleled in the history of religion. No people have ever invented and used killing machines and weapons of mass destruction as the Christians have done. No people have ever plunged the world into two world wars as the Christians have done. No people have ever taken advantage of underdeveloped nations of the world and colonized their countries as the Christians have done in the last three centuries, claiming that this colonialist domination was the very will of God! No people have ever committed crimes against humanity as the Christians have done against the Jews in Europe and the native people in the Americas and Australia. No people have ever conducted mass slavery raids to enslave people as have done the Christians against the people of Africa. No people have ever mistreated minorities as the Christians have mistreated the blacks in Africa and America. The list can go on and on, but no sensible person would condemn Christianity due to the actions of its followers. Why then condemn Islam due to the actions of its followers?
Among the followers of every religion one may find those fanatics who misinterpret and misrepresent its teachings. Would any sensible person consider the atrocities of the Papacy to be the true presentation of Christianity? Would any sensible person consider the interpretation of the Holy Bible by the Klu Klux Klan and the White Supremacists to be the true interpretation of Christianity? Why then any sensible person should consider the opinions of some politically-driven Muslim scholars with medieval eras’ mentality to be the true interpretation of Islam? A religion should be judged by the teachings of its holy book not by the actions and the opinions of its followers.
Note 5: Beware of Biased Experts!
The problem of misrepresentation is a very serious one particularly in the realm of religion. In the past, up to the early part of the twentieth century, illiteracy in the West was wide-spread. It was not possible for the common man to get the required information directly from textbooks and references. With increased literacy, knowledge became easily accessible. However, religious knowledge remains, somewhat, out of reach for many, either for lack of interest on their part or because of misinformation.
Generally, common people will not go into deep study of any religion to understand its true teachings. Usually, they depend on what the experts would say, or what is read in the newspapers, or what is seen of specially produced documentaries on television. If the experts are honest, and the media are not biased, there is a good chance that the common people will be well informed of a certain issue. It is very unfortunate though, that when it comes to religion, particularly Islam, many experts are dishonest, and in general, the media are biased. What is meant by “experts” here is those who have the means and are able to make an impression on public opinion.
As an example of dishonesty of the experts, I may quote from the writings of the renowned American writer Mark Twain, in his book: “Letters From The Earth”. He quoted a chapter from the Holy Bible referring to the teachings of God to Moses on how to deal with the Midianites. Some of the verses are as follows:
“And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, avenge the children of Israel of the Midianites, …and they warred against the Midianites, as the Lord commanded Moses; and they slew all the males, and they slew the kings of Midian, …, and the children of Israel took all the women of Midian captives, and their little ones, and took the spoil of all their cattle, and all their flocks, and all their goods. And they burnt all their cities wherein they dwelt, and all their goodly castles, with fire. And they took all the spoils, and all the prey, both of men and of beasts, and they brought the captives, and the prey, and the spoil unto Moses and Eleazar the priest,…And Moses said unto them, Have you saved all the women alive? …. Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him”.
Mark Twain was biased against the Bible. He wanted to prove the savage nature of its teachings as he perceived it. He wanted to impress upon the reader that the Bible teaches extermination of people on large scale and massacre of women and even children. He sarcastically tells the reader:
“The Biblical law says: `Thou shalt not kill’. The law of God planted in the heart of man at his birth says: `Thou shalt kill’. The chapter I have quoted shows you that the book-statute is once more a failure. It cannot set aside the more powerful law of nature”.
If we were to add to the above quotations some verses from the New Testament, about the teachings of Christ, the picture drawn in the mind of the unaware reader becomes horrible. It is written in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke that Jesus have said:
“But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven. Think not that I am come to send peace on earth. I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law, and a man’s foes shall be they of his own household”. (Matthew 10:33-36)
“I am come to send fire on the earth; and what will I, if it be already kindled? But I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how am I straitened till it be accomplished! Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division” (Luke: 12:49-51)
To complete the terrible picture of this seemingly horrifying teachings, and to present Jesus himself as being the leader of an armed gang, carrying swords to fulfill his bloody and divisive mission, one may quote his instructions to his disciples:
“And he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one. For I say unto you, that this that is written must yet be accomplished in me, and he was reckoned among the transgressors: for the things concerning me have an end. And they said, Lord, behold, here are two swords…” (Luke 22:36-38).
All the above quotations are indeed from the Bible, but the message they give is not from the Bible. The quotations were taken out of context. The message which Mark Twain wanted to give the reader is completely wrong. He did not tell the reader why God decided to punish the Midianites and why He commanded Moses and the children of Israel to wage war against them. He did not tell the reader that God informed Moses of the evil and the atrocities committed by the Midianites. Mark Twain was not alive during World War II, but had he been alive at that time, he would not have condemned England and America for going to war against Nazi Germany. No sensible person would have condoned the evils and the atrocities committed by the Nazis in Europe. Waging war against Nazi aggression was perfectly justified. Similarly, waging war against the evil and aggressive Midianites was equally justified. However, Mark Twain did not tell the reader all the facts, he mentioned only part of it. Although the verses which he quoted were indeed from the Bible, yet the message he gave the reader was absolutely erroneous.
It is very unfortunate that many of those so-called “experts” who write about Islam, use the same technique. They give the reader part of the truth, but not all the truth. They may quote some verses, extract few excerpts from some writings, or report some historical incidents, all out of context; in order to paint in the reader’s mind some erroneous picture. The majority of readers do not have the time, nor do they make the effort, to verify everything they read. They believe what the “experts” say. Islam is a victim of this misrepresentation. Sometimes, the perpetrators are also Muslim scholars. This is how the penalty of apostasy was infused in extreme Islamic jurisprudence.
Note 6: One Side of the Picture.
In order to historically trace the events and the circumstances which led to inventing a penalty for apostasy, the author has presented one side of the history of the Umayyad and Abbasyd dynasties. He described the rulers as being totalitarians who justified their actions by sponsoring some scholars who were ready to issue religious verdicts to please the rulers. It was these scholars who invented the penalty of apostasy.
The reader who is unaware of Islamic history could conclude that the Muslim state at the time of the Umayyads and the Abbasyds was a corrupt, evil, bloody and inhumane dictatorship. Yet, the truth is that the Umayyads and the Abbasyds have contributed substantially to the advance of science, spreading of knowledge and the welfare of human society. By the standards of their times, they were oases of democracy and a sanctuary of human rights for the masses in a world darkened by tyranny and absence of basic rights for the common people. In comparison, they were not far off the great democracies of our time.
To give a parallel from our contemporary history, one may quote the case of how Afro-American people were treated in the United States, the greatest democracy of our time.
It is well known that the President of the United States nominates the judges to the Supreme Court. Their appointment is approved by the representatives of the people in the Senate. It sounds very democratic, and the whole system seems to be based on absolute justice. However, one cannot deny that when there are certain issues expected to be presented to the Supreme Court, the President will nominate the judges whom he knows to be supportive to his government’s decisions.
Although the American Constitution gives equal rights to all citizens of the United States, yet, women in the United States did not have the right to vote until 1919. The Supreme Court gave that right to white women only, but denied it to black people, men and women alike. Indeed the Judges appointed by the President of the United States to the Supreme Court have ruled that black people do not have the right to enjoy the same privileges as white people.
After the Civil Rights Movement led by Dr. Martin Luther King in the sixties, and after the change in heart of the government, the same Supreme Court ruled for equality between blacks and whites, ending apartheid in America.
In the United States, the government is usually represented by the Republicans or the Democrats, both parties are bound by the Constitution of the United States. Yet both have manipulated the law and through the Supreme Court, they gave legal justification to what they wanted to accomplish, whether to establish apartheid or to uproot it.
Similarly, in the era of the Umayyad and Abbasyd dynasties, the government was represented either by the Umayyads or the Abbasyds, both were bound by the teachings of the Holy Qur’an and the practice of the Holy Prophet. Yet both have manipulated the law, and through the verdicts of some scholars, who were very popular with the public, they gave legal justification to what they wanted to accomplish.
The similarity between the government of the United States, led by the Republicans and the Democrats; and the government of the early Muslim era, led by the Umayyads and the Abbasyds may not be absolute. Taking into consideration the difference in time, being more than 10 centuries, yet we find that each government came to rule through its supporters from among the people, each government was bound by a constitution, and each government had to justify legally its actions. By the standards of the world more than a thousand years ago, the Umayyad and the Abbasyd dynasties were not totalitarian nor dictatorships. They were indeed very advanced democracies, almost similar to the democracy of the United States in the twentieth century. Yes, both dynasties did not conform totally to the teachings of Islam concerning establishment of government, such teachings are more lofty and supreme than any communist or capitalist democracy.
It may be argued though, that both the Umayyads and the Abbasyds have seized power through a revolution against an established government or after a civil war. That may be the case, but according to the rules of democracy in the West, this is very acceptable. The victor always has the right to enforce the law, and it is considered democratic! Take the French revolution, it established democracy through revolution. Take the American civil war, the victor North imposed upon the defeated South its own ideas. It is the American version of democracy!
If, after more than a thousand years, someone were to write the history of the plight of the American blacks in the United States, and say that the United States was a country which enslaved its black citizens, a country of which the founding fathers did not consider black people to be citizens of the country, not even humans but subhumans, and that is why they did not give them any right in the American Constitution, a country in which black people were treated like dogs, to the degree that until the middle of the twentieth century there were signs in some places reading: “No dogs or blacks”, a country in which blacks were not allowed to worship God in churches frequented by white people, a country in which some religious groups, like the Klu Klux Klan, used to hunt blacks and kill them like animals, and so on and so forth; such a historian will be giving one side of the picture. Indeed he will be concerned with the plight of the black people not with the whole history of America. Yet, the reader at that time, after more than a thousand years, who may not be aware of the bright side of the American history, will get a bleak and horrible picture about the history of the United States.
The author of this book has done the same. In order to trace the historical events leading to institutionalizing the penalty of apostasy, he presented the bleak side of the Umayyad and Abbasyd history, leaving the bright and the illustrious side. The reader who is unaware of that history will definitely get a horrific one-sided picture of those two great dynasties. The author is not to be blamed for this. He wrote his book for the Arabic-speaking reader who is generally aware of that history. Besides, it was not his responsibility to mention all the historical aspects of the Umayyad and the Abbasyd dynasties. It was not the subject matter of his book. However, a couple of lines in his introduction to remind the reader of the great accomplishments of those two great dynasties may have been sufficient. This note is included to serve that purpose.
Mostafa Sabet Toronto, Canada 1998
In the name of Allah, The Gracious, The Merciful
“slay not the soul, the slaying of which Allah has
forbidden, except for a just cause”
(6:151) – (17:33)
Truthfully speaks Allah the Great!
In the Name of Allah, the Gracious, the Merciful
It is very important to start by calling things by their real name in order to do justice to the great religion of Islam, apart from the attitude of some Muslims.
First of all, we have to differentiate between Islam and the Muslims.
Islam is believed to be the religion of Allah, the Great, Who commands justice, beneficence and urges to adopt high moral values. The Holy Qur’an is believed to be the true charter for this godly religion. The practice of the Messenger, is considered to be the practical and literal application of the Holy Qur’an. The Prophet was known to be the embodiment of the “Qur’anic Morals”, as he was described by God to have: i.e. “Great Morals”. These “Great Morals” are derived from “The Great Qur’an”.
It is natural to find a gap between the laws of the “Great Qur’an”, as were truly applied in practice by the Prophet, and the jurisprudence of some Muslims during the periods in history following the period of the Prophet and that of of AI-Khilafat-ur Rashid Rashida, i.e. the Rightly-guided Successorship.
The period of the Prophet and that of the Rightly-guided Khilafat was the period in which the Holy Qur’an was revealed and its teachings were put into practice. It is regrettable, though, that much of the recording of the Islamic literary heritage took place during the periods which followed, i.e. during the dictatorships of the Umayyad and the Abbasyd dynasties. During such periods, political efforts tried to colour this heritage with a religious colour in order to bridge the gap between the teachings of the Qur’an, on one side, and the attitudes of the Khulafa (i.e. Successors) and the clerics, on the other side. Bridging such a gap was done by fabricating certain traditions (i.e. sayings of the Prophet) and attributing them to the Prophet. Needless to say that such fabricated traditions were in contradiction with the teachings of the Qur’an and the practice of the Prophet.
The penalty of apostasy was born during such periods as an expression of certain political circumstances that required shedding the blood of opponents of various regimes. Since the teachings of the Holy Qur’an prevented categorically blood-shedding except for lawful reasons (as a penalty for murder or in defensive wars to suppress aggression), the clerics invented the penalty of apostasy by fabricating two traditions and attributing them to the Holy Prophet. They wanted to provide the totalitarian rulers with a religious justification to eliminate their opponents.
The present advocates of political Islam keep demanding that Islamic Shariah, i.e. religious jurisprudence, should be applied as the law of the land. They do not have the time, nor the urge, to enquire which Shariah they demand to be applied: Is it the jurisprudence of the Holy Qur’an or that of the clergy in the Abbasyd period? It seems that the advocates of political Islam prefer much better the jurisprudence of the Abbasyd clergy because it provides them with a sharp sword to be used against their political foes and opponents. Such sharp sword is the penalty of apostasy. It would be easy for the leaders of political Islam to accuse their opponents of apostasy and then raise such a sword at their faces. It will be easy for the leaders of political Islam to terrorize their foes by accusing them of apostasy if such foes should demand of them to come up with a practical political program that defines their theoretical mottos of “Islam is the solution” and “Rulership belongs to God”.
Again, if any person asks the advocates of political Islam to accept some progressive opinions in order to solve the economic, social and political problems that lie in the way of applying Islamic jurisprudence, they will be able to accuse such a person of opposing the application of Shariah. Such opposition will be interpreted as committing apostasy. Accordingly, such a person can be terrorised by the penalty of death.
The Egyptian thinker Dr. Farag Foda paid his life as a price for daring to challenge, in his writings and debates, the advocates of political Islam, to come up with a specific and detailed political programme. Shortly before his assasination he demanded of those advocates to come up with modern laws derived from Islamic Shariah. Although he made it very clear that he was in full support of the current Egyptian constitution which is based upon Islamic Shariah, yet their answer to him was his assassination, thereby they gave their actual and practical way of dealing with their intellectual and political opponents.
They have succeeded in converting the trial of Farag Foda’s killers to a trial for Farag Foda himself. They made out of that trial an occasion to terrorise their opponents. The defence in the case demanded that the testimony of some advocates of political Islam should be heard. Their leader gave his verdict that whoever opposes the application of Islamic Shariah is an apostate who deserves to be executed, and that any person from the public who kills him should not be punished by the authorities, even though such a person has taken away the right of the state by taking the law into his own hands.
This bloody verdict was transmitted to the public through the media. The newspapers of political Islam very happily welcomed it. No less enthusiasm was shown by their supporters working in the government official newspapers.
A political and intellectual debate, for and against, erupted around the penalty of apostasy. It was discovered during this debate that there was nothing in the Holy Qur’an to support the penalty of apostasy, and that this penalty was based upon two dubious traditions attributed to the Prophet. It also came to be known that the Messenger has never executed anyone of the hypocrites, who were the first to be condemned by the Holy Qur’an as apostates. Consequently, it was concluded that had there been a penalty for apostasy, the Messenger would have had applied it.
The author of this book belongs to the school of fundamental thinking, but he is on the side of true fundamentalism. He believes that Islam today requires someone who is ready to struggle in order to bring to light its facts. Islam does not need those who use its great name in their own world of politics to serve their personal worldly objectives. It is the duty of everyone who loves God, His Messenger and the religion of Islam to defend this great religion against the evils attributed to it during the dictatorship era. One of such evils is the penalty of apostasy.
What is known as the penalty of apostasy is based upon two traditions only. One of such traditions was reported by Bukhari, which states: “Whoever changes his religion should be killed”. The other tradition was reported by Saheeh Muslim which states: “It is not lawful to shed the blood of a Muslim except in three situations: A life for a life, a married man who commits adultery and a man who leaves his religion and abandons his people”.
The way this book deals with the subject of the penalty of apostasy starts by tracing the subject in the Holy Qur’an as well as during the era of the Messenger, then during the era of the Rightly-guided Khilafat, followed by the era of the Umayyads and the Abbasyds. It studies the two traditions upon which the alleged authenticity of the penalty of apostasy was based. It is a fundamental study of the traditions’ reporters, the categorization of the traditions, the chains of reporters and the opinions of the scholars regarding the validity of any law based upon a tradition categorized as being: “Ahaad’, (i.e. a tradition which was heard by one person); in addition to the opinions of the scholars of Al Azhar Institution. At the end, the author presents a conclusion in which he underlines the con-sequential dangers of legislating a penalty for apostasy. Thus, he presents his testimony for history in order to do justice towards Islam and to purify it’s name from the sins of some Muslims.
Allah is sought for help.
Dr. Ahmad Subhy Mansour
The penalty of apostasy in the light of the Holy Qur’an
and the true practice of the Messenger.
Firstly: The word “Hadd”, generally interpreted to mean: “penalty” or “punishment”, is used in the Holy Qur’an to mean “the truth” or “the law”, not to mean punishment.
Secondly: The position of the Holy Qur’an regarding accusation of apostasy:
It is not permissible for a Muslim to call another “apostate”, nor to set up Court of Inquisition to search in the hearts of people.
Thirdly: The position of the Holy Qur’an regarding the verdict of executing someone outside the principle of: “a life for a life”.
Fourthly: The penalty of apostasy in the light of the true practice of the Messenger’s.
The penalty of Apostasy in the light of the Holy Qur’an
The word “Hadd”, generally interpreted to mean: “penalty” or “punishment”, is used in the Holy Qur’an to mean: “the truth” or “the law”, not to mean punishment.
The word “Hudood’ (plural of “Hadd’) is mentioned in the Holy Qur’an 14 times. In all times it meant God’s rights and His Laws. It never meant “punishment” nor “penalty” as it is wrongly used in the expressions “(Hadd) the penalty of apostasy”, “(Hadd) the punishment of adultery” and “applying (Hudood) the penalties of Shariah”.
It occurred two times, meaning the ordinances of God and His limits as in the verse:
“The Arabs of the desert are worst in disbelief and hypocrisy, and most apt not to know (Hudood) the ordinances of the revelation which Allah has sent down to His Messenger” (9:97)
Similarly, in describing the attributes of the believers, God says:
“who enjoines good and forbid evil, and who watch
(Hudood) the limits set by Allah” (9:112)
It came once concerning the commandment of fasting in the verse:
“It is made lawful for you to go in unto your wives on the night of the fast, …These are (Hudood) the limits fixed by Allah, so approach them not” (2:187)
It came two times in the laws of inheritance. At the end God says:
“These are (Hudood) the limits set by Allah; …. And whoso disobeys Allah and His Messenger and transgresses His (Hudood) limits, He will make him enter into Fire; therein shall he abide” (4:13-14)
It came nine times in the legislations concerning marriage and divorce:
Once is related to the subject of “Zehar”, i.e. when a husband makes a vow to terminate the sexual relationship with his wife, which was a custom among the Arabs before Islam. Islam states that he should make an atonement before approaching his wife. At the end of the subject God says:
“… these are (Hudood) the limits prescribed by Allah” (58:4)
It came four times in one verse relating to limiting the number of times a divorce is allowed between a husband and a wife to two times. God says:
“Such divorce may be pronounced twice; then, either retain them (i. e. the wives) in a becoming manner or send them away with kindness. And it is not lawful for you to take away anything of what you have given them unless both fear that they cannot observe (Hudood) the limits prescribed by Allah. But, if you fear that they cannot observe (Hudood) the limits prescribed by Allah, then it shall be no sin for either of them in what she gives to get her freedom. These are (Hudood) the limits prescribed by Allah, so transgress them not; and whoso transgresses (Hudood) the limits prescribed by Allah, it is they that are the wrongdoers” (2:229)
It came twice in the following verse relating to the third divorce between a husband and a wife and the necessity that the wife should marry another person
“And if he divorce her the third time, then she is not lawful for him thereafter, until she marries another husband, and, if he also divorce her, then it shall be no sin for them to return to each other, provided they are sure to observe (Hudood) the limits prescribed by Allah. And these are (Hudood) the limits prescribed by Allah which He makes clear for the people who have knowledge” (2:230)
It also came twice forbidding to send out the divorced wife from her home before the end of the waiting period. It says:
“Turn them not out of their houses, nor should they themselves leave, unless they commit an act which is manifestly foul. And these are (Hudood) the limits set by Allah; and whoso transgresses (Hudood) the limits of Allah, he indeed wrongs his own soul” (65:1)
These are all the places wherein the term: “Hudood” was mentioned in the Holy Qur’an. The term always meant the laws and the ordinances of God. It never meant one of the penalties prescribed in the Holy Qur’an such as the penalty of theft, adultery, murder, road-hijacking or defaming. Nothing is mentioned also about the penalties invented in the period of the Abbasyd dynasty for drinking, apostasy or for not offering prayers.
This proves that the clergy of the Abbasyd period have fabricated certain terms which did not agree with the commandments of the Holy Qur’an.
It also proves that in the period of the Messenger’ which was closely related to the Holy Qur’an, the term: “Hadd” was not understood to mean: “penalty”, although there were many penalties mentioned in the Holy Qur’an. For example, when the Holy Qur’an stated the punishment for adultery, it did not use the expression: “Hadd of adultery”. Similarly, it did not use this term to describe the penalty of other offences like theft, defaming or murder. This can be clearly verified by a study of the Holy Qur’an.
This emphasizes the essential difference between the true religion of God and the types of religions that were invented by human beings at various stages of human development.
God revealed His religion in a clear and pure way in order to elevate the people and uplift them. However, when humans interfere in religion, they put their fingerprint on it by infusing their own understanding. Consequently, a gap is created between the true religion and the religion of humans. They invent certain formulae for the the religion they practice. Usually, the so-called “experts” of jurisprudence perform this task. It is natural then, that differences always erupt between various schools creating sectarianism. It is also natural for the gap to widen between sectarian jurisprudence and the original pure religion. Sectarian jurisprudence is influenced by social, political and psychological circumstances which may affect the founder of a sect.
Thus it was not strange for human jurisprudence to invent new judicial expressions not mentioned in the Holy Qur’an. Also, it was not strange for human jurisprudence to invent new penalties that contradicted the jurisprudence of the Holy Qur’an. One of such inventions is called the penalty of apostasy.
Before we discuss the position of Qur’anic jurisprudence with respect to the penalty of apostasy, we shall discuss the position of the Holy Qur’an towards accusing someone of being an apostate. Apostasy is the base upon which human jurisprudence has created such a penalty. In order to apply the penalty of apostasy, it is imperative to find the accused guilty of apostasy by setting up a court which tries to penetrate in his heart and mind, and then condemns his beliefs.
So, is it permissible for a Muslim in Islamic jurisprudence to accuse another Muslim of being an apostate?
This is the following topic in our discussion.
The Position of the Holy Qur’an Regarding Accusation
It is not permissible for a Muslim to call another
“apostate” nor to set up Court of Inquisition to search
in the hearts of people.
God has granted human beings freedom to believe or to disbelieve regarding His Being. The evidence supporting this fact is very clear in the life of the masses, in their attitude, words, acts and their history, past and present.
The Holy Qur’an, being the Word of God, contains the practical proof supporting the absolute freedom to believe or to disbelieve. This is clearly mentioned in the Qur’anic stories about the idolaters. It is also clear in the Qur’anic injunctions to conduct dialogues with the disbelievers and to convince them by logic and arguments. Had not God permitted religious freedom, such dialogues would not have been conducted and no effort would have been made to persuade them logically. Thus the Holy Qur’an emphasizes that people are free to believe or to disbelieve. On the Day of Judgment they will be held accountable for such freedom. At such time they will be asked about the consequences of their choice. God says:
“And say, `It is the truth from your Lord; wherefore let him who will believe, and let him, who will, disbelieve.’ Verily, We have prepared for the wrongdoers a fire whose flaming canopy shall enclose them. And if they cry for help, they will be helped with water like molten lead which would scald their faces. How dreadful the drink and how evil is the Fire as a resting place!” (18:29)
In addition, the Holy Qur’an did not omit the insults of the disbelievers which they have attributed to God. For example, the Jews said:
“Allah is poor and we are rich” (3:181)
and they said:
“Allah’s hand is tied up” (5:64)
When the disbelievers refused to accept the principle of giving alms they said:
“Shall we feed him whom Allah would have fed, if He had so willed” (36:47)
The Holy Qur’an recorded these statements and did not exclude them from the text. Such statements together with the reply, became part of the verses of the Holy Qur’an which a Muslim recites as an act of worship.
