Islam Under Scrutiny by Ex-Muslims

Apostasy in Islam - Response to Mr. Shamim of NFB

This is in relation to the altercation between Mr. Archemedez and Shamimur Rahman on the issue of apostasy in Islam. Mr Shamim in his latest response [Archimedez & Repeated Twisting] has doubted that MA Khan and Archemedez are the same person. Let me first clarify that Archemedez and MA Khan are different persons. Archemedez is a native English speaking Westerner and MA Khan is from South Asia living in the US. However, we became known to each other through our common interest in Islam-related issues. I had forwarded two of his recent essays to NFB on his request as I am more familiar with this site because of my root in South Asia.
Having said that, Archemedez has wish not to engage in this debate any further as he has mostly expressed what he had to say. I will put in some final words from our side on this discourse! Mr. Shamimur Rahman has called Archemedez ignorant about Islam and even has accused him of twisting facts. In this regard, let me make it straight that Mr. Archemedez has not invented anything. None of the views and opinions that he has forwarded are his own! He has only parroted what prominent Islamic thinkers and Imams of both recent times and of past centuries have opined on the issue of apostasy in Islam. Archemedez can only be accused of parroting other people's (great Islamic thinkers, scholars and Imams) thoughts/works but not of dishonest twisting of facts by himself. I wished Mr. Shamim had the ability to judge that. If Mr. Shamim wants to accuse anybody of twisting facts and call anyone ignorant about Islam, then he should have thrown those slurs at those famous Islamic scholars and Imams - not at Archemedez. 

Now I will put a few words on the arguments and verses which Mr. Shamim has forwarded in order to clear Islam/Koran from death penalty for apostasy. Verse 2:256 (let there be no compulsion in religion) does not concern apostasy at all. This verse points to those who did not listen to Prophet's invitation (dawa) to Islam. Let us also consider that this verse was revealed in Mecca during the early days of Prophet's mission of preaching Islam, when Muslims had formed a very negligible force (100-200). Allah must have been cautious enough not to jeopardize the life of the nascent Muslim community by expressing his real and violent intention at such a time. A real strategist this Allah is! However, if Mr. Shamimur was so knowledgeable of Islam - he should not have cited this verse in discussing apostasy at all. His attempt appears to exonerate Islam from death penalty for apostasy at any cost - even by using unrelated materials from the Koran. Isn't that dishonesty or ignorance on his part?

About the issue of 'apostate' and 'hypocrite' - it appears impossible for both parties to agree which verse points to apostates and which one to hypocrites. Let me first assert that these 2 terms has been used in confusing manner in the Koran - at least in the translation. Another term that has been for similar case in translation is 'disaffected'.

I will take Mr. Shamim's interpretations of the verses from this point on, although there is a lot of scope for arguments. Prophet Muhammad came face to face with the hypocrites after migrating to Medina and the leader of this group was Abdullah ibn Obayi. He was chief of the Khazraj clan and was a powerful tribal head. As the Prophet started attacking and evicting the various tribes of Medina, Abdullah decided to profess to Islam and formed alliance with the Prophet. He also started taking part in the Muslims' plundering expeditions (decoity) of nearby communities and highway caravan - a new profession for making a living that started taking root in Medina as the Muslims started growing strong in force. These robbery and raiding expeditions used to bring in lots of easy booty which many Medina tribes could not resist to get a share of. They started professing to Islam to join the Muslim raid and robbery expeditions to get a share of the booty - which sometimes included beautiful women.

Despite Abdullah's joining the Muslim community, he could not shed all his conscience and did not agree with Muhammad's actions in many instances. He became a serious nuisance to Muslims from time to time. Abdullah was a powerful tribal chief and doing harm to him could bring ire of the followers of Abdullah on the fledging Muslim community. Hence, Muhammad had to digest his disobedience and annoyance. When Abdullah's son, who became a devoted Muslim, sought prophet's consent to kill his own father (Abdullah) and bring his head to Muhammad, the latter desisted as it could turn out dangerous for his fledgling Muslim community.

