Debunking IRF-No verses in Quran that forbid apostasy?

08 Mar

The Liberal Thoughts That Hover Around Us:  Apostasy


The teachings of Islam persevered through many decades of attacks and attempts to contaminate its tenets. Al Quranul Kareem is a proof that despite these efforts, the Holy Book remains in its original form, more than 1400 years since its first inception. The scholars or ulama worked tirelessly in order to disseminate the true teachings of Islam. The 21st century witnessed the presence of great reformers or mujaddid amongst us. Had it not been the likes of  as-Syahid Hassan al Banna, as- Syahid Sayyid Qutb, as-Syahid Abul Ala- Maududi or Syeikh Muhammad Ahmad Rasyid, who have dedicated  their lives for Islam, we will have very little of Islam to talk about.

However, the assault on Islam continues, and in these days they appear in a subtle manner. Slowly, but persistently, Moslems are fed with reasons that are incompatible with the spirits of Islamic teachings. Ideas that are superficially decorated as the cutting edge of theology and disguised as contemporary are propagated as the truth to those who may have not equipped themselves with the fundamentals of ad-Deen. The Quran is loosely reread and revised according to the intellect in total disregard of the disciplines of ulumul Quran and ulumul Hadeeth. The perpetrators of these are busy in the business of impressing the non-Moslems whereas the best way to improve the image of Islam is to understand it properly and represent it faithfully.


When the issue of proselytization of Moslems shocked the nation last Ramadhan, Moslems are again being misled by an erroneous perception of ayah 256 from the verse of Al Baqarah, which carries the meaning of there is no compulsion in Islam. This ayah was used as a license for one wishes to leave Islam.

These misconceptions continue despite years of forum, seminars, book writings, and symposiums to clarify that the true meaning of the said compulsion is the forcing of one to embrace Islam. In no way does Islam preach forced conversions to the non Moslems. The duty of Moslems is to call people to the path of Allah with words of purity so that truth can be made clear from falsehood.

“Let there be no compulsion in religion.  Truth has been made clear from error.  Whoever rejects false worship and believes in Allah has grasped the most trustworthy handhold that never breaks.  And Allah hears and knows all things.” (Quran 2:256)

Then, whoever wishes to accept Islam may do so and whoever wishes to continue upon unbelief may do so.  Conversion is to be done peacefully by disseminating the da’wah with the written and spoken word.  There is no place for the use of weapons to compel people to accept Islam.

The sahabah understood well the meaning of these verses. The first khalifah , Abu Bakr r.a as he sent out an army to Syria to fight the Roman armies, emphasized this to his troop : “You are going to find a group of people who have devoted themselves to the worship of God (i.e. monks), so leave them to what they are doing.”

So, the compulsion as stated in the ayah concerns forcing people into embracing Islam. But upon being a Moslem, every set of rules needs to be obeyed as Moslems are reminded to enter Islam whole-heartedly (al-Baqarah 2:208) and to not selectively choose certain parts he desires and abandon others he loathes.

As in any case of a citizen having to abide by the law of the land without any exception, a Moslem then, is subjected to every law of Syariah, and that includes for example, the rule of apostasy and to don hijab for the Moslem women. It is therefore incorrect to say that the former is based on ‘there is no compulsion in Islam’ and the latter is a matter of a personal choice.

The liberal thoughts

At this juncture, we would like to inspect some thoughts proposed by an organization who called themselves the Islamic Renaissance Front (IRF) in one of the English webportals. IRF first stated that according to Quran, humans are empowered to make their own free choices and that it is a fallacy that once someone is a Moslem, he or she must remain in that faith.

It is fitrah that any institutions will try to retain their members of organization to build strength and unity. They would not subscribe to an agreement that says “the terms of employment provides that an employer is free to leave the company at any time he wishes without any penalty”.

Subscribing to this loose policy will only allow an institution to go into bankruptcy in no time. Therefore it is not peculiar that as Islam promotes the message of dakwah, it also provides the rules and mechanisms to curb apostasy. If other religions fail to have their own set of law to restrain their followers from leaving their faith, there is no reason for Islam to feel guilty and embattled for having laws that govern its followers, which have been in existence since a long time ago and had indeed withstood the test of time.

Notwithstanding its image as an Islamic organization, the IRF philosophy and mission would only drive people away from Islam and not the other way round.

Maximum individual freedom?

Coming back to the statement that human has free choices as claimed by the proponents of the liberal thoughts, it is true that the Quran empowers us human to make our choices but these empowerments come hand in hand with guidance from al-Quran and Hadeeth. While we are free to eat, we are told of the rules of halal and haram, and while we may enjoy the act of sexual intercourse, we are reminded that this should be within the circle of lawful marriages of two consenting heterosexuals. Similarly, Moslems are not free to simply opt out of Islam and certain measures have to be taken by both the authority and the community to investigate whether these conversions are the fault of an internal lacking of da’wah reach-out or by any other external factors.

No verses in Quran that forbid apostasy?

