Apostasy in Islam

In Islam, apostasy is sinful, but it would only be punished in the hereafter. Muslims are not keepers over those who go astray to coerce them to accept Islam against their will. The duty of any Muslim is to convey the message and if somebody turns away, then the matter is between him and God. See also 3:20; 3:64; 3:144; 4:80; 5:92; 5:99; 5:105; 6:35; 6:66; 6:104; 6:107; 6:112; 6:149; 10:41; 10:99; 10:108; 24:54; 27:92; 30:52-53; 39:41; 50:45; 88:21-22; 109:6. There are other verses in the Quran which clearly envisage that an apostate is to be given an opportunity until his natural death to return to the fold of Islam, and if he doesn’t his punishment is in the next life, not here: Quran 2:217: “…they will not cease fighting with you until they turn you back from your religion, if they can; and whoever of you turns back from his religion, then he dies while an unbeliever– these it is whose works shall go for nothing in this world and the hereafter, and they are the inmates of the fire; therein they shall abide.” The Arabic word that is used here is “fayamut” implies a person dying on his own and not being slain. Quran makes that clear distinction in verse 3:144 which uses two words “matta” (dies) and “qutila” (slain) together [both matta and fayamuth are derived from the same word ‘moth’ meaning death]. 

 There are verses which say: 

 [3.85] And whoever desires a religion other than Islam, it shall not be accepted from him, and in the hereafter he shall be one of the losers.
[3.86] How shall Allah guide a people who disbelieved after their believing and (after) they had borne witness that the Apostle was true and clear arguments had come to them; and Allah does not guide the unjust people.
[3.87] (As for) these, their reward is that upon them is the curse of Allah and the angels and of men, all together.
[3.88] Abiding in it; their chastisement shall not be lightened nor shall they be respited.
[3.89] Except those who repent after that and amend, then surely Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.
[3.90] Surely, those who disbelieve after their believing, then increase in unbelief, their repentance shall not be accepted, and these are they that go astray.
[3.91] Surely, those who disbelieve and die while they are unbelievers, the earth full of gold shall not be accepted from one of them, though he should offer to ransom himself with it, these it is who shall have a painful chastisement, and they shall have no helpers.

In these verses, Quran clearly offers repentance to apostates and in the absence of which, a painful punishment awaits them in the next world. No mention is made of punishment in this world. 

In Hadith literature, only those apostates are to be killed who are either waging a war against Muslims or who have joined the enemy camp. Bukhari has two chapters devoted to the issue of Apostasy. The first chapter is called “Kitab al-muaribin min ahl al-fufr wal’ridda (the book of those who fight (against the Muslims) from among the unbelievers and the apostates). The second chapter is called “kitaab istibat al-muanideen wal’murtadeen wa qital-i-him” (the book of calling to repentance to the enemies and the apostates and fighting with them.) It is obvious that both of these chapters refer to apostates who have become enemies of Muslims and the punishment for apostasy is not for simple conversion from faith. Those who quote the Hadith, “Whoever changes his religion, kill him,” forget that the same Hadith can apply to non-believers converting to Islam! 

There is not a single Hadith according to which Prophet Muhammad ordered the killing of a person just because he had converted out of Islam. In fact, there are two separates Ahadiths (plural of Hadith) in which two people converted out of Islam and they were not punished. One is the example of a person who had developed a flu after becoming a Muslim and thought that his sickness was due to his conversion (Bukhari 94:47). The other example is that of a scribe who converted to Christianity (Bukhari 61:25).The same is true about ‘fiqh’ where an apostate has to be ‘kafir-un harabiyy-un’ (unbeliever at war) to be executed. For reference see al-Marghinani’s al-Hidaya. Al Marghinani was the great Hanafi jurist, born in 1135 AD. His book has been recognized as the primary source for many ‘figh’ related issues where guidance cannot be found in either the Quran or the Hadith. Jurists who thought otherwise were merely relying on opinions and had little if anything from Quran and Hadith to support their point of view. 

