Answer of Ayatollah Shaykh Muhammad Jawad Fazel Lankarani regarding the Doubts on Jurisprudential Ruling of Apostasy

  • Date 13 December 2017
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Imam Ali bin Abi Talib (as) said: "You see the laws of God breaking and do not become angry yet you become incensed to see the laws of other than God, including those of your ancestors, violated." (Nahjul Balaghah, sermon no. 106)




Imam Ali bin Abi Talib (as) said: "Yousee the laws of God breaking and do not become angry yet you become incensed tosee the laws of other than God, including those of your ancestors, violated."(Nahjul Balaghah, sermon no. 106)


For some time now, I have been receiving letters regarding the fatwaof Imam of Khomeini (ra) concerning Salman Rushdie's apostasy, wherein hedeclares him to merit the death sentence; other letters relate to the fatwa ofthe Shiites’ religious authority, his eminence, Grand Ayatollah Shaikh MuhammadFadhil Lankarani (ra) for the necessity of executing "Rafiq Taqi" whowas not only pronounced apostate but someone who had offended the holy Prophet(sawas) "Saab ul-Nabi" as well.

In one of the letters, an author of various books, a man of some (Hawzah)Shi’ah seminary background indicated various demonstrative jurisprudential pointsand legal difficulties concerning the fatwa death penalty for apostates.However, he failed to state anything new whereas I had been expecting him to originatesome innovative points in order to initiate a lively fresh discussion.

Regrettably, it is not possible for me to address every individual letter,which is the reason I am writing a general reply to attempt to satisfy as many queriesas possible. It is my hope that any individual with even the slightestreligious awareness and logical reasoning, who is eager to understand the truth,will accept these proven elements after reading this essay.


1. First of all, no Muslim derives pleasurefrom seeing another Muslim go astray nor is he delighted at the cessation of anyhuman life. No Muslim can be happy at the demise of another person; what pleasesa devout Muslim is the implementation of Divine orders resulting in obedienceto God’s holy commands. One of the clear important aims of the golden guidelinesof the Infallibles (as) – especially of Imam Hussain (as) – is establishing AlmightyAllah’s (swt) laws and orders. This has been spoken of as an emphasized affairwhich is followed by countless worldly and spiritual blessings.

In his book "Lubb ul-lubab", Qutb Rawandi narratedfrom the holy Prophet (sawas):

"Establishing one divine law onearth is better and more purifying than worshiping for sixty years."


Before starting to extensively answer the questions posed in theletters, I would like to make clear that the "death penalty for anapostate" is a religious law which no one from amongst the jurisprudents, ancientor modern, has disagreed on; it is agreed upon by both Shi’ah and Sunnites. However,in recent years, a very small number of scholars have tried refuting the argumentson this matter. They cannot be counted as more than the number of fingers onone hand. Hence, comparing them to the enormous number of jurisprudents andrecent scholars is both futile and pointless. This order, after the explanationswe are about to give, is defined as "an axiomatic within religiousteachings". The jurisprudents and experts within jurisprudence are fullyaware that Ijtihad is not applicable on matters characterized as "axiomaticwithin religious teachings".

We clearly announce that what is important and real is the "DivineLaw" against which no other laws and treatises have value. No person orgroup, but Allah (swt), alone, has the power to make laws for human beings. Itis He who has the right to make laws for human beings. Therefore, all theMuslims of the world should understand that the death penalty for an apostateis a definite divine law which not only has been performed during the time ofthe Holy Prophet (sawas), the Commander of the faithful, Imam Ali (as), but alsoduring periods following theirs.


We will now briefly and discuss different chapters of thisdiscussion. We will study them under seven different headings:


-         Thefirst chapter: Death penalty for an apostate, andthe holy Qur'an;

-         Thesecond chapter: Death penalty for an apostate, andtraditions;

-         Thethird chapter: Death penalty for an apostate, andpropagation of lawlessness;

-         Thefourth chapter: Is the death penalty for anapostate the cause of debility and weakness of religion?

-         Thefifth chapter: Is the presence of an Infallible (as)necessary for execution of Divine Law and capital punishment ordained by Allah?

-         Thesixth chapter: Does the death penalty for anapostate have suitability with the quality of the last Prophet (sawas) being ablessing of Allah towards the whole world?

-         Theseventh chapter: Answering various doubts.


2. The first chapter: Death penalty for an apostate, and the holyQur'an:

Some people believe that the rule and fatwa concerning the deathpenalty for an apostate does not have any Qur'anic support. In addition, they saythat this fatwa is contradictory with what the holy Book of Allah (swt) says.It seems that this problem first arose from among the Sunnites. However, as anintroduction, we should admit that it is quite correct that there is no verseclearly mentioning the necessity of the death penalty specifically for anapostate; depending solely on the holy Book of Allah and neglecting all othersources, such as traditions, consensus and what is considered axiomatic withinreligious teachings, we would hardly be able to say much about this matter orprove it. However, we should consider the following points:


2.1. First Point: Has no jurisprudent orinterpreter of the holy Book ever based his reasoning on the holy Bookregarding this matter? Statements from those denying the killing of an apostate,as fatwa, seem to be trying to tell us, basically, that no intellectual has everbased his reasoning regarding the death penalty for an apostate on the holyBook of Allah. This argument shows the lack of consideration of theseopponents. It also exposes the lack of knowledge and information that some ofthem have about the holy Qur'an. Moreover, it manifests the fundamental weaknessesof their approach amongst other groups. To clearly understand the mentionedproblem one must say:


a)     We canderive from the 54th verse of Surah Baqarah that an apostate must bekilled:


"And when you said, "And[recall] when Moses said to his people, ‘O my people! You have indeedwronged yourselves by taking up the calf [for worship]. Now turn penitently toyour Maker, and slay [the guilty among] your folks. That will be better for youwith your Maker.’ Then He turned to you clemently. Indeed He is theAll-clement, the All-merciful."


After getting rid of Pharaoh and seeing that the Prophet Musa (as)had gone to Mount Sinai to get the divine tablets, a large number of BaniIsrael started worshiping a speaking calf of Samiri, abandoning their belief inmonotheism. When the Prophet Musa (as) told them: You have been cruel toyourselves by performing this deviation for which you must repent and kill eachother, he did not mean that they should kill their sensual desires; he meantthem to kill themselves in real terms, letting death take their souls. It isclear that the issue of the death penalty for an apostate has been mentioned byAllah the Elevated the High; the reason for which was the apostasy of thepeople of Israel after having seen so many divine miracles and signs.


Some points can be deducted from thementioned verse of the holy Qur'an:


2.1.A. Firstly: apostasy among thenation of Jews was a condition for killing, as well as the punishment for whichwas also death.


2.1.A. Secondly: while considering applyingthe presumption of continuity of certain rules, which existed in previousreligions, this rule can also be presumed continued up till the religion ofIslam, if we neglect the issue of annulment and abrogation. Yes, the one whodoes not believe in the application of this principle should depend only on thefirst argument. However, it is enough for our objective to be proved.


Alussi has written in his interpretation[1]that killing was either the repentance of this group or it was the absoluterepentance of the apostate in the religion of Musa (as).

It has been narrated from Ali (as) about the above mentioned versethat he said: the people of Israel asked their prophet, the Prophet Musa (as),what manner their repentance should take? The Prophet Musa (as) replied:"Each one of those worshiping the calf should kill the other in a way thatsome of them should even kill their own brother, father or son. However, thedivine order forbade them and told them to stop doing all this.[2]

Another point to be mentioned is that this verse has been revealedabout calf worshiping and collective apostasy; therefore, we cannot use it for individualapostasy. Yes, we can conclude from the words "you repent!" that theyrefer to the obligatory repentance of every single person, relating the orderof killing to every single person. As a result, the apostasy of every single guiltyperson merits the order of being killed.


b)    FakhrRazi, in his extensive interpretation, says about the 217th verse ofthe Holy Qur'an:


"They ask you concerningwarfare in the holy month. Say, "It is an outrageous thing to fight in it,but to keep [people] from Allah's way, and to be unfaithful to Him, and [tokeep people from] the Holy Mosque, and to expel its people from it are moreoutrageous with Allah. And faithlessness is graver than killing. And they willnot cease fighting you until they turn you away from your religion, if theycan. And whoever of you turns away from his religion and dies faithless theyare the ones whose works have failed in this world and the Hereafter. Theyshall be the inmates of the Fire, and they shall remain in it [forever.]"


