February 14, 2010
The Anachronism of ApostasyBy Amil Imani
Whereas the practice of slavery enslaves the body, the dogma of apostasy ensnares the mind. Whereas slavery is a shameful practice of the past, some shameless religionists still use the doctrine of apostasy to intimidate and severely punish people who elect to choose their own belief.
Islam is extremely possessive of its subjects. It is a religion that admits anyone into its fold by the person simply uttering a one-sentence statement of faith, shahada: "I bear witness that there is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is Allah's messenger." By so saying, one becomes Muslim for life and surrenders the right to ever leave it. Anyone who leaves the Islamic fold is murtad (revert), or an apostate.
The notion of apostasy is best understood within the overall Islamic dogma. Islam forms a binding covenant with the believer. Once a person is Muslim, he and his issues are considered Muslim forever. In this covenant, Islam promises to bestow its beneficence on the faithful conditional on the person's total and unquestioned surrender to it in all matters. Some of the rewards offered by Islam to the truly obedient believer, particularly the privileged males, are of this world, as well as a great deal more promised to him in the next. If a Muslim faithful does not reap the rewards of his devotion in this world, Islam assures him of his inestimably cherished and limitless compounded rewards in the next world.
Islam demands subjugation of the individual's will to that of Allah and permeates the thinking, the actions, and the speech of Muslims by prefacing commitments they make contingent on the will of God (inshallah).
This total surrender and submission to the will and decree of Allah also absolves the individual from taking full responsibility for his conduct or honoring commitments he may make. For it is Allah who has the unquestioned authority to consummate or contravene any action or promise made by a faithful.
Within this overall framework of complete acceptance of Islam as the perfect living charter for the believer, the rules pertaining to apostasy can be better understood. Islam considers an apostate a person who unilaterally breaks the covenant he has made with the faith. An apostate is condemned as guilty of turning his back on Allah's immutable, eternal religion. Anyone who is born to Muslim parents and leaves Islam is stigmatized as murtad fitri (natural apostate) in the sense that he was born genetically Muslim and has rejected his gift of birth. And anyone who converts to Islam and later leaves it is condemned as murtad milli (a person who has turned his back to the Ummah).
The severe stricture against leaving Islam is consistent with other main principle beliefs of the religion. Islam is a faith of surrender, not one of a free will. A Muslim is to surrender his freedom of thoughts and actions to the will and dictates of Allah. The very principle of freedom is alien to the Islamic belief system.
With regard to apostasy, the two main branches of Islam, the Sunni and the Shiite, are in considerable agreement. The great majority of Muslim scholars of both major camps agree that the Quran stipulates death for the apostate.
Islam, by its very nature, is an all-encompassing belief system that proscribes and prescribes every detail of the person's and society's conduct. The Sharia law, a comprehensive code of Islamic jurisprudence, purportedly is based on the Quran and the Hadith (the reported enunciations and conduct of Muhammad).
Furthermore, Islamic societies rule by the Islamic laws of Sharia. Any new societal legislation must be harmonious with those of the Sharia, which are conclusively anti-democratic. Sharia law is in explicit contradiction with and violation of the foundation of democracy. Sharia law places the dictates and rules of Allah over the sovereignty of the people. It discriminates against non-Muslims to the extreme of disenfranchising them from their rights of citizenship, such as in the case of Baha'is being barred from jobs, higher education, worship, etc. -- not only in Iran, but also in Saudi Arabia and even Egypt. Sharia is blatantly discriminatory against women, Muslim or not. Men have greater claim to inheritance, their testimony in the court of law is worth twice that of women, and they may marry multiple women at the same time. It even stipulates different rules and privileges governing free Muslim men as opposed to slave Muslims, implicitly condoning slavery. Saudi Arabia, the flagship of Islam, was finally forced by the free world to abandon slavery, I believe, only in the late 1940s.
Apostasy is defined both in the Quran and the Sharia, and its punishment is clearly stipulated.
Islamic law does not allow the freedom to choose one's religion.
The Quran also specifically addresses the issue of murtad milli:
The Hadith further restates the provision of the Quran regarding punishment of the apostate.
The Sharia law stipulates that any Muslim who turns his back to Islam should be given a chance to revert to the religion. For an unrepentant male apostate, death is the punishment, whereas it is life imprisonment for a female apostate.
At present, apostasy is illegal in most Islamic countries. Although execution of the apostate is not common, it does take place from time to time, usually by buttressing the "crime" with additional charges. The Islamic Republic of Iran, for instance, often adds the charge of mohareb (one who wars with God) to further legitimize its execution of apostates. A case in point pertains to the treatment of the religious minority Baha'is by the Islamic Republic. A number of Baha'is have been charged as apostates and mohareb and executed, with some of them being secretly buried in unmarked graves.
The late Ayatollah Khomeini in his Tahrir al-Wassilah adjudicates how a person's apostasy is established: "Apostasy is proven in two ways: First, the person himself confesses to his apostasy twice. Second, two just and truthful men bear witness to the person's apostasy. But women's testimonies do not prove apostasy in any case; either they bear witness individually, in a group or beside a man."
The misogynic nature of Islam is once again evident in Ayatollah Khomeini's blanket disqualification of women's testimony solely on the basis of gender.
"Apostasy -- or the formal renunciation of religion -- is already punishable in Iran with death. But now, Iran wants to make the death penalty for apostasy part of the penal code. The European Union is concerned and has asked Iran to reconsider." Who is an apostate according to the legislation? Anyone in the world, not just Iranians, born to a Muslim parent; also, any convert to Islam who leaves it. Only one parent needs to be a Muslim at the time of conception for Islam to own that child for life. Islam is Ummahist. Islam doesn't recognize nationalities or national boundaries. And these Islamist zealots are very serious. They have no sense of humor. Some say they have no sense at all, and that may be right. What they certainly have is a thirst for blood -- particularly the blood of infidels and apostates.
It is noteworthy that Islam considers the world as its Ummah, which supersedes national boundaries. Hence, Islamic clerics feel free to issue fatwa and other adjudications regarding any person, groups, or nations anywhere in the world. A celebrated case of this practice was the fatwa of Ayatollah Khomeini against the British author Salman Rushdie for his book The Satanic Verses. Hence, individual Muslims anywhere in the world take it upon themselves to carry out fatwa issued by Islamic high divines. In another high-profile case, the killing of Theo van Gough, a Dutch film director, and the recent attack on the Danish cartoonist Kurt Westergaard clearly demonstrate this primitive practice that runs counter to the civilized world's due process and has serious intimidating impact on the freedom of expression.
Free people and nations should not sacrifice their God-given liberty to please the Islamists by muzzling dissenters and even endangering their safety and their lives.
The concept and practice of apostasy is a shameful stain on the conscience of humanity. It is despicable for any belief system to stubbornly cling to the dehumanizing anachronism of apostasy while its counterpart, slavery, is already buried in mankind's graveyard of past infamy.