Islamic Law Commands Death for Apostasy
by CLARE M. LOPEZ
October 26, 2011
In Iran, a Christian pastor named Yusef Nadarkhani sits on death row, condemned to hang because he converted to Christianity from Islam. From around the world, indignation and pleas for clemency pour in. The Iranian regime is excoriated for its barbarism. And indeed, the Iranian legal code is barbaric.
It is also firmly grounded in Islamic law, known as shariah. Shariah commands that any Muslim male who is mature and sane and willingly apostasizes from Islam must be executed. The Islamic scholars reached consensus (ijma) on this point when shariah was immutably codified in the early centuries after the death of the Muslim prophet Muhammad. The death penalty for apostasy is based on two Qur’anic verses and one important hadith from the authoritative collection of Bukhari.
Here are the citations from the Qur’an:
They ask thee concerning fighting in the Prohibited Month. Say: "Fighting therein is a grave (offence); but graver is it in the sight of Allah to prevent access to the path of Allah, to deny Him, to prevent access to the Sacred Mosque, and drive out its members." Tumult and oppression are worse than slaughter. Nor will they cease fighting you until they turn you back from your faith if they can. And 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.
They but wish that ye should reject Faith, as they do, and thus be on the same footing (as they). But take not friends from their ranks until they flee in the way of Allah (from what is forbidden). But if they turn renegades, seize them and slay them wherever ye find them; and (in any case) take no friends or helpers from their ranks.
And this is what Bukhari tells us that Muhammad said:
"Whoever changed his Islamic religion, then kill him" (Bukhari 9.84.57)
No matter which school of Islamic jurisprudence one looks at - be it the four major Sunni schools (Hanafi, Hanbali, Maliki, or Shafi’i) or the main Shi’a school (Ja’afari) - it is the same: apostates from Islam must be killed.Most of the scholars agree that an apostate is to be given three chances to recant his decision, but if he refuses, he is subject to the death penalty. But what about the United Nations Universal Declaration on Human Rights? Don’t all members of the UN acknowledge those rights?
Well, no. Not the Muslim members anyway. In 1990, the Muslim nations of the world, all members of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (recently re-named Organization of Islamic Cooperation, OIC), met in Cairo, Egypt to disown the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and to establish their own in its stead. Here is what the Cairo Declaration says about human rights:
Then, what about Iran’s own constitution? It does say quite plainly in Article 23,
"The investigation of individuals' beliefs is forbidden, and no one may be molested or taken to task simply for holding a certain belief."
Yes, it does. But at the beginning of this constitution, written in its Introduction, is the following subordination of Iranian law to the shariah:
Legislation which is to set out the codes for the management of society will have as its central axis the Koran and tradition.
In legal documents such as this, anything written above takes precedence over anything written further down. Further, there in fact is no contradiction between these two provisions.
The stipulation not to investigate or take to task an individual for holding a certain belief does not cancel out Islamic law on apostasy: no one born a Christian in Iran legally may be “taken to task simply for holding a certain belief,” but one who is born Muslim is governed his entire life by the laws of Islam. This Iranian regime subordinates all other legislation that may be enacted to shariah. And shariah says that apostasy is punishable by death.
Family Security Matters Contributor Clare M. Lopez is a strategic policy and intelligence expert. Lopez began her career as an operations officer with the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), serving domestically and abroad for 20 years in a variety of assignments. Now a private consultant, Lopez is a Sr. Fellow at the Center for Security Policy and Vice President of the Intelligence Summit.