IRF further stressed that “One can never find a single verse in the Qur’an that forbids a person to embrace or leave a faith he or she does not believe in”. This is a blatant lie. Readers may refer to the references provided below, or pick up any book of Fiqh in Islam e.g the one written by Sayyid Sabiq that dedicates a chapter of Riddah or apostasy, to find numerous verses that remind Moslems against the act. For the purpose of simplicity of this article, let us examine at a few ayah :

a) In Suratul an Nahlu ayah 106 : As for anyone who denies God after having once attained to faith – and this, to be sure, does not apply to one who does it under duress, the while his heart remains true to his faith, but [only, to] him who willingly opens up his heart to a denial of the truth – upon all such [falls] God’s condemnation, and tremendous suffering awaits them.

b)    In Suratul Baqarah ayah 217 : …………………. But if any of you should turn away from his faith and die as a denier of the truth – these it is whose works will go for nought in this world and in the life to come; and these it is who are destined for the fire, therein to abide.

Hadeeth Ahad vs Hadeeth Mutawatir in punishment of apostasy

The bone of contention of this issue lies in the fact of whether there was any punishment meted out to the apostates at the times of the Prophet Muhammad SAW and his companions rahimahullahum ajma’in.

The proponents of the liberal thoughts first pointed out that as the punishment for apostasy is not mentioned in the Quran and is only found in hadeeth, we should consider the topic irrelevant, as simple as that. By now we should have recognized the pattern of these liberal thoughts champions, who undermine the importance of hadeeth as the second most important source of syariah. They ignored the fact that in similar way, only the principle of solat, one of the 5 important pillars of Islam, is laid down by the Quran but the details of it was spelled out by hadeeth. Hadeeth complements and outlines details of principles the Quran emphasized.

Lest they be labeled as anti hadeeth, the liberals then proceed to say that the problem with hadeeth concerning the punishment of apostasy is that it is categorized under the hadeeth ahad Dr Yusof Qardawi when describing people who used to reason out in this fashion was right when he said that these “are contemporary writers who are not versed in religious knowledge”.

Hadeeth ahad is a group of hadeeth narrated by people whose number does not reach that of mutawatir (hadeeth mutawatir belongs to a group that is narrated by such a large number of people that they cannot be expected to agree upon a lie). Any non-mutawatirhadith is by definition ahad (solitary) but solitary does not mean a single chain. It can be more than one chain, but as long as notmutawatir (numerous).

The scholars have agreed that hadeeth ahad is accepted as the basis of syariah and in fact, almost 95 % of syariah rulings are based on this category of hadeeth.  Hadeeth mutawatir are of such rarity that some eminent scholars of hadeeth said that they are hardly found.  Dr Yusof Qardawi further asserted that the hadeeth referring to inflicting the death penalty upon apostates was reported by a large number of the Companions. Hence, it is a clear well-known hadeeth in this respect. As reported by Dr Yusof Qaradawi:

“ 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. In this regard, many hadiths were reported in different wordings on the authority of a number of Companions, such as Ibn `Abbas, Abu Musa, Mu`adh, `Ali, `Uthman, Ibn Mas`ud,`A’ishah, Anas, Abu Hurairah, and Mu`awiyah ibn Haidah.

For example, Ibn `Abbas quoted the Prophet (SAW) as having said, “Whoever changes his religion, then kill him.” A similar wording of the hadith was reported on the authority of Abu Hurairah and Mu`awiyah ibn Haidah with a sound chain of transmission. Also, Ibn Mas`ud reported the Prophet (SAW) as having said, “The blood of a Muslim who testifies that there is no god but Allah and that I am the Messenger of Allah is not lawful to shed unless he be one of three: a married adulterer, someone killed in retaliation for killing another, or someone who abandons his religion and the Muslim community.”

Another version of this hadith was reported by `Uthman, “The blood of a Muslim is not lawful to shed unless he be one of three, a person that turned apostate after (embracing) Islam or committed adultery after having married, or killed a person without just cause.”

Moslems must be serious in resisting individual apostasy before it seriously intensifies and develops into a collective one. The Muslim scholars are unanimous that apostates must be punished, but they differ as to determining the kind of punishment to be inflicted upon them, depending whether a person goes to public on his conversion or remains silent. Moslems must resist the former as it is detrimental to the dignity and honour of Islam but leave the latter to the judgement of Allah SWT in hereafter. There will always be resistance from the non-believers who could not benefit from this Islamic ruling. For unsuspected Moslems who may have thought that this ruling is detrimental to the image of Islam, the best way to improve it is to understand the religion properly and represent it faithfully.


  1. Majlis Ulama ISMA –
  2. Ustaz Zaharuddin –
  3. Apostasy Major and Minor By Dr. Yusuf Al-Qaradawi Apr. 13, 2006, –

Prof Madya Dr. Rafidah Hanim Mokhtar
Women Council Member of Ikatan Muslimin Malaysia (ISMA)

taken from

*IRF=Islamic Renaissance Front


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