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kr’s Thoughts on the Afghani Apostate, Part I

March 29, 2006

kr’s note: Before I
begin, it’s perhaps beneficial to give a summary as to what has transpired in
the past two weeks in Afghanistan
regarding this issue. An Afghani man named Abdul Rahman converted to
Christianity more than 16 years ago while he was an aid worker helping refugees
in Pakistan (why is it that all the world’s problems can be traced back, one
way or the other, to Pakistan… hehe). He recently returned to Afghanistan,
and openly declared his conversion to Christianity. When he was arrested last
month, he was charged as an apostate due to his rejection of Islam, a crime
that is punishable by death according to the Afghani Constitution. Since then,
there has been an international uproar about what is being done to this man,
how Islam is barbaric, and a demand that Afghanistan
recognizes basic human rights. Earlier today, he was released on the grounds
that he was mentally unfit to stand trial, effectively putting an end to this
latest drama. Of course, as with nearly all world events, Muslims have become
emotionally riled up, yet once again, and have entered the discourse—already disquieted—and
not handled the situation appropriately. With this in place, the following are
my thoughts on this issue, for better or worse.

            Where can I
possibly begin? As I hear Muslim sentiments, read news articles, watch the news
(and even read the discussion on my chatterbox), it’s quite apparent that
people are emotionally invested in carrying out this punishment. Once again, we
have transgressed the Prophetic tradition of hilm (forebearance), which implies that we never let our emotions
dictate our actions. The very fact that we have become disquieted and perturbed
suggests a divorce from the Prophetic tradition. Any action that ought to be
taken ought to be done through sound reasoning and proofs rather than emotional
hysteria. Thus, any analysis about this topic must keep in mind this
fundamental deviation that the masses have committed. This is even more
egregious when one understands that carrying out sharī`ah-mandated punishments
requires for one to be devoid of zeal and fervor, both in the attempt to carry
out such a punishment and during the punishment itself. A salient example of
this can be found in several incidents from the life of the Prophet (salallahu
`alayhi wa sallam), most notably the case (from Sahih Muslim, for those keeping
score at home) of a female Companion who was to be stoned for committing
adultery. During the stoning, Khālid b. Walīd, in his fervor and anger, began
to curse the woman. The Prophet immediately rebuked him, and remarked, “Khālid,
be gentle. By Him in whose hand is my life, she has made such repentance that
even if a wrongful tax collector were to repent, he would have been forgiven.”
The above example involves an element of repentance, but even if the
criminal doesn’t show remorse, we find that there was a Companion who would
repeatedly be brought before the Prophet because he would drink alcohol. He was
repeatedly punished, yet he persisted drinking. One time, another Companion
said, “May Allah curse him! How frequently has he been brought (to the Prophet)?”.
The Prophet said, “Do not curse him. By Allah, I know that he loves Allah and
His Messenger.” Thus, before we can start any discussion on the validity of
punishments, any and all emotional zeal must be removed from the equation. The zeal-inspired
rallies in Afghanistan
and the idea of That’s right, he deserves
what he gets, baby bye bye
and such must be excised from the mind of a
Muslim of conscience.

Please note that any
Companion, despite any crime they may have committed, is infinitely better
than any of us or any other Muslim community simply because they had the
Companionship of the Prophet. It was once asked of a scholar who is better
between Mu`āwiyah and `Umar b. `Abdul-Azīz. He replied that even the nose of
the horse of Mu`āwiyah is better than `Umar because the Prophet had touched it
with his own hand.

issue that must be noted, before we get to the discussion of legalities and permissibility,
is that the topic of apostasy is one that is under the jurisdiction of the
Islamic State and its scholars—specifically, carrying out the prescribed
punishment for it. This means that common people should have no say in this
matter, one way or the other. Apart from a few functions that the common people
have, such as giving witness in the case of the apostate (murtad) or witnessing the punishment, they have no other opinion.
Hence, all these rallies held by Afghani commoners is ludicrous at best, and
antithetical to the very same Islamic spirit that they wish to maintain at
worst. As for the rest of the world’s Muslims, those clamoring that this man be
executed, they have even less of a right to speak about this matter. And once
again, I am spellbound by the sheer irony of such a situation.

