"The Concept of Apostasy in Islam" by WRF Member Joshua Woo

An Exploration of the Concept of Apostasy in Islam
by
WRF Member Joshua Woo Sze Zeng[1]
I
This essay aims to explore the answers to two questions concerning apostasy (riddah/murtad) in Islam: (1) Can one leave Islam? (2) What are the Muslim community’s responses to those who leave Islam or indicated the decision to do so? As reminded by Malaysian Christian theologian Ng Kam Weng, I am aware that “it is not the business of the Christian to tell Muslims how they should hold their beliefs.”[2] Therefore this essay will rely only on Muslims’ works to provide the necessary guidance for our undertaking. The two primary resources that this essay refers to are ‘Freedom of Religion, Apostasy, and Islam’ written by Abdullah Saeed and Hassan Saeed,[3] and the online resources compiled and widely made available[4] by Mohammad Omar Farooq, the current Head of Centre for Islamic Finance at Bahrain Institute of Banking and Finance.[5]
 
We shall briefly survey through the various Muslim approaches to these two questions by going back into the early history of the Islamic religion and the Muslim community, where such discussion took place. This is to rediscover how the preceding “social relations and institutions that constitute society” affects the Muslim discourse over apostasy. As Islamic historian Ahmed El Shansy noted, “[I]deas can reconfigure these [social] relations and institutions, but the social context also actively receives ideas and promotes, channels and /or suppresses them.”[6] Due to the limitation of space, this essay is largely confined to the highlighting of the various significant voices within the ummah (Muslim community) that have greatly contributed to the discussion. For that, it is regrettable that we cannot cover many related topics as desired, such as the hermeneutical issue of ijtihad and a detailed engagement with the diverging perceptions surrounding all the Qur’anic passages and sunnah (habits of Muhammad and his companions) that are relevant to our questions.
 
To begin, we have to understand the religio-political climate in the early days of Islam, during the time of Muhammad. It was out of that context that emerged a gripping pattern that subsequent Muslims incessantly return to when formulating their practices and beliefs, including their understanding of the Sha’riah, their “path” of life in relation to the social reality that they face. This includes their approaches to the question on apostasy in the present-time. The foundational history of Islam is intrinsically intertwined with the religious, socio-political problems and aspirations of the earliest Muslims and the rest of those living in that locality. The tribal groups within the Arabia region were diverse in their religious allegiance and political dominance. Tribal wars were constantly fought.[7] The Qur’an describes this social background as Jahiliyyah, the age of ignorance, paganism, polytheism and lawlessness.[8]
 
The earliest Muslim community was part of this social dynamic which existed back then. Being a nascent religio-political movement, Islam had to face the threat of being eliminated by its surrounding antagonistic neighbours. It was only natural that the community sought political means to counter the threat, to secure its own survival. It was not an option among other options, as if the hostility would gradually wane into obscurity by itself. To the earliest Muslims, it was only through political engagement that their survival is guaranteed. As Abdullah and Hassan Saeed wrote, “From 9[A. H.]/630[A. D.] onwards, idolaters, as well as Jews and Christians who remained hostile and refused to live at peace with Muslims, were warned that they should desist from their hostilities or face open war. Muslims were not to tolerate their hostility any further. Non-Muslims who were not hostile to Muslims were to retain their religious traditions and no threat was directed against them. The adversaries of Muslims, however, were to be brought under political control, perhaps to eliminate any potential threat to the nascent Muslim community.”[9] Similarly Ahmed El Shamsy remarked, “The motive for the state’s intervention in the arena of theological scholarship was often the need to defuse perceived political threats. This need was underpinned by the frequent intertwining of state legitimacy with religious authority: the state bolstered its domestic sovereignty by portraying itself as the guardian of orthodoxy.”[10]
 
