The Qur’an offers a message of religious tolerance. One oft-cited verse asserts that there is “no compulsion in religion”:
Let there be no compulsion in religion: Truth stands out clear from Error: whoever rejects evil and believes in Allah hath grasped the most trustworthy hand-hold, that never breaks. And Allah heareth and knoweth all things.
~Qur’an, Sura 2.256
Apparently this Muslim take on religious tolerance does not extend to daughters who convert to Christianity:
ISTANBUL, July 23 (Compass Direct News) – Egyptian police in Alexandria who last week arrested a Christian convert woman today handed her over to her fanatical Islamist family, who beat her before driving her away. Eyewitnesses said family members of Shaymaa (Eman) Muhammad al-Sayed, 26, dragged her screaming from the Bab-Sharky police station where she had been closeted. After severely beating her in the Shatby Cemetery behind the police station at 4 p.m., she was then forced into a family microbus and driven away. One week ago, on July 16, these same family members openly threatened to kill Al-Sayed for leaving Islam to become a Christian, after spotting her walking through a fair in Alexandria. Local police promptly took her into “protective custody,” but instead of protection local police and State Security Investigation (SSI) officials have subjected her to days of severe physical and emotional torture. Her maltreatment included electrical shocks, beatings and being photographed naked. Her repeated requests to press charges against her family for attempting to kidnap and kill her were ignored.
If in Islam there is “no compulsion to religion,” why would a Muslim family treat their daughter in this way?
Please indulge my views on the answer to this question.
A Muslim believer who turns away from Islam is an apostate. This is not a term unique to Islam. Rather, this term spans religions. It means “abandonment of one’s religious faith.”
Apostasy has all but disappeared in the West. You’ve got your “lapsed Catholic” and your “Christmas/Easter Christian,” but there is no palpable, social stigma attached either of these states anymore. In fact, now-a-days it is arguably fashionable to live a secular life style.
In Arabic, the word for apostate is Murtadd. A Murtadd is further classified on the basis of what replaces his or her Islamic beliefs. A person who converts from Islam to non-belief is known as Kufr. On the other hand, a person who converts from Islam to another religion is Irtidad.
Further, a child of a Muslim family who is Murtadd is either Murtadd Fitri or Murtadd Milli. Fitri means “natural” or “innate” while Milli means “religious community.” The connotations of these states are not clear to me, but I get a general idea from the pairings. Based on what I’ve read, Murtadd Fitri appears to be more offensive because it is dealt with by immediate death.
I don’t know about you, but I find childhood capital punishment anathema.
There are plenty of passages in the Qur’an that address the penalty for apostasy. Not all of them clearly prescribe death. For example, some intimate the penalty for unbelief is meted out after death:
Any one who, after accepting faith in Allah, utters Unbelief – except under compulsion, his heart remaining firm in Faith – but such as open their breast to Unbelief, on them is Wrath from Allah, and theirs will be a dreadful Penalty.
~Qur’an, Sura 16.106
The tense in the last phrase, “and theirs will be a dreadful Penalty” suggests a future event, presumably in the afterlife. Similarly,
But those who reject Faith after they accepted it, and then go on adding to their defiance of Faith – never will their repentance be accepted; for they are those who have (of set purpose) gone astray. As to those who reject Faith, and die rejecting – never would be accepted from any such as much gold as the earth contains, though they should offer it for ransom. For such is (in store) a penalty grievous, and they will find no helpers. [Emphasis mine]
~Qur’an, Sura 3:90-91
Again, verse 91 suggests that a grievous penalty awaits the apostate at some future time.
One verse commonly used to justify death as the penalty for apostasy reads thus:
They ask thee concerning fighting in the Prohibited Month. Say: “Fighting therein is a grave (offence); but graver is it in the sight of Allah to prevent access to the path of Allah, to deny Him, to prevent access to the Sacred Mosque, and drive out its members.” Tumult and oppression are worse than slaughter. Nor will they cease fighting you until they turn you back from your faith if they can. And if any of you Turn back from their faith and die in unbelief, their works will bear no fruit in this life and in the Hereafter; they will be companions of the Fire and will abide therein. [Emphasis mine]
~Qur’an Sura 2:217
In this verse, apparently the act of turning away from Islam and dieing are construed as one action.
There are verses that call for death as the punishment for apostasy (see, Qur’an 4.89 and 9.11,12). Suffice it to say that, like the Bible (Deuteronomy 13:6-13:10), some verses in the Qur’an and the Hadith explicitly mention death as the punishment for apostasy. I think it is fair to say that mainstream Christian religions no longer observe this mandate. In fact, I know of no Christian sect that still does, though having written this, surely someone will educate me about one…
Interestingly, to the Shafi’i, one of the four schools of religious law within Sunni Islam, not only is conversion from Islam to non-belief or another religion apostasy, so is converting from non-belief or a non-Muslim religion to another non-Muslim religion. This means that if you were born into an agnostic family and choose to become, for example, a Mormon, a Buddhist, or a Taoist, you are an apostate, and you are subject to the penalty of death…
Given the Islamic doctrine regarding apostasy detailed above…
Should Shaymaa Muhammad al-Sayed live?
How do you suppose her family answered this question?