            As we begin
the discussion about legalities, there is one key point to bear in mind as one
reads these ruminations of mine: a hukm(a
legal judgment with textual proof from Qur’an, Sunnah, Hadith or the
multiply-narrated [mutawātir]
practices of the Companions or Early Communities) is universal and ever-lasting,
a fatwah(a legal opinion given based
on the hukm and prevailing social,
political, economic, etc. conditions) is
contingent upon the time and location of both the mufti and his constituents. Perhaps that isn’t the best definition
possible, but I think it works; regardless, the main point is that the hukm is immutable and cannot be changed.
Its very definition necessitates its existence; however, just because a hukm exists doesn’t mean it always has
to be carried out. This is why the challenge of the faqih(jurist) of every generation has been to maintain the hukm as best as possible, bearing in
mind that there are times when a scholar must put aside the hukm and issue a fatwah that may not concur—and even may completely disagree—with the
original hukm. Otherwise, there would
be no need for the faqih, as every
generation could simply mete out rulings based on scripture and classical
texts. Note that the hukm is never
erased, added to, or “edited” (as advocated by the types). There are
dozens of examples of how this has occurred in Islamic history. One profound
example, as per the renowned Hanafi fiqh text, Mukhtasar al-Qudūrī, from the discussion on the categories of
people who are eligible to receive zakāt, mentions that the category of
recent-converts (“those whom hearts are to be reconciled”) are no longer acceptable
recipients of zakāt. Specifically, it states “Indeed (the category of) those
whose hearts are to be reconciled is no longer valid since because God Almighty
has granted honor to Islam and has freed [it] of need of them.” Here, the fatwah is made due to prevailing
circumstances, to the extent that something mentioned in the text (and in this
case, the most powerful of texts) has been temporarily set aside since social
and economic conditions of converts during classical Islam differed from those
of early Islam—in the latter case, many of them had been literally left with
nothing, and hence needed zakat. Now, this fatwah
remained so long as prevailing conditions allowed for it to be practical. When
social and economic conditions changed, the fatwah
went back to concur with the hukm;
hence, most modern Hanafi scholars would agree that one can (and should)
give to recent converts who are in need. Again, we must appreciate that the hukm remains, unchanged, throughout all
this; it is the fatwah that changes.

discussed the concept of the hukm,
one can address the topic at hand. For the case of apostasy, there is
difference of opinion as to whether Quranic verses that deal with apostasy explicitly
state that an apostate is to be killed (3:72, 3:90, 4:48, 4:137, 5:54)… from
the outward reading of these verses, it seems that there is no earthly
punishment for such people. However, some exegists interpret 2:217 as requiring
an earthly punishment…but that’s a discussion for another day. Nevertheless,
there are hadith (from Bukhari, for example) which clearly state the punishment
for an apostate. While we have no proof of the Prophet ever punishing an
apostate, it is reported that Mu`adh b. Jabal, when he went to Yemen,
punished an apostate; it is also said that `Ali burned some
apostates–`Abdullah b. `Abbās didn’t agree with the method of punishment, but
agreed that the ruling was correct. Hence, the hukm is established based on these and other textual proofs.

            One may
wonder: what is the wisdom and logic
behind such a hukm
, especially when we pride ourselves in that Islam is a
religion of tolerance and mercy. This spirit, and also other proofs, such as the
famous verse (2:256) of “There is no compulsion in religion” seem to go in
complete contradiction to this hukm.
The idea that we’re forcing people to remain in the fold of Islam if their
heart isn’t in it anymore is unsettling to many. However, the compulsion that
this verse refers to is compulsion in entering the religion. Thus the
punishment for leaving the religion doesn’t contradict this verse; moreover,
the punishment is meant as a deterrent for those who are not truly committed to
enter Islam to stay out, rather than to stay in. However, this punishment can only be carried out in an Islamic state; one cannot dispense vigilante justice in a non-Islamic state. Thus, the issue of whether Afghanistan is an Islamic state becomes even more vital. More on this later.

