Apostasy in Islam

Here are my notes on apostasy from my recent discussion with Abdullah al-Andalusi

Quran verses

Q4.89 They long that ye should disbelieve even as they disbelieve, that ye may be upon a level (with them). So choose not friends from them till they forsake their homes in the way of Allah; if they turn back (to enmity) then take them and kill them wherever ye find them, and choose no friend nor helper from among them

Q4.90 Except those who seek refuge with a people between whom and you there is a covenant, or (those who) come unto you because their hearts forbid them to make war on you or make war on their own folk

*Maududi says that the protection of going to a non-war country was due to the sanctity of the treaty and not the sanctity of blood

Books on jurisprudence


School: Hanbali

Title: Al Umda fi al Fiqh

Author: Imam Muwaffaq Ibn Qudama (A.H. 541-620)



Page 309: If someone denies Allah’s existence, or attributes to Him a partner, or a consort, or a son, or if he accuses Allah of telling lies, or blasphemes him, or if he calls His Messenger a liar, or insults him, or if he denies a Prophet, or denies the Book of Allah or anything from it, or denies one of the basic pillars of Islam, or if he attributes lawfulness to something declared unlawful by the consensus of legal opinion, he is guilty of apostasy – unless he is one of those who are unaware of the religious duties and prohibitions, in which case he must be informed thereof, and if he does not accept, he is guilty of unbelief.


Page 309: If someone apostatises from Islam, whether it be a man or a woman, the penalty of death must be enforced, because of the saying of Allah’s Apostle

“If someone changes his religion, you must kill him”

The apostate should not be killed until he has been invited three times to repent. If he repents [he is spared], but if not, he is killed by the sword.


School: Shafi

Title: Minhaj at talibin

Author: Nawawi



Page 436: the abjuration of Islam either mentally or by words, or by acts incompatible with faith.  As to oral abjuration it matters little whether the words are said in joke or through a sprit of contradiction or in good faith.  Before such words can be considered as a sign of apostasy they must contain a precise declaration

  1. That one does not believe in the existence of the Creator, or of his Apostles; or
  2. That Muhammad, or one of the other apostles, is an impostor; or
  3. That one considers lawful what is strictly forbidden by the ijmaa; or
  4. The one considered to be forbidden what is lawful according to the ijmaa
  5. That one is not obliged to follow the precepts of the ijmaa, as well positive as negative; or
  6. That one intends shortly to change one’s religion; or that one has doubts upon the subject of the truth of Islam etc.

Page 436: As to acts, these are not considered to be incompatible with faith, unless they show a clear indication of a mockery or denial of religion. Throwing the Quran upon a muck heap, prostrating oneself before an idol, or worshipping the sun.

Page 69: A sane adult Moslem who refuses to pray and dénies the obligation is an apostate and punishable as such ; even if he has merely neglected prayer through laziness, without denying its obligation, he is none the less punishable with death.

Page 69: Capital punishment is liable to be incurred by the omission of even one single prescribed prayer, the moment its time is passed, if done designedly and without ofïering any excuse. One should begin by exhorting the culprit to repentance, and if this be unavailing strike him upon the neck. Some authorities prefer that he should be pricked with a sharp instrument until he either prays or dies.

Page 241: By the fact of being born of Moslem parents, even though only one of them may bave been Moslem at the moment of the child’s conception. If such a child, after attaining majority becomes an infidel, he must be regarded and punished as an apostate


Page 437: An attempt should be made to induce the apostate to return from his or her errors; though, according to one authority, this is only a commendable proceeding.  The exhortation should take place immediately, or, according to one jurist, in the first three days; and if it is of no effect, the guilty man or woman should be put to death.

