Yusuf al-Qaradawi’s show ash-Shariah wal-Hayat has an audience of 40 million. He is the head of the International Union of Muslim Scholars, is a trustee of Oxford University, and is considered a leading Muslim Brotherhood intellectual. He returned to Egypt from exile after the fall of Hosni Mubarak and led Friday prayers on February 18.
Here is his contempt for the rights of apostates and his approval of their deaths, in his own words:
It is extremely dangerous to see apostasy prevailing in the Muslim community without facing it. A contemporary scholar described the apostasy prevailing in this age saying, “What an apostasy; yet no Abu Bakr is there to (deal with) it.”1
Muslims are to seriously resist individual apostasy before it seriously intensifies and develops into a collective one.
That is why the Muslim jurists are unanimous that apostates must be punished, yet they differ as to determining the kind of punishment to be inflicted upon them. The majority of them, including the four main schools of jurisprudence (Hanafi, Maliki, Shafi`i, and Hanbali) as well as the other four schools of jurisprudence (the four Shiite schools of Az-Zaidiyyah, Al-Ithna-`ashriyyah, Al-Ja`fariyyah, and Az-Zaheriyyah) agree that apostates must be executed.
In this regard, many hadiths were reported in different wordings on the authority of a number of Companions, such as Ibn `Abbas, Abu Musa, Mu`adh, `Ali, `Uthman, Ibn Mas`ud, `A’ishah, Anas, Abu Hurairah, and Mu`awiyah ibn Haidah.
For example, Ibn `Abbas quoted the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) as having said,“Whoever changes his religion, then kill him.”
A similar wording of the hadith was reported on the authority of Abu Hurairah and Mu`awiyah ibn Haidah with a sound chain of transmission. Also, Ibn Mas`ud reported the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) as having said,“The blood of a Muslim who testifies that there is no god but Allah and that I am the Messenger of Allah is not lawful to shed unless he be one of three: a married adulterer, someone killed in retaliation for killing another, or someone who abandons his religion and the Muslim community.”
Another version of this hadith was reported by `Uthman, “The blood of a Muslim is not lawful to shed unless he be one of three, a person that turned apostate after (embracing) Islam or committed adultery after having married, or killed a person without just cause.”
The eminent scholar Ibn Rajab said, “Punishing a person by death for committing any of these sins is agreed upon among Muslims.”2
`Ali ibn Abi Talib (may Allah be pleased with him) punished some people who apostatized from Islam and claimed that he was a god by putting them to fire after having reprimanded them and asked them to return to Islam but to no avail. He put them to fire saying these following lines of poetry:
When I saw the matter so flagrant,
I kindled fire and summoned for Qanbar”
Qanbar was the servant of Imam `Ali.3
Ibn `Abbas did not agree with `Ali about burning the apostates, quoting, as evidence for his opinion, the Prophet’s hadith,“Do not punish anybody with Allah’s punishment (of fire).”According to Ibn `Abbas, the apostates should have been killed by a means other than burning. Thus, Ibn `Abbas was not against killing the apostates in principle, but against killing them by fire.
Abu Musa and Mu`adh also punished a Jew by death, as he had embraced Islam and then reverted back to Judaism. Mu`adh said about that: “It is the verdict of Allah and His Messenger.”
`Abdur-Raziq also reported, “Ibn Mas`ud held in custody some Iraqi people who had apostatized from Islam, and then wrote to Caliph `Umar asking him what to do with them. `Umar wrote him back, saying, ‘Ask them to return to the true religion (of Islam) and the Testimony of Faith. If they are to accept this, set them free, and if they are to reject it, then kill them.’ When Ibn Mas`ud did so, some of the apostates repented and some refused, and thus, he set free the repentant and killed those who renounced Islam after being believers.”4
It is also reported on the authority of Abu `Umar Ash-Shaybani that when Al-Mustawrad Al-`Ajli converted to Christianity after having embraced Islam, `Utbah ibn Farqad sent him to `Ali, who asked him to return to Islam, but he refused, and thus `Ali killed him.
That’s his appeal to precedent, here are some of the conditions under which he judges apostates should and should not be killed:
Why Is Apostasy Severely Punished in Islam?
The Muslim community is based on belief and faith. Belief is the basic foundation of its identity, pivot, and spirit of its life. That is why it does not allow anyone to harm this identity. Hence, proclaiming apostasy is considered the most flagrant crime in the eyes of Islam as it poses a danger to the identity of the Muslim community and its moral being. In other words, it jeopardizes the first five main objectives of the Shari`ah, which Islam with its moral and legislative systems seeks to preserve – religion, life, offspring, the intellect, and property. Religion occupies the very first place here as believers may sacrifice themselves, their country, and their wealth for the sake of their religion.
