By Dr. Jamal A. Badawi**

Apr. 26, 2006



Apostasy, or riddah in Arabic, literally means defection or backsliding.1 As an Islamic legal term, it means denouncing Islam as one’s religion by a Muslim. There has been a wide variety of opinions by Muslim scholars throughout nearly fourteen centuries concerning punishment for apostasy with the majority of the opinion that apostasy is a capital crime as it threatens the integrity and stability of the Muslim community and state. This paper aims at critically evaluating these views in the light of the Qur’an and Hadith.2


Apostasy is a capital crime as it threatens the integrity and stability of the Muslim community and state.

Examination and evaluation of such diverse opinions requires clarity of the proper methodology in the study of any topic relating to Islam. While this methodology is the focus of a profound discipline known as ‘ilm usul al-fiqh,3 or the principles of Islamic jurisprudence, there are a few fundamental general rules that may be summed up as follows:

1. Actions of Muslims, whether or not they are claimed to be in the name of Islam or in the name of God are not to be equated with normative authentic Islam. It is the later that is the criterion of evaluating such actions and to judge whether they are consistent with it or not and to what degree.

2. Normative authentic Islamic teachings are based in the first place on its supreme source; the Qur’an which is to Muslims the verbatim word of God as revealed to Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him). The Qur’an has been preserved intact since its revelation and in the original language in which it was revealed. Next to the Qur’an is Hadith, sometimes used interchangeably with the term Sunnah4. Hadith is defined as the words, actions, and approvals of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) in the context of understanding and implementing Islamic teachings.5 In the case of Hadith, due care must be given to the degree of authenticity of each hadith.

With this hierarchy of sources, we can begin our enquiry by asking if there is any reference in the Qur’an to capital punishment for apostasy.

Evidence from the Qur’an

There is no single verse in the Qur’an which prescribes an earthly punishment for apostasy.

There is no single verse in the Qur’an that prescribes an earthly punishment for apostasy. Verses about apostasy in the Qur’an speak only about God’s punishment of the apostate in the Hereafter. The following Qur’anic verses illustrate two examples:

[Your enemies will not cease to fight against you till they have turned you away from your faith, if they can. But if any of you should turn away from his/her faith and die as a denier [of the truth] – these it is whose works will bear no fruit in this world and in the life to come; and these it is who are destined for the fire, therein to abide.] (Al-Baqarah 2:217)6

[Behold, as for those who come to believe, and then deny the truth, and again come to believe, and again deny the truth, and thereafter grow stubborn in their denial of truth — God will not forgive them, nor will guide them in any way.] (An-Nisaa’ 4:137)

It is important to note in the above verse that if the Qur’an prescribes capital punishment for apostasy, then the apostate should be killed after the first instance of apostasy. As such there would be no opportunity to “again come to believe and again deny the truth, and thereafter grow stubborn in their denial of truth”. In spite of these acts of repeated apostasy, no capital punishment is prescribed for them.7

The silence of the Qur’an on any prescribed mandatory capital for apostasy is quite revealing.

The silence of the Qur’an on any prescribed mandatory capital for apostasy is quite revealing. More revealing is the fact that there is overwhelming evidence in the Qur’an of freedom of conscious, belief, and worship. The following verses gives an example of this:

[And say [O Muhammad]: ‘The truth [has now come] you’re your Sustainer: let, then, him or her who wills, believe in it, and let him or her who wills, reject it.] (Al-Kahf 18:29)

[There shall be no coercion in matters of faith.] (Al-Baqarah 2:256)

[And so, [O Prophet,] exhort them; your task is only to exhort. You can not compel them [to believe].] (Al-Ghashiyah 88:21-22)

[Thus, [O Prophet,] if they argue with you, say, “I have surrendered my whole being unto God, and [so have] all who follow me’ – and ask those who have been vouchsafed revelation aforetime, as well as the unlettered people, ‘Have you [too] surrendered yourselves unto Him?’ And if they surrender themselves unto Him, they are on the right path; but if they turn away – behold, your duty is no more than to deliver the message: for God sees all that is in [the hearts of] His creatures.] (Aal `Imran 3:20)

These and many other verses in the Qur’an are only consistent with its depiction of the human as a free agent with the power of choice as long as that choice does not involve violation of law or commission of a crime. They are also consistent with the meaning of Islam based on the etymology of the word, which means to attain peace with God, inner peace and peace with all of God’s creation (including humans, animals, vegetation, and natural resources) through willing and voluntary submission to God and accepting His grace and guidance in one’s life.

