I reproduce here an article by Bassam Zawadi. Though the title is needlessly provocative, I agree with Zawadi’s arguments.
Of course Apostates Should Be Killed By Bassam Zawadi
There seems to be a problem with many “modernist and liberal” Muslims out there who would like to “sugarcoat” the religion of Islam by distorting what it really teaches. There are those that go at length to deny that Islam teaches that apostates must be killed. They either deny the explicit hadith that speak about this or reinterpret it to only refer to those apostates that would fight the Muslims.
This is false. I am not going to spend time in this article trying to prove that Islam does call for the killing of apostates and the rules and conditions behind killing apostates (e.g. the apostate must be interrogated first in order to refute what doubts he has for three days, etc.) for I am assuming that my readers already adhere to and have knowledge of the orthodox position regarding the matter. What I want to speak about in this article is the reason for Islam ordering the killing of apostates.
Before I proceed, let me make it clear that when I speak about apostates that must be killed I am only referring to those apostates who live under an Islamic theocratic state and have openly declared their apostasy. What this means is that no Muslim has a right to go to America or Europe for example and start killing ex-Muslims, for he has no such authority to do so.
People find it difficult to grasp why apostasy is a crime that is so great that it would call for a punishment (i.e. execution) that is more severe than say fornication (i.e. flogging), deliberate and preplanned theft (i.e. cutting of the hand), etc. However, with careful contemplation and a realization of the reality of the issue at hand, the matter should be easy for one to swallow.
If someone tells you that the state executed a man who was guilty of murdering someone by stabbing him repeatedly, would you shout “This is injustice! Why did you execute this man! His crime wasn’t that great!”?
I believe that many of us would not say so. I believe many of us would say that the murderer deserved to be executed because of the gravity of his heinous crime. Not too many of us would sympathize with such a man. This man made his innocent victim suffer greatly each time his knife penetrated his flesh. He caused him so much physical pain that the man suffered greatly even though it was only for a matter of a few minutes.
Now let us come to the apostate. A person who would openly declare his apostasy affects the people around him. The people around him might ask themselves “Why on earth did this Muslim leave Islam? Is he out of his mind? Or maybe he discovered something wrong with Islam? Maybe Islam isn’t that clear after all!” These people would then start to doubt their religion. If they seriously doubt their religion, they cease to be Muslims. If they cease to be Muslims that would very likely land them up in the blazing fire of Hell for eternity.
In the previous example, we saw that the murderer was executed because he caused his victim so much physical pain even though it was only for a matter of a few minutes, however with the apostate we see that he could cause the people around him so much spiritual damage by destroying their souls that these people could land up in the blazing fire of Hell for eternity.
With all honesty, which crime is worse? Stabbing a person for a few minutes or making him burn for eternity? The answer is obvious and we know that it is the latter. If the latter crime is much worse, why are we insisting that it is difficult to grasp why Islam would call for the killing of apostates then?
I believe that this is for two reasons:
– Lack of faith or no faith at all in the truth of Islam.
– This Islamic Practice is Immoral According to non-Muslim Standards
Lack of faith or no faith at all in the truth of Islam
Many Muslims with weak faith still fail to fully comprehend the seriousness and gravity of kufr (disbelief). They fail to recognize its deadly results (i.e. Hellfire) because the crime of the apostate towards his victims won’t be displayed or shown in this life, but in the after life (i.e. you would only realize the pain that the apostate will go through in the next life and not in this one, thus you don’t see the seriousness of apostasy with your own eyes now), therefore they find it difficult to accept the fact that apostates must be punished in this life. However, if one has strong faith (especially in the fact that apostates will go to hell if they don’t repent) and the correct understanding of the seriousness of Kufr then it only takes common sense to figure out why apostates must be killed.
Non-Muslims will of course (and understandably) argue that they don’t even believe in Islam in the first place. If they don’t believe in Islam, how could Muslims impose such rules upon them?
Islam already acknowledges the fact that there would be those that would hate to see Islam succeed and impose its ruling on others (Surah 8:8, 9:32-33, 10:82, 40:14, 61:8-9), thus non-Muslims complaining about how they don’t “like” or agree with certain Islamic laws is something that is already expected.
Now since non-Muslims don’t “like” or agree with the law of killing of the apostate they would argue that Muslims should be “open minded” and allow people to freely choose whatever religion they please. They would argue back that religion is only between God and the person. It is no body else’s business.
Muslims could easily reply back by saying:
– You non-Muslims say that people should be free to practice their religion. Our religion states that apostates must be killed. So allow us to “freely practice our religion”. If you don’t allow us to, you are contradicting your selves then.
– Muslims would hate it if apostates were allowed to be free to run around publicly displaying their apostasy and see their loved ones getting affected by it. Why should Muslims suffer by standing back and watching this all happen? Why do non-Muslims insist that they don’t get affected while Muslims must? These are double standards.
– You say that “religion is only between God and the person”, fine so if someone apostatizes let him keep it between God and himself in private and not publicly display it. If he chooses to go public with it and start affecting others, then he hasn’t made his religion only between himself and God but involved others as well. If he involved others as well, then others (i.e. the Islamic state) have the right to intervene.
Non-Muslims would also argue back that the apostate’s intention is sincere. He is not intentionally trying to lure people into hell. They would say that we must take his intentions into account.
