APOSTASY IN ISLAM
(Rtd.) Chief Justice of Pakistan
Kitab Bhavan, New Delhi 2, India
And when Our Clear revelations are recited unto them, they who look for the meeting with Us, say: Bring a Qur'an other than this or change it. day (O Muhammad): it is not for me to change it of my own accord. I only follow that which is revealed to me. Lo! if I disobey my Lord, I fear the retribution of an awful day (Yunus, verse 15).
He also draws strength for his argument from verse 106 of Surat al‑Baqarah : "Whatever revelation We abrogate or cause to be forgotten We bring (in its place) one better or the like thereof. Knowest thou not Allah is able to do all things?"
It is thus Allah alone Who can change what has emanated from Him and, considering the fundamental position of the Qur'an in Islam, this stands to reason.
Maulana Badr‑i‑`Alam Nadvi in his Tarjuman al-Sunnah  says, on the authority of extracts from Imam Shatibi's al‑Muwafaqat, that the Sunnah occupies a place of secondary importance as compared with the Book of God and that generally it can be asserted firmly that the Sunnah cannot be placed on the same level with the Qur'an in point of regard and reverence. This is the reason why Taftazani in his Talwih  lays it down as a guiding principle that in case of conflict with the text of the Qur'an, Khabar al‑Wahid (a tradition related by one person from another individual or by one person from a group or by a group from one person, so long as the number of narrators is less than those in the case of Hadith Mash-hur [reputed tradition]) will be rejected. Such a hadith is said to be only Mufid‑i‑Zann (as raising only a presumption).
In the fourth chapter of Hujjat‑Allah al‑Balighah,  Part I, Shah Wali Ullah has categorised the extant compilations of traditions in their order of reliability and importance. He thinks that only al‑Muwatta' of Imam Malik, Sahih Bukhai and Sahih Muslim deserve to be placed in the first category. The compilations like those of Abu Dawud, Tirmidhi, Ibn Majah and Nasa'i, which are generally included among the Sihah Sittah (the Six Accurate Books) and Musnad of Imam Ahmad, he assigns to the second category. He adds that the Muhaddithin (Experts in Tradition) consider these two categories only to be worthy of reliance and not the books falling in the third and fourth categories such as Musnad of Abi 'Ali, Musannaf of `Abd‑ur‑Razzaq, Musannaf of Abi Bakr b. Abi Shaibah, Musnad of `Abd b. Hamid, Musnad of Tayalisi, and books by Baihaqi, Tahavi, Tabarani, Ibn Habban, Ibn `Adi, Khatib, Abi Nu'aim, Ibn al‑‘Asakir, Khwarazmi, Ibn Najjar, Dailami, and others. There are also fabricated ahadith, collected and criticised by Mulla 'Ali Qari and Ibn al Jauzi among others. Traditions themselves are differentiated inter se in order of authenticity and reliability. In point of priority they are designated as Mutawatir (continuous) Mustafid (narrated in several ways and accepted), Mash‑hur (reputed), Sahih (accepted as correct) and Hasan (approved), and the lowest tier in this hierarchy is that of Khabar Ahad. The number and reliability of the chain of narrators, its continuity or otherwise, evidence of implementation or rejection, conformity with the Qur'anic letter or spirit as well as with known historical or rational facts, are some of the factors which determine this order of priority. The human factor of lapse of memory or of failure to comprehend fully the circumstances surrounding a tradition is also a pertinent consideration. The classical instance of Hadrat `A'yeshah,  the Prophet's wife, correcting Ibn `Umar (or according to one version, Hadrat `Umar, the Second Caliph, himself) in respect of his opinion that the lamentations of a deceased person's relatives entail torture in the after‑life for the dead person is very apt in this context. Hadrat `A'yeshah's comment was that the hadith had not been properly understood or recollected. She explained that in fact the Prophet had passed by a Jewish woman who had died, and had seen her relatives lamenting, when he observed: "They are crying and she is being subjected to torture." It was wrongly assumed that there was a casual nexus between the two sentences uttered by the Prophet, and she cited the Qur'an : "No bearer of burden can bear the burden of another" (al‑An'am, verse 164).
She evidently invoked the principle that a hadith could not possibly contradict a clear text of the Qur'an and interpreted the reported tradition in its light. Shah Wali Allah too in his `Iqd al jid lays down the principle that Sunnah only explains the Qur'an and can never contradict it. 
(1) The principal hadith on which the case for the death sentence for apostasy is built up is the one narrated by Ibn 'Abbas in the words: "Whosoever changes his religion, slay him." This is the version given by Bukhari in his Sahih‑"Kitab al Jihad fi Istitabat al‑Murtaddin". To it is annexed the story of Hadrat 'Ali burning to death a number of Zanadiqah (heretics), and Ibn 'Abbas, on being informed of the incident, is stated to have remarked that he would not have burnt them but merely killed them, for the Prophet had forbidden the burning of human beings. He then recited this hadith.
The same hadith is also traced  to Hadrat `Ayeshah by al‑Tabarani in his Mu`jamat al‑Wast. According to another narrator, Mu'awiyah b. Hidah, as recorded in al‑Tabarani's Mu`jamat al‑Kabir, the full hadith should read: "Whosoever changes his faith, slay him. Verily Allah does not accept repentance from His servant who has adopted disbelief after having accepted Islam." The latter part of this version apparently contradicts the Qur'anic texts, which we have already noticed, and is unreliable.
AI‑Samaia'I  reproduces this hadith from Sunan al-Nasa'i (Sharh al‑Suyuti) and observes that many jurisconsults have accepted its authority, but there is a good deal of difference between them as to its meaning. Imam Shafi'i and Ibn Hazm are reported to have expressed the view that the words of the hadith being general, it would apply even to a disbeliever who changes his faith. On the contrary, the majority of the jurisconsults and Imam Malik held the opinion that it is confined to Muslims who become renegades from Islam. It is pointed out that the logical result of the first view would lead to the absurd proposition that even a disbeliever who adopts Islam ought to be killed for his change of faith. Consequently the hadith, according to better opinion, cannot be interpreted in its literal sense and is susceptible of an obvious limitation to Muslims. It is also argued in favour of the second group that, according to another hadith, all disbelievers, whatever variety of faiths they may profess, constitute a single community (Millat alWahidah) and consequently change from one form of disbelief to another would not alter their position vis‑a‑vis Islam and could not be regarded as a change of faith, in the real sense.
