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The Islamic Law of Apostasy: join our ca...

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The Islamic Law of Apostasy: join our campaign for its abolition

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The Islamic Law of Apostasy: join our campaign for its abolition

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Throughout 2009 Barnabas Fund has been running a campaign for the abolition of the Islamic apostasy law, which imposes very serious penalties on Muslims who choose to leave their faith. All schools of Islamic law specify the death sentence for apostasy, and converts face a range of other punishments, including the loss of their families and property. The law also provokes powerful hostility to apostates among Muslims.

But change is possible. Some progressive Muslim scholars have argued that the apostasy law should be abandoned, so that people can leave Islam without fear of reprisals. And in a very encouraging development, just last month a group of mainstream Muslim leaders in Britain declared that no-one should be coerced into remaining a Muslim: “It is important to say quite simply that people have the freedom to enter the Islamic faith and the freedom to leave it” (Contextualising Islam in Britain, Cambridge: Centre of Islamic Studies, 2009, p.75). These brave voices will be strengthened by non-Muslims also calling for repeal of the law.

Below you will find an important article by Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali, which explains how Christians should respond to the issue of apostasy (and blasphemy) in Islam. In response to this, we invite you to sign our petition against the apostasy law, and to encourage your church and Christian friends to sign it too. The more signatures we have, the more impact we can have.

Dr Patrick Sookhdeo
International Director, Barnabas Fund


Apostasy and Blasphemy in Islam: What should Christians Do?

From the Foreword to Freedom to Believe (McLean, VA: Isaac Publishing, 2009). Also published in Barnabas Aid November/December 2009.

Bishop-Nazir_Ali
The Rt Rev Dr Michael Nazir-Ali

Michael Nazir-Ali

The Qur’an is fierce in its condemnation of apostasy (ridda) and of the apostate (murtadd). Theirs, according to it, will be a dreadful penalty (‘adhabun ‘azimun). This sentiment, which occurs in Sura 16:106, is re-expressed in other ways in other suras (chapters of the Qur’an). The interesting point to note is that the various threats of judgement and of punishment seem to relate to the next world or to life after this earthly one, rather than to this world and to this life.

Against this, we have the unanimous position of the various schools of Islamic law (fiqh) that shari‘a lays down the death penalty for adult male Muslims in possession of their faculties who apostatise. Some schools also prescribe a similar punishment for women, whilst others hold that a woman apostate should be imprisoned until she recants and returns to Islam. In addition to this, should an apostate somehow escape the ultimate penalty, his property becomes fai’, i.e. it becomes the property of the Muslim community, which may hand it over to his heirs; his marriage is automatically dissolved and he is denied Muslim burial.

How then did such a major difference arise between the prima face teaching of the Qur’an and the provisions of shari‘a as codified by the various schools of law? The answer is that the death penalty for apostasy is to be found in the hadith, the various collections of traditions about the Prophet of Islam’s sayings and doings, and it is also found in the sunna of Muhammad and of his closest companions, the reports about their practice.

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  • “Jesus Christ performed tremendous miracles in all our lives through this Shalom Camp.” A pastor spoke of how God had worked through a Barnabas-sponsored weekend Bible camp for persecuted Christians in Sri Lanka. The camp was attended by believers from five different churches that had been the target of threats or attacks by Buddhist or Hindu extremists. The participants heard teaching on the Biblical basis for persecution and took part in group discussions; they came away refreshed and encouraged, and for many the camp was a time of great spiritual renewal. Give thanks to the Lord for the peace He has brought to these persecuted believers, and ask that the weekend will continue to bear much fruit in their lives. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Wed, Apr 2014 00:00

  • Pray for a church leader in Sri Lanka, S.S. Johnpillai, who was threatened at gunpoint by attackers who claimed to be Special Forces officers. The minister was in a hut next to his church building in Guadalupe, Trincomolee when, he said, the men “appeared out of nowhere”. The intruders put a gun to Johnpillai’s head and accused him of holding a Communion service in honour of the founder of the Tamil Tigers, the government’s opponents in the country’s long and bloody civil war. The government had that day made it a criminal offence to commemorate the group. The gunmen ignored Johnpillai’s protests that he had not dedicated Communion to the group’s founder, and they threatened to shoot him. Ask the Lord to support and strengthen Johnpillai as he recovers from this terrifying ordeal. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Tue, Apr 2014 00:00

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  • Condemned Christian mother Aasia Bibi’s final appeal hearing is scheduled to take place tomorrow (14 April) having been deferred twice. She was sentenced to death for blasphemy in November 2010 having been falsely accused of insulting Muhammad following an argument with Muslim co-workers. Aasia has been languishing in jail since the accusation was made in June 2009. Pray that her appeal will finally go ahead and that the judges will have the courage to acquit and release Aasia; there are concerns that they may give in to pressure from hardline Islamists who have been calling for her execution. Pray that Aasia, her husband and children will know the Lord’s peace as they await the verdict. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Sun, Apr 2014 00:00

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