Al-Hafiz Yunus Omotayo

Mainstream Muslims’ Misconceptions of Islam Versus Ahmadi Muslim Revivalist Thoughts

(2) Misconceptions in Islamic legal-religious doctrines and laws

[A] Mainstream Muslims’ Misconceptions about Freedom of Belief and Apostasy

Widespread and deep-rooted misinterpretations of Islamic teachings on freedom of belief and conscience and Islamic attitude to apostasy abound in the mainstream Muslim thought. For example, Abul Ala Maududi declared that, ‘In our domain we neither allow any Muslim to change his religion nor allow any other religion to propagate its faith’.[23] The Quranic ordinance that ‘there shall be no compulsion in religion’ is explained away as ‘This means we do not compel anyone to embrace our religion. This is true. But we must warn anyone who wishes to recant that this door is impassable to free traffic. If you wish to come, do so with the firm decision that you cannot escape’. [24]

As for the penal law for apostasy, mainstream Muslim jurists, like Abdul Qader ‘Oudah, in his Criminal Law of Islam, maintain that there are two punishments of apostasy: the one is primary punishment which is death penalty and the other is subsidiary which is the confiscation of property. [25] Maududi further elaborates that there are only two methods of dealing with an apostate. Either make him an outlaw by depriving him of his citizenship and allowing him mere existence, or end his life. The first method is definitely more severe than the second, because he exists in a state in which ‘he neither lives nor dies’. Killing him is preferable. That way both his agony and the agony of society are ended simultaneously. [26]

Ahmadi Muslim Revivalist Thought

Ahmadi thought re-states Islamic provision and advocacy for freedom of belief and conscience and maintains that Islam does not prescribe any physical punishment for apostasy. The punishment for apostasy lies in the hand of God Almighty, against Whom the offence has been committed. Apostasy, which is not aggravated by some other crime, is not punishable in this world. [27]

According to this thought, Surah Al-kafirun, revealed in the early period of the Prophet’s [saw] ministry, is a direct statement of policy on the subject of freedom of conscience. The Prophet [saw] was asked to tell unbelievers there was absolutely no meeting-point between their way of life and his. As they were in complete disagreement, not only with regard to the basic concepts of religion, but also with regard to its details and other aspects, there could not possibly be any compromise between them. Hence, ‘For you, your religion, for me, my religion. [Q. 109:7]

Similarly, the first Medinite Surah, Al-Baqarah, in its 257th verse, also declared in the clearest pronouncement on the subject of freedom of conscience thus: ‘There shall be no compulsion in religion. Surely guidance has become distinct from error. [28] Again, freedom of conversion is the acid test of ‘no compulsion in religion’. It cannot be a one-way freedom – the freedom to enter Islam, but not to leave it.

There are ten direct references to recantation in the Quran: one in the Meccan Surah of Al-Nahl and the remaining nine in the Medinite Surahs. In none of these verses is there the slightest hint of capital punishment for those who recant. [29] Another reference is in Al-Nisa verse 138. It says: Those who believe then disbelieve, then believe again, then disbelieve and then increase in their disbelief will never be forgiven by Allah, nor will He guide them to the way.’ A recanter cannot enjoy the repeated luxury of believing and disbelieving if the punishment is death! [30]

Furthermore, Ahmadi thought re-emphasize the Qur’ānic declarations that: “And say, ‘It is the truth from your Lord. Wherefore, let him who will, believe, and let him who will, disbelieve.” (Q. 18:30) Again, “And if your Lord had enforced His will, surely, all who are on the earth would have believed together. Will you, then, force men to become believers? (Q. 10:100)

Ahmadi thought also carefully examined the Sunnah of the Holy Prophet [saw] and found no capital penalty for conversion from Islam to have been meted out by the Prophet [saw]. [31]

[B] Mainstream Muslims’ Misconceptions about Islamic Law of Blasphemy

It is true that Imam Ibn Taymiyyah (ra) (d.728/1328) strongly believed and adduced painstaking evidences to prove that the punishment from Sabb Allah wa Sabb al- Rasul (blasphemy) was death, and this view was shared by the Maliki jurist, Qadi ‘Iyad al-Yahsabi (d.544/1149) [32] Our modern era has also seen how the committal of blasphemy has found Muslims from East to West, campaigning for death or corporal punishment to be meted out for its offenders.[33] Consequently, a number of modern Muslim states and scholars have thus prescribed death penalty for blasphemy.