None of these sources, however, indicates the circumstances which provided the occasion for this qauli (verbal) hadith. On the face of it, the hadith is mujmal‑a summary statement‑and calls for futher elucidation.
Difference of opinion prevails among Doctors of Law as to whether it applies to a woman apostate or not. Al‑Samara'i mentions that Imam Malik, al‑Auza`i, Imam al‑Shafi'i and al‑Laith b. Sa'd accepted this hadith as sufficient authority for killing a Muslim woman who leaves the fold of Islam, having regard to the general nature of the expressions used therein. However, al-Thauri, Imam Abu Hanifah and his followers, Ibn Shabramah, Ibn `Aliyyah, 'Ata' and al‑Hasan excluded women from its scope. Their argument was that Ibn 'Abbas, the principal narrator of the hadith, had himself declared that a female apostate should not be killed,  as the Prophet had forbidden the slaying of women in wars. The Shafi`is, the Hanbalis, the Zaidis and the Malikis place men and women on the same footing, in this respect, but the Hanafis and the Imamiyyah Shi`ahs say that the woman will be imprisoned till she repents. Sarakhsi, among the Ahnaf, apparently took the view that a woman who was possessed of sound judgment and capacity to give orders can also be condemned to death for apostasy, though, normally, she would be immune from that sentence. Al‑Samara'i has dealt with the question at length, in Ahkam al‑Murtadd. Other authorities too have pointedly referred to this exemption.  The Maliki Ibn al‑Qudamah, in his al‑Mughni, says that a Muharibah woman is not to be killed but only imprisoned. 
There are other recognised exceptions that still further restrict the scope of this tradition. Dr Muhammad Hamidullah, in his Muslim Conduct of State, has summarised the position in these words: "In case an insane person, a delirious, a melancholy, a perplexed man, a minor, one intoxicated or who had declared his faith in Islam under coercion and a person whose faith in Islam has not been known or established, were to become apostate, they would not suffer the supreme penalty. So too, an apostate woman and a hermaphrodite, according to the Hanafi school of Law, would not be condemned to death but imprisoned and even physically tortured. An old man from whom no offspring is expected is also excepted."  In support of this statement he refers to Kasani, Bada'i`, VII, 134; Sarakhsi, Mabsut, X, 123 ; Ibn `Abidin, Radd al‑Muhtar, III, 246 and 326‑71; Abu Yusuf, Kharaj, p. 111 ; Sarakhsi, Sharh al‑Usul, Chapter "al Juz' Yalhaqat al‑Takdhib." These exemptions also find mention in various chapters of Ahkam al-Murtadd by al‑Samarra'i. The Fath al‑Bari too adverts to two exceptions, viz. of a hypocrite and one forced to the faith. 
If then the accepted position be that the hadith is not to be taken literally and is subject to several qualifications and the circumstances in which the relevant words were uttered by the Prophet are not precisely known, would it be too much to take the next step and suggest that there is also underlying the hadith a tacit assumption that the person concerned must be guilty of Muharabah (active hostility) ? This would have the merit of bringing the purport of the hadith into conformity with verse 34 of Surat al‑Maidah: "The only reward of those who wage war against Allah and His Messenger and strive to create disorder in the land, is that they may be slain or crucified ...."
That this suggestion is not a novel one would be borne out by what several Doctors of Law have already indicated as the basis for the death penalty in their writings. In the Hidayah, Marghinani, while discussing the question whether it is necessary to allow time for repentance to an apostate or not  says: "And for us there is the word of God, `Kill the polytheists ...' without restriction as to time for repentance and so also is the saying of the Prophet (on him be peace): 'Whosoever changes his faith, slay him,' and that is because he is a Kafir harbi (a disbeliever and active rebel) whom the call has reached. He would, therefore, be killed instantly without time being allowed for repentance ...." It is clear that Marghinani's analysis establishes the effective cause of the supreme penalty to be active hostility or rebellion. This opinion is further elaborated and confirmed in the Mabsat,  the Bahr al‑Ra'iq,  the Fath al-Qadir and by the commentaries of Chalpi and Babarti.  It is explained in these books that the exemption in favour of a woman is grounded on the fact that she is incapable of bearing arms, normally. Further, it is said that disbelief intrinsically does not justify condemnation to death and that is the genesis of the rule that the blind and the very old will not be killed. A woman apostate may, however, be slain, if she possesses independent judgment and has a following. Zaila'i in his commentary on the Kanz al‑Daqziq  says explicitly: "The reference in the hadith is to one who fights against us . . . ." Marghinani too observes in the Hidayah , that the punishments are postponed to the, Hereafter, as their acceleration (and implementation in this world) would interfere with the significance of trial and testing (in this life). This view will be reinforced when we consider the various versions of the next tradition to be discussed.
Among other reasons given by him for doubting the authenticity of the hadith under discussion, Nawab A'zam Yar Jang  (Maulvi Charagh 'Ali) mentions that there is a gap between `Ikramah and Ibn 'Abbas and again between the latter and the Prophet, in the chain of narrators. This may not perhaps appeal to many as a solid ground for rejection of the hadith which figures in several well‑known compilations. But an alternative approach has been to interpret the word uqtaluhu (kill him) occurring in the hadith, not literally, but figurative ly, and precedents are cited in support of this suggestion. When the Bani Isra'il had taken to the worship of the calf, according to the well‑known narrative in the Qur'an (Surat al‑Baqarah), Moses advised them "to turn to their Maker" and added "faqtula anfusakum" which may mean, if taken literally, "kill yourselves," but has been interpreted by some commentators as an admonition to kill, their evil passions. Reference may be made in this connection, inter alia, to Bahr al‑Muhit.  Again, on the Prophet's death on the day of Thaqifah, when there was a gathering of the Ansar, at which the chief of the Khazraj named Sa'd set himself up as a candidate for the Caliphate, Hadrat `Umar is said to have called out " Uqtala as‑Sa'd, aqtalaha Allah." In this sentence the word uqtala which literally means "kill" has been construed as meaning "treat him as if he is dead and do not advert to what he says," in the Aqrab al‑Mawarid and the Nihayah of Ibn al‑Kathir. The same authorities assign a similar meaning to the word uqtala occurring in the hadith : "If two Caliphs have obtained allegiance (from the people), treat one of them as if he is dead (uqtalii), and ignore his claim." One of the meanings assigned to the expression qatl al‑nafs in the Mufradat by Imam Raghib Isfahani is "killing the base passions".
