In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, Ever Merciful
Ahmadiyya Muslim Community
HomeIntroductionMuslim TelevisionLibraryOnline Store
<< Back to Table of Contents Punishment of Apostacy in Islam

HOLY QURAN COMPREHENSIVE GUIDE

It is a clear and acknowledged verity that the Holy Quran is a complete and perfect Book. There is no shortcoming in it for the making up of which we have to have recourse to some historical event or to some uncertain hadees. Therefore, we believe that all the directions and admonitions of the Holy Prophet, peace be on him, are illustrative of some direction of the Holy Quran and that there is no direction of the Holy Prophet, peace be on him, which is inconsistent with the Holy Quran or which adds to it or makes up any shortcoming in it. There can be no greater offence than to charge the Holy Prophet, peace be on him, with having failed to act in accordance with some directive of the Holy Quran or having urged others to refrain from acting upon it. Muhammad, peace be on him, was a true lover of his Lord. So much did he love his Lord that he lost himself wholly in Him and that is why we believe that Muhammad, peace be on him, was a perfect manifestation of divine attributes. His life illustrates the degree of majesty and glory that he attributed to the Holy Quran. There is no direction of the Holy Quran that he did not illustrate in action and there is no prohibition which he contravened. He was a perfect exemplar, a pure and holy personage who illustrated every direction of the Holy Quran in action. It cannot be imagined for a moment that he may have said something inconsistent with the Holy Quran, or something that is not founded upon it. The Holy Quran has provided us with such ideal teachings on the freedom of conscience and the freedom of belief as furnish an example for all other religions and for all the thinkers who have invented all sorts of isms.

Freedom of conscience and freedom of belief are the fundamental rights of man. His very creation is for that purpose. If man is not free in respect of these matters, if people are to be driven forcibly into Islam, then there can be no recompense by God for any human action. Can anyone be forced to declare himself a Muslim and be assured that though his heart is not convinced of the truth of Islam, yet if he performs the salat for show, God would reward him for it and would not be aware of his hypocrisy and the true condition of his heart? God affirms that He is fully aware of the innermost secrets of a person's heart, then how would He be unaware of his hypocrisy? If He is aware of it, how would He reward such hypocritical action beneficently? On the other hand, if a person's heart is filled with sincere faith and devotion and with perfect understanding of God and His attributes and loves Muhammad, peace be on him, and out of that love obeys God Almighty and worships Him, and all the powers of the world combine in the declaration that he is expelled from Islam and that God would not deal with him out of love, and would not bestow upon him the best recompense for his righteous actions, would God be compelled to accept and act upon their verdict? Indeed not. Those who submit to Him sincerely with perfect faith shall continue to win His love, let the world say what it will and think what it will.

The Holy Prophet, peace be on him, occupies the highest station in both worlds. Concerning him, God said: Had it not been for thee, I would not have created the universe. The law that was revealed to him is complete and perfect. That law sets out human rights clearly and also safeguards them. The goal of human life is to win the love of God by treading along the path pointed out by God Almighty. The purpose of all the commandments of the Holy Quran is to win the pleasure of God. The Holy Quran affirms that the true station of man is established by his being bestowed perfect freedom of faith and perfect freedom of conscience by God Almighty.

The Holy Quran on the Function and Authority of the Holy Prophet

The Holy Prophet, peace be on him, was raised so that man's freedom of faith and freedom of conscience may be guaranteed, and man, by carrying out divine commandments in freedom, of his own will and volition, and being surcharged by the love of God Almighty, should devote himself to, and offer himself as a sacrifice in, the cause of Allah.

God has said: Thy people have rejected the message that We have sent through thee, though it is the Truth. Tell them: I am not appointed a guardian over you (6:67). The Arabic expression vakil, employed in this verse, means guardian, watchman, one with authority to restrain from vice forcibly. Thus this verse sets forth: I am not your guardian, in the sense that I have not been authorized to force you to accept the message that I have brought, and that you should proclaim your faith in it. I am only a warner . Having conveyed the message to you clearly I have discharged my responsibility. If you deny the message, God will be wroth with you and you would witness that of which I am warning you. God will call you to account for your denial (Tafseer Ruhul Bayan Vol. III p. 48).