The overtly entwined identification of religion and politics in the Islamic founding history has set itself a communal approach to social concerns as well as to theological issues that necessarily reflects this aspect of the religion. “[T]he social construction of theological orthodoxy took place at the intersection of three primary societal arenas, comprising the scholars [ulama], the ordinary believers and the government.”[11] Subsequent generations of Muslims have taken up and have been relying on this primal example as their foremost template that governs their daily life. Akbar S. Ahmed describes that the received traditional account of the earliest history of the Muslim community as the ideal approach to life for all Muslims. Muhammad and his companions (Sahaba) “provided examples of correct behaviour for every aspect of life. […] The ideal would be recognizable in spite of differences of society, economy, social structure and organization throughout the world, even outside the mainstream and established Muslim heartlands. It would be recognizable in the tropical jungles of Africa, in the steppes of Central Asia and in the humid forests of the Far East. Over 1300 years later it is recognizable in Muslim communities whether in Chicago, London, Cairo or Tokyo.”[12] Mona Abul-Fadl elaborated that the faithful community is a “purposeful entity composed of a group, or a jama’a whose members, by virtue of a common faith, way of life and sense of destiny, have been forged in a common historical consciousness.”[13]
 
 
II
Although there is a readiness to revert and refer back to the ancient Islamic practices, nonetheless there exists profound difficulty for present-day Muslims to live up to the template set forth by the earliest Muslims due to the significant differences between the historical past and the contemporary condition of the society. For this reason, the hermeneutics employed by present-day Muslims to extract Qur’anic principles or those from the hadith, in order to apply onto the question of apostasy, remains a constant challenge for the community. Abdullah and Hassan Saeed in their treatment of this subject distinguished the Muslim hermeneutics into the pre-modern (Chapter 4 and 5) and the modern period (Chapter 6). They engaged with a list of pre-modern historical evidences of which the Muslim Scripture[14] and tradition[15] were used to justify laws that endorse temporal punishment, particularly capital punishment.
 
In their examination of the Qur’anic passages, such as 5.33, 5.54, 9.11-12, 16.106, and 22.11, that are often used to justify death penalty, Abdullah and Hassan Saeed concluded that “The overall picture that emerges from a variety of verses in different contexts in the Qur’an is that apostasy is a ‘sin’ for which there is no temporal punishment. It is only when apostasy is coupled with actual engagement in fighting against Muslims that it becomes a ‘crime’.”[16]
 
Besides the Qur’an, the passages from the hadith employed typically to argue for death sentence on those who have committed apostasy are also discussed and found wanting. The famous one being that of Sahih al-Bukhari which reads “Whoever changes his religion, kill him.” The Saeeds caution the readers of this passage against the absurd generalization of this passage to mean that “once a person accepts a religion, any religion, they cannot change it, whether it is Islam, Christianity, Judaism or any other.”[17] This particular sentence should be understood in light of others found in the hadith. When taken as a whole, one may conclude that “[T]he application of the hadith is to be restricted to a person who changes religion and then acts seditiously by siding with the enemy and threatening the Muslim community.”[18]
 
On this hermeneutical approach, the Founding Chairman of the International Institute of Advanced Islamic Studies in Malaysia, Mohammed Hashim Kamili, commented, “[T]his Hadith makes clear that the apostate must also boycott the community (mufariq li'l-jama'ah) and challenge its legitimate leadership, in order to be subjected to the death penalty.”[19] It was treason and not apostasy per se that calls for execution. As such there are generally two types of apostasy in Islam: “one maintains peace, and another who conspires against the Islamic state by acts of rebellion and crime.”[20] This distinction of types of apostasy and the interpretation of the Qur’anic verses are similarly accepted and endorsed by Selim el-Awa (or Salim al-Awa),[21] the former Secretary General of the International Union for Muslim Scholars; Al-Shawkani,[22] the famous Yemeni Muslim scholar; Abdelmouti Bayoumi[23] (or Abdul Mouti Bayoumi) from Al-Azhar University and the Islamic Research Academy;[24] Nurcholish Madjid, a prominent Indonesian Muslim intellectual;[25] Subhi Mahmassani, author of a significant study on Islamic law ‘The Philosophy of Jurisprudence in Islam’,[26] Hasan Al-Turabi, leader of the Muslim Brotherhood (The Society of the Muslim Brothers) in Sudan,[27] Rashid al-Ghannushi, a Tunisian Islamist,[28] and Oxford University’s Islamic Studies professor, Tariq Ramadan.[29] These Muslim scholars hold that there is no basis in the history of the earliest Muslim community to carry out death penalty in cases of mere apostasy. Those who argue for execution are mistaken in their reading of the early Muslim’s writings.
 
