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<< Back to Table of ContentsPunishment of Apostacy in Islam


Before concluding this review of events during the lifetime of the Holy Prophet, peace be on him, and the time of his immediate Successors, it is necessary to examine one narrative that our opponents put forward in support of their thesis that apostacy is punishable with death. I t is related that the Holy Prophet, peace be on him, appointed Muaz bin Jabal and Abu Musa Ashari governors of a part of the Yemen each. When they were about to leave him, he admonished them: Make things easy for people and do not put them to difficulty; talk to them cheerfully and not in a manner that might repel them. When either of them happened to be near the other during their tours of their respective territories, they would meet each other and spend some time together. On one occasion, when Hazrat Muaz came to meet Hazrat Abu Musa Ashari, he noticed a person sitting near the latter who had been secured with a rope. Hazrat Muaz inquired, who was this person. He was told that he was a Jew who had become a Muslim and had then become an apostate, whereupon Hazrat Muaz declared that he would not dismount till the person had been dispatched and observed that this was the judgment of God and His Messenger .

It is obvious, however, that it has been assumed in this narrative that the man had been guilty of fighting against the Muslims along with their enemies. There are several indications in the narrative in support of this assumption. For instance, Hazrat Muaz observed that his execution was in accordance with the judgment of God Almighty and His Messenger. We have already made it quite clear that according to the Holy Quran and the Holy Prophet, peace be on him, a person -can be executed only for murder or for creating disorder in the land as is said in the Holy Quran: Whoso kills a person, except for killing another or for creating disorder in the land, it shall be as if he had killed all mankind (5:33). Waging war against Allah and His Messenger is one species of disorder which attracts the penalty of death (5:34).

The practice of the Holy Prophet has also established that only such apostates were executed who had fought against the Muslims after their apostacy. Even some of them were forgiven on the intercession of some Companion of the Holy Prophet.

It is a matter of history that the wave of apostacy that followed the death of the Holy Prophet, peace be on him, had already started in the Yemen in the lifetime of the Holy Prophet when Muaz bin Jabal was governor of a part of the Yemen. There is thus every reason for assuming that the person whose execution is mentioned in this narrative had been guilty of taking up arms against the Muslims.

Then the admonition of the Holy Prophet to Hazrat Muaz and Hazrat Abu Musa at the time of their departure for the Yeman also makes it quite clear that the person mentioned in the narrative could not have been executed for simple apostacy, for such an event would be sure to repel people and to make them look upon Islam as a cruel religion.

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