Another eminent commentator has said: The verse means: I have not been appointed a guardian over you so that I should punish you or call you to account for your rejection of the message I have brought you, and your turning away from the reasons that have been clearly expounded to you. It is not my function to punish you and to chastise you. I am but a warner. It is Allah Who will call you to account and punish you. That is not my function (Tafseer Kabir of Iman Razi, Vol. IV p.65).

In another commentary the verse has been interpreted as meaning: I have not been appointed that I should perform your duty in your place. It is your business to listen to the reasons, to reflect upon them and to accept them and to partake of their blessings. I have not been authorized to force you to do this. It is your business and you have to do it; I have not been appointed to supervise your conduct so that I may punish you. I am but a warner and I have left out nothing in warning you. To Allah pertains calling you to account. My function is only to convey the message and to warn you (Tafseer Ruhul Maani, Voll11 Part VII, p. 182).

In the commentary Al-Manar of Muhammad Abduhu, published in 1928 by Muhammad Rasheed Raza, the verse is interpreted as meaning: Tell them, O Prophet; I have not been appointed a guardian (an authoritative officer) over you. I have been sent only as a Messenger.

He observes: Vakil means one who is placed in charge of the affairs of another. Such appointment carries authority and force with it. Thus if a ruler appoints someone as his representative or as governor of a province, or as manager of an estate, he would have authority from the ruler to exercise compulsion over the people in respect of their mistakes and defaults, but a Messenger is not appointed by God to punish. God has reserved that for Himself. A Messenger is charged with conveying the message which God Almighty sends down to him for the people. He admonishes the people and teaches them and gives them glad tidings that if they would follow the guidance they would become the recipients of God's bounty, and warns them that if they would turn away God would be wroth with them and they would be called to account by Him. He establishes the religion of Allah among the people through his admonitions and teachings and glad tidings and warnings. This is his function. He is not a representative of his Lord Who sends him, in the sense that he is authorised to reward or punish on behalf of God. This is not the function of the Messenger, nor is he bestowed such power by God Almighty. Had he been authorised to punish or to discipline, God Almighty would have bestowed upon him the power to do so, whereas we know that he passed the whole period of his prophethood in Mecca as an oppressed person.

He adds that the Holy Prophet had not been bestowed power by his Lord to rule over his people like God, and to compel them to believe, that is to say, to believe and to continue to believe and to act in accordance with their belief. Thus there is neither permission to compel nor the power to do so. He cannot force people to act contrary to their inclinations.

He has cited several verses in support of his thesis. He construes: There shall be no compulsion in religion (2:257); as both laying down a principle and as a command addressed to the Holy Prophet, peace be on him. Thus the Holy Prophet was directed that he was not to exercise compulsion in matters of religion; he was to admonish, for he was but an admonisher (88:22) and had no authority to compel people (88:23). This has been interpreted as meaning that the Holy Prophet had not been set in authority over people to compel them to carry out his will and to accept that which he believed to be the truth. He then cites: We know well what they say, and thou hast not been appointed a despot over them. So admonish, by means of the Quran, him who fears the warning (50:46). The Holy Prophet had no responsibility in respect of those who did not fear God's warning. God well knew all that they said in refutation. Then it is said: Thou art not charged with guiding them to the right path; it is Allah who guides whomsoever He pleases (2:273). He then says that vakil connotes a guardian to whom God may have committed authority to punish creatures for their sins.

So that the purport of the verse is that God Almighty had not committed to the Holy Prophet the divine authority whereby God rewards the doers of good and punishes the doers of evil. The Holy Prophet's function is to convey to the people God's message, His teaching and His perfect law which are comprised in the Holy Quran and have been communicated to man through him.