 
III
So far, we have seen strong voices within the Muslim community that reject capital punishment on apostates. However, it remains to see if there should not be any punishment at all for those who leave Islam. To find out, we may return back to the earliest tradition of the Islamic faith, to look at two explicit instances where the Islamic Prophet and his companions dealt with apostates.
 
The first one is narrated by Jabir bin 'Abdullah as recorded in Sahih al-Bukhari, volume 9, book 89, number 318:
 
“A bedouin gave the Pledge of allegiance to Allah's Apostle for Islam. Then the bedouin got fever at Medina, came to Allah's Apostle and said, “O Allah's Apostle! Cancel my Pledge.” But Allah's Apostle refused. Then he came to him (again) and said, “O Allah's Apostle! Cancel my Pledge.” But the Prophet refused. Then he came to him (again) and said, “O Allah's Apostle! Cancel my Pledge.” But the Prophet refused. The bedouin finally went out (of Medina) whereupon Allah's Apostle said, “Medina is like a pair of bellows (furnace): It expels its impurities and brightens and clears its good.””[30]
 
Although the Prophet refused to recognize the bedouin’s apostasy, yet it is evident that there was “made no reference to any punishment at all, and the Bedouin, despite his persistent renunciation of Islam was left to go unharmed.”[31]
 
The other instance was pointed out by Tariq Ramadan:[32] the apostasy of Ubayd-Allah ibn Jahsh as recorded by Ibn Is?aq, the first person who wrote the biography of Prophet Muhammad:
 
“Ubaydullah went on searching until Islam came; then he migrated with the Muslims to Abyssinia taking with him his wife who was a Muslim, Umm Habiba, d. Abu Sufyan. When he arrived there he adopted Christianity, parted from Islam, and died a Christian in Abyssinia. […] [W]hen he had become a Christian, `Ubaydullah as he passed the prophet's companions who were there used to say: ‘We see clearly, but your eyes are only half open…’”[33]
 
These two instances show that there was no temporal punishment being executed by the Prophet and his companions on those who chose to leave Islam. No doubt there was refusal to acknowledge the person’s apostasy on the part of the Prophet, and rejection of the person’s integrity on the part of the Prophet’s companions, yet in both cases, there was no punishment inflicted on the apostate. Neither does the Qur’an say anything about this. As how Selim al-Awa put it, “Qur’anic verses do not impose a temporal punishment.”[34] Or, in Kamali’s words, “The Qur’an prescribes absolutely no temporal punishment for apostasy, nor has the Prophet, peace be upon him, sentenced anyone to death for it.”[35] The Muslim intellectual who once lectured at Malaysia’s International Islamic University,[36] Shabbir Akhtar, in his recent book on political Islam wrote, “In Muhammad's day, private apostasy was commonplace; the Quran specifies no worldly penalty for it.”[37]
 