But this line of reasoning may not be apt, if a variant of this hadith as given by Imam Malik in his Muwatta' (Chapter headed "al‑Qada' fi man Artadda `an al‑Islam") is read with it.  The wording therein given is: Man ghayyara dinaha fadribu unuqahu" ‑ "Whosoever changes his faith, smite his neck." These words are not equivocal and would not leave room for any metaphorical construction. But Imam Malik adds the comment after giving the hadith that if a Muslim adopts another creed but conceals his disbelief and professes Islam out‑wardly, then, on proof of his guilt, he shall be slain, without opportunity for repentance being conceded to him, on the ground that such people cannot be trusted. The opportunity to repent, according to him, would be valid only in the case of one who openly adopts another faith, after having accepted Islam. This opinion, with all respect for the high status, piety and learning of Imam Malik, one may venture to suggest, would apparently be inconsistent with the treatment meted out to known hypocrites during the Prophet's time and to the hadith according to which the Prophet had chided Usamah b. Zaid on his admission that he had killed a man of the Juhainah tribe in combat, even after he had recited the Kalimah (Declaration of Faith). Usamah pleaded that the man had done so merely to save his life and the Prophet queried: "Did you dissect his heart and look into it?" The tradition is included in Sahih al‑Bukhay  as well as in Sahih al‑Muslim and Mishkat al‑Masabih  of Shaikh Wali al‑Din Muhammad b. `Abdullah Khatib `Umri, with slight variations.
The fact that this hadath exists in a verbally different version, though carrying the same sense, may perhaps justify the criticism that narrators may have retained what they understood to be the purport of the tradition and may have failed to recollect the exact words and the full circumstances surrounding the origin of the saying. This consideration may be allowed to fortify the attempt at its reconciliation with the Qur'anic text by evocation of its ‑underlying assumption that the person involved must have joined those warring against the Muslims. This indeed is the approach of Maulana Thana' Ullah to this hadith and the hadith to be considered next, in Islam auy Masihiyyat.  He observes that Islam as a polity had to fight for its existence and these two traditions pertain to a situation where a Muslim forsakes Islam and the Muslim community and he would then be presumed to have connections with the enemies of Muslims. In order words, he says, he himself assumes the position of an enemy and the rule laid down in these reports amounts to a law of war.
The next tradition to be considered has several verbal variants and, in some of them, the additional words are very significant. The formulation by 'Abdullah b. Mas'ud runs in these terms
(1) The Prophet (on him be blessings and peace of God) said: It is not lawful to shed the blood of a person professing Islam, who testifies that there is no god but Allah and that I am the Messenger of Allah, except in three cases: life for a life, or a married person guilty of adultery or a person who separates from his faith and deserts his community. (Bukhari, "Kitab al‑Diyat," "Bab al‑Nafs bi al‑Nafs").  A similar version exists in Tirmidhi's Sunan.
(2) In the same "Kitab al‑Diyat," "Bab al‑Qasamah," Bukhari records another version narrated by Abu Qulabah : "The Messenger did not put to death anyone by way of Hadd (prescribed punishment) except for one of three antecedents: a person who commits murder of his own free will shall be killed, (so also) a person who commits fornication after marriage or a person who fights Allah and His Messenger and becomes an apostate from Islam." 
(3) A summary version is attributed to Hadrat A'yeshah in Sunan al‑Nasa'i, in which the relevant words
for the third category of persons are "one who commits apostasy, after accepting Islam". A full version is, however, also contained in Nasa'i's Sunan, which brings out the element of hostility to the community on the part of the apostate.  An alternative detailed version is assigned to Hadrat `A'yeshah by Abu Dawud ("Kitab al‑Hudud," "Bab al‑Hukm fi man Artadda)."  Therein the third category is defined as comprising of a person "Muhariban bi'Ilah wa Rasulahu fa innahu yuqtal au yuslab au yunfa," i.e. "who fights Allah and His Messenger and he will be killed or crucified or banished from the land" words reminiscent of verse 35 of Surat al‑Ma'idah.
(4) Two versions are traced to Hadrat `Uthman, the Third Caliph. One says: "I heard the Messenger of God (on him be peace and blessings of God) say: It is not lawful to shed the blood of a Muslim except in one out of three cases: a person who apostatizes after accepting Islam or who fornicates after marriage or one who kills a person without retaliation for murder of another (Nasa'i, Sunan: "Bab Dhikr ma yuhillu bihi dam al‑Muslim"). In the second version attributed to Hadrat Uthman, also in the same Bab in Nasa'i, the relevant words are: "Or one who commits apostasy after having believed." It is said that Hadrat `Uthman had proclaimed this tradition to the crowd that had surrounded his house in order to assassinate him.
(5) Somewhat akin to the theme of this hadith is the one given by Abu Dawud on the authority of Jam: "When a servant of God runs away to polytheism, shedding of his blood becomes lawful." In the Zamindar of 8 October 1924, M. Siraj Ahmad mentions a version included in the Sunan of Nasa'i in which the relevant words are: "One who leaves the community and cuts it asunder." There are some lesser compilations of hadith which mention similar versions, but they need not be noticed.
