The apostacy of the tribes was not confined to a difference of doctrine. They had taken up the sword in rebellion against the Islamic state, they slaughtered the Muslims among them, they burnt some alive and mutilated those they killed and then advanced Upon Medina. Tabari has observed: When the Bani Asad, Ghatafan, Hawazan, Bani Sulaim and Bani Tai were finally vanquished, the Muslim commander, Khalid bin Waleed, refused to grant them an amnesty till they would produce before him those Who, after their apostacy, had burned the Muslims alive, had mutilated them and had otherwise tortured them (Tabari, V 01. IV, p.1900).
It is also established that the apostates had expelled from their respective areas the functionaries who had been appointed by the Holy Prophet, peace be on him, and in some places set up their own government or attempted to do so. Ibn Khalladun has written: The Banu Rabia became apostates and appointed Munzar bin Numan as their ruler (Ibn Khalladun, Vol. II, p.76).
It is, therefore, utterly untrue that the fighting of the apostates by the Muslims in the time of Abu Bakr lends any support to the thesis that simple apostacy is punishable with death in Islam. Those who make such a claim are either ignorant of the early history of Islam or they deliberately seek to mislead.
The advocates of the penalty of death for apostacy also rely in support of their thesis on the case of Musailamah Kazzab. They pose the question: If there is no penalty for apostacy, why was Musailamah Kazzab not left alone and why was he fought against? The reply is that if he had confined himself to his claim of prophethood and had not entered into any political activity in opposition to the Muslim state, there would have been something which those who differ with us could have relied upon. But the facts refute them. The object of the activities of Musailamah Kazzab was to obtain political power and his false claim of prophethood was only a means towards that end. During the lifetime of the Holy Prophet, peace be on him, he had come to Medina with a delegation of Banu Haneefah and had proposed to the Holy Prophet that he would submit to him in case he was nominated the successor of the Holy Prophet. He was told by the Holy Prophet that he would not yield him even a twig of a date palm tree. When he went back he claimed to be a prophet and announced that half the country belonged to him and half belonged to the Quraish. He sent the following letter to the Holy Prophet: From Musailamah, Messenger of Allah, to Muhammad, Messenger of Allah. Peace be on you. I have been appointed your partner in authority. Half the country belongs to us and half belongs to the Quraish, but the Quraish are a people who transgress (Tabari, V 01. IV, p.1849).
The Holy Prophet replied to him: The earth belongs to Allah; He bestows it as heritage on whomsoever He pleases of His servants, and the pleasing end is that of the righteous (7:129). Thereafter, Musailamah established his authority in Hajar and Yamamah and expelled therefrom the functionaries who had been appointed by the Holy Prophet (Khamees, Vol.II, p.177). He made a junction with Sajah, the female rebel, who had intended to fight the Muslims and assured her: I shall establish my authority over the whole of Arabia with the help of my people and thy people (Tabari, Vol. IV, p.1918). After his claim of prophethood, he encountered Habeeb bin Zaid and Abdullah bin Wahb Aslami, two of the Companions of the Holy Prophet, and having captured them, he asked them to acknowledge his prophethood. Abdullah yielded to his persuasion and became an apostate, but Habeeb stoutly resisted and Musailamah had him cut up limb by limb and then burned him (Khamees, Vol. II, p.641).
In the face of all this, can the advocates of the penalty of death for apostacy still contend that Musailamah was fought only on account of his apostacy and that his case lends any support to the thesis that simple apostacy is punishable with death? Musailamah had become so strong that when he fought Khalid bin Waleed in Yamamah, he had under his command 40,000 warriors of the Banu Haneefah alone. The fighting was so severe as the Muslims had not experienced before. Yet those who differ with us represent Musailamah as a harmless apostate and contend that if simple apostacy was not punishable, he should have been left alone.
Another instance which is cited by our opponents in support of their thesis is that of Tulaiha, another claimant to prophethood. This shows again that the divines who rely upon the cases of Musailamah and Tulaiha in support of their thesis are either ignorant or dishonest. They were not only apostates, but took up the sword against Islam and sought to dominate Arabia after destroying the Muslims.