 
IV
Besides the absence of scriptural basis in the Qur’an and historical practices in the life of the Prophet that sanction any temporal punishment on the apostates, there are Qur’anic passages—as understood by Muslim scholars—that provide allowance for believers to leave Islam conscientiously. The Grand Mufti of Egypt, Ali Gomaa, of the Sunni community, publicly announced that Muslims can chose to switch to other religion, “[T]hey can because the Quran says, ‘Unto you your religion, and unto me my religion,’ [Quran, 109:6], and, ‘Whosoever will, let him believe, and whosoever will, let him disbelieve,’ [Quran, 18:29], and, ‘There is no compulsion in religion.’ [Quran, 2:256].”[38] Correspondingly, the Council on American-Islamic Relations released a public statement—drafted with the consultation of the Fiqh Council of North America—that made the same point: “Islam advocates both freedom of religion and freedom of conscience, a position supported by verses in the Quran [10.99, 18.29, 42.48, and 2.256].”[39] Mahmud Shaltut, a well-respected leading Egyptian Islamic scholar,[40] Sayyid Tantawi, the late Grand Imam of al-Azhar Mosque and Grand Sheikh of al-Azhar University,[41] Irfan Ahmad Khan, President of the World Council of Muslims for Interfaith Relations,[42] and Ibrahim B. Syed, President of Islamic Research Foundation International[43] held similar conviction. And of course, the Oxford famous scholar Ramadan too.[44]
 
From this observation, we may conclude that neither the Qur’an nor the hadith, as explained by the aforementioned Muslim scholars, warrant any punishment to be carried out on those who leave Islam. There is an understanding that the faith of the individual is between him and God, and so it will be God who punishes the apostate in the after-life.[45] As Abdullah and Hassan Saeed remarked, “Indeed, a surface reading of some of the verses of the Qur’an and of hadith texts could lead to the conclusion that anyone who turns away from the faith should be punished in this world. Close reading, however, reveals that there is no temporal punishment specified in the Qur’an.”[46]
 
Having that said, it is evident that there was ijma (consensus) that apostasy is considered as one of the gravest sins in Islam within its earliest community. However there was no unanimity over what kind of punishment should be executed on the apostate. For this reason, subsequent Muslim jurists could not agree on which category should punishment for apostasy falls under; whether it should be considered under hadd, qisas, or ta’zir—respectively ‘divine-eternal-sanction’ (penalty that must be preserved as effective for all times and places by the faithful community), ‘retaliation’ and ‘discretionary’ (changeable according to context) punishment. The Shafi’is and Zhahiris categorized apostasy as a crime requiring hadd punishment, to which the Hanbalis differed. Disagreeing with the Shafi’is, Zhahiris and Hanbalis, the school of thought under Ibn Taymiyyah considered apostasy to be punished under the category of ta’zir. The Maliki jurist al-Baji thought likewise.[47] Ibrahim al-Nakha’i and Sufyan al-Thawri—two renowned Muslim jurists from second century A. H./eighth century A. D.—did not think that apostates should be executed.[48]
 
Although there was no attained consensus, yet one cannot deny that these groups shared the same notion that there should be some kind of corrective measures taken to deal with apostasy. To some, it was death sentence in the event where the apostate fails to exercise the mandatory repentance within an appointed period of time (as practised by the Malikis, Hanafis, and Shafi’is[49]). To others, it was intense lifelong counselling or catechism to invite the apostate back into the faith (as espoused by Ibrahim al-Nakha'i and Sufyan al-Thawri’[50]).
 
The difference seems to be of degree rather than of kind. On one end, the practice of respecting, recognizing and honouring the apostate’s conscientious decision by the earliest Muslim community to leave the religion was not known; while on the other end, there was no punishment stipulated in Islam’s founding history in response to these cases. This resulted a huge frustrating gap from one end to the other, in the sense that the majority Muslim community believes that they have to somehow respond to this severe sin, yet they have no clear proviso in their scripture or their earliest history as guide. Attempts to overcome this gap have been made in countries where the majority of the population are Muslims or the dominant religion of the state is Islam. Yet each attempt that took place in these countries varied from time to time, from place to place; depending on the prevailing social condition of a given historical phase that the nation is going through. Some ruling regime may portray itself as having moderate relationship with the religious community, yet subtly supporting its own preferred stringent version of the religion (for eg. Indonesia). Others are more outright in sanctioning their religious requirement in their country, classifying apostasy not merely as a religious issue but one that is legal and political as well. Despite the faithful struggle to live out the earliest Muslim experience across various contemporary contexts, it does not seem difficult to reckon that those contemporary nation-states[51] and Islamic scholars that sanction the exertion of punishment, not to mention the death penalty, for apostasy on the ground of the Qur’an and the hadith are taking huge unwarranted hermeneutical leap across this gap.
 