Al‑Samara'i has discussed the tradition traced to Hadrat `Uthman in his Ahkam al‑Murtadd.  He quotes the. opinion of Shaukani from his Nail al‑Autar (Vol. VII, p. 7), with reference to Ibn Mas'ud's version of the hadith that the words “al‑Mafariq li'l Jama'ah" occurring therein mean "one who separates from the Islamic community," and that, according to him, is only possible with Kufr (disbelief) and not merely by committing an offence or resorting to an innovation, etc. He adds further that this forsaking of the community "must be for joining the disbelievers' community". He also gives an extract from San'ani's al‑`Addah `ala al‑Ahkam al‑Ahkam endorsing this view. San'ani further observes that there is difference of opinion between the Doctors of Law as to whether a woman should be killed for apostasy or not. The view receives some reinforcement from the comment of Ibn Majah in his Sunan, "Bab al‑Murtadd," to the effect that no action is to be accepted from a person who has become a polytheist after accepting Islam, until he leaves the Mushrikin (polytheists) to rejoin the Muslim community. 
In view of the variations in different versions of the hadith it may be legitimate to infer that some of the narrators merely recollected its general sense without preserving the verbal integrity of the hadith. As Imam Shafi'i has remarked in his al‑Risalah  concerning differences in reports from the Prophet, "Sometimes he (the Prophet) was questioned about something and he used to give a reply in accordance with the question; sometimes the narrator conveyed fully what he had heard and sometimes summarised, so that, on occasions, the full purport was conveyed and, on occasions, this did not happen. Sometimes, a person merely reported that part of the hadith which the Prophet had uttered as his reply, because he was himself not present when the question was asked and which occasioned the answer." With such possibilities open, an attempt to read together all these variant versions so as to get the full picture would be a process which would carry us nearer to the truth. It follows that the delinquents contemplated in the hadith are those who were not merely renegades from the faith but also in active opposition to the Muslims, having joined the warring disbelievers' camp. Their case would thus fall within the purview of verse 33 of Surat al‑Ma'idah and their condemnation would be in harmony with the letter as well as the spirit of the Qur'anic text. The present writer finds that this view receives corroboration from the opinion of Maulana Abu'l‑Wafa' Thana' Ullah, as has, been mentioned at the end of Section II.
Bukhari in his Sahih has included a tradition from the mouth of Abu Musa Ash`ari.  It is related therein that the Prophet sent Abu Musa Ash'ari to Yemen as his Governor and, soon after, Mu'adh b. Jabal was also deputed to go there. Abu Musa welcomed him and invited him to sit down. At that time, a Jew had been brought there, under arrest, who had at first become a Muslim but had later reverted to Judaism. Mu'adh is reported to have declined to sit down unless the apostate Jew was first killed, "in accordance with the judgment of God and His Messenger". His behest was complied with: the Jew was put to death.
Here again we are in the realm of conjecture as to the actual circumstances surrounding apostasy. It is just probable that the Jew had joined the rebel group of Aswad `Ansi in Yemen and that he was not punished for defection from the faith alone. Aswad `Ansi had set up claim to prophethood and had become an apostate in the Prophet's lifetime. The Christians of Najran had joined him and they had ousted the Prophet's two appointees to the area, `Umar b. Hazm and Khalid b. Said b. al`As. Aswad had himself occupied San'a'.  This suggestion gains some strength from the consideration that Mu'adh had cited the authority of Allah and His Mesenger both, in support of his demand for the extreme penalty to be inflicted on the Jew. In the Qur'an, as we have seen, there is no mention of any such punishment for an apostate, but death is to be the portion of a muharib Allah (one who fights God, i.e. the Muslim community). In the absence of the exact words of the Qur'an or of the Prophet that Mu'adh had in mind, the position remains equivocal and in any event this would be a very weak precedent. If it was a decision based on the personal Ijtihad (opinion arrived at after considering analogous provisions of the Qur'an or the Sunnah, of Mu'adh b. Jabal, it would not be of binding value. Shah Wali Ullah in his Hujjat Allah al‑Balighah,  cites the opinion of `Abdullah b. 'Abbas, 'Ala', Mujahid and Imam Malik to the effect that, however eminent a personality may be, if certain statements of his are accepted, there may be some other statements attributed to him, which it would be necessary to reject. For there is no man except the Prophet whose every saying would be capable of citation as a conclusive argument. Earlier  he expresses the categorical view that the basis of some statements ascribed to Sahabah (Companions of the Prophet) is merely "forgetfulness or error". In the Mukhtasar of Sayyid alSharif al jurjani it is said: "Whatever is related from a Sahabi, either in the form of a saying or in the shape of action, whether narrated by a continuous chain of narrators or not, is not a binding instance.”  In the Qamar al-Aqmar Sharh Nur al‑Anwar  it is laid down on the authority of Maulana` Abdal‑`Ali Bahr al‑`Ulum, that the mere possibility that a Sahabi (Companion) might have based himself on what he might have heard from the Prophet does not make it obligatory to follow his opinion.There is also the well‑known observation of Imam Shafi.`i regarding the Sahabah : "They were men and so are we.'  It is interesting to recall that Maulana Charagh 'Ali (Nawab A'zam Yar Jang) criticises the decision of Mu'adh as one in conflict with the Qur'anic text. 
What happened exactly on the occasion to which the report relates is also open to some doubt. `Aini in his ' Umdat al‑Qari gives varying versions as to whether the Jew was simply put to death or also burnt. 
There are two traditions concerning a woman who is said to have been killed for apostasy, by order of the Prophet. One is traced to Hadrat ` A'yeshah which places the incident on the day of Uhud and the other to Jabir b. `Abdullah, by Daraqutni and Baihaqi. In the chain of narrators pertaining to the tradition from Hadrat' `A'yeshah, there occurs the name of Muhammad b. `Abdul‑Malik, as the ultimate transmitter. In respect of him, al‑Zaila'i, the author of Nasb al‑Rayah li Ahadith alHidayah comments that Ahmad and others had described him as a fabricator of traditions.  The same learned writer criticizes Jabir b. Abdullah's tradition in the words  And `Abdullah b. Uzniyyah's testimony (he was one of the chain of narrators) has been invalidated by Ibn Habban. He says: It is not permissible to base an argument on him in this situation, and in al‑Mutalif wal‑Mukhtalif, Daraqutni has characterised him as "one rejected". Ibn Adi has related this hadith in his al‑Kamil and commented " Abdullah b. `Atarid b. Uzniyyah is not acknowledged in respect of Hadith and I have not seen our predecessors say anything against this." Both these traditions, therefore, are of doubtful authenticity. In any event, they are vague and indefinite formulations, furnishing no details of the woman involved. It is pertinent to advert to the fact that al‑Zaila'i  has also cited two other ahadith, in one of which the words ascribed to the Prophet are: "Do not kill the woman, if she commits apostasy." This too has been included in Daraqutni's compilation of Traditions. However, the compiler describes the principal narrator, `Abdullah b. `Isa al Jazri, as a liar. The other hadith is from al‑Kamil of Ibn `Adi, traced from Abu Hurairah, and says that a woman who became an apostate was not killed by the Prophet. This is also attacked as of weak authority. Apparently on this point, conflicting but weak traditions are not scarce.