RESPONSIBILITY OF HOLY PROPHET

At another place it is said: Had Allah so willed, they would not have set up partners with Him. We have not appointed thee a keeper over them, nor art thou their guardian (6: 108). This verse is preceded by: Proofs have indeed come to you from your Lord; so he who comprehends them it is for his own benefit, and he who ignores them, does so to his own loss. Tell them: I am not appointed a guardian over you (6: 105). This is followed by: Follow that which has been revealed to thee from thy Lord; there is no god but He; and turn aside from those who set up partners with Allah ( 6: 107). Part of that which had been revealed to the Holy Prophet was that his responsibility was to convey to mankind that with which he had been entrusted, and that it was not open to him to take upon himself that which belonged to God. He was to turn away from those who persisted in associating partners with God. Thus a tremendous truth was set forth, strong proofs of the Unity of God were furnished, man was shown the way whereby he could establish a living relationship with God, and recognize his Lord through his experience. Despite a11 this, concerning him who persists in associating partners with A11ah it is only said: Turn away from him. Then it is said: Had Allah so willed, they would not have set up partners with Him. We have not appointed thee a keeper over them, nor art thou their guardian.

Again it is said: Your Lord knows you best. If he pleases He will have mercy on you, and if He pleases He will chastise you. We have not sent thee to be a keeper over them (17:55). Whether a person truly loves God is known only to God. No one else can disclose it. Your Lord knows you best. If He pleases He will have mercy on you, that is to say, He will have mercy on him concerning whom He judges that he deserves mercy, and if He so wills He will chastise you. The Holy Prophet is told: We have not appointed you a keeper over them.

At another place it is said: Say to them: O my people, carry on, on your side; I shall carry on, on my side; when God manifests His design and you are called to account, and the believers are bestowed favors, you will realize which side is afflicted with a degrading and abiding punishment. We have revealed to thee the Book, comprising truth and wisdom for the benefit of mankind. Then whoever follows the guidance truly does so to his own good ; and whoever goes astray does so to his own loss. Thou art not appointed a guardian over them (39:30-42). If the Holy Prophet himself is not a keeper or a guardian over the people, it would be the height of stupidity for anyone else to claim that he has been appointed a guardian over the people and God has bestowed upon him authority to compel people to accept Islam and to continue to adhere to it.

Again it is said: Allah will keep a record of the doings of those who have taken protectors besides Him. Thou hast not been appointed a guardian over them (42:7). This means that it is for God Almighty to safeguard their actions and to call them to account if He so wills. This is followed by the verse: Thus have We revealed the Quran to thee in Arabic, that thou mayest warn the people of the central township of the land and those around it, and that thou mayest warn them of the Day of Gathering, concerning which there is no doubt, when God will judge between the people out of His majesty and glory and everyone will realize whether he is among those for whom the gates of the Garden have been opened, or is of those who will be driven to the blazing fire (42:8).

Again it is said: Those who disbelieve in the Truth make fun of thee and say: Is this the one whom Allah has chosen as His Messenger out of all others? He had well nigh beguiled us away from our gods, had we not adhered to them steadily. When they behold the punishment they will realize who was most astray from the right path (25:42-43). This is followed by: Hast thou considered the case of one who has made his own evil inclination his god? Canst thou be a guardian over him to force him into ways of righteousness (25:44)? Today it has become a fashion throughout the world that people's own inclinations have become their gods. Some of them have proclaimed that their public is their god. God Almighty has here said that He has not bestowed upon anyone the authority to force people away from their inclinations.

In the commentary Ruhul Bayan this verse is interpreted as meaning that God has not appointed the Holy Prophet a guardian who should hold back people from polytheism and from sins. God has here told the Holy Prophet: I have not committed to thee the function of safeguarding people against paganism and sins. They are free to act as they wish; thy business is only to warn. It is for them to accept or to reject. Thy business is to tell them that the Unity of God is the foundation of the universe and to furnish them with reasons and signs. It is not thy business to safeguard them against polytheism. Thus it was not the responsibility of the Holy Prophet that people should not set up partners with Allah and should not commit sins.