I will cite one instance of the humanity and kindness of this much highlighted and hated hypocrite of Islam. I am quoting a section from an article in our website:

In April 624, on the excuse of a market brawl between a Muslim and Jew man of the Kaynuka tribe, he (the Prophet) besieged the settlements of that tribe - the wealthiest community in the region. After 15 days of siege, the Jewish tribe surrendered. Their men were tied and preparations were made for their summary execution. At this point, Abdullah ibn Obayi, chief of the Khazraj clan, seriously intervened. He urged Muhammad, "By God, would you cut down these 700 men in one morning?" He had further cautioned, "I am a man, circumstances may change!" Muhammad, prudent as always, relented from the slaughtering and instead exiled them to Syria. They were given three days to leave but forbidden to take any implements of their trade. Once the Jews left, Muhammad quickly captured their homes and properties and distributed amongst the Muslims as booty obtained through winning Jihad. According to ibn Ishaq, Muhammad had already approved slaying the Jews before this event and at least one Jew, named Ibn Sunayna was assassinated who happened to had have fallen on the way of a Muslim convert from his own clan.

Yet, more Jew atrocity was to follow. In August 625, Muhammad accused the Jews of the Nadhir tribe of treason because they had commercial dealings with Abu Sufian of Mecca before the battle of Ohud and ordered them to evacuate their settlements and proceed to Syria on pain of death. Abdullah, the hypocrite denounced the treason charge as baseless. Yet, the Jews were evicted and Muhammad took possession of their swords, cuirasses, and helmets along with their homes, firms and lands and distributed amongst the followers.

The verses on hypocrites, all revealed in Medina, points to this man Abdullah. The above instances clearly show that his sense of kindness and humanity stood out amongst the entire people of Medina in those days. Such a great man is labeled as the greatest hypocrite in Islam because despite professing to Islam, he could not accept blindly whatever Muhammad had said and done because of his sense of kindness, justice and humanity. He is a hypocrite because he didn't show blind belief in Islam like his own son. He was a man of wavering/fluctuating commitment/faith in Islam; that's why he was a hypocrite. Yet, he never dared declare himself an apostate neither did he criticize Islam openly. Such a person becomes a hypocrite worthy of killing wherever found as per the verdict of the Koran as allegedly properly interpreted by Mr. Shamimur Rahman.

May I ask Mr. Rahman if there is a provision for killing Muslim apostates and critics like ibn Warraq, Taslima Nasreen and Salman Rushdie? I am confident Mr. Shamimur would emphatically say "No". Of course, there is no punishment for apostates in Koran as Mr. Shamimur has shown us conclusively. May I then ask Mr. Shamimur: Is denouncing Islam openly (apostasy) and even criticizing it after becoming an apostate is a lesser crime than becoming a hypocrite just because that one cannot have a firm faith in Islam or cannot accept everything said in the Koran? The same remains a question to the readers as well. If hypocrites deserve to be killed wherever found, what punishment should await the apostates? I remind the readers that apostasy is an open smack on the face of Islam but hypocrisy is not so - it is a fluctuating state of faith in Islam and silent. Hypocrisy is kind of half-belief in Islam, whereas apostasy is a slap on the face. Apostasy is like spitting on the face of Islam/Allah, hypocrisy is not!

If Abdullah was a hypocrite, then I must also assert that most of the Muslims I have known in the subcontinent and in the US are hypocrites too. Because, these Muslims on the surface claim to be Muslims but hardly do they follow the precepts of Islam. They hardly say regular prayers and perform other rituals with steadfastness. They mix with the infidels and they keep friendship with them which is prohibited in Islam [Q003.118]. Many of them drink alcohol and non-halal meats. Many of them keep girlfriends although they are supposed to talk to unrelated Muslim women only from behind a curtain/veil [Q33:59>>]. They are Muslims of loose faith - exactly like Abdullah, the hypocrite. They all deserved to be killed wherever found as per the interpretation of the Koran by Mr. Shamim.