There is one other tradition having a bearing on this subject, in which the woman has been named as Umm Marwan. She was said to have been put to death under orders of the Prophet. It is included in Daraqutni's "Collection," being traced to Jabir. The last transmitter in the chain of narrators is Ma`mar b. Bakkar who is said to be of imaginative type by `Uqaili, according to the author of Nasb al‑Rayah.  But even if this tradition is accepted as authentic, there is evidence available which differentiates the case from that of a mere apostate. She was actively hostile to the Muslims. Sarakhsi, in his Mabsut,  informs us that she partook in actual fighting against Muslims and exhorted others to join the warring group and that she had a following. It was, therefore, for her conduct as a Muharibah (an active oppositionist) that she was put to death, rather than for her change of faith. Some authorities from the school of thought which exempts female apostates from being killed have already been noticed earlier and they would serve to strengthen. the inference open on the above discussion that there is no clear warrant for holding that the Prophet had ordered the killing of a woman for apostasy simpliciter. Instances of the Prophet forbidding slaughter of women even in battle would be found summarised in al‑Samara'i's Ahkam al‑Murtadd; where the prohibition is stated to be grounded on lack of capacity of females for fighting. 
The instance of `Abdullah b. Abi Sarh is also mentioned by one Pakistani scholar  as lending support to his thesis that the punishment of apostasy is death. The instance, when considered in all its bearings, seems to negate that proposition. Two versions are extracted from the Sunan of Abu Dawud, "Kitab‑al‑Hudud," Bab "al‑Hukm fi man Artadda". In the first version it is said that this man took shelter with Hadrat `Uthman, on whose intercession the Prophet pardoned him. According to the second version, Hadrat `Uthman requested the Prophet three times, repeatedly, to accept his allegiance and the Prophet apparently reluctantly acceded to the request, for he later turned to his Companions and said "Was there no rightly‑guided person among you who could have risen to kill this man, seeing that I was withholding my hand from his allegiance?" The Companions are reported to have said that they could not know what was in the mind of the Prophet unless he had himself given them an indication by a wink of his eye. The Prophet told them that it was not becoming a Prophet to have made such a stealthy sign with his eye.
The facts of the case are given by Tabari  and Ibn al‑Athir  in their Histories and they are also mentioned by Razi  in his Tafsir al‑Kabir and by Muhammad Husain Haikal in his "Life of the Prophet".  After accepting Islam, he used to act as one of the scribes for taking down the Qur'anic verses revealed to the Prophet from time to time. He became a renegade and joined the polytheist Quraish before whom he boasted that he used to write what was dictated to him by the Prophet as and where he liked: He was one of those under sentence of death by order of the Prophet, at the time of the Conquest of Mecca. `Abdullah was a foster‑brother of Hadrat `Uthman and that is why he gave him shelter and interceded successfully on his behalf with the Prophet. He was under the sentence apparently for his political crime in making common cause with the enemies of the Muslims and not for mere apostasy. For if he was liable to hadd‑i‑Shara'i for that offence, it is unlikely that Hadrat `Uthman should have given him protection. The fact that he received such protection strongly suggests that his proclaimed punishment was not with reference to his apostasy but to his association with and encouragement of polytheist belligerents.
There were actually ten or twelve persons in all who were under the sentence of death, if captured, for their oppositionist role, at that time. They were, besides Ibn Abi Sarh, `Abdullah b. Khatal,` Ikrimah b. Abi Jahl, Huwairith b. Naqid, Muqais b. Sababah, Hibar b. al Aswad, Ka'b b. Zuhair, Hindah bint `Utbah (wife of Abu Sufyan, who had mutilated the dead body of the Prophet's uncle Hamzah, in the Battle of Uhud), Wahshi b. Harab, Safwan b. Umayyah and `Abdullah b. Zab'ari Sahmi. They were all persons who had either persecuted the Muslims or fought against them. Wahshi had killed Hamzah by hurling his weapon at him from a distance. Ibn Khatal had become a Muslim but had run away after killing a Sahabi or, according to one version, a Muslim slave. He used to revile the Prophet in verses that were sung by his two slave‑girls ‑these girls, according to Ibn Athir, were among those under sentence of death, in absentia. Ka'b and Huwairith were also charged with similar abusive and vilifying roles. Hibar had attacked the camel carrying Hadrat Zainab, daughter of the Prophet, in collaboration with Huwairith, and the latter also attacked the camel on which two other daughters of the Prophet, Hadrat Fatimah and Hadrat Umm Kulthum, were travelling and, in both cases, the riders had fallen off their mounts and received injuries. Muqais b. Sababah had become a renegade, but he was not immediately interfered with. He was killed during the Conquest of Mecca by Ghilah b. ` Abdullah Kalbi. Muqais had earlier killed an Ansari Muslim who had killed a brother of Muqais, under a misapprehension ‑khata'anand he then had run away and defected from the Muslim community.  Zarqani in his Sharh Mawahib al‑Ladunniyyah has also given their histories.  Some details about these persons are also furnished by Ibn Hisham in his Sirat.  However, only four of these persons were eventually killed, the rest receiving pardon from the Prophet, including Wahshi, the killer of Hamzah. Their offences lay in the political rather than the religious field. It cannot be maintained, in consequence, that the case of Ibn Abi Sarh is, in any sense, an apt illustration of the liability of an apostate to the supreme penalty.
