AL-AZHAR: TO LEAVE ISLAM IS ‘TREASON’
World Watch Monitor – 22 June 2016
To convert away from Islam is “treason” that should carry the death penalty, according to Sunni Islam’s topmost religious authority.
“The penalty for an open apostate, departing from the community, is well stipulated in Sharia,” Al-Azhar’s Grand Imam Ahmed el-Tayyib declared on Egypt television last week.
“An apostate must be pressed upon to repent within a variable period of time or be killed,” el-Tayyib stated, reiterating Islam’s traditional position during a 16 June episode of a daily TV program featuring him.
The ‘Good Imam’ is broadcast every day during the Muslim month of Ramadan, a time of fasting, intense worship and increased zeal across the Islamic world. Shown over Egypt’s state TV, it is also broadcast by several private satellite channels across the Arab world and Muslim diaspora.
“[Preaching] apostasy stems from a hatred against Islam and a premeditated desire to work against it. As such it constitutes in my belief high treason and a departure from the community and what it holds sacred,” the official portal of Al-Azhar quoted el-Tayyib as saying.
Started over a millennium ago as a centre of Shiite power, Cairo’s Al-Azhar Mosque has since become renowned as “Sunni Islam’s most prestigious university”. Currently, it serves as a main ideological and logistical backer of worldwide Islamic missionary work.
‘Blind at heart’
“The broad consensus of Islamic theology, including the Prominent Scholars of [Sunni Islam’s] Four Schools, judge apostasy to be criminal,” el-Tayyib said. “They are all in agreement that an apostate must be pressed upon to repent within a variable period of time or be killed.
“One is to employ dialogue and debate in the hope the apostate would repent, which in itself speaks for a measure of flexibility in that an apostate is not killed outright,” el-Tayyib said, describing converts from Islam as “blind at heart” for leaving “the Religion of Original Nature”.
In el-Tayyib’s home country of Egypt, where Sharia is not fully implemented, converts to Christianity are not sentenced to death. Other charges are often levelled against them to keep them in jail for lengthy periods of time, as in the current case of Mohammed Hegazy, imprisoned since December 2013.
Liberal Muslim voices have found themselves cornered by Al-Azhar’s professed role as guardian of orthodox Islam. Last January, a TV presenter and researcher, Islam el-Behery, was sentenced to a year in prison for arguing against canonical texts of Islam on a number of issues, including apostasy.
It is the second time this Ramadan that a statement by Egypt’s religious establishment has caused widespread reaction among sectors of the Egyptian public, which is 90 percent Muslim.
Preceding the start of the Muslim fasting month, the country’s fatwa issuing authority (Darul-Ifta) said on 6 June that to eat or drink in public during Ramadan “cannot be included within the realm of personal freedoms, but is a type of anarchy transgressing the sanctity of Islam”.
Stressing that “in the Islamic world, apostates are not being strung from the gallows in public squares,” the Grand Imam stated that the issue was being handled with “a flexible theology that emphasizes creativity of thinking based on Sharia’s ethos.”
The published statement by el-Tayyib concluded by blaming the West for “repelling people away from Islam,” describing concerns over women issues, apostasy, and Jihad as “defamation of Islam and Muslims”.
THE GRAND IMAM: ONLY THE BLIND AT HEART LEAVE THE RELIGION OF ORIGINAL NATURE – IE: ISLAM
World Watch Monitor – 22 June 2016
Below is a full translation from Arabic of the latest statement by Al-Azhar, Sunni Islam’s highest religious authority, on converting away from Islam. The statement appeared on 17 June on the Al-Azhar official portal, which in addition to Arabic publishes in English, French, German, Spanish, Urdu, Swahili, Farsi and Chinese.
Official Statement: Al-Azhar, 17 June 2016
Modern-day apostasy manifests itself as crime, transgression and high treason, His Eminence the Grand Imam said: For the time being we deal with apostasy as one would do with a crime that must be combated, one that has to incur a disciplining punishment, he added. The penalty for an open apostate, departing from the community, is well stipulated in Sharia. His Eminence highlighted the danger of an apostate – when preaching their apostasy – to the Islamic community. This is because their apostasy stems from a hatred against Islam and a premeditated desire to work against Islam; as such it constitutes in my belief high treason and a departure from the community and what it holds sacred.
