Apostasy from Islam:

The Most Abhorrent Sin

Praise be to Allah, the Lord of the worlds. May Allah raise the rank of our master Muhammad and his Al and Companions and protect his nation from that which he fears for it.


Islam is the only religion Allah accepts from His slaves and the only religion He ordered His slaves to follow. The one who performs the greatest right of Allah on the slave by worshipping Allah alone, not taking any partners to Him, and believing in the message of the Prophet Muhammad, will be granted everlasting bounties in Paradise. He who takes for himself a religion other than Islam and dies on that status will be a loser on the Day of Judgment and his eternal abode is Hellfire, where the torture does not cease nor decrease. Allah does not forgive the one who dies non-Muslim, nor will any of his good deeds done in this lifetime be accepted from him. Surat Muhammad, Ayah 34:

means: [Those who blasphemed and block away from the ways of Allah and die as blasphemers, Allah shall not forgive them.] Surat an Nisa', Ayah 48:

means: [Allah does not forgive that one associates partners with Him, and He forgives whatever is less than that for whomever He willed.]

Knowing everlasting enjoyments await the Muslim in Paradise and everlasting torture in Hellfire awaits the one who dies a non-Muslim should make every Muslim anxiously prioritize holding tight to his Religion. The one who is desirous of having his ending a good one will do his utmost to comply with all what is obligatory upon him and avoid what is forbidden, and above all, will endeavor to avoid anything which will invalidate, interrupt, and terminate his Islam--namely apostasy. Of greater priority is warning the Muslims against what would take them out of Islam and lead them to be one of the eternal inhabitants of Hellfire over other issues in the Religion with less drastic consequences. For this reason, the scholars of Islam included chapters on apostasy in their books to elucidate what causes a person to commit apostasy and the judgments concerning him, in an effort to warn the people from committing any of it. The one who does not know evil is more likely to fall in it, and the one who learns the chapter of apostasy would have his eyes open and his heart guarded to avoid committing this grievous sin.

Imam an-Nawawiyy defined apostasy as interrupting Islam by an intention or by a blasphemous doing or by a blasphemous saying--whether or not it was said mockingly, out of stubbornness, or out of conviction. He said apostasy is the most abhorrent type of blasphemy. For one to have been Muslim, then to apostate from Islam is the most vulgar of sins. It is a heinous crime and its committer deserves the everlasting torture of Hellfire should he die without repenting from it.2

Scholars of the four schools (madhahib) classified apostasy into three (3) categories: beliefs in the heart, actions committed by certain parts of the body, and sayings with the tongue. Ar-Ramliyy, from the school of Imam ash-Shafi^iyy, classified apostasy into these three categories and gave examples of each in his book, Explanation of Minhaj, as did Imam an-Nawawiyy in his book, Rawdat at-Talibin. Qadi ^Iyad and Imam Muhammad ^Ulaysh from the Malikiyy school gave examples of these three (3) types of apostasy. Likewise did Imam Ibnu ^Abidin and Badr ar­Rashid from the Hanifyyy school and Imam al­Buhutiyy from the Hanbaliyy school. Ibn as­Subkiyy said in his book At-Tabaqat : " Imam Al-Ash^ariyy , his students and all Muslims do not disagree upon that he who says a blasphemous word or he who does a blasphemous doing is a blasphemer ( kafir). He is not a believer in Allah, and he shall remain in Hellfire forever, even if he knew the truth in his heart. This is a case of scholarly consensus; not even two Muslims would disagree on that matter.

The Muhadith, Hafidh, Faqih and Linguist Murtada Az-Zabidiyy said: " the scholars from the four schools (madhhab) authored in exposing the types of apostasy."

The scholar's classification of apostasy into these three categories facilitates one's learning and understanding of the subject--thereby making it easier to avoid falling into it. Classification as such can be easily understood from different ayat in the Qur'an. In Surat al-Hujurat, Ayah 17, Allah said:

which means: [The believers are those who believe in Allah and His Messenger, and they do not doubt in that belief.] This ayah reflects that category of apostasy pertaining to beliefs in the heart. In Surat Fussilat, Ayah 37, Allah said:

which means: [do not prostrate for the sun or the moon, rather prostrate for Allah Who created the sun and the moon.] This ayah reflects that category of apostasy pertaining to actions committed by different parts of the body. In Surat at-Tawbah,

Ayah 74, Allah said:

which means: [They swear by Allah that they did not utter, and they have said the word of blasphemy and blasphemed after having been Muslims.] This ayah reflects that category of apostasy pertaining to sayings.

Each one of these three categories of apostasy is divided into many subdivisions, and the scholars gave many examples of each.