Imam Razi in his Tafseer Kabir has said that this verse means: Thou hast not been appointed a guardian over such a person to prevent him from following his inclinations. We have not so directed thee, nor have We given thee the power or the authority or made thee a guardian over them. so that thou mayest safeguard them against following their evil desires. This is the same as has been said at another place: Thou art not appointed a guardian over them, that is to say, thou hast not been appointed to force them to conform to what thou mayest will, namely, to accept the Light and the Truth that thou hast seen. Thou art not appointed to compel anyone to believe, as God has said: Thou art not appointed a despot over them; and has said: There is no compulsion in religion; meaning: Muhammad, you are not at liberty to compel anyone to follow the Truth (Tafseer Kabir of Imam Razi Vol VI p.478).

God Almighty has used the expression keeper or guardian negatively with reference to the Holy Prophet, peace be on him; that is to say, the Holy Prophet was not appointed a keeper or a guardian over people to compel them to believe. It may be asked then what was the function of the Holy Prophet? God says: I have made thee My Messenger, a bearer of glad tidings so that those who believe and work righteousness and win the love of God may be bestowed great bounties, and a warner so that those who rouse the wrath of God may bum in the fire of His wrath.

I have made thee My Messenger; means that the Holy prophet's responsibility was to convey to people the teaching that God had revealed to him for the benefit of man.

The Holy Quran says: If they should dispute with thee, tell them: I have submitted myself wholly to Allah, and also those who follow me. Ask those who have been given the Book and those to whom no revelation has been vouchsafed: Do you submit yourselves to Allah also? Then if they also submit to the Lord of the worlds, they will surely be rightly guided; but if they turns away, thy duty is only to convey the message. Allah is Watchful over His servants (3:21). Nothing is hidden from Him. He would deal with them and would chastise them when He wills.

At another place it is said: O ye who believe, liquor gambling, idols and divining arrows are but abominations a satanic devices. So turn wholly away from each one of them so that you may prosper. Satan desires only to create enmity and hatred between you by means of liquor and gambling, and to keep you back from the remembrance of A1lah and from Prayer. Will you, then desist? Obey Allah and obey the Messenger and be ever on your guard; but if you turn away then remember the duty Our Messenger is only to convey Our message clearly (5:91-93 These verses are obviously addressed to the Muslims. In this context turning away has two connotations. One turning away is t adopt the ways of hypocrisy, disobedience and misconduct instead of the ways of faith and sincerity; and another turning away to declare' 'unwillingness and refusal to carry out these injunctions and to repudiate Islam, as a great part of the Arabs of the desert after the death of the Holy Prophet, peace be on him, repudiate Islam on account of their unwillingness to pay the zakat. In tl1 verse turning away comprises both hypocrisy and disobedience and an open declaration of departure from Islam. The verse affirms that in both cases the Holy Prophet has no authority to compel anyone to continue within the fold of Islam or to con for to its injunctions and to act righteously. His only responsibility to expound God's message clearly, and that responsibility he was carrying out.

Imam Razi has commented on this verse that it contain~ great warning and a severe admonition from God Almighty .It S out that if you turn away, then remember that the Messenger h fulfilled his responsibility by conveying the message to you plainly and clearly. To act according to it or to ignore it is your responsibility and not his. The Messenger has carried out t responsibility laid upon him that he should warn you, and shot convey glad tidings to you, and should expound divine verities you, and he has thereby discharged the duty laid upon him a has been freed from his obligation. Thereafter he is not to be blamed in any way. Anything beyond it, that is to say, the chastisement of people who fail to discharge their responsibilities after this warning and these glad tidings, and offer opposition and repudiate Islam, belongs to God Almighty. This is not the function of the Messenger. Having expounded everything clearly he has fulfilled the purpose for which he was sent. It is not his business to compel anyone to believe and to work righteousness, and to keep anyone within the cirlce of the faith and to forbid him repudiating Islam.

Ibn Jarir has commented on this verse: Understand well that the responsibility of the one whom We have sent to you as a Messenger for the purpose of warning you, is confined to conveying to you the teaching that is revealed to him. That teaching expounds to you the way of truth and righteousness, the way that you are commanded to follow. That is the way by following which you will find God. By pointing out that way the Messenger has discharged his responsibility. The Holy Quran is revealed to him. He has conveyed it to you clearly. He has shown you great signs in support of his truth which extend unto the Day of Judgment. He has clearly indicated to you the straight path which you have been commanded to follow. So far as the chastisement for turning away and departing from Islam and sinfulness is concerned it rests with Him Who sent the Messenger, and not with the Messenger. This is a severe admonition for him who turns away from His commandments and disregards His prohibitions.