The attempt by some writers to draw strength for their contention that death is the prescribed punishment for apostasy, from the incident relating to `Ukl or `Urainah people, must also founder on the rock of differentiating facts. The relevant hadith is set out in Sahih Bukhai  Sahih Muslim.  It is traced from Anas. The circumstances in which these persons from `Ukl were killed have already been (referred to, while commenting on verse 35 of Surat al‑Ma'idah, and they are detailed in several commentaries of the Qur'an, e.g. Alusi's Ruh al‑Ma'ani, Suyuti's Lubab al‑Nuqul fi Asbab al‑Nuzul, Razi's Tafsir al‑Kabir and others. They were guilty of brutal murder combined with robbery, and they were dealt with on that basis and not for apostasy alone.
Another reported hadith ascribes instructions issued by the Prophet to Mu'adh b. Jabal when he was leaving for Yemen that both male and female apostates were to be killed unless they repented. In his marginal comment on this hadith, Muhammad Hasan Sunbali,  in his edition of the Hidayah, has criticised this hadith as resting on weak authority as its narrators are questionable.
It is claimed that a woman who was abusing the Prophet was killed by a Sahabi and the Prophet remitted her Qisas (punishment for murder). The tradition is included in the Sunan of Abu Dawud and is said to have been narrated by Ikrimah and Sha'bi. Doubt has been cast on its authenticity by criticism of Nasa'i, among others, of `Uthman al‑Shaham, one of the narrators, as a weak link. Sha'bi's version is also not accepted as authentic as, according to Hakim, he had not heard a single tradition from Hadrat 'Ali whom he had claimed as the source of information for this hadith. Apart from this aspect of the matter, however, the death of the woman was caused under circumstances of grave provocation offered by her to Muslims, and if the Prophet, as Head of the State, remitted the punishment, the instance cannot be put forward to buttress the contention that apostasy had to be punished with death. In this connection, it would be pertinent to refer to another hadith included in Salaih Bukhayi. It is reported that a Jew, while passing by the Prophet, had said: "As‑sam‑u`alaikum" (death on you). The Prophet merely retorted back: "Wa `alaik" (and on you). When the people around asked for permission of the Prophet to kill him, he forbade them from doing so.  So apparently such kind of provocative conduct was also to be ignored.
As we have seen, none of the ahadith, normally relied on by the protagonists of the penalty, unequivocally support that judgment. That they should not be so construed is a suggestion that has much to commend itself in view of what follows.
A hadith is related from Jabir b. `Abdullah in Sahih al‑Bukhari  by three different chains of narrators, to the effect that a Bedouin Arab accepted Islam and took the oath of fealty on the Prophet's hand. Soon after, he contracted high fever and came back to the Prophet to demand cancellation of his allegiance. He repeated this demand three times, but each time it was refused. He then went away‑apparently unmolested. The Prophet merely remarked that Medina is like a furnace which separates the dross from what is pure. If apostasy had to be visited with the death sentence, he should not have been allowed to depart with immunity. There is also discussion of this hadith in the Fath al‑Bari. 
Interesting light is thrown on the question we are considering by clauses (4) and (5) of the Hudaibiyyah Peace Pact, concluded between the Muslims acting through the Prophet and the polytheist Quraish of Mecca through their plenipotentiary, Suhail b. `Umar. These clauses are reproduced below: 
(4) If a Meccan becomes a Muslim, without the permission of his family chief and migrates to Medina, it will be obligatory for Muhammad to return him to Mecca.
(5) In the reverse case, if someone from Medina defects from Islam and seeks protection in Mecca the Quraish would not return him.
If the apostate Muslim was liable to the death sentence, it is extremely unlikely that such a provision should have been agreed to, in derogation of a Commandment of the Shari'ah.
Again, in the document of Aman (protection) granted to the Hadas branch of the Lakhm tribe by the Prophet  and scribed by `Abdullah b. Zaid, it is provided that in respect of members of the tribe who accept Islam, keep up prayer, pay the Zakat and the Prophet's share and give up friendly relations with the polytheists, the responsibility to protect their lives, their property and their honour will rest on Allah and His Messenger (i.e. on the Muslims). "But if any one of them, after becoming a Muslim, commits apostasy, then the responsibility of Allah and His Messenger will cease with regard to him, and a person who authenticates his Islam by his actions will have his faith certified by the Prophet." Nothing was said to indicate that apostasy would invite the capital sentence‑only he would lose his protective cover.
It is also possible to gain some guidance on the point in question from the dialogue that took place between Abu Sufyan (who was then a non‑Muslim) and the Ceasar of Byzantium, whom the Arabs give the name of "Herqal" (Heracles). Abu Sufyan was accompanied by his Quraish companions and one of the questions put by the King to Abu Sufyan was whether any of the followers of the Prophet was known to have become a renegade from his faith. The answer was in the negative. Here was an occasion for Abu Sufyan to have assigned this steadfastness to the threat of the extreme penalty for apostasy if such had been the case‑he was no friendly emissary who could suppress such a fact. The absence of such a charge is significant. 
When "Qiblah" for prayers was changed, by Divine Command, from Bait al‑Muqaddas to the Ka'bah at Mecca, the decision came as a shock to the Jews and even to some Muslims. The incident is referred to in the opening verses of Part II of the Qur'an and it is explained in verse 144 of Surat al‑Baqarah that the change was effected so that Allah "might know him who follows the Messenger from him who turns upon his heels". Ibn Jarir Tabari in his commentary Jami` al‑Bayan mentions that some of the Muslims had actually defected from Islam on this occasion.  He quotes the comment of Ibn Juraij that these apostates said: "Once it is here and another time it is here" ‑ objecting to the change of "Qiblah". There is no indication given, however, that these apostates were punished for their defection, nor do the relevant Qur'anic verses point to any such dispensation.