It is logical, of course, that the Holy Qur’an, being the Word of God, would refute all the statements levelled against the religion of God. This is God’s right, not only because He is the Lord of mankind, their Creator and the One Who revealed His religion, but also because He deals with people on the basis of justice. He gave them the right to believe and to disbelieve, also He granted them the freedom to declare their disbelief and the freedom to attribute to Him the defects which may be in their minds, and even to fabricate and twist His words. In return, He gives Himself the right to describe them as apostates and to consider them as disobedient. It is also within His right to refute their allegations and to sanctify His Holy Being from having a son or taking a partner. These are matters that concern Him and it is He Who should refute them.
However, God’s justice is manifest through the way He deals with various types of humans. When He condemns someone as being a disbeliever, He gives the reasons and explains the causes for disbelief. For example, when He says:
“Indeed, they are disbelievers who say, `Surely, Allah is the Messiah, son of Mary’…They surely disbelieve who say, `Allah is the third of three’ (5:72-73)
He does not condemn everyone among the Christians as being a disbeliever, but only those who subscribe to such beliefs. In the meantime, He considers those who believe in Him and the Last Day and do good works from among the believers, the Jews, the Christians and the Sabians, to be His friends who should have no fear nor should they feel any sorrow. He says:
“Surely, those who believe and the Jews and the Christians and the Sabians, whichever party from among these truly believes in Allah and the Last Day and does good deeds, shall have their reward with their Lord, and no fear shall come upon them, nor shall they grieve”. (2:62)
Also God says:
“Surely, those who have believed, and the Jews, and the Sabians, and the Christians; whoso believes in Allah and the Last Day and does good deeds, on them shall come no fear, nor shall they grieve”. (5:69)
which means that God is not biased towards or against anyone. Thus whoever believes in Him and in the Last Day and do good works then such a person is considered to be God’s friend whose abode is Paradise, but whoever attributes a son to Him or takes a partner beside Him, then God considers such a person to be a disbeliever.
This is what belongs to Him. He is the One Who revealed the religion. He is the King of the Day of Judgment, and He is the One Who can categorize people as believers if they adopt true beliefs, or consider them as disbelievers if they chose to subscribe to false and wrong beliefs.
God did not give anyone the right to pass judgment over other people or condemn them as disbelievers. Hence He commands the believers to reason with others using wisdom and good advice, without any feeling of superiority and without condemning others, leaving judgment for God on the Day of Judgment. This was the commandments given to the Seal of the Prophets.
Let us take some Qur’anic examples:
God commands that the dialogue with the People of the Book (i.e. the Jews and the Christians) should be conducted in the best manner. He says:
“And argue not with the People of the Book except with what is best; but argue not at all with such of them as are unjust. And say, `We believe in that which has been revealed to us and that which has been revealed to you; and our God and your God is One, and to Him we submit’ (29:46)
Thus arguing with the People of the Book is forbidden except if it is conducted in the best manner, that is to say, if an objective discussion using reason and arguments is carried out without hurting their feelings. However, those whom are described as: [those who are unjust], there should be no discussion with them, so that the discussion may not develop into exchange of insults. God has forbidden any argument which may result in exchange of insults. He says:
“And revile not those whom they call upon beside Allah, lest they, out of spite, revile Allah in their ignorance”. (6:108)
As for those who are unjust , or the fanatics, as we call them by our present terminology, God commands the Prophet:
“And if they contend with thee, say, `Allah knows best what you do; Allah will judge between you on the Day of Resurrection concerning that about which you differ’. (22:68-69)
which means that there is no point in holding a useless discussion with the fanatics. It is better that a believer should leave such people alone. This is the attitude which behoves a believer. God says concerning the behaviour of the believers towards those fanatics who commit excesses:
“And when they hear idle talk, they turn away from it and say, `For us our works and for you your works. Peace be upon you. We have no concern with the ignorant’ (28:55)
This verse was revealed concerning the believers among the People of the Book. It provides the best method of having a dialogue or conducting a discussion in the best manner. It also provides the proper attitude regarding avoiding having an idle talk with the fanatics.
Thus conducting a discussion “in the best manner” is the feature that should be present in every discussion between the believers in the Holy Qur’an and the believers among the People of the Book. This is the meaning of the verse:
“And argue not with the People of the Book except with what is best; but argue not at all with such of them as are unjust”. (29:46)
In order that a Muslim should not fall in the evil of accusing the People of the Book of being disbelievers, the Holy Qur’an defines the manner of the dialogue between the two sides, thus says God:
“And say, `We believe in that which has been revealed to us and that which has been revealed to you; and our God and your God is One, and to Him we submit’. (29:46)
which means that both of us believe together in One God; and we believe in what was revealed to you and what was revealed to us; and we have submitted to God. He did not say: `and say you are disbelievers’, because it is forbidden for a Muslim to accuse someone else of being a disbeliever.
Similarly, it is not mentioned that a believer should quote in his discussion with the People of the Book the words which the Lord of Glory has used to condemn those who claim that God is third of three or those who claim that God is Jesus son of Mary, because those were the words He chose for Himself to condemn their claims. As for us, we are not to argue except in the best manner and leave condemnation, related to matters of faith, for God on the Day of Judgment.
It is mentioned in the third chapter of the Holy Qur’an, Sura Aali-Imran, the facts about the birth of Jesus” and also about his mission, following which God says:
“That is what We recite unto thee of the Signs and the Reminder, full of wisdom. Surely, the case of Jesus with Allah is like the case of Adam. He created him out of dust, then He said to him, `Be’, and he was. This is the truth from thy Lord, so be thou not of those who doubt”. (3:58-60)
After this clarification about the humanity of the Messiah and about his message, what should be the position of the Holy Prophet when the People of the Book come to argue with him? Should he accuse them of disbelief? Should he call them names or condemn them as being misguided? Should he threaten them to be among the dwellers of Hell?
Let us read the following verse to know the answer to these questions, keeping in mind that the chapter of the Holy Qur’an containing this verse has been revealed in Medina during the time when the Muslims have established their state and gained power. It says:
“Now whoso disputes with thee concerning him, after what has come to thee of knowledge, say to him, `Come, let us call our sons and your sons, and our women and your women, and our people and your people; then let us pray fervently and invoke the curse of Allah on those who lie”. (3:61)
which means that whoever argues with you about the nature of the Messiah after what has been revealed to you of the knowledge contained in the Qur’an, then you should call them to participate in a “Mubahala”, i.e. a prayer duel, in which both parties should put the whole matter before God. Such prayer duel should be performed by both parties, calling women and children. Both sides should pray to God that He may curse the side that lies. The Holy Qur’an did not tell the Prophet that if they argued with you then condemn them as misguided disbelievers whose abode is Hell. No, only to pray to God that His curse should fall upon the side that lies. Naturally, every side believes to be truthful.
This means that the decision should be left to God Who is the only One Who has the right to call anyone among His servants as a believer or a disbeliever, but the Prophet does not have this right of his own.
Thus the Holy Qur’an defines the appropriate manner which Muslims should follow in their discussions with the People of the Book. It instructs the Prophet to say:
Say, `O People of the Book! come to a word equal between us and you – that we worship none but Allah, and that we associate no partner with Him, and that some of us take not others for Lords beside Allah’. But if they turn away, then say, `Bear witness that we have submitted to God’. (3:64)
This is the highly appropriate manner which should be followed by Muslims when inviting the People of the Book to a word equal between both sides, to which they should commit themselves: Worship God alone without setting any partner with Him and without setting “Priesthood” and making gods out of humans. If they refused such a commitment then the Muslims should not accuse them of disbelief, nor should they talk on their behalf, nor should they pass any judgment over them on behalf of God, but only to say: Bear witness that we have submitted ourselves to God alone.
The Holy Qur’an did not say: If they turn away then bear witness that we have submitted to God but you are disbelievers. It is not within the right of a Muslim to accuse other people of being disbelievers. It is enough for a Muslim to declare his submission to God. It is a great honor for him to be indeed submissive to God.
In conclusion, it is only within the right of God alone to say about some of the People of the Book:
“Indeed, they are disbelievers who say, `Allah, He is the Messiah, son of Mary’ (5:72)
Similarly, it is He alone Who has the right to say about the People of the Book:
“They are not all alike. Among the People of the Book there is a party who stand by their covenant; they recite the Word of Allah in the hours of night and prostrate themselves before Him. They believe in Allah and the Last Day, and enjoin good and forbid evil, and hasten to vie with one another in good works. And these are among the righteous.” (3:113-114)
It is God alone Who:
“He knows the treachery of the eyes and what the breasts conceal”. (40:19)
In addition, it is God alone Who knows best the true faith in the bosoms of individuals, sects and nations. He says:
“And Allah knows your faith best; you are all one from another”. (4:25)
As for us, human beings, it is imperative that we should follow the commandments of God if we consider ourselves to be true believers. Accordingly, we should not tell other people anything except that which is good, as God says:
“And speak to people kindly” (2:83)
This also means to argue with them in the best manner. Is there anything more wonderful than what God has mentioned concerning the principles of inviting other people to the way of God and conducting a discussion with them than what He has said:
“And who is better in speech than he who invites people to Allah and does righteous deeds and says, `I am, surely, of those who submit’? And good and evil are not alike. Repel evil with that which is best. And lo, he, between whom and thyself was enmity, will become as though he were a warm friend”. (41:33-34)
It may be argued, though, that God has commanded His Messenger to say:
“Say, `O ye disbelievers! I worship not as you worship’. (109:1-2)
which means that the Prophet can call them disbelievers, and tell them: “O ye disbelievers”.
The answer is that the enemies of the Prophet’ in Mecca took much pride in opposing him and declared openly their disbelief, thus calling them “disbelievers” was not insulting to them in any way. It was they who used to accuse the Prophet of lying, of using magic and of madness. It was they who considered it a crime worthy of persecution and war, to believe in the Holy Qur’an.
Thus telling them: “O ye disbelievers” did not imply hurting their feelings, but it was a statement which they liked and took pride in. What is important is that the essence of his address to them emphasized the freedom of conscience which was specified at the end of the same Sura:
“For you your religion, and for me my religion”. (109:6)
What is more important is the etiquette established for conducting a dialogue with those who used to take pride in their disbelief and considered it a crime to believe in God and His Messenger. Such etiquette excluded accusing them of being misguided and consequently condemning them to Hell.
Let us read the Qur’anic statements which God revealed to His Messenger about conducting such a dialogue with those people:
“Say, `Who gives you sustenance from the heavens and the earth’? Say. `Allah. Either we or you are on right guidance or in manifest error’. (34:24)
Thus God did not command His Messenger to tell the idolaters in a course of an argument: “I am on the right way and you are in manifest misguidance”, but God commanded him to say that one party among us is rightly guided and the other is manifestly misguided.
Then the immediately following verse explains:
“Say, `You will not be questioned as to our sins, nor shall we be questioned as to what you do’. (34:25)
In other words, God did not command the Prophet to tell the opponents: you are not responsible for our sins nor are we responsible for your sins. He was commanded to attribute the sins to himself, though he was the Prophet. However, he should not attribute to the idolaters but their works.
To such extent the etiquette of conducting a dialogue with the disbelievers was clearly defined, even when such a dialogue was to be conducted with the idolaters who were bitter opponents. Hence, the verse immediately following states:
“Say, `Our Lord will bring us all together; then he will he judge between us with truth, and He is the Best Judge, the All-Knowing”. (34:26)
which means that the Prophet should leave the final verdict to God on the Day of Judgment.
This was regarding how the Prophet should conduct a discussion with the idolaters.
It was not for him to accuse his enemies of disbelief. Similarly, it was not for him to accuse any Muslim of disbelief.
Consequently, anyone who accuses another of being a disbeliever puts himself above the Prophet. He even takes for himself the right of God.
It is in the nature of Priesthood to talk on behalf of God. Therefore, wherever there is a Priesthood there is always accusation of others of disbelief and setting up of Inquisition Courts. In Islam there is no such a Priesthood. Let us remember that God invited the People of the Book to discard Priesthood when He said:
“Say, `O People of the Book! come to a word equal between us and you – that we worship non but Allah, and that we associate no partner with him, and that some of us take not others for Lords beside Allah’. But if they turn away, then say, `Bear witness that we have submitted to God’ . (3:64)
This is the reality of Islam. There is no room for gods or Priesthood or intermediaries. However, the reality of Muslim history is different. They obeyed their scholars, saints and Imams as if they were gods. It became a taboo to criticize their opinions. Any criticism directed to any of them was taken to be an attack against Islam itself This is the same concept of the priests who consider themselves and their leaders to be the only representatives of the faith and the only authority that has the right to speak on its behalf.
Therefore, in order to do justice to Islam, it is our obligation and duty to defend it against the deeds of the Muslims which contradict the beloved Book of God.
The danger of Priesthood is that when it accuses someone of disbelief, it sets up Inquisition Courts and passes a judgment to execute him. This is another contra-diction to the Law of the Holy Qur’an. The Prophet’ himself has never set up Inquisition Courts for the hypocrites in Medina when he lived in it as the sole and obeyed ruler. The hypocrites represented religious and political opposition. They used to plot against him in times of war and peace, which in any present democratic society, a government would have the right to put them on trial for committing crimes equivalent to high treason.
Let us take some examples from the Holy Qur’an to explain the position of the Prophet’ regarding the hypocrites and the idolaters.
Some of them used to hasten to apostate and go back to disbelief which used to sadden the Messenger’, but he did not have the right to put them on trial; nor to pass any judgment against them; nor to apply what is known now as `the penalty for apostasy’; nor to set up Inquisition Courts. All what he could do was to feel sad for such people. His Lord tells him in the Holy Qur’an:
“O Messenger! let not those grieve thee who hasten to fall into disbelief – those who say with their mouths, `We believe,’ but their hearts believe not”. (5:41)
God assured him that those who hastened to apostatize and went back to disbelief will have no part in the blessings of the life to come. This would be enough as their punishment. Therefore there is no need to persecute or prosecute them in this life. God says:
“And let not those who hasten to fall into disbelieve grieve thee; surely, they cannot harm Allah in any way. Allah desires not to assign them any portion in the life to come; and they shall have a severe punishment”. (3:176)
An apostate cannot do any harm to God. Enough is the punishment that such a person will receive on the Day of Judgment if he or she died as an apostate. Some of the hypocrites used to exceed the limits to the degree of plotting against the Prophet’ and against the believers during times of war. In spite of this, the Prophet did not set up Inquisition Courts.
Pointing to the plots they used to plan against the Prophet, God says:
“And they say: `Obedience is our guiding principle;’ but when they go forth from thy presence, a section of them spends the night scheming against what thou hast said. Allah records whatever they scheme by night. So turn away from them, and put thy trust in Allah. And sufficient is Allah as a Disposer of affairs”. (4:81)
They used to offer the Prophet’ a lip service and appeared before him to be obedient. When they went to have a meeting with him they declared their obedience, but as soon as they departed from his presence they started plotting against him. They spread lies and fabrications against him. However, when God informed His Messenger of their plots and recorded their hostile attitude, He commanded the Prophet to turn away from them, and to put his trust in God alone Who is Sufficient for him as a Disposer of Affairs. His Lord did not tell him to set up Inquisition Courts for them, nor to condemn them as apostates and pass a judgment against them to execute them for the crime of apostatizing or for committing high treason.
In difficult times, such hypocrites used to plot against the Muslims and the Prophet, particularly in time of battles of wars with the idolaters, which in present times is considered to be high treason. They used to oscillate in their loyalty between the Muslims and the idolaters. They joined the victor among the two sides. Thus God says about them:
“Those who await your ruin. If you have a victory from Allah, they say, `Were we not with you?’ And if the disbelievers have a share of it, they say to them, `Did we not on a previous occasion get the better of you and save you from the believers?’ Allah will judge between you on the Day of Resurrection, and Allah will not grant the disbelievers a way to prevail against the believers”. (4:141)
Yes, God tells the Prophet and the believers:
“Allah will judge between you on the Day of Resurrection” (4:141)
which means that the final judgment is postponed until the Day of Judgment, because there is no room in a true Muslim state to set up any type of Court of Inquisition. Similarly, in no place in the true and pure Law of Islam there is such a penalty called `a penalty for apostasy’. Had there been any penalty for apostasy, the Prophet would have been the first to apply such a penalty against the hypocrites who were described by the Lord of Glory:
“The hypocrites shall surely be in the lowest depths of the Fire, and thou shalt find no helper for them”. (4:145)
The postponement of the final judgment until the Day of Judgment regarding matters related to faith and the rights of God is one of the principles clearly mentioned in the Holy Qur’an. Such a principle is considered to be one of the important features of a true religion in the realm of belief in God and belief in the Last Day.
This is what has been revealed in divine messages and what has been emphasized by various prophets and messengers sent by God. It is also what God has explained in the Holy Qur’an.
God told Jesus Son of Mary:
“O Jesus, I will cause thee to die and will exalt thee to Myself, and will clear thee of the charges of those who disbelieve, and will place those who follow thee above those who disbelieve, until the Day of Resurrection, then to Me shall be your return, and I will judge between you concerning that wherein you differ”. (3:55)
Clearly it is only God Who will judge between the Christians concerning the differences that have erupted between them. Such judgment will take place on the Day of Judgment. Had they believed in this, they would not have set up Court of Inquisition nor would they have burnt people at the stake accusing them of apostasy and heresy.
Similarly God says about the Jewish People:
“The punishment for profaning the Sabbath was imposed only on those who had differed about it and thy Lord will surely judge between them on the Day of Resurrection concerning that wherein they differed”. (16:124)
Evidently, it is only God Who will judge between the Jews concerning the differences between them. Such judgment will also take place on the Day of Resurrection.
The idolaters from Quraish as well as other idolaters have disblieved in the Holy Qur’an and denied the sanctity of this divine Book. Their judgment is also postponed till the Day of Judgment which is called also “The Day of Deen”, when all the kingdom shall manifestly belong to God alone. It is only He Who has revealed this Deen, (i.e. religion). He is also the King of the Day of Judgment. Thus God says about those who disbelieved in the Holy Qur’an:
“And those who disbelieve will not cease to be in doubt about it until the Hour comes suddenly upon them, or there comes to them the punishment of a destructive day. The Kingdom on that day shall be Allah’s. He will judge between them”. (22:55)
When they used to come to the Messenger of God and argue with him in the worst manner, God told him:
“And if they contend with thee, say, `Allah knows best what you do; Allah will judge between you and me on the Day of Resurrection concerning that about which you differ”. (22:68)
which means that the final judgment between them and him is postponed till the Day of Judgment.
For this, God used to command the Messenger” to be patient until the time comes for the “True Promise”, which is the Day of Judgment. On that day will be fulfilled all that God has promised His Messenger. On that day the great Court will be set up. God says:
“So be thou patient. Surely, the promise of Allah is bound to be fulfilled. And whatever We show thee in this life part of what We have promised them or whether We cause thee to die before the fulfillment of Our promise, to Us will they be brought back”. (40:77)
Also God tells His Messenger:
“And if We show thee in thy lifetime the fulfillment of some of the things with which We have threatened them, thou wilt know it; or if We cause thee to die before that, then to Us is their return”. (10:46)
What is unique about the Great Trial is that God is the Witness over what they do, and also He is the Wakeel, i.e. their representative, on Whom the believers depend. Enough is He as a Witness and enough is He as a Wakeel.
When a believer understands these meanings, he feels pity for those who are tempted by Satan and led into misguidance. Therefore, God commands the believers to forgive those who are misguided. He says:
“Tell those who believe to forgive them who persecute them and fear not the Days of Allah, that He may requite a people for what they earn. Whoso does good, does it for his own soul; and whoso does wrong, does so to its detriment. Then to your Lord will you all be brought back”. (45:14-15)
When a believer reflects upon the punishment awaiting the misguided in the life to come, then the pity he feels for them changes to pardon and forgiveness. A believer will never think of persecuting them nor of bringing them to trial. God says:
“And the Hour is sure to come. So do thou forebear with goodly forbearance”. (15:85)
How can anyone compare these highly noble commandments to the demand of those fanatics who call for setting up of Inquisition Courts?
Some of those who are over-enthusiastic religious zealots raise their voices accusing others of apostasy. Such people should better raise their prayers towards heaven. These prayers were raised during the time in which the Holy Qur’an was being sent down and are being raised now. The Holy Qur’an condemns the attitude of such over-enthusiastic religious zealots:
`We call to witness the Prophet’s repeated cry: `O my Lord! these are a people who will not believe’. And Our reply was, `So turn aside from them, and say, `Peace’. And soon shall they know”. (43:88-89)
Thus the proper reply to such people is to say: `Peace’ and to forgive them. They will realize the truth on the Day of Judgment.
To set up Court of Inquisition to judge people based on their beliefs and to watch over the whispers of their hearts is beyond the capacity of humans. Hence such courts are unjust courts. Not only because they plagiarized one of the special rights of God Who is the Single Being able to judge over the faith and beliefs of people, and not only because such courts are against the divine Law which decreed to postpone the final judgment concerning the differences between various doctrines till the Day of Judgment, but also because such courts have been imposed upon private thoughts which are hidden in the bosoms.
It is only God Who knows the treachery of the eyes and what the breasts conceal. This is exactly what the Lord of Glory has said while talking about the great trial on the Day of Judgment, or the Day of Meeting, as the following verses explain:
“… that He may give warning of the Day of meeting. The day when they will all come forth, nothing concerning them will be hidden from Allah. `Whose is the Kingdom this day!’ It is Allah’s, the One, the Most Supreme. This day will every soul be requited for that which it has earned. No injustice this day! Surely, Allah is swift in reckoning. And warn them of the day that is fast approaching, when the hearts will reach up to the throats, full of suppressed grief. The wrongdoers will have no warm friend, nor any intercessor whose intercession would be accepted. He knows the treachery of the eyes and what the hearts conceal. And Allah judges with truth, but those upon whom they call beside Him cannot judge at all. Surely, Allah is the All-Hearing, the All-seeing”. (40:15-20)
Thus the Day of Meeting, (Talaqee), is the day on which everyone will meet his Creator. It is the day when mankind will stand before the Lord of all the worlds, that is the Day of Judgment. On such day, all people shall appear for meeting with God and nothing concerning them would be concealed from Him. It is the day when it shall become manifest that all the Kingdom belongs only to Him. It is also the day when every soul will be judged according to what it has earned, when injustice will exist no more because it is God alone Who will judge with absolute justice and truth and it is He alone Who knows the unseen.
It is one of the features of that great day that the Lord of Glory will take account from everyone regarding their secrets. He says:
“On the day when secrets shall be disclosed”. (86:9)
which means that God will examine the secrets.
Such a judgment will be carried out with absolute justice, because the Judge knows the secrets and what is concealed in the bosoms. This knowledge belongs only to God which He did not grant to anyone else, not even to His Messenger who was appointed as the Seal of the Prophets.
The Messenger did not know what was concealed in the bosoms of his Companions. Some of those who were in his company were the worst hypocrites. They got used to hypocrisy to the degree they became addicted to it, and became very crafty in the art of putting the appearance of true believers. Consequently, God says to the Prophet and to the believers:
“And of the desert Arabs around you some are hypocrites; and of the people of Medina also. They persist in hypocrisy. Thou knowest them not We know them”. (9:101)
God clearly explains the situation of those who “persist in hypocrisy”, pointing out: `You do not know them’. Because the knowledge of what is in the bosoms belongs only to God not to anyone else. Glory be to Him Who knows the unseen!
The Priesthood raises itself over and above the prophets because it claims to know what is unseen in the bosoms. It also puts itself on the same level of the Lord of Glory by judging, in the name of God, but of course falsely and calumny, whoever it differs with concerning matters of faith and belief. God tells the Prophet:
“And let not those who hasten to fall into disbelief grieve thee; surely, they cannot harm Allah in any way. Allah desires not to assign them any portion in the life to come; and they shall have a severe punishment”. (3:176)
It is not for anyone to judge people in matters of belief and disbelief. These matters belong to God alone, not to anyone else, not even to His Prophet. A prophet is not responsible for anything except to deliver the message, to give glad tidings and to communicate the warnings he received from his Lord. So, when some of his followers go back on their faith and apostatize, he should not grieve himself over them. Having apostatized is a matter that does not concern him. It is a matter that concerns God, though they cannot harm God in any way by hasting to apostatize. God’s decree concerning such apostates is that they should be deprived of Paradise and should be punished in hell.