Explanation of certain Hadith: 

Abdullah ibn Masud reports:
The Messenger of God states: In no way is it permitted to shed the blood of a Muslim who testifies that “there is no god except God” and “I am the Apostle of God” except for three crimes: a)he has killed someone and his act merits retaliation; b)he is married and commits adultery; c) he abandons his religion and is separated from the community. (Bukhari) If you read the original in Arabic, there are two words used for item “c.” “Tarik lil-jama’ah” meaning a person who separates himself from the community and the other word is “al-mufariq” which means a person who is a renegade or a traitor. As I had explained earlier, an apostate has to be a traitor or a person who has joined the enemy camp to be killed. In the US Constitution, the punishment of treason is also death. 

Answering Critics: 


Legal opinion on apostasy by a Fatwa committee concerning the case of a man who converted to Christianity: “Since he left the Islam, he will be invited to express his regret. If he does not regret, he will be killed pertaining to rights and obligations of the Islamic law.” Popis Source: Orientalist Author: al-Azhr, the Egyptian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs This Fatawa describes how an Egyptian man turned apostate and the subsequent punishment prescribed for him by the Al-Azhr Fatawa council. The following translation is a rough guide: 

In the Name of Allah the Most Beneficient the Most Merciful. Al-Azhr 

Council of Fatawa. 

This question was presented by Mr. Ahmed Darwish and brought forward by [name obscured] who is of German nationality. 

A man whose religion was Islam and his nationality is Egyptian married a German Christian and the couple agreed that the husband would join the Christian faith and doctrine. 

1) What is the Islamic ruling in relation to this man? What are the punishments prescribed for this act? 

 2) Are his children considered Muslim or Christian? 

 The Answer: 

 All praise is to Allah, the Lord of the Universe and salutations on the leader of the righteous, our master Muhammed, his family and all of his companions. 


 This man has committed apostasy; he must be given a chance to repent and if he does not then he must be killed according to Shariah. 

 As far as his children are concerned, as long as they are children they are considered Muslim, but after they reach the age of puberty, then if they remain with Islam they are Muslim, but if they leave Islam and they do not repent they must be killed and Allah knows best. 

 Seal of Al-Azhr 

Head of the Fatawa Council of Al-Azhr. 


 Unlike Catholicism, Islam does not have a central religious authority to decide matters of dogma. An old fatwa (dated 1978) from one of the shaikhs of al-Azhar has to be taken with a grain of salt because other al-Azhar shaikhs, more knowledgeable than him, contradict him. For example, Shaykh Tantawi, the grand mufti, says that a Muslim who renounces his faith should be left alone as long as he does not pose a threat to Islam. If Muslims are forced to take action against the apostate, he said it should not be because he or she has given up the faith but because he or she had turned out to be an enemy or a threat to Islam. That is essentially same as what I had stated in my essay that almost all Hadiths that are used to justify killing of apostates are under the same chapter in Bukhari that deals with treason–how to deal with Muslims who have joined the enemy at war with Muslims. The punishment in Islam is no different than in the US Constitution for treason. Shaykh Tantawi’s position is same as that of al-Marghinani, one of the greatest jurors in the 12th century who convincingly argued that an apostate has to be “kafir-un harabiyy-un” (unbeliever at war) to be executed. 



 Please note that the first verse often referenced by Mr. Spencer, “If any of you turn back from their faith and die in unbelief, their works will bear no fruit in this life and in the Hereafter; they will be companions of the Fire and will abide therein” is about what God will do in the hereafter NOT what Muslims ought to do in this world! The second verse quoted by him says, “If they turn renegades, seize them and slay them wherever ye find them.” [Quran 4:89]. The trick that Mr Spencer plays is that he conceals the very next verse, which makes the meaning clear: “[4.90] Except those who reach a people between whom and you there is an alliance, or who come to you, their hearts shrinking from fighting you or fighting their own people; and if Allah had pleased, He would have given them power over you, so that they should have certainly fought you; therefore if they withdraw from you and do not fight you and offer you peace, then Allah has not given you a way against them.” No other explanation is needed.




