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

21 May 2024



Summary :
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)
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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)


For some time now, I have been receiving letters regarding the fatwa of Imam of Khomeini (ra) concerning Salman Rushdie's apostasy, wherein he declares him to merit the death sentence; other letters relate to the fatwa of the Shiites’ religious authority, his eminence, Grand Ayatollah Shaikh Muhammad Fadhil Lankarani (ra) for the necessity of executing "Rafiq Taqi" who was 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 points and legal difficulties concerning the fatwa death penalty for apostates. However, he failed to state anything new whereas I had been expecting him to originate some 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 queries as possible. It is my hope that any individual with even the slightest religious 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 pleasure from seeing another Muslim go astray nor is he delighted at the cessation of any human life. No Muslim can be happy at the demise of another person; what pleases a devout Muslim is the implementation of Divine orders resulting in obedience to God’s holy commands. One of the clear important aims of the golden guidelines of the Infallibles (as) – especially of Imam Hussain (as) – is establishing Almighty Allah’s (swt) laws and orders. This has been spoken of as an emphasized affair which is followed by countless worldly and spiritual blessings.

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

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


Before starting to extensively answer the questions posed in the letters, I would like to make clear that the "death penalty for an apostate" is a religious law which no one from amongst the jurisprudents, ancient or 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 arguments on this matter. They cannot be counted as more than the number of fingers on one hand. Hence, comparing them to the enormous number of jurisprudents and recent scholars is both futile and pointless. This order, after the explanations we are about to give, is defined as "an axiomatic within religious teachings". The jurisprudents and experts within jurisprudence are fully aware that Ijtihad is not applicable on matters characterized as "axiomatic within religious teachings".

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


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


-          The first chapter: Death penalty for an apostate, and the holy Qur'an;

-          The second chapter: Death penalty for an apostate, and traditions;

-          The third chapter: Death penalty for an apostate, and propagation of lawlessness;

-          The fourth chapter: Is the death penalty for an apostate the cause of debility and weakness of religion?

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

-          The sixth chapter: Does the death penalty for an apostate have suitability with the quality of the last Prophet (sawas) being a blessing of Allah towards the whole world?

-          The seventh chapter: Answering various doubts.


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

Some people believe that the rule and fatwa concerning the death penalty for an apostate does not have any Qur'anic support. In addition, they say that 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 an introduction, we should admit that it is quite correct that there is no verse clearly mentioning the necessity of the death penalty specifically for an apostate; depending solely on the holy Book of Allah and neglecting all other sources, such as traditions, consensus and what is considered axiomatic within religious teachings, we would hardly be able to say much about this matter or prove it. However, we should consider the following points:


2.1. First Point: Has no jurisprudent or interpreter of the holy Book ever based his reasoning on the holy Book regarding 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 ever based his reasoning regarding the death penalty for an apostate on the holy Book of Allah. This argument shows the lack of consideration of these opponents. It also exposes the lack of knowledge and information that some of them have about the holy Qur'an. Moreover, it manifests the fundamental weaknesses of their approach amongst other groups. To clearly understand the mentioned problem one must say:


a)      We can derive from the 54th verse of Surah Baqarah that an apostate must be killed:


"And when you said, "And [recall] when Moses said to his people, ‘O my people! You have indeed wronged yourselves by taking up the calf [for worship]. Now turn penitently to your Maker, and slay [the guilty among] your folks. That will be better for you with your Maker.’ Then He turned to you clemently. Indeed He is the All-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 Bani Israel started worshiping a speaking calf of Samiri, abandoning their belief in monotheism. When the Prophet Musa (as) told them: You have been cruel to yourselves by performing this deviation for which you must repent and kill each other, he did not mean that they should kill their sensual desires; he meant them to kill themselves in real terms, letting death take their souls. It is clear that the issue of the death penalty for an apostate has been mentioned by Allah the Elevated the High; the reason for which was the apostasy of the people of Israel after having seen so many divine miracles and signs.


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


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


2.1.A. Secondly: while considering applying the presumption of continuity of certain rules, which existed in previous religions, this rule can also be presumed continued up till the religion of Islam, if we neglect the issue of annulment and abrogation. Yes, the one who does not believe in the application of this principle should depend only on the first 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 absolute repentance of the apostate in the religion of Musa (as).