It is inconceivable to attain that peace if a person is forced or coerced into becoming a Muslim or remaining a Muslim against his or her free will. It is also inconceivable to say, “Yes, no one is forced to become a Muslim, but once he or she accepts Islam willingly, it is forbidden to reject it.” Such an argument under whatever excuse or justification is inconsistent with the many conclusive verses in the Qur’an on freedom of belief which is above all an inner feeling of acceptance and conviction.

It is inconceivable to attain peace if any person is forced or coerced to become a Muslim or to remain a Muslim against his/her free will.

If indeed, capital punishment is prescribed for mere individual apostasy, then it is one of the most serious forms of “coercion” in religion, coercion which is clearly and conclusively forbidden in the Qur’an. Furthermore, the fear of such assumed punishment may lead many to hypocrisy; by pretending to remain Muslims just to save their lives. In the final analysis, hypocrisy is a greater danger to the community than apostasy in itself. Hypocrites may implode the Muslim community from within.

More inconceivable yet, is the argument that the verse that states, [There shall be no coercion in matters of faith] was abrogated (Al-Baqarah 2: 256). This verse is one of many other verses that affirm the principle of free choice of belief. As such, to claim that this verse was “abrogated” implies that all other similar verses are abrogated too.

What is more significant, however, is that any claim of naskh (abrogation or more correctly supersession) must be carefully examined. The entire Qur’an is definitively authentic and well preserved intact (qat`i ath-thubut). Any claim of naskh must be definitive also and not based on mere opinion or speculation. As-Suyuti quotes Ibn Al-Hassar as having said the following:

It is not acceptable, in the matter of naskh, (to accept) statements of the interpreters of the Qur’an, not even the ijtihad (reasoning) of those engaging in ijtihad without authentic reports or clear evidence since naskhinvolves removal of a ruling and affirming of (another) ruling which occurred during the lifetime of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) and what is acceptable in that matter is the narration and history not opinion or ijtihad.

While some scholars have claimed that hundreds of verses of the Qur’an were abrogated, the majority of scholars reject that claim. The famous scholar of Qur’anic sciences Jalal Ad-Din As-Suyuti narrowed the number of abrogated verses to 19 verses. Other scholars, such as Shah Waliyyullah Ad-Dahlawi and Sobhi As-Salih narrowed them down to a lesser number.8 None of these verses mentioned by As-Suyuti, Ad-Dahlawi, or As-Salih are claimed to abrogate the verses prohibiting coercion in religion. A basic principle of Islamic jurisprudence is that the Qur’an can only be abrogated by the Qur’an or a more direct, highly authentic and explicit evidence based on the Prophet’s teachings.

It is abundantly clear that there is no conclusive evidence, indeed no evidence at all in the Qur’an to sustain the claim that the apostate should be killed on that sole ground.9 However, absence of evidence in the Qur’an is not sufficient though central. If indeed there is a conclusive evidence in Hadith prescribing capital punishment for the apostate, that conclusion must be altered.

Evidence from Hadith

It is abundantly clear that there is no conclusive evidence in the Qur’an to sustain the claim that the apostate should be killed

Hadith is defined as the actions, words, and approvals of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him). The crucial questions that need to addressed are as follows:

  • Is there any report of apostasy that took place during the lifetime of the Prophet?

  • What is the degree of authenticity of such report(s)?

  • If there are such authentic reports, was the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) in a position to implement and enforce the law?

  • How did the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) deal with such case(s), in the form of action or words?

  • How should the actions and words of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) be interpreted keeping in mind a number of widely accepted rules including that no Hadith may be interpreted in a way that genuinely contradicts the Qur’an or for that matter contradicting a more authentic Hadith. Following are answers to these questions combined.

There are a few reports alleging that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) ordered the killing of a few apostates who refused to repent. However, all such reports were deemed weak (unauthentic) by Hadith scholars. For example, the famous scholar Muhammad Ash-Shawkani (died in 1839) wrote that there were problems with the isnad (chain of narration) of these reports and thus they are not consider to be reliable, especially in a serious matter such as capital punishment.10 None of these reports were narrated by earlier and far more reliable sources of Hadith such as Al-Bukhari and Muslim.