Page 523: Where, after execution of a death penalty, either under the law of talion, or for apostasy, or even by stoning or whipping, the witnesses déclare that they hâve made a false declaration, intentionally, against the executed person, they are punishable either with death under the law of talion, or with payment of the price of blood on the higher scale


School: Shafi

Title: Reliance of the traveller

Author: Shihabuddin Abu al-‘Abbas Ahmad ibn an-Naqib al-Misri (AH 702-769 / AD 1302–1367)



Page 596: #08.7 to prostrate to an idol whether sarcastically, out of mere contrariness, or in actual conviction, like .that of someone who believes the Creator to be something that has originated in time. Like idols in this respect are the sun or moon, and like prostration is bowing to other than Allah, if one intends reverence towards it like the reverence due to Allah

Page 597: #08.7 to speak words that imply unbelief such as “Allah is the third of three”:’ or “I am Allah”unless one’s tongue has run away with one. or one is quoting another

#08.7 to revile Allah or His messenger

#08.7 to deny the existence of Allah, His beginingless eternality, His endless eternality, or to deny any of His attributes which the consensus of Muslims ascribes to Him

#08.7 to be sarcastic about Allah’s name, His command, His interdiction, His promise, or His threat;


Page 595: #08.1 When a person who has reached puberty and is sane voluntarily apostatizes from Islam, he deserves to be killed.

#08.2 In such a case, it is obligatory for the caliph (A: or his representative) 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.

Page 596: #08.3 If he is a freeman. no one besides the caliph or his representative may kill him. If someone else kills him, the killer is disciplined for arrogating the caliph’s prerogative and encroaching upon his rights, as this is one of his duties.

#08.4 There is no indemnity for killing an apostate (or any expiation, since it is killing someone who deserves to die).

#08.5 If he apostatizes from Islam and returns several times, it (i.e. his return to Islam, which occurs when he states the two Testifications of Faith (def: 08.7(12))) is accepted from him. though he is disciplined (017).

#08.7 to deny any verse of the Koran or anything which by scholarly consensus (def: b7) belongs to it, or to add a verse that does not belong to it;

#08.7 to mockingly say, “I don’t know what faith is”:

#08.7 to reply to someone who says, “There is no power or strength save through Allah”: “Your saying ‘There’s no power or strength, etc.’ won’t save you from hunger”;

Page 598: #08.7 to describe a Muslim or someone who wants to become a Muslim in terms of unbelief (kufr);


School: Hanifa

Title: Shaybani’s Siyar (The Islamic law of nations)

Author: Muhammad Shaybani (Imam Abu Hanifa’s student)


#985 I asked: If a Muslim apostatizes (irtadda) from Islam, what do you think would be the ruling regarding him?

#986 He replied: Islam would be offered to him; he has either to accept it or be killed at once, unless he asked for deferment.  This would be given to him and its duration would be 3 days.

#987 I asked: Has any narrative come to your knowledge about this matter?

#988 He replied: Yes, it has been related to us from the Prophet to this effect, as well as [narratives] from [The caliph] Abi b. Abi Taalib, AbdAllah b. Mas’ud, and Mu’adh b. Jabal.  Thus this ruling is based on the Sunna.

#1033 I asked: Would you think that the apostate’s slaughtered animal would be lawful to eat

#1034 He replied: No

#1035 I asked: Even if he had become a Christian?

#1036 He replied: Even if he had [apostatized to Christianity], because he would not enjoy the status of a Jew or a Christian.  Do you think that he would be permitted to remain in the religion [he had adpoted]?  He would have to become a Muslim or else be executed.

#1053 I asked: If a man has apostatized from Islam and another [man] cut off his hand or destroyed, intentionally or unintentionally, his eye or committed against him any other tort, intentionally or unintentially, would this [other] man be held liable for anything?

#1054 He replied: No

#1055 I asked: Why?

#1056 He replied: Since his blood is lawful to shed nobody would be liable for any tort against him, whether cutting off his hand or foot or committing a tort or injury against him.

#1057 I asked: Would [the ruling] be the same if he accepts Islam and then dies of the wound?

#1058 He replied: The person who has committed [the said tort] would not be liable for anything.

#1069 I asked: If a woman apostatized from Islam, what would be the ruling regarding her?

#1070 He replied: Abu Hanifa held that she would not be executed, but imprisoned indefinitely until she returns to Islam.

#1130 + However, Abu Yusuf and Muhammad [b. al-Hasan] held that the apostate woman would be liable to execution unless she returns to Islam. But Abu Hanifa held that she would be in the same category as a very old man.

#1159 I asked: If a tort was committed against [the slave woman] in apostasy, would the offender be held liable for anything?

#1160 He replied: No

#1161 I asekd: Why, if you do not approve of the execution of women?