God says to the Prophet:
“Admonish, therefore, for thou art but an admonisher; Thou art not appointed a keeper over them. But whoever turns away and disbelieves, Allah will punish him with the greatest punishment. Unto Us, surely, is their return. Then, surely, it is for Us to call them to account”. (88:21-26)
To control the feelings and the emotions of other people and to watch over their beliefs is beyond the capacity of the Prophet. Therefore God told him: You are not Musaytir, i.e. not their keeper. Although the Prophet had political control over Medina, being the head of state, yet such political control did not give him the right to have religious control over the hearts of all its inhabitants. The hypocrites were living there. As for the believers who were living in Medina, their hearts were united in love through the grace of God not through the effort of the Prophet alone. God says:
“And He has put affection between their hearts. If thou hast expended all that is in the earth, thou couldst not have out affection between their hearts, but Allah has put affection between them”. (8:63)
The only one who has control over the hearts is God alone. It was His will to leave the hearts free to believe or to disbelieve, to obey or to disobey, to love or to hate. Thus God forbade the Prophet to exceed any limit in inviting people to the faith by forcing them in any way, shape or manner. He told the Prophet:
“And if thy Lord had enforced His Will, surely, all who are in the earth would have believed together. Wilt thou, then, force people to become believers? And no soul can believe except by the permission of Allah”. (10:99-100)
Thus bringing them to trial and punishing them belongs to God alone. It is only He Who has this right and no one else. Whoever gives himself this right is usurping the right of God and is setting himself as a god beside God.
History proves that Court of Inquisition and persecution of the opponents in matters of faith always occurred during the times in which the Priesthood had control, or during the times in which people have deified other human beings such as saints, imams, clerics, priests and monks. Such phenomenon never existed during the times very close to the beginning of Islam.
In the time of the Messenger and the Rightly-guided Successors, the early Muslims have never had Court of Inquisition or what is called `the penalty of apostasy’. Nevertheless, persecution of religious opponents did exist at that time by the Byzantine Empire which was persecuting the Copts of Egypt for religious differences concerning the nature of the Messiah. Hence the Egyptians welcomed whole heartedly the Islamic conquest of Egypt to save themselves from the Roman’s religious persecution.
Then the “microbes” of religious persecution were transferred to the Muslims during the periods of totalitarian control and the successors who were “unrightly guided”. There and then, the Muslims came to know the Court of Inquisition and the penalty of apostasy for reasons that were not related to religion but in which religion itself was abused. Religion was the means by which the Priesthood had to protect its unfounded doctrines for justifying religious and political dictatorships.
God did not make any law for humans to punish those who hasten to apostate after they had believed, as they cannot harm God in any way:
“Surely, they cannot harm Allah in any way”. (3:176)
but the religious and political Priesthood hasten to persecute and punish its opponents because such opponents can do it a lot of harm.
Usually, Priesthood exists on basis that are illogical. It often sets itself to oppose truth and to contradict the true religion of God. Whenever Priesthood looses the battle of logic and reason then the only way left is to resort to use of force. Thus the Priesthood appoints a judgment day before the Judgment Day of God and sets up Court of Inquisition before the final day in which every one will give account for his/her actions. The Priesthood claims to rule and judge in the name of God while in reality it usurps His right.
Setting up laws for Court of Inquisition under the pretext of “Asking the apostate to repent”:
They gave themselves the right to ask people to repent infront of them, though repentance is not permitted except before God alone. It is only God Who accepts repentance of a person who sincerely repents to Him. God did not give anyone else the right to accept repentance.
God tells the believers:
“And turn ye to Allah all together, O believers”. (24:31)
Also He says:
“O ye who believe! turn to Allah in sincere repentance”. (66:8)
Thus it is only God to Whom people should offer their repentance, and it is He alone Who accepts repentance of the Prophet and the believers, as He says:
“Allah has certainly turned with mercy to the Prophet and to the Emigrants and the Helpers who followed him in the hour of distress”. (9:117)
This shows that the Prophet himself does not have the right to accept the repentance of any person nor does he have the right to forgive the sins of the sinners. God tells the Prophet:
“It is none of thy concern whether He may turn to them in mercy or punish them, for they are wrongdoers. And to Allah belongs whatever is in the heavens and whatever is in the earth. He forgives whomsoever He pleases and punishes whomsoever He pleases, and Allah is Most Forgiving, Merciful”. (3:128-129)
And because there is no god but Allah, none else has the right to accept repentance or to receive repentance of anyone. This was what God commanded His Prophet to proclaim:
“Say, `He is my Lord; there is no god but He. In Him do I put my trust and towards Him is my return”. (13:30)
which means that I repent only to God.
This was what the Prophet used to say and to proclaim.
However, the Priesthood elevates itself above the Prophet. While the Prophet, as indicated by the Qur’an, had no concern in the matter of reward and punishment, yet the Priesthood gives itself every right concerning everything. While repentance is directed towards God alone and no one can receive repentance of humans and none can judge them except God, yet the Priesthood appoints itself to be a partner with God and gives itself the right to judge its opponents and even to punish them according to what is called the penalty of apostasy.
During the times when political and religious Priesthood had the upper hand, the religious clergy wrote a lot on the subject of “receiving repentance of the apostate”. Some of the present-day scholars, like Sheikh Sayyed Sabiq [Considered one of the extremists among present-day clergy. He used to belong to Muslim Brotherhood organization and is said to have issued some verdicts to justify few political assassinations. (The translator)] has copied what was written in the far past and reproduced it in his book: “Fighus-Sunnah”. He writes that the apostate must be made to repent even if his apostasy is repeated, and he should be given a period of time to himself so that he may reflect about the matter. All his self-whispers should be refuted and his thoughts should be discussed. If he changed his position and announced that he rejected every religion except Islam then his repentance should be accepted, otherwise the “penalty of apostasy” should be carried out!
Also he says: “some of the scholars have estimated the time period granted to an apostate to repent by three days while others have not defined the time. However, it is necessary to instruct him repeatedly and to hold a discussion with him until it is concluded that he will not return back to Islam, then the penalty of apostasy should be applied. It is also said that he should be killed immediately.” [Fiqhus-Sunnah: part 2 page: 388]
They also came up with a murky reason to justify accusing someone of committing apostasy. It is not clearly defined and can be interpreted according to one’s desire. Such a reason is: “To deny what is necessarily known of religion”. Obviously, the expression: “What is necessarily known of religion” is a jurisprudent expression that has surfaced in recent times. It is not clearly defined and there is no agreement between the scholars concerning it. It was not known during the period of the Messenger sa nor in the time of the Rightly-guided Successors. There is no list, agreed upon, of that which is necessarily known of religion. The Holy Qur’an did not provide such an agreed upon list neither such defined list has ever existed in true traditions of the Prophet, or even in the false traditions. In the various writings of the jurists, one finds no such list. Every scholar may give some examples of what is necessarily known of religion, only examples which can be added to or taken away from, increased or decreased. Accordingly, one may find a list which may represent the opinion of a particular scholar, his time, his knowledge and his understanding.
Sheikh Syyed Sabiq, in his book “Fiqhus-Sunnah” has provided some examples of that which is necessarily known of religion, in which he expressed his opinion and stated his position relating to some matters in our political life. He defines the one who denies what is necessarily known of religion, and consequently deserves to be killed, as the one who makes lawful that which the Muslims have agreed upon to be considered unlawful, or to make unlawful that which the Muslims have agreed upon to be lawful, or the one who insults the Prophet, or insults Islam or makes accusations against the Holy Book and the Sunnah and leaves acting upon them preferring to follow the laws made by people, or the one who claims that he has received a revelation from God, or throws the Holy Book in the dirt, or throws the books of traditions giving no importance to them or their value …etc.’ [Fighus-Sunnah: part 2 page: 384]
In the past periods of time, it was not one of items in the list of “what is necessarily known of religion” to include preferring the rule of the Book and the Sunnah to the civil laws. Such an item was not even mentioned in the writings of earlier scholars. The reason is that applying the Shariah was not a political issue during the Abbasyd or the Mamluks’ eras.
It means that Sheikh Sayyed Sabiq has introduced a new item in the list of “what is necessarily known of religion”, an item which the early scholars had not known before. The reason is that at the time of Sheikh Sayyed Sabiq, there has been so many secular movements that took a stand regarding the demands raised by some religious groups to apply the Shariah. Therefore, we understand why the Sheikh threatened them with the “penalty of apostasy”; because, according to him, they denied “what is necessarily known of religion”. Consequently, the list of “what is necessarily known of religion” could be increased or decreased according to various circumstances, depending on time, and depending on the views of each scholar. It starts by denying the existence of the Divine and goes on to include throwing the books of traditions in the dirt, according to the opinion of Sheikh Sayyed Sabiq, and also throwing the books of Shariah, i.e. Jurisprudence, as stated by a book of jurisprudence, which adds: “spitting on the books of jurisprudence or mixing the books with spitting, is considered a legitimate reason to accuse someone of apostasy and to kill him, even though the saliva itself is considered to be clean and pure”!
This means that some people have made of religion a private kingdom over which they wanted to impose their own opinion and their own books. If the people refused to yield to such opinions, they will be threatened by a Court of Inquisition and by execution!
It is no wonder after all of this that a legislation presented to the Egyptian Parliament calling for the application of Islamic Shariah has included the penalty of apostasy. It defined apostasy as: “Denying what is necessarily known of religion”. Thus this elastic definition remains as a drawn sword over the necks of those who dare to oppose the clergy. However, the law was generous with the victims, so instead of three, it gave the apostate thirty days as a grace period to receive his repentance before executing him!
The danger of the accusation of “denying what is necessarily known of religion” is not only that such an accusation is very elastic, not defined in specific number of items which do not increase nor decrease and are not added to nor subtracted from. All this is not the only danger.
The real danger is the ambiguity of the items in such a list. The ambiguity of these items opens the door for personal interpretations and various, understandings according to personal desire.
For example, Sheikh Sayyed Sabiq says that the apostate is the one who attacks the Holy Book and the Sunnah. Such an accusation is very elastic. The Holy Qur’an contains many matters on which Muslims have differed, such as the meaning of Sitting on the Throne, the subject of seeing God, and the matter of Destiny and Decree. Every party of Muslims use certain arguments from the Holy Qur’an they feel supportive to their views. Therefore, according to the Sheikh’s opinion, every party can accuse the other of attacking the Holy Book by misinterpreting it.
As for the definition of “Sunnah”, it becomes more elastic and ambiguous. Each of the scholars of Hadith (i.e. the traditions of the Prophet) has collected and verified a number of traditions which he has considered to be the Sunnah of the Messenger. All of them differ with each other. Then came after them other scholars who differed much more than before. Because of the ambiguous definition of the terms in the list used to accuse someone of apostasy, each party of scholars of Hadith can have the right to accuse other parties of attacking the books of Sunnah. Consequently, every party would be able to set up a Court of Inquisition for the others. History of Muslims in the time of Abbasyds and the Mamluks was full of hundreds of inquisition courts and so many accusations of apostasy. The ruling authorities have been involved in such inquisition courts according to their own political and ideological inclinations. Usually the party that had the upper hand was able to accuse others of apostasy and the loosers would be punished according to the penalty of apostasy.
This theological disagreements among Muslims made some scholars decide to apply the penalty of apostasy to the Zendeeq, i.e. the heretic, without giving him a chance for a fair trial. Thus he is deprived of the right to defend himself or to present his arguments. In other words, he is denied the right to “offer his repentance”!!
One outrageous example is presented by an author of a book on jurisprudence, stating that a Zendeeq should be executed immediately after being caught, without asking him to repent. Such a person used to be considered “a hypocrite” in the time of the Prophet. However, according to the newly invented jurisprudence, such a person should be killed even if he repented! !
The reader may imagine that a Zendeeq is someone who is a blasphemous or a disbeliever or an atheist who does not believe in God, His Messengers and His Books. No! He is a believer. He believes in God and His Messengers and His Books, but he is a thinker who has an independent opinion. His major mistake is that his views may differ with those of other scholars. Such a difference may be tantamount to what others may consider to be denial of “what is necessarily known of religion”. So, he deserves to be killed even if he repented. And because he is a person of opinion, supported by arguments and proofs, then the religious Priesthood deprives such a person of the right to a fair trial which may be granted to a regular apostate who turns back to disbelief. The reason for this is that the regular apostate may not have the arguments and the proofs which the Priesthood is afraid of. As for a person who is accused of being a Zendeeq, being a person of opinion, the Priesthood clergy cannot face him in a fair trial, so there is no need for him to be brought to trial! It is better to get rid of him and to kill him quickly!
Sheikh Sayyed Sabiq says that the Zendeeq is a person who believes in Islam inwardly and outwardly. Thus he believes with his tongue and heart. How then he is considered to be a Zendeeq? The Sheikh says in explanation: “… but he may interpret some of what is necessarily known of religion in a different way from that which the Companions and those who came after them and all the Ummah (i.e. all the Muslims), have agreed upon”.
In other words, one is considered to be a Zendeeq because one used one’s mind, thought about some matters and came up with new opinions that may differ with what is commonly known and “what we found our fathers following”, irrespective of whether one has got evidence to support one’s opinions or not. What only matters is that the evidence may differ from the interpretation of the Companions and those who came after them and has been agreed upon by the Ummah!
The Sheikh presents his own opinion by saying: “As the jurisprudence has ordained putting a person to death as a penalty for apostasy in order to make it a restraint against apostatizing, similarly it has ordained putting a person to death as a penalty for being a Zendeeq in order to make it a restraint against heresy and for protection against any wrong interpretation which is unacceptable. Therefore, anyone who denies intercession; or denies seeing God the Exalted on the Day of Judgment; or denies punishment of the grave and questioning by the two interrogating angels: “Naker & Nakeer”; and who denies the Judgment and the Narrow Way, whether one says: `I do not trust these reporters’, or says: `I trust the reporters but the tradition has a different interpretation’, then one gives a wrong interpretation which has not been heard of before, then such a person is considered to be a Zendeeq. The majority of the later scholars of the Hanafi and Shafe’ee schools of jurisprudence have agreed to put such a person to death”.[Fighus-Sunnah part 2 page 391]
This is absolutely outrageous, because all these are points upon which Muslims have differed, and still differ. The Mu’tazala and Hanbalis have differed upon such points like seeing God, and creation of the Qur’an. All have differed upon intercession and the punishment in the grave and the requital of the grave. On points of difference, it happens that every side supports his views by interpreting the verses of the Holy Qur’an and by examining the position of the Traditions and refuting the arguments of the other side. Such refutation and intellectual debates were the norm during the era of intellectual progress of Muslims. However, in the time of rigidity and sticking to traditions, the later jurists have relieved themselves of the trouble of having a debate or making a research by erecting a wall which is called: “What is necessarily known of religion”. They raised the sword of apostasy and accusation of sanctimony and putting to death everyone who may try to be diligent and to think. The later jurists have slept for long in the shadow of a wall called: “What is necessarily known of religion”. Unfortunately, they are still asleep.
Wake up ye people!
The greater injustice is to kill the soul that God has forbidden to kill, then attribute this nefarious action to God the Exalted.
The position of the Holy Qur’an regarding
the verdict of executing someone outside
the principle of: “life for a life”.
The first world war can be considered to have occurred between the two sons of Adam when one of them had murdered the other. The victim had never in his life committed a murder. In other words, the executer has executed him without any reason to justify the execution.
The Lord of Glory narrated the story of that first crime committed in the history of humans. From its text we can understand what were its objectives.
“And relate to them with truth the story of the two sons of Adam, when they each offered an offering, and it was accepted from one of them and was not accepted from the other. The latter said:. `I will surely kill thee’. The former replied, `Allah accepts only from the righteous. If thou stretch out thy hand against me to kill me, I shall not stretch my hand against thee to kill thee. I do fear Allah, the Lord of the Universe”. (5:27-28)
The meaning of killing and executing a soul was understood by all. The wrongdoing involved in the act of killing a human soul was also known, particularly to the brother victim who preferred not to stretch his hand to kill his brother because he feared the Lord of the Universe. He told his brother:
“`I wish that thou shouldst bear the punishment of the sin against me as well as of thine own sin, and thus be among the inmates of the Fire, and that is the recompense of those who do wrong’. (5:29)
The sin of committing a murder and its evil was not absent from the mind of the aggressor brother. Therefore, after he threatened to kill his brother, he stayed for sometime hesitant, then he issued a verdict to kill his brother, or as the Qur’anic expression states it:
“But his evil self induced him to kill his brother, so he killed him and became one of the losers”. (5:30)
And because it was the first murder crime in history, and because Adam, their father, was still alive and has not died yet, and because the corpse of the victim was the first corpse in the history of mankind, God the Exalted sent a raven to teach the murderer how to hide the corpse of his brother:
“Then Allah sent a raven which scratched in the ground, that He might show him how to hide the corpse of his brother. He said, `Woe is me! Am I not able to be even like this raven so that I may hide the corpse of my brother?’ And then he became remorseful”. (5:31)
The focus of this case concentrates on God’s saying:
“But his evil self induced him to kill his brother, so he killed him and became one of the losers”. (5:30)
In other words, the concentration is not only on the crime of murder itself but on what is more evil than murder; which is the verdict of unjustly putting someone to death, i.e. to legislate killing of a soul that did not deserve to be killed.
The Qur’anic expression here is so clear: “his evil self induced him to kill his brother”, meaning that his evil self has made it permissible, legislated and then issued a verdict to kill the brother. Such legislation was then put into practice, thus “he killed him”, afterwards he “became one of the losers”.
Because the focus of the story warns against the danger of “inducing to kill”, i.e. making a verdict to kill someone unjustly, God pointed directly to the objective and said:
“On account of this, We prescribed for the Children of Israel that whosoever killed a person – unless it be for killing a person – creating disorder in the land it shall be as if he had killed all, mankind; and whoso saved a life, it shall be as if he had saved the life of all mankind”. (5:32)
“On account of this”, that is to say, on account of what tas been mentioned in the story regarding the son of Adam inducing himself to kill his brother who did not deserve to be killed;
“We prescribed for the Children of Israel”, that is to say, God made it a commandment in the Law of the Torah;
“that whosoever killed a person unless it be for killing a person”, which means that whosoever killed a soul that had not committed a murder, or killed a person outside the principle of: “a life for a life”;
“creating disorder in the land”, the disorder mentioned in the verse is a description for the crime of killing a soul that did not deserve to be killed. Thus the expression: “creating disorder” is analogous to the killing;
“it shall be as if he had killed all mankind”. Here we may have a problem: How is it possible that killing one soul is equal to killing all of mankind? In other words, if we were to assume that one person has killed one man, while another person has killed a million men, how then can both be equal in the weight of the crime? Of course: No.
The equality in committing such a crime as mentioned in the Holy Qur’an is not related to the actual act of killing. It is related to the more dangerous and grievous crime, which is producing a verdict to kill someone unjustly. The focus of the story was, as stated by the Qur’anic expression: “his evil self induced him to kill his brother”. This means that the person who issues a verdict to kill someone who did not commit a murder, or to kill someone unjustly, or to kill someone outside the law of requital; then such a person is considered to have killed all of mankind, because he issued a verdict for killing. Such verdict can be executed and carried out at all times, in every era and in every place. In short, such a person has issued a verdict to kill all of mankind.
The only justifiable act of killing is according to the law of requital, that is to kill the murderer as a punishment for his crime. This is the commandment of God in the Torah. If we were to exceed the limits set out by God, transgress His laws and pass a judgment that was not in agreement with His Revelation, then we would be like a person who passed a judgment of execution against all of mankind. Thus what God the Exalted said:
“On account of this, We prescribed for the Children of Israel that whosoever killed a person – unless it be for killing a person – creating disorder in the land, it shall be as if he had killed all mankind; and whoso saved a life, it shall be as if he had saved the life of all mankind”. (5:32)
does not relate to the actual act of killing but relates to the more dangerous crime which is issuing a verdict to kill a person who does not deserve to be killed. Therefore the description of this more dangerous crime was mentioned by God the Exalted to be: “creating disorder in the land”. Hence, inducing killing, outside the law of requital, is considered to be the most grievous crime of creating disorder.
The Holy Qur’an made this objective very clear by pointing to issuing of such unjust verdict not to the mere act of killing.
Then God the Exalted says:
“and whoso saved a life, it shall be as if he had saved the life of all mankind”. (5:32)
What is meant by saving a life is not related to the murderer who murdered someone. Naturally, the person who kills someone cannot bring him back to life. The objective of the verse is very clear, it intends to say that the greatest crime is to issue a verdict of unjust killing, and whosoever fights issuing such verdicts and proves that it is not a law revealed by God, then such a person saves all of mankind from the effect of these poisonous and destructive verdicts. It is as if he had saved the life of all mankind.
Whoever issues such criminal verdicts kills all of mankind, and whoever fights such verdicts and proves the falsehood of such practice saves all of mankind from their evil effect. This is the meaning of God’s words:
“On account of this, We prescribe for the Children of Israel that whosoever killed a person – unless it be for killing a person – creating disorder in the land, it shall be as if he had killed all mankind; and whoso saved a life, it shall be as if he had saved the life of all mankind” (5:32)
The Lord of Glory has mentioned this divine jurisprudence in the Torah. He said about the Children of Israel and the Torah:
“And therein We prescribed for them: Life for life” (5:45)
which means that there is no justification for killing a soul except when it had committed a murder, i.e. as requital.
In Islamic jurisprudence, the penalty for murder has been commuted by introducing an alleviation by which the murderer may be saved from execution if the victim or his family agreed to accept the blood-money. God says:
“O ye who believe! equitable retaliation in the matter of the slain is prescribed for you; the free man for the free man, and the slave for the slave, and the female for the female. But for him who is granted any remission by his injured brother, pursuing the matter for the realization of the blood-money shall be done with fairness, and the murderer shall pay him the blood-money in a handsome manner. This is an alleviation from your Lord and a mercy”. (2:178)
Paying the blood-money in a handsome manner after the family of the victim agreed to accept it, is the alleviation introduced by God in the Holy Qur’an as a mercy.
Thus there is an exception in the rule of: “life for life”. Such exception is paying the blood-money. Accordingly, the murderer may not be killed in all cases.
However, the law of retaliation is always applicable, whether the murderer pays with his soul or with his money. For this, God the Exalted says:
“And there is life for you in the law of retaliation” (2:179)
The rule of retaliation is a fundamental rule, even when fighting in the cause of God. Surely, in the Law of God there is life, justice and beneficence for the people.
God the Exalted forbids aggression and made fighting lawful in defence of the state if an aggression was committed against it:
“And fight in the way of Allah against those who fight against you, but do not transgress. Surely, Allah loves not the transgressors”. (2:190)
The legislation of retaliation came as fundamental rules concerning fighting as mentioned in the Word of God the Exalted:
“The violation of a Sacred Month may be retaliated in the Sacred Month; and for all sacred things there is the law of retaliation. So, whoso transgresses against you, punish him for his transgression to the extent to which he has transgressed against you. And fear Allah and know that Allah is with those who fear Him”. (2:194)
which means that God the Exalted forbids the Muslims to exceed the law of retaliation in their war with the aggressors. If the aggressor happened to kill ten persons from among the Muslims, then the Muslims are not allowed to kill more than ten persons. This is the law of retaliation in which there is life for Muslims and for all others as well.
This being the case in the legislation for fighting an enemy who committed an act of aggression, then what about dealing with a peaceful person who did not raise a sword? Of course, there is no justification in killing such a person except in one case only: If he had committed a murder and the family of the victim refused to accept the blood-money insisting that he should pay with his life for his crime.
It is the utmost and extreme injustice to issue a verdict to kill a soul for any other reason outside the law of retaliation, and then to ascribe such unjust verdicts to the religion of God the Exalted, while the religion of God is absolutely free of such horrible acts.
In order to emphasize this rule, God has made it a fundamental legislative rule and repeated it three times in the Holy Qur’an so that every mindful person may benefit by it. God said in the ten commandments mentioned in Chapter 6 “Al-Ana’ am”:
“… and that you slay not the soul the slaying of which Allah has forbidden, except in accordance with the demands of justice. That is what He has enjoined upon you, that you may understand”. (6:151)
Among some other commandments, God said in Chapter 17:
“And slay not the soul, the slaying of which Allah has forbidden, except for a just cause. And whoso is slain wrongfully, We have surely given his heir authority to demand retribution but let him not exceed the prescribed bounds in slaying; for therein he will be supported by law”. (17:33)
which means that there is an authority granted to the family of the person who was killed wrongfully, such authority enables them to kill the murderer or to take the blood-money. The heirs of the victim are warned not to exceed the limits in killing, i.e. not to kill any other person beside the murderer, nor to persecute or to torture the murderer while executing him or to mutilate his body after his death.
In Chapter 25, “Al-Furqan”, God the Exalted says among many attributes of the true servants of the Gracious God:
“And those who call not on any other god along with Allah, nor slay a person whose slaying Allah has forbidden except for a just cause”. (25:68)
It may be noticed that, in the preceding verses, the Qur’anic expression has been consistent in this fundamental Qur’anic rule:
“slay not the soul, the slaying of which Allah has forbidden, except for a just cause” (6:151) (17:33)
“nor slay a person whose slaying Allah has forbidden except for a just cause” (25:68)
which means that God has forbidden killing of any person. This is a fundamental rule. The only exception is the law of retaliation which is revealed in the Word of God, the absolute truth, in which there is no doubt and which falsehood cannot approach it from neither before it nor from behind, and which is a revelation from the Wise, the Praise-worthy, as God says about the Holy Qur’an:
“And in accordance with the requirements of truth and wisdom We have sent it down, and with truth and wisdom has it descended”. (17:105)
The “requirements of truth” which may necessitate an exception from the fundamental rule is stated in the verse:
“And slay not the soul, the slaying of which Allah has forbidden, except for a just cause”, (17:33)
Such a “just cause” must be in accordance with the requirements of truth, i.e. approved by God Who is the Absolute Truth according to His Word revealed in the Qur’an which was sent down with truth. This is the law of retaliation as explained in the Qur’an. Anything that contradicts the Qur’an is considered false and unfounded of which God and His Messenger are free. When such falsehood is related to killing people outside the boundaries of justice and truth, then such action is nothing but creation of disorder in the land. God the Exalted loves not the disorder.