Tulaiha bin Khawailad Asadi had become an apostate in the life of the Holy Prophet, peace be on him. He settled down at Sumaira and gathered a force around him. After the death of the Holy Prophet, he became stronger and Ghatafan, Hawazan and Tai rallied to his cause. After Abs and Zeeban had been vanquished by Hazrat Abu Bakr, they too joined Tulaiha. All these people persecuted the Muslims, tortured them, mutilated them and burned some of them alive (Tareekhal Kamel, V 01. II, p.149).
When Ukasha bin Mohsin and Thabit bin Aqram Ansari were out on a reconnaissance, they were overtaken by Tulaiha and his brother and were put to death. The Muslims subsequently discovered their dead bodies which had apparently been trampled underfoot.
It will thus be seen that Tulaiha was not only an apostate, he was a rebel and gave shelter to other rebels. He himself and his people slaughtered Muslims and it had become necessary to put him down. Khalid bin Waleed was sent against him, but before starting action, he sent an emissary to try to persuade him to come to terms so that bloodshed could be avoided. But he proved obdurate and there was no choice left to Khalid except to start fighting.
Musailamah and Tulaiha were not the only ones who made a false claim of prophethood towards the latter part of the life of the Holy Prophet, peace be on him. There were several other such claimants and all of them aimed at acquiring political authority over some part of Arabia. One of them was Aswad Ansi who raised the standard of rebellion simultaneously with his apostacy. He commanded the functionaries of the Holy Prophet in the Yemen to restore to him the taxes which they had collected. They put him off and he proceeded to subdue the Yemen with the help of the tribes of Mazhaj and Najran. He killed the Muslim governor of the Yemen, Shahr bin Bazan, and forcibly married his widow and made himself the ruler of the whole of the Yemen. On being apprised of the rebellion of Aswad, the Holy Prophet, peace be on him, sent a letter to Muaz bin Jabal and the Muslims to oppose Aswad Ansi, who was killed by them and the news of his death arrived in Medina one day after the death of the Holy Prophet, peace be on him.
One Laqeet bin Malik Azdi of Oman became an apostate and claimed to be a prophet. He collected together a force and established his authority over Oman, whence he expelled Jaafar and Abad who had been appointed functionaries in Oman (Tabari, Vol. IV, p.1977).
These claimants of prophethood had no concern with religion. Their only purpose was political domination and they were all rebels against the Islamic state. That was the only reason for fighting them. Their cases lend no support to the thesis that apostacy is punishable with death in Islam. They, like the other apostates, had raised the standard of rebellion against the Islamic state. They slaughtered Muslims, expelled the functionaries of the state from the regions over which they established their authority, assumed and exercised the powers of government, raised forces for fighting the Islamic state and some of them moved against Medina and laid siege to it. These were the reasons that they had to be fought.
Even if these apostates and claimants had not been guilty of the crimes which they committed after their apostacy, which necessitated their suppression by force for the sake of the security of the Islamic state, and had confined themselves only to refusing to pay the zakat while still claiming to be Muslims, that alone would have been a sufficient cause for fighting them. Hazrat Abu Bakr was perfectly right in declaring that he would fight those who refused to pay the zakat even if their refusal did not go beyond holding back from him one nose string of a camel which they used to render to the Holy Prophet, or holding back a single lamb that they used to surrender as zakat to the Holy Prophet. He was not only the spiritual Successor of the Holy Prophet, peace be on him, but also his political Successor. The Islamic state had been established allover Arabia during the life-time of the Holy Prophet and it was the primary duty of his Successors to maintain the Islamic state, and to safeguard it and to arrange to recover the financial dues that were owed to the state treasury. The Holy Prophet, peace be on him, had organised the revenue system of the Islamic state which was based on the zakat, and the zakat was recognised as an obligatory tax due to the state. The Islamic state made provision for its diverse activities from the proceeds of the zakat. The military requirements of the state were met out of the zakat and all aspects of social welfare were provided out of the proceeds of the zakat. For instance, it is the duty of an Islamic state to provide for the maintenance of the unemployed and of the disabled; to provide capital for those who have been trained for a profession or an occupation or other beneficent activity, but lack the means of carrying it on; to promote industry and commerce; to provide facilities for transportation and for the comfort of travelers etc. It may sometimes be necessary for the state to help those who are indebted and cannot find the means to discharge their debts, or those against whom an award has been made which they have not the capacity to fulfill. All this has to be provided for out of the proceeds of the zakat. As the Islamic state is not a purely secular state, it is under obligation to provide for the propagation of Islam and to help those who accept Islam and are in need of assistance. This is also one of the purposes which have to be met out of the proceeds of the zakat, as is said in the Holy Quran: The proceeds of the zakat are for the poor and the needy, and for those employed in connection with their collection and distribution, for those whose hearts are to be comforted, and for the freeing of slaves, and for those burdened with debt, and for those striving in the cause of Allah, and for the comfort of the wayfarers. This is an ordinance from Allah. A1lah is All Knowing, Wise. (9:60).