More significant is the fact that a case of apostasy was reported in the most authentic book of Hadith (Bukhari) reported by more than one reliable chain of narration (stronger isnad). The following includes a translation of the most central hadiths:

Jabir ibn `Abdullah narrated that a Bedouin pledged allegiance to the Apostle of Allah for Islam (i.e. accepted Islam) and then the Bedouin got fever whereupon he said to the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) “cancel my pledge.” But the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) refused. He (the Bedouin) came to him (again) saying, “Cancel my pledge.” But the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) refused. Then he (the Bedouin) left (Medina). Allah’s Apostle said, “Madinah is like a pair of bellows (furnace): it expels its impurities and brightens and clear its good.”11

Some argued that perhaps the man in question wanted to be relieved of his oath (bay`ah) not to leave Madinah. This argument lacks any textual or other support. In fact, the wording of this particular hadith clearly indicates that the subject of the oath (bay`ah) was to willingly accept Islam. Thus, his request to be relieved from that oath meant that he wanted to leave Islam. This incident took place in Madinah when Muslims were living in an independent Islamic “state,” where the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) had full authority to implement Shari`ah law.

If indeed the “revealed” prescribed punishment for apostasy is death, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) would have been the first to carry out the punishment. In fact, he did not even prescribe any punishment at all against that Bedouin, nor did he send any one to arrest him as an “apostate,” imprison, or ask him to recant or even reconsider his decision as later jurists prescribed. Nor is there any solid ground to claim that this and other similar hadiths were “abrogated.” In fact, these Hadiths are in conformity with the Qur’an and consistent with its central value of freedom of conscious and rejection of any compulsion in matters of faith (Al-Baqarah 2:256).

The above described event is compatible with one of the conditions of the Treaty of Hudaybiyah, which the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) accepted. The Prophet stipulated that the condition that if a Muslim were to migrate to Madinah to join the Muslim community there under the leadership of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) wished to leave Islam and go back to his or her previous religion, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) was obliged to let the person return to Makkah.

This happened before the final victory over the Makkans and the Prophet’s victorious return to Makkah. However, one would have expected the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) to have refused this condition so that he could have been able to punish any potential apostate. It is interesting to note that some scholars who argue for capital punishment if someone commits apostasy justify that by the imperative of safeguarding the Muslim community and its political entity from disintegration and defection from the faith. Such justification would have been more relevant at the time the Prophet readily accepted that condition of the treaty since Muslims were even more vulnerable and still relatively insecure.

The above hadith and similar ones are of the highest degree of authenticity and reliability and are also quite clear and as such should be kept in mind when we examined other authentic hadiths on the topic.

Another hadith goes as follows:

Abdullah narrated that Allah’s Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “The blood of a Muslim, who confesses that there is no God but Allah and that I am His Apostle, cannot be shed except in three cases: In Qisas (retaliation) for murder, a married person who commits adultery and the one who reverts from Islam (apostates) and leaves the (Muslim) community.”12

This hadith has been interpreted in more than one way. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) speaks here of three capital crimes, the third of which is committing apostasy and parting with the (Muslim) community. By merely committing apostasy and parting peacefully with the Muslim community without committing any act of treason justifies the death penalty, then why did the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) let the man in the first hadith cited above go unmolested? Would that show that parting with the community refers to coupling apostasy with joining the enemies who were at war with Muslims at that time?

The argument that apostasy itself is an act of treason because Islam is also a religious entity is questionable on several grounds. First, it is known that all people of other faith communities, who are peacefully coexisting with Muslims, are entitled to just and kind treatment and are not pressured into accepting Islam against their will (Al-Mumtahanah 60:8-8). If a Muslim chooses to commit apostasy, bad as it may seem from a Muslim perspective, the relevant question is whether or not such apostasy is coupled with other crimes against the state.

Another relevant question is whether an individual apostasy is itself an offense (in Arabic jarimah). And if it were an offense, it would be an offense that goes purely against God. In that case, God would hold the person accountable on the Day of Judgment. Or, if it were automatically considered to be a capital offense here on earth regardless of the particulars of any specific situation. More central here is whether it is coupled with any other punishable offense.