The true Sunnah, i.e. practice of the Messenger of God, is the practical application of the Qur’anic jurisprudence. Such practice never contradicted the Qur’an. This is what the Messenger’ has applied in dealing with the apostates and the hypocrites and the like.
The penalty of apostasy in the light of the
true practice of the Messenger.
The practice of the Messenger is the practice of his God the Exalted. God sent down His jurisprudence as a revelation, and the Messenger’ delivered it to the people and put it into practice. The Messenger was the first among the people who obeyed and followed the commandments of God, the Exalted.
God has commanded the Prophet to proclaim:
“I only follow what is revealed to be”. (46:9)
Believing in the Messenger means believing in everything that has been revealed to him in the Holy Qur’an and believing that he has followed that revelation and put it into practice and was the first to believe and to apply it.
On the Day of Judgment, the Messenger sa’ will disassociate himself from those who attributed to him falsely that which he has not said, and those who have deserted the Qur’an which the Prophet has followed throughout his life.
“And the Messenger said. `O my Lord, my people indeed treated this Qur’an as a thing to be discarded’. Thus did We make for every Prophet an enemy from among the sinners; and sufficient is thy Lord as a Guide and a Helper”. (25:30-31)
What we want to prove here is that there was no gap nor any minute contradiction between the Qur’an and the true practice of the Messenger. Indeed, they are one. Although this is a logical fact that does not require any proof yet sometimes it is intellectually imperative to prove and to assert even the logical facts.
The general fundamental rule of jurisprudence stated in the Holy Qur’an is:
“There is no compulsion in religion. Surely, the right way has become distinct from error”. (2:256)
The supporters of fanatic Priesthood understand such a rule in a way through which they try to justify the alleged penalty of apostasy. They give a false meaning claiming that there is no compulsion to force anyone to join the religion, however, if anyone joined the religion, then he is forced and coerced in following the religious jurisprudence, and if he wanted to leave the religion, he would have to face the penalty of apostasy and would realize that he was caught in a trap.
This adulteration of the meaning of the verse: “There is no compulsion in religion”, means that God forgot to mention an important word in the verse. In other words, the verse should have been stated as: `There is no compulsion in joining a religion’. So, it seems that the word “joining” has been forgotten but the genius fanatics of Priesthood have discovered it. Exalted be God over such nonsense with high exaltation! All praise is due to Him Who has protected the Qur’an from any perversion, otherwise the fingers of fanatic Priesthood would have perverted it as much as it pleased them.
The clear and obvious meaning of the verse: “There is no compulsion in religion”, in every religion, is: There should be no compulsion in joining any religion and there should be no compulsion in leaving any religion, neither should there be any compulsion to coerce anyone into performing the religious rituals that relate to God. God the Exalted wants everyone to worship Him out of one’s free will and one’s free conscious, not to offer prayers with a whip over one’s head. He wants everyone to volunteer to pay alms out of love for God and as a desire to obey Him not for the purpose of being seen by others nor out of fear of coercion. The hypocrites used to pay alms in this way and used to offer their prayers in order to be seen by others. God forbade His Prophet to accept their alms and He did not accept their prayers. God says:
“And nothing prevents that their contributions should be accepted from them save that they disbelieve in Allah and His Messenger. And they come not to Prayer except lazily and they spend not in the way of Allah but reluctantly.” (9:54)
In the meantime, God said about another type of people who have repented and were sincere in their repentance:
“And there are others who have confessed their faults. They mixed good works with others that are evil. It may be that Allah will turn to them with compassion. Surely, Allah is Most Forgiving, Merciful. Take alms out of their wealth, so that thou mayest cleanse them and purify them thereby”. (9:102)
That is to say, take alms out of their wealth because they offer such alms willingly seeking forgiveness from God.
Going back to the verse of God the Exalted: “There is no compulsion in religion”, it clearly prohibits compulsion in joining a religion, in leaving it and in performing God’s rituals of worship. We emphasize that perverting the meaning of the verse by confining it to joining the religion only is terribly wrong. Had it been the case then the Arabic text should have read:
which should be translated as: There should be no compulsion into joining religion. In this case it will be understood that the prohibition is confined only to compelling anyone into joining a religion.
The Qur’an has used the expression: meaning “forcing into” in the verse:
“And force not your maids into unchaste life” (24:33)
Had God intended to confine compulsion to only joining religion He would have said “There should be no forcing INTO joining religion”, but He wanted to exclude all types of compulsion in all matters that are related to religion. So He said: “There is no compulsion IN religion”.
What is important to understand is that the general fundamental rule in divine jurisprudence to prohibit compulsion in religion, i.e. in joining or leaving religion, is based on the freedom of humans granted to them by God to believe or to disbelieve, with the understanding that they are going to meet God on the Day of Judgment to give account of their actions.
Out of this general fundamental rule, many other jurisprudence laws have branched reflecting the religious and political changes in the time during which the Qur’an was revealed. Such changes usually accompany the tendencies and the direction of every society and the inclination of the individuals in the society towards good and evil, guidance and misguidance, believing or disbelieving and in joining religion or leaving it.
We have explained how the Prophet’ used to feel immense grief for those who hasten to disbelieve after believing. However, he had no right to prosecute them nor to apply to them any penalty for apostasy, simply because there is no penalty for apostasy in Islam.
The Holy Qur’an has specifically mentioned the subject of apostasy in four verses but never mentioned any penalty to be applied by the ruler to the apostate. The apostate is left to be dealt with by God Who can punish him in this world and in the world to come.
“Surely, those who turn their backs after guidance has become manifest to them, Satan has seduced them and holds out false hopes to them”. (47:25)
which means that Satan has deceived those people who turned back. When we read on the following verses in the text to find the alleged penalty of apostasy, we find nothing more than warning of what is going to happen to them at the time of death:
“But how will they fare when the angels will cause them to die, smiting their faces and their backs?” (4727)
then on the Day of Judgment, God will render their works vain, as He says in the following verse of the same text:
“That is because they followed that which displeased Allah, and disliked the seeking of His pleasure. So He rendered their works vain”. (47:28)
which means that the final judgment has been postponed till the Day of Judgment.
The other verses which mentioned the subject of apostasy have warned the believers of falling into the evil of apostasy. God says:
“O ye who believe! whoso among you turns back from his religion, then Allah will soon bring in his stead a people whom He will love and who will love Him and who will be kind and humble towards believers, and hard and firm against disbelievers. They will strive in the cause of Allah and will not fear the reproach of a fault-finder”. (5:54)
meaning that if some people should apostatize, then God will bring instead of them other people who will be much better than them.
The same theme was mentioned also in the verse:
“And if you turn your backs, He will bring in your place another people; then they will not be like you”. (47:38)
That is all what is going to happen: God will replace them with other people, because God the Exalted is surely independent of all creatures. If all of mankind should apostatize and turn into disbelievers then they can never harm God in any way.
God says, warning the believers against the conspiracies of the Jews:
“O ye who believe! if you obey any party of those who have been given the Book, they will turn you again into disbelievers after you have believed”. (3:100)
Then God the Exalted says, in order to underline the beauty of religion and believing:
“How would you disbelieve, while to you are rehearsed the Signs of Allah, and His Messenger is in your midst? And he who hold fast to Allah is indeed guided to the right path”. (3:101)
God the Exalted says warning the believers of the plans of the idolaters to persecute them in order to lead them astray:
“And they will not cease fighting you until they turn you back from your Faith, if they can. And whoso from among you turns back from his Faith and dies while he is a disbeliever, 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”. (2:217)
God did not say: whoso turns back from his Faith then he should be put to death as a penalty for his apostasy. God only stated the punishment in the next life, even if the apostate continued in his apostasy during all of his life.
The subject of apostasy has also been mentioned frequently in the Holy Qur’an during references about the hypocrites who disbelieved after declaring their faith.
The hypocrites, in the time of the Prophet, were of two types: One type was known to the Messenger, and the other was known only to God.
The other type was addicted to hypocrisy and was given in to it. However, those individuals were able to keep the outwardly Islamic appearance of the faithful, to the degree that their actual state of hypocrisy was hidden from the Prophet and from all other believers. God has warned this type of hypocrites of a great punishment and told them that the Fire is waiting for them in the next life. Says God:
“And of the desert Arabs around you some are hypocrites; and of the people of Medina also. They persist in hypocrisy. Thou knowest them not; We know them. We will punish them twice, then shall they be given over to a great punishment”. (9:101)
It is only God the Exalted Who knows such people. It is only He Who will punish them twice, may be in this life and then in the life to come.
The other hypocrites have exposed themselves because they were not able to hide their hatred towards Islam. They used to fall into disbelief and participated in many plots against Islam, then they used to hasten to the Prophet swearing that they did not say what they said and did not do what they did.
This type of hypocrites was known to the Prophet and to the believers. The Holy Qur’an revealed and exposed their state and emphasized their disbelief and apostasy. In spite of this, the Qur’an directed the Prophet to turn aside from them. God says about some of them:
“They swear by Allah that they said nothing, but they did certainly utter the word of disbelief, and disbelieved after they had embraced Islam. And they cherished enmity against believers only because Allah and His Messenger had enriched them out of His bounty. So if they repent, it will be better for them; but if they turn away, Allah will punish them with a grievous punishment in this world and the Hereafter”. (9:74)
This means that those people have fallen into apostasy when they uttered the word of disbelief. They disbelieved after they have embraced Islam. They even cherished enmity against the believers but they were not successful in causing them any harm. Such was the testimony of God against those people. Did the Prophet set up Court of Inquisition to investigate their faith, or did he apply to them the alleged penalty of apostasy?
It is only God the Exalted Who will punish them if they persisted in their apostasy, and it is only He Who will accept their repentance if they repented:
“So if they repent, it will be better for them; but if they turn away, Allah will punish them with a grievous punishment in this world and the Hereafter”. (9:74)
Similarly, God the Exalted says about some of the hypocrites:
“Those who believe, then disbelieve, then again they believe, then disbelieve and then increase in disbelief, Allah will never forgive them nor will He guide them to the right way”. (4:137)
This shows that some people used to join Islam then apostatize, then join again then apostatize, then at the end they chose to remain disbelievers, even they increased in disbelief. Yet, there is no mentioning of any penalty of apostasy. Their punishment is left to God Who said that He shall not grant them His forgiveness.
Some of the hypocrites felt so lazy to join the Prophet’ in an expedition to Tabuk, so they remained behind. Their punishment was to deprive them of the honour of joining in any other future expedition. It was a punishment greatly welcomed by the hypocrites. Another punishment was also imposed, which the hypocrites did not care much for, which was that the Prophet should not offer funeral prayer for anyone of them and should not stand by their grave to pray for their forgiveness.
“And if Allah bring thee back to a party of them, and they ask of thee leave to go forth to fight, say then, `You shall never go forth with me, and shall never fight an enemy with me. You chose to sit at home the first time, so sit now with those who remain behind. And never pray thou for any of them that dies, nor stand by his grave; for they disbelieved in Allah and His Messenger and died while they were disobedient”. (9:83-84)
God has ascertained that they have disbelieved, yet everyone of them shall remain alive until he dies without being put to death. All his punishment is that the Messenger should not offer his funeral prayer nor stand by his grave to pray for him.
This reminds us of another type of hypocrites. They used to make fun of the believers who offered their contributions for the expedition of Tabuk. Whenever a rich person offered his contribution they accused him of having the desire to be be seen by the people. When a poor person offered his contribution they ridiculed him. About those God said:
“Those who find fault with such of the believers as give freely in charity and with such as find nothing to give except the earnings of their toil. So they deride them. Allah shall punish them for their derision, and for them is a grievous punishment”. (9:79)
Thus all the punishment of those hypocrites is a grievous punishment in the Hereafter.
The Prophet did not set up courts for their prosecution, nor did he apply the alleged penalty of apostasy. He used to ask God for their forgiveness even when a verse of the Qur’an was revealed to him telling him that God will never forgive them:
“Ask thou forgiveness for them, or ask thou not forgiveness for them; even if thou ask forgiveness for them seventy times, Allah will never forgive them. That is because they disbelieved in Allah and His Messenger. And Allah guides not the perfidious people”. (9:80)
In spite of the clear decision of God that they have disbelieved in Him and in His Messenger, yet the Prophet used to ask for their forgiveness saying that God has given him a choice in the matter. He also used to offer their funeral prayers until God forbade him of doing so and told him:
“And never pray thou for any of them that dies, nor stand by his grave”. (9:84)
The hypocrites tried to appease the believers and to deceive them by outwardly uttering some nice words about religion while inwardly they continued in their disbelief and were opposing God and His Messenger. God says:
“They swear by Allah to you to please you; but Allah with His Messenger has greater right that they should please Him if they are believers. Do they not know that whoso opposes Allah and His Messenger, for him is the fire of Hell, wherein he shall abide? That is the great humiliation”. (9:62-63)
It is clear that the punishment of the hypocrites is to abide in fire of Hell because they opposed God and His Messenger.
The hypocrites also used to annoy the Prophet and accused him of being all ear, i.e. he listened to this and that. Some verses of the Qur’an were revealed warning them of the painful punishment on the Day of Judgment, but without any reference to setting up courts to prosecute them nor applying any so-called penalty of apostasy. God the Exalted says:
“And among them are those who annoy the Prophet and say, `He is all ear’. Say, `His giving ear to all is for your good; he believes in Allah and believes the Faithful, and is a mercy for those of you who believe’. And those who annoy the Messenger of Allah shall have a grievous punishment”. (9:61)
And when will be this grievous punishment? It is on the Day of Judgment.
Similarly, they used to mock at God the Exalted, at His Noble Messenger and at His Holy Book. Some verses of the Qur’an were revealed to denounce their disbelief and announce that their excuses were not acceptable, yet postponed their punishment till the Hereafter:
“The hypocrites pretend they fear lest a Surah should be revealed concerning them, informing them of what is in their hearts. Say, `Mock on; surely, Allah will bring to light that of which you pretended you were afraid lest it might be disclosed. And if thou question them, they will most surely say, `We were only talking idly and jesting.’ Say, `Was it Allah and His Signs and His Messenger that you mocked at?’ Make ye no excuses. You certainly disbelieved after your believing. If We forgive a party from among you, a party shall We punish, for they are guilty”. (9:62-65)
It is only God Who can inform of what was in their hearts. It is only God Who can expose their conspiracies. It is only God Who can announce their disbelief. It is only God Who can forgive a party from among them and it is only God Who can punish another party, because it is only God Who knew the intention of this and that party, Who knew who repented and who did not repent.
As for the Prophet, he was not to be concerned with all of this. He was only the Prophet of God. He was no god beside God.
The Hypocrites used to move around in Medina, enjoinging evil and forbidding good and holding back from spending in the cause of God. God warned them with a lasting punishment and a curse that shall befall them in the Hereafter:
“The hypocrites, men and women, are all as one with another. They enjoin evil and forbid good, and withhold their hands from spending for the cause of Allah. They forgot Allah, so He has forgotten them. Surely, the hypocrites are the transgressors. Allah promises the hypocrites, men and women, and the disbelievers the fire of Hell, wherein they shall abide. It will suffice them. And Allah has cursed them. And they shall have a lasting punishment.” (9:67-68)
It is God Who was the Witness to their evil within the society of Medina, and it is only God Who will punish them. As for the Prophet, he had nothing to do with their punishment.
God said about those who were left back in Medina during the expedition of Tabuk:
“And those who lied to Allah and His Messenger stayed at home. A grievous punishment shall befall those of them who disbelieve”. (9:90)
When will be this grievous punishment?
God mentioned about a party of them:
“They will swear to you by Allah, when you return to them, that you may leave them alone. So leave them alone. Surely, they are an abomination, and their abode is Hell – a fit recompense for that which they used to earn”. (9:95)
The hypocrites who stayed back in Medina without any excuse, were afraid that when the Muslims returned back from the expedition they may set up for them courts to prosecute them, so they hastened to swear by God that they had some valid excuses, so that the Muslims would leave them alone. God the Exalted had already informed the Muslims about the attitude of the hypocrites and told the Muslims to leave them alone because their final abode is in Hell. In the meantime, God warned the Muslims not to be pleased with the Hypocrites:
“They will swear to you that you may be pleased with them. But even if you be pleased with them, Allah will not be pleased with the rebellious people”. (9:96)
God the Exalted has determined certain policy to enact towards the apostates who turned hypocrites. This policy is to turn away from them. God told His Prophet regarding them:
“These are they, the secrets of whose hearts Allah knows well. So turn away from them and admonish them and speak to them an effective word concerning themselves”. (4:63)
Here is a positive type of “turning away”, which includes admonishment and speaking to them an effective word without exerting any pressure or compulsion, then leaving them alone to chose whatever they please.
When those hypocrites used to visit the Prophet they used to show their respect and appeared to be obedient. However, after leaving his presence, they used to conspire against him. His Lord informed him of their plots and told him:
“Allah records whatever they scheme by night. So turn away from them, and put thy trust in Allah”. (4:81)
Similarly, when the Jews of Medina; who took a hostile attitude towards Islam and the Prophet, used to come to the Prophet seeking his judgment, God told him how to deal with them:
“They are eager listeners to falsehood, devourers of things forbidden. If, then, they come to thee for judgment, judge between them or turn away from them”. (5:42)
This proves that the Prophet has never set up courts to prosecute the hypocrites who were the worst apostates. No wonder the early Muslim state did not know the so-called penalty of apostasy.
It is only God Who knew what was in the heart of people. He knew whether it was a true or false faith. It is He Who exposed the hypocrites and informed of their secrets. Had God not told of what was in their hearts, the Prophet and the believers would have never known their real nature.
The Prophet used to deal with the believers according to their outwardly attitude. It was they who have declared their faith and it was they who have submitted outwardly and supported the Prophet. However, what was in their hearts of true or false faith was known only to God and it was only He Who would reward or punish on the Day of Judgment according to what was in the heart. Therefore God tells the believers:
“O ye who believe! believe in Allah and His Messenger” (4:136)
“O ye who believe!”, meaning those who believed outwardly.
“Believe in Allah and His Messenger”, meaning believe truly and faithfully in God and His Messenger.
Similarly, God addressed the believers, all the believers and said:
“O ye who believe! save yourselves and your families from a Fire”. (66:6)
“O ye who believe! turn to Allah in sincere repentance”. (66:8)
These verses address all the believers, particularly those who have believed outwardly, so that their faith should be real, true and acceptable to God.
However, the outwardly faith used to give a person all the rights of a true Muslim, even if such a person has satisfied himself with only pronouncing the words which were uttered by every person to become a Muslim, i.e. “I bear witness that there is no god but Allah, and I bear witness that Muhammad is the Messenger of God”. If such a person happened to be among a people who were in war with Muslims, then his mere uttering of the Islamic declaration would save him from being killed during the battle.
“O ye who believe! when you go forth to fight in the cause of Allah, make proper investigation and say not to any one who greets you with the greeting of peace, `Thou art not a believer’. You seek the goods of this life, but with Allah are good things in plenty. Such were you before this, but Allah conferred His special favor on you; so do make proper investigation. Surely, Allah is Aware of what you do.” (4:94)
which means that a mere greeting of peace during the time of war is enough reason to save a person’s life due to the possibility that he may be a Muslim. It is enough that a person should offer the greeting of peace to be considered a peaceful person, entitled to live in peace, even though it is a time of war. This being the case during war time, then during peace time, it is more important to grant every person the right to live in peace without having the sword of the penalty of apostasy drawn at his neck.
Even an idolater who desisted from participating in fighting during a battle and sought protection from the Muslims, it becomes his right to be protected and to be granted peace until he reached his destination after he has been informed of the message of God so that he should not have any excuse of not knowing what God demanded of him. Accordingly, he should be given enough time to think and reflect to be saved from the punishment of the Creator in the Hereafter. God told the Prophet:
“And if any one of the idolaters seeks protection of thee, grant him protection so that he may hear the Word of Allah; then convey him to his place of security. That is because they are a people who have no knowledge”. (9:6)
To such loftiness has reached the cultural progress in the Qur’anic jurisprudence, and to such great extent was the care to protect the souls and lives of people even though such souls and lives belonged to people who were idolaters and disbelievers.
Those who have more right to a peaceful and secure life are the believers, whether they were outwardly believers or true and sincere believers.
The most heinous crime and the most grievous sin after setting gods beside God is to kill a believer. Such a believer is defined by his outwardly appearance and attitude. Therefore the Qur’anic jurisprudence instructs the believers:
“It does not behoove a believer to slay a believer unless it be by mistake”. (4:92)
meaning it is unimaginable that a believer should commit the heinous crime of killing another believer unless it was done only by mistake. What then is the penalty for killing a believer? Even an outwardly believer? About a premeditated murder, God says:
“And whoso slays a believer intentionally, his reward shall be Hell wherein he shall abide. And Allah shall be wrath with him and shall curse him and shall prepare for him a great punishment”. (4:93)
A permanent abode in Hell, earning the wrath of God and a great punishment is the reward of a person who commits an act of murder. Even if the murderer is a believer, he receives the same reward.
Another question: What is the penalty for a person who kills millions of people intentionally, or who kills all of mankind?
The answer is: It is not possible for one person to kill intentionally by himself millions of believers nor can he murder all of mankind.
However, it is possible for a person to kill millions of believers if such a person issued a verdict making it permissible to kill a soul that does not deserve to be killed, as has been explained above, or if he issued a verdict to kill the apostate or to kill the married adulterer or to kill a person who abandoned offering the prescribed prayers, and the like of such poisonous verdicts which legislate a jurisprudence that has not been revealed by God, and which is in clear contradiction with the practice of God the Exalted and His Noble Messenger.
The Penalty of Apostasy
in the books of ancestors and in the history of Muslims
Firstly: The events in the Prophet’s life negate the existence of a penalty for apostasy.
Secondly: The penalty of apostasy and the war with the apostates.
Thirdly: Developing the penalty of apostasy between the two scholars “Awzae’ee” and “Ikremah”.
Fourthly: Is it permissible to put people to death based upon traditions that have been reported by one person?
The penalty of Apostasy
in the books of ancestors and in the history of Muslims
The events in Prophet’s life negate the existence of a
penalty for apostasy
The events in the life of the Holy Prophet have been recorded before recording the sayings and the traditions attributed to him. Thus the events mentioned in the early books of the Prophet’s biography are more accurate and in harmony with Qur’anic verities more than most of the sayings of the Prophet generally known as: Traditions.
The events in the Prophet’s life were related to what has come to be known as: “Asbab-ul-Nuzul “, i.e. the circumstances in which certain verses of the Holy Qur’an were revealed, and may be called: “reasons for revelation”. There were some traditions mentioned by early commentators regarding the reasons of revelation. In the early gatherings held during the era of the Rightly-guided Successors for the purpose of spiritual uplift and understanding, the subjects of the battles fought by the Prophet, the events of his life, reasons of revelation, commentary and interpretation of the verses of the Qur’an were dealt with. The scholars who used to conduct such gatherings were from among the Companions such as Ibn Abbas, Ibn Maso’ud, Ibn Umar, Ibn Amr and Zaid bin Sabet.
By searching carefully in the events of the life of the Prophet and in the reasons of revelations related to the verses of the Holy Qur’an, we reach the conclusion of complete absence of the so-called penalty of apostasy.
The book: “Sirat Ibn Hisham”, is the oldest among the books written on the life of the Prophet. It is also the most respected and authentic. Studying and searching such a book proves through the many traditions reported in it, that the Prophet did not know the penalty of apostasy and did not treat the hypocrites, who were the worst apostates, except in the best manner.
Ibn Hisham, in his book of history, mentioned concerning the battle of Uhud that the army of Muslims passed by a garden belonged to one of the hypocrites, “Mirba’ bin Kayzee”, who was blind. He started throwing dirt at the Muslims and told the Prophet: “Even if you were the Messenger of God, I will not allow you to enter my garden”. Then he took a handful of dirt and said: “O Muhammad! I swear by God, if I knew that I would not hit anyone else with this handful of dirt, I would have thrown it at your face”. The Muslims were agitated and wanted to kill him. The Prophet forbade them and said: “No. No one should kill him”.
