Rebutting Prof Shad Faruqi on the Punishment for Apostates under Islamic Law

Liberals or libtards or libertards (0r whatever you want to call them) or the munafiq have been trying for decades if not hundreds of years to convince Muslims it’s alright to murtad because the Quran said “there is no compulsion in religion” (Al-Baqarah 2:256).

Prof Shad Faruqi was one of the pro Rome Statute activists or panelists. That’s not a surprise because he is also part of the Star’s Voices of Moderation as well as close affiliate/friend of G25.

The Star published his article “Separating Fact from Fiction – Reflecting on the Law” in 2007 but given the current climate under “Malaysia Baru”, where liberals have stepped up their efforts to turn people away from Islam ever since PH came into power, it would be a good time to bring it up again and prove to people that Prod Shad is a liar.

He gives false arguments to support his claim by quoting Quranic verses out of context and misinterpreting the meaning. Essentially the same arguments are recycled by ultra liberals and Muslims not well grounded in Fiqh, Usul al-Fiqh, the Shariah and Maqasid al-Shariah.

I would first like to shoot the messenger.

Prof Shad Faruqi is a member of The Star’s Voices of Moderation team, which includes, among others, Zaid Ibrahim, Marina Mahathir and Zainah Anwar.

Zainah Anwar co-founded Sisters-in-Islam (a misnomer, without doubt) together with the American deviant Amina Wadud. SIS was declared deviant or ‘sesat’ by the religious authorities. Marina Mahathir is of course also attached to the deviant SIS.

The jurisprudence methodology of Liberals is take a top-down approach. They decide what lifestyle they desire, conclude what should be halal and haram to suit their lifestyle, judge what should be punishable, then look for anything in the Quran that seems to fit their preconceived verdict (or claim there’s nothing in the Quran to contradict their position). All they need next is endorsement from anyone who could pass off as an Islamic scholar.

Invariably weak reasoning, false arguments, rhetoric and misinterpretation of the religious texts provide the justification for ultra-liberals to support their misguided position in Fiqh and the Shariah. Therefore, based on past track record and character, it would not be unreasonable for anyone to not bother to read articles based on the name of the author, such as in this case. At the same time, it may be also of benefit to rebut Professor Shad’s erroneous conclusions to make it a case in point (that sometimes we should shoot the messenger instead of reading his message).

Professor Shad didn’t waste any time telling us that apostasy being regarded as heinous is a “serious misinterpretation of the Quran”. With any luck, his readers would either not bother to read his reasoning or they may just blindly accept his weak arguments. After all, he is a professor in law so he must know what he’s talking about. Well, before I go further, let me tell you right upfront that he got it all wrong.

Prof Shad said:

LAST WEEK, the international news channel Al-Jazeera highlighted the controversial case of a 29-year Malaysian woman who has been detained in a rehabilitation centre for Muslim apostates and deviants. The international coverage of her case brought Malaysia adverse publicity and re-ignited the divisive and sensitive issue of Muslim apostasy.

In defending the action of the Syariah authorities, one of the panelists on Al-Jazeera made two significant points. First, that apostasy is a serious criminal offence in the Quran. Second, that the Constitution’s gilt-edged provision in Article 11(1) that “every person has the right to profess and practice his religion and, subject to clause (4), to propagate it” must not be read in isolation. It must be viewed in the backdrop of the rest of the Constitution.

The first assertion that apostasy is a heinous, Quranic offence is a serious misinterpretation of the Quran.

Professor Shad is seriously wrong with his personal opinion and we’ll see why, apart from almost immediately contradicting himself. He continues:

The second, that the Constitution must be read as a whole is eminently correct.

While the purpose of my rebuttal is regarding the Shariah, I am in agreement with this in reference to the Federal Constitution. What’s right is right.

The Quran is replete with passages condemning apostasy. In 20 or so passages it states that becoming a renegade is a sin and will be punished severely in the hereafter. The curse of God, of His angels and of all mankind shall fall on those who reject the faith (3:87; 18:29).

