Thursday, March 23, 2006

Is It Islamic To Sentence A Man To Death For Leaving Islam?

In Afghanistan, apparently so. Excerpt from Reuters:

March 23, 2006, KABUL - Afghanistan's judiciary will not bow to outside pressure over the fate of a man who faces the death penalty for converting to Christianity, a judge dealing with the case said on Thursday.

U.S. President George W. Bush said he was deeply troubled by the case of Abdur Rahman, who an Afghan judge said this week had been jailed for converting from Islam to Christianity and could face death if he refused to become a Muslim again.

Death is one of the punishments stipulated by sharia, or Islamic law, for apostasy. The Afghan legal system is based on a mix of civil and sharia law.

So does this judge represent “true” Islam? Consider a bit of evidence from Sahih Bukhari, to Muslims a sacred text just one step below the Quran. According to the University of Southern California website, Compendium of Muslim Texts:

...Bukhari's collection is recognized by the overwhelming majority of the Muslim world to be one of the most authentic collections of the Sunnah [life] of the Prophet... The Sunnah is the second source of Islamic jurisprudence, the first being the Qur'an. Both sources are indispensable; one cannot practice Islam without consulting both of them.

Now consider this from Sahih Bukhari:
Volume 9, Book 84, Number 57:
Narrated 'Ikrima:
Some Zanadiqa (atheists) were brought to 'Ali and he burnt them. The news of this event, reached Ibn 'Abbas who said, "If I had been in his place, I would not have burnt them, as Allah's Apostle forbade it, saying, 'Do not punish anybody with Allah's punishment (fire).' I would have killed them according to the statement of Allah's Apostle [Muhammed], 'Whoever changed his Islamic religion, then kill him.'"

(My bolding) Also from Sahih Bukhari, Muhammed speaks of afterlife punishment for those who 'do new things' and alter Islam after Muhammed has died:

Volume 9, Book 88, Number 174:
Narrated Sahl bin Sa'd:
I heard the Prophet saying, "I am your predecessor at the Lake-Fount (Kauthar), and whoever will come to it, will drink from it, and whoever will drink from it, will never become thirsty after that. There will come to me some people whom I know and they know me, and then a barrier will be set up between me and them." Abu Sa'id Al-Khudri added that the Prophet further said: "I will say those people are from me. It will be said, 'You do not know what changes and new things they did after you.' Then I will say, 'Far removed (from mercy), far removed (from mercy), those who changed (the religion) after me! "

(My bolding) Islam, arguably more than other major religions, contains obstacles to innovation and freedom -- and not only in these two passages we have cited. But in seeking an overview, we will continue to keep a mind open to counterevidence.

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