When the Chief of the hypocrites said in a derisive manner: “When we reach Medina, then the most honourable (meaning himself) will drive away from it the most humiliated (meaning the Prophet), the Muslims were outraged. Umar told the Prophet to direct Abbad bin Bishr to kill him, but the Holy Prophet objected saying, “How would it be if the people start saying that Muhammad kills his companions?”
Abdullah bin Ubayy bin Salul, who was the Chief of hypocrites, continued to live his life, playing his role and plotting against the Muslims as much as he pleased until he died. At his death, the Prophet prayed for him. It is reported that Umar objected and told the Prophet: “O Messenger of God! How do you pray for the enemy of God, Abdullah bin Ubayy, who said so and so on such and such day, and who did so and so on such and such event”? The Prophet’ smiled and said: “I have been given a choice, so I made my choice. I was told:
“Ask thou forgiveness for them, or ask thou not forgiveness for them; even if thou ask forgiveness for them seventy times, Allah will never forgive them.” (9:80)
Had I known that if I asked forgiveness more than seventy times then he will be forgiven, I would have exceeded that number”. Then the Prophet’ led his funeral prayer and walked with the funeral until his grave and prayed for him there. Thereafter a verse of the Qur’an was revealed stating:
“And never pray thou for any of them that dies, nor stand by his grave”. (9:84)
after which he has never prayed for any hypocrite.
Similarly, Ibn Hisham reported that some hypocrites ridiculed the Messenger” when he went with the Muslim army to meet the Roman army at Tabuk. They talked about their expectations that the Romans will imprison the Prophet and the Muslims. When the Prophet came to know about what they had said, they came to him to apologize saying that they were only talking idly. The Word of God the Exalted was then revealed saying:
“And if thou question them, they will most surely say, `We were only talking idly and jesting” (9:65).
The Prophet took no action against them. [Seerat Ibn Hisham, second edition, part 3, pp 65, 291, 524, 525, 552]
These are some examples of what has been reported in the book: “Seerat Ibn Hisham”.
We may take also some examples of Naysaboury’s book: “Reasons of Revelation”.
It says that a group of hypocrites met together and started hurling insults against the Prophet. In their company was a small boy from the Ansar, his name was Amer bin Qays. They said: “If what Muhammad proclaimed were true then we would be worst than donkeys”. Amer went to the Prophet and told him of what happened. The Prophet called them to find out the truth. They said that Amer was lying. Amer swore that they were lying. The Prophet prayed and said: “Our Lord! Do not let us separate before you show the truth of the truthful and the lie of the liar. Then the Qur’anic verse was revealed:
“And among them are those who annoy the Prophet (9:61).
The same book also reported that some hypocrites joined the Messenger on the expedition of Tabuk. When they used to get together they vented their hatred and defamed the Messenger sa and attacked the religion. Huzayfa reported what they said to the Messenger, so the Prophet’ asked them: “What was that which was reported about you? They swore by God that they had never said anything. The Word of God the Exalted was then revealed:
“They swear by Allah that they said nothing, but they did certainly utter the word of disbelief, and disbelieved after they had embraced Islam. And they cherished enmity against believers” (9:74)
Naysaboury narrates another tradition related to the reason for revealing the above verse. He reported that some of the hypocrites conspired to kill the Prophet’ on the night of Aqaba. The leader of his camel on that night was Ammar bin Yaser and the driver was Huzayfah. Huzayfah heard the sound of footsteps of some camels. He looked and saw some veiled men. He went to confront them, but they desisted and withdrew in the dark. The Prophet’ did not take any action against them and continued on his way till he reached his home.
Naysaboury has also reported several traditions related to the reason of revelation of the verse:
“O ye who believe! when you go forth to fight in the cause of Allah, make proper investigation and say not to any one who greets you with the greeting of peace, `Thou art not a believer’. You seek the goods of this life…” (4:94)
Among these traditions, one says that it was revealed concerning a battle in which the idolaters were defeated. One of them tried to escape but one of the Muslims got hold of him and drew his sword to kill him. Then the man cried: I am a Muslim, I am a Muslim. However, the man killed him. The Prophet’ resentfully said: Did you kill him after he claimed to be a Muslim. The man said: O Messenger of God! He said it only to save himself. The Messenger said: Have you opened his heart to find out whether he was lying or telling the truth?
Another tradition related that the Muslims found some spoils of war with an idolater who was guarding the spoils.
He offered them the greeting of peace and said: Peace be with you. However, they killed him and took the spoils, so the verse was revealed. [Naysaboury, Reasons of Revelation, pp 168, 169, 170.]
Thus it is an absolute Qur’anic fact which emphasizes that the Prophet did not know such a penalty for apostasy and never applied it to the hypocrites whom God has testified to their disbelief and exposed their conspiracies.
It is also an absolute historical fact in the biography of the Prophet which emphasizes that the Prophet did not know such a penalty for apostasy and never applied it to the hypocrites whom God has testified to their disbelief and exposed their conspiracies.
Some scholars felt obliged to admit this fact. In his book: “The Prophet’s Sunnah between the Jurists and the Traditionists”, Sheikh Mohammad Al-Ghazali said disproving the allegation: “When did the Prophet ever give any order to kill the hypocrites? This has never happened. On the contrary, he forbade it”.
As the Prophet has forbidden to kill the hypocrites who have apostatized out of Islam, then what did the scholars of fundamentalism, as mentioned in the books of Islamic traditions, say about the implication of this in the fundamentals of jurisprudence? Imam Shatby said in his book: “Agreements” about the Sunnah of the Prophet in the sixth question under the title: The action of the Messengersa is an evidence of the absolute permission for an act to be performed, and leaving it is an evidence of the absolute prohibition: Out of the matters that should be left out: Prohibition of the Prophet to kill the hypocrites. He said concerning this matter: “The people should not say that Muhammad kills his companions”. [The agreements by El-Shatby.]
The previous tradition has been reported by Muslim in his book of traditions “Sahih Muslim”.
The conclusion of all this is that as long as the Prophet has prohibited killing the hypocrites, it should be taken as an evidence of the absolute prohibition of killing the hypocrites. And as long as God has testified that the hypocrites have apostatized out of Islam, then the prohibition is a prohibition to kill the apostates. Consequently, it is an evidence on our side that the so-called penalty of apostasy is contradictory to Islamic Jurisprudence according to the testimony of the scholars of fundamental Islamic traditions.
However, those who are fond of the penalty of apostasy, among the scholars of jurisprudence, when they run out of evidence from the Qur’an and the fundamental traditions, they argue that Abu Bakr has fought the apostates. So let us discuss what is known as the wars of the apostates.
The penalty of apostasy and the war with the apostates.
It is commonly known that Abu Bakr has fought the apostates because they had withheld paying Zakat, i.e. the prescribed alms. However, this statement is an extreme simplification of the issue, rendering the events of history very doubtful.
Paying alms in the time of the Prophet used to be done voluntarily. God the Exalted has forbidden the Messenger from accepting the alms of the hypocrites because they proved to be unworthy of the honor of contributing. He said:
“And nothing prevents that their contributions should be accepted from them except that they disbelieve in Allah and His Messenger. And they come not to Prayer except lazily and they spend not in the way of Allah but reluctantly”. (9:54)
Some of those hypocrites have made a pledge with God that if He should bestow upon them out of His bounty they will act righteously and will spend in the way of God. However, when God bestowed upon such people out of His grace, they withheld and became niggardly. The Lord of Glory said:
“And among them are those who made a covenant with Allah, saying, `If He give us of His bounty, we would most surely give alms and be of the virtuous’. But when He gave them of His bounty, they became niggardly of it, and they turned away in aversion. So He requited them with hypocrisy which shall last in their hearts until the day when they shall meet Him, because they broke their promise to Allah, and because they lied”. (9:75-77)
Naysaboury reported that the reason for revealing these verses is that “Thaa’labah” said to the Prophet: “Pray that God may give me some wealth”. The Prophet said: “Woe to you Thaa’labah! A little that you can give thanks for is better than much you cannot forebear”. Thaa’labah said: “I swear by Him Who has sent you with truth that if you prayed that He may bestow upon me of His bounty, I would most surely give everyone his right”. The Prophet prayed for him. His sheep multiplied greatly till Medina became too small for it, so he took his sheep out of Medina and occupied himself with it to the degree that he did not find time for prayers. He even refused to pay the prescribed alms, so the above verse was revealed. Then he came to the Prophet offering to pay the alms, but the Prophet refused to take it. After the Prophet, Abu Bakr also refused to take his alms. Similarly, Uma?’ refused to take it, until he died in the time of Osmanra .[Naysaboury, Reasons of Revelation, pp 170, 171]
Abu Bakr has lived his life in the company of the Prophet. He observed how the Prophet used to deal with the hypocrites and how he refused to accept their alms in obedience to the command of God, the Exalted.
Therefore, it is unimaginable that he would go to war with the apostates just because they refused to pay the Zakat. The matter was much more complicated than that.
Ibn Katheer says in his book of history, that after the Prophet sa has passed away, many tribes among the Arabs have apostatized and the hypocrites in Medina became very active. The danger of those Arab tribes lurking around Medina was enormous. Tribes of Hanifa and Yamama have joined Musaylama, the liar; and the tribes of Asad and Taye’ have joined Tulayha the Asadi, who claimed also to be a prophet like Musaylama. Abu Bakr carried out the instructions of the Messenger” before his death and sent the Muslim army to an expedition under the command of Usama bin Zayd, thus Medina became virtually without any strong army to protect it. The Arab tribes around Medina were encouraged by this situation and started joining forces together, which imposed a serious danger compelling Abu Bakr to form groups to guard Medina. Such guarding groups were under the command of Ali, Zubair, Talha, Saa’d bin Abi Waqqas, Ibn Mas’oud and Abdul Rahman bin Awf.
At that difficult time, representatives of the rebellious tribes came to negotiate with Abu Bakr about paying the Zakat but Abu Bakr refused to negotiate with them. Some of the Companions advised that he should accept their offer until the dangerous situation in Medina has improved, but he refused and said: “I swear by God that if they withhold an iota they used to present to the Messenger of God, then I would fight them for it”.
Apparently, Abu Bakr has understood the true facts of the situation. It was not a matter of withholding the Zakat, but it was a rebellion against the State and a threat to destroy it. Therefore, Abu Bakr understood that those who came to negotiate were only a prelude for a bigger army and if he had taken a weak stand in negotiating any term with them, it may have exposed the weakness of Medina.
Abu Bakr told the Muslims in Medina that the negotiators will inform their people of the weak defense in Medina. Therefore he enforced the guarding points around Medina and everyone got ready to fight in defense of the city. He gathered the people in the Mosque and instructed them to be ready for war, i.e. he declared a general mobilization of the highest degree.
Three days after the negotiators have left, the vanguard of the apostates’ army have arrived at the outskirts of Medina. The guards sent a word informing of the impending attack. Abu Bakr instructed the guards to stay at their places. He took the people of Medina who gathered in the Mosque and went to repel the attack. The rebels were defeated and withdrew, but the Muslims followed them till they reached the body of the army which was waiting at “Zee Hasee”. The Muslims were taken by surprise at first, but they were able to secure a victory.
Before this, some Arab tribes who had apostatized have also attacked Medina with some elements from the tribes of Abs, Zubian, Kenanah and Murrah. The Muslims have repelled them but their danger lurked due to their nearness to Medina.
After victory has been achieved over the first army of the rebels which had come to attack Medina, an expedition was sent to fight the rebels, but the Muslims were defeated in the beginning. Abu Bakr ra continued to encourage the Muslims during the night and launched an attack during the last part of the night. The Muslims were successful and the rebels withdrew in defeat, but the Muslims persued them till “Zil Qussah”. This was the beginning of the victories achieved by the Muslims over the rebellious apostates. Such victories encouraged those who remained Muslims in each of the rebellious tribes to attack the rebels in every tribe. Then Usama bin Zayd and the Muslim army returned victorious, which enforced the strength of the Muslims in Medina. Abu Bakr assigned Ali as his successor in Medina and led the Muslim army to root out the rebel army groups in “Zee Hasee” and “Zil Qussah”. He was victorious. After that he sent eleven armies to fight all the rebels in the Arabian Peninsula…[History of Ibn Katheer, Part 6, pp 311, 312]
The question here is: Where is the the penalty of apostasy in all of this?
The apostates were not just apostates, but they were rebels who fought a rebellious war against the state with the objective of destroying it politically and violently. Abu Bakr’ had to stand against such rebellion and used force against force in order to protect the infant state. After achieving victory over the enemies within, Abu Bake had to face the enemies outside the country, in Syria and Iraq.
This is what came to be known in history as: “The War With the Apostates”, which had nothing to do with the so-called penalty of apostasy. Whatever Abu Bake has done was not in any way to be taken as a source for jurisprudence. It was his own opinion which others may have the right to differ with. At first, Umar and some other companions had different opinions concerning dealing with the apostates. We feel that Abu Bakr took the right decision, politically and militarily. He was able to save Islam and the Muslims from that vicious tribal attack.
However, all this has nothing to do with the penalty of apostasy.
The penalty of apostasy is supposed to deal with a peaceful person who does not raise a sword. A person who joined Islam, or who was born and lived as a Muslim, but he wanted to leave it and to apostatize, without resorting to violence or fighting the Muslims. The difference is far more significant between the war with the apostates and the penalty of apostasy. Besides, the war with the apostates occurred in the time of Abu Bake, but the penalty of apostasy was invented much later.
When some Companions argued with Abu Bakr concerning his position towards the apostates at the beginning of the crisis, he had never used the so-called tradition which says:
“You should kill whoever changes his religion”
This so-called tradition, came later to be known as: “Tradition of Apostasy”, has not yet been invented up till that time!
Developing the penalty of Apostasy between the
two scholars: “AI-Awzae’ee” and “Ikremah”.
The alleged penalty of apostasy is based upon only two traditions attributed to the Holy Prophet, one of them is reported by Ikremah, the servant of Ibn Abbas. The other was mentioned by Al-Awzae’ee without any authority and without a chain of reporters. It was indeed a precarious situation. Soon after, Muslim reported the tradition in his Sahih after giving it the authority and the chain of reporters.
Starting with Al-Awzae’ee and his role in inventing the tradition known also by the name: The Tradition of Apostasy, which states:
“The blood of a Muslim man should not be lawfully shed except in three situations: A life for a life, the married man who committed adultery, and the apostate who left his people”.
Al-Awzae’ ee has lived in the Umayyad state. He supported it and served it. Then he lived also in the Abbasyd state. He also served it and was its backer. Both the Umayyad and the Abbasyd states found in him the best person who was always ready to issue the verdicts required by the ruling authorities. Therefore, Al-Awzae’ee lived in great ease during the Umayyad era. When the Abbasyds took over and attacked their enemies the Umayyads and their agents, Al-Awzae’ee approached them offering his services. He was spared because they needed his services. He enjoyed the Abbasyd comforts as he enjoyed before the Umayyads blessings.
In the beginning, the Umayyads did not need what may be termed as: “A Jurist of the Authorities”. This term describes a scholar who was ready to issue any verdict required by the ruling authorities to justify their decisions and legislate the laws they wanted to impose upon the people. Mu’awiya did not need “a jurist of the authorities” when he ordered to kill Hijr bin Adeyy the Kindy as a punishment for a word he uttered. Mu’awiya did not have to accuse him of apostasy and did not require any other justification to put him to death. Similarly, Yazeed bin Mu’awiya did not need a verdict to kill Al-Hussain and his family in Karbala’. He did not need a verdict to justify his invasion of Medina and the violation of its sanctity. He did not need a verdict to justify the siege of Mecca and profaning the Ka’ba and hitting it with Manganiq.
However, all these atrocities which occurred consecutively in so many years have left deep impressions on the Muslims which were exploited successfully by the enemies of the Umayyads from among the Shi ‘a, the Khawarij and the Mawali. The propaganda apparatus of the Umayyads was not able any more to justify the murder of the Prophet’s family members and violating the sanctity of Mecca and Medina by story-telling and tales-narrating which they used to circulate among the people. Such story-telling was one of the official duties of the state which is equivalent to media apparatus and public relations in our time.
The only way to justify all the wrongdoings was to attribute it all to the will of God. This is usually what the oppressor and the disobedient used to do in order to justify tyranny and disobedience. So the Umayyad propaganda started to follow a new line, saying that it was God’s will that Al-Hussain and his family should be killed in Karbala’, and it was His will to violate the sanctity of the Sanctified House and Medina. They claimed that nothing, in fact, was outside the will and the power of God. Consequently, whoever denied this would practically be outside the pail of Islam and would be deserving to be put to death.
That is how the doctrine of predestination started to develop in order to justify the atrocities of the Umayyads in the past and in the future.
Al-Hassan Al-Basri started to resist this doctrine very carefully out of fear of Al-Hajjaj. However, Al-Hassan Al-Basti was encouraged by Me’bad bin Khalid Al-Jahny who announced his famous sentence: “It is not the will of God and the matter is against the will of people”, by which he refuted the claims of the Umayyads that the will of God was involved in the atrocities they committed. He emphasized that the affairs of the people were run through tyranny and oppression against the will of the people.
Me’bad Al-Jahny moved to the city of Al-Basra. He met with Al-Hassan Al-Basri and told him: “O Abu Sa’eed! These kings shed the blood of the believers and usurp their properties and say that our actions occur according to the will of God”. Al-Hassan Al-Basri responded: “Certainly, the enemies of God have lied”. It is reported that Me’bad has participated in the rebellion led by Al-Ash’ath against Al-Hajjaj Al-Thiqafy who captured him. He died under torture sometime after the year 80 AH.’ [Al-Qadi Abdul Jabbar, Tabaqat Al-Mu’tazala pp 334]
The doctrine of Me’bad Al-Jahny came to be known as: “Al-Qadariyyah “, which meant the doctrine of free will and the responsibility of man for his actions.
After Al-Jahny, the flag of “Al-Qadariyyah” was held by Gheelan of Damascus who joined the rebels against Hisham bin Abdul Malik, but the Umayyads captured him. He was very eloquent in speech which enabled him to attract a multitude of followers. Hisham was afraid to kill him without a formal trial, so he sent Al-Awzae’ee, who was the Umayyads jurist in Damascus, to debate with him and put him on trial. A debate was held between them after which Al-Awza’ee gave Hisham a verdict that Gheelan and his friend in the prison should be killed. Until that time there was no existence of any “Tradition of Apostasy”. Hisham ordered to cut off the hands and legs of both men then he cut off Gheelan’s tongue. He died. [Previous Reference pp 230-233]
Here we pause a little while with AI-Awza’ee and how he grew under the Umayyads and what were the services he rendered to them and later to their enemies the Abbasyds.
Abdul Rahman bin Amr bin Muhammad Al-Awza’ee was born in Ba’albak on the year 115 AH. His mother raised him in Beqa’ and used to travel with him from one town to another. He educated himself and was very ambitious. He realized that the way to be wealthy was to become famous among the people and to flatter with the Umayyads. It was difficult for a scholar to gain respect of both the people and the Umayyads in the same time in Iraq, where the Umayyads were hated by the Iraqi people. The situation was different in Syria where the Umayyads enjoyed support of the people. However, it was easy for Al-Awza’ee to gain the people’s respect and also the favour of the Umayyads as well.
It was easy for Al-Awza’ee to gain prestige in the eyes of the people by putting on a garb of an ascetic and putting up a claim to working some miracles. The general populace used to have a great deal of respect towards ascetics and used to attend the gatherings they held. On their part, the Umayyads were in need of a popular scholar who would be ready to impress upon the people legality and justification, from the jurisprudence point of view, of their tyrannical rule. Al-Awza’ee exploited the popular desire of the general public to listen to stories of ascetics and righteous people. He exceeded all bounds in inventing these stories and tales, attributing many miracles to himself and claiming that he enjoyed a special favor with God to the degree that he received revelation from Him. Once he said: “I have seen the Lord of Glory in a dream in which He told me, `It is you who enjoins good and forbid evil’. I said, `By your grace O Lord!’. Then I said, `O Lord, make me die while I am following Islam’. He said, `And following the Sunnah”‘. Such was the false revelation which Al-Awza’ee claimed for himself, but was accepted in his time, even though he has preceded by a century what the Sufis have claimed later on. In that dream of his, he claimed that the Lord of Glory has lauded and praised him.
The general public accepted such claims with admiration because the followers of Al-Awza’ee and his disciples spread out among the people the propaganda that some people have seen dreams in which was said that Al-Awza’ee was the greatest person who walked on earth in his time. Such tales used to mention at the end that those who have seen such dreams have died, so that such tales could not have been verified.
It became apparent that Al-Awza’ee was the best among the story-tellers. Story-telling became a profession for which the Umayyads have made an official department in the government through which they spread their propaganda and broadcasted their political and religious announcements.
In one of those gatherings of story-telling, Al-Awza’ee told a bizarre story about himself. He said:
“One day I traveled towards Jerusalem with a Jew. When we reached the lake Tiberias he went in the water and brought a frog. He put a thread in the frog’s neck and it turned into a pig. He said, `I will sell this pig to the Christians’. He went and sold the pig and bought some food which we ate together. Then we mounted our animals but did not travel long when we saw the people coming after us. The Jew said, `May be the pig turned again into a frog’. Then I looked and saw that his head was in one direction and his body was in another. I stopped. When the people came and saw him, they were terrified and returned back. Then his head asked me, `Have they gone?’ I said, `Yes’. The head joined the body and we mounted again, but I told him, `I will never accompany you, so go away”.
If such a tale were told by someone else it would have created nothing but ridicule, but as it was narrated by a Sheikh who enjoyed a high prestige and controlled the admiration of the populace, then it must be believed. Al-Awza’ee has succeeded in convincing the people of his piety. The propaganda spread about him portrayed him as one with extreme humility, just like the humility of a blind man, and that he used to admonish the people in his gatherings to the degree that everyone used to weep either with tears or in his heart. However, it was never reported that he ever wept in any of those gatherings. It was said that only when he was alone he used to weep, but no one stopped to think, if he was weeping only when he was alone, then how could anyone have seen him to report such a fact?
It is clear that Al-Awza’ ee used to spread these incidents about himself so that he may gain fame and prestige among the people and to make them believe that he was a pious person.
His wife was among his propaganda team. It is said that one day a woman went to visit her. She noticed that the carpet was wet. She drew the attention of her hostess that a child may have urinated on the carpet. The wife said: “No, it was the Sheikh who was praying here and this wetness was due to the tears he was shedding during prostration. This was his habit every day”.
For all this, Al-Awza’ee enjoyed a great deal of respect and honour among the people as has been reported by the Syrian scholar Ibn Katheer, to the degree that he commanded more respect among the people than the Sultan himself. When the Abbasyd ruler, Abdullah bin Ali, after routing out the Umayyads, intended to kill Al-Awza’ee for being an agent of the Umayyads, his friends told him: “Spare him, for if he were to tell the people of Syria to kill you, they will surely kill you”.
Ibn Katheer narrated the story of an important meeting between Al-Awza’ee and the Abbasyd leader Abdullah bin Ali, uncle of the Abbasyd Khalifa known as Al-Saffah, i.e. the Assassinator, the tyrant who routed out the Umayyads from Syria.
Ibn Katheer said about Al-Awza’ee: “He had a share from the Treasure of the state which he received from the Umayyads, their relatives and from the Abbasyds, the amount of which was said to be about seventy thousand Dinars”.
This shows that he benefited from both the Umayyads and the Abbasyds, and both have bestowed upon him a great deal of wealth.
Ibn Katheer also related: “Abdullah bin Ali, who had rooted out the Umayyads from Syria, who was uncle of the “Assassinator”, and whom God had enabled to destroy the Umayyads’ state; wanted to see Al-Awza’ee, but he kept away for three days then he attended his audience”.
This means that when the Abbasyd General, who slaughtered the Umayyads and exhumed the bodies of the previous Successors from their graves and who had driven out all the Umayyads’ supporters from Syria, wanted to see Al-Awza’ee; he did not obey immediately the orders of the General but kept hiding for three days, then he attended his audience after he has carefully prepared what he should say in that difficult meeting in order to save his neck.
