Punishment of Apostasy in Islam

The majority of scholars in Islam stand for the punishment of an apostate. The following key passage in the Qur'an is used: ‘But if they turn renegades, seize them and slay them wherever ye find them; and (in any case) take no friends or helpers from their ranks; except those who join a group between whom and you there is a treaty (of peace) or those who approach you with hearts restraining them from fighting you as well as fighting their own people (Sura 4:89-90). Other passages are used with an interpretation to punish apostates: 2:217; 3:72,90; 4:137; 5:54; 16:106.

Since the Qur’an does not have many aspects of religion in detail, Muslims follow what Muhammad said and did. For example, the Qur’an states to establish prayer however it is in the traditions (Ahadith/Sunnah) that Muslims find the number and methodology of prayer. According to the Qur’an what Muhammad say or do has to be followed: ‘Whoso obeyeth the Messenger obeyeth Allah.’ (Qur’an4:80).

The most reputed Hadith conveying the death penalty was reported by Ibn Abbas that Muhammad said: “Whoever renounces his religion, kill him.”  (Sahih Bukhari, Volume 4, Book 52, Number 260). This statement has been related in the following collections. {Sahih Al-Bukhari, “Bab Hukm al Murtad wa al Murtadah”, Vol. 8, pp. 50, 163; Al Muwata’, “Kitab al Hudud”, Vol. 2, p. 736; Sunan Al Tirmidhi, “Kitab al Hudud”, Vol. 4, p. 48; Sunan Abi Daud, ‘Kitab al Hudud”, Vol. 4, p. 126; Sunan Ibn Majah, “Kitab al Hudud” Vol. 2, p. 848; Sunan AL Nasaee “Al Hukm fi al Murtad”, Vol. 7, pp. 103-104; Al Musnad, “Musnad ‘Abd Allah b. ‘Abbas”, Vol. 1, pp. 466, 605, 606, 691; Sunan Al Daraqutni, “Kitab al Hudud”, Vol. 3, p. 113}

al-Muwatta of Imam Malik (36.18.15)  states: "The Messenger of Allah said, "If someone changes his religion - then strike off his head. Also Al Hakim reported on the authority of Ibn Abbas that the Prophet Muhammad said: “ The Muslim who converts his religion, kill him. If the person says: {there is no god but God and that Muhammad is His Messenger}, then you have no right to punish him except for the crime he commits.”(Al Mustudrak, “Kitab al Hudud”, Vol. 4, p.366).

All schools of thoughts among the Sunni and Shia agree for the punishment of an apostate except some disagreement on detail of prescription:

Hanafi - recommends three days of imprisonment before execution, although the delay before killing the Muslim apostate is not mandatory. Apostates who are men must be killed, states the Hanafi Sunni fiqh, while women must be held in solitary confinement and beaten every three days till they recant and return to Islam.

Maliki - allows up to ten days for recantation, after which the apostate must be killed. Both men and women apostates deserve death penalty according to the traditional view of Sunni Maliki fiqh.

Shafi'i - waiting period of three days is required to allow the Muslim apostate to repent and return to Islam. After the wait, execution is the traditional recommended punishment for both men and women apostates.

Hanbali - waiting period not necessary, but may be granted. Execution is traditional recommended punishment for both genders of Muslim apostates.

Ja'fari - waiting period not necessary, but may be granted according to this Shia fiqh. Male apostate must be executed, states the Ja’fari fiqh, while a female apostate must be held in solitary confinement and beaten every day at the hours of the salah, prayers, , till she repents and returns to Islam.

Ahmad Ibn Naqib al-Misri (d. 769/1368) in his works on Imam Shafi’s jurisprudence, namely ‘Umdat al-Salik (pp. 595-96) states: ‘Leaving Islam is the ugliest form of unbelief (kufr) and the worst…When a person who has reached puberty and is sane voluntarily apostasies from Islam, he deserves to be killed. In such a case, it is obligatory…to ask him to repent and return to Islam. If he does it is accepted from him, but if he refuses, he is immediately killed' (The Reliance of the Traveller, Tr. Noah Ha Mim Keller, Dubai, Modern Printing Press (1988)..

Hizb at-Tahrir (HT) an Islamic group that has taken up re-establishment of Khilafah as its core mission, in a draft constitution (dustoor), proposed by its founder/leader Taqiuddin al-Nabhani and adopted by HT states in Article 7c:
“Those who are guilty of apostasy (murtad) from Islam are to be executed according to the rule of apostasy, provided they have themselves renounced Islam.” (Taqiuddin al-Nabahani. “The System of Islam,” Hizbut Tahrir, p. 116, also on line: http://www.hizb-ut-tahrir.org/PDF/EN/en_books_pdf/system_of_islam.pdf).

One of the most dangerous issue the West is facing is the ‘2 faces of Islam.’ On one hand Muslims tell us there is no compulsion in their religion (http://www.islamonline.net/livedialogue/english/Browse.asp?hGuestID=Gz9HCK) and yet on the other they tell among themselves to clear up apostasy from among them. (See: Qardawi: http://www.islamonline.net/English/contemporary/2006/04/article01c.shtml)