It has been narrated from Ali (as) about the above mentioned verse that 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 that some of them should even kill their own brother, father or son. However, the divine order forbade them and told them to stop doing all this.[2]

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


b)     Fakhr Razi, in his extensive interpretation, says about the 217th verse of the Holy Qur'an:


"They ask you concerning warfare 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 [to keep people from] the Holy Mosque, and to expel its people from it are more outrageous with Allah. And faithlessness is graver than killing. And they 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 faithless they are the ones whose works have failed in this world and the Hereafter. They shall 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 it is not possible to get him, however, a battle should be set forth against him so that one will be victorious against him. The faithful must not help him. His wife will be separated from him, even before having been divorced. Moreover, he will receive nothing from the Muslims as inheritance.[3]


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

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


“We have so many traditions which are examples in Islam; protection of blood, inheritance, the permissibility of marrying, and bearing witness to the oneness of God and the prophecy of His Prophet (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 inconditionality of 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 person says that nullification of good deeds only means nullification of actions from the point of heavenly reward and brings no accompanying worldly punishment.


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

In other words, by saying nullification of good deeds, one does not mean to say that the person's good and qualified deeds for reward are nullified so that one can say that "nullification" means inapplicability of heavenly reward for actions; but rather that "nullification" means that the person has performed no good actions, he has borne no witnesses and what has been the reason of his respect till now has also been nullified from that very moment; with the removal of which, he no longer deserves to be respected. This disqualification from being respected is itself a reason for his punishment in this world even if we accept that this holy verse and the implication of nullification of good deeds in this world has nothing to do with executing the apostate, and we just consider the aspect of worldly punishment as comparative or necessary. For those opposing the necessity of the apostate death penalty, by implication that the holy Qur'an has no verse stating any worldly punishment for an apostate, nor clearly mentioning this affair, this is a 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 abovementioned verse of the Holy Qur'an, which is followed by worldly punishment (i.e. nullification of good deeds both in this world and the world hereafter). There are traditions mentioning the nullification of good deeds against some irreligious activities like drinking wine, adultery and other prohibited deeds. However, nullification of good deeds both in this world and the world hereafter has only been mentioned with regard to apostasy which is followed by the consequences which we have already mentioned.


2.1.B.2: The second question is that, in this verse, the word "death" has been mentioned; according to which, it apparently means that nullification of good deeds both in this world and the next turns out to be real only when a person becomes apostate and his apostasy remains till the time of his death and only when he dies in a state of blasphemy. Therefore, we cannot deduct from this holy verse that his deeds are void 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 as the reason for nullification of good deeds without making a death condition; such as: "That is Allah's guidance: with it He guides whomever He wishes of His servants. But were they to ascribe any partners [to Allah], what they used to do would not avail them."  Or in another verse saying: “Today all good things have been made lawful to you: the food of those who were given the Book is lawful to you, and your food is lawful to them and the chaste ones from among faithful women, and chaste women of those who were given the Book before you, when you have given them their dowries, in wedlock, not in license, nor taking paramours. Should anyone renounce his faith, his work shall fail and he will be among the losers in the Hereafter." It is proven in the discussion of the #Principles of Jurisprudence’, the law of prioritizing the conditional meaning compared to what is unconditional, thus we should follow the conditional, assuming that it is exactly what has been meant by the unconditional. Therefore whenever both narrations are authentic, thus we will only follow the implication of the narration that even when he was not dead, it would still be applicable to grasp the limited and conditional implication. As a result we can say that under discussion the verse of 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 accept that the abovementioned principle of jurisprudence prioritizing a conditional meaning compared with an unconditional statement. Then one should say that this case is when all mentioned condition, is categorically meant in order to exclude certain elements. We can say that this condition (death) is a kind of symbol for not repenting. In other words, a person who becomes apostate and then does not repent till he dies, he will become a qualified individual who deserve those Mujtahids for these rules.

