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Punishment by death for apostasy from Islam is firmly rooted in Islam's foundational texts -- both the Koran (verses such as 2:217, 4:89,
Pickthall translation 4:89 They long that ye should disbelieve even as they disbelieve, that ye may be upon a level (with them). So choose not friends from them till they forsake their homes in the way of Allah; if they turn back (to enmity) then take them and kill them wherever ye find them, and choose no friend nor helper from among them,
and their classical exegesis by renowned Koranic commentators such as Qurtubi, Baydawi, Ibn Kathir, and Suyuti) and the hadith (i.e., collections of the putative words and deeds of the Muslim prophet Muhammad, as compiled by pious Muslim transmitters), as well as the sacred Islamic Law (the Shari'a). For example, Muhammad is reported to have said "Kill him who changes his religion," in hadith collections of both Bukhari and Abu Dawud. There is also a consensus by all four schools of Sunni Islamic jurisprudence (i.e., Maliki, Hanbali, Hanafi, and Shafi'i), as well as Shi'ite jurists, that apostates from Islam must be put to death. Averroes (d. 1198), the renowned philosopher and scholar of the natural sciences, who was also an important Maliki jurist, provided this typical Muslim legal opinion on the punishment for apostasy:
"An apostate...is to be executed by agreement in the case of a man, because of the words of the Prophet, ‘Slay those who change their din [religion]'...Asking the apostate to repent was stipulated as a condition...prior to his execution."
This is a good article on the issue of death for apostasy in Islam and well worth reading: "THE PUNISHMENT OF THE APOSTATE ACCORDING TO ISLAMIC LAW"
To everyone acquainted with Islamic law it is no secret that according to Islam the punishment for a Muslim who turns to kufr (infidelity, blasphemy) is execution. Doubt about this matter first arose among Muslims during the final portion of the nineteenth century as a result of speculation. Otherwise, for the full twelve centuries prior to that time the total Muslim community remained unanimous about it. The whole of our religious literature clearly testifies that ambiguity about the matter of the apostate's execution never existed among Muslims. The expositions of the Prophet, the Rightly-Guided Caliphs (Khulafa'-i Rashidun), the great Companions (Sahaba) of the Prophet, their Followers (Tabi'un), the leaders among the mujtahidsand, following them, the doctors of the shari'ah of every century are available on record. All these collectively will assure you that from the time of the Prophet to the present day one injunction only has been continuously and uninterruptedly operative and that no room whatever remains to suggest that perhaps the punishment of the apostate is not execution.
After the Qur'an we turn to the Hadith. This is the command of the Prophet:
1. Any person (i.e., Muslim) who has changed his religion, kill him.
This tradition has been narrated by Abu Bakr, Uthman, Ali, Muadh ibn Jabal, Abu Musa Ashari, Abdullah ibn Abbas, Khalid ibn Walid and a number of other Companions, and is found in all the authentic Hadith collections.
2. Abdullah ibn Masud reports:
The Messenger of God stated: In no way is it permitted to shed the blood of a Muslim who testifies that "there is no god except God" and "I am the Apostle of God" except for three crimes: a. he has killed someone and his act merits retaliation; b. he is married and commits adultery; c. he abandons his religion and is separated from the community.
3. Aisha reports:
The Messenger of God stated that it is unlawful to shed the blood of a Muslim other than for the following reasons: a. although married, he commits adultery or b. after being a Muslim he chooses kufr, or c. he takes someone's life.
4. Uthman reports:
I heard the Messenger of God saying that it is unlawful to shed the blood of a Muslim except in three situations: a. a person who, being a Muslim, becomes a kafir; b. one who after marriage commits adultery; c. one who commits murder apart from having an authorization to take life in exchange for another life.
Uthman further reports:
I heard the Messenger of God saying that it is unlawful to shed the blood of a Muslim with the exception of three crimes: a. the punishment of someone who after marriage commits adultery is stoning; b. retaliation is required against someone who intentionally commits murder; c. anyone who becomes an apostate after being a Muslim should be punished by death.
All the reliable texts of history clearly prove that Uthman, while standing on the roof of his home, recited this tradition before thousands of people at a time when rebels had surrounded his house and were ready to kill him. His argument against the rebels was based on the point of this tradition that apart from these three crimes it was unlawful to put a Muslim to death for a fourth crime, "and I have committed none of these three. Hence after killing me, you yourself will be found guilty." It is evident that in this way this tradition became a clear argument in favour of Uthman against the rebels. Had there been the slightest doubt about the genuineness of this tradition, hundreds of voices would have cried out: "Your statement is false or doubtful!" But not even one person among the whole gathering of the rebels could raise an objection against the authenticity of this tradition.
5. Abu Musa Ashari reports:
The Prophet appointed and sent him (Abu Musa) as governor of Yemen. Then later he sent Muadh ibn Jabal as his assistant. When Muadh arrived there, he announced: People, I am sent by the Messenger of God for you. Abu Musa placed a cushion for him to be comfortably seated.
Meanwhile a person was presented who previously had been a Jew, then was a Muslim and then became a Jew. Muadh said: I will not sit unless this person is executed. This is the judgement of God and His Messenger. Muadh repeated the statement three times. Finally, when he was killed, Muadh sat.
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(Muhammad), 'Whoever changed his Islamic religion, then kill him.'"
The contemporary (i.e., 1991) Al-Azhar (Cairo) Islamic Research Academy endorsed manual of Islamic Law, 'Umdat al-Salik (pp. 595-96) states:
"Leaving Islam is the ugliest form of unbelief (kufr) and the worst.... When a person who has reached puberty and is sane voluntarily apostasizes from Islam, he deserves to be killed. In such a case, it is obligatory...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."
Umdat al-Salik (The manual of sharia)
o8.4 There is no indemnity for killing an apostate (O: or any expiation, since it is killing someone who deserves to die).
This article, apparently by a student at an Islamic college in Leicester, illustrates what is being taught in some places:
First and foremost, an apostate is killed simply because it is an order of the Sharī’ah. We do not have any authority in questioning the law of Allah. Allah Ta’ālā is the All-Wise. The wisdoms and benefits behind His every ruling are unfathomable by our feeble minds.
An apostate fuels widespread disorder and confusion. His apostasy prompts others to question their beliefs. He is the seed of imbalance. Hence, it is better to uproot the mischief before it is deep rooted in the ground. For example, if there is a basket of apples wherein there is one rotten apple, what will the owner of the apples do? He will get rid of the rotten apple to preserve the rest of the apples. If he keeps the rotten apple merely because it is an apple, he will be deemed foolish. In the very same manner, an apostate carries rotten beliefs; he must be removed from the basket of the world to preserve the spiritual welfare of others. Anything which is a threat to Imān will be uprooted.
Why are apostates killed? http://islamqa.org/hanafi/darulfiqh/21987