 
Conclusion
This essay has provided a broad purview surrounding the issue of apostasy in Islam. There are strong reasons to doubt that the faction within the Muslim community that remains adamant to see apostasy as deserving temporal punishment will change their mind overnight. However, the persisting impact of a healthy measure of differing stance provided by many contemporary learned Muslim scholars in approaching this issue should not be dismissed easily either. What is being contended between these two opposing groups is the vision of the ‘pure’ form of Islamic way of life. To the former, the ‘pure’ Islamic way is to disallow apostasy, in which ensured punishment and corrective action are carried out on the apostate. While to the latter, every person is responsible for his or her own iman (faith) in relation to Allah, and since there is no instruction in the Qur’an or hadith to punish apostate, therefore Muslims are free to leave the religion conscientiously. On my part, there is no intention to say which group is correct. My task is to briefly survey through the available approaches to learn about the intra-discourse within the Muslim community over this matter. As long as there is still ongoing disagreement among Muslims over this issue, the two questions asked at the beginning of this essay remain to be answered.

[1]Joshua Woo Sze Zeng is a Malaysian who is currently located in Singapore. He blogs at szezeng.blogspot.com and can be contacted at joshuawoo@gmail.com.
[2] Ng Kam Weng, The Quest for Covenant Community and Pluralist Democracy in an Islamic Context, ed. Mark Chan (Singapore: Trinity Theological College, 2008), p. 34.
[3] Abdullah Saeed and Hassan Saeed, Freedom of Religion, Apostasy and Islam (UK: Ashgate, 2004).
[4] Apostasy and Islam website: Mohammad Omar Farooq, On Apostasy and ISlam: 100+ Notable Islamic Voices affirming the Freedom of Faith, http://apostasyandislam.blogspot.com, and Dr. Farooq's Study Resources Page, http://www.globalwebpost.com/farooqm/study_res/default.html (both accessed 13 May 2011).
[5] Bahrain Institute of Banking and Finance website: Management, Faculty and Administration, http://www.bibf.com.bh/content/mohammad-farooq.htm (accessed 13 May 2011).
[6] Ahmed El Shamsy, ‘The social construction of orthodoxy’ in The Cambridge Companion to Classical Islamic Theology, ed. Tim Winter (UK: Cambridge University Press, 2008), p. 97.
[7] “The Arabians emphasized in-group relationship to the extent that loyalty to the tribe marks the strength of each tribe. They loved war. Because of that, wars were often being fought.” (Mereka sangat menekankan hubungan kesukuan sehingga kesetiaan atau solidaritas kelompok menjadi sumber kekuatan bagi suatu kabilah atau suku. Mereka suka berperang. Kerana itu, peperangan antara suku sering sekali terjadi. […] Dunia Arab ketika itu merupakan kancah peperangan terus menerus.) Badri Yatim, Sejarah Peradaban Islam: Dirasah Islamiyah II (Indonesia: PT RajaGrafindo Persada, 1995), p. 11.
[8] Qur’an 3.154, 5.50, 33.33, 48.26. Gerald R. Hawting questions the understanding of these descriptions as describing the actual pre-Islamic social condition by suggesting that the Qur’anic descriptions are polemical prose that are misunderstood by those who hold this view. The fact that there are disagreements between monotheistic religions up to the present time shows that the identification of monotheistic distinctive of a religion does not require a polytheistic background. “Perhaps the Muslim scholars, removed from the world in which the attacks against the mushrikun had originated, were misled into understanding the polemic in a literal sense. Since the Koran insinuated that