‘By saying "hubut a'mal"in this world means that he must be killed if it is possible to get him; if itis not possible to get him, however, a battle should be set forth against himso that one will be victorious against him. The faithful must not help him. Hiswife will be separated from him, even before having been divorced. Moreover, hewill receive nothing from the Muslims as inheritance.[3]


It is blatantly clear that Fakhr Razi has deduced these rules from theimplication of "hubut a'mal" the nullification of good deedsin this world, which is applicable even on three testimonials (shahadatain)and the religion of Islam which had kept him within the limits of purity andrespect and had guaranteed his money to be decent and honourable. With nullificationof good deeds, everything which he performed orally and practically becomesvoid.

In some authentic traditions of Imam Sadiq (as) we read what canmean that the absence of this testimonial does not prevent the spilling of one'sblood; it makes marriages and inheritances void. The late Muhaqqiq Kho’ei wrotein "Tanqih":


“We have so many traditions whichare examples in Islam; protection of blood, inheritance, the permissibility ofmarrying, and bearing witness to the oneness of God and the prophecy of HisProphet (sawas). Perhaps this is why Sheikh Tusi has issued a fatwa stating that,if a person performs Hajj and, after performing it, becomes (murtad)apostate, his Hajj will also become void. Now if we want to apply the inconditionalityof the abovementioned verse, we must conclude that Sheikh Tusi was right.”[4]


In this reasoning, we need to answer two questions:


2.1.B.1: The First Question: If a personsays that nullification of good deeds only means nullification of actions fromthe point of heavenly reward and brings no accompanying worldly punishment.


We may answer him by asserting that thisis injustice; because Allah the Almighty nullifies all deeds of a man includinghis offered prayers, fasting, worshiping, marriage and all other affairs, withreligious aspects, after his apostasy. He, also, nullifies his bearing witnessfor Islam (as the perfect religion), the Oneness of Allah and the prophethoodof his Messenger (sawas). The nullification of his deeds is both in this worldand the world hereafter. For such a thing, it is necessary to say that nullificationof good deeds in this world means nothing but worldly punishment.

In other words, by saying nullification of good deeds, one does notmean to say that the person's good and qualified deeds for reward are nullifiedso that one can say that "nullification" means inapplicability ofheavenly reward for actions; but rather that "nullification" meansthat the person has performed no good actions, he has borne no witnesses andwhat has been the reason of his respect till now has also been nullified fromthat very moment; with the removal of which, he no longer deserves to berespected. This disqualification from being respected is itself a reason forhis punishment in this world even if we accept that this holy verse and the implicationof nullification of good deeds in this world has nothing to do with executingthe apostate, and we just consider the aspect of worldly punishment ascomparative or necessary. For those opposing the necessity of the apostatedeath penalty, by implication that the holy Qur'an has no verse stating anyworldly punishment for an apostate, nor clearly mentioning this affair, this isa reasoning which completely erases the mentioned claim.

It has been written in the exegesis of "Kanz al-daqaa’iq"[5]:‘They have also understood the nullification of worldly benefits from the abovementionedverse of the Holy Qur'an, which is followed by worldly punishment (i.e. nullificationof good deeds both in this world and the world hereafter). There are traditionsmentioning the nullification of good deeds against some irreligious activitieslike drinking wine, adultery and other prohibited deeds. However, nullificationof good deeds both in this world and the world hereafter has only been mentionedwith regard to apostasy which is followed by the consequences which we havealready mentioned.


2.1.B.2: The second question is that, inthis verse, the word "death" has been mentioned; according to which, itapparently means that nullification of good deeds both in this world and the nextturns out to be real only when a person becomes apostate and his apostasyremains till the time of his death and only when he dies in a state ofblasphemy. Therefore, we cannot deduct from this holy verse that his deeds arevoid both in this world and the next as soon as he becomes apostate.


Our Answer is to be given in many points:


2.1.B.2.1.: Firstly: in other verses,the holy Qur'an has mentioned the very first moment of blasphemy and apostasy asthe reason for nullification of good deeds without making a death condition;such as: "That is Allah's guidance: with it He guides whomever He wishesof His servants. But were they to ascribe any partners [to Allah], what theyused to do would not avail them."  Orin another verse saying: “Today all good things have been made lawful to you: thefood of those who were given the Book is lawful to you, and your food is lawfulto them and the chaste ones from among faithful women, and chaste women ofthose who were given the Book before you, when you have given them theirdowries, in wedlock, not in license, nor taking paramours. Should anyonerenounce his faith, his work shall fail and he will be among the losers in theHereafter." It is proven in the discussion of the #Principles ofJurisprudence’, the law of prioritizing the conditional meaning compared to whatis unconditional, thus we should follow the conditional, assuming that it isexactly what has been meant by the unconditional. Therefore whenever both narrationsare authentic, thus we will only follow the implication of the narration thateven when he was not dead, it would still be applicable to grasp the limitedand conditional implication. As a result we can say that under discussion the verseof the holy Qur'an, we have mentioned only the entire justifications. However,dying in the state of blasphemy does not have any effect on Allah's will.


2.1.B.2.2.: Secondly: suppose we acceptthat the abovementioned principle of jurisprudence prioritizing a conditionalmeaning compared with an unconditional statement. Then one should say that thiscase is when all mentioned condition, is categorically meant in order toexclude certain elements. We can say that this condition (death) is a kind ofsymbol for not repenting. In other words, a person who becomes apostate andthen does not repent till he dies, he will become a qualified individual whodeserve those Mujtahids for these rules.

2.1.B.2.3.: Thirdly: if we considerthese wordings as a condition, then they will become meaningless regarding the nullificationof good deeds; while this holy verse says that an apostate will get nullificationof good deeds in this world; and to make the "nullification"applicable we must say that the real standard is apostasy and showing no signof repentance for it. If we say that we should not apply the mentioned lawagainst him till the time of his death, then the concept of nullification ofgood deeds in this world becomes something useless.


c)     Shamsal-Din Sarkhasi writes in his book al-Mabsut, in a chapter about apostates: “The main argument in proving thatan apostate should be killed is this verse: ‘Or they would embrace Islam’, Ithas been said that this verse is referring to the apostates.” [6]


He has benefited from Surah Fath verse no. 16 to argue and prove thedeath penalty for an apostate.


d)    In hisbook, Masalik al-Afham,[7]after declaring apostasy to be the worst kind of (kufr) blasphemy fromthe point of view of punishment and laws, the late Shahid Thani has indicatedtwo verses of the holy Qur'an. Seemingly, he mentioned the verses as the sourcefor his reasoning: "Theyask you concerning warfare in the holy month. Say, “It is an outrageous thingto fight in it, but to keep [people] from Allah's way, and to be unfaithful toHim, and [to keep people from] the Holy Mosque, and to expel its people from itare more outrageous with Allah. And faithlessness is graver than killing. Andthey will not cease fighting you until they turn you away from your religion,if they can. And whoever of you turns away from his religion and dies faithlessthey are the ones whose works have failed in this world and the Hereafter. Theyshall be the inmates of the Fire, and they shall remain in it [forever]", and "Shouldanyone follow a religion other than Islam, it shall never be accepted from him,and he will be among the losers in the Hereafter."And then he benefits from a tradition related to the Prophet (sawas) saying: "The blood of a Muslim ishighly respected, unless he becomes an apostate after being a believer,committing adultery after remaining chaste, or killing an innocent Muslim".

 It seems that he has deduced thedeath penalty for an apostate from the two abovementioned verses although thereis no explicit statement found in his wordings.


e)     Inaddition to applying it to the unconditional nullification of good deeds, we canalso deduct our point from the phrase of "Sedition is worst than killing",which is part of Surah Baqara verse no. 217.


There are two interpretations of "fitnah" sedition inthis verse: some people explained it as "blasphemy", whileothers explained it as apostasy. In other words, the conspiracy ofapostasy, which was being used by the kafirs against the Muslims to make them abandontheir religion and return to their previous ones, was far more dangerous asregards the death of the person (Hadharmi) for whom this verse wasrevealed. Considering that "al-fitna" sedition has beenmentioned in this verse as (Ism Masdar) a noun (as a spiteful outcome),not (Masdar) an infinitive (as malicious act), we come to knowthat apostasy is a far bigger, worse and more spiteful as compared with murder.Therefore, isn't it possible to conclude the permissibility of the deathpenalty for an apostate from this verse? A question arises here that if the lawof retaliation can be applied against a simple murder of just one person, howcan it not be applied against apostasy which is more acrimonious and dangerousthan a simple murder?