This inquiry is not meant to trivialize the possible, even likely harms to the community or the Islamic state. Nor does it ignore the possible effect of morale of the public in Muslim cultures. In his article regarding apostasy,13 Dr. Yusuf Al-Qaradawi eloquently speaks of these problems and harms, especially when seen among the masses of Muslims today as part of their commonly perceived Western assault on Islam and Muslims, militarily, politically, economically, socially, and even religiously. However, in the same Muslim communities, there are people who still claim to be Muslim while at the same time, they wage war on Islam and Muslims. Dr. Al-Qaradawi calls it “an intellectual apostasy.”14 Unfortunately, more dangerous and destructive “apostasy” goes unpunished.

One version of this second hadith quoted above is quite revealing and may help answer these questions. `A’ishah, the Prophet’s wife, narrated that the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) said the following:


“The blood of a Muslim, who confesses that none has the right to be worshipped but Allah and that I am His Apostle, cannot be shed except in three cases: a married person who commits adultery; he is to be stoned and a man who went out fighting against God and his Messenger; he is to be killed or crucified or exiled from the land and a man who murders another person; he is to be killed on account of it.”15

This version is quite similar to Al-Bukhari’s version above with respect to two categories of capital crimes; adultery and premeditated murder of an innocent person. However, the third category in Al-Bukhari’s version is described here more explicitly as “fighting against God and His Messenger” an act that is inconceivable to be committed by a Muslim and is a clear indication of apostasy as the hadith deals with one who is a Muslim in the first place.

The expression used in this version of the hadith is identical to the following expression used in the Qur’an:

[The punishment of those who wage war against God and His Apostle, and strive with might and main for mischief through the land is: execution, or crucifixion, or the cutting off of hands and feet from opposite sides, or exile from the land: this is their disgrace in this world, and a heavy punishment is theirs in the Hereafter.] (Al-Ma’idah 5:33)

This verse, and hence the description in the above hadith, does not relate to apostasy itself but rather to hiraabah, or organized crime involving murder, armed robbery, and other acts that terrorize the public. It is up to the court to determine the type of punishment suited to the degree of gravity of their offenses. It is a reasonable conclusion as such that the third category mentioned in Al-Bukhari’s version refers to apostasy coupled with these other crimes some of which are capital crimes. This was regarded as a viable possibility by the medieval scholar Ibn Taymiyah.

Dr. Al-`Awwa, a well-known contemporary Muslim scholar, wrote the following:

Based on this hadith, Ibn Taymiyah said that the second category here stands for the same one referred to (in Ibn Mas`ud’s version) as ‘someone who abandons his religion and the Muslim community,’ as abandoning the Muslim community is achieved by waging war against Allah and His Messenger.

If this view (of Ibn Taymiyah) is correct, which I consider it to be so, then the reasons mentioned in Ibn Mas`ud’s version according to which the blood of a Muslim may be shed are the same as those mentioned in `A’ishah’s version of the same hadith. Hence, the person who abandons his religion and the Muslim community according to Ibn Mas`ud’s version of this hadith is meant to be the person who apostatizes from Islam and then fights against Allah and His Messenger, not the person who merely becomes an apostate. Based on this, the ruling on apostates who are not involved in fighting against the Muslim community is not indicated in this hadith.

In other words, this hadith does not state the ruling concerning those who merely apostatize from Islam; but states the ruling on those who wage war against Allah and His Messenger, and it is established that the latter must be killed, be they Muslims or non-Muslims. Hence, it is not valid to base the view that the punishment for apostasy is the prescribed death penalty upon the Prophet’s permission to shed the blood of the Muslim “who abandons his religion and the Muslim community” as mentioned in this hadith”16

Ibn `Abbas narrated that the Prophet said, “Whoever changed his religion, then kill him“.17 This hadith is perhaps the most quoted one by those who are of the view that apostasy is a capital crime. This argument could have been more convincing if this were the only hadith on this topic. It raises a number of questions as to how it may be interpreted in view of the following statements:

1. The absence in the Qur’an of any earthly punishment for apostasy in spite of its mention in many places in the Qur’an.

2. The consistent and repeated affirmation of freedom of conscious and freedom of faith and worship in the Qur’an.

3. The hadiths in Al-Bukhari discussed earlier show that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) himself did not carry out any punishment on the man who committed apostasy in Madinah and left the town.

4. There is no authentic hadith that narrates that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) carried out capital punishment for apostasy during his lifetime.