the mushrikun were polytheists and idolaters, it may have been deduced that the opponents thus attacked were in fact real polytheists and idolaters. That understanding of the koranic materials would then have led to explanations of individual verses and passages in ways reflecting that idea and to the elaboration of the descriptions of pre-Islamic Arab idolatry to document the fact—no doubt using whatever fragments of information about cults among the Arabs was available. That explanation involves the supposition that the early scholars did not really understand the koranic polemic, a supposition that is difficult, if not impossible, to square with the continuing prominence of idolatry as a motif in arguments between monotheists including Muslims. Nevertheless, it may not require much for polemic to take on a life of its own and to be transformed into fact.” G. R. Hawting, The Idea of Idolatry and the Emergence of Islam (UK: Cambridge University Press, 1999), p. 150.
[9] Abdullah Saeed and Hassan Saeed, Freedom of Religion, Apostasy and Islam (UK: Ashgate, 2004), p. 22.
[10] Ahmed El Shamsy, ‘The social construction of orthodoxy’ in The Cambridge Companion to Classical Islamic Theology, ed. Tim Winter (UK: Cambridge University Press, 2008), p. 114.
[11] Ahmed El Shamsy, ‘The social construction of orthodoxy’ in The Cambridge Companion to Classical Islamic Theology, ed. Tim Winter (UK: Cambridge University Press, 2008), p. 115.
[12] Akbar S. Ahmed, Discovering Islam: Making Sense of Muslim History and Society (UK: Routledge & Kegan Paul Ltd, 1988, Reprint 1993), p. 24-25.
[13] Mona Abul-Fadl, Introducing Islam from Within (UK: The Islamic Foundation, 1991), p. 58
[14] Abdullah Saeed and Hassan Saeed, Freedom of Religion, Apostasy and Islam (UK: Ashgate, 2004), p. 57-58).
[15] Abdullah Saeed and Hassan Saeed, Freedom of Religion, Apostasy and Islam (UK: Ashgate, 2004), p. 58-66.
[16] Abdullah Saeed and Hassan Saeed, Freedom of Religion, Apostasy and Islam (UK: Ashgate, 2004), p. 56. Emphasis added.
[17] Abdullah Saeed and Hassan Saeed, Freedom of Religion, Apostasy and Islam (UK: Ashgate, 2004), p. 59. Emphasis added.
[18] Abdullah Saeed and Hassan Saeed, Freedom of Religion, Apostasy and Islam (UK: Ashgate, 2004), p. 61. See the discussion from page 59 to 66 for discussion on other implicated hadith passages.
[19] Mohammad Hashim Kamali, Freedom of Expression in Islam (Malaysia: Berita Publishing Sdn Bhd, 1994), p. 93. Emphasis added.
[20] Abdullah Saeed and Hassan Saeed, Freedom of Religion, Apostasy and Islam (UK: Ashgate, 2004), p. 93.
[21] Mohammad Hashim Kamali, Freedom of Expression in Islam (Malaysia: Berita Publishing Sdn Bhd, 1994), p. 92.
[22] Mohammad Hashim Kamali, Freedom of Expression in Islam (Malaysia: Berita Publishing Sdn Bhd, 1994), p. 92.
[23] BBC website: Magdi Abdelhadi, What Islam says on religious freedom, dated 27 March 2006, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/4850080.stm (accessed 12 May 2011).
[24] Currently known as The Academy for Islamicjerusalem Studies. http://www.isra.org.uk (accessed 12 May 2011).
[25] BBC website: Magdi Abdelhadi, What Islam says on religious freedom, dated 27 March 2006, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/4850080.stm (accessed 12 May 2011).
[26] Abdullah Saeed and Hassan Saeed, Freedom of Religion, Apostasy and Islam (UK: Ashgate, 2004), p. 95.
[27] Abdullah Saeed and Hassan Saeed, Freedom of Religion, Apostasy and Islam (UK: Ashgate, 2004), p. 97.
[28] Abdullah Saeed and Hassan Saeed, Freedom of Religion, Apostasy and Islam (UK: Ashgate, 2004), p. 97-98.
[29] Tariq Ramadan website: Tariq Ramadan, Muslim Scholars Speak Out, dated 28 July 2007, http://www.tariqramadan.com/Muslim-Scholars-Speak-Out.html (accessed 13 May 2011).