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


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


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


d)     In his book, Masalik al-Afham,[7] after declaring apostasy to be the worst kind of (kufr) blasphemy from the point of view of punishment and laws, the late Shahid Thani has indicated two verses of the holy Qur'an. Seemingly, he mentioned the verses as the source for his reasoning: "They ask you concerning warfare 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 [to keep people from] the Holy Mosque, and to expel its people from it are more outrageous with Allah. And faithlessness is graver than killing. And they 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 faithless they are the ones whose works have failed in this world and the Hereafter. They shall be the inmates of the Fire, and they shall remain in it [forever]", and "Should anyone 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 is highly 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 the death penalty for an apostate from the two abovementioned verses although there is no explicit statement found in his wordings.


e)      In addition to applying it to the unconditional nullification of good deeds, we can also 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 in this verse: some people explained it as "blasphemy", while others explained it as apostasy. In other words, the conspiracy of apostasy, which was being used by the kafirs against the Muslims to make them abandon their religion and return to their previous ones, was far more dangerous as regards the death of the person (Hadharmi) for whom this verse was revealed. Considering that "al-fitna" sedition has been mentioned in this verse as (Ism Masdar) a noun (as a spiteful outcome), not (Masdar) an infinitive (as malicious act), we come to know that apostasy is a far bigger, worse and more spiteful as compared with murder. Therefore, isn't it possible to conclude the permissibility of the death penalty for an apostate from this verse? A question arises here that if the law of retaliation can be applied against a simple murder of just one person, how can it not be applied against apostasy which is more acrimonious and dangerous than a simple murder?

One should keep in mind that we are not about to deduce the permissibility of killing an apostate from the mentioned verse. What we want to show is that apostasy also has the ability of being a subject of killing. What if 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 keep in 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 apostasy has been described as "fitna" sedition in this verse, it shows nothing but how unbearable acrimonious and how negatively despicable this act is.

f)       In addition to the above verses, the following verse from the holy Qur'an can also be used for one's reasoning:


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


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


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


g)      According to some traditions, Imam Ali, the Commander of the faithful, (as) benefited from the holy Qur’an (Surah Nisa, v. 137) in extracting the rule for the death penalty 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 some way. It is possible that the circumstances of resorting and reasoning from the mentioned verse are not clear and known to us. However, we know that he deduced the essence of the death penalty from the verse. It is very possible that he has benefited from "absence of divine forgiveness in this matter" which is both for this world and the world hereafter; as well as "absence of divine guarding regarding these people" which also has aspects for this world as well as for the next. If someone says that the mentioned verse only says that the repentance of such people is not accepted, we will answer that there is a connection between unacceptability of repentance and the death penalty; because, in jurisprudence there is nothing saying that the repentance of a criminal has been accepted, nor that action has been taken against him!


The conclusion, therefore, in the above lines, is that some people have claimed that these Qur'anic verses are related to the death penalty for an apostate. On the other hand, critics of this idea have stipulated that in order to be verifiable there should either be an explicit verse or explicit confirmed information, which is something absolutely contrary to the rules of jurisprudence. It is clear for everyone that in theology the most basic discussions are related to proving outward authoritativeness including the apparent aspects of the holy Book of Allah and the traditions. Also, it is known by theologians that the application of words is one of apparent applicability. No scholar considers explicit verses or Hadiths necessary for the extraction of jurisprudential rules and laws. One should not completely deny reliance on the verses of the holy Qur'an to prove the death penalty for apostates, although it is very difficult 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 also benefit from the verses of the holy Qur'an as extra help for proving his words.


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

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

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

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

2.      He will be considered a loser in the next world with 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 proofs had 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 for him and will trap him into endless desires;

8.      The curse of Allah, the angels and all people is on the apostate till the Day of Resurrection: "Their requital is that there 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 great sin.