Now Professor Shad is contradicting himself. Earlier he said apostasy is not heinous. Now he says it is condemned in the Quran. I think it should be common sense that the reason apostasy is many times condemned in the Quran is indeed because it is ‘heinous”.

Definition of heinous in various dictionaries:

hateful; odious; abominable; totally reprehensible
(of a person or wrongful act, especially a crime) utterly odious or wicked.
very bad and shocking / Morally wrong and evil
hatefully or shockingly evil : abominable

But nowhere is there a requirement of a worldly punishment unless the apostate wages war or indulges in defamation. Surah 4:89 is often cited as evidence of the divine commandment to “seize them and slay them.”

But 4:89 is immediately qualified by the words “except those who join a group between whom and you there is a treaty of peace or those who approach you with hearts restraining them from fighting you.”

Firstly, the punishment for apostasy was not derived from verse 4:89. Therefore, his attempt to debunk the argument with the qualification in the next paragraph is irrelevant and meaningless. He created the false basis and then proceeds to debunk it by virtue of the qualification.

Secondly, this is a common ignorant argument by liberals. The Quran is not the only source of Islamic Law. Other primary sources are the Sunnah (recorded in Hadith), Qiyas (juristic analogous reasoning) and Ijma’ (scholarly consensus).

Professor Shad also short strings his argument by claiming verse 4:89 “is often cited as evidence”, without giving any reference to any books of Usul al-Fiqh or jurisprudence, imam, mufti (please… not the anti-mazhab Dr MAZA, who is adored by SIS and G25) or Islamic jurists. This further indicates that Professor Shad either made it up or got it from a dubious source.

A similar call for non-aggression against the non-belligerent murtad (convert) exists in Surah 4:91.

I find it incredible that Professor Shad has totally misunderstood and taken out of context this verse.

Verse 4:91 refers explicitly to the Munafiq i.e. those who declare they are Muslim but they don’t believe in Islam; not Muslims who have openly declared they have left Islam. The Munafiq pretends to be a Muslim while the apostates the subject of our argument are Muslims who have openly declared that they have left Islam. It is important to make that distinction.

In fact Surah 4:137 talks of repeated acts of apostasy. “Those who believe and then disbelieve and then again disbelieve and then increase in disbelief, Allah will never pardon them?”

S.A. Rahman, former Chief Justice of Pakistan, points out that this verse is conclusive evidence that the Quran could not have contemplated the killing of the apostate for his act of defection. Otherwise there would not be a history of repeated conversion.

Surah 3:91 and 2:217 talk of “those who reject faith and die rejecting.” This is evidence that Allah envisages the natural death of the apostate without state intervention to kill him. Surah 3:89 speaks of the mercy and forgiveness of God for those who repent and make amends.

Again, Professor Shad shows his weakness and ignorance in tafsir. The opinion by Professor Shad and S.A. Rahman is revisionism posing as scholarship (to quote Shaykh Gibril Fuoad Haddad).

Verse 4:137 is not about whether or not the apostate should be punished in this world. An example is where a Muslim openly leaves Islam and then embraces Islam again. He may keep doing this many times and be spared from worldly punishment each time he recites the Shahadah. Though there is a scholarly view that he should be executed at the third time of apostatising, nonetheless even if he is pardoned by the authorities multiple times (after declaring he is Muslim), God will not forgive him (because he is only reciting the Shahadah to escape worldly punishment i.e he is a munafiq).

Throwing in verses 3:91, 2:217 and 3:89 is a feeble attempt to boost his false argument. It’s like claiming a car will be more powerful if you pump more fuel into the tank. Let’s see what these verses are:

3:91 – Indeed, those who disbelieve and die while they are disbelievers – never would the [whole] capacity of the earth in gold be accepted from one of them if he would [seek to] ransom himself with it. For those there will be a painful punishment, and they will have no helpers.

