A fatwā (Arabic: فتوى; plural fatāwā Arabic: فتاوى), in the Islamic faith is a religious opinion concerning Islamic law issued by an Islamic scholar. In Sunni Islam any fatwa is non-binding, whereas in Shia Islam it could be binding, depending on the status of the scholar. This small collection of online and other fatawa and published opinions by Shariah authorities on apostasy from Islam will be expanded. See the “Resources” pages as well for organizations and encyclopedic websites with many more articles, books and specific fatawa.
Dr. Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, head of the European Council for Fatwa and Research (ECFR) and president of the International Union for Muslim Scholars (IUMS). “Apostasy Major and Minor,” 2006.
“…Muslims are to seriously resist individual apostasy before it seriously intensifies and develops into a collective one. That is why the Muslim jurists are unanimous that apostates must be punished, yet they differ as to determining the kind of punishment to be inflicted upon them. The majority of them, including the four main schools of jurisprudence (Hanafi, Maliki, Shafi`i, and Hanbali) as well as the other four schools of jurisprudence (the four Shiite schools of Az-Zaidiyyah, Al-Ithna-`ashriyyah, Al-Ja`fariyyah, and Az-Zaheriyyah) agree that apostates must be executed…”
Dr. Yusuf al-Qaradawi, head of the European Council for Fatwa and Research (ECFR) and president of the International Union for Muslim Scholars (IUMS). The Lawful and the Prohibited in Islam ,1960. Reprinted 2006.
Apostasy from Islam after willingly accepting it and subsequently declaring an open revolt against it in such a manner which threatens the solidarity of the Muslim community is a crime punishable by death. No one is compelled to accept Islam, but at the same time no one is permitted to play tricks with it, as some Jews did during the Prophet’s time:
A party of the people of the Book say, ‘Believe in what has been revealed to the Believers’ at the beginning of the day and reject it at the end of it, in order that they may turn back (from Islam). (3:72)
The Prophet (peace be on him) limited capital punishment to these three crimes only, saying,
The shedding of the blood of a Muslim is not lawful except for one of three reasons: a life for a life, a married person who commits zina (adultery), and one who turns aside from his religion and abandons the community.
In any of these instances, the death penalty can be implemented only by the proper authority after due process of law prescribed by the Shari’ah; individuals cannot take the law into their own hands, becoming judges and executioners, since this would result in absolute chaos and disorder. However, the judge may turn the murderer over to the victim’s next-of-kin to be executed in his presence so that their hearts may be eased and the desire for revenge extinguished. This is in obedience to the saying of Allah Ta’ala…
…And whoever is killed wrongfully, We have given authority to the heir; but let him not go to excess in killing (by way of retaliation), for indeed he will be helped. (17:33)
Abul Ala Mawdudi, founder of Jamaat-e-Islami party: “The Punishment of the Apostate According To Islamic Law.” Translation 1994, from the Urdu edition (Murtadd ki Saza Islami Qanun men) published in 1963:
…In any case the heart of the matter is that children born of Muslim lineage will be considered Muslims and according to Islamic law the door of apostasy will never be opened to them. If anyone of them renounces Islam, he will be as deserving of execution as the person who has renounced kufr to become a Muslim and again has chosen the way of kufr. All the jurists of Islam agree with this decision. On this topic absolutely no difference exists among the experts of shari’ah.
Nevertheless there is one aspect of this matter where I see some complication. It has to do with the fact that our community order has remained extremely feeble and remiss for a long period of time. Among the past several generations every generation has failed badly to provide adequate Islamic education and training to the next generation. Particularly in the past era of enslavement our national insensitivity reached the point where hundreds of thousands carelessly, and thousands consciously, surrendered their children to infidel education and training. That is why the proportion among us of those inclined to rebel and turn away from Islam has increased to a dangerous level and keeps on increasing. If at some time in the future an Islamic order of government is established, the law of executing the apostate is implemented and all those within the confines of Islam are compulsorily imprisoned who are recognized as Muslims by birth because they are children of Muslims, no doubt in this situation the fear will arise that a very great number of hypocrites will be included in the social order of Islam who will pose as a permanent threat for every kind of treason.
In my opinion its solution – and God conforms us to rectitude – is to notify the Muslim population in the area where an Islamic revolution occurs that people who in belief and practice have defected from Islam and wish to remain as defectors should formally disclose their non-Muslim identity and leave our social order within a year from the date of the notification. After this period all those who are born of Muslim lineage will be considered to be Muslim, they will be subject to all Islamic laws, they will be compelled to perform the religious duties and obligations, and then whoever steps outside the fold of Islam will be executed. Following this announcement utmost effort should be made to save as many sons and daughters born of Muslims as possible from the lap of kufr. Then whoever cannot be saved by any means should be cut off and cast away, sadly but firmly, from his society forever. After this act of purification a new life for Islamic society may begin with only those Muslims who are dedicated to Islam…
Dr. Jamal Badawi, professor at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. “Apostasy in Islam – Any Change in the Contemporary Context?,”2006.