One should keep in mind that we are not about to deduce thepermissibility of killing an apostate from the mentioned verse. What we want toshow is that apostasy also has the ability of being a subject of killing. Whatif the base for the sayings of the Prophet of Allah (sawas) and the Imams(peace be upon them) is also the same verse of the holy Qur'an! One should keepin mind that according to this verse every kind of apostasy is a "fitna"sedition. Therefore, one should never think that only some kinds of apostasy are"fitna" seditious, while others are not. Hence, if apostasyhas been described as "fitna" sedition in this verse, it showsnothing but how unbearable acrimonious and how negatively despicable this actis.

f)      Inaddition to the above verses, the following verse from the holy Qur'an can alsobe used for one's reasoning:


"Indeed the requital of thosewho wage war against Allah and His Apostle, and try to cause corruption on theearth, is that they shall be slain or crucified, or have their hands and feetcut off from opposite sides or be banished from the land. That is a disgracefor them in this world, and in the Hereafter there is a great punishment forthem."[8]


Sheikh Tusi has written in his book, al-Mabsut: "Some scholars have confirmedit’s related to the apostates, as it was revealed in al-‘Urainin, as they hadentered and claimed the desire of becoming Muslims. These individual afterhaving pretended to have accepted Islam, but they fell ill and could not remainin Medina. The Prophet (sawas) ordered them to leave Medina. He (sawas) sent a camel and a cameldriver with them. After some time they regained their health. However, they turnedaway from their newly acquired religion, Islam. They also killed the cameldriver and stole his camel. After receiving the news of the death of the camelrider, the Prophet (sawas) sent twenty people after them who killed them fortheir apostasy.”[9]


In his book "al-Taj al-Jame' lil-Usul",[10]concerning the traditions of the Holy Prophet (sawas), after mentioning theabove story, he has written: the cause of revelation of this verse is the samestory and there is no dispute amongst the scholars on this matter.


g)     Accordingto some traditions, Imam Ali, the Commander of the faithful, (as) benefitedfrom the holy Qur’an (Surah Nisa, v. 137) in extracting the rule for the deathpenalty for an apostate. In "Da'aim al-Islam", Imam Sadiq (as)narrated from his forefathers (peace be upon them) who have narrated from Ali,the Commander of the faithful, (as):

Summing witness for this verse clearly shows that Imam Ali (as)benefited from it for deduction of the death penalty for the apostate in someway. It is possible that the circumstances of resorting and reasoning from thementioned verse are not clear and known to us. However, we know that he deducedthe essence of the death penalty from the verse. It is very possible that hehas benefited from "absence of divine forgiveness in this matter"which is both for this world and the world hereafter; as well as "absenceof divine guarding regarding these people" which also has aspects for thisworld as well as for the next. If someone says that the mentioned verse only saysthat the repentance of such people is not accepted, we will answer that thereis a connection between unacceptability of repentance and the death penalty;because, in jurisprudence there is nothing saying that the repentance of acriminal has been accepted, nor that action has been taken against him!


The conclusion, therefore, in the above lines, is that some peoplehave claimed that these Qur'anic verses are related to the death penalty for anapostate. On the other hand, critics of this idea have stipulated that in orderto be verifiable there should either be an explicit verse or explicit confirmedinformation, which is something absolutely contrary to the rules ofjurisprudence. It is clear for everyone that in theology the most basic discussionsare related to proving outward authoritativeness including the apparent aspectsof the holy Book of Allah and the traditions. Also, it is known by theologiansthat the application of words is one of apparent applicability. No scholarconsiders explicit verses or Hadiths necessary for the extraction of jurisprudentialrules and laws. One should not completely deny reliance on the verses of theholy Qur'an to prove the death penalty for apostates, although it is verydifficult to prove it depending solely on the verses of the holy Book of Allah.In other words, if traditions clearly point towards a rule or law, one can alsobenefit from the verses of the holy Qur'an as extra help for proving his words.


2.2. Second Point: The people whoclaim that there is contradiction between this rule and the core of the holyBook of Allah should first answer our following questions:

Firstly: how can they make such a considerableclaim? It is very difficult to claim that one is completely aware of the coreof the holy Qur'an! Basically, such a claim does not comply within the guidelinesof logical argumentation. In other words, these people have resorted tosomething which is not derivable. On the contrary, we can claim that this ruledoes not have any kind of contradiction with the core of the holy Qur'an. Wecan also say that resorting to the core or the essence of teachings is not -inany way- helpful.

Secondly: If we consider the consequences,which the holy Book of Allah has mentioned for apostasy, we will clearly come toknow that an apostate deserves very serious and severe worldly punishments. Inthe holy Qur'an, eight punishments have been mentioned for an apostate:

1.      The nullification of good deeds both in thisworld and the world hereafter;

2.      He will be considered a loser in the next worldwith no ways of escape;

3.      He will not enjoy the forgiveness of his Lord;

4.      Divine guidance will be snatched from him:"How shall Allah guide a people who have disbelieved after their faith and[after] bearing witness that the Apostle is true, and [after] manifest proofshad come to them? Allah does not guide the wrongdoing lot";

5.      He will go to hell;

6.      He will remain in hell forever;

7.      Satan will beautify ugly and wrong deeds forhim and will trap him into endless desires;

8.      The curse of Allah, the angels and all peopleis on the apostate till the Day of Resurrection: "Their requital is thatthere shall be upon them the curse of Allah, the angels, and all mankind."These consequences show that apostasy from the Qur'anic point of view is a greatsin.


Thus, after concluding such severe and serious Hereafter world’s chastisementplus some of worldly punishments, can anyone still say that these punishmentsare contradictory with the core of the holy Qur'an? Those people who alwaystalk about respecting every kind of belief and thought, how will they explainthese heavenly punishments? In other words, according to the belief of thesepeople, apostasy neither has the ability to become a case for worldlypunishment, nor does it have suitability for heavenly punishments. These peopleexplain apostasy as freedom of thought and a human right. Therefore, nothing unpleasantand hateful should be related to it. Thus, after nullification of every kind ofhateful and unpleasant aspect of apostasy, it will have neither the ability forworldly punishment, nor for heavenly ones. As a result, these people shouldalso deny the heavenly punishments for apostasy. Or, if they admit to theunpleasantness and hatefulness of apostasy, there remains no other reason for themto deny the worldly punishments which it deserves.

Therefore, we can see that there is a strong connection betweensevere heavenly punishments for apostates which has been mentioned in the holyQur'an and worldly punishments. Perhaps, the sayings of the Prophet (sawas) andthe Imams (peace be upon them) about the death penalty for an apostate are alsogenerated from this connection. In other words, they may have extracted theconnection of worldly and divine punishments from the holy Qur'an.


2.3. Third Point: one should ask thosepeople, who are clamouring about the fact that nothing has been specifically mentionedin the holy Qur'an about worldly punishments for apostasy, whether they acceptthe worldly punishments which are clearly mentioned in the holy Book of Allahabout many other things? Do you accept on face value the punishments foradultery, stealing, combatants and seditious people on the earth mentioned inthe holy Qur'an? Certainly, those who are in favour of complete freedom andhuman rights do not accept such punishments. If they say they are not againstsuch punishments, then they should explain how they can possibly accept them yetare unable to accept punishments for apostasy which is more dangerous andhateful than adultery and stealing?