2:217 – They ask you about the sacred month – about fighting therein. Say, “Fighting therein is great [sin], but averting [people] from the way of Allah and disbelief in Him and [preventing access to] al-Masjid al-Haram and the expulsion of its people therefrom are greater [evil] in the sight of Allah . And fitnah is greater than killing.” And they will continue to fight you until they turn you back from your religion if they are able. And whoever of you reverts from his religion [to disbelief] and dies while he is a disbeliever – for those, their deeds have become worthless in this world and the Hereafter, and those are the companions of the Fire, they will abide therein eternally.

3:89 – And when there came to them a Book from Allah confirming that which was with them – although before they used to pray for victory against those who disbelieved – but [then] when there came to them that which they recognized, they disbelieved in it; so the curse of Allah will be upon the disbelievers.

Clearly these verses are not evidence that the apostate is not to be punished. On the other hand, these verses contradict Professor Shad’s claim that apostasy is not heinous.

Add to these verses other exquisite passages like “Let there be no compulsion in religion” (2:256). “Unto you your religion, unto me mine” (109:6).

Every verse in the Quran is exquisite but these two verses (2:256 and 109:6) are the most frequently cited by ultra-liberals to support their misguided position that a Muslim should have freedom to commit sin with impunity, including murtad. This interpretation is due to their ignorance in asbab al-nuzul (reason for the revelation) and various hadith that need to be considered and enjoined to understand the meaning of Quranic verses.

Both verses refer to the disbelievers who do not wish to embrace Islam; it is not a licence for Muslims to leave Islam. As an analogy, you are not forced to join the Malaysian military but if you join and then leave without permission, you would face a court martial and punished. The military and Islam are not like hotels where you can check in and out as and when you desire. The difference is that in Islam, the ruler will pardon you for your apostasy and welcome you back when you recite the shahadah, even if you remain murtad at heart.

“If it had been thy Lord’s will, they would all have believed, all who are on earth! Will thou then compel mankind against their will to believe!” (10:99).

In innumerable passages the Quran reminded Prophet Mohamed that his duty was to draw people’s attention to Allah. But it was not the Prophet’s duty to use force to make people believe (39:41; 88:21 & 22; 27:92). “Thy duty is to make the message reach them. It is our part to call them to account.” (13:40)

It is clear, therefore, that in the Quran apostasy is a sin (punishable in the hereafter) and not a crime (punishable by the state).

Professor Shad again makes a false conclusion from the above Quranic verses. Another case of revisionism posing as scholarship. He was correct to say that it was not the Prophet’s (saw) duty to use force to make people believe; indeed, the Prophet would be incapable of doing so as hidayah is with Allah. Prof Shad should have stopped there. Instead, he extrapolated (read: spun) the meaning of the verses to claim apostasy is not punishable when there is no such expression in the Quran (and remember that liberals like to say “It is not expressly stated in the Quran” when they try to justify that something is not haram).

Islam is a religion of persuasion, not force. The criminalisation of apostasy runs counter to the spirit of Islam, which is one of tolerance for the disbeliever. The criminalisation of apostasy is not intended for disbelievers in general but a deterrent for Muslims becoming apostates. It is important to make that distinction. In this respect, it is clear that apostasy is a major crime in Islam.

Despite the absence of a worldly punishment for murtad in the Quran many Muslim jurists rely on a known Hadith (saying of the Prophet) that apostates should be advised, imprisoned and if they still persist, then beheaded. Prophet Mohammad’s words and deeds, of course, deserve the highest veneration. But many scholars have pointed to instances when the Prophet allowed apostates to go free without punishing them.

Firstly, Professor Shad repeats a display of his ignorance on Hadith being a primary source of Islamic Law. It is somewhat a gross understatement for him to say, “Prophet Mohammad’s words and deeds, of course, deserve the highest veneration” as though the Prophet (saw) was just a philosopher or a wise man.

It is in fact a glaring omission for him to also not mention that we are to obey the Prophet’s (saw) commands, as stated in the Quran:

“And obey Allah and obey the Messenger” [Quran 64:12]

Secondly, again, Professor Shad short strings his argument by claiming many scholars have pointed to instances when the Prophet allowed apostates to go free without punishing them. Not naming those scholars is very poor scholarship for an academician.