5. As Dr. Al-`Awwa observed, the expression “kill him” does not necessarily signify a mandatory command.18 In fact, one of the basic principles of Islamic jurisprudence is that the command verb could mean a mandatory command (such as prayers, zakah, and fasting). It could refer to an optional act (like optional night prayers). It could also mean permissibility of an act and several other meanings. It is the presence of corroborating evidence or lack thereof that determines the proper contextual meaning. In the light of the evidence discussed above, the Prophet’s command here seems to refer to the permissibility of capital punishment, when apostasy is coupled with a capital crime such as waging war against the community.

6. Dr. Al-Qaradawi suggests another possible meaning of this hadith, saying, “There is another possibility that `Umar’s opinion (against mandatory capital punishment for an apostate) is that when the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, ‘Whoever changes his religion, then kill him,’ the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said that in his capacity as the leader of the community and head of state and that this was one of the executive decisions by the authorities (one of the actions that falls within as-syaasah ash-ahar`iyyah) and not a religious verdict (fatwa) or transmission (of a verdict) of God which is binding on the Ummah at all times and everywhere and under all circumstances.”19 This indicates also that punishment for apostasy, if any (as the Prophet himself did not mete to the man who committed apostasy and left Madinah), is not a mandatory fixed punishment (hadd). Other evidence to that effect was elaborated on by Dr. Al-`Awwa in his article.20

To justify capital punishment for the apostate, some refer to more than one version of a hadith pertaining to an incident that happened during the Prophet’s life. A group of people from `Ukal and `Urainah came to Madinah and accepted Islam. Subsequently, they committed apostasy and then killed and tortured a shepherd (other version say there was more than one shepherd) and mutilated his bodies. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) ordered their arrest and they were executed.21 The question here is whether they were killed because of apostasy or because of their brutal murder of innocent people. It appears certain that it was the later reason.

References to Actions and Interpretation of the Companions of the Prophet and the First Generation After Prophet Muhammad

Included in the books of Hadith are actions of the Prophet’s Companions, the books contain either their explicit statements of what the Prophet said or their actions which are presumed to be based on what they learned from the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him). While the place of consensus (ijmaa`) of the Prophet’s Companions as a source of Islamic Shari`ah has been debated, it is a valid source especially if there are other supporting evidence. However, the Prophet’s direct words and actions are of higher authority since only the Prophet was the recipient of revelations in matters of faith.

A few hadiths refer to incidents when `Ali, Mu`adh, and Abu Musa carried out capital punishment on some people who had committed apostasy. In one instance, Mu`adh was quoted as having said that this punishment was the judgment (qadaa’) of God and His Messenger. Referring to these incidents, however, may not give a conclusive evidence of a mandatory capital punishment for the following reasons:

1. The prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) himself did not carry out a punishment in any authentic hadith. His action takes priority over words.

2. Other authentic hadiths relating to punishment has been interpreted differently as detailed above.

3. It is possible that when a companion like Mu`adh says, “This is the judgment of God and His Messenger,” he was expressing his interpretation of the verses and hadiths cited above.

4. As Dr. Al-Qaradawi and Dr. Al-`Awwa have suggested, these reports of capital punishment were not mandatory, but rather executive decisions based on their particular circumstances, a matter that varies considerably with time and place, and not a fatwa “religious verdict” that is “binding on the Ummah (Muslim community) at all times and everywhere and under all circumstances.22

It is important to note that `Umar, a famous Companion of the Prophet, was disappointed when he learned that an apostate was killed. When asked what he would have done in that situation, he suggested that the apostate should have been detained and given an opportunity to reconsider his decision. He did not speak of any time limit, which may negate the notion of mandatory capital punishment. The same view was held by Ibrahim An-Nakh`i and Sufian Ath-Thawri, two members of the first generation after Prophet Muhammad. Some scholars argue that apostasy, in the early days of Islam, was considered in the context of security and war situation. For example, Jamal Al-Banna suggested the following:

The notion of apostasy in the time of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) was coupled with animosity against Islam and waging war against it. So, one who believed in him (the Prophet) was endeavoring to support him, and one who committed apostasy was endeavoring to wage war against him and join the idolatrous folk.23

He then gives an example the case of `Abdullah ibn Abi As-Sarh who accepted Islam and then committed apostasy and returned to Makkah to instigate the Quraish tribe to fight against the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him).


There is no firm ground for the claim that apostasy is in itself a mandatory fixed punishment (hadd), namely capital punishment.

