Editorial, Review of Religions, April, May 1989
The fair name of Islam has recently been darkened by the murderous directive issued by certain Muslim leaders and endorsed by their supporters that Salman Rusdhie must be assassinated as a result of his making blasphemous remarks about the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) in his book Satanic Verses. No doubt Salman Rushdie has been guilty of blasphemy but this is not an offence for which the death penalty is prescribed by Islam. Not at all. No such instruction is contained in the holy Quran and it is a significant point to bear in mind that not one protagonist demanding his assassination has quoted a single verse from the Holy Quran as a basis of authority.
No Prophet of God was more blasphemed, maligned, insulted and abused during his life-time than the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him. He and his faithful followers were subjected to every kind of verbal invective and physical harrassment. He was forced to migrate from Mecca to Medina due to the severity of persecution by the Meccans. Ten years later he returned to Mecca with ten thousand followers who could have taken the town by storm but the Holy Prophet(saw) forbade any bloodshed. Much to the amazement of the Meccans he forgave them their cruel enormities and this was his general attitude throughout his life towards his enemies and blasphemous opponents. All Muslims look upon the Holy Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, as a perfect exemplar for mankind and they would do well to be moved and guided by his noble example.
Voices have also been raised that Salman Rushdie is an apostate from Islam for which the punishment is death. We hasten to state that not only is no such punishment for apostasy prescribed in the Holy Quran but on the other hand the following verse completely refutes this erroneous claim:
Those who believe, then disbelieve, then again believe, then disbelieve and then increase in disbelief, Allah will never forgive them nor will He guide them to the right way. (4:138)
This verse proclaims that persons who renounce Islam have the opportunity to re-enter Islam if they so choose. This verse disproves the assertion that according to the Holy Quran an apostate should be put to death. Were death the automatic punishment for an apostate then there arises no question of having the opportunity to join Islam again. This verse mentions apostates who again accept Islam.
There is no mention in the Holy Quran or anywhere else of any punishment for an apostate which may be meted out to him by any other person. The consequences of his apostasy in this world and in the next life lie solely in the hands of God. Man is free to accept or reject whatever beliefs he chooses. God says in the Holy Quran:
There is no compulsion in religion. (2:257)
It is the truth from your Lord; wherefore let him who will believe and let him who will disbelieve. (18:30)
Islam recognizes the right of freedom of conscience and freedom of belief and that as far as one’s religious belief is concerned one is answerable to God alone. No man has the right to punish another for his choice of belief. There is absolutely no compulsion whatsoever in Islam and no punishment of any kind permitted in the Holy Quran for apostasy.
Human rights are laid own in the Holy Quran which guarantee man the right of perfect freedom of faith and conscience. In such matters God is the Judge – not man. Our constant prayer is Guide us on the Right Path. (1:6) – Amen.