Apostasy – d
Many factors contributed to this amalgamation of apostasy with politics; we name only six:
- a) The tendency to idolize people who are mentioned in the authoritative texts of nascent Islam, to the extent that we are supposed to emulate their every action and act in our times as they did thousands of years ago.
As a result of this we are faced with comical situations, such as people insisting on paying their alms during Ramadan in the form of wheat, exactly as their forefathers did, because they do not accept money or any other modern substitute for it. Such excessive veneration of people is close to personality cult, which causes people to invent exaggerated accounts of their idols’ lives (similar to what we have seen with the mystics and their almost fanatical veneration of dubious sufi sheikhs).
- b) The completely uncritical attitude towards the early history of Islam, which makes it impossible to assess this period objectively according to the (political, economic, and military) parameters of its time. Instead, the period of the forefathers is seen as sacrosanct and the writings of the founders of the legal schools are regarded as infallible and untouchable, with the terrible consequence that its historic values (e.g., tribalism,
paternalism, male chauvinism, and martialism) have now been transported into the modern age and are with us all the time (e.g., in the horrendous repression of women and their rights in marriage, education, and work), and are, in spite of their contingent origins, praised as absolute standards that are universally valid for all times.
- c) The enormous influence of cultural traditions whose power is seen as overriding the authority of Allah’s Book.
this is particular harmful in the sphere of family law where the Book’s insistence on bequests is ignored in favor of rigid inheritance laws that are applied in such a way that they maximize the male shares and minimize the female shares to the detriment of all women in the family. This against the clear rule of Allah that ‘from what is left by parents and those nearest related there is a share for men and a share for women, whether the property be small or large—a determinate share’ (Nisa”:7).
- d) The power of schoolism in legal thought, that is, the tradition to force people to attach themselves to a specific school of law and get their legal guidance exclusively from this school, even if it clearly contradicts the guidelines from Allah’s Book. We once more quote the position of the hanafi school: ‘if the views of the Sheikhs [of our school] contradict the views of the Qur’an, we stick to what the Sheikhs said’. Such an attitude of schoolism is also prevalent in the current obsession to call one another disbelievers, simply because of the conviction that what is not congruent with our own position must, by definition, be kufr, since we see ourselves as holding a monopoly on the truth.
- e) The absence of freedom of speech in our societies and the power of public censorship in cases of nonconformity, both in the present and the past.
The fact that news about the arrest of political opponents, as well as their torture and imprisonment, is met by the majority of the population with silence and indifference, while the police would not dare to ask a woman to remove her veil because of the massive public outcry it would cause, is an expression of this culture of conformity in which people cannot say what they think and cannot wear what they want.
- f) The dominance of an ethos of death that attaches little value to life and belittles the attempts by modern medical research to prolong life.
Doctors in our societies carelessly treat their patients like guinea pigs in laboratory experiments and do not really fight against unnecessary or accidental loss of life. Instead, if patients die we are at once told that it was God’s will, that it was predetermined that the person would die at exactly that moment. Day by day and week by week we hear the preachers from their pulpits scolding us because we love life and fear death, in spite of the fact that love of life and fear of death is a natural disposition that Allah has instilled in all of His creation.
But this continuing praise of death has turned many young men into monsters who care little about life and do not think twice about blowing themselves up, killing children, women, and old people—the higher the number of casualties, the greater is their bravery. This praise of death is indeed a sick ideology.
Let us return to the problem of how to correctly define apostasy, and let us explore the following questions: What is apostasy?
Who can be called an apostate?
Why does the Book mention the futility of an apostate’s work in this life and the next without stipulating an actual legal punishment for the act of apostasy? Does this imply that God left it to the ruler, the judges, and the prevailing legal system to determine the punishment for apostasy?
Is the Prophet’s command to kill an apostate in harmony with the divine intention as stated by the Book?
Does apostasy mean that someone leaves a community for good? Can apostasy mean a revolt against a political ruler, a government, or a state?
Is political apostasy the same as religious apostasy? And, finally, can any punishment for apostasy be justified in the light of our demand for freedom of religion and freedom of speech?
It is vital to answer these questions in order to sort out the mess that the traditional fuqaha” have left. It is more than evident that they were unable to conceptually separate political dissent from religious apostasy, as they constantly muddied the water with their religious interpretations and legal classifications of purely political events in the history of Islam.
They were never fully able to see the difference between an oath of allegiance to a political ruler or (political) system and the religious witnessing of Allah, the Last Day, and the unity of God. In their work we see how they failed to assess the killing of Sa’eed bin Jubayr by al-hajjaj as a politically motivated murder (because al-hajjaj regarded Ibn Jubayr’s disloyalty as a political affront that must be punished by death), because they interpreted it as the ruler’s legitimate punishment for heresy (and, thus, apostasy). But political apostasy/separatism, which may occur independently from either Islam or Eman, should not be confused with religious apostasy, even though it has become fixed as such in the minds of most Arab-Muslims.
Apostasy from islam is next