Essay on Riddah: Its Nature and Scope

Submitted By Atesin
Words: 2761
Pages: 12

Penal law- laws enforced by the state
Civil law- system of law concerned with private relations between members of a community rather than criminal, military, or religious affairs.
Riddah: its Nature and Scope

Before discussing the problem of apostasy in the Qur'an and early tradition, it may be helpful to discuss briefly its general scope and nature. Following the Qur'anic characterization of apostasy as a willful act of rejection of faith (Kufr), later jurists defined riddah so broadly as to include any statement, action or belief that may contradict Islam or defame any of its sacred books or personages. More broadly, any disrespectful behavior or deviant statement regarding Islam and its sacred tradition may constitute an act of apostasy and thus set its perpetrator theologically, socially and politically outside the accepted norms of Islam and the Muslim community.
Juristically, apostasy is an act of rejection of faith committed by a Muslim whose Islam had been affirmed without any coercion by the two shahadahs that there is no god except God and that Muhammad is the messenger of God. Apostasy may be expressed unequivocally in the declaration, "I ascribe partners to God", or the assertion that God is a corporeal form like all other bodies. Likewise, belief in the eternity of the world, in as much as it implies denial of the creator, is an act of apostasy. Furthermore, belief in reincarnation or the transmigration of souls is an act of apostasy. This is because it implies denial of the day of Resurrection and judgment, which contradicts the express teaching of the Qur'an.

Apostasy could as well be committed through a callus act which may signify rejection of faith. Thus disdainfully disposing of a copy of the Qur'an, part of a copy, or even a scrap of paper containing one word of the sacred Book may be regarded as an act of apostasy. Burning a copy or a page of the Qur'an, not with the intention of protecting it from being soiled or rendered impure, or for the purpose of using it as a cure for a sick person, may also signify apostasy. This broad ruling applies as well to books of Hadith and jurisprudence (fiqh) if the intention behind such acts of disrespect is to disparage the tradition of Islam and its sacred law. [end of p. 76]

Riddah in the Qur’an and Exegetical Tradition

The Qur'an treats the questions of faith ([man) and rejection of faith (kufr) not as legal or political issues, but as principles of free choice between absolute submission (islam) to the will of God and willful rebellion against Him. Hence, the controlling principle of accepting or rejecting faith is unconditional freedom based on reason and the innate disposition (firah) to know God and rationally believe in Him.

The Qur'an categorically repudiates religious coercion and affirms that faith and rejection of faith, right guidance and misguidance ultimately rest with God to give or withhold as He will. This principle is clearly stated in the words addressed to the Prophet Muhammad, perhaps to quell his excessive missionary zeal: "Had your Lord so willed, all the inhabitants of the earth would have accepted faith altogether. Would you then coerce people to become people of faith (Q. 10:99)!".

The principle of free-choice in the matter of personal faith is ultimately conditioned by God's absolute and eternal power and knowledge, revelation of the truth and human understanding. This, however, is not to say with classical Mu'tazilite theology that God's absolute sovereignty is limited by the demands of His justice which imply absolute human freedom of choice. Rather, the Qur'an balances human free-will with absolute divine sovereignty, omniscience and omnipotence, at times affirming one and at times the other. Nevertheless, human beings remain free to accept or reject faith, and hence to choose eternal reward or eternal punishment. The Qur'an categorically states: "Say, the truth is from your Lord; let him therefore who so will