#1162 He replied: Since some of the jurists hold that apostate women should be executed, I hold that a tort committed against them would not render [the offender] liable [for paying compensation]

#1330 I asked: If a group [of Muslims] apostatized from Islam and were attacked by [other] Muslims without [first] having been invited to adopt Islam, do you think that those [who attacked] would be liable for anything?

#1331 He replied: No

#1332 I asked: Why? According to Sunna they should be invited [to accept Islam] before being fought.

#1333 He replied: Even so, they would not be liable for anything.

#1334 I asked: Would the same be true if a single man apostatized from Islam and was killed by another before was invited [to return] to Islam?

#1335 He replied: Yes

#1341 + Men [who apostatize] would be liable to be executed, regardless whether they were slaves or free.

#1344 I asked: If a lad apostatized from Islam before he reached puberty, do you think that he would be executed?

#1345 He replied: No

#1346 I asked: Would the same hold true if he had come of age while still an unbeliever?

#1347 He replied: I would order his imprisonment rather than execution, because he had never professed Islam after he had come of age.


School: Hanafi

Title: Kitab al-athar of Imam Abu Hanifah

Author: Hanifah Abu Imam


#591 Women are not to be killed when they renege on Islam but they are compelled to return to it.

+We detail her in prison until she returns in tawbah or dies.


School: Maliki

Title: The Risala of ‘Abdullah ibn Abi Zayd al-Qayrawani

Author: ‘Abdullah ibn Abi Zayd


1.8d No Muslim who commits a wrong action becomes an unbeliever as long as he believes. The same applies to someone who commits acts of disobedience while he nevertheless believes that the Shari’a forbids them. If someone does something such shows that he lacks belief, like throwing a copy of the Qur’an into the rubbish, then he is an apostate

37.19 An apostate is also killed unless he repents. He is allowed three days grace; if he fails to utilise the chance to repent, the execution takes place. This same also applies to women apostates.

+If a Muslim should abandon the performance of prayer because he disputes its being obligatory, then such a person shall be treated as an apostate – he should be given three days within which to repent. If the three days lapse without his repenting, he is then executed

40.18 God, Glorified be He, has prohibited the shedding of the blood of Muslims; so also has he prohibited assault on their property except for a lawful cause. It is not lawful to shed the blood of a Muslim except when he commits apostasy, or when he commits adultery, or when he kills a person and this is not in retaliation, or when he becomes an outlaw, or when he renounces the faith.


Title: The punishment of the apostate according to Islamic law

Author: Maududi


To everyone acquainted with Islamic law it is no secret that according to Islam the punishment for a Muslim who turns to kufr (infidelity, blasphemy) is execution. Doubt about this matter first arose among Muslims during the final portion of the nineteenth century as a result of speculation. Otherwise, for the full twelve centuries prior to that time the total Muslim community remained unanimous about it. The whole of our religious literature clearly testifies that ambiguity about the matter of the apostate’s execution never existed among Muslims. The expositions of the Prophet, the Rightly-Guided Caliphs (Khulafa’-i Rashidun), the great Companions (Sahaba) of the Prophet, their Followers (Tabi’un), the leaders among the mujtahids and, following them, the doctors of the shari’ah of every century are available on record. All these collectively will assure you that from the time of the Prophet to the present day one injunction only has been continuously and uninterruptedly operative and that no room whatever remains to suggest that perhaps the punishment of the apostate is not execution.


* Kill apostates with death, but not death by fire.

Some people apostatized after accepting Islam, and ‘Ali burned them with fire. Ibn ‘Abbas said: ‘If it had been me, I would not have burned them; the Messenger of Allah [SAW] said: ‘No one should be punished with the punishment of Allah.’ If it had been me, I would have killed them; the Messenger of Allah [SAW] said: ‘Whoever changes his religion, kill him.'”

 * An apostate can be offered the chance to change their mind first.

A man who turned back from Islam was brought to Abu Musa. He invited him to repent for twenty days or about so. Muadh then came and invited him (to embrace Islam) but he refused. So he was beheaded.

* A man converted to Islam and then became a Jew.

Mu’adh bin Jabal (RAA) narrated – concerning a man who embraced Islam and then turned to Judaism (i.e. apostated), ‘I shall not sit down until he is killed. That is the Command of Allah and His Messenger, and he gave an order that he must be killed and so he was.’ Agreed upon. In a version by Abu Dawud, ‘He was given a chance to repent and retrun to Islam but he refused.’