  • The preponderance of evidence from both the Qur’an and Sunnah indicates that there is no firm ground for the claim that apostasy is in itself a mandatory fixed punishment (hadd), namely capital punishment.

  • References to early capital punishment for apostasy were not due to apostasy itself, but rather other capital crimes that were coupled with it.

  • In the context of the besieged early Muslim community, apostasy was a major threat to the nascent Muslim community. Taking a passive attitude towards it would have jeopardized the very emergence of the Muslim community. This may be one reason why the consensus of scholars is that apostasy is an offense (in the context of an Islamic society) is an offense. However, there are wide divergence of views about its suitable punishment. Sheikh `Abdul-Majeed Subh argues that “we can conclude that the issue of the penalty prescribed for apostasy is dependent on the public interest of the nation. Therefore, there is no harm in ignoring the apostasy of an individual as long as he or she does not harm the nation. On the other hand, if a group of apostates endangers the security and interests of the Muslim community, then the Muslim ruler should consider them to be a danger and threat to society.”24

  • As religious opinions (fatwas) change with the changing time, place, custom, and circumstances, this issue should be reexamined within the basic boundaries of Islamic jurisprudence and not simply of pressures of others. No Muslim is required to change the indisputable stable and fixed aspects of Shari`ah for the sake of pleasing others or earning the title “moderate” or “open minded.” In the meantime, jurisprudent rulings and interpretations in the non-fixed area need not be permanent either.

Some principles of Islamic jurisprudence may be helpful in any such endeavor. Considering ma’alaat al-af`aa, or considering the results of adopting a particular interpretation. Even if an act was permissible or desirable but could cause harm to the cause of Islam, it should be avoided. For example, The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) was conscious of the imperative of safeguarding the name of Islam and its reputation. When it was suggested to him that `Abdullah ibn Ubayy ibn Salul should be killed because of the divisive and subverting role he had played in Madinah, the Prophet answered that he feared that people will say that “Muhammad is killing his companions.”

Weighing harms and benefits of a particular act since there is no sense to do some good if that results in greater harm. Applying these rules in our contemporary world where the setting is vastly different from the past, a few pertinent questions are as follows:

  • Would the insistence on a particular view, common in Muslim jurisprudence heritage as it may be, really enhance the reputation of Islam and Muslims and correct the already severely blemished unfair image?

  • Just as the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) and early Muslims considered the context of their times in non-fixed matters (ghair thawaabit) shouldn’t our scholars today do the same?

Whatever opinion is held, as Dr. Al-Qaradawi and others suggest, a great deal of caution must be exercised when dealing with any alleged apostasy case as there are many legal consequences of apostasy pertaining to family law in Islam. The benefit of doubt must be given and only those in legitimate authority and knowledge may deal with such situation as no one is allowed to take the law in their own hands.

If there is anything in this paper that is accurate, it is only by the Grace of Allah and because of what I have learned from scholars for whom I have great love and respect, even though I am not one of them. If there is anything that is erroneous, it is my doing and I seek Allah’s forgiveness for it. If there are people who disagree with these preliminary reflections, there is no offense in engaging in brotherly and objective dialogue with the prayer that Almighty Allah may show us all the truth and help us to act upon it. The last of our prayer is all grace is due to Allah.

** Dr. Jamal Badawi is a professor at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, where he is currently a cross-appointed faculty member in the Departments of Religious Studies and Management. He completed his undergraduate studies in Cairo, Egypt and his Masters and Ph. D. degrees at Indiana University in Bloomington, In.
Dr. Badawi has authored several books and articles on Islam. He also researched, designed and presented a 352-segnment television series on Islam, shown in many local TV stations in Canada and the US and in other countries as well. Audio and video copies of this series are widely available thought out the world. Some Titles of His Published Works are: Selected prayers, Gender Equity in Islam, Muhammad in the Bible, Status of Women in Islam, Polygamy in Islamic Law, The Earth and Humanity : An Islamic Perspective, Islam: A Brief Look, Muslim Woman’s Dress According to the Qur’an and the Sunnah and Islamic Ethics.
In addition to his participation in lectures, seminars and interfaith dialogues in North America, Dr. Badawi was invited as a guest speaker in various functions throughout the world. He is also active in several Islamic organizations, including the Islamic Society of North America and is the Founder/chairman of the Islamic Information Foundation, a non-profit foundation seeking to promote a better understanding of Islam and the Muslims towards non-Muslims. He has lectured extensively in North America and abroad, and is an excellent speaker on a variety of topics including Islam & Christianity. He is an expert in Christian-Muslim Dialogues. Dr. Badawi is also a member of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) Fiqh Council. He is also a member of both the Fiqh Council of North America, and the European Council for Fatwa and Research.

