Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Anachronism of Apostasy

Islam: a trap.  You can join, but you can never leave.


February 14, 2010
The Anachronism of Apostasy
By Amil Imani 

Whereas the practice of slavery enslaves the body, the dogma of apostasy ensnares the mind. Whereas slavery is a shameful practice of the past, some shameless religionists still use the doctrine of apostasy to intimidate and severely punish people who elect to choose their own belief.

Islam is extremely possessive of its subjects. It is a religion that admits anyone into its fold by the person simply uttering a one-sentence statement of faith, shahada: "I bear witness that there is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is Allah's messenger." By so saying, one becomes Muslim for life and surrenders the right to ever leave it. Anyone who leaves the Islamic fold is murtad (revert), or an apostate.

The notion of apostasy is best understood within the overall Islamic dogma. Islam forms a binding covenant with the believer. Once a person is Muslim, he and his issues are considered Muslim forever. In this covenant, Islam promises to bestow its beneficence on the faithful conditional on the person's total and unquestioned surrender to it in all matters. Some of the rewards offered by Islam to the truly obedient believer, particularly the privileged males, are of this world, as well as a great deal more promised to him in the next. If a Muslim faithful does not reap the rewards of his devotion in this world, Islam assures him of his inestimably cherished and limitless compounded rewards in the next world.

Islam demands subjugation of the individual's will to that of Allah and permeates the thinking, the actions, and the speech of Muslims by prefacing commitments they make contingent on the will of God (inshallah).

This total surrender and submission to the will and decree of Allah also absolves the individual from taking full responsibility for his conduct or honoring commitments he may make. For it is Allah who has the unquestioned authority to consummate or contravene any action or promise made by a faithful.

Within this overall framework of complete acceptance of Islam as the perfect living charter for the believer, the rules pertaining to apostasy can be better understood. Islam considers an apostate a person who unilaterally breaks the covenant he has made with the faith. An apostate is condemned as guilty of turning his back on Allah's immutable, eternal religion. Anyone who is born to Muslim parents and leaves Islam is stigmatized as murtad fitri (natural apostate) in the sense that he was born genetically Muslim and has rejected his gift of birth. And anyone who converts to Islam and later leaves it is condemned as murtad milli (a person who has turned his back to the Ummah).

The severe stricture against leaving Islam is consistent with other main principle beliefs of the religion. Islam is a faith of surrender, not one of a free will. A Muslim is to surrender his freedom of thoughts and actions to the will and dictates of Allah. The very principle of freedom is alien to the Islamic belief system.

With regard to apostasy, the two main branches of Islam, the Sunni and the Shiite, are in considerable agreement. The great majority of Muslim scholars of both major camps agree that the Quran stipulates death for the apostate.