There is apparently some difference of opinion between scholars as to whether Isra' (which is mentioned in Surah Bani Isra'il) and Mi'raj (to which reference exists in Surat al‑Najm) are two separate phenomena or they both represent one single experience of the Prophet. Isra' means the night‑journey which the Prophet is said to have performed from Mecca to Jerusalem and back in one night and Mi'raj is the ascension to the Heavens and the experiences related to it. Both Ibn Hisham  and Ibn Athir  have given the Prophet's account of his experiences in this regard and some of the people who heard of this claim made by the Prophet turned apostates. Ibn Hisham has cited the opinion of Hasan in this context that the Qur'anic verse: "And We appointed the vision which We showed thee as an ordeal for mankind and (likewise) the Accursed Tree in the Qur'an" (Bani Isra'il, verse 61), was revealed in respect of those who became apostates on this occasion. None of the historians, however, has mentioned any attempt being made to bring the offenders to book by . any pressure or punishment. Al‑Samara'i has also referred to this incident in his Ahkam al‑Murtadd  in an extract from the Musnad of Ahmad who mentions that these apostates were killed along with Abu Jahl (in the Battle of Badr) but evidently not sentenced to death after adjudication.
The treatment of hypocrites by the Prophet, in spite of their identity being known, has already received attention earlier during the discussion on the position of apostates under the Qur'an. A, signal instance in this connection is that of Jalas b. Suwaid b. Samit. As related by Ibn Hisham, he had lagged behind when the Prophet had proceeded with his Companions for the Expedition to Tabuk. Not only that but he gave out that "if this person (meaning the Prophet) had been right, we should have been worse than asses." This was conveyed to the Prophet, but jalas, when questioned, swore falsely that he had said nothing.  On this the ayah was revealed
"They swear by Allah that they said nothing (wrong), yet they did say the word of disbelief, and did disbelieve after their surrender (to Allah). And they purposed that which they could not attain, and they sought revenge only that Allah by His Messenger should enrich them of His bounty. If they repent, it will be better for then, and if they turn away Allah will afflict them with a painful doom in this world and the Hereafter, and they have no protecting friend or helper in the earth" (al-Taubah, verse 74). He, too, in spite of his proclaimed disbelief in the word of God, was apparently not frilled for his apostasy. Indeed Ibn Ishaq is reported to have said that he, later on, repented and became a good Muslim.
Shah Wali Ullah in his Hujjat Allah al‑Balighah  has referred to the strange case of a person who became a Murtadd in the Prophet's time. He died and, when buried, the earth "did not accept him but threw out his dead body". Probably he had in mind a hadith included in Bukhari's al‑Sahih and traced to Anas  It is related therein that a Christian became a Muslim, learnt the Surahs al‑Baqarah and Al‑i‑Imran from the Prophet and became one of the scribes of the revelations. He later reverted to his original faith and bragged that the Prophet knew only as much as he had written out for him. Sometime after, he died (evidently a natural death) and was buried. His dead body was seen to have been cast out of his grave the day after his burial. This time he was buried even deeper into the ground but the same strange phenomenon occurred again. The deceased's relatives suspected that the Prophet's followers had a hand in this mysterious incident. He was again buried and this time at a much greater depth under ground. Lo! and behold! his body was found thrown out again and people were now convinced that this was not due to human action. The point of this hadith is that the man was not put to death for his apostasy which was even accompanied by grave provocation to the Muslims.
In the sixth year of the Hijrah, according to Ibn Athir, Muja'ah b. Murarah who had come as a member of a delegation from Hauzah b. `Ali, King of Yamamah, became a Muslim. He, however, went back, defected from the faith and even brought up a false accusation against the Prophet that the latter had taken Musailimah Kadhdhab as his partner. There is, however, no mention of any attempt being made to punish him. 
Professor Heffening, in his article on "Murtadd" in the Encyclopaedia of Islam (1932 Edition), says there are traditions according to which even the Prophet forgave apostates, and he cites Nasa'i ("Tahrim al‑Dam," Bab 14, 15), Abu Dawud ("Hudud," Bab 1), Ibn Hanbal (Vol. I, p. 247) and Tafsir Tabari (Vol. III, p. 223), in support of this view. This remark and the other positive instances of absence of action against apostates, adduced above, negate the contention of those who urge that the Prophet had determined the punishment for apostasy to be death, as a part of the religious dispensation, stricto sensu.
It has been seen that even the strongest bulwark of the orthodox view, viz. the Sunnah, when subjected to critical examination in the light of history, does not fortify the stand of those who seek to establish that a Muslim who commits apostasy must be condemned to death for his change of belief alone. In instances in which apparently such a punishment was inflicted, other factors have been found to co‑exist, which would have justified action in the interest of collective security. As against them, some positive instances of tolerance of defections from the Faith, with impunity for the renegades, suggest that the Prophet acted strictly in conformity with the letter and the spirit of the Qur'an, and mere change of faith, if peaceful, cannot be visited with any punishment. The sayings of the Prophet, on which the whole edifice of orthodox reasoning is raised, in the absence of a knowledge of the surrounding circumstances, must be construed in a sense which would make them consistent with the Book of God, for it is unimaginable that the Prophet could have gone against any Qur'anic text. There is no doubt a section of `Ulama' who make the Sunnah the final arbiter in every case of seeming or real conflict with the Qur'an‑their claim is: "Al‑Sunnah qadiyah `ala'l‑Kitab" ‑ The Sunnah is the judge over the Book. This is not accepted by some of the best minds among the Muslim scholars, past or present, and such a doctrine would indeed strike an unconscionable blow at the integrity and pristine purity of the Qur'an
 Urdu translation by M. Amjad `Ali, pp. 97 et seq.
 Vol. I, pp. 118 et seq.
 pp. 229‑31.
 Urdu translation by M. 'Abdur Rahim, Vol. I, pp. 219‑28.
 Ibid., Vol. I, p. 655, and M. Sher 'Ali, Qatl‑i‑Murtadd our Islam, pp. 100‑1.
 Quoted in Fikr‑o‑Nazar, September 1971, p. 195.
 Al‑Zaila'i, Nasb al‑Rayah li‑Ahadith al‑Hidayah, Vol. III, Chapter "Ahkam al‑Murtaddin".
