I was trying to avoid writing this article because it is unpleasant. Then I realized that it is exactly the type of subject that I must write. You could even say it’s my duty.
I’m sure we’ve all heard of the Afghan man who has been on trial because he left Islam and became a Christian. The sentence if convicted? Death. Although the man has been released, “scholars” and extremists alike are calling for his head. In fact, he is currently in hiding for fear of execution.
Do Muslims believe that ex-Muslims must die? Is leaving Islam grounds for execution? Obviously there are some who believe so, but they do not speak for everyone. I, of course, do not believe that. So, what does the Koran say about those who turn their back on Islam?
[h]Islam, Religion of Tolerance[/h]
Islam, in its true form, is a religion of peace and tolerance. In fact, the Koran says:
There shall be no compulsion in religion. Distinct has now become the right way from [the way of] error: hence, he who rejects the powers of evil and believes in God has indeed taken hold of a support most unfailing, which shall never give way: for God is all-hearing, all-knowing. ( Al-Baqarah 2:256)
In another verse, God speaks directly to Mohammed (PBUH)* concerning non-Muslims:
But if they turn away [from thee, O Prophet, know that] We have not sent thee to be their keeper: thou art not bound to do more than deliver the message [entrusted to thee]. (Ash-Shura 42:48)
In yet another verse, Allah addresses the issue of harming non-Muslims:
Thus, if they let you be, and do not make war on you, and offer you peace, God does not allow you to harm them. (An-Nisaa’ 4:90)
These verses clearly state that a Muslim’s only job is to spread the word of Allah, not to enforce the message. If the Prophet (PBUH) was not allowed to enforce Islam, why would a regular person?
[h]Muslims’ Views on Ex-Muslims[/h]
Now, I am not going to tell you that Muslims are happy when one of their own converts. Much like Christian or Jewish families grieve when a member leaves the religion, so do Muslims grieve. Families feel hurt and angry. Some even cut communication with the convert. This is not unique to Islam. People of all religions sometimes react this way.
Muslims believe that Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are sister religions. We believe that they are all chapters from the same book. We feel that Islam and the Koran are simply extensions of the messages that Allah sent with the Torah and the Bible. So, when a Muslim converts we feel he has gone backwards in his religion.
[h]Only Allah Can Judge[/h]
However, we do not feel it is up to us to judge. Only Allah knows what is in a person’s heart and only Allah knows if he deserves punishment or reward.
About a person who was once Muslim and then converts to another religion, the Koran says:
But those who reject faith after they accepted it, and then go on adding to their defiance of faith never will their repentance be accepted; for they are those who have [of set purpose] gone astray. (Aal-`Imran 3:90)
Note that this says they will not be forgiven by Allah, but it does not mention death. It makes clear that any punishment will be set forth by Allah.
Like most religions, Islam states that those who do not follow Islam will never see Heaven. Before anyone gets upset, belief that they alone have the ticket to Heaven is central to most religions. Don’t Christians believe that Heaven is through the blood of Jesus Christ (PBUH)? Likewise, Muslims believe that the path to Heaven is to believe there is only one God and that Mohammed (PBUH) is his last prophet.
In conclusion, only Allah can judge a person’s religion and spirituality. There is no force in religion. No person on this earth has the right to tell another what to believe or how to worship. We can teach, we can preach, we can guide, but we can never enforce. Assalamu alaikoum!
*(PBUH) means “Peace Be Upon Him.” Muslims say this as a sign of respect after saying or writing the names of any of the Holy Prophets.