Ibn Katheer reported the events of that meeting and related: “Al-Awza’ee said: “I entered before him while he was sitting on the throne with a stick in has hand, surrounded by the Abbasyd generals who were putting on black outfits and withdrawing their swords. I saluted him but he did not reply. He scratched the ground with the stick in his hand and then said: “Awza’ee What do you see in what we have done of removing the tyrants from the country? Do you consider it to be Jihad?” I said: “O Ameer! I heard Yahya bin Sa’eed Al-Ansary saying that he heard Muhammad bin Ibrahim Al-Teemy saying that he heard Algama bin Waqqas saying he heard Umar bin Khattab saying he heard the Messenger of God saying: “Works depend on the intentions and it is for every person what he intended to do. Whoever intended his emigration to be for the sake of Allah and His Messenger then his emigration is for the sake of Allah and His Messenger, and if his emigration was intended for worldly gains or for a woman to marry, then his emigration is for the purpose of his intention”. The Ameer scratched the ground vigorously with his stick and the people around him started waving their swords, then he said: “Awaz’ee! What do you say about the blood of the Umayyads?” Then I said: “The Messenger of God said: “The blood of a Muslim man should not be lawfully shed except in three situations: A life for a life, the married man who committed adultery, and the apostate who left his people”. The Amer scratched the ground nervously with his stick and said: “What do you say about the Umayyads’ treasures?” I said: “If they were unlawful in their hands then they are unlawful for you too, and if they were lawful for them then they cannot be lawful for you except through a legal way”. He scratched the ground more vigorously and said: “Should we appoint you to the Judgment Seat?” I said: “Your predecessors would not have held that from me, and I would wish to receive the favours they intended for me.” He said: “It seems that you want to take leave.” I said: “There are some women who need me to look after them and to protect them, their hearts must be worried about me.” I expected my head to fall in my lap, but he allowed me to leave. When I left his presence, his messenger came after me holding two hundred Dinars and said: “The Ameer says spend this money as you please.” I gave it away, but I took it in the first place out of fear”. The narrator added that Al-Awza’ee kept fasting during the three days he was hiding. When the Ameer knew about it he invited him to break his fast in his palace but he refused”.
We elected to bring to the reader this long narration which apparently Al-Awza’ee himself has woven its plot to fit him. It is clear that he had a great deal of talent in telling lies. However, even with the doubtful aspect of the events, it still reflects the cowardly nature of Al-Awza’ee. Such cowardness does not correspond at all with those bold replies, being a jurist and scholar of the previous rulers, who was keen to save his neck from the present tyrannical rulers and their well-known cruelty in taking vengeance. It is unimaginable that he would say, for example, about the treasures of the Umayyads: “If they were unlawful in their hands then they are unlawful in yours, and if they were lawful for them then they cannot be lawful for you except through a legal way”.
Such cowardness which characterized the personality of Al-Awza’ee caused him to hide for three days in order to prepare his defense before the new rulership and to show his readiness to serve it in every manner. As he dared to claim that he saw the Lord of Glory in a dream and made Him to praise and laud him, then it would not be difficult for him to invent a tradition and attribute it to the Prophet’, particularly when this invention of his will enable the Abbasyds to kill their opponents in three events: A life for a life, committing adultery by a married man and apostasy.
It may also be noticed that Al-Awza’ee has mentioned the famous Tradition of: “Works depend on intentions…”. He was careful to mention in detail the chain of narrators. However, when he mentioned the so-called tradition of apostasy: “The blood of a Muslim man should not be lawfully shed except in three situations…”, he never mentioned any authority of narration, simply because at that time there was no authority of any narration nor was there any chain of narrators. In other words, it was no tradition at all. Al-Awza’ee has invented a tradition and presented it as a gift to the new authorities in order to prove his willingness to serve them.
Naturally, Abdullah bin Ali was convinced to spare his life because killing him would not have benefited him much. It may even have caused the people of Syria to rebel against him because they respected and loved Al-Awza’ee. Besides, keeping him in the service of the government was better to ensure total domination over Syria.
Ibn Katheer also mentioned that Al-Awza’ee has met with the Abbasyd Calif Al-Mansour when the latter entered Syria. Al-Mansour loved and honoured him. So the grants and the properties kept coming his way as they used to do in the time of the Umayyads.
The respect for Al-Awza’ee continued to be held high among the people of Syria to the degree that “Al-Zahaby” in his book: “Meezanul I ‘tidal’ shied away from criticizing Al-Awza’ee in his biography and satisfied himself by saying about “Masroor bin Sa’eed”, the narrator of Al-Awza’ee, that: “Ibn Hayyan spoke ill of him and said that he used to narrate after Al-Awza’ee several unrecognized traditions”.[Biography of Al-Awza’ pp 117‑119]
Thus Al-Awza’ee used to narrate many unrecognized traditions.
The most horrible one was the so-called “tradition of apostasy” stating: “The blood of a Muslim man should not be lawfully shed except in three situations: A life for a life, the married man who committed adultery, and the apostate who left his people”.
Here he provided two more situations to justify killing the soul that does not deserve to be put to death. This found favour with the Abbasyd rulers. They saw in this traditions a legal cover to get rid of their Umayyad opponents, then the Persians.
The Abbasyd State came with a new understanding of government which differed from that of the Umayyad understanding. The Umayyad government used force to dominate, but the Abbasyds who opposed using force, used to rule on the understanding that they were the descendants of the tribe of the Prophet. Under the pretense that they belonged to House of the Prophet, they wanted to paint their rule with a legal colour, extracted from Islamic jurisprudence. So the new Calif ruled through divine authority since he belonged to the House of the Prophet’s. The Abbasyd Calif Al-Mansour addressed the people at the time of Pilgrimage, on the Day of Arafat and said: “O ye people! I am the Sultan of God in His land and I rule over you by His Grace and by His Wisdom and I am His keeper over His wealth which I divide by His Will and distribute by His permission”.[History of the Califs, by Al-Soyooti, pp 420-421]
In other words, he considered himself to rule by divine right, or what was known in Europe during the medieval age: The Divine Right of Kings.
Therefore, it was logical for him to support his rule with judicial arguments. However, when he did not find in the Qur’an what he desired, it was not difficult for the scholars of the government to invent what was required of traditions and to 1ssue what was in demand of verdicts.
Elimination of the remnants of the Umayyads was carried out in the early years of the Abbasyd rule through the verdict of apostasy, by a tradition which was invented to justify shedding the blood of a Muslim in three situations, all of which were applicable to the fleeing Umayyads. After all, it was the Umayyads who killed the family of the Prophet in Karbala’, and killed all who rebelled from among the progeny of Al-Hussainra. The last of their victims was Ibrahim bin Al-Mandi who was supporting the Abbasyds and who was murdered by Marawan bin Muhammad, the last Calif of the Umayyad dynasty in Syria. Therefore, from the Abbasyd point of view, it was lawful for them to take a life for a life. Similarly, the Umayyads in their last years were involved in impudence and moral degeneration. They followed some of their Califs such as “Yazeed bin Abdul Malik” and “Al-Waleed bin Yazeed”. In other words, it was easy to accuse them of committing adultery. It was easy also to acccuse them of apostasy particularly when it was known of them that they did not use to offer the prescribed Prayers. So, forming the tradition in this particular manner was an expression of Al-Awza’ee’s understanding for the requirements of the new Abbasyd government and its need to get rid of its opponents under a false pretense of legality.
The tradition of Al-Awza’ee found wide circulation and was used extensively by the Abbasyd authorities against their new opponents, the Persians.
The Persian allies helped the Abbasyds to establish their rule. Abu Muslim Al-Khurasani and his army were the fighting power the Abbasyds have used. However, when the time came for dividing the booty and sharing the political gains, the Abbasyds kept everything for themselves and murdered Abu Muslim Al-Khurasani. His daughter rebelled in Khurasan and a sect named after Abu Muslim was formed to fight the Abbasyds in east of Persia. They had their own followers in Baghdad and in the Abbasyd court. The Abbasyds dealt with the rebellion in east of Persia by sending the armies but they tracked down the agents of the rebels in Baghdad and accused them of apostasy and heresy. Therefore, the Abbasyd Calif became very active in tracking the heretics and killing them, accusing them of the three crimes mentioned in the tradition of Al-Awza’ee. The well known immoral condition of the Persians helped in accusing and killing them according to this newly invented canon. The early days in the history of Al-Mandi showed that he has rooted out the heretics and tracked them everywhere. It is well known that Al-Mandi was the son of the Abbasyd Calif Al-Mansour. Therefore, no wonder that Al-Awza’ee enjoyed a high prestige with the Calif Al-Mansour, or according to an expression used by Ibn Katheer: “He loved and honoured him”.
No wonder also to know that Al-Mansour has dealt so cruelly with another scholar of jurisprudence, then finally he killed him. He was the great scholar Imam Abu Hanifa, founder of Hanafi jurisprudence, who was a complete opposite picture of Al-Awza’ee.
Al-Awza’ee grew in Syria, he was an Arab and he served the Umayyad rulers, while Imam Abu Hanifa belonged to the Persians and grew in Iraq but was at odds with the Umayyads. When the Abbasyds took over, Al-Awza’ee quickly changed his colour and straightened his affairs with the new rulers and became accepted and respected by the Calif Al-Mansour. However, Abu Hanifa who opposed the Umayyads, and finally got his hopes to get rid of them materialized, was alienated from the Calif Al-Mansour who persecuted then poisoned him.
During the time of the Umayyad dynasty, Abu Hanifa used to support the Shi’a and Alawy rebellions against the government. Among those rebellions was the rebellion of Zayd bin Zainul `Abideen on the year 121 AH. There was no solid evidence that he had actually participated in any rebellion but the Umayyad government started to doubt his loyalty. The governor of Iraq, Ibn Hubayrah, wanted to test his loyalty to the Umayyads. At that time Iraq was a scene of many troubles against the Umayyads. Ibn Hubayrah gathered the scholars and assigned certain task to each of them and assigned Abu Hanifa to be in charge of all of them, so that nothing should be done without his permission. The scholars agreed to serve the governor but Abu Hanifa refused. Abu Hubayrah threatened to flog and to torture him. The other scholars pleaded with him to save himself and accept the assignment. He said: “If he wanted me to count for him the doors of a mosque I will not agree to it, so how can I accept an assignment in which he wanted me to give my approval to justify the blood he wanted to shed. I will never accept such assignment”. Abu Hubayrah ordered that Abu hanifa should be flogged and kept him imprisoned for a while. After failing to win his cooperation, he set him free. Abu Hanifa escaped to Mecca and stayed there until the Abbasyds took over. He came to Al-Koofa in the time of Calif Abu Ja’far Al-Mansour. [Managib Abi Hanifa, by Al-Makki, p. 1, pp 23 -24 & History of Baghdad, p 3, pp 326]
It was expected that the Abbasyd rulers would welcome him for his stand in support for the family of the House of the Prophet and for his opposition to the Umayyads, being one of their victims. Indeed the Calif Al-Mansour brought him close to him and used to consult him. However, Al-Mansour’s continuous attempts to take advantage of him, in addition to his brutality against his cousins the Alawis, when “Mohammad Al-Nafsul Zakiyyah” rebelled in the year 145 AH, made things go sour between Al-Mansour and Abu Hanifa, the respectable scholar.
Al-Mansour accused Abu Hanifa of trying to dissuade the Abbasyd commanders from fighting Mohammad Al-Nafsul Zakiyyah and his brother Ibrahim. He started to plot against Abu Hanifa to incriminate him. In the meantime, Abu Hanifa went on issuing the verdicts which emanated out of his free conscience, though he knew that Al-Mansour wanted him to issue the verdicts which he needed to establish his authority.
Al-Mansour had made a pact with the people of Moosel in Iraq, that if they rebelled against him, their blood will be shed with impunity. The people of Moosel rebelled on the year 148 AH. Al-Mansour then gathered all the scholars of jurisprudence, including Abu Hanifa, and addressed them saying: “The people of Moosel have made a pact not to rebel, but they rebelled. Now it is lawful for me to shed their blood”. The scholars said; “If you forgave them, it will be out of your grace, and if you punished them, it will be for what they deserve”. But Abu Hanifa said: “O Ameerul Mo’mineen! (i.e. O Prince of the Believers!) When you made a pact with them that they should offer you the right to shed their blood if they rebelled, they offered what they did not possess, and you imposed on them a condition that you had no right to. Do you think that a woman has a right to offer her body without marriage?” The Calif said: “No”. Al-Mansour then terminated the meeting and dispersed the scholars. However, he warned Abu Hanifa saying: “Do not give verdicts which embarass your Imam and put him in a weak position which would encourage rebellion against him and strenghten the hands of Khawarij . [Managib Abi Hanifa by Ibnul Barazy, p 2, pp 17]
It may be noticed that the scholars who acted hypocritically towards Al-Mansour were the same scholars who offered their services to Ibn Ali Hubayrah, the Umayyads’ governor over Iraq. Among them were Ibn Abi Layla, Ibn Shabramah and Ibn Abi And. They were among the famous scholars in Iraq.
Naturally, they felt envious of Abu Hanifa for his unbiased verdicts and opinions which exposed their hypocrisy, so they entertained rancour against him. Therefore, they welcomed the Calif’s invitation to attack Abu Hanifa. They organized a propaganda campaign of hatred and false accusations against Abu Hanifa. He was accused of denying the so-called traditions which were invented to serve the objectives of the Abbasyd rulers. Ibn Abi Layla reached the extreme bounds in attacking Abu Hanifa to the degree that Abu Hanifa said about him: “Ibn Abi Layla has justified for himself out of me what I could not justify for myself out of an animal” !
This campaign of hatred and false accusations produced its results. It gave Al-Mansour the pretext to murder Abu Hanifa by poisoning him after throwing him in prison and flogging him a hundred and ten lashes in the year I50 AH.[ Al-Kainil by Ibnul Atheer, p 5, pp 217]
However, what has all this to do with Al-Awza’ee?
The difference between Al-Awza’ee and Abu-Hanifa in character, in personality, in attitude and in their position which both have taken towards the ruling authorities, was reflected upon the ideological approach of each of them.
Abu Hanifa was careful to protect lives and to avoid shedding of blood. He was also very careful to reject the false traditions. When they accused him of giving lie to the Messenger of God, he used to say: “My rejection of every person who narrates a tradition that contradicts the Qur’an is not a rejection of the Prophet nor giving lie to him but it is a rejection of him who reported falsely after the Prophet [Managib Abi Hanifa, p 1, pp 99]
As for Al-Awza’ee, who was a contemporary of Abu Hanifa, he used to report after the Messenger” many false traditions as has been reported by “Al-Zahaby” in his book: “Mizanul I’tidal”. Al-Awza’ee used even to fabricate traditions about the Lord of Glory. With the same vigor, he used to produce verdicts that made lawful for the rulers to shed blood with impunity. He issued a verdict for Hisham bin Abdul Malik, the Umayyad, to murder Gheelan of Damascus. Then he issued verdicts for the Abbasyds to shed the blood of the Umayyads. Abu Hanifa had to face the persecution of both the Umayyads and the Abbasyds.
Naturally then, love was lost between Al-Awza’ee and Abu Hanifa.
The traditions which were reported, or rather fabricated, by Al-Awza’ee were rejected by Abu Hanifa. There were some discussions and arguments between them concerning raising hands before bowing down in Prayer and after standing. Abu Hanifa gave preference to his opinion and syllogism over the traditions reported by Al-Awza’ee and his like.
On his part, Al-Awza’ee said: “We do not blame Abu Hanifa for using his opinion. We all use our opinion”, meaning that all followed their own opinion and syllogism, “but we blame him for rejecting a tradition of the Prophet and accepting what contradicts it .[Explanation of contradictory traditions, by Ibn Qutayba, pp 63]
Al-Awza’ee used to believe that as long as he has invented a tradition, it meant that the tradition became a tradition of the Messenger. Abu Hanifa used to say in reply to Al-Awza’ee and his like of the government’s scholars: “My rejection of every person who narrates a tradition that contradicts the Qur’an is not a rejection of the Prophet nor giving lie to him but it is a rejection of him who reported falsely after the Prophet.
The Tradition of Al-Awza’ee As Reported In Sahih Muslim
The scholars of the Abbasyds worked on spreading the tradition of Al-Awza’ee. They created an authority for it and a chain of reporters, although when Al-Awza’ee mentioned it the first time there was no chain of reporters
for it. After this hadith has found wide circulation, Muslim reported it in his Sahih two centuries later, long after Al‑Awza’ee has died, but without mentioning him in the chain of reporters.
Muslim mentioned the reporters as follows:
Abu Bakr bin Abi Shayba reported on the authority of Hafs bin Ghiyath and Abu Mu’awiya, on the authority of Wakee’, on the authority of Al-A’mash, on the authority of Abdullah bin Murrah, on the authority of Massrooq, on the authority of Abdullah (Ibn Mas’ood) who said that the Messenger of Allah said: “The blood of a Muslim man who bears witness that there is no god but Allah and that I am the Messenger of Allah is not lawful to be shed except in three situations: The married man who committed adultery, a life for a life, and the apostate who left his people”. [Sahih Muslim, p 5, pp 106]
We can see the Awza’ee style in the text of this tradition, which enabled the Abbasyd rulers to eliminate all the male rebels who revolted against them.
However, the rules concerning penalties in Islam were mentioned in both genders, males and females. As it is mentioned in the Qur’an:
“The adulteress and the adulterer…” (24:2)
“And as for the man who steals and the woman who steals…” (5:38)
“And such of your women as are guilty of any flagrant impropriety… and if two from among you are guilty of it…” (4:15-16)
A pronoun may be used to refer to both men and women as in what God the Exalted says:
“And those who calumniate chaste women…” (24:4)
“The only reward of those, who wage war against Allah and His Messenger…” (4:33)
It may be also mentioned in more explicit way as in:
“O ye who believe! equitable retaliation in the matter of the slain is prescribed for you; the free man for the free man, and the slave for the slave, and the female for the female”. (2:178)
In the Awza’ee tradition, it mentions: “A Muslim man”, “A married man who committed adultery” and “a man who apostatized and left his people”.
As the male gender only was mentioned in the tradition, therefore, women are not to be punished in all three situations mentioned in that tradition, as if the verses which mentioned penalties for women should be cancelled!
When we go back to the circumstances in which Al-Awza’ee has uttered this tradition, or rather invented it, when he was under the threat of being killed while his women were waiting for him, then we can understand why he dropped the females out of the penalty imposed by the tradition. He wanted to get out, as soon as possible, of the meeting with the tyrant of the Abbasyds Abdullah bin Ali, in order to get back to his women. Abdullah noticed his desire to leave and said: “It seems that you want to take leave”. He answered: “There are some women who need me to look after them and to protect them, their hearts must be worried about me”.
Therefore, the text of the tradition mentioned the male gender only, but a woman needs someone to protect her and to look after her, and it is enough that her heart should be worried about her man!
This was the psychological position of Al-Awza’ee when he invented this tradition and when he uttered it.
In addition, how could it be that a: “Muslim man who bears witness that there is no god but Allah and that I am the Messenger of Allah”, be considered an “apostate who left his people”?
The tradition uses the present tense: “The blood of a Muslim man who bears witness that there is no god but Allah…”, which means that at the time he was a Muslim, how then, in the same time, can he become an “apostate who leaves his people”?
Had the reporter of such tradition used the past tense saying: “The blood of a Muslim man who used to bear witness that there was no god but Allah”, then it could be understood that such a person used to be a believer, thereafter he became an apostate. But how can he be an apostate while in the present tense he bears witness of the Oneness of God?
Besides, what is the meaning of “leaving his people”?
It may have a political implication. In the expression of the Umayyad and the Abbasyd understanding, the expression may mean to be among the Khawarij who revolted against the people. But it does not have any religious aspect that agrees with any of the teachings of Islam.
A Muslim may leave his people, his family and his town emigrating towards God the Exalted. Would he then be deserving to be killed?
This may be permissible in the logic of idolatrous Quraish.
It may also be permissible in the logic of the Priesthood in every time and age.
But can we imagine that the Prophet would possibly say such words?
We shall not discuss here the contradictions of this tradition with the Holy Qur’an and the true Sunnah, the practice of the Messenger, we have already discussed these contradictions, but we want to concentrate on a specific point which is: the style of the Prophet and his time and how careful he was in choosing his words, also the necessity that harmony should have existed between the words and the historical circumstances in the prophetic era.
The Prophet and the Muslims emigrated to Medina and left their people in Mecca. The Quraish used to accuse the Prophet of “dividing the people”, and “revolting against the religion of the ancestors”. They plotted to kill the Prophet and his Companions. Does it make any sense then to consider that the Prophet has followed the same route and applied the same logic of his enemies and even used their own expressions?
In addition, what about all those people who have been mentioned in the books written on the life events of the Prophet, who were reported that they have apostatized and joined Quraish, did the Prophet ordered them to be killed because they have changed their religion and left their people?
Then what about the Treaty of Hudaybiyyah in which the Prophet agreed to send back to Mecca those who wanted to apostatize from among those who joined him as believers and emigrated to Medina? He agreed to give them the freedom to do so and agreed to let them join the idolaters. Did that treaty agree with what Al-Awza’ee said to kill him “who apostatized and left his people”?
After we discussed the text of the Al-Awza’ ee tradition, we should look into the reporters and the authorities which “Muslim” has mentioned in his Sahih.
What did the scholars say about those reporters mentioned in the tradition of “Muslim” and Al-Awza’ee?
“Muslim” started by Abu Bakr bin Abi Shayba. His real name was Abdul Rahman bin Abdul Malik who died around 220AH. Al-Hakim said about him: “Not accurate”. Abu Bakr bin Abi Dawood said about him: “Weak”. Ibn Hayyan said about him: “He may make mistakes”. [Al-Zahaby, Mizanul I’tidal, p 3, pp 292, and p 6, pp 177]
Next reporter is Hafs bin Ghiyath. His surname was Abu Umar Al-Nakh’ ee. He was a Judge for the Abbasyds and one of the scholars who cooperated with the state. He died in 194AH. Abu Zar’a said about him: “His memory was not good after he became a Judge”. In other words, he was not trusted after becoming a Judge. Ibn Ammar said about him: “He was not able to remember the traditions”. Abdullah bin Ahmad said: “My father said about him: “He made mistakes”. Ibn Hayyan said about a tradition reported by him: “No one reported this tradition except Hafs bin Ghiyath, and it seems that he has imagined it”. This shows that he has reported a tradition that has never been reported by anyone else, and becuase he was not trustworthy, Ibn Hayyan accused him of imagination.[ Mizanul I’tidal, p 2, pp 90-91]
Next reporter is Abu Mu’ awiya. He was blind and Al-Hakim said about him that the Two Sheikhs (i.e. Bukhari and Muslim) argued for him, but it was known of him that he was an extremist, which means that either he used to exceed reasonable bounds or he belonged to the Shi’a, since the term “extremist” was synonym of the Shi’a at that time. Ibn Mu’een said of him: “Abu Mu’awiya reports unrecognized traditions”. Al-A’gly said about him that he was trustworthy, but he accused him of belonging to “Murje’a” sect. Such an accusation rendered his authonty questionable. Ya’qoob bin Shayba said about him: “He was trustworthy but he may cheat”. Abu Dawood said about him that he was a Murje’. Abu Mu’awiya Al-Bajly said about him: “There was some ignorance in him”.[Mizanul I’tidal, p 6, pp 249]
Next reporter is Wakee’ : His name was Wakee’ bin Al-Jarrah Abu Sufyan AI-Ro’as of Kufa. Ibn Al-Madany said about him: “Wakee’ used to make mistakes”, also he said: “He had some tendency towards Shi’a”.
Now we reached Al-A’mash, who was the most important reporter and the most famous one among all others. His name was Soliman bin Mahran Abu Muhammad Al-Kahili Al-A’mash. He died in 148AH. Al-Zahaby said about him: “They had nothing against him except cheating, he used to cheat”. Ibn Al-Mubarak said about him: “Al-A’mash and Abu Ishaq have corrupted the Tradition in Kufa”. Jareer bin Abdul Hameed said about him: “Your A’mash and Abu Ishaq have led the people of Kufa astray”. Ahmad bin Hanbal said about him: “There are too many contradictions in the traditions reported by Al-A’mash”. He also said: “He used to report on the authority of Anas but his reporting was not true because he did not hear anything from Anas”. Abu Dawood said about him: “His reporting on the authority of Anas was not true”. Ibnul Madani said about him: “Al-A’mash used to have great deal of imagination”. Al-Hakim Al-Naysaboory considered him among the cheaters and reiterated what Al-Shazkoony said about him: “Whoever wanted to learn religion should not accept the traditions reported by Al-A’mash nor those reported by Qatadah except they said that they have personally heard such a tradition”.
What is left of the reporters are Abdullah bin Murrah and Massrooq. Al-Zahaby said about Abu Murrah: “He did not report true traditions”. Abu Hatim said about Massrooq:
“He was not a strong confidant”. [Mizanul I’tidal, p 6, pp 10, p 2 pp 414, p 3, pp215, p 5, pp223 and: Knowledge of the science of Traditions, Al-Hakim Al-Naysaboory, pp 105 pp 107, Bayroot.]
Thus when the Abbasyd government scholars chose some reporters for Al-Awza’ee tradition they all were not above suspicion. Some of those may have contributed to spreading the tradition among the populace and may have been among those who lived in the Abbasyd era and reported it later, like Al-A’mash and Abu Mu’awiya and Hafs bin Ghiyath and Abu bakr bin Abi Shaybah. A tradition should be rejected if there was any doubt concerning one of its reporters, so what is the position of this tradition when all of its reporters are doubtful and are accused?