 Ahkam al‑Murtadd, pp. 36‑8, 211‑22.
 Al‑'Aini, 'Umdat al‑Qari, Vol. XIII, p. 232; al‑'Asqalani, Fath al‑Bari, Vol. II, p. 23, Vol. XIII, pp. 220‑8; and Hidayah ma' al‑Kifayah, Vol. 11, pp. 200 et seq.
 3rd edn., Vol. VIII, p. 33.
 5th edn., pp. 172 et seq.
 Vol. Il, p. 23; Vol. XII, pp. 220‑8.
 Vol. II, Bab "Ahkam al‑Murtaddin," pp. 200 et seq.
 Sarakhsi, al‑Mabsut, Vol. X, pp. 98‑124.
 Ibn Nujaim al‑Misri, Bahr al‑Ra'iq, Vol. V, p. 139.
 Fath al‑Qadir, 'al'a al‑Hidayah with 'Inayah of al‑Babarti, and marginal comments of al-Chalpi, Vol, IV, pp. 288‑9.
 Sharh al‑Zaila'i 'ala Kanz al‑Daqa'iq, Vol. III p. 285.
 See note 18.
 Proposed Political, Legal and Social Reforms under Muslim Rule‑A'zan al‑Kalam fi Irtiqa' al‑Islam: Urdu translation by 114. 'Abdul Haqq, pp. 86 at ssq.
 Ibn Hayyin, Bahr al‑Muhit, Vol. I, p. 209.
 Imam Malik b. Anas al‑Asbahi, Muwatta' (Egypt, 1339 n.), Part II, p. 165.
 Sahih al‑Bukhari, Urdu translation (with Arabic text) by S. Na'ib Husain Naqwi and M. Muhammad 'Ali, Vol. III, p. 579.
 Mishkat al‑Masabih, Urdu translation (with Arabic text) by S. Na'ib Husain Naqwi and M. Muhammad 'Ali, Vol. II, p. 10.
 pp. 202‑4.
 Sahih al‑Bukhari (Ashah al‑Matba'ah, Karachi), Vol. II, p.1016. ,
 Ibid., p. 1019.
 Sunan al‑Nasa'i (Mlaktabah Salafiyyah, Lahore, 1376 s.), Vol. II, pp. 161, 236.
 Sunan Abu Dawud (Matba'ah Mustafa Muharmmad, Cairo 1950), Vol. IV, p. 180.
 pp. 40‑2.
 Ibn Majah, Sunan, "Bab al‑Murtadd" (Matba'ah Mujtaba'i, Delhi), p. 182.
 Urdu translation by M. Amjad 'Ali, p. 150.
 Sahih al‑Bukh'ari, Bab "Hukm al‑Murtadd wa'l‑Murtaddat wa Istitabathum" (Ashah al‑Matba'ah, Karachi), Vol. II, p. 1023.
 Dr M. Hamidullah, Siyasi Wathiqah‑jat (Urdu translation by M. Yahya Imam Khan Nowshehrwi, pp. 188‑9) (with reference to Tabari's History"); Da'irah‑i‑Ma`arif‑i‑Islamiyah (Urdu), Punjab University, Lahore, 1971, Vol. II, p. 768.
 Urdu translation by 'M. `Abdur Rahim, Vol. I, p. 677.
 Ibid., p. 655.
 As quoted by M. Sher 'Ali, in his Qatl‑i‑Murtadd aur Islam pp. 142‑3.
 Nawab A'zam Yar Jang (M. Charagh ' Ali), Proposed Political, Legal and Social Reforms under Muslim Rule, Urdu translation: A'sam al‑Kalam fi Irtiqa' al‑Islam, by M. 'Abdul Haqq, pp. 86 et seq.
 Vol. XI & XII, p. 235.
 See Part III, Bab "Ahkam al‑Murtaddin".
 Vol. x, pp.108‑10.
 Pp. 219‑20.
 M. Abu'l‑A'la Maududi, Murtadd Ki Saza Islam'i Qanun Men, pp. 16‑8.
 Urdu translation by S. Muhammad Ibrahim Nadvi, Vol. I; pp. 400 et seq.
 Urdu translation by M. Maqsud 'Ali Khairabadi, Vol. II, pp. 407 et seq.
 Vol . V, p. 527.
 Hayat‑i‑Muhammad (Urdu translation : Sirat al‑Rasul by Muhammad Warith K'amil), p. 526.
 Zarqani, Mawahib al‑Ladunniyyah, Vol. II, p. 321.
 Vol. II, pp. 69‑78.
 Urdu translation (with Arabic text) by S. Na'ib Naqwi and Muhammad 'Ali. Vol. III, p. 587.
 Part I, Vol. II, Bab Hukm al‑Muharibin wa'l‑Murtaddin, p. 93.
 Quoted in M. Sher 'Ali, op cit., p. 172.
 Urdu translation (with Arabic text) by S. Na'ib Naqwi and Muammad `Ali, Vol. III, p. 598.
 Ibid., Vol. III, pp. 689‑91.
 Ibn Hajar al‑'Asqalani, Fath al‑B'ari, Vol. XIII, p. 173.
 Dr M. Hamidullah, op. cit., Urdu translation by M. Abu Yahya lmam Khan Nowshehrawi, p. 53.
 Ibid., pp. 65‑6.
 Ibn al‑Atbir, al‑Kamil, Urdu translation by Maqs'ud 'Ali Khairabadi, p. 344.
 Vol. II, p. 8.
 Sirat, Urdu translation by Qutb‑ud‑Din Ahmad Mahmudi, Vol. II, pp. 7 at seq.
 Al‑Kamil, Urdu translation by Maqsud 'Ali Khairabadi, Vol. II, pp. 64‑72.
 p. 35.
 Sirat, Urdu translation, op. cit., pp 203‑5.
 Urdu translation, op. cit., Vol. II, p. 822.
 Ra'is Ahmad Ja'fri, Talkhis al‑Bukhari (Arabic‑Urdu), p. 359.
 Ibn Athir, al‑Kamil, Urdu translation, op. cit., Vol. II, p. 350.