* Apostasy is one of the three reasons one is permitted to kill a Muslim.

The blood of a Muslim who confesses that none has the right to be worshipped but Allah and that I am His Apostle, cannot be shed except in three cases: In Qisas for murder, a married person who commits illegal sexual intercourse and the one who reverts from Islam (apostate) and leaves the Muslims.

* Caliph Uthman confirms the three “crimes” that warrant killing a Muslim.

“We were with ‘Uthman when he was under siege and we could hear what was said from Al-Balat. ‘Uthman came in one day, then he came out, and said: ‘They are threatening to kill me.’ We said: ‘Allah will suffice you against them.’ He said: ‘Why would they kill me? I heard the Messenger of Allah [SAW] say: It is not permissible to shed the blood of a Muslim except in one of three cases: A man who reverts to Kufr after becoming Muslim, or commits adultery after being married, or one who kills a soul unlawfully. By Allah, I did not commit adultery during Jahiliyyah or in Islam, I never wished to follow any other religion since Allah guided me, and I have never killed anyone, so why do they want to kill me?'”

* The three “crimes” again.

The blood of a Muslim who testifies that none has the right to be worshipped but Allah and that I am His Messenger, cannot be shed lawfully, except in three cases: a married person who committed adultery, in Qisas (retaliation) for murder (life for life) and the apostate from Islam who abandons the Muslim Jama’ah (community).

 * The three “crimes” again.

‘It is not permissible to shed the blood of a Muslim except in three cases: A man who commits adultery after having married; or one who kills intentionally, in which case he deserves retaliation; or one who apostatizes after having become Muslim, in which case he deserves to be killed.’

* The Jewish man killed for apostasy was told to return to Islam before being killed.

Mu’adh bin Jabal (RAA) narrated – concerning a man who embraced Islam and then turned to Judaism (i.e. apostated), ‘I shall not sit down until he is killed. That is the Command of Allah and His Messenger, and he gave an order that he must be killed and so he was.’ Agreed upon. In a version by Abu Dawud, ‘He was given a chance to repent and retrun to Islam but he refused.’

* The three “crimes” again.

The blood of a Muslim man is not lawful, except for one of three (cases):Illegitimate sexual relations after Ihsan (having been married), or apostasy after Islam, or taking a life without right, for which he is killed.

* A Jewish man chained up whilst awaiting his own murder, for finding Judaism more convincing than Islam.

Once Mu`adh paid a visit to Abu Musa and saw a chained man. Mu`adh asked, “What is this?” Abu Musa said, “(He was) a Jew who embraced Islam and has now turned apostate.” Mu`adh said, “I will surely chop off his neck!”

* A Muslim refuses to sit until an apostate is killed, as Muhammad had ruled.

A man embraced Islam and then reverted back to Judaism. Mu`adh bin Jabal came and saw the man with Abu Musa. Mu`adh asked, “What is wrong with this (man)?” Abu Musa replied, “He embraced Islam and then reverted back to Judaism.” Mu`adh said, “I will not sit down unless you kill him (as it is) the verdict of Allah and His Apostle.

Only apostates who have fought against Allah and His Apostle?

* Suggests apostates MUST HAVE FOUGHT in war.

By Allah, Allah’s Messenger never killed anyone except in one of the following three situations: (1) A person who killed somebody unjustly, was killed (in Qisas,) (2) a married person who committed illegal sexual intercourse and (3) a man who fought against Allah and His Apostle and deserted Islam and became an apostate.

* Questions “must have fought” because the camel theives were described as “fought against Allah and His Apostle” for murder and theft.

(People who killed the herdsman) – Abu Qilabah said: They were people who had stolen, killed, apostatized after their faith *and fought against Allah and his Apostle*

* The camel thieves were killed for kufr, not murder

Then they killed their herdsmen and drove off the camels. The Prophet of Allah sent (men) after them and they were brought back, then he had their hands and feet cut off, and their eyes were branded.” The Commander of the Believers, ‘Abdul-Malik, said to Anas, when he was narrating this Hadith: “Was that (punishment) for Kufr or for sin?” He said: “For Kufr.”

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