Now we finished with the tradition of Al-Awza’ee. What remained is the other tradition which was invented by Ikremah, servant of Ibn Abbas, which was reported also by Bukhari in his Sahih.
The reader may be perturbed to read that there may be some doubtful traditions in Bukhari. But if the reader should discuss the matter quietly he may be able to get all the facts. In any case, Bukhari was after all a human being not a god nor was he above error or forgetfulness. He has mentioned in the introduction of his book “Sahih-ul-Bukhari” that he has chosen the contents of his book, which were about 3000 traditions, from among 600,000. Naturally, there should be some percentage for human error that must be considered among the traditions which he has chosen. This should be accepted by every fair-minded student of that book. No doubt that the so-called Tradition of Apostasy: “Whoever changed his religion should be killed”, which was reported by Ikremah, servant of Ibn Abbas, is one of those false traditions.
It may be noted that the scholars of fundamentalism and those who specialized in criticizing the authenticity of traditions had their own criticism of Bukhari and Muslim. The Sheikh of Bukhari who was also his teacher said about him: “Bukhari is innovator”. The reason was that Bukhari was of the opinion that the Qur’an was created, while his Sheikh had a different opinion. He believed that the Word of God was not created. He said about Bukhari: “They accused him, so none attended his meetings except those who agreed with his views”.[Mizanul I’tidal, p 6, pp176]
Obviously, the difference in opinion between Mohammad bin Yahya Al-Zahly and his student Bukhari was due to difference of opinion regarding the subject of whether the Qur’an was created or not. However, some critics had their reservations against Bukhari regarding the traditions themselves. Some traditionists have criticized him such as Abu Hatim Al-Razi in his book. Al-Zahaby considered him of the weak reporters.
Some traditionists have criticized 110 traditions, 32 of which Muslim have agreed with Bukhari and included them in his book, [Al-Razi, Criticism of Traditions & their reporters, (Al-Jarh Wal‑Ta’deel), p 3, 192] while 78 were reported only by Bukhari. They also criticized 80 reporters from whom Bukhari has collected his traditions. They considered them untrustworthy. They also criticized 160 of Muslim’s reporters to be untrustworthy. Al-Hakim Al Naysaboory said about one of the reporters, whose name was Isa bin Mousa Ghingar: “Bukhari considered him to be a worthy reporter in his book Al-Jame’ Al-Sagheer, but he was said to have reported unrecognized traditions from untrustworthy authorities. [Ma’rifat Uloom M-Hadith, 106]
In his book: `Uloomul Hadith, Ibn Al-Salah says that Bukhari has reported on the authority of some people who were not accepted by others, such as Ikremah the servant of Ibn Abbas, Ismail Ibn Abi Owees, Asem bin Ali, Amr bin Marzook and others. Muslim also reported on the authority of Suwaid bin Sa’eed and others whom were doubted by some scholars. [Ibn Al-Salah, `Uloomul Hadith, pp 96, Al-Medina edition]
It is clear from the above quote that Bukhari’s reporting on the authority of Ikremah servant of Ibn Abbas, has been criticized, and that Ikremah has been also criticized by many others. Ikremah was the reporter who narrated what is known as the `Tradition of Apostasy’: “Whoever changed his religion should be killed”.
Ikremah was a slave of Abdullah bin Abbas, he heard from him many traditions and reported his commentaries of the Qur’an. He remained a slave for Ibn Abbas and was 1nherited by his children, then he was sold, thereafter he was set free. His intelligence, in addition to being in the service of Ibn Abbas for a long time, enabled him to learn from him a great deal. Knowledge was the means for slaves to distinguish themselves in a society dominated by Arab nobles. The Umayyads were known to feel superior over the slaves who were mainly from non Arab tribes. As the Arabs were busy in the military expeditions and in dealing with rebels within the State, the slaves and their children found a golden oportunity to dedicate their time to learning and advancing in knowledge to distinguish themselves, as many of them belonged to some noble tribes and nations which had long traditions in culture and civilization. Therefore, most of the scholars of that time were from among the slaves.
Among them was Ikremah. However, this Ikremah, in particular, had a grudge against the Arab aristocracy to a degree that can be likened to the opinion of the Khawarij who did not see any difference between the Arabs and the slaves and who did not agree to the condition that the Calif should be from the Quraish as came to be known according to a famous and widely spread tradition in that regard.
Because Ikremah was not unbiased, his achievements were coloured with this bias which was obvious throughout his life.
The final outcome of Ikremah’s achievements in knowledge and of his personal biography was the invention of some traditions which he claimed to have been reported on the authority of his master Abdullah Ibn Abbas, among which was the tradition: “Whoever changed his religion should be killed”.
Let us pause for a while to study Ikramah’s history, his understanding and how he was accused of lying.
Ikremah used to see eye to eye with the Khawarij. This was what the scholars concluded about him in his biography, though they have differed about which sect he was inclined towards, as the differences between various sects of Khawarij were not defined clearly in the time of Ikremah.
Ibn Al-Madini reported that Ikremah belonged to the Abadhi sect of Khawarij. Ata’ supported this view and said that Ikremah was an Abadhi. However, Ibn Al-Madini added that Ikremah used also to be inclined towards the opinions of Najda Al-Haroory.
Ahmad bin Hanbal used to say that Ikremah was inclined towards As-Sufreya sect of Khawarij and that he did not leave a place without visiting. He visited Khurasan, Syria, Yaman, Egypt and Africa; which meant that he went to all these countries to spread the Khawarij views without clearly defining any particular sect among them.
Yahya bin Bakeeran said: “Ikremah came to Egypt on his way to Morroco where the Khawarij of Morroco learned a great deal from him”. This shows that he went there as a schoar, a teacher and an Imam for the Khawarij in Morroco.
During his travels in various countries, he used to exploit the governors to receive some handouts. Ibn Yasar said: “I saw Ikremah coming from Samarkand mounting a donkey, on its back were two large bags full of silk which were given to him by the governor of Samarkand. He was asked what brought him to these countries? He said: “The need”!!
While the governors of the far off countries used to think high of him, the governor of Medina was aware of his opposing political inclinations against the Umayyad State. Mus’ab Zubairy said: “Ikremah has adopted the views of Khawarij, which meant that he attributed to Ibn Abbas after his death what he used to reject during his life”.
It so happened that Ikremah died on the same day on which the famous poet: “Katheer Azza” had died. The people of Medina left Ikremah’s funeral and went to attend the funeral of the famous poet who gained fame through his love for Azza. People marvelled at the coincidence of their death on the same day though they were at variance regarding their views. Ikremah was inclined to the views of Khawanj who gave themselves the right to consider a person to be an apostate, while Katheer was a Shi’a who believed that Ali and his children will come back to life.
The reason why the people of Medina used to dislike Ikremah inspite of his knowledge was that they considered him a propagandist for the Khawarij: the Haroorys and the Abadhis.
The Khawarij of the Haroorys were well known for their extremism regarding shedding blood. Al-Malty said about Najda Al-Haroory: “Najda came from the mountains of Uman, he killed the children, captured the women, shed blood, exploited women, plundered and looted. He used to consider the ancestors as apostates until he was killed”.
Al-Malty said about the Abadhis that they were the followers of Abadh Ibn Umar. It is said that his name was Abdullah bin Yahya bin Abadh. They came from Kufa in Iraq, murdered many people and killed the children and considered that the Ummah has apostatized. They spread evil and terror in the country. Then he said: “There is only some remnants of them in Kufa”.
He said about As-Sufreya sect that they were the followers of Al-Muhallab bin Abi Sufra, but more accurately they were the followers of Zeyad bin Abi Sufra. They rebelled against Al-Hajjaj but he defeated them and exterminated them. [Al-Multy, Al-Tanbeeh Wal Radd, pp 52]
We can observe the views of Khawarij in the sayings of Ikremah. It is reported by Ibn Al-Madini that Ikremah stood beside the door of a Mosque and said: “All who are inside are apostates”.
Similarly, we can observe the cruelty of the Khawarij and their boldness in shedding blood reflected in the statements of Ikremah in the time of Hajj (i.e. Pilgrimage to Mecca) while the people had crowded around the Ka’ba. He said: “I wish I had a spear in my hand to kill all those who came to pilgrimage on this year”.
Finally, we can observe the effect of all this reflected in the tradition reported by Bukhari on the authority of Ikremah: “Whoever changes his religion should be killed”.
The question that may arise here which should be addressed to the fundamentalists is: What are their views concerning a reporter who had some personal crooked inclinations, who wanted to spread an innovation or who invited people to adopt his innovation, particularly when he invited people to consider the Muslims as apostates, to justify shedding their blood, to violate their honour, to plunder their properties and to kill their children?
Imam Malik said: “Knowledge should not be accepted from a person who had personal inclinations and who invites’ people to adopt his own inclications”.[Al-Hakim Al-Naysaboory, Ma’rifat Uloomul Hadith, pp 135]
Ibn Salah says in his book: `Uloomul Hadith: “They differed about accepting the report of the innovator whose innovation does not amount to apostatizing. Some did not reject completely his report because he is only considered to be a Fasiq (rebellious), due to his innovation. Others accepted the report of the innovator if he does not lie to support his own views. Some accepted his report if he was not inviting to his sect. Some rejected his report if he invited to his innovation. This was the views of the majority of the scholars”. Abu Hatim Al-Basty said: “Whoever invites to an innovation should not be considered trust-worthy. This is the opinion of all our Imams and leaders, and I do not know of any difference in this regard”.[Ibn Salah, `Uloomul Hadith, pp 103]
Ikremah used to spread the bloody views of the Khawarij. He also used to lie, but the accusation of lying is another story.
Accusation of Ikremah of lying was clear throughout his life.
Ibn Syreen said of him: “He used to lie”. Ibn Abi Ze’b said about him: “I saw Ikremah and he was not trustworthy”. Mohammad bin Sa’d in Al-Tabaqatul Kubra said: “His reports were not authentic and people had doubts about him”. Sa’eed bin Geer said: “You narrate after Ikremah some traditions which had I been with him he would not have dared to report”. Sa’eed bin Al-Musayyib said: “The slave of Ibn Abbas will not desist until a rope is tied around his neck and then taken around”. Sa’eed also used to advise his slave “Burd” saying: “Do not report any lies and attribute them to me as the slave of Ibn Abbas did to him”. Ibn Umar also used to advise his slave (Nafe’) saying: “Do not attribute to me any false traditions as the slave of Ibn Abbas has done”.
Due to the enormous amount of false traditions reported by Ikremah and attributed to Ibn Abbas, after his death, his son, Ali bin Abdullah bin Abbas tied a rope in Ikremah’s hands and legs and held him at the door of a toilet. When he was asked about it he said: “This wicked man attributes false traditions to my father”.
It is said that “Muslim” avoided reporting on the authority of Ikremah, but he reported some traditions where some other authorities were mentioned in conjunction with his, but did not report on his authority alone.
Malik avoided reporting on his authority except one or two traditions. Mutraf said: “I heard Malik saying that he disliked to mention Ikremah, and I do not think that he reported on his authority”. Similarly, Ibn Hanbal said: “Malik reported one tradition on the authority of Ikremah”. [Biography of Ikremah in: “Al-Tabaqatul Kubra” by Ibn Sa’d. p 2, pp133, p5 pp 212, Al-Zahaby, Mizan Al-I’tidal p4 pp 13-17 23] However, Bukhari reported on his authority, and was criticized for this by the scholars as has been explained before.
Discussing Ikremah’s Hadith in: “Sahih-ul-Bukhari”:
Al-Bukhari has reported the tradition in question on the authority of the following reporters:
“Abul Nu’man Mohammad Abul Fadhl informed us on the authority of Hammad bin Yazeed, on the authority of Ayyoob, on the authority of Ikremah who said: “Alira captured some Zendeeqs and burnt them with fire. The matter reached Ibn Abbas who said, ‘If it were for me I would not have burnt them because the Messenger of God had prohibited that. I would have killed them because the Messenger of God said, ‘Whoever changed his religion should be killed’.[Al-Bukhari, p 4, pp 196 footnote by Al-Sanady]
Ikremah reported the tradition on the authority of Ibn Abbas and claimed that Ibn Abbas has heard it from the Prophet.
It was discussed above how Ikremah used to report false traditions, attributing them to the authority of his master Ibn Abbas, to the degree that the scholars of Medina have condemned this attitude of his, among whom was Sa’eed bin Al-Musayyib’, the greatest scholar of his time, and before him was Abdullah bin Ulnae’.
Due to Ikremah and others, the number of traditions reported on the authority of Ibn Abbas was greatly inflated. Ahmad bin Hanbal reported 1696 traditions, although the Amidi said in the book: ‘AI–Ehkam Fee Usool AI Ahkam
“Ibn Abbas did not hear from the Messenger of God more than four traditions because he was very young at the time”.[Al-Amidi: Al-Ahkam, p 2, pp 178 – 180]
Ibnul Qayyem said in his book: ‘AI-Wabil AI-Sayyib Menai Kalimit Tayyeb’: “What Ibn Abbas has heard from the Prophet did not reach twenty traditions”.[Ibnul Qayyim, Al-Wabil, pp 77]
This estimation is more closer to the truth of the matter, which is mentioned also in the biography of Ibn Abbas in the books of history. Ibn Abbas became a Muslim when his father joined Islam just before the fall of Mecca. He met the Messenger” in Jahfah on his way to enter Mecca. When the Prophet passed away, Ibn Abbas was ten years old, or fifteen years old according to another report. This means that he accompanied the Prophet for a short period while he was still being raised by his father. How then could he report all this number of traditions?
Ikremah reported the tradition: “Whoever changes his religion should be killed” and attributed it to Ibn Abbas among what he attributed to him of hundreds of other traditions. This tradition was then reported by some hermit who was famous in his time and whose name was Ayyoob Al-Sakhtiyani who was known by the name Abu Bakr bin Tamima. In spite of his fame, he was not mentioned in the book: Mizanul l’tidal by Al-Zahaby. However, he was mentioned by Ibn Sa’d in his book: Al-Tabaqatul Kubra. [Al-Muntazim, Ibnul Jawzy, p 7, pp 288, p 9, pp 41] The tradition was then reported on his authority by his disciple Hammad bin Derham, who was mentioned in Al-Muntazim by Ibnul Jawzy and by Ibn Sa’ d in Al-Tabaqatul Kubra. However, Al-Zahaby did not mention him also in Mizanul I ‘tidal.
In mentioning the critique of Ikremah, Al-Zahaby narrated that Hammad said that his patron Ayyoob Al-Sakhtiyani was asked: Was Ikremah accused of being an undependable authority in reporting the traditions? He kept quite for a while then he said: “I did not accuse him of that”.
It meant that others used to accuse Ikremah in the gatherings held by Ayyoob Al-Sakhtiyani. In spite of that, Ayyoob insisted that he was trustworthy and should not be accused.
Yahya bin Sa’eed mentioned that Ikremah did not offer his Prayers properly, but Ayyoob defended him and said he was praying properly, which shows that Ayyoob used to defend him on every occasion.
Similarly, it is reported that Yahya bin Sa’eed has mentioned once that Ikremah used to lie in reporting the traditions he used to report, but Ayyoob Al-Sakhtiyani refuted this and said: No, he did not lie.
By this attitude towards Ikremah, Ayyoob Al-Sakhtiyani was trying to justify reporting and narrating traditions on the authority of Ikremah. The traditions which Ayyoob reported on the authority of Ikremah were reported later on his authority by his disciple Hammad bin Zayd bin Derham. Then the tradition was reported on the authority of Hammad by another Patron who was Mohammad bin Al-Fadhl whose nickname was Abul Nu’man and his surname was `Arem, who died in 224 AH and was the Patron of Bukhari. It was on his authority that Bukhari reported the tradition of Ikremah about killing the apostate.
It is worth mentioning that Abul Nu’man `Arem was criticized by Abu Hatim who said that his mind became unstable in the latter part of his life. Even Bukhari himself admitted that his mind has changed. Abu Dawood also said: “His mind became greatly unstable”. Similarly, Ibn Hayyan said: “His mind became unstable in his old age to the degree that he was not able to define what he was reporting. He used to report many unrecognized traditions, so it is important to avoid receiving from him or reporting any tradition on his authority”.
This is what has been mentioned about Abul Nu’man Muhammad bin Al-Fadhl whose surname was ‘Aron, and who was the first reporter in the chain of reporters of the tradition: “Whoever changes his religion should be killed”. Ikremah was the last reporter in that chain. Thus at the beginning of the chain there was unstableness and raving, while at the end of the chain there was lying and falsehood. What in between, was Hammad bin Zayed and Ayyoob Al‑Sakhtiyani. Both were hermits who were ready to believe everything that has been said.
Then we have to take a pause with the text of the tradition.
In the text, Ikremah says that some zendeeqs (heretics) were brought to Ali bin Abi Talib and he burnt them.
It has never been mentioned during all his life, that Ali bin Abi Talib has burnt his opponents. He was very well known to avoid shedding blood as much as possible. This can be seen clearly in the battles he fought and in his dealings with the Khawarij, also in his will on his death bed regarding his assailant Ibn Muljam of the Khawarij.
When we know how much the Khawarij used to hate Alin, we can realize why Ikremah has inserted this sentence in the text of that tradition in order to defame Ali and to achieve his real objective in creating division between the Muslims and getting them to fight one another according to his words: “Whoever changes his religion should be killed”.
The Khawarij considered everyone else to be an apostate. Therefore, they justified shedding blood of all Muslims, including women and children. Accordingly, Ikremah has issued a verdict for everyone who could kill to kill as many as he could, considering that the victim had changed his/her religion.
The statement of the tradition was mentioned in a general form: “Whoever changes his religion”, which is applicable to everyone who changes his religion, including Muslims, Christians and Jews. In its general form, it can literally mean that whoever changes his religion from among the Christians and the Jews and became a Muslim, then he should be killed. May be then Ikremah would be pleased!
It may be mentioned also that this tradition was the only one among all the traditions attributed to the Prophets’ in which the word: “zendeeqs” has been mentioned. It is a Persian word. Ikremah was also a Persian. In the Persian language it means: “Zend coro”, meaning a person who believes time to be everlasting without end. Imam Tha’lab said that the word zendeeq did not exist in the speech of the Arabs. However, Ikremah has introduced this word in the text of the tradition which he had attributed falsely to the Messenger of God, peace be on him.
Is it permissible to put people to death based upon traditions that have been reported by one person?
The penalty of apostasy was based on two traditions, both of which we have proven to be false according to the rules of examination and criticism of the traditions, and through the evidence taken from the books of the ancestors. Similarly we had proven before that they were in contradiction with the true jurisprudence of Islam as mentioned in the Holy Qur’an which is considered to be the ultimate authority of what is attributed to the Messenger.
Let us assume that the two traditions defining a penalty for apostasy were true and not false traditions. Let us also assume that the Holy Qur’an does not contradict them both, but does not support them either. The question is: Is it permissible to depend on two traditions to constitute a law in Islamic jurisprudence?
Is it permissible to create jurisprudence based only on two Ahaad traditions, i.e. traditions which, the end of the chain of reporters, mentioned only one person?
Is it permissible to put people to death branded as apostates based only upon two traditions?
Is life so valueless to this degree?
Let us seek the opinion of what the scholars have decided in this matter!
Let us start the subject with a glimpse in the tradition attributed to the Prophet.
When the Prophet passed away, the Muslims did not have any reference other than the Holy Qur’an as a written book, which the Prophet had admonished the Muslims to hold fast to. This is what Bukhari and Muslim have both reported in a tradition on the authority of one of the Companions: Abdullah bin Awfa.
This Abdullah bin Awfa was one of the Companions who had made a Bai ‘at, (i.e. sworn allegiance), under the tree, whom God has described in the verse:
“Surely, Allah was well pleased with the believers when they were swearing allegiance to thee under the Tree” (48:18)
Abdulllah bin Awfa has participated in six expeditions with the Prophet. He was wounded in the battle of Hunayn, and was the last one among the Companions to die in Kufa.
Abdullah bin Awfa was asked: Did the Messenger of God make a will? He said: No. He was asked: Why not, while the believers were commanded to make a will? He said: His will was the Book of God.
Al-Hafiz bin Hijr in explaining this tradition said in the book Fathul Bari:
“He meant to hold fast to the Book of God and to follow its teachings. He may have pointed to what he had said before: `I left with you that which if you hold fast to, you shall never go astray: The Book of God’. He confined his will to the Book of God, being the greatest and the most important guide, which contains every guidance, either explicitly in the text or implicitly by inference. Thus if the people followed the Book they will be acting upon all the Prophet’s teachings”.
This tradition was reported by Muslim as included in the Last Sermon of Hujjatul Wada’ (last pilgrimage of the Prophet) where the Prophet has said: “I am leaving with you that which if you hold fast to, you shall not go astray”. In another narration on the authority of Jabir, when the Messenger gave a Sermon on the Day of `Arafah, he said: “I left with you something which if you hold fast to you shall not go astray: The Book of Allah”. [Fathul Bary Fee Sharhil Bukhari, p 5, pp 377] Later, they have manipulated this tradition and added: “The Book of Allah and my Sunnah”, although the text of the tradition has mentioned “something”, in the singular form, which means holding fast to one thing only, and that one thing was the Book. Had there been anything else with the book, he would have said: if you hold fast to both.
Al-Bukhari has reported a tradition on the authority of Rafi’ who said: I and Shaddad bin Mi’gal visited Ibn Abbas. Shaddad asked him: Did the Prophet leave anything behind? He said: He did not leave anything except that which is in the Book. Then we visited Muhammad son of Al-Hanfiyya and in reply to the same question he said: He did not leave anything other than that which is in the Book.
This shows that when both Ibn Abbas and Muhammad son of Al-Hanfiyya (Muhammad son of Ali bin Abi Talib) were asked about what the Prophet has left behind, both said that he left the Book.
Later on, many false traditions were attributed to the Prophet. Then, they started collecting and writing down the traditions of the Prophet although he has said, as was reported by Ahmad, Muslim, Darami, Termizi and Nesa’i: “Do not write anything of that which I say except the Qur’an. Anyone who has written anything I have said other than the Qur’an should erase it”.
Abu Bakr also prohibited writing down the traditions. In the book: Tazkiratul Huffaz by Al-Zahaby, it is mentioned that he has said: “You narrate some traditions attributed to the Messenger of God on which you differ, the people who will come after you will be more divided concerning these traditions, so do not narrate anything attributed to the Messenger of God. Whoever ask you, you should say, `The Book of God is there before us and you. You should act upon what it made lawful for you and refrain from doing that which it made unlawful’.
Umar ar was more strict in prohibiting writing down the traditions of the Prophet and said, as has been narrated by Al-Bayhaqi and Ibn Abdul Barr: “I wanted to write down the Sunan, (i.e. the practice of the Prophet), but I remembered how some of the people who were before you, have written books, then they became fond of them and left the book of God which was sent to them. I swear by God that I shall never mingle the Book of God with anything else at all”.
However, after the events of Al-fitnatul Kubra, (i.e. the Great Affliction), that spread among the Muslims during the time of Ali bin Abi Talib, and then during the era of the Umayyad and the Abbasyd dictatorships, so many traditions have spread around. Each party used to invent a tradition to support its views. After all parties found the courage to shed the blood of their opponents, they found the courage to lie to the Messenger of God and to attribute to him so many false traditions.
The large multitude and the enormous number of false traditions in circulation have terrified some scholars who took up the responsibility of purifying the true traditions of the Prophet by separating the false from the true. Thus a new branch of knowledge was developed which has come to be known as: “Al-Jar; Wal Ta’dee! “, i.e. the rules of examination and criticism of the traditions in order to examine the authenticity of the reporters and the texts.
They have divided the traditions into two categories:
(1) Ahaad, (i.e. those traditions which at the end of the chain of reporters there is only one person who heard the tradition from the Prophet. However, some scholars consider the traditions which at the end of the chain of reporters there is only a few persons who heard the tradition from the Prophet to be categorized also as Ahaad tradition).
(2) Mutawatir, (i.e. those traditions which at the end of the chain of reporters there are many persons who have heard the tradition from the Prophet. As there is no specific number defined for “few” and “many” reporters to categorize a particular tradition as “Ahaad” or “Mutawatir”, the scholars differ in their categorization of the traditions).
In other words, a Mutawatir tradition is a tradition which has been heard from the Prophet by so many persons who could not have possibly conspired together to invent such a tradition in order to attribute it to the Messenger of God. Such a tradition is certainly genuine and does not need the rules of “Al-Jarh Wal Ta’dee!”, í.e. the rules of examination and criticism of the traditions and the authenticity of their reporters. Such rules were made to look into the doubtful traditions, but the Mutawatir traditions were considered to be above doubt.