2.4. Fourth Point: firstly: even if weaccept that the holy Qur'an has said nothing about worldly punishment forapostasy it does not, even then, weaken or nullify this rule, because there aremany jurisprudential problems which have not been mentioned in the holy Book ofAllah. There are thousands of rules regarding Hajj, offering prayers and payingzakat which have not been mentioned in the holy Qur'an. Secondly: we cannottake the Qur'an as something separated from the holy being of the Prophet (sawas)and the Infallible Imams (peace be upon them). We cannot understand the holyQur'an without consulting the conduct and traditions of the holy Prophet (sawas)and the Imams (peace be upon them). The holy Qur'an says: "[and sent them]with manifest proofs and scriptures. We have sent down the reminder to you sothat you may clarify for the people that which has been sent down to them, sothat they may reflect." Therefore, it is necessary that the holy Qur'anshould be interpreted and explained by the holy Prophet (sawas) and theInfallible Imams (as) for the people. Also, there is another verse in the holyQur'an saying: "The spoils that Allah gave to His Apostle from the peopleof the townships are for Allah and the Apostle, the relatives and the orphans,the needy and the traveller, so that they do not circulate among the rich amongyou. Take whatever the Apostle gives you, and relinquish whatever he forbidsyou, and be wary of Allah. Indeed Allah is severe in retribution" whichmeans that whatever is explained by the holy Prophet (sawas) as interpretationof Divine Saying [the Qur'an] must be accepted and followed by the Muslims. Therefore,if the Prophet (sawas) says in one or more Hadiths that an apostate must bekilled, then fulfilment of his order is actually acting according to theQur'an. The same is the case with the holy Imams (as) who are the"Speaking Qur'an" and the real interpreters of it. When we considerthe Hadith of Thaqalain, the mentioned recommendation becomes completelyunderstandable to us. According to this Hadith, the Qur'an is not somethingseparated from the Imams (as), neither does it have the ability of separationfrom them. Similarly, the Household of the Prophet (peace be upon them) is alsonot separated from the holy Qur'an, and does not have the ability of being so.According to the Hadith of Thaqalain, reasoning from the Qur'an withoutconcerning the Household (as) or vice versa is void and rejected.


3. Second Chapter: Death Penalty for an Apostate, and Traditions:


After having studied points of view of the holy Qur'an about the requirementof the death penalty for apostates, it seems necessary here that we should alsopresent some proofs from the traditions on the topic under discussion. Thepeople who are against the death penalty for apostates have some questionsrelated to the traditions.


3.1.: Their first question: They saythat the traditions mentioning the death penalty for apostates are very few.

3.2.: Their second question, they saythat these traditions are "khabar wahid”, i.e. single individualnarrations and since the most important reason for the authentication of asingle individual narration is what intellectuals think of it, when we consultthe intellectuals we do not find them acting upon individual narrations in mostimportant cases like the taking of a life.


3.1. Answer to the First Question:

a)     The deathpenalty for an apostate has been mentioned on five occasions in jurisprudenceand traditions: in the book of (Taharah) ritual impurity, in the book of marriage,in the book of hunting and slaughter, the book of inheritance and the book ofpunishments for an apostate. If a person briefly goes through these books, hewill find that the number of traditions discussing the mentioned problemexceeds twenty. In his book, al-Kafi,[11]the late Al-Kulaini mentioned twenty three traditions most of which are Sahih,and other jurisprudents have also benefited from them. These traditions notonly have "appropriateness of chain of narrators" but also"appropriateness of issuance" which is the base for researchers inthe case of single individual narrations. Thus, there is no doubt that thesetraditions are successive transmissions.

In a number of other cases, the grand jurisprudents have accepted atopic to be authentic only because of at least ten traditions. So how is itpossible to deny an affair with twenty three traditions? If a transmission isaccepted to be successive, then there is no need for even studying its "chainof narrators". This is something very clear and accepted forjurisprudents.

b)    Ajurisprudent cannot limit himself to consult only certain narrations forextracting or reasoning but rather he has to study all aspects of the topic. Ifwe study the topic of the death penalty for apostates, we will find a number ofrelevant aspects:


3.1.B.1.: The first group: traditionswhich clearly point towards the death penalty for apostates:


                  I.           Shaykhal-Kulayni quotes an authenticated narration from Muhammad bin Muslim who said,"I asked Imam Abu Ja`far al-Baqir (as) about the (murtad) apostate."He said, "Whoever turns away from Islam after having been a Muslim andrejects what has been revealed to Muhammad (sawas), then there is no repentancefor him; rather it is obligatory to kill him; and his wife should separate fromhim and his wealth should be distributed amongst his heirs."

               II.           The fifthHadith of the same chapter from the sound narration of Jamil bin Durraj: ‘aperson had abandoned his religion, Islam. Imam Ja'far Sadiq (as) said: "Ifhe repents then it is ok; otherwise he should be killed." This tradition alsoclearly mentions the death penalty for an apostate.

            III.           The tenthHadith of the same chapter from Imam Kadhim (as) says: He said in answer to thequestion: "How should a Muslim who, subsequently, became Christian be treated?”"He should be killed."

            IV.           Theeleventh Hadith of the same chapter says that Ammar Sabati said: I heard ImamAbu Abdullah as-Sadiq (as) saying: "A Muslim from among the Muslims whorenounces Islam and rejects the fact the prophet Muhammad (sawas) is a prophet andconsiders him as an imposter, then, verily his blood can be lawfully shed (mubah)by anyone who hears this from him."

               V.           Abdullahbin Abi Ya'fur informed Imam Sadiq (as) about a person named Bazi' whoconsiders Imam Sadiq (as) a prophet. Imam (as) replied: "If you hear himsaying such things, kill him."

            VI.           In theSunnite books, there are narrations related to the Prophet of Islam (sawas) onthe matter of apostasy. In "Kitab al-taj al-jame' lil-usul fi ahadith al-Rasool,[12]it has been narrated that the Prophet (sawas) said:


“The blood of a Muslim is highlyrespected, as long as he testifies that there’s no God, but the Almighty Allah(swt), and that I’m His Messenger. However his blood won’t be respected if hekills an innocent Muslim, or when he commits adultery while being in the statusof harmonious marriage, or he declares his apostasy,”

And then it is said: this narration has been mentioned by Bukhari,Muslim, Nisa'i, Abu Dawood and Tirmithi. According to this narration, the holyProphet (sawas) said: on three occasions killing a man is allowed one of whichis a man turning away from his religion – Islam – whereupon he has becomeapostate. He then narrated from ‘Ikramah saying that Imam Ali (as) killed agroup of Muslims who had left their religion.

Except the Sahih of Muslim, all other Sunnite books have narratedfrom Ibn Abbas who narrated that the Prophet (sawas) said:


‘Kill every that person whochanges his religion [meaning who becomes apostate].’[13]


3.1.B.2.: The Second group: there aresome traditions related to an apostate woman. According to these traditions, awoman turning from her religion must not be killed. However, such traditionsare nothing but exceptional cases, which cannot affect and weaken the necessityof the death penalty for apostate men under any condition.


3.1.B.3.: The Third group: there aresome traditions about people of greater sins saying that if they do not leavecommitting these sins, they must be killed. There is no doubt in apostasy beinga greater sin but rather one of the great greater sins. Jurists agree on thepoint that if an apostate is not killed for the first time, he must be killedon the third or fourth time. To strengthen their saying, they resort to ImamKazim’s (as) narration in which he said: "Those who commit great sins, andinsist on carrying on committing them, they should be killed on committing thesame great sin at third time ". Yes, since the rule about an adulterersays that such a person must be killed after he has been punished on twooccasions yet, after having observed this, he still does not desist from thehabit of adultery, then the same must be the case with an apostate. Jamil binDarraj has explained this topic in the fifth Hadith of this chapter. What wemean to say is that a jurist should also consider this aspect. For example, ifthere were no traditions clearly stating the necessity of the death penalty forapostates, we could, even then, rely on these types of traditions to prove the necessityof an apostate related death penalty.


3.1.B.4.: The Fourth group: these arethe traditions which say that bearing witness to the oneness of God and acceptingthe prophethood of His Prophet (sawas) causes respecting his blood, hismarriage and his inheritance will be safe. The real meaning of these traditionsis that in the case of lacking such belief, keeping blood safe becomes void. Inhis book, "Tanqih", the late researcher, Kho’ei, has written:


“There are many traditions in which thestandard for keeping blood, inheritance and marriage safe and sound is to bearwitness to the oneness of Allah and the prophethood of His Prophet (sawas).” [14]

The result of this group of narration is that if a person becomesapostate, the safety of his blood becomes void.


3.1.B.5.: The Fifth group: these aretraditions mentioning that Imam Ali (as) declared some people as apostate onseveral occasions and punished them according to their apostasy:


                                I.           Imam Sadiq(as) says that a person became Christian and hung a cross around his neck. Hewas brought in front of Imam Ali (as). The Imam (as) said to him: if you wantto marry, we will provide the means for your marriage [with a Muslim girl], ifyou want to enjoy the inheritance of a Christian and think that you will neverbe able to have any share in our, the Muslims, inheritance, we will give yousome property as inheritance; but the man did not accept any of Imam Ali’s (as)offers. The Imam (as) asked him: "have you really become aChristian?" He said: "Yes". Imam (as) said: "God isGreat!" The man said in return: "Christ is great." Seeing this,Imam Ali (as) ordered the death penalty for him. (Mustadrik al-Wasail)[15]


                             II.           Imam Sadiq(as) said: "A group came to the Commander of the faithful (as) and said:"A group of people to see the Imam Ali (as) and described Imam Ali (as) asGod, i.e. they addressed Ali (as) as God. The Imam (as) presented a very harshresponse to them and said: "You must repent for what you have justsaid." However, they did not accept Imam’s (as) order. The Imam (as) then ordereda hole to be dug and a fire put in it. Beside it, there another hole was dug. Anopen passage was made between the two holes. When the Imam (as) found theminsisting on their false belief, he put them into the second hole and lit thefire of the second hole. In this way, they were all killed. (al-Kafi).[16]One should consider that, in such cases, exaggeration is also believed to beapostasy.