The difference between the obligation of paying the zakat and the obligation of observing salat is that the latter pertains wholly to the individual and the former pertains not only to the individual but also to the state, and it is the duty of the state to arrange for its recovery. The verse just cited requires the state to establish a department for the recovery and dispensation of the zakat. The Holy Prophet, peace be on rum, said about the zakat: It is a levy that is imposed upon the well-to-do and is restored to those who are in need. The expressions levied and restored indicate that it is the duty of the state to recover the zakat and to employ its proceeds for the purposes which are set out in the verse just cited. The direction in the Holy Quran “Take a portion of their wealth as zakat” (9:103); requires the Holy Prophet, peace be on him, and his Successors and all Islamic states to recover the zakat. In accordance with it, the Holy Prophet made arrangements for its recovery and appointed functionaries to assess and collect it. In his time, the zakat was collected in the same way as government revenues are collected in our time.
As Hazrat Abu Bakr was the Successor of the Holy Prophet, peace be on him, it was his obligation to collect the zakat in the way as the Holy Prophet himself collected it. That is why he affirmed that if any Muslim who paid zakat to the Holy Prophet, would withhold from him as little as the nose-string of a camel that he used to render to the Holy Prophet, he would require it from him by the sword. Thus the recovery of the zakat would be enforced in the same manner in which governments recover their dues from their subjects. If anyone should refuse to pay such dues, the state is entitled to recover them by force. Those who refused to pay the zakat in the time of Hazrat Abu Bakr were in the same situation as those who might refuse to pay government taxes today. It was the duty of Hazrat Abu Bakr to recover the zakat by force from those who refused to render it. Those people were rebels against the state like those who might refuse to pay government taxes today. Thus, if Hazrat Abu Bakr fought those Muslims who were not guilty of any offence other than refusal to pay the zakat, those who differ with us on the question of the punishment of apostacy can derive no support or comfort from his action, as he had fought those who had rebelled against the authority of the state.
The Holy Prophet, peace be on him, had to deal with enemies who would not leave the Muslims at peace. They persecuted them and sought to wipe out Islam with the sword. He stood up against them and having established peace and security in the land, laid the foundations of an Islamic state and put the Islamic law in force. Among other laws he imposed the zakat on those upon whom it had been made obligatory and arranged for its recovery. During his time, no section of the Muslims refused to pay the zakat. He was, therefore, under no necessity to fight anyone on that score. This necessity arose in the case of Hazrat Abu Bakr who was refused the dues that the Holy Prophet had imposed, the recovery of which he arranged for and out of the proceeds of which he fulfilled the requirements of the state. Therefore, it became the duty of Hazrat Abu Bakr to recover those dues by force from the subjects of the Islamic state who refused to render them voluntarily.
History does not mention any case of a people whose default in the time of Hazrat Abu Bakr was confined merely to the non-payment of zakat and whom he fought. So far as we have been able to discover, those whom he fought had rebelled openly against the Islamic state. They had expelled from the territories under their control the functionaries who had been appointed by the Holy Prophet, peace be on him; those among them who adhered to Islam were massacred and they had raised forces for the purpose of fighting the Islamic state. Some of them advanced against Medina. Hazrat Abu Bakr had been left no choice but to fight them. Even if there had been any tribes whose default was limited to refusal to pay the zakat, and who called themselves Muslims, it had become necessary to fight them also as they withheld government revenues and refused to pay them.
Our opponents cite the case of a woman apostate, Umm Qarfah, who was put to death under the authority of Hazrat Abu Bakr. In her case also, it was not a simple case of apostacy. It is recorded in Masboot, Vol. X, p110: Umm Qarfah had as many as thirty sons, whom she constantly exhorted to fight the Muslims. Thus she paid the penalty of treason against the state and was not punished on account of her apostacy.