“Incidentally, the Prophet (saw) did sentence to death `Abd Allah ibn Sa`d ibn Abi Sarh (cf. Ibn Taymiyya, Sarim Maslul p. 791-793 and Ibn `Abd al-Barr, Durar fi Ikhtisar al-Siyar p. 219) for apostasy, even if he was never actually executed. [Another] apostate Muqayyis ibn Sababa was [also] executed but the fact that he was also a murderer blurs his case.” — [Shaykh Gibril Fuoad Haddad].

There is also the fact of the Prophet signing the Treaty of Hudaibiyah to permit converts to depart freely to join the non-Muslim community.

I don’t know whether to laugh or cry seeing Professor Shad trying to use the Treaty of Hudaibiyah as his argument. He has told an outright lie.

Let’s have a look at a few versions (from different sources) of the relevant passage of the treaty to compare to Professor Shad’s false version:

If any Makkan accepts Islam and seeks sanctuary with the Muslims in Medina, they would extradite him to Makkah. But if a Muslim, fleeing from Medina, seeks sanctuary with the pagans in Makkah, they would not extradite him.

If any Makkan went to Madinah, then Muslims would return him to Makkah, but if any Muslim from Madinah went to Makkah, he would not be returned.

And if a man from Qureysh comes, without the permission of his guardian, to Muhammad, he shall be returned to them; but if, on the other hand, one of Muhammad’s people comes to the Qureysh, he shall not be returned.

Any one coming from the Quraish to the Prophet without the permission of the guardian or chief should be given back to the idolaters; that any Muslim persons going over to the Meccans should not be surrendered

From all of the above (and I think four is enough to prove my point), there is absolutely nothing to support Professor Shad’s assumption that those who go to Makkah would be ‘converts’ or apostates. There is not the slightest hint whatsoever that if a Muslim goes to Makkah it meant he would have left Islam. It’s just a person going from one city to another – he may merely want to be with the family he left behind. Prof Shad is being very dishonest.

However, in the era after the demise of the Prophet, new interpretations took hold.

The Caliphs and the jurists interpreted the Quranic verses and the Hadith to imply that punishment for apostasy was mandatory in Islam.

First, Professor Shad told a lie about the Prophet (saw) and now he has told a lie about the Khulafa al-Rasyidun – Sayyidina Abu Bakr, Sayyidina Umar, Sayyidina Uthman and Sayyidina Ali – as well as Imam Hanafi, Imam Malik, Imam Shafie and Imam Ahmad.

The Caliphs and the mujtahid imams (who were no ordinary jurists) interpreted nothing new but fully understood the Prophet’s (saw) explicit command:

“He who changes his religion, kill him”

I am surprised that Professor Shad failed to mention this when it is a Hadith Sahih in Bukhari, the Four Sunan (Abu Dawud, Tirmidhi, Nasai, Ibn Majah) and the Musnad of Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal. This is, again, intellectual dishonesty. Professor Shad should at least have mentioned it and explain why “kill him” should mean anything other than “kill him”. The professor also did not mention another hadith:

“The blood of a Muslim is sacrosanct except for three types: the murderer, the married adulterer, and the apostate

This hadith is in the Six Sunan (Al-Kutub Al-Sittah — Bukhari, Muslim, Abu Dawud, Tirmidhi, Nasai and Ibn Majah) as well as the Musnad of Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal.

Professor Shad was either dishonest to not share with us the above two hadith or he did not do proper research as should be expected of an academician.

Whether the punishment was death or a lesser penalty, remained a matter of debate. Some jurists distinguished between male and female apostates, reserving the harsher penalty for males.

These juristic views are difficult to reconcile with the Quran’s exquisite message of religious tolerance. A stream cannot be higher than its source.

This is another lie by Professor Shad. The death penalty is clear except that the amount of time to be given to the apostate before the ruling of execution is enforced may be subjective. Also, Imam Abu Hanifa’s position was to spare women from execution and jailing them for life instead, which is due to the Prophet’s command not to kill the women of enemy combatants in time of war, and it is an a fortiori proof. Other than these two exceptions, essentially nothing was debatable.