                          III.           Imam Sadiq(as) said: a person from Bani Sa'liba who had become Christian was brought toImam Ali (as). Some people bore witness against him. The Commander of thefaithful (as) asked him: "Do you accept their witness?" The man said:"Yes, I do; but I want to become Muslim for the second time." ImamAli (as) said: "If you had denied their witness, no doubt I would have beheadedyou." The saying of Imam (as) means that if the man denied the witness, itwould show his second denial; and in this case the Imam (as) would be compelledto order the death penalty against him.


It seems that all these traditions belong to the Age of theCommander of the faithful (as); and the Imam (as) ordered the death penalty forapostasy on different occasions. We cannot say that these decisions werespecial cases but what we come to understand from them is that the Imam (as)wanted to extract the rule and apply it in general. There is a tradition in theSunnite books mentioning that the holy Prophet (sawas) also ordered the killingof a group of people who had become apostates. We have already mentioned thisin this essay. Refer to ‘al-taj al-jame' lil-usul al-sahah fi ahadith al-Rasul.’[17]

Isn’t it now possible to clearly understand from these narrationsthat the punishment for apostasy in Islam is death? Isn't it possible to derivethe death penalty for the apostate from narrations which state that as soon asa Muslim leaves Islam, his property must be distributed as inheritance and hiswife should observe (Iddah) waiting period of his death?

Apparently, those who deny the apostate death penalty also denythese rules. In other words, firstly, they do not accept Islam as the protectorof one's blood [life]; secondly, they deny nullification of his marriage afterbecoming apostate; thirdly, they do not believe in the distribution of hisproperties and fourthly, they think his sacrificed animals are halal.Therefore, in such a case they deny all the Islamic and jurisprudential rulesabout an apostate. It is not possible for them to only deny the requirement of theapostate death penalty for while accepting all other related rules.

According to us, with the presence of these narrations, thereremains no doubt in accepting the fact that the necessity of the death penaltyfor an apostate is one of the certain rules in Islam. We must consider thepoint that these traditions do not only belong to the time of the Commander ofthe faithful (as) or to the era of the Prophet (sawas) so that one can claimthat ordering the death penalty for an apostate was a political andgovernmental rule whose usage was restricted to their times; but rather that suchtraditions have also been narrated from the Imams (peace be upon them) afterImam Ali (as), such as Imam Mohammad Baqir (as), Imam Ja'far Sadiq (as), ImamKazim (as) and Imam Reza (as). This shows that the rule of the death penaltyfor an apostate is a continuous rule and will last till the Day of Judgment. Infact, these traditions have mentioned the rule of apostate death penalty as ageneral one.


3.2.: Answer to the Second Question:

It was said that the traditions about the death penalty for an apostateare "single individual narrations" and such traditions are not dealtas authentic in such seriously crucial and dangerous affairs;


3.2.1.: Firstly: it has now become sufficientlyclear that the traditions about the "necessity of the death penalty for anapostate" are successive transmissions on spiritual or specific bases.


3.2.2.: Secondly: if we accept them as"single individual narrations", we will answer the question sayingthat there is no difference in dangerous and non dangerous affairs inauthentication of "single individual narrations." There are a greatnumber of jurisprudents and theologians whose points of view are the same. All jurists,those who lived in the past and contemporary ones included, have acted on"single individual narrations" in jurisprudence without considering affairssuch as blood or the opposite, properties or opposite, worshiping or oppositeand politics or opposite etc. Their books on jurisprudence clearly mention thisfact. However, in theological discussions we have talked on this matter indetail, which are present on my website.[18]


3.2.3.: Thirdly: in a discussion about the"necessity of the death penalty for the apostate", Sheikh Tusi hasclearly stated that: "There is a consensus in the Islamic Ummah on thismatter." In this line, Sheikh Tusi did not mention about the consensus ofShiites and Sunnites but the Islamic Ummah. This shows the requirement of therule. According to this, the matter does not remain only a "singleindividual narration" as consensus is also added to it.


3.2.4.: Fourthly: what is the standardfor us to separate the dangerous from the non dangerous? In jurisprudence, insome problems such as khums and zakat which are related to people's propertyand on some occasions a very great amount of property is involved, jurists basetheir reasoning on "single individual narrations". Isn't it adangerous matter to fix the rate of payment of zakat and khums on such largeamounts? There is no Qur'anic verse about when one dirham should be paid aszakat and when one-twentieth of one's property must be paid as zakat; and stillwe have a strong belief in zakat to be a certain Qur'anic problem. The amount thatmust be paid as zakat has been fixed because of only one "singleindividual narration", while it is said that the indication that more thantwo million people should sacrifice animals every year in Mina is also based ona single individual narration: "No slaughtering of the sacrifice of Hajjrituals outside Mina". Therefore, jurists do not act on a trustworthy andreliable narration only because it is reliable; but, rather, they consider someother conditions related to it, as well. For example, they see how the juristsbefore their time acted on the rule. So what is wrong if important affairs arealso acted upon by relying on the conditions of single individual narrations?If so, then the narrations related to the necessity of the death penalty forapostates also benefit from the necessary conditions.


3.2.5.: Fifthly: you have heard that injurisprudence, some jurists have ordered about precaution related to blood,wives and properties; but we have already proved that a great number ofjurisprudents have not given fatwas for an obligation of precaution, but rathertheir fatwas are based on strong recommendation.[19]


3.2.6.: Sixthly: even if any of thetraditions, their aspects, any of the verses of the holy Qur'an or consensus donot directly indicate our claim, their collection leaves the jurist with nodoubts and options but gives him full contentment for giving fatwa for the necessityof the death penalty for apostates.


4. The third chapter: Death penalty for an apostate, and propagationof lawlessness:

There were some letters in which the problem of lawlessness and an encouragementof the faithful ones to break the law have been mentioned. They have said thatexecution of every kind of law, especially those dealing with the human lives,is dependent on a court of justice…


There aresome points related to this problem:


4.1.: First: if the person was taken tothe Islamic court of justice, and it has been established that he is acriminal, would the writers of the aforementioned letters accept the verdict ofthe death penalty against him? Apparently, these individuals do not accept therule itself and they will not accept it even if it has been issued by an Islamiccourt of justice!


4.2.: Second: no jurisprudent andlearned person has the right to give fatwa of the death penalty against anyother person unless the person is proved to him to be an apostate. If ImamKhomeini (may his grave be sanctified) has given fatwa of the death penalty toSalman Rushdie, it would have only been when the topic of Salman's apostasy hadbecome clear enough for him. Also, the fatwa of Grand Ayatullah Fazil Lankarani(may his grave be sanctified) against "Rafiq Taqi" was based on thecorrect information gained by the Ayatullah after Rafiq Taqi's books wereretranslated. A question arises here as to how a qualified Mujtahid cannot givesuch a fatwa after having studied the mentioned conditions? Isn't it the onlyreason for the establishment of courts of justice? Does the court make laws oronly compare and implement them? Doesn’t the threefold process, namely theinitial, reconsideration and Supreme Court exist for effecting the laws in themost correct manner?


4.3.: Third: the actual question is whatdo you mean by ‘a court of justice’? Is a court, which does not give ordersaccording to the deceitful slogans of human rights, not a court of justice? Ifyes, then you should also be doubtful about most Islamic decisions! Or does ‘courtof justice’ mean a suitable place for the comparison of authentic laws. Inother words, in a court of law which acts according to religious principles, rulesand regulations clearly a jurisprudent can perform such things in the bestpossible manner.

A jurisprudent is very well acquainted with divine laws and he knowshow to apply them in the most correct manner; and this is one of the basicneeds of jurisprudence. Judgeship is among the conducts of the Prophet (sawas),the holy Imams (peace be upon them) and the qualified Mujtahids. It is soimportant that the condition of Ijtihad has been made compulsory for it. InIslam, no one except a qualified Mujtahid can occupy the seat of judgment.


