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:

There shall be no compulsion in religion. 2:256

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

Say, "The truth is from your Lord, so 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 helped with a liquid like molten brass that scalds the faces. What a miserable drink and a terrible resting place! 18:29

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.

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

So you shall remind, for you are but a reminder.
You (Muhammad) are not a controller over them.
However, he who turns away and disbelieves,
God will punish him with the greatest punishment.
Indeed, to Us is their return,
Then indeed, upon Us is their reckoning. 88:21-26

Even the prophet was not allowed to punish he who (
turns away and disbelieves), but their punishment lies with God alone (upon Us is their reckoning).

As for those who disbelieve and die as disbelievers, upon them is the curse of God, the angels, and all the people. 2:161

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.

The following words cannot be denied nor misinterpreted:

How can God guide people who
disbelieved after their belief, when they had already witnessed that the messenger was truthful, and when clear proofs had come to them? God does not guide the transgressing people.
The penalty for those is that God’s curse will be upon them, as well as the angels, and all the people.
Therein they shall permanently remain. The punishment will not be lightened for them, nor will they be granted respite,
except for those who repent after that and reform, then indeed, God is Forgiver, Merciful. 3:86-89

The words (
disbelieved after their belief) 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.

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

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. 4:137

The obvious question is:
If a murtad (a Muslim who deserts Islam) 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:


They swear by God that they have said nothing, while they did utter the word of disbelief.
They have disbelieved after their acceptance of Submission, and they planned for that which they could not have. They were nothing but resentful when God and His messenger had enriched them from His favour. 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. 9:74

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 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.


They wish that you would disbelieve as they have disbelieved, so that you would be alike. So do not take from among them allies, until they emigrate in the cause of God.
If they turn back, then take them and kill them wherever you may encounter them, and do not take from among them an ally or supporter,
except for those who join people with whom you have a treaty, or those who come to you with reluctance in their chests to fight you, nor fight their own people. Had God willed, He could have charged them against you, and 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. 4:89-90

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.


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

Rather, the believers are those who believe in God and His messenger, then
have no doubt, and strive with their money and themselves in the cause of God. These are the truthful ones. 49:15

The claim is that the words (
then have 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.


As seen, the notorious 'hadd al-riddah' has no place whatsoever in the beautiful religion of Islam as prescribed by God in the Quran. So where has this fabricated lie come from? The only source in which we find justification for this anti-Quranic practice is the hadith:

Bukhari, Vol 1, Book 2, Number 25:
Allah's Messenger (ï·º) said: "I have been ordered (by Allah) to fight against the people until they testify that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is the messenger of Allah, and that they observe the Salat and give the Zakat. If they do so, then they are granted immunity against me with regards to their blood and their money, except for Islamic laws and then their reckoning is with Allah."

It is quite alarming how the majority of scholars disregard all the Quranic evidence above and adhere to the hadith above!
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 it is for God and God alone to hold them accountable to their deeds.