Apostasy and Punishment by Fire (Ahadith 2655 – 2656)
Volume 4, Book 52, Number 259 :
Narrated by Abu Huraira (radiallaahu `anhu)
Allah’s Apostle (sallallaahu `alayhi wasallam) sent us on a mission (i.e. am army-unit) and said, “If you find so-and-so and so-and-so, burn both of them with fire.” When we intended to depart, Allah’s Apostle (sallallaahu `alayhi wasallam) said, “I have ordered you to burn so-and-so and so-and-so, and it is none but Allah Who punishes with fire, so, if you find them, kill them.”
Volume 4, Book 52, Number 260 :
Narrated by Ikrima
Ali (radiallaahu `anhu) burnt some people and this news reached Ibn ‘Abbas (radiallaahu `anhu), who said, “Had I been in his place I would not have burnt them, as the Prophet (sallallaahu `alayhi wasallam) said, ‘Don’t punish (anybody) with Allah’s Punishment.’ No doubt, I would have killed them, for the Prophet (sallallaahu `alayhi wasallam) said, ‘If somebody (a Muslim) discards his religion, kill him.’ “
It is impermissible to punish by fire in Islam, as clear from the above ahadith. When it comes to apostates, execution is the prescribed punishment but there are some guidelines that must be followed. For example, the apostate is not to be murdered in cold blood, he deserves to be given a chance to repent. What follows is some basic information about apostasy and what it constitutes of. Read on for clarity.
The ruling of execution because of a word that somebody utters is what the Muslim scholars call al-riddah (apostasy). What is apostasy and what constitutes apostasy? What is the ruling on the apostate (al-murtadd)?
1 – Riddah (apostasy) refers to when a Muslim becomes a disbeliever by saying a clear statement to that effect, or by uttering words which imply that (i.e., which imply kufr or disbelief), or he does something that implies that (i.e., an action which implies kufr or disbelief).
2 – What constitutes apostasy
The matters which constitute apostasy are divided into four categories:
(a) Apostasy in beliefs, such as associating others with Allaah, denying Him, or denying an attribute which is proven to be one of His attributes, or by affirming that Allaah has a son. Whoever believes that is an apostate and a disbeliever.
(b) Apostasy in words, such as insulting Allaah or the Messenger (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him).
(c) Apostasy in actions, such as throwing the Qur’an into a filthy place, because doing that shows disrespect towards the words of Allaah, so it is a sign that one does not believe. Other such actions include prostrating to an idol or to the sun or moon.
(d) Apostasy by omission, such as not doing any of the rituals of Islam, or turning away from following it altogether.
3 – What is the ruling on the apostate?
If a Muslim apostatizes and meets the conditions of apostasy – i.e., he is of sound mind, an adult and does that of his own free will – then his blood may be shed with impunity. He is to be executed by the Muslim ruler or by his deputy – such as the qaadi or judge, and he is not to not be washed (after death, in preparation for burial), the funeral prayer is not to be offered for him and he is not to be buried with the Muslims.
The evidence that the apostate is to be executed is the words of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him): “Whoever changes his religion, execute him.” (Narrated by al-Bukhaari, 2794). What is meant by religion here is Islam (i.e., whoever changes from Islam to another religion).
The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “It is not permissible to shed the blood of a Muslim who bears witness that there is no god except Allaah and that I am His Messenger, except in one of three cases: a soul for a soul (i.e., in the case of murder); a married man who commits adultery; and one who leaves his religion and splits form the jamaa’ah (main group of Muslims).” (Narrated by al-Bukhaari, 6878; Muslim, 1676)
To read more on some of the rulings on apostasy and apostates, click here.