Apostasy from Islam – a
We defined the lower and nonnegotiable limit of Islam as a commitment to believe in God, the Last Day, and the good deeds, implementing the moral ideals of ethical perfection that were first laid out by Noah and accomplished by Muhammad. Islam is the (only) religion of humans’ natural disposition that Allah has authorized for humankind.
It is the religion that does not allow the increase in the number of absolute taboos, but allows new permissions and prohibitions according to what human societies, parliaments, and civil law courts see fit to introduce.
It is the religion that most people in this world adhere to at the moment. And yet, apostasy from Islam occurs, namely on three levels:
- The level of religious doctrine:
Apostasy here means to cut oneself off from Allah by disbelieving in His existence and the Day of Judgement. Apostasy here means heresy, and this includes withdrawing from a monotheistic belief (‘there is no god but God’) and adopting a polytheistic belief—here, the second shahada (‘Muhammad is God’s messenger’) does not matter at all. As for religious doctrines, a person enjoys absolute freedom.
He can freely decide between Islam and heresy. No one should ever force a person to adopt a specific belief (or disbelief), because the religious belief of a person does not touch, as such, the social collective, and everyone should be free to voice his beliefs in public.
- The level of social and ethical practice:
Apostasy here means to renounce the Good Work and ignore the prescriptions of morality. To transgress the basics of moral law would mean to live a life of flagrant immorality: disrespect of parents, open vandalism, truancy, indecencies, and public calls for more corruption, bribery, exploitation, slander, and defamation. If such a person apostatizes from morality, it is the duty of everyone—regardless of their religious affiliation—to restrain him.
The fight against immorality all over the world is the realm where Muslim-Believers should work hand in hand with the rest of humankind. Unlike the first level of religious doctrine, it is clear that apostasy from morality—and this includes from human rights—cannot be tolerated since Islam organizes the social relations between the different sections of a society and beyond. Put differently, an apostasy from Islam, which would have disastrous social and moral consequences, must be categorically prohibited by the legislator. Hence, the
- level of legislation: Apostasy occurs when legislation transgresses the upper and lower limits set by God in the Book. Islamic legislation means a civil, human legal system that operates within the limits of Allah.
The more civilized a society becomes the closer its laws approach a true legislation of limits, which represent the hanifiyya character of Islam. At the moment this is best realized in those states that possess a constitution and a parliamentary system because the more democratic a society is the more hanific it is with respect to its forms of legislation.
Apostasy from Eman
We have learned that al-Êman combines the first shah§da (‘there is no god but God’) with the second shahada (‘MuÈammad is God’s messenger’).
We identified the people who followed Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jacob, and Jesus as Muslim-Assenters, and the followers of Muhammad as Muslim-Believers. Some chapters of the Book are entirely dedicated to a discussion of issues relating to the Muslim- Believers, such as Surat Muhammad and Surat al-Anfal. It follows from here that Judaism and Christianity are, like the umma of Muslim-Believers, not religions but spiritual communities, as we are told by the Book (‘Never will the Jews or the Christians be satisfied with you unless you follow their [socioreligious community] [millatahum],’Baqara:120).
A Muslim-Believer who leaves Eman, that is, apostatizes from following Muhammad in order to become a Christian or Jew, only moves—according to our understanding— from one monotheistic community to another. He simply ceases to be a Muslim-Believer, but since he still believes in tauhid ‘God’s unity’ he is still a Muslim-Assenter.
The Book states: Say: ‘O people of the Book! Come to common terms as between us and you: That we worship none but God; that we associate no partners with him; that we erect not, from among ourselves, lords and patrons other than God.’ If then they turn back, say: ‘Bear witness that we (at least) are Muslims (bowing to God’s will)’. (al Imran:64)
The verse says ‘O people of the Book!’ because Jews and Christians were addressed like this during the time of the Prophet! It also contains the ‘common terms’ shared by them and Muhammad’s followers: worship none but God, no shirk and no idolatry, that is, they all rejected rububiyya among themselves. It ends with the admission that if they are not happy about this they ‘at least’ should bear witness that he (i.e., Muhammad) is a prophet and that they (i.e., his followers) are (still) Muslim-Assenters. But why did Muhammad want Jews and Christians to testify that he and his followers are Muslim-Assenters?
Because he believed that Jews and Christians were themselves Muslims and he saw himself as one of them, even though later on he wanted them to join Eman, while he allowed them to keep their faith in Allah’s tauhid. If we look at Muhammad’s mission from a political angle, it is evident that in addition to his role as a messenger who spread the revelation of his Lord, he was also a prophet who—with the support of his followers—was able to erect a centralized state on the Arabian
Peninsula with Yathrib (later Medina) as its capital. His new state included people and tribes from all religious affiliations, including Christians and Jews. Compared to anything that existed before, this was a qualitative jump in the way states were previously formed and administrated. It was only natural that the names of the state’s new political positions reflected the historic situation, for example, the title ‘Leader of the Muslim-Believers’ (amir al-mu”minin), or ‘Treasury of the Muslim-Assenters’ (bayt mal al-muslimin). While the Emir (Arabic: amir) was the head of state because he led the group of believers who founded the state (hence amir al-mu”minin), the public treasury administrated the money and property of all citizens regardless of their religious affiliation (hence: bayt mal al-muslimin).
The historical sources tell us that in his capacity as a caliph, Ali did not hesitate to give money to Jews and Christians from his treasury (bayt mal ) and that after Ali’s death, Abu Dharr al-Ghifari opposed the proposal of the new caliph Mu’awiya to change the name from ‘treasury of all Muslims’ to ‘treasury of God’ (bayt mal Allah).
This reflected the widespread opinion that even though the amir al-mu”minin, as head of state, is in possession of all legislative and executive powers administered mostly by his fellow Muslim-Believers (hence his title as their leader), the public treasury must not be restricted solely to the concerns of Muslim-Believers but should also consider the financial needs of Jews and Christians. Many modern states show a similar structure of public administration.
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