However, they said that it is very difficult to find a Mutawatir tradition. Al-Shatby said that it is very difficult to find a tradition of the Messenger of God that can be categorized as Mutawatir. Ibn Hayyan Al-Sabty said that all reported traditions of the Messenger are Ahaad. Al-Nawawy in the book “AI-Taqreeb” said that the Mutawatir of the known traditions in jurisprudence and its origins are very rare which hardly exist.
In the opinion of many scholars, all what have been reported of the Messenger are Ahaad traditions. Therefore they have divided the Ahaad traditions into many categories according to their degree of truthfulness. Such categories are: True, Good and Weak. All such Ahaad traditions are considered doubtful even though they may be true. However, the scholars are divided concerning this matter because these rules are subject to difference of opinions and variety of views.
It was noticed that the Ahaad traditions used to multiply and to increase the more time has passed after the time of the Messenger sa. Such traditions were much less in number in the time of Umayyads than their number in the early part. of the Abbasyds’ time. For example, Imam Malik wrote his book: Al-Muwatta’ during the latter part of the reign of Calif Al-Mansour, the Abbasyd. It was in the year 148 AH. The number of traditions contained in this book was 1008 traditions, after he had rejected so many and made a careful selection.
One century later, in the time of Al-Bukhari, there were 600,000 traditions in circulation of which Bukhari chose between three and four thousand traditions. Bukhari died in the year 256 AH and after him the number of traditions in circulation inflated so much to the degree that Ibnul Jawzy (died 597 AH) wrote a book about the false tradition. Similarly, with passing of time, the number of the Ahaad traditions has increased also, because every era was producing traditions that reflected the various situations and attitudes of its people.
All such traditions were foreign to the illuminated era of the Prophet. They reflected the era in which they were produced. Therefore, the scholars who came in later times, like Al-Soyooti (died 911 AH) were less strict in criticizing and accepting such traditions and more defensive of the false among them.
Then came the era of Islamic awakening in recent time. Imam Muhammad Abdu did not accept any Ahaad tradition, no matter how truthful it was in the consideration of the scholars of tradition. That is why he rejected the tradition about the Jew who performed magic on the Prophet, although this tradition is mentioned in Bukhari, Muslim, Ahmad and Nessa’ i.
Both traditions mentioning apostasy are of the Ahaad traditions. The question then is: Is it logical to take them as true? And can both be used to constitute jurisprudence?
In the famous book: “Jurisprudence According to the Four Schools”, it is mentioned that the penalties of which the scholars of jurisprudence have agreed upon were three only (for stealing, adultery and accusing an innocent). This proves that the scholars of jurisprudence were not in agreement concerning what is called the penalty of apostasy,
which means that some scholars have not accepted the authenticity of the two traditions mentioning apostasy. In other words, there is no complete consensus among the jurists concerning a penalty for apostasy.
Sheikh Muhammad Al-Ghazali, who was so enthusiastic about the penalty of apostasy, has mentioned what contradicted the penalty of apostasy in his book: “The Prophet’s Sunnah between the Jurists and Traditionists”. He said: “I counted more than two hundred verses in the Qur’an that emphasized freedom of faith, considering that true faith should be based upon personal conviction while compulsion should be rejected. It should be emphasized that inviting people to a religion should be done through clear conveyance of the message”. Then he said: “Presenting Islam as if it were a provoking religion and as being thirsty for shedding blood is preposterous and mere fabrication of false charges against God and the Messengers. We have dealt with the subject thoroughly in many other books of ours, yet it is still necessary to speak on the subject again because the lies never end”. Then he said: “In these ill-omen days, the differences have become so wide-spread in the Ummah. They killed one another to the degree that the number of those who were killed in internal afflictions has exceeded the number of those who were killed fighting the foreign occupation”.
Based on what the Sheikh has said, the so-called penalty of apostasy contradicts all the verses of the Qur’an which emphasized freedom of faith and prohibited compulsion in religion. The sentences which we have quoted from his writings fit exactly those who defend the so-called penalty of apostasy and want to propagate its authenticity, those who have specialized in accusing others of disbelief and apostasy and who are thirsty to shed the blood of Muslims.
Sheikh Al-Ghazali also rejected the idea that the Prophet has ordered to kill anyone from among the hypocrites; and said: “When did it happen that the Messenger of God has directed to kill anyone of the hypocrites? It has never happened, but rather he has prohibited it”. In other words, he was pointing out to the fact that the penalty of apostasy did not exist in the time of the Prophet, otherwise, the Prophet would have had applied it to the apostates from among the hypocrites. Also, Al-Ghazali said that a tradition should not be used as an argument if it has serious flaw or if it was odd. The two traditions relating to apostasy are odd and both have serious flaw as long as they contradict two hundred verses of the Qur’an, which were counted by Sheikh Al-Ghazali relating to freedom of faith, and as long as the Prophet himself, as has been mentioned by Al-Ghazali, has never killed anyone of the apostates.
In addition, Al-Ghazali also said that an Ahaad tradition, even if it were true, does not provide certainty. He said: “Claiming that it provides certainty as the Mutawatir traditions is an unaccepted risk”.
It means that it is a risk to shed the blood of Muslims depending on a true but not certain tradition. What then if the tradition was not true but a false one?
Sheikh Al-Ghazali clarified the matter concerning the weak traditions which he might not reject on the outset if they were not related to matters of faith and jurisprudence. He said: “It may be the right of those who take interest in the weak traditions to use them outside the circle of beliefs and laws of jurisprudence, because the blood, the property, and the honour are more important and should not be dealt with based on rumors”.
Therefore, both traditions of apostasy, which are nothing but “rumors” should not be used as a judicial justification for shedding blood unjustly.
The Sheikh resented those who used false traditions. He said: “I am fed up with the people who know but a little of Qur’an and jurisprudence, but look too much in the traditions and invent new laws and issue various verdicts which increase the confusion and bewilderment of the people. I continued to warn the Ummah against the people who did not look much at the Qur’an but were emboldened to say their mind on important Islamic issues depending mainly on reported sayings which they did not know their real position in the realm of Islam”. [Al-Sunnah between the Jurists and the Traditionists, pp 104, 107, 29, 22 and an article by the anther published in “Al Al-Ahaali newspaper on 14/7/1993 under the title: “Al-Ghazali refutes Al-Ghazali”]
Thus he clarified and defined many points in the subject of apostasy which depended only on reported sayings that were unrecognized in the realm of Islam.
In his book: “Our Ideological Legacy”, Sheikh Al-Ghazali used a verdict issued by Al-Azhar Institution concerning anyone who denies the validity of Traditions as a source for jurisprudence. Would such a person be considered a disbeliever or not?
Sheikh Al-Ghazali said in the above mentioned book: “Some young people create conflicts and confusion in our time through their ill-behavior and wrong attitude”. Then he said: “I mention this while I have in my hand a verdict issued by Al-Azhar, the Noble, giving a decision regarding so many problems created by some immature young men in the name of holding high the Sunnah and following the ancestors. The verdict has explained in details the judicial laws and their arguments in order to block the way against those who have personal inclinations and selfish objectives”.
The Sheikh then presented the text of the verdict as follows:
Dear Sir, Professor in Chief of Al-Azhar Committee for Issuing Religious Verdicts.
Peace be with you, the Mercy of God and His blessings.
The person who denies that the traditions of the Prophet alone should be taken as a source for jurisprudence, would he be considered a disbeliever or not. Please provide your opinion giving supporting arguments in this regard. Thank you.
In the Name of God, the Gracious, the Merciful
May the peace and the blessings be upon our master Muhammad and his family and his Companions and those who followed.
The judicial injunctions are divided into five categories:
What is obligatory, (Wajib): It is that which is enjoined upon a person according to a text in the Book of God or in a Mutawatir tradition of His Messenger, which is clear, its authenticity is certain and its meaning is also certain, i.e. it has only one meaning, so that the scholars should not differ in understanding its meaning.
What is prohibited, (Haram): It is what the Legislator has required of a person to avoid, according to a text in the Book of God or in a Mutawatir tradition of His Messenger, whose authenticity is certain and its meaning is certain.
What is mandated, (Mandoob): It is what the Legislator has required of a person to do but without putting emphasis on it, so the person would be rewarded for doing 1t, but would not be punished if he does not do it.
What is disliked, (Makrooh): It is what the Legislator has required not to commit but without putting emphasis on it, so the person would be rewarded for not doing it but is not punished for doing it.
What is allowable, (Mubah): It is what a person has been given a choice to do or to leave, but there is no evidence to support its prohibition.
The Sunnah (i.e. the traditions of the Prophet) is divided in two categories: Mutawatir and Ahaad.
The Mutawatir is that which has been reported by a group of people who are impossible or unlikely to agree together to give a lie. Al-Hazimy says in the book: The five conditions of the Imams, page 37: “It is very difficult to prove that a tradition is Mutawatir”. Al-Shatby said in the first part of the book: Al-I’tisam, page 135: “I could not find a Mutawatir tradition”. As for the differences among the Sunnah scholars, the majority among them were of the opinion that whoever denies that a Mutawatir Sunnah can be used independently in defining an obligation (Wajib) or a prohibition (Haram), then he should be considered Kafir, an apostate. I say that most of the practical Sunnah is Mutawatir.
The Ahaad Sunna are the traditions of the Prophet, which have been reported by a number of people less than a Mutawatir. The scholars have differed on the principle of whether the Ahaad tradition can be used independently in defining an obligation (Wajib) or a prohibition (Haram). The scholars of the Shafie school and their followers considered that whoever denied this principle in matters of performed injunctions like Prayer, fasting, Hajj and paying the Zakat, should be considered an apostate. But whoever denied this principle in matters of doctrines related to God, the Messager, the events of the Hereafter and the matters of the Unseen, then he should not be considered an apostate, because doctrines are defined only through an absolutely authentic evidence from the Book of God or from the Mutawatir tradition of His Messenger.
The Hanafi school and their followers were of the opinion that the Ahaad tradition should not be used independently in defining an obligation (Wajib) or a prohibition (Haram), whether the obligation was in the area of performed injunctions or a doctrine. Accordingly, whoever denied this principle should not be considered an apostate. This was also the opinion of the scholars of fundamental Hanafi Jurisprudence. Al-Barzawi said: “The claim of certainty concerning the authenticity of the Ahaad traditions is a false claim, because the truth of an Ahaad tradition is only probable, thus nothing could be described as probable and certain in the same time. Whoever made such a claim is an insolent who has let his mind go astray”. This is the opinion which was followed by Sheikh Muhammad Abdu and Sheikh Abu Daqeeqa and others. The late Imam Muhammad mad Abdu said: “The Holy Qur’an is the only evidence in Islam presenting its message. Anything else which is mentioned in the traditions, whether the authenticity of such traditions was true and well-known or doubtful, are not of absolute certainty”. Sheikh Shaltoot also mentioned in his book: `Islam, Doctrine and Jurisprudence’ : “The Sunnah, i.e. the traditions, are doubtful concerning the Sanad, i.e. the reporting point of view, and their Dalalah, i.e. their meaning and interpretation. In other words, their authenticity is doubtful and their meaning is probable.
In his book “Al Muwafagaf’, Imam Al-Shatby opined that the Sunnah should not be taken independently in defining an obligation (wajib) or a prohibition (Haram). Its purpose is only to define what was mentioned in the Qur’an in absolute terms, or to explain in detail what was mentioned in general terms, or to clarify what was mentioned in abstract form. However, this should be done using the Mutawatir traditions not the Ahaads.
All the above mentioned opinions are supported by what has been mentioned in Sahih-ul-Bukhari in a chapter on the Will. It was mentioned about the will of the Messenger of Godsa: On the authority of Talha bin Masraff who said: Abdullah bin Awfa was asked: Has the Messenger of God, His peace and blessings be upon him, made a will? He said: No. I said: How is that, while he has enjoined upon the people to make a will? How then he did not make a will? He said: He made the Book of God his will. Ibn Hajar said in explaining this tradition: He meant that his will was to hold fast to the Book and to act upon its teachings. He pointed to what the Prophet said: “I left with you something if you hold fast to it, you will never go astray: the Book of God”. He confined his will to the Book of God because it explained everything either through a stipulation in the text or through extracting a point from the text. Thus if the people followed what was in the Book, they would have acted upon all of what they have been commanded.
Similarly, the above is supported by a tradition of Salman the Persian, who said: “Lawful matters are those which God has made lawful in His Book, and prohibited matters are those which God has prohibited in His Book. What God has declined to mention under any of these two categories, is allowed out of His favor for you”.
When the scholars argued against Al-Shatby using what God has mentioned in His Book:
“Obey Allah, and obey His Messenger and those who are in authority among you” (4:59)
He said that what was mentioned of the obligation to obey the Messenger’ is related to his definition of what was mentioned in the Qur’an in absolute terms, and in his detailing what was mentioned in general terms, and in his explanation of what was mentioned in abstract terms. However, this should be done using the Mutawatir traditions not the Ahaads. In any case, all what the Prophet would have had said should be necessarily based on the Qur’an, because A’esha said about the Prophet: “His disposition was in complete harmony with the Qur’an”.
The meaning of what God the Exalted has said:
“And We have sent down to thee the Book to explain everything” (16:89)
is that the Sunnah is included in its entirety. Al-Shatby supported this opinion by what God the Exalted has said:
“We have left out nothing in the Book” (7:38)
Regarding what the scholars have argued against Al-Shatby using the tradition of the Prophet: “If anyone among you would say, `This is the Book of God, whatever is made lawful in it, we will consider it lawful, and whatever is prohibited in it, we will consider it prohibited’, let it be known that whoever received a tradition from me and he belied it, then, he in fact has belied God and His Messenger”. Al-Shatby said that among the reporters of this tradition was Zayd bin Al-Habbab who is known to commit many mistakes, and that is why the Two Sheiks, i.e. Bukhari & Muslim, have not reported any tradition on his authority.
It was mentioned in Muslim: “A tradition reported by one person only does not reach absolute certainty, irrespective of whether the tradition was mentioned by the Two Sahihs (i.e. by Bukhari and Muslim) or by others”.
From all of the above, it became clear that making things obligatory (Wajib) or prohibited (Haram) is not possible except through an absolutely authentic evidence with an absolutely clear meaning. This cannot be realized in the realm of traditions except through the Mutawatir traditions. As such traditions almost do not exist since there is no consensus among the scholars regarding such traditions, then we can conclude that traditions cannot be taken independently to define obligatory and prohibited matters except regarding things performed (by the Prophet) or in conjunction with the Holy Qur’an.
Consequently, whoever denies that traditions should be taken independently in defining obligatory and prohibited matters is a person who denies something of which the scholars have differed upon, something that is not considered among what is necessarily known of religion. Therefore, such a person should not be considered a Kafir, i.e. an apostate.”
This verdict was issued by Sheikh Abdullah Al-Mashadd, chief of the committee for issuing verdicts on first of Feburuary 1990. [Al-Ghazali, “Turathunal Fikry – Our Ideological Legacy”, pp 175, 179. This verdict was also published in “Al Ahrar” newspaper on 5/8/1993]
Therefore, according to this verdict issued by Al-Azhar, traditions cannot be taken independently to create a jurisprudence that makes anything obligatory. Consequently, traditions cannot be taken independently to create a jurisprudence for shedding blood of the people, particularly when such jurisprudence depend only on two traditions, concerning which there is a lot of doubt and both contradict the Qur’an and the practice of the Messenger of God, peace be on him.
Thus, the above verdict of Al-Azhar negates the penalty of apostasy and makes it obsolete, unworthy of being acted upon.
The Penalty of Apostasy
A verdict to kill all people
The Mu’tzila have dominated the Abbasyd Khilafa in the time of the Calif Al-Mu’tasim and Al-Wathiq. They have persecuted Ahmad bin Hanbal and his followers. In the time of Al-Wathiq, Ahmad bin Nasr Al-Khuza’ee was tried in front of Calif Al-Wathiq. The Calif killed him with his own hands, believing that by shedding his blood for apostasy and for being a zendeeq, he was doing a beneficial act to eran God’s favour.
The Mu’tazila were of the opinion that the Qur’an was created and that seeing God is impossible. The Hanbalis were of the opinion that the Qur’an was not created because it was the Word of God the Exalted, and that seeing God, on the day of Judgment, is possible. Every side had his own arguments derived from interpretation of verses from the Qur’an and from the traditions which supported his own views.
From the history book of Ibnul Jawzy, who was a Hanbali, we present the trial of Ibn Nasr Al-Khuza’ee in front of Calif Al-Wathiq:
On Saturday, the first day of the month of Ramadhan 231 AH, the Calif asked him:
“What do you say about the Qur’an?” He said: “It is the Word of God”. He asked: “Is it created?”
He said: “It is the Word of God”.
He asked: “Would you see your Lord on Resurrection?”.
He said: “So mentioned the traditions”.
He said: “Woe unto you! Would He be seen as a created thing is seen?”.
He said: “It is the Word of God”.
He said: “Being limited, embodied, contained in a place and encompassed by sight, I disbelieve in a god who has these attributes”.
Then he asked those who were present: “What do you say of him?”
Abdul Rahman bin Ishaq the Judge said: “It is lawful to shed his blood”.
A group of jurists agreed with the Judge. However, Ibn Abi Dawood, who was the Sheikh of Mu’tazila appeared to be opposing killing him. He said: “O Amirul Mo’minin! He is an old man, who may be confused or his mind may have gone astray. His case should be postponed but in the meantime he should be asked to repent”.
The Calif Al-Wathiq said: “I see that he is a profound apostate who is strictly adhering to his beliefs”.
The Calif then ordered to prepare the Samsama, which was the sword of Amr bin Ma’d, and said: “When I stand to kill this man, no one should come to help me. I hope that God may reward every step that I take to kill this infidel who worships a god whom we do not worship, nor do we recoginize by the same attributes which he has ascribed to him”.
Then he ordered to prepare the Nat’, which was a special cloth on which the person to be executed should lie down so that his blood would not soil the place. He was made to sit on it being tied down. The Calif ordered his head to be pulled straight by a rope and ordered him to be stretched. Then the Calif walked up to him and smit his neck separating his head from his body. He ordered his head to be taken to Baghdad to be hung in the eastern side for some days and in the western side for other days. A piece of paper was attached to his ear on which it was written: “In the name of God, the Gracious, the Merciful. This is the head of Ahmad bin Nasr bin Malik who was invited by the servant of God, Imam Haroon Al-Wathiq Billah, Amirul Mo’minin, to say that the Qur’an is created and to deny that God can be seen, but he refused and insisted on his beliefs, so God has hastened to send him to His were…” [Al Muntazim, p 11, pp 166, 168]
In other words, the Calif Al-Wathiq convicted the man as an infidel, killed him with his own hands, then he decreed also that he should go to the were.
Thus the stupid Calif did not leave anything for God the Exalted.
The head of Ahmad bin Nasr was kept crucified in Baghdad, while his body was kept crucified in Samarra’ for years until he was taken down. Thereafter, his head and body were collected and burried in a grave.
The Hanbalis spread so many rumours about the miracles performed by the head of Ahmad bin Nasr. They also circulated many traditions which supported their own views and emphasized the importance of changing evil by hand. When he was alive, Ahmad bin Nasr was very well known to promote the principle of changing evil by one’s own hand. However, in the end, the Abbasyd Calif Al-Mutawakkil adopted the views of the Hanbalis, who persecuted their opponents, the Sufis.
Time passed. Then the Sufis got the upper hand and became dominant. They also persecuted their opponents, the Hanbali jurists. During the eightth century of Hijra, Ibn Taymiyya was the greatest Hanbali jurist who was facing persecution of the Sufis and the supporters of their jurisprudence. He was moved from prison to exile. He faced many attempts on his life. All of this was reflected in the verdicts he used to issue. He became more incensed in passing judgment against his opponents and more daring in committing them to death.
Through a quick glance to the verdicts issued by Ibn Taymiyya, we can see him distributing verdicts of death to everyone who may differ with him in opinion. He was of the opinion that the innovator should be put to death. It was so easy for every party to accuse the other of being innovator. Keeping in mind that Muslims are divided in so many sects and parties, we can understand that Ibn Taymiyya gave a judicial justification for every party to kill its opponents by accusing them of apostasy.
Ibn Taymiyya even has opined in a verdict that a Muslim who says loudly his intention to perform the Prayer; is to be considered an infidel who should be put to death, even if such a person believed that his action was according to the command of God!
Similarly, Ibn Taymiyya opined in a verdict that a Muslim who does not perform the prescribed Prayer on time or postpones the Morning Prayer till after sunrise or postpones the Noon and the Afternoon Prayers till after sunset, should be put to death! !
He also issued a verdict that a Muslim who comes to the Mosque but does not join the congregational Prayer should be put to death! !
Also he gave a verdict that a Muslim should be put to death if he opposed the views of Ibn Taymiyya concerning shortening the Prayer during travelling. In all cases though, the offender should be asked to repent first.
He even gave a verdict to kill a Muslim on the premise that he was a hypocrite, who was inwardly infidel but outwardly appeared to be a Muslim. In other words, he gave everyone the excuse to kill whoever one may like among the Muslims by accusing him of such a charge, even without giving him a chance to repent. Ibn Taymiyya says: “Killing a person who put on a Muslim appearance while hiding disbelief has been approved by the majority of jurists, because such a person is a hypocrite who is considered by the jurists to be a zendeeq, so he should be killed even if he repented” ! !
In other words, repentance is of no avail as long as some jurists considered a person to be a zendeeq. [Verdicts of Ibn Taymiyya, p l, pp 359, 366, p 2, pp 50, 52]
Thus he gave a verdict to kill all people.
However, Ibn Taymiyya was not able to put his verdicts into practice. The Sufis and their supporters of jurists, together with the Mamlooks have put an end to his movement. Sufism dominated the era of the Mamlooks and the Ottomans. Then the Muslims woke up to find the western occupation knocking on their doors.
Two revival movements have started in the Middle East. A movement in the Arabian Peninsula led by the Wahhabis who opposed Sufism and its symbols. They revived the views of Ibn Taymiyya using the Hanbali jurisprudence and extremism of the ancestors. The other movement occurred in Egypt with a desire to take after Europe. It was led by Mohammad Ali who established the new Egyptian state. He sent many commissions and delegates to Europe. In the meantime he obliterated the old symbols of the Mamlooks and the Ottoman garrison. He put an end to the authority of the sheikhs of Al-Azhar. He even sent his army to destroy the Wahhabi state and its capital. Thus he was able to get rid of the remnant of the Ottoman garrison. Then he started creating the Egyptian army.
Time passed. The foreign occupation has gone. The Third Saudi State was established with its oil-wealth effects on the region. In the meantime, the Egyptian role retreated in the eighties, while the oil states became the dream place for the Egyptians and for others to make a good living. Thus the views of Ibn Taymiyya started to spread again and his verdicts got the opportunity to be acted upon.
This contemporary religious revival was tarnished by the extremist bedouin Hanbalic jurisprudence which put great emphasis on applying penalties and took up the right to prohibit and to ban, then it raised high the banner of the penalty of apostasy in order to terrorise its opponents.
Naturally, in such environment, the great religion of Islam is subjected to accusations of terrorism, extremism and blood shedding.
Although God the Exalted has sent His Noble Messenger as a mercy for the whole of mankind, not to shed the blood of mankind.
Although it is obligatory upon a Muslim who wants to slaughter a chicken to ask permission of God the Exalted by mentioning His name.
However, those who have taken religion for a profession gave themselves the right to issue a verdict to kill all of mankind, in the name of God and in contradiction to His jurisprudence.
The definition of apostasy as we learned it at Al-Azhar University was defined as saying anything that can be considered (Kufr) i.e. disbelief, or believing anything that is considered disbelief, or doing anything that is considered disbelief. By such a definition, it is very easy to accuse everyone of apostasy, then it becomes very easy to kill them all!!
These were just a few lines from the ancestral books of jurisprudence which we had to study in the early years of our education at Al-Azhar.
However, the oil jurists and the mercenary scholars gave wide circulation to these statements making them appear as if they were the teachings of Islam. The state has given them the opportunity to control the media, so a new generation have sucked the milk of extremism considering it to be the true Islam. Because it was a generation whose dreams have been denied and whose humanly aspirations of finding a job, a home and a decent life have been lost, it developed a grudge against the state and against the society and condemned all as being infidels. Consequently, the new generation has found justification for killing all people. For the first time, Egypt has seen some of its children killing people randomly in the streets. The bombs exploded killing innocent people among whom were women and children, young and old.
This bottom pit to which we have slided had its beginning. It was a verdict of unjustly killing a soul. The consequence of such a verdict was the justification of killing all people, according to what God the Exalted had said:
“That whosoever killed a person, unless it be for killing a person, or for creating disorder in the land, it shall be as if he had killed all mankind” (5:32)
Truthfully speaks Allah the Great
And Always indeed: Truthfully Speaks Allah the Great
Dr. Ahmad Subhy Mansour