Ahmadi Muslim Revivalist Thought

Ahmadi Thought maintains that although blasphemy is condemned on moral and ethical grounds, no doubt, and it has been mentioned not less than five times in the Holy Quran [4; ; 4: ;6: ; 18: ; 63: ] but no physical punishment is prescribed for blasphemy in Islam despite the commonly held view in the contemporary world. [34]

The cases of Ka’b bin Zuhayr and Ibn Zaba’ra are good examples. Both of them were gifted poets who composed satires against the Holy Prophet. [35] Similarly, the case of blasphemy committed by Abdullah bin Ubayy has been mentioned in the Quran [63:9]. In all the above cases, however, no physical punishment have been recorded against them, rather, they were all forgiven by the Holy Prophet. [36]

In fact, the orthodox Qur’anic pronouncement on the punishment for blasphemers is clearly stated: “Verily, those who malign Allāh and His Messenger – Allah has cursed them in this world and in the Hereafter, and has prepared for them an abasing punishment.” (Q. 33:57-58). Thus, as to how the Holy Prophet and his followers should react to blasphemy, a number of Qur’anic verses stipulate bearing blasphemy with patience, adopting boycott as a protest against blasphemers or a gathering of persons where blasphemy is being committed, including the blasphemous contents or messages, expressing salutations of peace and blessings upon the Holy Prophet and engaging in intellectual conversation with non-Muslims with a view to enlightening them on the true teachings of Islam, etc. (Q. 73:11; 4:141; 6:69; 41:44)

Ahmadi Muslim revivalist thought maintains that, “notwithstanding all the ills of blasphemy, what the Muslim Ummah must realise is that, without becoming pacifistic about it, modern day blasphemy does not in any way threaten the existence, continuity and dynamicism of Islam as a great religion, legal system and civilisation. Thus, although it should not pass without protest from the Muslims, the protests must be academic, philosophical, dialectical and must be grounded in the common and shared values of dignity and respect for humanity.” [37]

[C] Mainstream Muslims’ Misconceptions about Islamic Law for Fornication/Adultery

Misconceptions also exist with regard to the Islamic legal punishment for fornication and adultery. Again, according to Abdul Qader ‘Oudah, there are three punishement laid down in the Shariah for adultery: [1] Whipping [2] Banishment [3] Stoning to death. Whipping and banishment are punishments to be simultaneously awarded to an unmarried adulterer. Stoning to death is the punishment of a married adulterer. If the adulterer and adulteress are both unmarried, both of them shall be whipped and banished. If both of them are married, both shall be stoned to death. However, if one is married and the other unmarried, the former shall be stoned to death while the latter shall be whipped and banished at the same time. [38]

Ahmadi Muslim Revivalist Thought

Ahmadi Muslim revivalist interpretation posits that the punishment prescribed for adultery and fornication is hundred stripes, no distinction having been made whether the guilty persons are married or unmarried or one of the party is married and the other unmarried. Thus flogging and not stoning to death according to the Quran, 24: 3 is the punishment. Nowhere in the Quran stoning to death has been laid down as punishment for any crime however serious. Elsewhere in the Quran where punishment for adultery for a married slave-girl is mentioned [Quran, 4: 26], it is clearly stated that she will get half the punishment prescribed for that of a free, married woman; and evidently the punishment of stoning to death cannot be halved. [39]

Importantly, Ahmadi thought carefully investigated and critically analyzed all the traditional references often advanced in support of stoning to death by its advocators and exposed the hollowness of their juristic deductions on their basis. [40]

…………………. To be continued!


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