The Quran and punishing apostasy

Bassem Youssef
Bassem Youssef
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This is the second instalment of last week’s article which can be found here.

Reading the Quran should put an end to the debate over whether it is justified to kill someone who leaves Islam. It contains famous verses against such murders, such as “whoever wills - let him believe; and whoever wills - let him disbelieve,” and “there is no compulsion in religion.”

There are verses that deal with punishment of apostasy: “Whoever of you reverts from his religion and dies while he is a disbeliever - for those, their deeds have become worthless in this world and the hereafter, and those are the companions of the Fire, they will abide therein eternally.” (Surat al-Baqarah: 217)

“Those who reject the message after their belief and then increase in disbelief - never will their repentance be accepted, and they are the ones astray.” (Surat al-Imran: 90)

“Those who have believed then disbelieved, then believed, then disbelieved, and then increased in disbelief - never will Allah forgive them...” (Surat an-Nisa’: 137)

Punishment, as stipulated by the Quran, is limited to the hereafter. Why we do overlook these clear verses? The debate should end here. During the Prophet Mohammed’s time, many reverted from Islam several times, not only once, but he never ordered their killing. Nor did he punish a scribe who reverted and slandered him by saying: “Mohammed only knows what I wrote him.”

Neither the Quran, nor the prophet’s words or actions, permit killing apostates. Despite this, some make apostasy and repentance a central issue, although the prophet was not known for asking them to repent, or ordering their punishment.

So why do scholars conclude otherwise? As they see it, requesting repentance carries with it intellectual intimidation and psychological humiliation. It makes people remain Muslim just because they are threatened. This creates fearful hypocrites, not faithful followers. The question is, what kind of Muslims do you want?

This article was first published in Egypt-based al-Shorouk on June 11, 2013.

Bassem Youssef is an Egyptian doctor, satirist, and the host of El Bernameg ("The Program"), a satirical news program broadcast by a private Egyptian television station. The press has compared Youssef with American comedian Jon Stewart, whose satire program The Daily Show inspired Youssef to begin his career. Despite all controversy and legal debates it has sparked, El Bernameg has been a major success. It is constantly topping the regional YouTube charts, making Youssef's YouTube channel one of the most subscribed to in Egypt.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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