        Now, on top of that, we
understand that since it is a hukm,
its worth is relative to the status of the one giving the command; in other
words, since the Prophet (through divine inspiration) gave such a hukm it is sound and good. Under Islamic
principles of law (usūl), things that
are good are of two types:

  1. things
    that are good in and of themselves (hasanun
    , such as salat, faith in God, etc.
  2. things
    that are good due to their serving as a means to another good (hasanun lighayrihi), such as wudu, “rushing”
    to jumu`ah, etc.

Punishment for crimes, according to the Hanafi primer on
principles of Islamic law, Usūl al-Shāshī,
are of the second type, meaning they are only considered good since they are a
means for a greater good. Specifically, they serve as deterrents to prevent
further crimes in the community, which is the wisdom behind having a group of
the common people to witness state-mandated punishments. If there are no
crimes, then there is no necessity for punishments. And if they are not serving
the purpose of fulfilling the greater good, then they are no longer employed. I
find it alarming that no one has asked whether executing this man would deter
future apostasy in Afghanistan;
in fact, I would argue that because it has been so poorly managed, it may
actually (and may God protect us from this) spawn more incidents such as people
apostatizing simply to be rebels and get their 15 minutes of fame. If they had
only asked, perhaps they would have found what they were looking for.

            In short,
if the punishment isn’t going to accomplish its intended good, perhaps the hukm must be set aside in this case for
a more pragmatic fatwah. I wonder,
given our current state of intellectual and spiritual immaturity, if we’re
capable of handling this.            


Part II sneak preview:

–Apostasy is a crime to the Islamic State, a state has the right to protect its existence (an idea still espoused by modern governments worldwide), and hence must be deterred in a proper Islamic State… however, was this man a danger to an Islamic State?
–Is Afghanistan an Islamic State? If not, it would be grossly inconsistent to demand some shari`ah laws while ignoring others and failing to fulfill the prerequisites and obligations of an Islamic State: “Will you believe in a part of the Book and disbelieve in another?”
–Revisiting the fatwah vs hukm discussion vis-a-vis the punishment for apostasy; how I believe that the hukm ought to have been left aside, in this case, due to a variety of reasons.
–The purpose of the Shari`ah is not to simply hand out punishments to people.
–Why’s the West getting involved, citing human rights violations, displaying staunch hypocrisy by their own ignoring of human rights violations in so many other places of the world, including their own countries
–Most importantly: where does the Muslim community go from here.
–Why I should be Caliph (maybe) and what I would have done.


From → Uncategorized

  1. Anonymous permalink

    man 2 days ago in class Shaykh Amin put it DOWN nicely about this whole issue…hes the most underrated speaker in the United States…mash’Allah…
    your posts are getting longer…this cant be good…

  2. hey this is a good post. i had to watch lawrence of arabia in highschool, and I secretly enjoyed it. it was CooOL. asalamualaikumwaramatullah.

  3. Write something motivational. And stop being so politically motivated.

  4. Anonymous permalink

    You have some script errors at the bottom.
    Other than that solid post

  5. The West are a bunch of hypocrites crying about secularism and democracy but rallying to protect its Christian citizens worldwide, helping East Timor break away and forcing the Afghan’s to put aside their sovereignty. This is why Afghanistan and Iraq were invaded in the first place, they wouldn’t bow down to the emperor.

  6. The only problem I have with this is the fact that Afghani courts are allowing outsiders to influence their decisions. Is it safe to say that everytime the West finds something offensive with what the Afghans decide to prosecute, it will be dismissed or thrown out?