[30] The Center for Muslim-Jewish Engagement website: Translation of Sahih Bukhari, Book 89, Judgments (Ahkaam), http://www.usc.edu/schools/college/crcc/engagement/resources/texts/muslim/hadith/bukhari/089.sbt.html#009.089.318 (accessed 12 May 2011).
[31] Mohammad Hashim Kamali, Freedom of Expression in Islam (Malaysia: Berita Publishing Sdn Bhd, 1994), p. 94.
[32] Tariq Ramadan website: Interview with Ehsan Masood, David Goodhart, and Adair Turner for Prospect Magazine, dated 24 July 2006, http://www.tariqramadan.com/A-confident-modern-Islam-must.html (accessed 12 May 2011).
[33] The Answering Islam website: Ubaidullah B. Jash, http://www.answering-islam.org/Index/U/ubaidullah_b._jash.html (accessed 12 May 2011).
[34] “We do not find in the texts of the noble Qur’an related to apostasy any temporal punishment [specified] for the apostate. However we find therein repeated threats and strong warnings of punishment in the Hereafter. […] Apostasy in the view of the Qur’an is a major sin even though Qur’anic verses do not impose a temporal punishment.” As quoted in Abdullah Saeed and Hassan Saeed, Freedom of Religion, Apostasy and Islam (UK: Ashgate, 2004), p. 81.
[35] Muhammad Hashim Kamali, Islamic Law in Malaysia: Issues and Developments (Malaysia: Ilmah Publishers, 2000), p. 209.
[36] Which unfortunately left a bad experience for him. It is reported that after three years in Malaysia, he return “back to Britain, angered and disillusioned by the religious intolerance he experienced.” He remarked, “I would oppose any place where Islam became a political ideology and got into power - because I have experienced such a society.” Quoted in Times Higher Education website: THES Editorial, Shabbir Akhtar, dated 22 August 1997, http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/story.asp?storyCode=103102&sectioncode=26 (accessed 13 May 2011).
[37] Shabbir Akhtar, Islam as Political Religion: The future of an imperial faith (USA: Routledge, 2011), p. 280, n. 5. See also Abdullah Saeed and Hassan Saeed, Freedom of Religion, Apostasy and Islam (UK: Ashgate, 2004), p. 96.
[38] The Washington Post website: John Esposito, Apostasy and Religious Pluralism, dated 1 August 2009, http://newsweek.washingtonpost.com/onfaith/panelists/john_esposito/2009/08/apostasy_and_the_challenge_of_religious_freedom_and_pluralism.html (accessed 12 May 2011). Ali Gomaa’s remark proved so controversial that he had to produce a following clarification to reinforced his stand, “Some members of the press and the public understood this statement as a retraction of my position that Islam affords freedom of belief. I have always maintained the legitimacy of this freedom and I continue to do so. [...] I discussed the fact that throughout history, the worldly punishment for apostasy in Islam has been applied only to those who, in addition to their apostasy, actively engaged in the subversion of society.” See The Christian Post website: Michelle A. Yu, Egypt's Top Islamic SCholar Clears Up Muslim Conversion Controversy, dated 26 July 2007, http://www.christianpost.com/news/egypts-top-islamic-scholar-clears-up-muslim-conversion-controversy-28629/ or Worldwide Religious News website: Egypt mufti reaffirms Muslim freedom of faith choice, dated 26 July 2007, http://wwrn.org/articles/25764/ (both accessed 12 May 2011).
[39] The American Muslim website: CAIR Calls for release of Afghan Christian: Islamic civil rights group says conversion a personal, not state matter, dated 23 March 2006, http://www.theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/us_muslims_call_for_release_of_afghan_christian_convert/ (accessed 12 May 2011).