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

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


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


2.4. Fourth Point: firstly: even if we accept that the holy Qur'an has said nothing about worldly punishment for apostasy it does not, even then, weaken or nullify this rule, because there are many jurisprudential problems which have not been mentioned in the holy Book of Allah. There are thousands of rules regarding Hajj, offering prayers and paying zakat which have not been mentioned in the holy Qur'an. Secondly: we cannot take 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 holy Qur'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 so that you may clarify for the people that which has been sent down to them, so that they may reflect." Therefore, it is necessary that the holy Qur'an should be interpreted and explained by the holy Prophet (sawas) and the Infallible Imams (as) for the people. Also, there is another verse in the holy Qur'an saying: "The spoils that Allah gave to His Apostle from the people of 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 among you. Take whatever the Apostle gives you, and relinquish whatever he forbids you, and be wary of Allah. Indeed Allah is severe in retribution" which means that whatever is explained by the holy Prophet (sawas) as interpretation of 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 be killed, then fulfilment of his order is actually acting according to the Qur'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 consider the Hadith of Thaqalain, the mentioned recommendation becomes completely understandable to us. According to this Hadith, the Qur'an is not something separated from the Imams (as), neither does it have the ability of separation from them. Similarly, the Household of the Prophet (peace be upon them) is also not 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 without concerning 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 requirement of the death penalty for apostates, it seems necessary here that we should also present some proofs from the traditions on the topic under discussion. The people who are against the death penalty for apostates have some questions related to the traditions.


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

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


3.1. Answer to the First Question:

a)      The death penalty for an apostate has been mentioned on five occasions in jurisprudence and 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 of punishments for an apostate. If a person briefly goes through these books, he will find that the number of traditions discussing the mentioned problem exceeds 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 not only have "appropriateness of chain of narrators" but also "appropriateness of issuance" which is the base for researchers in the case of single individual narrations. Thus, there is no doubt that these traditions are successive transmissions.

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

b)     A jurisprudent cannot limit himself to consult only certain narrations for extracting or reasoning but rather he has to study all aspects of the topic. If we study the topic of the death penalty for apostates, we will find a number of relevant aspects:


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


                   I.            Shaykh al-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 and rejects what has been revealed to Muhammad (sawas), then there is no repentance for him; rather it is obligatory to kill him; and his wife should separate from him and his wealth should be distributed amongst his heirs."

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

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

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

                V.            Abdullah bin Abi Ya'fur informed Imam Sadiq (as) about a person named Bazi' who considers Imam Sadiq (as) a prophet. Imam (as) replied: "If you hear him saying such things, kill him."

             VI.            In the Sunnite books, there are narrations related to the Prophet of Islam (sawas) on the 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 highly respected, 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 he kills an innocent Muslim, or when he commits adultery while being in the status of 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 holy Prophet (sawas) said: on three occasions killing a man is allowed one of which is a man turning away from his religion – Islam – whereupon he has become apostate. He then narrated from ‘Ikramah saying that Imam Ali (as) killed a group of Muslims who had left their religion.

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


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


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


3.1.B.3.: The Third group: there are some traditions about people of greater sins saying that if they do not leave committing these sins, they must be killed. There is no doubt in apostasy being a greater sin but rather one of the great greater sins. Jurists agree on the point that if an apostate is not killed for the first time, he must be killed on the third or fourth time. To strengthen their saying, they resort to Imam Kazim’s (as) narration in which he said: "Those who commit great sins, and insist on carrying on committing them, they should be killed on committing the same great sin at third time ". Yes, since the rule about an adulterer says that such a person must be killed after he has been punished on two occasions yet, after having observed this, he still does not desist from the habit of adultery, then the same must be the case with an apostate. Jamil bin Darraj has explained this topic in the fifth Hadith of this chapter. What we mean to say is that a jurist should also consider this aspect. For example, if there were no traditions clearly stating the necessity of the death penalty for apostates, we could, even then, rely on these types of traditions to prove the necessity of an apostate related death penalty.


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


“There are many traditions in which the standard for keeping blood, inheritance and marriage safe and sound is to bear witness 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 becomes apostate, the safety of his blood becomes void.


3.1.B.5.: The Fifth group: these are traditions mentioning that Imam Ali (as) declared some people as apostate on several 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. He was brought in front of Imam Ali (as). The Imam (as) said to him: if you want to marry, we will provide the means for your marriage [with a Muslim girl], if you want to enjoy the inheritance of a Christian and think that you will never be able to have any share in our, the Muslims, inheritance, we will give you some 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 a Christian?" He said: "Yes". Imam (as) said: "God is Great!" 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) as God, i.e. they addressed Ali (as) as God. The Imam (as) presented a very harsh response to them and said: "You must repent for what you have just said." However, they did not accept Imam’s (as) order. The Imam (as) then ordered a hole to be dug and a fire put in it. Beside it, there another hole was dug. An open passage was made between the two holes. When the Imam (as) found them insisting on their false belief, he put them into the second hole and lit the fire 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 be apostasy.