An example of the first category of apostasy--beliefs in the heart--is for one to have doubt in the existence of Allah or doubt in the message of Prophet Muhammad. Also blasphemous is to doubt in the message of any of the messengers or prophets of Allah known to be a messenger or a prophet by the layman and the scholar alike, such as Adam, Ibrahim, ^Isa, or Musa. Doubting in the revelation of the Qur'an to Sayyidina Muhammad is blasphemy, as is doubting about matters such as the Day of Judgment, the existence of Paradise and Hell, or other such matters upon which there has been scholarly consensus, such as Reward and Punishment. Doubting in matters which are not commonly known among the Muslims--layman and scholar alike--like the existence of the Basin (Hawd) that the believers will drink from prior to entering Paradise, is not blasphemy except if one was stubborn about it in that he knew this matter is part of the Religion and still denies it.

Included in the category of apostasy pertaining to beliefs in the heart is to believe anything other than Allah exists without a beginning. This was the belief of the Greek philosophers, and following in their footsteps, Ibn Taymiyyah, who said the kind of the world exists without a beginning. Only Allah exists without a beginning and His attributes are eternal and everlasting and do not change. Everything else is a creation of Allah and has a beginning to its existence. Qadi ^Iyad, al­Mutawaliyy, and Ibn Hajar al­^Asqalaniyy, and others established the scholarly consensus (ijma^) on the blasphemy of he who believes the world exists without a beginning.

Renouncing any of the attributes of Allah, known by ijma^ He is attributed with--such as knowing about everything is blasphemy. Also blasphemous is he who renounces that Allah is attributed with Power, Will, Knowledge, Hearing, Sight, or Speech (Kalam). Renouncing any of these attributes of Allah is blasphemous because the mind alone is sufficient in knowing that Allah must be attributed with these attributes, i.e., these attributes are a condition for the status of Godhood and as such, one is not excused by ignorance. Ibn al­Jawziyy said: "There is consensus on the blasphemy of he who negates Allah has power over everything."

He who believes that Allah resembles any of his creations in His Self, Attributes, or Doings has blasphemed. The one who believes Allah is a body or an illumination, or believes Allah exists 'above' in the heavens, or that He sits on the throne is a blasphemer. All these are attributes of the creation and are non-befitting to attribute to the Creator. If Allah was attributed with such attributes, He would have similars from among His creations, and Allah said in the Qur'an:

which means: [Nothing is like him.] If Allah was a body, He would be susceptible to the things all bodies are susceptible to like change, divisibility, and annihilation--all indications of shortage or weakness and non­befitting to attribute to Allah.

Also is blasphemous he who renders lawful what is commonly known among the Muslims to be unlawful (such as adultery, fornication, stealing, or drinking alcohol,) or renders unlawful, matters commonly known among the Muslims to be lawful, (such as selling and marriage)--conditional in all this is the person is aware of the judgments of these matters in the Religion. Belying the Prophet, blemishing his attributes, or believing in the possibility of prophethood of someone after our Prophet Muhammad ( as the Qadiyany's claim ) is blasphemy.

The second category of apostasy, i.e., actions committed by different parts of the body, includes prostrating to an idol, or prostrating to the sun or the moon, or prostrating to any other creation with the purpose of worshipping it. Another example of apostasy of actions is knowingly throwing the Book of the Qur'an in the garbage, and likewise any papers containing Islamic information, as said by Ruyyaniyy and others, because this action displays mockery for the Religion. It is blasphemy to throw a paper on which is written a name of Allah, provided the thrower knows it is a name of Allah and is conscious of the fact when he threw the paper.

The third category of apostasy is that of sayings and the scholars said this category contains the most numerous cases. The Prophet said: <<Most of the sins of the sons of Adam are from his tongue.>> Among these are great sins (kaba'ir) and blasphemy. In this age it has become common that people are so negligent and careless with their words to an extent some would utter words which turn them out of Islam, yet they do not deem such words sinful despite them being blasphemous. This complies with the saying of the Prophet, sallallahu ^alayhi wa sallam, related by at-Tirmidhiyy: <<A person may utter a word he thinks is harmless, which results in his falling the depth of 70 years into Hellfire.>> The depth of 70 years falling is the bottom of Hellfire, and it is a place that only the blasphemers will reach. This hadith is explicit in showing uttering a word of blasphemy renders a person a non-Muslim--even if he does not deem that word harmful or a sin as such.

This hadith also shows that it is not a condition for committing blasphemy that the blasphemous saying be combined with either the belief in that saying or an action. The Prophet did not say: 'A person might utter a word and believe in it...' Nor did he say: 'A person might utter a word and act in blasphemy...' Nor did he say: 'A person might utter a word in seriousness...' Rather, he said: 'A person might utter a word he thinks harmless...' A similar hadith related by al-Bukhariyy and Muslim is proof that it is not even conditional that one must know the judgment of the uttered blasphemous word for him to have committed blasphemy.