The fact that Professor Shad is unable reconcile the juristic views of the Mujathid Imams and other qualified jurists to religious tolerance is irrelevant at best and ignorance coupled with arrogance at worst (if not committing unbelief for denying hukum).

His inability to comprehend is as significant as that of a passenger in an Airbus A380 who cannot reconcile the pilot’s decision to fly a certain pattern, at varying altitudes from KL to London, instead of a straight line between the two cities – there are many technicalities involved that an untrained passenger will not be capable of comprehending.

Therefore, this merely reflects Professor Shad’s ignorance in Islamic jurisprudence, especially on sources of the Shariah being not solely the Quran but also the Sunnah (via hadith), Qiyas and Ijma’.

A few Muslim governments like Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan have legislated death for apostasy. But the majority of Muslim nations leave the matter at advising and counselling. They rest their laws on the view of scholars who interpret Prophet Mohamed’s Hadith to refer to situations when apostasy was combined with rebellion against the state.

Earlier Professor Shad was arguing against not merely the death penalty but any form of wordly punishment for apostates. First, he must understand that the death penalty is not the sole penalty for apostasy. That is, apostasy is still a major crime even if only a few countries legislate the death penalty. Imprisonment is also an indication that apostasy is a major crime.

Therefore, from a statistical perspective, the good professor really should not be narrowing down to there being only “a few” Muslim governments that have legislated death for apostasy but also take into account other forms of punishment such as imprisonment, caning (rotan) and fines — the point being that apostasy should be and is criminalised. Then we would be able to appreciate the research by Pew Research Centre, which shows not a few but many Muslim countries that have apostasy (and blasphemy) laws.

Apostasy and blasphemy may seem to many like artifacts of history. But in dozens of countries around the world, laws against apostasy and blasphemy remain on the books and often are enforced.

So, clearly, Professor Shad’s claim is not supported by data, which is another reflection of poor scholarship.

A belligerent murtad is punishable, but not one who defects peacefully.

Prophet Mohamed never put anyone to death for apostasy per se.

Professor Shad has not defined “defects peacefully” or “apostasy per se“. If the muslim becomes an apostate and tells no one then of course he won’t be punished. Indeed, the Prophet (saw) did give a condition for killing the apostate is that he be a muharib i.e. a vocal or active enemy of Islam.

Therefore, if the Muslim declares publicly that he has left Islam then, by definition, it’s no longer “apostasy per se” since he has been vocal about it.

I can accept that the apostate who discreetly informs his family that he has left Islam should not be punished (but the family should seek help from religious authorities to advise and counsel him) but he can’t plead “peaceful defection” when he declares his apostasy on Facebook.

The Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Shaikh Mohamed Sayyed Tantawi, is of the view that “action should not be taken against apostates on the basis that they had renounced Islam. Only when they insult Islam or try to destroy the religion, one should act against them.”

First of all, Shaikh Mohamed Sayyed Tantawi is not without controversy. According to UK’s Independent:

From an Islamic standpoint Tantawi was considered a liberal reformer. He denounced female circumcision, once common in Egypt, and allowed abortion after rape. He banned the niqab (full face veil) in all Al Azhar’s institutions and supported the French stance. He supported the legality of interest payments on monetary deposits, although Islam prohibits usury…

His views on Israel were unpredictable. At times he supported Palestinian suicide bombers, at others condemned them.

When he shook hands with the Israeli President Shimon Peres at a Saudi-sponsored UN conference in November 2008 in New York, the independent Egyptian newspaper al-Dustour commented, “The hand that shook Peres’ hand is tainted with the blood of Palestinians and reeks of the smell of their corpses” and called for Tantawi “to purify his hands” by resigning.”… He originally denied it, but later added, “And suppose I knew him? So what… Isn’t he from a country that we recognise?”


Let’s however, for the sake of argument, not shoot the messenger and instead look at the message: “Only when they insult Islam or try to destroy the religion, one should act against them.”