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


It seems that all these traditions belong to the Age of the Commander of the faithful (as); and the Imam (as) ordered the death penalty for apostasy on different occasions. We cannot say that these decisions were special 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 the Sunnite books mentioning that the holy Prophet (sawas) also ordered the killing of a group of people who had become apostates. We have already mentioned this in 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 narrations that the punishment for apostasy in Islam is death? Isn't it possible to derive the death penalty for the apostate from narrations which state that as soon as a Muslim leaves Islam, his property must be distributed as inheritance and his wife should observe (Iddah) waiting period of his death?

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

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


3.2.: Answer to the Second Question:

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


3.2.1.: Firstly: it has now become sufficiently clear that the traditions about the "necessity of the death penalty for an apostate" 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 saying that there is no difference in dangerous and non dangerous affairs in authentication of "single individual narrations." There are a great number 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 affairs such as blood or the opposite, properties or opposite, worshiping or opposite and politics or opposite etc. Their books on jurisprudence clearly mention this fact. However, in theological discussions we have talked on this matter in detail, 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 has clearly stated that: "There is a consensus in the Islamic Ummah on this matter." In this line, Sheikh Tusi did not mention about the consensus of Shiites and Sunnites but the Islamic Ummah. This shows the requirement of the rule. According to this, the matter does not remain only a "single individual narration" as consensus is also added to it.


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


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


3.2.6.: Sixthly: even if any of the traditions, their aspects, any of the verses of the holy Qur'an or consensus do not directly indicate our claim, their collection leaves the jurist with no doubts and options but gives him full contentment for giving fatwa for the necessity of the death penalty for apostates.


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

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


There are some points related to this problem:


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


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


4.3.: Third: the actual question is what do you mean by ‘a court of justice’? Is a court, which does not give orders according to the deceitful slogans of human rights, not a court of justice? If yes, then you should also be doubtful about most Islamic decisions! Or does ‘court of justice’ mean a suitable place for the comparison of authentic laws. In other words, in a court of law which acts according to religious principles, rules and regulations clearly a jurisprudent can perform such things in the best possible manner.

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


4.4.: Fourth: do they consider the rule as propagation and increase of lawlessness or its execution? In other words, is their criticism and complaint against the rule itself or the way it is carried out? Is the necessity of the death penalty not a divine law? If, despite observing a conflict between the current human rights and the divine laws turns out to be a hurdle in the way of implementing His laws, is a person, believing in the secular laws, not considered as one breaking divine rules? Is it not the worst method of breaking the greatest and most important laws; and is it not the worst manner of causing a lot of fuss? Does it look better if we encourage people to observe divine rules or if we encourage them to observe rules according to the international human rights treaty?! Can an international treaty of human rights, which even provides the human being with freedom in the field of homosexuality, guarantee the prosperity of human beings?! The critics should either accept Islam or be in favour of the international human rights treaty; because it is impossible to adopt both approaches side by side! If they say that we should interpret Islam according to today's needs and demands, we will say in return that this would also be a kind of negation and nullification of Islam. It is totally amazing that those people, exceedingly worried about any international human rights treaties being broken, instead of failing to become infuriated with those 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 Islamic Ummah was deviation of the companions of the Prophet (sawas) and those who had been away from the right path: "You now see pledges to Allah being broken but do not feel enraged by this, although you fret and frown with regards to the breaking of the traditions of your forefathers. Allah's matters have been coming to you, and going from and returning to you; but you have opened up your place to wrong-doers and thrown your responsibilities towards them and have placed Allah's affairs in their hands. They act in doubt and tread on the path of gratification of desire."