4.4.: Fourth: do they consider the ruleas propagation and increase of lawlessness or its execution? In other words, istheir criticism and complaint against the rule itself or the way it is carriedout? Is the necessity of the death penalty not a divine law? If, despiteobserving a conflict between the current human rights and the divine laws turnsout to be a hurdle in the way of implementing His laws, is a person, believingin the secular laws, not considered as one breaking divine rules? Is it not theworst method of breaking the greatest and most important laws; and is it notthe worst manner of causing a lot of fuss? Does it look better if we encouragepeople to observe divine rules or if we encourage them to observe rules accordingto the international human rights treaty?! Can an international treaty of humanrights, which even provides the human being with freedom in the field ofhomosexuality, guarantee the prosperity of human beings?! The critics should eitheraccept Islam or be in favour of the international human rights treaty; becauseit is impossible to adopt both approaches side by side! If they say that weshould interpret Islam according to today's needs and demands, we will say inreturn that this would also be a kind of negation and nullification of Islam. Itis totally amazing that those people, exceedingly worried about any internationalhuman rights treaties being broken, instead of failing to become infuriated withthose vilifying their religion by the misrepresentation of words and concepts,leap to defend the enemies of their religion – Islam.

In Nehjul Balagha, sermon no. 106: the Commander of the faithful,Ali bin Abi Talib (as), explained that the main causes of the decline of the IslamicUmmah was deviation of the companions of the Prophet (sawas) and those who hadbeen away from the right path: "You now see pledges to Allah being brokenbut do not feel enraged by this, although you fret and frown with regards tothe breaking of the traditions of your forefathers. Allah's matters have beencoming to you, and going from and returning to you; but you have opened up yourplace to wrong-doers and thrown your responsibilities towards them and haveplaced Allah's affairs in their hands. They act in doubt and tread on the pathof gratification of desire."


4.5.: Fifth: there are clear rules andregulations for carrying out the laws and punishments in Islam. There are even rulesand regulations about the person qualified to mete out the punishments of theselaws. However, one should not neglect the point that, sometimes, circumstances requireeveryone to become implementers of the laws. In other words, there are somecases in which all people must take part and play their role in making a lawexecutable. Such cases include apostasy and "Saab al-Nabi"offending the Prophet, which means to legally defend true Islam. Islam, whichis based on reason and logic, does not allow a person to negate it after it hasmade its reality clear to him; nor does it allow the person to insult itsholiness and holy persons such as the Prophet (sawas).

This is not a matter designed for the purpose of attracting otherstowards Islam, for us to define it as a hurdle in the way of others' Islamicprogress; rather it is a fortress. It is a way of keeping Muslims safe fromtheir own harm. It is a way of stopping a Muslim from abruptly leaving hisreligion, and compels him to contemplate, with an ample time window, the activeconsequences of his intentions. On the other hand, during Islamic history,pagans and non-Muslims have constantly used the issue of apostasy as a tool forharming Muslims. However, Allah the Exalted has permanently closed this way againstthem.


4.6.: Sixth: it is said that issuing afatwa for the death sentence for an apostate and a person involved in "Saabal-Nabi" offending Islam, Shi’ah Islam and jurisprudence mutating it intoviolence, terror and oppression… Yes, if a person wants to introduce Islam inthis way without mentioning its aspects and qualities, the previously mentionedlines would appear to be applicable. In other words, if someone introducesIslam by mentioning only some of its widely publicised ‘controversial’ aspects whileobscuring its less dramatic elements then it would seem to be as describedabove. However, what if people are told that Islam is dominated by logic andrationality? The questions asked by people, especially by Muslims, are answeredon the basis of the points of view of the people of the Household of theProphet (as). These are the people sent by Allah from whom one can find all thenecessary answers to any questions. However, if he does not do so and shows hisenmity towards these people negating them and making others aware of hisenmity, some punishments await him, too.

In fact, apostasy is a religious disorder. Why do people,introducing the subject of the rule of death penalty for apostates, neglectthis fact? The rule of the death penalty for an apostate and "Saabal-Nabi" has existed from the very first day of Islam and has neverbeen a cause for any bad reputation for Islam. However, as soon as the colonialpowers started claiming human rights, they started bellowing loud complaintsabout this rule, too. The result of these complaints along with their falsepropagation appeared in the form of an announcement of conflict between thelaws of Islam and freedom, reason and human dignity.

Why shouldn’t we –Muslims- think more profound, and avoid being perpetuallydeceived by them? Sometimes their pretext is that Islamic laws have no suitabilitywith rationality; sometimes, they claim Islam to be against freedom; on someoccasions, they talk about human dignity!

It is as clear as daylight that we should not use just a small partof any matter or affair as the standard for decision-making about it; we shouldkeep every aspect of the matter in mind and then make a suitable decision aboutit. Why is it that you respect negation and enmity from a person, formerly fullyaware of religion and for whom the signs of truth and reality had been broughtinto being, yet you dislike and think it unfair if a punishment is mentioned regardingsuch a person? Do you have any respect for someone denying the presence of thesun during a bright and shining day? If not, then why are you consideringapostasy the same as belief? Without any doubt, apostasy is a kind ofundeniable negation of reality.

It is said that a person must have strong reasoning and good logicwhile talking about different thoughts and beliefs. This is correct. However,there arises the question that if a person denies this saying, what would yourreaction be to him? If a person disproves manifest and clearly accepted mattersand if its denial becomes a peril to the general public, what decision willone's mind make against him? An apostate is a sick individual whose diseasealso transmits to other people as well as to the religion. Therefore, theremust be some punishments for such an infected and infecting person.

Some people criticize the verse of the holy Qur'an which says: "Inviteto the way of your Lord with wisdom and good advice and dispute with them in amanner that is best. Indeed your Lord knows best those who stray from His way,and He knows best those who are guided." They ask: does this verse referto "apostates", too? What is the relation of this verse with theverses about apostasy? Haven't they noticed that in the verses about apostasy,Allah the Exalted has said that an apostate is a person who will never enjoyAllah's guidance and remission? Now, can a person think that this verse is relatedto apostates? Obviously this verse is about someone who has not been on theright path and is yet to be guided. However, a person who, after being on theright path – the path of Allah – wants to deviate from it, because of hisenmity and desire, does not deserve to be mentioned as one of the addressees ofthis verse. How is it possible to mention a murderer in the context of thisverse and say that the murderer must be dealt with in one of the three manners!I don't think any wise person would consider it right to invite someone who hasbeen involved in numerous murder cases with wisdom, good advice and dispute!

We have already said that the rule of apostasy is not for attractingnon-Muslims to Islam, but is related to Muslims only; and the reason behind itis to avoid infidels from influencing and conspiring against the Muslims.Nevertheless, to introduce real Islam, we first have to mention its compliance inall fields and aspects such as the propagation of intellect, knowledge, ethicsand its interference in social and political affairs. These are the ways ofintroducing Islam. Why don't you explain that there is no rule about a realinfidel: a person who has been infidel from the very beginning and remains aninfidel till the very last moment of his life?


-         5. Thefourth chapter: Is the death penalty for an apostate the cause of debility andweakness of religion?



It has been said that such fatwas are the cause of weakness of Islam.The question is what are the standards for weakness? Here are four possibleconditions which should all be studied separately:


a)     If wesay that an action is a standard for weakness, it is an idea which has neverbeen accepted by intellectuals and scholars in any era and under any condition;intellectuals consider the notion highly unpleasant. In the case of such an assumption,firstly, learned people would never welcome a person's offence to a faith andbelief of one billion people throughout the world. They would consider such aperson deserving of punishment. The level of his punishment relies on the levelof his insult towards the Muslims’ beliefs. However, if his insult becomes acause of deviation or a tool in the hands of the enemies of Islam and if hewants to weaken the principles of the religion, it becomes necessary to punishhim more severely.

Secondly: let us suppose that intellectuals and the intelligentsiain general consider neither apostate nor someone involved in "Saabal-Nabi" deserving of any kind of punishment; we can still say that thelegislator will proscribe them. And a legislator considers a person acceptingIslam, only to subsequently leave it, much more deserving of severe punishment;whereas he categorically does not consider an infidel to be punished for hisinfidelity in this world.