Well, judging from what we see in the media, almost all apostates insult Islam and try to destroy the religion. Many muslim netizens call them biadap and kurang ajar. If Professor Shad disagrees, then he should list down examples of speech or acts that “insult Islam” and “try to destroy the religion” for both apostates and Muslims to understand the perspective of ultra-liberals as to which kind of apostate should be left alone, which should be advised and counselled without detention and which should be punished, or how apostates should conduct themselves “peacefully” for that matter.

Malaysia was for a long time in the category of Muslim nations that did not criminalise defections from the religion.

Inspired by the Quranic respect for liberty of conscience, guided by the ideals of the Constitution and conscious of the international milieu, state legislation in the past merely imposed a registration requirement on apostates. (See for example the Pahang Enactment 1982, section 103(2))

Lately, however, fears have grown that the Muslim population is being exposed to aggressive attempts at proselytisation from abroad. The fall of Baghdad, the conquest of Afghanistan, the stationing of Christian armies in several Muslim citadels including Saudi Arabia and the colonial designs on Iran, Syria, Sudan and Somalia reinforce the fears of a new crusade. The Muslim community feels at siege.

The Internet contains some wild claims from evangelical groups that hordes of Malay Muslims are waiting to exit from Islam. There are equally unreliable allegations by some Malay leaders that hundreds of thousands of Muslims are about to desert the community. Many Muslims feel apprehension, alarm and anger.

No wonder that six out of thirteen states have legislated penal sanctions against murtad.

Regardless of emotional condition and true statistics of apostasy and attempts at proselytisation, the Muslims community has a right to protect its interests. From a law and enforcement perspective, we can only rely on the Federal Constitution, the YDP Agong adhering to his oath (that he would uphold and protect Islam at all times), the lawmakers of the respective states and the religious authorities.

Without legislation, the flood gates would open for proselytisation, apostasy, insults and provocation that can lead to violent clashes.

In Malaysia, due to the fascinating intermingling of race and religion among the Malays, conversion out of Islam means an automatic desertion of the Malay community. This has obvious political connotations.

Our first task should be to separate fact from fiction.

After that, we need to put our heads and hearts together to tackle difficult issues with moderation and compassion. There is no reason to believe that the Merdeka spirit of accommodation cannot be revived again.

In his call to separate fact from ficton, Professor Shad must first look in the mirror for his lies and misinterpretation that I pointed out above. Indeed, it is because Professor Shad had mixed fact with fiction that I was compelled to write this response so please practice what you preach.

We must not lie about Islamic Law nor be apologetic for it no matter how unpalatable it may appear to the Islamophobic segment of the population. Go ahead and argue the extent and strictness of the implementation of apostasy laws in Malaysia based on your reasoning but do not challenge Islamic Law. For example, if you acknowledge that the punishment for apostasy under true Islamic Law is death (where the apostate refuses to repent) but at the same you are of the view that Malaysia should only punish by imprisonment then I’ll respect your opinion (regardless whether I agree or disagree).

I agree we need to put our heads and hearts together and should include the state muftis (except that Dr Maza’s Wahabi-liberal views are not credible), reputable Islamic scholars (ahlus sunnah wal jamaah) and Islamic NGOs (which Sister-in-Islam and G25 are not).

Whether the Merdeka spirit of accommodation can be revived again depends on whether ultra liberals and the Islamophobic citizens continue to provoke the Muslim community or stand down because for sure Muslims will not roll over and play dead under any circumstances. Wallahu a’lam.

– AA –

One thought on “Rebutting Prof Shad Faruqi on the Punishment for Apostates under Islamic Law

  1. This Munafik like Prof Shad , uses his professional Legal Prowess and Academic Intelectuality , to deny the facts in the Quran , by using his skills in manipulating the extracts in parts of the Quran , to support his denial of its preaching truth !! Certainly he knows the truth , but to fulfill the Aspiration of the Moderates , he is in denial !!!

    Liked by 1 person

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