“…An apostate is one who embraces Islam, or in some other opinions, who is born a Muslim, and then decides to leave Islam. As for dealing with him, there are different opinions about dealing with the apostate. Most scholars are of the opinion that he should be informed and asked to recant. If after clarification he insists on his position then he should be executed. Other scholars are of the opinion that since the Qur’an affirms freedom of religions, apostasy is left to the individual as real accountability will be in the Day of Judgment. Still other scholars, while considering apostasy as an infraction and a potential threat to the stability and integrity of an Islamic state, they do not find decisive and definitive evidence that the apostate should be executed. At most he may be subject to a discretionary punishment depending on the harm to society caused by his apostasy…”
Dr. Sano Koutoub Moustapha, professor of jurisprudence and its principles at the International Islamic University, Malaysia. “Lina Joy’s Case and Religious Freedom” [Lina Joy was a Muslim who converted to Christianity in Malaysia and sought legal recognition of the conversion].
“Surely, Islam prohibits its followers from denouncing it or reverting to other faiths either secretly or openly. But if one wishes to revert or denounce it, he or she should not make use of that decision to harm or hurt the feelings of followers of Islam by making that announcement openly and in public. To Muslims this is culturally seen as an offence to their feelings and culture… As far as I know punishments on apostates are only meant for Muslims who accepted freely all teachings of Islam including punishment for apostasy. In other words, there is no contradiction between freedom of religion and passing a punishment on apostasy thus, the punishment is considered as a part of teachings of Islam. For instance, all Muslims are required to perform daily prayers and fast the month of Ramadan, etc. If a Muslim doesn’t practice these teachings then he or she shall be subject to punishment because of violating teachings of Islam in regard to prayers and fasting. If he or she is punished because of that, one should not accuse Islam for not allowing freedom of religion; instead he or she should be blamed because of dishonoring his or her words which consists of full submission to the wills of Allah. The same thing goes to those people who wish to dishonor their words of accepting Islam as their faith and religion; they should respect their words and stand for it. If they don’t do so, then they shall be subject to punishment for dishonoring their word and violating the ruling which doesn’t allow Muslims to change their religions…”
“…At some point the death penalty for apostasy was widely accepted among Muslims and many of us feel that what our earlier generations accepted must be correct and must be accepted by us also. Since such extraneous influences can mislead us, let us first try to free our minds from them… Qur`an 4:88-91: The four verses, 4:88-91, when carefully examined, also show that the Qur`anic perspective conflicts with the death penalty for apostasy. The first two verses state:
“Then what is the matter with you that you are divided into two groups regarding the hypocrites? God has cast them backward (arkasa) because of what they have earned. Do you want to guide him whom God has made to go astray? And he whom God has made to go astray, you will not find for him any way. They wish that you reject faith as they have done, so that you all become the same. So take not protectors/friends from them till they emigrate in the way of God. But if they turn away, seize them and kill them wherever you find them, and take neither protectors/friends from them nor helpers. (4:88-89)”
This passage begins by talking about hypocrites, that is, people who had declared themselves Muslims but in their hearts had decided not to believe in the teachings of Islam. The demand that they should do hijrah fi sabil allah (emigrate for the sake of God) shows that they are not the hypocrites of Madinah but are living among non-Muslims in Makkah and possibly elsewhere. Verse 98 of the same surah shows that these people were not doing hijrah despite the fact that they were able to. The reason for their not doing hijrah was their hypocrisy. Makkan non-believers who had persecuted Muslims for years, would not have tolerated in their midst any true Muslims. They would have accepted among them only those “Muslims” who had stopped taking their “Islam” seriously and felt more comfortable among non-believers, hostile to Islam, than among Muslims. These hypocrites pretended to be Muslims because they wanted to be secure from both sides (see 4:91). And Makkan non-believers did not force them to publicly renounce their “Islam” because they found them useful for gathering information about Muslims or for some other subversive actions against the ummah. In order to defeat these hypocrites in their game and force them to clearly choose between Islam and kufr, God commanded them to do hijrah. Their obedience to this command meant that they had chosen Islam and their disobedience meant that they had chosen kufr. Those who chose kufr in this way became apostates, since previously they called themselves Muslims. Thus the verses are a source of guidance for us regarding the way the apostates are to be treated. At first sight the words “seize them and kill them wherever you find them” would suggest that they are to be killed. But this is quickly seen to be wrong if we read the next two verses:
‘Except those who join a group between you and whom there is a (peace) treaty or those who approach you with their hearts restraining them from fighting you or fighting their own people. Had God willed he would have given them power over you and they would have fought you. So if they withdraw from you and do not fight you but give you (guarantees of) peace, then God has opened no way for you against them.
You will find others that wish to gain your confidence as well as that of their people. Every time they are sent back to temptation they give in to it. If they do not withdraw from you nor give you (guarantees) of peace, nor restrain their hands, seize them and kill them, wherever you find them. In their case We have provided you with a clear warrant against them. (4:90-91).’
These verses clarify the command “seize them and kill them.” The apostates who rejected Islam by failing to emigrate as commanded by God are divided into three categories:
1) Those who ally themselves with a group with whom Muslims have a peace treaty;
2) Those who want to keep neutrality, committing themselves to peace with both the Muslims and their own people who had not accepted Islam;
3) Those who provide no real guarantee of peace to Muslims and by all indications ally themselves with non-believers engaged in hostilities towards Islam.
…Thus according to the Qur`an the apostates are to be treated like other kuffar: If they want to live in peace with the Muslims, they are to be left in peace and if they assume a hostile attitude, then they are to be treated accordingly….
The third type of apostate is one who leaves Islam and then engages in hostile actions against Islam and Muslims, e.g. knowingly engages in propaganda against Islam and Muslims blatantly ignoring facts that he is expected to know well, passes secrets to the enemy, takes part in fighting against the Muslims. Such an apostate can be punished by anything from exile to death…”