Those who believe, then disbelieve, then again believe, then disbelieve, and then increase in disbelief, Allah will never forgive them nor will He guide them to the way. (Al Quran 4:138)
By Zia H Shah MD, Chief Editor of the Muslim Times
A Sudanese court has sentenced a woman to hang for apostasy – the abandonment of her religious faith – after she married a Christian man, according to BBC.
Amnesty International condemned the sentence, handed down by a judge in Khartoum, as “appalling and abhorrent”.
Local media report the sentence on the woman, who is pregnant, would not be carried out for two years after she had given birth.
Sudan has a majority Muslim population, which is governed by ‘Islamic law.’
“We gave you three days to recant but you insist on not returning to Islam. I sentence you to be hanged to death,” the judge told the woman, AFP reports.
We, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, believe that there is no worldly punishment for apostasy according to the Holy Quran. A whole thesis can be written on this subject with scores of Quranic references. One of these has been quoted as epigraph and let me quote four more here:
There should be no compulsion in religion. Surely, right has become distinct from wrong; so whosoever refuses to be led by those who transgress, and believes in Allah, has surely grasped a strong handle which knows no breaking. And Allah is All-Hearing, All-Knowing. (Al Quran 2:257)
O ye who believe! whoso among you turns back from his religion, then let it be known that in his stead Allah will soon bring a people whom He will love and who will love Him, and who will be kind and humble towards believers, hard and firm against disbelievers. They will strive in the cause of Allah and will not fear the reproach of a faultfinder. That is Allah’s grace; He bestows it upon whomsoever He pleases; and Allah is Bountiful, All- Knowing. (Al Quran 5:55)
Disbelief or apostasy is discussed on dozens of occasions in the Quran, yet no worldly punishment is prescribed:
And whoever rejects the faith, his work has doubtless come to naught, and in the Hereafter he will be among the losers. (Al Quran 5:6)
Several times the Holy Quran describes the Holy Prophet Muhammad, as an admonishes only and that the final judgment rests with Allah and not with any human being:
Admonish, therefore, for thou art but an admonisher; thou hast no authority to compel 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. (Al Quran 88:22-27)
Several other references are quoted in a short article: Did Prophet Muhammad teach death for apostasy and blasphemy?
In the past centuries in medieval times, when the world was polarized and divided into Islamic world and Christendom, a change of religion, invariably carried political tones and smelled of rebellion and anarchy.
Hence the medieval world in both the Muslim and the Christian camps practiced ideas of apostasy and religious affiliation became a proxy for political affiliation and lack there of. Here, I do not want to dwell on Crusades or Inquisitions in the medieval world, I will just suggest a Wikipedia article, about Thirty Years’ War, between the Protestants and the Catholics, 1618–1648. A detailed study of this time frame brings to focus the nature of the medieval world.
For a more graphic account of the sixteenth century Europe, let me suggest a beautifully written book, Out of the Flames – The Remarkable Story of a Fearless Scholar.
On October 27, 1553 Michael Servetus was burned at the stake as a heretic, for he did not believe in Trinity. John Calvin, a famous and influential Protestant reformer of the time, also demanded that every single copy of his latest book Christianismi Restitutio be destroyed.
Fortunately 3 copies of this book have survived. The Goldstones have tracked them down, and told the stories of the books travels from 1553 to the present day – the people who owned them, the places they went to, and where they are located now and in so doing, has laid out for us the social and religious milieu of the sixteenth century Europe.
In our global village in the twenty first century, if a Muslim is not allowed to convert to Christianity in the so called Muslim countries and vice versa in the West, then what sort of religious freedom is that. Additionally, what is the worth for a faith that is accepted under duress? There is a different name for that. It is not called ‘faith,’ it is called ‘hypocrisy.’ Do the Muslims in Sudan stand for that? I hope not!
Freedom of religion means that we should not legislate in the sphere of ‘man relation to God.’ Rational laws are needed in the sphere of ‘man relation to man,’ for example, against murder, rape, theft and slander, for smooth functioning of societies. Every time religious zealots try to intrude into ‘man relation to God,’ in one disguise or the other, hell breaks loose in human affairs and we are witnessing a small sample of that in this case from Sudan.
To get all countries of the world to move affairs of state out of the sphere of ‘man relation to God,’ the Muslim Times has been stressing, separation of Mosque-Church and State in every country of the world, since its very inception four years ago and is constantly calling reader’s attention to every violation committed, by any country of world. For a glimpse of our work, let me link a short article here, Solomonic wisdom needed to establish Separation of Mosque-Church-Synagogue and State, for greater details and collection of articles on this theme, click here.
You can also read scores of articles on the subject of refutation of punishment for apostasy, by searching the word, ‘apostasy,’ in the Muslim Times.
A few of them are linked here: