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By Dan Merica, CNN
(CNN) – The possible hanging of Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani for converting from Islam to Christianity has exposed a division among Islamic jurists on whether Iran would be violating Islamic law by carrying out the execution.
According to some of these scholars, the Quran not only outlaws the death penalty for the charge of apostasy, but under Sharia law, conversion from Islam is not a punishable offense at all.
“Instead, it says on a number of occasions that God prefers and even demands that people believe in Him, but that He will handle rejection of such belief by punishing them in the afterworld,” wrote Intisar Rabb, an assistant professor of law at Boston College and a faculty affiliate in research at Harvard Law School, in an e-mail to CNN.
But Rabb also acknowledges that there is a more nuanced view to Islamic law, too.
Clark Lombardi, an associate professor of law at the University of Washington, said there is more room for interpretation because the Quran is not the only source of Islamic law.
“Most Muslims look past the Quran and say the Quran needs to be looked at in the practice of the Prophet. So they look to see what rules the prophet laid down,” Lombardi said.
And, according to Lombardi, if you look at literature about the life of Mohammed, “then apostasy is clearly something very bad. And there are examples of apostates being punished.”
What emerges from this is a complicated division between whether apostasy is punishable in the first place and, if it is punishable, for what reason.
“Most Muslims, most but not all, believe that apostasy is a deep and terrible sin,” Lombardi said. “The question of whether the state should punish deep and terrible sins is in fact something that Muslims do disagree about.”
CNN is peddling taqiyya from Islamsists in the U.S. who hope Americans will be confused by the circle talk. Legitimate Islamic sources are almost unanimous in what the punishment for leaving Islam should be, as summarized at Answering Islam, THE PUNISHMENT FOR APOSTASY FROM ISLAM:
All four major schools of Sunni Islamic jurisprudence state that the apostate is to be put to death. Mawdudi cites the writings of the four schools:
E. Agreement of the Leading Mujtahids (Jurists)
To copy the consecutive writings of all the lawyers from the first to the fourteenth century A.H. would make our discussion very long. Yet we cannot avoid mentioning that however much the four Schools of Law may differ among themselves regarding the various aspects of this problem, in any case all four Schools without doubt agree on the point that the punishment of the apostate is execution.
According to the School of Malik, as written in his book Muwatta:
From Zayd ibn Aslam, Malik has reported that the Apostle of God declared: Whoever changes his religion should be executed. Malik said about this tradition: As far as we can understand this command of the prophet means that the person who leaves Islam to follow another way, but conceals his kufr and continues to manifest Islamic belief, as is the pattern of the Zindiqs and others like them, should be executed after his guilt has been established. He should not be asked to repent because the repentance of such persons cannot be trusted. But the person who has left Islam and publicly chooses to follow another way should be requested to repent. If he repents, good. Otherwise, he should be executed.
According to the Hanbali School as explained in the well authenticated book al-Mughni:
In the opinion of Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal any adult and rational man or woman who renounces Islam and chooses kufr should be given a three day period to repent. The person who does not repent should be executed. This is also the opinion of Hasan Basri, Zuhri, Ibrahim Nakhi, Makhul, Hammad, Malik, Layth, Awzai, Shafi’i and Ishaq ibn Rahwiyah.
Imam Tahawi has provided an interpretation of the Hanafi School in his book Sharh Ma’ani al-Athar as follows:
The lawyers differ among themselves concerning whether or not the person who has apostatized from Islam should be requested to repent. One group says it is much better that the imam (leader) requests the apostate to repent. If he repents, he should be released. Otherwise he should be executed. Imam Abu Hanifah, Abu Yusuf and Muhammad Rahmatullah are among those who have expressed this opinion. A second group says there is no need to request repentance. For them the condition of the apostate resembles that of the harbi kafir (“the infidel at war”). The infidels at war whom our invitation has already reached need not be invited to Islam before initiating war against them. Nevertheless every effort should be made to fully inform all others who have not been previously invited to repent, before attacking them. Likewise every effort should be made to bring back to Islam the person who has apostatized for lack of information about Islam. But the person who understands Islam well and deliberately renounces Islam, should be executed without any invitation to repentance. This opinion is supported by a statement of Imam Abu Yusuf also who writes in his book al-Amla’: I will execute an apostate and will not ask for repentance. If, however, he hastens to repent, I will leave him and commit his affair to God.
An extended explanation of the Hanafi school is found in the Hidayah and reads:
When any person forsakes Islam — Refuge is in God — then Islam should be presented to him. If he has any doubt, every effort should be made to clear it. For it is highly possible that he is afflicted by some doubt, which, if removed, will avert his evil prospect of death by the better prospect of re-embracing Islam. But according to the leading lawyers it is not necessary to offer him Islam because he has already received its invitation.
Unfortunately at this time I have no reliable book dealing with Shafi’i jurisprudence; yet the representation of this school as found in the Hidayah is as follows:
It is recorded from Shafi’i that it is incumbent upon the imam to grant the apostate a three day respite. It is illegal for him to execute him before the respite expires, since the apostasy of a Muslim could be the result of some form of doubt. Thus there must be some time given him as an opportunity for consideration and reflection. We consider three days to be sufficient for this purpose.