Then it is said: Remember that Allah is Severe in punishment and that He is Most-Forgiving and Ever-Merciful The Messenger's duty is only to convey the Message; and Allah knows your overt actions, as well as your secret designs (5:99-100). Thus the duty of the Messenger is only to convey the message. Allah knows well that which you do and that which you design but which you have not yet done; so far as recompense or chastisement is concerned He will deal with you Himself. The Messenger has no responsibility beyond conveying the truth plainly and expounding it clearly.

Imam Razi interprets these verses as follows: Allah begins by warning that He is Severe in punishment, and by cheering that He is also Most-Forgiving, Ever-Merciful, and then follows up with setting out the responsibility of the Messenger, namely, that his duty is only to convey the message plainly. When he expounds the truth plainly to everyone, he thereby fulfils his responsibility and is not open to any blame. The rest is your responsibility. God says: I am well aware of all your overt acts and covert designs. If you oppose the truth in your heart or by your tongue or your conduct, then remember that though you are free to do so God's seizure is severe, but if you follow the truth that is expounded to you and tread along the paths of winning the love of God which have been pointed out to you and obey Him, then know that He is Most-Forgiving, Ever-Merciful.

In the Holy Quran it is expounded that God Almighty created man, bestowed upon him ears with which to hear, eyes with which to observe miracles and signs, mind with which to reflect and ponder, and sent down numberless bounties upon him from heaven and thus demonstrated His greatness so that man should become obedient to Him. This is followed up with: Yet, if they turn away, thy duty is only to convey the message clearly ( 16: 83). If having ears and eyes and heart, and enjoying numberless bounties, people should yet turn away, there would be no blame upon the Holy Prophet, for his responsibility is only to convey the message clearly.

Again it is said: Tell them: Obey Allah and obey the Messenger. If you turn away, then he is responsible for that with which he is charged, and you are responsible for that with which you are charged. If you obey him, you will be rightly guided. The Messenger is responsible only for conveying the message clearly (24:55). In this verse the weak Muslims and the hypocrites are addressed and turning- away comprehends both disobedience and apostacy. The responsibility of the Messenger is only to convey the message clearly. The responsibility of those addressed is to believe, to declare their faith by word, to confirm it by the heart and to illustrate it by their actions and conduct. If they obey and become true Muslims they would be rightly guided and would prosper both in this world and in the hereafter. The duty of the Messenger is only to convey the message clearly.

Again it is said: If you reject that which the Messenger urges upon you, that is nothing new, for people before you also rejected the truth. The Messenger's responsibility is only to convey the message clearly (29: 19). It is not his duty to compel you to believe.

At another place it is said: Hearken to the truth which the Prophet has brought to you in the form of God's Words and God's Law, for it is God's design that you should believe and make progress and achieve the purpose of life. Then if they should turn away, We have not sent thee as a guardian over them. Thy duty is only to convey the message and no more (42:48-49).

Then it is said: Believe in Allah and His Messenger and in the Light that We have sent down…Allah will remove the ills of those who believe in Allah and work righteousness, and will admit them to the gardens of His love, but those who disbelieve will be driven into the fire. ..Allah will guide aright the heart of whoever truly believes in Him, that is to say, He will bestow upon him true faith which will enter into his heart and bring about a pure revolution in his life. You can be bestowed this bounty only if you obey Allah and His Messenger and offer Him all that belongs to you, but if you turn away (whether on account of hypocrisy or disobedience, or by way of apostacy) then remember that the Messenger has no responsibility for your misconduct, nor does any blame rest upon him, or his followers, for your apostacy. The only responsibility of Our Messenger is to convey the message clearly (64:9-13).