  7. If only we had an Abu Hanifah amongst us
    or wait, even if Abu Hanifah were here, we would still needpeople who would be mature enough to use their intelligence and accept such a ruling….

  8. Anonymous permalink

    I’m gonna save my feedback until after I read part II. But this was a very informative post, looking fwd to the rest.

  9. Thank you KamKam, for going into this topic.  Alas, you leave us wanting for the second half…now you are playing the “will Fuzzy ever find his baba” game with me? 
    Muslims are much too frenetic about this guy.  And until Muslims as a whole become more educated, people should not mess with Shariah or think of implementing it because they will implement it with only half-understanding…making a mockery of the religion and forcing tyranny on us all. 
    Okay, so apostasy for converts is one thing…they freely entered and then wanted to leave.  But what about this guy and others who were born into Islam…was being born into this community and being raised Muslim such a free choice?  Should their apostasy be treated differently?  Explain oh wise KamKam…

  10. thanks for this. =)

  11. Anonymous permalink

    hahaha kazim gave you zero props? HAHAHA thats F’in awesome…

  12. very informative, yet inconclusive

  13. Anonymous permalink

    wow tat was crazy

  14. ^to everyone who asked these questions… hopefully, they will be answered in part II. i will post that tonight, inshallah.

  15. Can’t wait for Part 2.

  16. Nice post-Now get married!

  17. I do agree with a lot of what you said, but I still find the idea of executing one who leaves the faith a little unsettling. 
    Since we have no proof of the Prophet (S) ever punishing an apostate, I would argue to those who want to follow in his sunnah and mercy to look towards that example.  Also, I found the following ahadith:
    “In one incident, the Prophet pardoned Abdullah bin Sa’d, after he renounced Islam. Abdullah bin Sa’d was one of the people chosen by the Prophet as a scribe, to write down Qur’anic text as it was revealed to the Prophet. After spending some time with the Muslims in Madina, he recanted and returned to the religion of the Quraish. When he was brought before the Prophet, Osman bin Affan pleaded on his behalf, and the Prophet subsequently pardoned Abdullah bin Sa’d (Ibn Hisham).
    I’m not sure about the strength of the hadith, but assuming so, such an example exemplify his mercy on his fellow human beings.

  18. in resposne to Vagrant_Rounin, there are Hadith that tell the punishment:

    <LI>”Allah’s Apostle said, 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: In Qisas for murder, a married person who commits illegal sexual intercourse and the one who reverts from Islam (apostate) and leaves the Muslims.” (Sahih Bukhari Vol. 9, book 83, number 17, narrated via Abdullah)

    <LI>Narrated ‘Ikrima: ‘Ali burnt some people and this news reached ibn ‘Abbas, who said, “Had I been in his place I would not have burnt them, as the Prophet said, ‘Don’t punish (anybody) with Allah’s Punishment.’ No doubt, I would have killed them, for the Prophet said, ‘If somebody (a Muslim) discards his religion, kill him.'” — Volume 4, Book 52, Chapter 149, Number 260. p. 160-161.
    <LI>271. Narrated Abu Musa: A man embraced Islam and then reverted back to Judaism. Mu’adh bin Jabal came and saw the man with Abu Musa. Mu’adh asked, “What is wrong with this (man)?” Abu Musa replied, “He embraced Islam and then reverted back to Judaism.” Mu’adh said, “I will not sit down unless you kill him (as it is) the verdict of Allah and His Apostle. — Volume 9, Book 89, Chapter 12, Number 271, p. 201.

  19. good post masha’Allah, very informative..i didn’t know too much about the issue before, so looking forward to part II for further clarification

  20. i stayed up all night for part II and all I got to do was make this lousy comment!

  21. (why is it that all the world’s problems can be traced back, one way or the other, to Pakistan… hehe)hahaa

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