Apostasy in Islam – Whoever leaves Islam, kill him
Apostasy (riddah) is the act of leaving the faith of Islam. According to premodern Islamic jurisprudence, apostasy is punishable by death in nearly all cases, assuming the apostate is an adult of sound mind who leaves Islam by choice and who does not repent of his or her decision. Both Muslims by birth and by conversion can apostatize, though there is usually less opportunity for repentance in the former case. Most evidence for the criminalization of apostasy comes from hadith, such as the frequently quoted “Whoever changes his religion, kill him,” which is found in the two compilations of Bukhari and Muslim.
Classical jurists debated the relationship between apostasy, blasphemy, and heresy. In his Stqfda, Qadi `Iyad (d. 544/1149) weighed various opinions as to whether insulting or cursing Muhammad constituted apostasy. The punishment was more implacable if it did not: while the apostate was usually granted time to repent and return to Islam (jurists debated how long a period for reflection might be granted), a Muslim guilty of blaspheming the Prophet was to be executed without delay. Formal implementation of the death penalty for apostasy and related crimes was historically uncommon though by no means unheard-of Well-known cases were usually related to conflicts over political and theological authority, as in the execution of the mystic al-Hallaj (d. 309/922), whose utterance “I am the Reality [al-Haqq, also Truth]” appropriated one of God’s divine names.
While in practice accusations of apostasy have usually concerned heretical or blasphemous views, apostasy was most basically conversion to another faith or a declaration of lack of belief in major Muslim articles of faith such as the oneness of God (tawhid) or the prophet-hood of Muhammad.
Hanafi Inadhhab’s view that apostasy immediately dissolves a marriage and that female apostates are to be imprisoned indefinitely rather than executed.
In the twentieth century, Wahhabi thinkers have widened the scope of offenses deemed to constitute apostasy, in keeping with their narrow views of proper Muslim belief and conduct. Persecution of Muslims who hold unpopular or disapproved views continues in the modern era, as the 1990s case against Egyptian Qur’an scholar Nasr Hamid Abu Zayd (b. 1943) attests. Reacting to Abu Zayd’s attempt to interpret the Qur’an as a literary text (while still viewing it as divine in origin), Islamists sued to have his wife divorced from him on the grounds that, as a Muslim woman, she could not be married to an apostate. When a court decided against him, Abu Zayd and his wife immigrated to the Netherlands.