Again it is said: Whether We bring to pass during thy lifetime some of the chastisement that We have designed for them, or whether We cause thee to die before that happens, it will all be fulfilled. Thy duty is only to convey Our Message. It is for Us to ca11 them to account (13:41). Here it is clearly affirmed that the responsibility of the Holy Prophet, peace be on him, is only to convey the message; the reckoning rests with God. Then who can claim that he has the authority to call anyone to account?

Imam Razi has commented on this verse as follows: God says it is all the same whether the promise of chastisement is fulfilled in thy lifetime or after thy death. It was not the Holy Prophet who prophesied the doom of the disbelievers, nor did he prophesy the reward of the believers. Both pertain to God Almighty. It is not the function of the Holy Prophet to affirm that a sincere and devoted believer would be favored by God, nor to affirm that he who disbelieves and opposes and associates others with God and is disobedient and turns away from God and makes Him wroth, would be afflicted with torment. This pertains only to God and not to any human being. God Almighty says: We prophesied and We shall fulfill our prophecy at its due time. Thou art not responsible for it. Thy responsibility is only to convey the commands of God Almighty and His Message, and to discharge His trust. The Holy Prophet is the Chief of Prophets and his function is only to convey and propagate the message that has been entrusted to him. It is for God to call people to account.

The commentary on this verse in Ruhul Bayan is even more explicit. It says: The Holy Prophet's duty is only to convey the message, to discharge his trust and nothing more. He has discharged his trust, that is to say, the conveying of the Holy Quran in its entirety without the slightest change, so perfectly that there can be no addition to it or detraction from it till the Day of Judgment. It is a Book completely safeguarded. God Almighty had made a promise through the Holy Prophet, peace be on him, and made him the means of fulfilling His promise. His duty is only to convey the message and to discharge the trust and nothing more. God Almighty says that calling people to account and to chastise them for their sins on the Day of Judgment rests with Him and not with the Holy Prophet or anyone else. If anyone turns away, this should not trouble the Holy Prophet nor should he desire to hasten the chastisement of the disobedient ones. God would inflict the chastisement at its due time according to His perfect Wisdom {Ruhul Bayan Vol. VI p.338).

In the commentary Ruhul Maani this verse is interpreted as follows: Thy duty is to convey the commandments that We have sent down to thee with promises of reward and warnings of chastisement. It is for Us to call them to account for their evil conduct and to punish them for it, without forcing them into thy obedience or by exhibiting the signs which they demand from thee (Ruhul Maani Part XIII p.172).

Thus even God Almighty would not force anyone to follow Muhammad, peace be on him, inasmuch as that which is done under compulsion merits neither reward nor punishment. That is why birds and animals and stones and diamonds and jewels are neither rewarded nor punished. The occasion for reward and punishment arises only where there is freedom of conscience and belief. It stands to reason that if God's Messenger points out that a certain course of conduct is good in the estimation of God, a person would be entitled to ask what would he gain if he acts in conformity to it; or if a course of action is evil in the estimation of God what retribution should he fear in case of indulgence in it. God Almighty says that He too would not force anyone to believe in the Holy Prophet, but would call them to account and punish them for their denial. He would also not exhibit such miracles as they demand. He is God and is not subordinate to anyone, nor does He compel anyone. The basis of the whole project of creation of man is freedom of conscience and freedom of belief. That is why it is said: I have created men , high and low, that they may worship Me (51:57); that is to say, man has been created so that through his voluntary efforts he should become a manifestation of divine attributes and thus become a true servant of God. It would be contrary to the purport of this verse to designate as God's servants those who by their very nature are bound to carry out whatever they are commanded. For instance, angels carry out all God's commands and yet they are not in any way rewarded for doing so. It is their nature to obey, and, therefore, there is no occasion for reward or punishment for them. Reward and punishment are related to perfect freedom of conscience and freedom of belief.


<< Back to Table of Contents Next >>


Copyright © by Ahmadiyya Muslim Community 1995-2001. All rights reserved.
15000 Good Hope Road, Silver Spring MD 20905
If you have questions, comments or suggestions, email at info@alislam.org
or call 1-800-WHY ISLAM  between 8AM and 5PM USA PST