[40] Abdullah Saeed and Hassan Saeed, Freedom of Religion, Apostasy and Islam (UK: Ashgate, 2004), p. 95.
[41] “To Shaykh Tantawi, a Muslim who renounced his faith or turned apostate should be left alone as long as he does not pose a threat or belittle Islam. If the Muslims were forced to take action against the apostate, he said it should NOT be because he or she had given up the faith but because he or she had turned out to be an enemy or a threat to Islam.” The As-Sunnah Foundation of America website: The Grand Imams of Al-Azhar (Shuyukhul Azhar), http://www.sunnah.org/history/Scholars/mashaykh_azhar.htm (accessed 12 May 2011). Abdullah Saeed and Hassan Saeed, Freedom of Religion, Apostasy and Islam (UK: Ashgate, 2004), p. 139.
[42] “[T]here are people who stand for freedom to change one’s religion only when someone is entering into their own faith community. These people would not allow the members of their own faith community to convert to any other religion - even if they would do so out of their own free will. From the perspective of ‘freedom to change religion’, their policy involves a double standard. A self-contradictory principle is inherent in this policy [...] It is a matter of principle that in choosing one's religion, every individual should be free of all external pressures and temptations. In fact, it is due to this freedom that one is responsible for what one believes. [...] Therefore, no one has any right to use pressure of any kind to make a person change or stop from changing his/her religion. An individual out of his/her own free will should himself or herself do entering into a religion or coming out of a religion.” Quoted at Mohammad Omar Farooq's Study Resources Page website: Irfan Ahmad Khan, Freedom to Change One's Religion, http://globalwebpost.com/farooqm/study_res/islam/apostasy/apostasy_irfankhan.html (accessed 13 May 2011). Emphasis edited.
[43] “[T]here is no bigger misconception-strengthened with misunderstanding of Islamic beliefs over the years-other than the belief that Islam doesn't tolerate apostasy. [...] The Qur’an is completely silent on any worldly punishment for apostasy and the sole Tradition that forms the basis of rulings is open to many interpretations.” Quoted at Islamic Research Foundation International website: Ibrahim B. Syed, Is Killing An Apostate in the Islamic Law? http://www.irfi.org/articles/articles_251_300/is_killing_an_apostate_in_the_is.htm (accessed 13 May 2011). Emphasis added.
[44] Tariq Ramadan website: Interview with Ehsan Masood, David Goodhart, and Adair Turner for Prospect Magazine, dated 24 July 2006, http://www.tariqramadan.com/A-confident-modern-Islam-must.html (accessed 12 May 2011).
[45] See the discussion in Abdullah Saeed and Hassan Saeed, Freedom of Religion, Apostasy and Islam (UK: Ashgate, 2004), p. 78-81.
[46] Abdullah Saeed and Hassan Saeed, Freedom of Religion, Apostasy and Islam (UK: Ashgate, 2004), p. 51.
[47] Mohammad Hashim Kamali, Freedom of Expression in Islam (Malaysia: Berita Publishing Sdn Bhd, 1994), p. 91.
[48] Abdullah Saeed and Hassan Saeed, Freedom of Religion, Apostasy and Islam (UK: Ashgate, 2004), p. 56.
[49] Abdullah Saeed and Hassan Saeed, Freedom of Religion, Apostasy and Islam (UK: Ashgate, 2004), p. 54.
[50] Abdullah Saeed and Hassan Saeed, Freedom of Religion, Apostasy and Islam (UK: Ashgate, 2004), p. 56. Mohammad Hashim Kamali, Freedom of Expression in Islam (Malaysia: Berita Publishing Sdn Bhd, 1994), p. 91.
[51] Afghanistan, Egypt, Iran, Mauritania, Nigeria (some states), Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, United Arab Emirates, Yemen, Malaysia (most states) and Syria.