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

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


4.6.: Sixth: it is said that issuing a fatwa for the death sentence for an apostate and a person involved in "Saab al-Nabi" offending Islam, Shi’ah Islam and jurisprudence mutating it into violence, terror and oppression… Yes, if a person wants to introduce Islam in this way without mentioning its aspects and qualities, the previously mentioned lines would appear to be applicable. In other words, if someone introduces Islam by mentioning only some of its widely publicised ‘controversial’ aspects while obscuring its less dramatic elements then it would seem to be as described above. However, what if people are told that Islam is dominated by logic and rationality? The questions asked by people, especially by Muslims, are answered on the basis of the points of view of the people of the Household of the Prophet (as). These are the people sent by Allah from whom one can find all the necessary answers to any questions. However, if he does not do so and shows his enmity towards these people negating them and making others aware of his enmity, 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, neglect this fact? The rule of the death penalty for an apostate and "Saab al-Nabi" has existed from the very first day of Islam and has never been a cause for any bad reputation for Islam. However, as soon as the colonial powers started claiming human rights, they started bellowing loud complaints about this rule, too. The result of these complaints along with their false propagation appeared in the form of an announcement of conflict between the laws of Islam and freedom, reason and human dignity.

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

It is as clear as daylight that we should not use just a small part of any matter or affair as the standard for decision-making about it; we should keep every aspect of the matter in mind and then make a suitable decision about it. Why is it that you respect negation and enmity from a person, formerly fully aware of religion and for whom the signs of truth and reality had been brought into being, yet you dislike and think it unfair if a punishment is mentioned regarding such a person? Do you have any respect for someone denying the presence of the sun during a bright and shining day? If not, then why are you considering apostasy the same as belief? Without any doubt, apostasy is a kind of undeniable negation of reality.

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

Some people criticize the verse of the holy Qur'an which says: "Invite to the way of your Lord with wisdom and good advice and dispute with them in a manner 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 refer to "apostates", too? What is the relation of this verse with the verses 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 enjoy Allah's guidance and remission? Now, can a person think that this verse is related to apostates? Obviously this verse is about someone who has not been on the right path and is yet to be guided. However, a person who, after being on the right path – the path of Allah – wants to deviate from it, because of his enmity and desire, does not deserve to be mentioned as one of the addressees of this verse. How is it possible to mention a murderer in the context of this verse 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 has been involved in numerous murder cases with wisdom, good advice and dispute!

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


-          5. The fourth chapter: Is the death penalty for an apostate the cause of debility and weakness 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 possible conditions which should all be studied separately:


a)      If we say that an action is a standard for weakness, it is an idea which has never been 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 and belief of one billion people throughout the world. They would consider such a person deserving of punishment. The level of his punishment relies on the level of his insult towards the Muslims’ beliefs. However, if his insult becomes a cause of deviation or a tool in the hands of the enemies of Islam and if he wants to weaken the principles of the religion, it becomes necessary to punish him more severely.

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

The general rule saying that a legislator can proscribe the intellectuals and learned men in some cases is well known by every person having 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 intellectuals which has been discussed in detail in theological debates.

b)     An action is considered to be the standard of weakness when it is contrary to a person's nature and which every person hates. In this case, we will say that no man's nature will oppose the punishment of an apostate and a person involved in "Saab al-Nabi". And this is for sure.

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

d)     The standard for weakness is an action without any rational or verbal justification. This assumption seems to convey the real meaning of weakness.  We have already made it clear, in our discussion, that the rule of the death penalty against an apostate has both rational as well as verbal justifications. From the rational point of view, negating the Creator and Owner of the world to Whom the life of every person belongs is a topic for worldly punishment. The intellect understands that Allah the Exalted can make this rule for human beings who, after all, are His creatures and finds nothing wrong with this. In other words, the real question of our discussion is whether Allah, the Exalted, can make such rules. Some of the people who do not believe in the rule of the death penalty for apostates are 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 (may his grave be sanctified) – then the rationale does not find any kind of ugliness and oppression in the law of the death penalty against apostates or anyone involved in "Saab al-Nabi"; the rationale accepts that, as Allah the Exalted is the Creator of human beings and has the right to make such rules, it is never considered as oppression. Such an order given by Allah is believed to be a perfect one which reason and intellect will try to understand and prove in the most correct manner. Also, it will consider an apostate deserving of punishments; while in terms of verbal reasoning, the type of rule is expressed by the legislator.