The general rule saying that a legislator can proscribe theintellectuals and learned men in some cases is well known by every personhaving some knowledge about jurisprudence and theology and no one opposes it.It is true that a legislator cannot proscribe the order issued by intellect.This is one of differentiating matters between intellect and the intellectualswhich has been discussed in detail in theological debates.

b)    Anaction is considered to be the standard of weakness when it is contrary to aperson's nature and which every person hates. In this case, we will say that noman's nature will oppose the punishment of an apostate and a person involved in"Saab al-Nabi". And this is for sure.

c)     Thestandard for weakness is an action or word which does not tally with theinclinations of non-religious people. As a result of this assumption, we willhave to consider most Islamic laws regarding worship, rewards, transactions,politics and even some ethical matters, also, weak. In this case, we shouldeven consider the promotion of good and prevention of evil as interference inothers' business and list them as reasons for weakness, too. Moreover, weshould also consider martyrdom and jihad, likewise, as causes of weakness.

d)    Thestandard for weakness is an action without any rational or verbaljustification. This assumption seems to convey the real meaning ofweakness.  We have already made it clear,in our discussion, that the rule of the death penalty against an apostate hasboth rational as well as verbal justifications. From the rational point ofview, negating the Creator and Owner of the world to Whom the life of everyperson belongs is a topic for worldly punishment. The intellect understandsthat Allah the Exalted can make this rule for human beings who, after all, areHis creatures and finds nothing wrong with this. In other words, the realquestion of our discussion is whether Allah, the Exalted, can make such rules. Someof the people who do not believe in the rule of the death penalty for apostatesare also interested in this point; although if we accept that in rational laws,the standards are for the beauty of justice and the ugliness of oppression –which has been mentioned in some theological discussions by Imam Khomeini (mayhis grave be sanctified) – then the rationale does not find any kind ofugliness and oppression in the law of the death penalty against apostates or anyoneinvolved in "Saab al-Nabi"; the rationale accepts that, asAllah the Exalted is the Creator of human beings and has the right to make suchrules, it is never considered as oppression. Such an order given by Allah isbelieved to be a perfect one which reason and intellect will try to understandand prove in the most correct manner. Also, it will consider an apostatedeserving of punishments; while in terms of verbal reasoning, the type of ruleis expressed by the legislator.


A very important point about weakness, which has been neglected, isthat it is one of the secondary titles such as fault, compulsion, loss,dissimulation etc. It is obvious that such titles are not authentic andreliable in all cases. For example, in the case of dissimulation, if blood isdiscussed then it no longer remains authentic. In the matter of weakness, thistitle does not have suitability in some cases; for example, the cases in whichsevere treatment against infidels is discussed or in the cases in which killingpagans is mentioned. None of the jurists ever pronounce that if killing pagansbecomes the reasons of weakness of the religion, it is no longer obligatory.This is a matter which is always agreed upon by those who have sufficientknowledge of jurisprudence. Therefore, the same is the case with an apostate.The example of stoning can be given. If stoning becomes the reason for weaknessof religion, it can be postponed. However, the real message at its core relatedto severe dealing with pagans, from which they refrain and which they dislikeintensely, is not possible to be bound in this title.


6. The fifth chapter: Is the presenceof an Infallible (as) necessary for execution of limits ordained by Allah?


They have said that many jurisprudents believe that the presence ofthe Prophet (sawas) or any Infallible Imam (as) is a condition for carrying outthe limits ordained by Allah!!!

According to our point of view, this is not the case the reality beingthe opposite. Some famous ancestors like Sheikh Mufid[20],Sallar[21],Abu Salah Halabi[22],Ibn Zuhra[23],Ibn Sa'eed[24],Sheikh Tusi clearly in the book of "Mabsut" and with somejustifications in the book of "Nihayah"[25],Allama Hilli clearly in (Tahrir)[26]and (al-Qawaaid)[27]and (al-Irshad)[28] and(Tabsirah)[29]and (Mukhtalif)[30],Shahid Awwal in “Durus”[31],Muhaqqiq Thani on margins of "Sharaye'", Shahid Thani in"masalik al-afham" and Fazil Miqdad in "al-Tanqihal-Ra’ie’a'" believe in its legality in the time of occultation. Ofcourse some of Ibn Idris' expressions in "al-sara'ir" are usedshowing his disagreement. Some jurists like al-Saimari in "ghayatal-maram" and ibn Fahd in "al-muhazzib al-bari’e’a"have also used this disagreement. But the way the late Sayyid Mohammad BaqirShafati has mentioned in his epistle (iqamat al-hudud fi zaman al-ghaybah)[32],the last sentence of the book "al-sara'ir" show that Ibn Idriswas also among those in the favour of the topic like other ancestors. Accordingto him, from the last few lines of the book, one can conclude not only thepermissibility of the matter, but also his emphasize on this matter can beunderstood. Now, the question arises concerning what bases and proofs have theyclaimed that many jurisprudents think that the presence of the Prophet (sawas)or any Infallible Imam (as) is a condition for the execution of the limitsordained by Allah? Muhaqqiq Hilli in sharaye' and mukhtasar is also among thosein favour of the topic not against it. The late Muhaqqiq Khoei (ra) andMuhaqqiq Khwansari – Sayyid Ahmed – (ra) have also mentioned Muhaqqiq Hilli andIbn Idris saying they have espoused the same opinion regarding the topic.

Therefore, who are the jurists that are believed to think that thepresence of the Prophet (sawas) or any Infallible Imam (as) is a condition for theimplementation of limits ordained by Allah?

Shaikh M. Hassan al-Najafi (Sahib Jawahir), whose bookoccupies a central position in contemporary Shi’ah jurisprudence, has writtenin al-Jawahir:


“I have never observed anyone whodoes not approve this jurisprudential opinion, aside from what has apparentlybeen narrated from Ibn Zuhrah and Ibn Idriss, but we could not approve it, orrather it should be said that what has been approved that they don’t believe inwhat has been narrated from them.”[33] 


-         7. Thesixth chapter: Does the death penalty for an apostate have suitability with thequality of the last Prophet (sawas) being a blessing of Allah towards the wholeworld?

It is said that such fatwas are not in harmony with the characteristicsof the Prophet (sawas) being a Mercy of Allah for the all mankind.


7.1.: Firstly: Such sayings do not matchwith jurisprudence and jurisprudential reasoning. This is something more of thenature of a slogan. This is rather like saying that if Allah is the mostMerciful of the merciful, then why did He create hell and why does He punishpeople? Moreover, in this case, we should also negate every Divine punishmentboth during the time of presence as well as at the time of occultation.


7.2.: Secondly: According to historicalaccounts, some people were pronounced apostates in the time of the holy Prophet(sawas)[34].Now, we have some serious questions that ought to be answered:

-         How willthey justify this and how will they compare it with the compassionate nature ofthe holy Prophet (sawas)?

-         How wouldthey compare those historical records with the characteristics of the Prophet(sawas) who is, of course, a symbol of Divine Mercy both for this world and theworld hereafter?

-         How willthey interpret the holy verse saying: "Muhammad, the Apostle of Allah, andthose who are with him are hard against the faithless and merciful amongstthemselves. You see them bowing and prostrating [in worship], seeking Allah'sgrace and [His] pleasure. Their mark is [visible] on their faces, from theeffect of prostration. Such is their description in the Torah and theirdescription in the Evangel. Like a tillage that sends out its shoots and buildsthem up and they grow stout and settle on their stalks, impressing those whosowed the seeds, so that He may enrage the faithless by them. Allah haspromised those of them who have faith and do righteous deeds forgiveness and agreat reward."[35]Do they consider an apostate from amongst the Muslims and faithful persons evenafter he has committed apostasy?


Of course not!Isn't an apostate more mean and inferior to an infidel from the point of viewof the holy Qur'an?


7.3.: Thirdly: killing an apostatebrings peace and blessings to the Muslim society. Conversely, taking no actionagainst such a person can cause great loss to the Islamic society. Why havethey related the word "blessing" only to a specific type of personand have neglected the others and even the religion in this regard? In otherwords, they have not correctly interpreted the words "Prophet ofblessing"; he is blessing to all human beings collectively, notindividually.