During yesterday’s episode of his ‘Good Imam’ show, broadcast daily during the Holy Month of Ramadan on the Egyptian [state] TV, CBC Extra channels, MBC Misr, Abu Dhabi TV and a number of other satellite channels, His Eminence stated that the broad consensus of Islamic theology, including the Prominent Scholars of [Sunni Islam’s] Four Schools, judge apostasy to be criminal. They are all in agreement that an apostate must be pressed upon to repent within a variable period of time or be killed. One is to employ dialogue and debate in the hope the apostate would repent, which in itself speaks for a measure of flexibility, in that an apostate is not killed outright but first given a chance to repent. Two Holy Verses [of the Quran] speak explicitly about apostasy, but specify no temporal punishment, deferring the punishment to the hereafter and to Allah’s judgement to then do with them as He pleases. Nonetheless, a Holy hadith [saying attributed to Muhammad] stipulates a punishment. ‘The Apostle of Allah – Allah’s prayers and peace be upon Him – says: A Muslim human life is forfeited only in three: an adulterer, a murderer, and someone who forsakes their Religion [Islam], departing from the community.’ The Tradition has early theologians clarifying that ‘someone who forsakes their Religion’, described also as ‘departing from the community’ [of Islam], speaks for those who leave The Religion, i.e. apostatise, whether a man or a woman. Only the Hanafi School differs in that an apostate woman ought not to be killed, as it is inconceivable that a woman would be able to ‘depart from the community’. It is left without doubt that to apostatise, or death for an apostate, rests on the apostate constituting danger to society.
His Eminence carries on saying: Some modern scholars, including our Sheikh Abu Zahra, Sheikh Shaltout and Sheikh Abdul-Wahhab Khallaf and others, have said that apostasy is a crime without a specific penalty. It is to be left to the discretion of the Ruler and to circumstances of a society. But the punishment rather assumes a form of discipline, otherwise known as ‘Taazir’. The difference between a Taazir and an explicit Sharia penalty is that the latter is a codified penalty such as the penalty of death, the cutting off of the hand, flogging, etc. Taazir, on the other hand, is flexible in that it starts with rebuking and reprimanding, goes on to beating as a form of chastisement, and up to death. Take the issue of narcotics for example. Sharia has not codified a penalty for this issue, but the [Sharia] jurists opted for Taazir, as handed down by a Qazi.
His Eminence says that currently scholars have done their part and concluded that the punishment for apostasy is not death, as such is not stipulated in the Holy Quran, and because another version of the aforementioned hadith narrated by Aisha – Allah pleased with her – reads: ‘A Muslim life, such as professes No god but Allah Muhammad his Apostle, cannot be forfeited except in three: a married man committing adultery; who would be stoned to death, a man engaging in warring against Allah and His Apostle – an apostate; who would be killed, crucified, or banished from the land, and a life for a life; i.e. death for someone who commits murder.’ According to this version, the apostate, converting away from the Religion, is described as engaging in warring against Allah and His Apostle, and a penalty is stated as: death, crucifixion or banishment as a form of discipline, a Taazir, as in the case with in Hiraba. The punishment is commensurate with the danger posed by the apostate. This is how modern scholars explain the punishment for an apostate in line with Allah’s Holy word, ‘no compulsion in religion’.
His Eminence also noted past scholarly opinion arguing against death as punishment for apostasy, basing this on the fact that the Prophet – Allah’s prayers and peace be upon Him – saw a woman killed and asked Why did you kill her? Adding, ‘This one could not have been fighting [you]’. It was inconceivable that she could have posed a threat to society to justify killing her.
Hi Eminence the Grand Imam also addressed the West saying: Deal with us according to our realities. In the Islamic World, apostates are not being strung from the gallows in public squares! The Islamic World is dealing with this issue with a flexible theology that emphasises creativity of thinking based on Sharia’s ethos. The West’s claims and objections are often a way to repel people from Islam and is defamation of Islam and Muslims. They [the West] still raise women issues, apostasy, the sword, issues which have been repeated endlessly. The Islamic Community is actively proving such allegations against Islam and Muslims to be false, says his Eminence, stressing that it is our duty towards apostates to offer counsel, guidance and to rationally engage them with irrefutable proof.