A very important point about weakness, which has been neglected, is that it is one of the secondary titles such as fault, compulsion, loss, dissimulation etc. It is obvious that such titles are not authentic and reliable in all cases. For example, in the case of dissimulation, if blood is discussed then it no longer remains authentic. In the matter of weakness, this title does not have suitability in some cases; for example, the cases in which severe treatment against infidels is discussed or in the cases in which killing pagans is mentioned. None of the jurists ever pronounce that if killing pagans becomes 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 sufficient knowledge of jurisprudence. Therefore, the same is the case with an apostate. The example of stoning can be given. If stoning becomes the reason for weakness of religion, it can be postponed. However, the real message at its core related to severe dealing with pagans, from which they refrain and which they dislike intensely, is not possible to be bound in this title.


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


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

According to our point of view, this is not the case the reality being the 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 some justifications 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-Tanqih al-Ra’ie’a'" believe in its legality in the time of occultation. Of course some of Ibn Idris' expressions in "al-sara'ir" are used showing his disagreement. Some jurists like al-Saimari in "ghayat al-maram" and ibn Fahd in "al-muhazzib al-bari’e’a" have also used this disagreement. But the way the late Sayyid Mohammad Baqir Shafati 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 Idris was also among those in the favour of the topic like other ancestors. According to him, from the last few lines of the book, one can conclude not only the permissibility of the matter, but also his emphasize on this matter can be understood. Now, the question arises concerning what bases and proofs have they claimed that many jurisprudents think that the presence of the Prophet (sawas) or any Infallible Imam (as) is a condition for the execution of the limits ordained by Allah? Muhaqqiq Hilli in sharaye' and mukhtasar is also among those in favour of the topic not against it. The late Muhaqqiq Khoei (ra) and Muhaqqiq Khwansari – Sayyid Ahmed – (ra) have also mentioned Muhaqqiq Hilli and Ibn Idris saying they have espoused the same opinion regarding the topic.

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

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


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


-          7. The sixth chapter: Does the death penalty for an apostate have suitability with the quality of the last Prophet (sawas) being a blessing of Allah towards the whole world?

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


7.1.: Firstly: Such sayings do not match with jurisprudence and jurisprudential reasoning. This is something more of the nature of a slogan. This is rather like saying that if Allah is the most Merciful of the merciful, then why did He create hell and why does He punish people? Moreover, in this case, we should also negate every Divine punishment both during the time of presence as well as at the time of occultation.


7.2.: Secondly: According to historical accounts, 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 will they justify this and how will they compare it with the compassionate nature of the holy Prophet (sawas)?

-          How would they 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 the world hereafter?

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


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


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


8. The seventh Chapter: Answering various doubts.


Here we are going 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 you and to those [who have been] before you: “If you ascribe a partner to Allah your works shall fail and you shall surely be among the losers."[36]


A similar implication 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 Islam but generally exist in other religions, like Christianity and Judaism; if a person turned out to become apostate, he had to face a punishment which was none other than the death penalty. (Refer to Old Testament, Journey of Torah Twofold, 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 who have just entered the age of puberty and become doubtful about Islam cannot be accused 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 for apostasy doubtful, somebody has said: there is disagreement among the intellectuals and learned people on the definition of "the axiomatic within religious teachings"..etc!!!


8.7.1.: We answer this doubt in the following:

A: "An axiomatic within religious teachings" is unanimously acceptable by both Shi’ah and Sunnies, therefore it does not need any reasoning.

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


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

2.      Denying the Day of Resurrection.


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

Finally, denial of the prophethood and the Day of Judgment has been mentioned as reason for apostasy. Critics of the death penalty should at least be able to accept such a rule against an apostate in these two cases. In other words, the word "necessary" does not mean anything by itself and is only used for reaching the demanded point. If the point is achieved from the means 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 demonstrative arguments behind the subject of capital punishment for an apostate. Certainly, discussing this topic in more detail requires more time. May Allah bless every person with understanding 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, Dar al-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-taj al-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 fi ahadith al-Rasool, vol. 3, pp. 17 and 18

[18] See our Lectures on theology – educational year 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 is under 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 other historical 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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