1. Baalbaki, Rohi. Al-Mawrid: A Modern Arabic-English Dictionary. Dar El-Ilm Lilmalayin: Beirut, 15th Edition, 2001, p. 582.

2. Hadith is defined as the actions, words and approvals of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him).

3. For a more detailed discussion of these issues, see Kamali, Mohammad Hashim, Principles of Islamic Jurisprudence. Islamic Texts Society, Cambridge, 1991.

4. While some scholars argue that there are fine differences between “Hadith” and “Sunnah,” the majority of scholars consider the two terms to be interchangeable. For more details on this, see Al-Saleh, Sobhi, `Ulum Al-Hadith Wa-Mostalahoh (Arabic). Dar El-Ilm Lilmalayin: Beirut, 13th Edition, 1981, PP. 3, 11.

5. For the distinction between the legal (As-Sunnah At-Tashri`iyyah) and non-legal Sunnah, see Kamali, op. cit., pp. 50-57. See also Al-Saleh, Sobhi, Mabaahith Fi `Ulum Al-Qur’an, Dar Al-`ilm Lilmalayeen: Beirut, 14th Ed., 1982, pp. 34-35.

6. Translation of the meaning of the Qur’an was based mainly on Muhammad Asad’s, The Message of the Qur’an. Dar Al-Andalus: Gibralter, 1984. Some minor adjustments were made by this author to provide for greater clarity.

7. For other verses on apostasy, see 3:62; 86; 90, 5:57, 9:75, 16:106 and 47:25.

8. See Al-Saleh, Sobhi. Mabaahith Fi `Ulum Al-Qur’an. Dar Al-`ilm Lilmalayeen: Beirut, 14th ed., 1982, pp. 272-274.

9. Some may argue that in the Qur’an (9:74) speaks of God’s punishment in this life and in the hereafter. However, both the textual and historical context of this verse deals with the hypocrites not the apostates. In spite of their lack of faith, hypocrites continue to claim that they are believers and do not declare that they had “committed apostasy.” The basic rule is to accept hypocrites’ claim (of faith) and leave it to God to punish them in his own way, in this life and the life to come.

10. Ash-Shawkani, Muhammad Bin `Ali. Nayl Al-Awtaar (in Arabic). Dar Al-Jeel: Beirut, 1973, Vol. 8, pp.2-3.

11. Sahih Al-Bukhari. (translated by Muhammad Muhsin Khan), Maktabat Al-Riyadh Al-Hadithah: Riyadh, 1982, Vol.9, hadith 316, pp. 241. Similar hadiths narrated by other chains of narration include Hadiths 318, P. 242; 323, p. 246.

12. Al-`Asqalaani, Ibn Hajar. Fath Al-Bari Bisharh Sahih Al-Bukhari (in Arabic). Edited by M. Abdul Baaqi and M. Al-Khatib, Dar Al-Rayyan Lilturaath: Cairo, 2nd Printing, 1987, Vol.12, Baab Ad-Diyaat, hadith 6878, p. 209, translated by this author.

l– updated April 14, 2006.

14. Ibid.

15. Al-Azdi, Abu Dawud Sulaiman (died AH 275), Sunan Abu Dawud (Arabic) , Edited by M.M. Abdul Hamid, Al-Maktabah Al-Asriyyah, Beirut, no date, Vol. 4, hadith 4353, P. 126, translated by this author.

16. Islamonline, op. cit.

17. Sahih Al-Bukhari, op. cit., Vol. 9, hadith 57, p. 45.

18. Islamonline, op. cit.

19. Islamonline Arabic website. Translated by this author.

20. Ibid.

21. Sahih Al-Bukhari, op. cit., Vol. 8, hadiths 794, 795, 796, 797, pp. 519-522.

22. Islamonline, op. cit.

23. Islamonline Arabic website. An article by Jamal Al-Banna, Translated by the author.

24. Islamonline, op. cit.