8 thoughts on “Apostasy in Islam

  1. Pete Frens February 5, 2013 at 4:50 am Reply

    So would you say that the following is not a Muslim site? http://www.askimam.org/public/question_detail/19729 and that the famous Mufti Ebrahim Desai. who teaches all over the world is not a Muslim? He teaches that apostates can be killed.

    • sincereadvisor February 7, 2013 at 4:10 am Reply

      I am familiar with Mufti Ebrahim Desai’s web site, and it is hard to find any subject on which he has not issued an opinion on! If you read my article, you will understand that this view is not based on Quran or the sayings of Prophet Muhammad but on simple fear that a dirty fish would spoil the pond. There is no basis for it.


  2. T.S. Ullas September 28, 2013 at 8:19 am Reply

    How can a rational being accept the Prophet’s command that infiedels should be killed and his property expropriated. In his own lifetime the prophet raided other tribes twenty seven times, looted their belongings, divided it into five parts, appropriated one part for himself and Allah, left the other four parts to his disciples. Is there any justification for this wild law?

    • sincereadvisor September 30, 2013 at 3:19 am Reply

      Where is the evidence that he issued that command or that he raided “tribes twenty seven times?” A “rational” person should verify the facts and check his sources before making wild accusations!

  3. Herman March 30, 2014 at 6:24 pm Reply

    The original post proclaims that “In Islam, apostasy is sinful” Yet what causes apostasy? For the most part that can be answered in one word:


    Education leading to awareness. Education leading to critical reasoning & logical thinking., Education leading to a sense of empowerment & confidence.

    So then, the internet is where religions go to die.

  4. Herman March 31, 2014 at 3:03 pm Reply

    Muslims need to be aware that should they apostasize, it is extremely unlikely that they will be murdered by other Muslims (though in certain parts of the world the safest thing to do would be to accompany the apostasy with migration).

    One group I recommend to those making the transition from Islam to rationality is the Council of Ex-Muslims, a U.K. Organization. They do have an internet site.

  5. sincereadvisor April 17, 2014 at 11:26 am Reply

    Sorry, but that’s a foolish comment! There are millions of highly educated people (I am sure far more educated than you) who do believe in God and in Islam. Education has nothing to with faith. Lack of faith has to do with people who want freedom to commit sins without a judgemental God. The other reason is inconsistency in religious texts and hypocrisy of religious people. For example, the Bible doesn’t make any sense, so people stop believing in it. Christian concept of Trinity is so nonsensical that people stop trying to understand it. And Judaism is so obsolete, without Rabbis overruling God in the Torah, that many Jews lose faith. Islam has been more successful because it makes sense. Its dogma is simple and easy to understand. It’s universal (no importance to lineage). And it encourages discipline which has produced societies where crime rate is the lowest; where alcoholism is virtually non-existent; drug use is rare (comparatively speaking); sexually transmitted diseases are few; and where monogamy and stable marriages are most prevalent!

    • Herman June 3, 2014 at 2:04 pm Reply

      sincereadvisor, you write that “Islam makes sense.” Okay, then, you should have absolutely NO PROBLEM in answering some questions I have for you.
      At least 3 out of every 4 people on earth do NOT follow the instructions provided by your self-proclaimed “prophet” living 1,400 years ago. What do you suppose would happen if Allah spoke DIRECTLY to each of us NOW and gave us all of his instructions? I would say that the amount of people not following all of Allah’s instructions would drop sharply, WHAT DO YOU THINK? How does it “MAKE SENSE” if you have instructions for people to follow to give these instructions to a slave-owner living 1,400 years ago, RATHER THAN DIRECTLY TO EVERYONE RIGHT NOW?
      Time and time again we read in the Koran of the torture that “Allah” intends to inflict upon those who do not believe Muhammad. (And yes, sincereadvisor, they will be in “terrible agony,” — it says so in your Koran! (Koran-3:56)-“As to those who reject faith, I will punish them with TERRIBLE AGONY in this world and in the Hereafter”). In surrendering your brain to Muhammad, you approve of the torture of your fellow human beings simply because they don’t believe Muhammad. But how does it MAKE SENSE for a “COMPASSIONATE AND MERCIFUL” god to torture people for being disbelievers, when if he were merely to speak directly to people, they would believe?

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