8. Theseventh Chapter: Answering various doubts.


Here we aregoing to discuss a couple of points:


  • 8.1.: First: the rule of the apostate death penalty is not restricted to Islam, but is found in other religions throughout the world. This is what we understand from the holy verse saying:


"Certainly it has been revealed to youand to those [who have been] before you: “If you ascribe a partner to Allahyour works shall fail and you shall surely be among the losers."[36]


A similarimplication can be derived from the 54th verse of Surah Baqarah.According to the holy Qur'an, the punishment for apostasy among Jews was death.Therefore, such punishments about apostasy are not solely applicable to Islambut generally exist in other religions, like Christianity and Judaism; if aperson turned out to become apostate, he had to face a punishment which was noneother than the death penalty. (Refer to Old Testament, Journey of TorahTwofold, and chapter no. 13; New Testament, A letter to the Hebrew Christians,paragraph no. 10, lines 26 to 32)


  • 8.2.: Second: according to the studied reasons, an apostate is not punished if he conceals his apostasy in his heart and does not let anyone else become aware about it. However, if he makes it publicly known, this is when any punishment is pronounced against him.


  • 8.3.: Third: What we understand from the verses of the holy Qur'an is that the death penalty is pronounced against a person accused for apostasy only when the person is fully aware about Islam yet still negates it. Therefore, those who have doubts about religion or deny it, having been influenced by wrong propagations encouraged by others, are free of this ruling. However, some jurisprudents have serious doubts in this regard which need to be studied in detail at its appropriate place. The late grand Ayatollah Lankarani (ra) has answered a question saying:


“Young boys whohave just entered the age of puberty and become doubtful about Islam cannot beaccused of apostasy, but rather they should be given some time.”


  • 8.4.: Fourth: Does the repentance of an apostate play any role in the removal of his worldly punishment or not? This is a very detailed debate which has been discussed in jurisprudential and interpretational books. In this essay, we have discussed only about a person who has become apostate and, not repenting for it, has become the rightful recipient for the death penalty.


  • 8.5.: Fifth: From the jurisprudential point of view, the application of the rule of the death penalty for an apostate does not need to be ordered by a learned scholar every time. If a Muslim meets an apostate, he is religiously allowed to apply the law without consulting any jurisprudent. In a narration narrated by Ammar Sabati, we read: "He, who hears words based on apostasy from another person, has the right to apply the law." However, it is better if he consults a qualified Mujtahid in this regard.


  • 8.6.: Sixth: One should ponder on the difference between an apostate and an infidel who has not yet become Muslim and why there is no punishment for an infidel continuing his infidelity. The secret of this rule is that when a person becomes Muslim and, after accepting Islam he denies it, it means that he has challenged Islam and wants to fight against it. In such a situation, naturally, he must be treated strongly. It is contrary to the case of an infidel who continues his infidelity.


  • 8.7.: Seventh:


8.7.1.: Doubt: To make the necessity of the death penalty forapostasy doubtful, somebody has said: there is disagreement among theintellectuals and learned people on the definition of "the axiomaticwithin religious teachings"..etc!!!


8.7.1.: We answer this doubt in the following:

A: "An axiomatic within religiousteachings" is unanimously acceptable by both Shi’ah and Sunnies, thereforeit does not need any reasoning.

B: suppose there is a controversy on themeaning or definition of "necessary for religion", even then we findthat in the mentioned traditions two points about apostasy are clearly mentioned:


1.     LeavingIslam and denying the prophethood of Mohammad (sawas);

2.     Denyingthe Day of Resurrection.


There are some narrations relating that a former Muslim, denying thereality of the Day of Judgment was brought before Imam Ali (as); the Imampronounced the death sentence over him.

Finally, denial of the prophethood and the Day of Judgment has beenmentioned as reason for apostasy. Critics of the death penalty should at leastbe able to accept such a rule against an apostate in these two cases. In otherwords, the word "necessary" does not mean anything by itself and isonly used for reaching the demanded point. If the point is achieved from themeans of traditions and narrations, there remain no doubts in its applicability.


  • 8.8.: Eighth: Analyzing some of the doubts, it seems they want to criticize the current method of the Hawzahs implying that new methods must be introduced in jurisprudence according to anthropological, cosmological and hermeneutic bases. Whether commenting that this is correct or not, another discussion must take place. What we have chosen as the foundation for our discussion in this essay is on the basis of a thousand years practice of the Ijtihadi approach, which is widely adopted by Shi’ah seminaries. According to this method, there is no doubt about the capital punishment for an apostate. This is considered a Divine and everlasting ruling. It is not a purely political one, although some of its aspects may have a political dimension. The methodology presented by some people requires most religious rules to be changed, which is impossible because by doing so we will be compelled to follow manmade rules. In other words, in this case, the works of the Household and the holy Imams (as) would disappear forever.


  • 8.9.: Ninth: finally we wish to mention the scenario of a qualified learned Mujtahid considering it better to postpone or not to execute the law of apostate death penalty under certain conditions; or in some cases when this law is needed to apply to more than one apostate. Of course, if the law is applied for the first one, the question of necessity of applying it to more than one person is also removed – can a Mujtahid order that it not be applied? We read in some traditions about the carrying out of laws that the Commander of the faithful Ali (as) said: "If a punishment is certain to be announced about an affair, even I cannot postpone it." However, this discussion needs more time and precision. I hereby announce that "the pure Imams' (as) jurisprudential centre" – which is a professional centre for jurisprudential problems – is ready for discussion about this matter. Therefore, people thinking or those researching about religion, who want to discuss the topic without political controversy and Western inclinations, can benefit from this medium.


The above is an effort to present details and demonstrativearguments behind the subject of capital punishment for an apostate. Certainly, discussingthis topic in more detail requires more time. May Allah bless every person withunderstanding the reality and practice of religion, Inshallah.


Almighty’s peace be upon those who follows the Divine guidance.

Qum/Iran, 9.1.1433 AH

Muhammad Jawad Fadhil Lankarani

[1] Alussi, Ruh al-Ma'ani, vol. 1, pp. 260

[2] See al-Dur al-Manthur

[3] Fakhr Razi, Ruh al-Ma’ani, vol.6, pp. 40,first edition, Egypt

[4] Al-Khoe’i, al-Tanqih vol. 3, pp. 84

[5] Mirza Abdullah, Kanz al-daqaa’iq, vol. 1,pp. 516, Jami'atul Mudarrisin publ. (Arabic version)

[6] al-Mabsut, tenth part, p. 98, Daral-Ma'arifa, Beirut

[7] Masalik al-Afham,vol. 15, pp. 22

[8] See the holy Qur’an, Chapter al-Ma’ida,verse no. 33

[9] al-Mabsut, kitab qata' al-tariq,vol. 2, p. 121 from al-hudud from the encyclopaedia (silsilat al-yanabe'al-faqih)

[10] "al-Taj al-Jame' lil-Usul", vol.3, p. 19

[11] al-Kafi, vol. 7, pp. 256

[12] Kitab al-tajal-jame' lil-usul fi ahadith al-Rasool, vol. 3, pp. 17-18

[13] Mujtama' al-zawa'id Hethamai, vol. 6, pp.261) See ‘Mujtama' al-zawa'id’.

[14] "Tanqih", vol. 3, pp. 84

[15] Mustadrik al-Wasail, vol. 18, pp. 163

[16] al-Kafi, vol. 7, pp. 256, Hadith no. 8

[17] al-taj al-jame' lil-usul al-sahah fiahadith al-Rasool, vol. 3, pp. 17 and 18

[18] See our Lectures on theology – educationalyear 87 – 88, lesson, 77, dated: 16 / 1 / 1387

[19] Refer to my book "talqih sana'i".The author is here referring to his book: ‘artificial insemination’, which isunder translation to English by the editor of this text.

[20] al-Mughni, pp. 810

[21] al-Marasim, pp.260

[22] al-Kafi, pp. 421

[23] ghaniyyat al-nazoo', pp. 436

[24] al-Jame' lil-sharaye', 548

[25] al-nihayah, pp. 301

[26] Al-Tahrir, vol. 2, pp. 242

[27] Al-Qawaa’id, vol. 1, pp. 525

[28] Al-Irshad, vol. 1, pp. 352

[29] Al-Tabsirah, pp. 90

[30] al-Mukhtalif, vol. 4, pp. 478

[31] See al-Durus, vol. 2, pp. 47

[32] See p. 144 in the abovementioned epistle.

[33] See al-Jawahir, vol. 21, pp. 394

[34] Please see the book ‘al-taj al-Jame'lil-Usul fi ahadith al-Rasool (sawas)’, vol. 3, pp. 18 -19; and some otherhistorical sources that confirm the same fact.

[35] Holy Qur’an, C. 48: V. 29

[36] Holy Qur’an, C. 39: V. 65

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