Uttering blasphemous words out of anger does not excuse a person from committing blasphemy. Imam an­Nawawiyy said: "If a man was angry with his child or slave and hit him severely, then another person asked him, 'How can you do this? Aren't you a Muslim?' and to that his deliberate answer--though angry--was, 'No,' he blasphemed." This was said by Hanafiyy scholars as well as others.

In his hadith, the Prophet warned us against anger. His reply to a man who came to him asking for advice was, <<Don't get angry.>> The Prophet warned us against anger because anger is not an excuse. Not controlling it can lead a person to various sins, including blasphemy.

The scholars mentioned that the third category of apostasy, apostasy of sayings, is like the sea that has no shoreline--meaning the examples could go on and on, and they cited many examples in their books--again, a warning to people not to speak words similar to them. For example, to curse Allah is blasphemy. He who curses Allah is not a Muslim. It is blasphemy to curse one of the Prophets or one of the Angels, as stated by Qadi ^Iyad To declare a Muslim a kafir without a valid reason causes the person to become a non-Muslim, as was mentioned by Mutawalli and al-Ghazaliyy. At-Tahawiyy said that to attribute to Allah any attribute of the creation--like age or time, body or place, organs or instruments, colors or shapes; or to say Allah has a partner or a child--all are blasphemous sayings. Also, intending to blaspheme in the future contingent upon the happening of a certain incident makes the person a blasphemer immediately.

Let the person take heed of the advice and warnings of the Prophet. Let him be extremely cautious not to let his tongue drive him to a destructive situation. As mentioned by Imam al­Ghazaliyy, the tongue has such a small size but the crime (sin) it could commit could be so great. Other scholars said the tongue is like a fierce beast which will attack you if you do not tie it up. Brother Muslim, learn well this subject of apostasy in an effort to avoid committing any of it. It is an obligation on every Muslim to protect his faith against whatever invalidates, interrupts and terminates it.

Then, if apostasy occurred from one, it is an obligation on him to immediately return to Islam by leaving out what caused him to apostate and uttering with the Testification of Faith (two shahadas) with the intention of clearing himself of apostasy. Left on him is the obligation to regret having committed apostasy and to intend not to go back to something similar in the future.

Apostasy is not an easy issue, and not one to be taken lightly. Many judgments are incurred on the one who apostates from Islam. Some examples are: the apostate's fasting and Dry Purification (Tayammum) are invalid; it is not permissible to eat the meat he slaughters; he is not inherited, nor does he inherit; his marriage contract to a Muslim or non-Muslim is not valid. Moreover, the apostate loses all the reward of all the good deeds done prior to his committing apostasy, though all his sins remain. These sins are not erased for him should he go back to Islam, but rather require a separate repentance. Who among the people can afford to have all his good deeds done and rewards earned erased by apostasy, to stand on the Day of Judgment with only his sins to be weighed?

Brother Muslim. Learn well this subject of apostasy. It is the most abhorrent of sins. Do not be fooled by those who claim contrary to what the scholars of Islam classified as apostasy. Do not be led astray to uttering blasphemous words out of ignorance, anger, or carelessness. Do not believe doing so is not blasphemy if not accompanied by liking or believing the meaning of those uttered blasphemous words. Do not believe those who follow their opinions and contradict the rules of the Religion and say: "Who are you to judge others as blasphemous?" while they, themselves, are ignorant of the rules of the Religion on this vital subject, let alone the rules of the tenets of belief (^Aqidah), ablution (Wudu'), Prayer (Salah), and other.

Acquire the personal obligatory knowledge that leads to success and acceptance of Allah and takes away from the tortures of the Hereafter. Equip yourself with the hadith of the Prophet, sallallahu ^alayhi wa sallam, narrated by Ibn Majah: <<If you learn a verse of the Book of Allah, it is more rewardable for you than praying one hundred (100) raka^s (of the supererogatory prayers); and if you go and learn a Chapter of Knowledge it is more rewardable for you than praying one thousand (1,000) raka^s (of the supererogatory prayers).>>

Take your knowledge from trustworthy, God-fearing, knowledgeable teachers. Implement the advice of Ibn Sirin when he said: "Look thoroughly into whom you take your knowledge from, for this knowledge is that of the Religion." Those must know it is obligatory upon us to order with what is lawful and forbid what is unlawful. If a person commits blasphemy what do we say about him? Do we say he is a believer? Certainly not! Should we leave such a person drowning in that state of blasphemy or should we reach out for him and rescue him by advising him to leave the apostasy and return to Islam? If the person is receptive, we address him immediately and directly so that we would not be included in the hadith of the Prophet, sallallahu ^alayhi wa sallam, <<If you see my nation fear to tell the unjust person he is unjust, know that the support of Allah is withdrawn from them.:>> As reported in the Qur'an, blasphemy is the greatest of injustice, may Allah protect us from it.

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