First of all, Muslims do take his intentions into account and this is precisely why we won’t go ahead and have the apostate killed immediately. The authorities will bring the apostate in for questioning and ask him to lay out all the doubts that he has regarding Islam. Muslim scholars will be appointed to answer his questions. If he is not convinced and it appears to the scholars that his reasons for leaving are not valid (usually they are not valid, most people leave Islam for emotional reasons) they would then have him executed.
Secondly, it is not an excuse for us to let an apostate go free doing what he pleases just because his “intentions are sincere”. At the end of the day, this is affecting the people around him and he must be stopped.
Millions of people around the world don’t believe that marijuana should be made illegal. They believe that it is a natural plant and “gift from God” as singer Carlos Santana said.
Their intentions are sincere, but just because their intentions are sincere that doesn’t mean that we legalize marijuana. That doesn’t mean that we just stand by and let them get away with their crime. They are made aware of the punishment of breaking the law and should be held accountable regardless of what their intentions are. If they don’t agree with the law, that is too bad. They have to deal with it.
The same applies to the apostate. He must obey the law. Him not agreeing with or liking the law means absolutely nothing.
Should we implement the law to please God and displease the apostate or should we remove the law to displease God and please the apostate? It is definitely not the latter.
This Islamic Practice is Immoral According to non-Muslim Standards
Both Muslims and Christians believe in the Divine Command Theory, which teaches that our morals are derived from God’s commands. One cannot presuppose that something is moral or immoral and then judge whether something is moral or immoral. Rather, one has to know what is moral and immoral by knowing what God has said about the matter.
Dr. William Lane Craig himself states:
So the problem isn’t that God ended the Canaanites’ lives. The problem is that He commanded the Israeli soldiers to end them. Isn’t that like commanding someone to commit murder? No, it’s not. Rather, since our moral duties are determined by God’s commands, it is commanding someone to do something which, in the absence of a divine command, would have been murder. The act was morally obligatory for the Israeli soldiers in virtue of God’s command, even though, had they undertaken it on their own initiative, it would have been wrong.
On divine command theory, then, God has the right to command an act, which, in the absence of a divine command, would have been sin, but which is now morally obligatory in virtue of that command. (William Lane Craig, Slaughter of the Canaanites, Source)
As Dr. Craig rightfully states, we can’t state that something is immoral unless we have evidence that God has not divinely approved of it.
So when non-Muslims say that Islam’s ordering for the killing of apostates is immoral, they are begging the question that Islam is false and is not the ultimate standard of morality to follow.
In order to put forth a successful argument, our opponents must level a stronger critique.
There are two kinds of critiques that one can form.
1) Internal critique:
This is criticizing someone or something by pointing out its internal inconsistencies. This is usually a strong argument. Now, have non-Muslims put forth an internal critique against the killing of apostates? Actually, they haven’t. They have not shown how this law contradicts other Islamic principles.
2) External critique:
This is using an external standard to judge somebody or something in order to critique that person or thing.
There are two types of external critique:
i) Universalist external critique:
This is appealing to universal standards and beliefs (e.g. raping a little child is wrong according to everyone) as a standard. However, have non-Muslims shown that killing of apostates violates universal standards? Of course not. One can appeal to early Christians who have ordered the killing of apostates as well.
ii) Ethnocentric external critique:
This is appealing to one’s own cultural or religious beliefs as a standard for critiquing. Philosophers have stated that this form of argumentation is weak unless one can prove that the standard that he is using should be binding upon everyone.
Now, this is the kind of critique that non-Muslims are launching.
They must be using a moral law in order to judge whether the killing of apostates is moral or not. If they are using a moral law, then that implies that there is a moral law giver that they are appealing to.
If the person arguing is an atheist then this is not a problem. One who does not believe in God does not have an objective standard of morality to abide by anyways. So he might be using his culture or personal opinions and feelings as a standard to critique the law of killing apostates. If that is the case, then this argument is not threatening at all because it is not based on an objective standard, but a subjective emotional one.
If the person arguing is a Christian we are going to assume that his moral law giver is the God of the Bible. Have they proven that the law of killing apostates cannot possibly be a law put forth by God? No they cannot. One can easily appeal to the Old Testament and point out verses that order the killing of apostates.
These Christians might argue back that this law was a long time ago, but now we are in the 21st century. However, this response is weak because God’s laws are not supposed to adapt with the times, but vice versa.
Secondly, even if Christians were able to prove that this law violated Biblical standards for morality then SO WHAT?
Why should I care if a particular Islamic law did not live up to the moral standards of the Bible? Have Christians shown us that the Bible is the complete true word of God and that it is binding upon us? The answer is no.
If they would like to reply back and say that the Qur’an affirms the Bible and that means that Muslims should hold the Bible as authoritative, then I ask the reader to refer here.
In conclusion, non-Muslims cannot provide an INTELLECTUAL AND RATIONAL argument against the Islamic law regarding the killing of apostates. They can only provide EMOTIONAL and SUBJECTIVE arguments.
However, Muslims let their rationality overcome their emotions and don’t fall for these silly appeal to emotion arguments. That is probably the main reason why we are Muslims.
In conclusion, the Muslim should keep his head up and confidently say:
OF COURSE APOSTATES SHOULD BE KILLED!
See this article for a more academic analysis of The Issue of Apostasy in Islam by a Western professor of Islamic studies.