Common Misconceptions About Islam, Muslims and The Quran

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Misconception: Death for apostasy

Background: Some think that once you are a "muslim" if you decide to change your beliefs you are considered an apostate, an act punishable by death!

The Quran clearly states there are those who believe then disbelieve, then believe again, then disbelieve again. This proves death for apostasy simply did not exist, because if it did, it would be impossible to believe again after unbelief, as they would have been put to death after the first unbelief:

Surely (as for) those who believe then disbelieve, again believe and again disbelieve, then increase in disbelief, God will not forgive them nor guide them in the (right) path. [4:137]

This is further proven by the following verse:

How can God guide a people who have rejected after believing, and they witnessed that the messenger is true, and the clarity had come to them? God does not guide the wicked people. [3:86]

The Quran states, in no uncertain terms, that there is no compulsion in religion:

Let there be no compulsion in religion: Truth stands out clear from Error: whoever rejects evil and believes in God has grasped the most sure hand-hold, that never breaks. And God is Hearing, Knowing. [2:256]

The Quran states that God could have made all those on earth believe, thus asks who is man to enforce such a thing if God did not:

And if your Lord had pleased, surely all those who are in the earth would have believed, all of them; will you then force men till they become believers? [10:99]

The Quran states there were those who believed part of the time, then disbelieved part of the time in order to confuse and sow discord amongst the believers of the time. If death for apostasy existed, no sane minded person would attempt to do this as they would be killed the very first time they tried it:

A section of the People of the Book say: "Believe in the morning what is revealed to the believers, but reject it at the end of the day; perchance they may (themselves) Turn back.
[3:72]

Please also see the clear example set out in 4:88-91, in which the believers are told to offer peace with those who became hypocrites/apostates (i.e. were Muslim in name only but did not follow through with action during hostilities/fighting in this case) if they also offer peace.

To conclude, it is clear that 'death for apostasy' does not exist in The Quran. People are free to believe and live their lives accordingly or not. If a community or system or any structure deprives its members of this basic freedom, it will produce hypocrites and suppressed people who have no strength of belief or goals to work for and will likely result in a weak system or community. Freedom of belief is the air that healthy and just communities breathe.

 

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