I hope readers will agree with me that the apostate definitely commit much deadlier crime to Islam than the hypocrites. Can anyone justify the order of killing the hypocrites howsoever way one might define a hypocrite? Lesser criminal (hypocrites) get outright killing where being caught whilst much more deadly criminals, like apostates, go scot-free in Islam. Hooh, Islam the perfect religion of Allah!

I will now identify a few criminals who were ignorant of Islam/Koran and violated its codes by killing the apostates. Mr. Shamimur can also accuse them of twisting the Koranic verses to achieve their dishonest goal. The first Muslim to kill the apostates was Prophet Muhammad himself. According to Prophet's biographer ibn Ishaq, two such men were from Mecca who had accepted Islam and joined Muhammad in Medina. They later returned to Mecca and reverted to paganism. After his triumphant arrival in Mecca in 630, the Prophet ordered their execution for renouncing Islam.

The next person to kill the apostates was first Caliph Abu Bakr. The Prophet's first biographer and the great Islamic scholar and prophet's biographer ibn Ishak writes, "When the apostle was dead, most of the Muslims thought of withdrawing from Islam..." Caliph Abu Bakr's first and foremost responsibility turned out to bring many of these desert tribes back to submission to Islam, who reverted to their original faith, thinking the fear of the sword of the Prophet had gone with his death. Through a series of bitter wars under the leadership of brutal Khalid ibn Walid, those tribes were brought back to submission after much bloodbath. These wars were famously known as the wars of the apostasy (ridda) in the annals of Islamic history.

Of course, there are stories of Caliph Ali's killing and burning the apostates in Islamic literature. Killing, exiling and imprisoning the apostates itself constitute a glorious chapter in the history of Islam - from the day of its founding to this day. Ibn Warraq gives of list the victims of apostasy during the Islamic rules in his book "Why I am not a Muslims".

Let me conclude here by asserting that if Mr. Shamim wishes to accuse anyone of ignorance and dishonest twisting of the Koranic verses, he should first and foremost point finger at the Prophet Muhammad. Then he should point finger at Prophet's best friends and Islam greatest heroes, namely caliph Hazrat Abu Bakr and Ali and great Muslim general Khalid ibn Walid et al. Then he should go after the generations of greatest Islamic scholars and Imams.

Finally, Mr. Shamim did not agree to the interpretation to the famous Islamic scholars as he says: I disagree with the interpretation of Baydawi provided by Archimedez. Scholars like Baydawi, Qaradawi (Al-Azhar University don on Islam) of Egypt et al. are the towering figures in Islamic history, literatures and jurisprudence. They are being frequently cited by Islamic researchers (both Western and Eastern) in every corners of the world. I am interested to know how much time Mr. Shamim has invested in studying Islam, how many research papers has he produced on Islam which has acclaimed international acclaim and how many books has he published to counter he mammoth materials produced by Qaradawi et al. More importantly, when Dr Qaradawi goes to London or New York, he get full-house audience for his speeches and sermons. How many lectures have Mr. Shamim given and how were the attendance to his speeches and sermons?

Lastly I remind again, Mr. Shamim cannot accuse Archemedez and now MA Khan of ignorance and dishonesty for parroting other people's views and actions including those of Prophet Muhammad. Finger pointing should start with the prophet. We could only be accused of parroting and lacking originality but not ignorance and dishonest twisting.


Note: We had sent Archimedez's first rebuttal to Mr. Safi who informed us that he will write back to us if this rebuttal did warrant any response from him. He did not respond since then. With this, we conclude our engagement on this issue here.

MA Khan is the editor of and the author of  Islamic Jihad: A Legacy of Forced Conversion, Imperialism and Slavery.

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