Will more Muslims convert if apostasy was not punishable by death?

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I was reading an interview transcript with Dr. Chandra Muzaffar on “Violence, Human Rights and Other Religions”

Here is a portion that I found a good read:

HOW DOES ISLAM DEFINE APOSTASY? IS IT PERMISSIBLE FOR A MUSLIM TO CONVERT TO ANOTHER FAITH? HOW CAN LAWS AGAINST APOSTASY AND BLASPHEMY BE RECONCILED WITH THE KORANIC INJUNCTION OF “NO COMPULSION IN RELIGION”?

It is significant that the Qur’an — Islam’s supreme book of guidance and its primary source of law — does not prescribe any form of punishment for the apostate, a person who chooses to leave the religion. To be sure, it regards apostasy as a sin but the Qur’an does not view it as a crime. It says. “Those who believe, and then disbelieve, and then (again) disbelieve, and then increase in disbelief, Allah will never pardon them, nor will He guide them to the (right) way. (4:137). This suggests that while the apostate incurs God’s displeasure because he has committed a grave sin, we human beings have not been instructed to mete out any form of penalty. How the apostate will be punished, presumably in the hereafter, is God’s prerogative.

This Quranic approach to apostasy is consistent with its general tone and tenor which respects freedom of conscience and freedom of religion. “There is no compulsion in religion”(2:256) is one of the best known Qur’anic lines. This means that no one should be coerced to join the religion or to remain in it or to leave the religion. The Qur’an also makes that profound observation: “To you your religion and to me mine”. (109:6).

Even in the Sunnah — the Way of the Prophet — there was no evidence of anyone being punished for exiting the religion in a peaceful manner. If apostates were put to death, it was because they were part of a violent rebellion against the nascent Islamic state. In such circumstances the issue was rebellion and not apostasy per se.

However, as time went on, the jurists came to regard the act of apostasy itself as a crime which was punishable by death. They did not make a distinction between peaceful exit and violent denunciation of the religion through an assault upon the state. This thinking — which views apostasy as a terrible crime that should be punished through the law—is pervasive within the Muslim community or ummah.

It is a mindset that has to change. The Qur’an’s humane and compassionate perspective should inspire Muslims to adopt a different approach towards the question of apostasy.

Instead of punishing the apostate, he should be counseled with civility and kindness in order to persuade him to remain within the faith. If, after counseling, the apostate is still adamant about leaving the religion, he should be allowed to do so. He should have the freedom to embrace another faith or not to subscribe to any religion.

The first thing that came to my mind was that if the Malaysian government allowed Muslims to convert freely, will there be more Muslims looking to leave Islam? I just have a ‘feeling’ that there are many Muslims who are just ‘follow my parents and do what they tell me to’ Muslims. This does not just apply to Muslims, but also Christians, Hindus and Buddhists as well. I have met many, lived and worked with many who are such, and I myself was such a Hindu.

Nonetheless, I think the fact that Muslims that are looking to leave the faith are no so much afraid of the Islamic teaching that apostasy is sin, I think they’re more afraid of the false teaching (as I learn from Dr. Muzaffar above) that apostasy MUST be punishable by death *shivers*.

On the flip side, this ‘apostates must die’ teaching has had its effect on Malaysian Christians. Many just ‘brush off’ the idea of sharing the good news of liberty, justification and forgiveness of sins in Jesus Christ simply because they have it ingrained into their mind that ‘Muslims just won’t convert’. Unfortunate waste.

I’d love to be wrong on this.

11 thoughts on “Will more Muslims convert if apostasy was not punishable by death?

  1. No Because true muslims who really have islam in thier heart would never leave the religion, they may not follow it but would still believe in Allah as one. etc

    The people who did leaave islam were probably never true muslims, like you say just by name due to family etc so they really haven’t become apostates.

  2. maji, thanks for your comment.
    that’s my point. There are many who are called ‘muslims’ because they are born into muslim families, but don’t really believe in Islam.

    Would you agree that this group would still be afraid of renouncing Islam openly because even though they are not ‘practising muslims’ the laws of apostasy are still applicable to them because their IC says ‘warganegara Islam’?

  3. with no relation to the discussion above, i just watched a documentary on the Quran over the National Geographic channel a few days ago. it shed a lot of interesting findings … if only we get to watch these kind of ‘touchy’ subjects back home in msia as well.

    then i feel, a lot of issues (politically as well as legally)will be put into black&white and revealed on what’s true and right in an ‘Islamic’ country.

  4. Gods commandments should always be carried out because there is goodness in them. Whether they make sense to us or not as there is One who has a far superior knowledge.

    Think about it at the end of the day all the biblical religions believe in Heaven and Hell; God is going to fill the hell whose fuel is men and stones.

    God punishes as well as rewards. May God guide us all to the true path and keep us on it.

  5. ..And if someone doesn’t leave Islam its not society or rules that are keeping him there. It’s God keeping him in faith and protection.

    …even if he does not believe in Allah?

  6. Maji, thanks for the link, but if you re-read the blog post, I’m not referring to muslim converts who want to renounce, but those born to muslim families, but never practice it, but are afraid of renouncing.