Islam does not compel people to join it nor does it force anybody to accept or to leave any other religion, but it places great importance upon conviction for those who embrace it. Almighty Allah says,[Had your Lord willed, all the people on earth would have believed. So can you (Prophet) compel people to believe?](Yunus 10:99)
Almighty Allah does not accept that religion be taken lightly…
He Almighty also says,[Let there be no compulsion in religion: truth stands out clear from error.](Al-Baqarah 2:256)
However, Almighty Allah does not accept that religion be taken lightly: a person joining it one day and forsaking it another day, in the like manner of the group of Jews about whom the Qur’an says,[A section of the People of the Book say: believe in the morning what is revealed to the believers, but reject it at the end of the day; perchance they may (themselves) turn back.](Aal `Imran 3:72)
Besides, Islam does not call for the execution of apostates who do not proclaim their apostasy or call for it. Rather, it leaves the punishment for the hereafter if they die in the state of apostasy, as Almighty Allah says,[And if any of you turn back from their faith and die in unbelief, their works will bear no fruit in this life and in the hereafter; they will be companions of the fire and will abide therein.](Al-Baqarah 2:217). However, this type of apostate may receive a discretionary punishment in this world.
Islam does not call for the execution of apostates who do not proclaim their apostasy or call for it. The death penalty with regard to apostasy is to be applied only to those who proclaim their apostasy and call for others to do the same. Islam lays down this severe punishment in order to protect its unity and the identity of its community. Every community in this world has basic foundations that are to be kept inviolable, such as identity, loyalty, and allegiance. Accordingly, no community accepts that a member thereof changes its identity or turns his or her loyalty to its enemies. They consider betrayal of one’s country a serious crime, and no one has ever called for giving people a right to change their loyalty from a country to another whenever they like.
Apostasy is not only an intellectual situation whose handling is confined to discussing the principle of freedom of belief; it also involves a change of loyalty and identity. People who apostatize from Islam give up their loyalty to the Muslim nation and pay allegiance, heart and soul, to its enemies. This is denoted in the agreed-upon hadith that clarifies the kinds of people whose blood is lawful to shed and describes among those people the apostate, by saying,“Or someone who abandons his religion and the Muslim community”(Ibn Mas`ud).
Apostasy involves a change of loyalty and identity…The phrase, “And the Muslim community,” is part of the description of an apostate; this entails that every apostate from Islam by implication abandons the Muslim community.
Although apostasy is a criminal act, apostates’ rights are not to be violated, nor are they punished except for the things they do or proclaim, verbally or in writing (against Islam and the Muslims); as speaking or acting against Islam openly is a clear-cut disbelief and cannot be interpreted otherwise. Should there be any doubt in this regard, the person accused of apostasy would be given the benefit of the doubt.
Negligence in punishing apostates who proclaim and call for their apostasy jeopardizes the whole community and exposes it to afflictions whose consequences Almighty Allah only knows. This may lead to apostates’ enticing other people, especially the gullible and those of weak faith, to join them. This, in turn, may lead to those apostates forming a group hostile to the Muslim nation and seeking the help of its enemies against it. In this way, the Muslim nation will fall into intellectual, social, and political disputes and disintegration, which may develop into bloody ones or even into a civil war that could destroy everything.
And what about all those unbelievers whose lives are threatened if they speak from their conscience against Islam and so try to have whatever influence they can within the idiom of Islam?
There is another kind of apostasy among people who do not declare their explicit disbelief and openly wage war against everything that is religious. Those apostates are far smarter than that. They wrap their apostasy in various coverings, sneaking in a very cunning manner into the mind, the same way that malignant tumors sneak into the body. These people are not noticed when they invade or begin to disseminate their falsehood, but they are mostly felt when they affect the minds. They do not use guns in their attacks; however, their attacks are fierce and cunning.
Reputable scholars and well-versed jurists are aware of this type of apostates, but they cannot take action in the face of such professional criminals, who have firmly established themselves and have not left a chance for law to be enforced on them. They are the hypocrites whose abode will be in the lowest level of Hellfire.
This is intellectual apostasy, whose traces are noticed everyday in circulated newspapers and books, in radio and TV programs, and in laws legislated to govern people’s affairs. This kind of apostasy is – at least in my point of view – more dangerous than openly announced apostasy; for the former works continuously on a wide scale, at the same time, it cannot be easily resisted in the same manner as the latter, which always makes much fuss, attracts attention, and stirs up public opinion.
Hypocrisy is more dangerous than open disbelief. This fact will be clearly discerned when one reflects back to the great danger which the leader of Madinah’s hypocrites, `Abdullah ibn Ubayy, posed to Islam. The Madinah’s hypocrites were more threatening to Islam than Abu Jahl and the pagans of Makkah. It is for this that the Qur’an specified only two verses for dispraising disbelievers at the beginning of Surat Al-Baqarah, while hypocrites were given a share of thirteen verses in the same surah.
Intellectual apostasy is continuously propagated night and day. We feel its relentless and ruthless effects on our society. It needs a wide-scale attack at the same level of power and thought. The positive religious obligation here is for Muslims to launch war against such a hidden enemy; to fight it with the same weapon it uses in waging attacks against the society. Here comes the role of reputable scholars who are well-versed in Islamic Jurisprudence.
Much more of al-Qaradawi’s illiberal assault on truth and the freedom of conscience and religion can be read here. And here is video in which he pulls off an anti-semitic double-axle, both crediting Hitler with being an agent of God’s punishment for the Jews while at the same time denying the Holocaust was as bad as we are led to believe.
But, hey, the man invited Coptic Christians to join in prayer with the Muslims on Friday. See, faith-based religion is not so divisive a force at all.