Does the Quran authorise 'hadd al-riddah'?
By: A. Muhammad

The practice of the 'hadd al-riddah', by which various militant Muslim factions advocate the killing of all who abandon Islam after having been Muslims, has no Quranic authorisation whatsoever, and in fact, it violates various Quranic verses.
The purpose of this article is to present the Quranic evidence which exposes this false anti-Islamic blood thirsty practice, and also to analyse a number of Quranic verses which the promoters of this barbaric practice have tried to manipulate to justify their ideology.

No punishment set by God for 'riddah' (apostasy)

Various Quranic verses provide clear indisputable evidence that God never authorised any punishment for the person who denounces his faith after having been a Muslim, and that the punishment for doing so lies with God alone:

1-
[2:256] There shall be no compulsion in religion.

These words confirm that no one is to be forced to believe nor punished for disbelieving.

2-
[18:29] Say, "It is the truth from your Lord," then whoever wills shall believe and whoever wills shall disbelieve. We have prepared for the transgressors a fire whose walls will surround them. If they call for help, they will be given a liquid like molten brass that scalds the faces. What a miserable drink and a terrible resting place!

Once again, confirming that God gives complete freedom to all people to either believe or disbelieve, then it is God who punishes the disbelievers and not the humans.

3-
The following words, addressed to prophet Muhammad, are also very significant:

[88:21] So you shall remind, for you are but a reminder.
[88:22] You (Muhammad) are not a controller over them.
[88:23] As for the one who turned away and disbelieved,
[88:24] God will punish him with the greatest punishment.
[88:25] To us is their return,
[88:26] then it is for Us to hold them to account.

Even the Prophet was not allowed to punish those who (
turned away and disbelieved), but their punishment lies with God alone (it is for Us to hold them to account).

4-
[2:161] Upon those who disbelieve and die as disbelievers is the curse of God, the angels and all the people.

God speaks about those who disbelieve then (
die) as disbelievers, God did not say those who are 'killed' but those who (die). This again confirms that disbelievers are not to be killed for abandoning their faith.

5-
The following words cannot be denied nor misinterpreted:

[3:86] How would God guide people who
disbelieved after believing, and after witnessing that the messenger was truthful, and after proofs have been given to them? God does not guide the transgressing people.
[3:87] The penalty for those is that God’s curse will be upon them, as well as the angels, and all the people.
[3:88] Therein they shall remain. The punishment will not be lightened for them, nor will they be reprieved,
[3:89] but for those who repent after that and reform; God is Forgiver, Merciful.

The words (
disbelieved after believing) in 3:86 clearly speak of those who abandon their faith after having been believers.
Then, in 3:89 we read about those who (repent) after disbelieving and that they are forgiven by God. The question is, how would they have the opportunity to repent and be forgiven if they were killed for disbelieving?
The promoters of the 'hadd al-riddah' try to wiggle out of this tricky situation by saying that the repentance can take place just before they are to be killed.
Immediately, the Quran exposes their false claim. The fact that God says in 3:89 that He forgives them excludes those who are sentenced to death then repent just before being executed. This is because the words in 4:18 state that repentance is not accepted by those who repent when they feel death coming.

6-
Finally, the following verse totally demolishes any remnants of the notrious non Quranic 'hadd al-riddah':

[4:137] Those who
believed, then disbelieved, then believed, then disbelieved, then increased in disbelief, God is not to forgive them, nor will He guide them to a path.

The obvious question is:
If a murtad was to be killed, how then would anyone believe, then disbelieve, then believe, then disbelieve? Surely after the first episode of disbelief his head would have been chopped off?

Quranic Manipulations

To justify this non Quranic practice, the promoters of the 'hadd al-riddah' have resorted to manipulating a number of Quranic verses. The following are such verses and their correct meanings:

First:

[9:74] They swear by God that they have said nothing, while they did utter the word of disbelief.
They have disbelieved after becoming Muslims and they planned for that which they could not have. They were vindictive for no other reason than that God and His messenger had enriched them from His bounty. So if they repent, it would be better for them and if they should turn away, God will punish them with a painful punishment in this world and the Hereafter. They will have no ally or supporter in the earth.

The promoters of the 'hadd al-riddah' claim that the punishment (
in this world) for the apostate is to be killed!
However, the words in the verse clearly state that both punishments, in this world and the Hereafter, come from God (God will punish them) and not from the people.
In addition, the punishment given by God in this world can be any punishment, the words in the verse do not specify killing!
To change these words from speaking of an unspecified punishment to be being a specific punishment of killing, and to change the giver of the punishment from God to the people, is nothing but cheap manipulation of God's words.

Second:

[4:89] They wish that you would disbelieve as they have disbelieved, so that you would be alike. Do not take any of them as allies, until they emigrate for the cause of God.
If they turn back, then take them and kill them where you may encounter them. You shall not take any of them as an ally or supporter,
[4:90] except for those who join people with whom you have a treaty, or those who come to you wishing not to fight you, nor fight their own people. Had God willed, He could have charged them against you. Then they would have fought you. Therefore, if they leave you alone, refrain from fighting you, and offer you peace, then God gives you no claim against them.

Those who promote the practice of 'hadd al-riddah' have also manipulated the words (
If they turn back) in 4:89 to imply that they speak of the murtad (apostate) who turns back from being a Muslim! As a result, they add that according to the words in the verse, they should (take them and kill them).

The word (
they) in (If they turn back) must be read within the context of the two verses (4:89 and 4:90). The word (they) clearly speaks about the disbelievers who attack the believers in a state of war. The subject of the two verses, which is the state of war, is confirmed in verse 4:90 with the words (with whom you have a treaty), and (fight you).
Thus, the words in 4:89 do not speak of any apostate, but the disbelievers who are physically attacking the believers.

Third
:

Yet another feeble attempt to justify the 'hadd al-riddah' is made by referring to 49:15:

[49:15] Rather, the believers are those who believed in God and His messenger
then had no doubt and strived with their money and their lives in the cause of God. These are the truthful ones.

The claim is that the words (
then had no doubt) condemns the apostates who doubts and abandons the faith. However, once again they ignore the fact that there is no punishment given in this verse for one who abandons his faith.

Conclusion:

The notorious 'hadd al-riddah' has no place whatsoever in the beautiful religion of Islam as prescribed by God in the Quran. All who promote such blood thirsty practices are the true enemies of Islam. Their claims and manipulations are easily exposed. The peaceful message of the Quran cannot be tarnished nor corrupted. The Quran gives complete freedom to every person in believing or disbelieving, then for each will be given a punishment or reward from God, and from God alone.