    You’ve made a very interesting point:
    1. You said: “if someone doesn’t leave Islam its not society or rules that are keeping him there. It’s God keeping him in faith and protection.”
    2. I asked: “…even if he does not believe in Allah?”
    3. You answered: “Yes.Belief in God is fitrah..(human nature).”

    Does that make all of us muslims (since even if we don’t believe in Allah, he keeps us in faith and protection)?

  7. All of us are born Muslim On the “Fitrah” to believe in One pure God.

    Then our family etc, environemnt will go on to mould a face on that belief. some will mold the face of idols and pray to it. Others may take the cross or Jesus. Some might then mould the stars the sun into Gods. That is people will then attribute things to God based on where they are born or what they see or read etc.. To believe in God is “fitrah” Human nature.. we are all born Muslims.

    To keep the belief pure in the Oneness of God is our choice.

    hope that clears things up for you a little.

  8. Btw Guna if u believe in God then you know that Gods ‘hand’ is behind everything. Life death, who goes heaven or hell etc. Thus Guidance is in the hands of God too to give to whom he pleases.. thus a person beleiveing in Islam (one God, pure of the things people attribute to Him), staying in islam or even leaving Islam is in the hands of god too.

    Blessed are those inviduals who God keeps in Islam. And Blessed are those inviduals who found thier way to Islam and blessed are those seekers seeking a way to Islam are blessed are those people whose forfathers had Islam.

    Can I ask you something is there such a thing as apostacy in Christianity? Maybe what I mean is do you think that in Christian society there is an apathy towards church and Jesus? And that instead people have made the media icons their Gods? Thanks to God I’m a muslim and thanks to God when we are in our muslim communities, or during the month of Ramadhan or even on the internet we feel the Islam and we see the Islam. Not only do we muslim see it but the people of the other faiths also notice the muslims and their unity.

    I live in the UK: A Christian country. When I walk about in town or the city or down a non muslim street I don’t feel any Christianity? Maybe its just me and Christianity has ended up being confined to the church on sundays without it actually been felt or seen in the outside world. As a muslim in a christain country what do i See? Naked women in the TV, People dancing like devils to music, i see drunks falling about the streets, I see brawls and fights on a Friday night, I see women in short skirts looking to get hooked up on Saturday nights, Maybe Im blind but I don’t see any christianity in a Christian country but I will feel islam as soon as I hit a muslim community.

    take care may God Guide us.

  9. All of us are born Muslim On the “Fitrah” to believe in One pure God.

    I’m afraid here is where we differ in belief, and I will only state what I believe the Bible teaches. We are born in sin “Behold, in iniquity was I brought forth, and in sin did my mother conceive me.
    (Psalms 51:5)”
    .

    Btw Guna if u believe in God then you know that Gods ‘hand’ is behind everything. Life death, who goes heaven or hell etc.

    God does not decide who goes to hell. Hell was created for the Devil and his demons “Then shall he say also to those on the left, Go from me, cursed, into eternal fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:
    (Matthew 25:41)”
    I don’t believe in takdir. That just passing the blame to God for our sin.

    staying in islam or even leaving Islam is in the hands of god too.

    So why do we need apostasy laws? I hope someone in the syariah court of malaysia is reading this. Unless of course, you say Allah sovereignly ordains someone to leave islam, only to be sentenced to death… and that’s his fate?

    Can I ask you something is there such a thing as apostacy in Christianity?

    Honestly, it depends on whose viewpoint you look at it. A person may profess to be a Christian, who was never saved at all, and then leaves the faith, and to the observer, he’s an apostate. The bible states such were never saved at all. (1John)
    From God’s point of view, all who truly believe in the redemptive work of Christ, have their sins forgiven, and their salvation is secure, even if they are backslidden (for whatever reason). In any case, if they renounce Christ, and choose to embrace another religion, they are not coerced in any way, nor is there any penalty placed upon them.

    I live in the UK: A Christian country. When I walk about in town or the city or down a non muslim street I don’t feel any Christianity?…Maybe Im blind but I don’t see any christianity in a Christian country but I will feel islam as soon as I hit a muslim community.

    You have raise a very valid point here, Maji, and one that I will absolutely agree with. Christian testimony is indeed wanting, and I wish it could be better.

    However, someone could find faults in your observation, for example:
    1. UK is a ‘Christian’ country, because of its official position in the constitution. In Malaysia, Islam is the official religion, and muslims form the majority of population, you will find the same ‘scenes’ here. Ramadhan or not, I know, and see muslims who smoke, drink, have affairs and backbite each other. I see muslims who are into drugs, prostitution and gangsterism. Can I make the same conclusion you made about Christianity, about Islam?

    2. For you to make a generalized statement like that requires you to have met a majority of all UK citizens. You’ll need to convince me that you’ve met the majority, and confirmed that they are indeed believers of Jesus Christ or not. A christian country does not mean the majority are truly Christian.

    3. Just because you don’t feel something, does not mean its not right or its not there, and just because you do feel something, doesn’t make it right. Example, If you were to walk into Germany 50 years ago, you’ll feel the communism in people’s lives, but it doesn’t make it right. If you walk to India, you’ll feel Hinduism’s impact on society, but it does not make it right.

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