The Light of Life ministry details the following positions of the four major Orthodox schools:
There are two opinions on this issue. Some believe that the apostate should be given a period for repentance consisting of three days, while others are of the opinion that he is to be granted no time for reconsideration but should only be offered Islam. If he accepts the offer, he is to be set free; if not, he is to be put to death immediately.
If a Muslim becomes apostate — Allah forbid! — the imam should grant him three days’ grace; he is not to be killed before this period expires, for the apostasy of a Muslim from his faith often results from his confusion.
If he repents after three days, he is to be released; but if he does not, he is to be killed on the third day, at sunset.
If he accepts Islam thereafter, it is good; if not, he is to be killed, for Allah says to “kill those who believe in many gods” (Sura al-Tawba 9:5), without fixing a deadline. The Prophet also said, “Kill him who changes his religion,” without mentioning a delay, because the apostate is surely a hostile unbeliever and no asylum seeker (musta’min) who has asked for protection; furthermore, he is no dhimmi (a non-Muslim under Islamic rule), for no poll tax is demanded of him. Therefore, he should be killed without reservation.
There are several tomes that address the penalty for apostasy. The first I quote from, the “Reliance of the Traveller”, is a book of Shafi’i jurisprudence.
Apostasy from the Reliance of the Traveller.
F1.3, (page 109):
Someone raised among Muslims who denies the obligatoriness of the prayer, zakat, fasting Ramadan, the pilgrimage, or the unlawfulness of wine and adultery, or denies something else upon which there is scholarly consensus (ijma’, def: b7) and which is necessarily knows as being of the religion (N: necessarily known meaning things that any Muslim would know about if asked) thereby becomes an unbeliever (kafir) and is executed for his unbelief (O: if he does not admit he is mistaken and acknowledge the obligatoriness or unlawfulness of that which there is scholarly consensus upon. As for if he denies the obligatoriness of something there is not consensus upon, then he is not adjudged an unbeliever).
o1.0 WHO IS SUBJECT TO RETALIATION FOR INJURIOUS CRIMES (page 582)
o1.2, (page 583)
The following are not subject to retaliation:
(3) A Jewish or Christian subject of the Islamic state for killing an apostate from Islam (O: because a subject of the state is under its protection, while killing an apostate from Islam is without consequences);
o5.0 THE EXPIATION TO ALLAH FOR TAKING A HUMAN LIFE
(O: There is no expiation for killing someone who has left Islam, a highwayman, (def: o15), or a convicted married adulterer, even when someone besides the caliph kills him.)
o8.0 APOSTASY FROM ISLAM (RIDDA) (page 595)
(O: Leaving Islam is the ugliest form of unbelief (kufr) and the worst. It may come about through sarcasm, as when someone is told, “Trim your nails, it is sunna,” and he replies, “I would not do it ever if it were,” as opposed to when some circumstance exists which exonerates him of having committed apostasy, such as when his tongue runs away with him, or when he is quoting someone, or says it out of fear.)
o8.1 When a person who has reached puberty and is sane voluntarily apostatizes from Islam, he deserves to be killed.
o8.2 In such a case, it is obligatory for the caliph (A: or his representative) to ask him to repent and return to Islam. If he does, it is accepted from him, but if he refuses, he is immediately killed.
o8.3 If he is a freeman, no one besides the caliph or his representative may kill him. If someone else kills him, the killer is disciplined (def: o17) (O: for arrogating the caliph’s prerogative and encroaching upon his rights, as this is one of his duties).
o8.4 There is no indemnity for killing an apostate (O: or any expiation, since it is killing someone who deserves to die).
There are many more references from hadith and other Islamic sources that repeatedly state the penalty for leaving Islam is death, including:
The Ency. of Islam says it plainly, “In Fikh (jurisprudence), there is unanimity that the male apostate must be put to death.” This ruling has been the accepted Islamic law for the last 1400 years.
Take some time to read through it all – CNN won’t be giving you the truth. They will rely on Muslims like Insitar Rabb, whom Discover the Networks profiles:
According to her biographical sketch, Rabb’s academic interests include Islamic law, American constitutional law, and American criminal law.
…she blames America for doing too little to address the hardships created by Katrina; she chides America for spending too little money on “fair and affordable housing measures, small business incentive programs, public welfare and social security plans, educational reforms and healthcare initiatives”; and she urges lawyers to provide pro bono legal services to criminals in American jails.
References from cited passages above, accessible at the link above.
 Hahn, Mawdudi, op. cit. pages 18-19
 Misri, Ahmad, “Reliance of the Traveler”, Amana, Beltsville, MD, 1994
 Encyclopadia of Islam, published by Brill, Leiden, Netherlands
 Encyclopaedia of the Quran, edited by Jane McAuliffe, Brill, Leiden, Netherlands.