Men of Excellence: Hazrat Abu Bakr (ra); Punishment of Apostasy in Islam


Friday Sermon delivered by Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad(at)

 Friday Sermon delivered at Masjid Mubarak, Islamabad, Tilford, UK

Rightly Guided Caliphs – Hazrat Abu Bakr (ra) & Refuting False Notions About the Punishment for Apostasy


After reciting Tashahhud, Ta’awwuz and Surah al-Fatihah, His Holiness, Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad(aba) continued to mention about the disorder that arose during the Caliphate of Hazrat Abu Bakr(ra).

His Holiness(aba) said people from various tribes of Arabia began turning away from Islam and raising disorders. All the while, the Jews and Christians were rearing their heads as they perceived Islam to be weak. Furthermore, Hazrat Abu Bakr(ra) was advised that people believed the army of Hazrat Usama(ra) to be the last remaining

Muslims, and therefore the army should not be sent. Hazrat Abu Bakr(ra) said that even if he knew that he would be attacked from all sides, he would not go against the instruction given by the Holy Prophet(sa). Is the Punishment for Apostasy Death?

His Holiness(aba) said that these incidents may give rise to the question of whether the punishment for apostasy is death. After the demise of the Holy Prophet(sa) many people abandoned the faith, or moved away and opposed the offering of Zakat. Books of history have recorded them all as apostates, and it was against these people that Hazrat Abu Bakr(ra) fought. Historians have deduced that since Hazrat Abu Bakr(ra) carried out Jihad against these people, it means that the punishment for apostasy is death. These historians have thus lauded Hazrat Abu Bakr(ra) as the hero of Khatm-e-Nabuwwat. However, during the era of the Rightly Guided Caliphate, the concept of the finality of prophethood was never in any danger.

His Holiness(aba) said that it is necessary to see whether the Holy Qur?an and the practice of the Holy Prophet(sa) has established death as the punishment for apostasy, or any other punishment for that matter. His Holiness(aba) said that in Islamic terminology, apostasy refers to those who detach themselves from the faith and completely remove themselves from it. Furthermore, apostasy is mentioned at various instances in the Holy Qur?an, however there is no mention of any worldly punishment.

“And whoso from among you turns back from his faith and dies while he is a disbeliever, it is they whose works shall be vain in this world and the next. These are the inmates of the Fire and therein shall they abide.”(2:218)

His Holiness(aba) said that this verse clearly shows that the punishment for apostasy is not death. On another occasion in the Holy Qur?an it is stated:

“O ye who believe! whoso among you turns back from his religion, then let it be known that in his stead Allah will soon bring a people whom He will love and who will love Him, and who will be kind and humble towards believers, hard and firm against disbelievers. They will strive in the cause of Allah and will not fear the reproach of a faultfinder. That is Allah?s grace; He bestows it upon whomsoever He pleases; and Allah is Bountiful, All-Knowing.”(5:55)

His Holiness(aba) said that here it is mentioned that other people will be brought in place of the apostates, there is no mention that the punishment for apostasy is death. Then another verse makes the matter even clearer:

“Those who believe, then disbelieve, then again believe, then disbelieve, and then increase in disbelief, Allah will never forgive them nor will He guide them to the way.”(4:138)

His Holiness(aba) said that therefore it is clear that there is no death penalty for apostasy. The Fourth Caliph(rh) has elaborated that if the punishment for apostasy was death, then there would not be the opportunity for an apostate to revert to belief after disbelieving, as mentioned in the verse above.

There is no Compulsion in Religion

Furthermore, the Holy Qur?an teaches that there is no compulsion in matters of religion:

“There should be no compulsion in religion. Surely, right has become distinct from wrong; so whosoever refuses to be led by those who transgress, and believes in Allah, has surely grasped a strong handle which knows no breaking. And Allah is All-Hearing, All-


His Holiness(aba) said that the Qur?an clearly stipulates that there is no compulsion in religion, hence there can be no worldly punishment for apostasy. The Holy Qur?an also mentions the hypocrites on many occasions, and they have been described as wicked and their actions even worse than the apostates. Yet, there is no worldly punishment mentioned for people simply on the basis of their hypocrisy either. For example: “Say, „Spend willingly or unwillingly, it shall not be accepted from you. You are indeed a disobedient people.?”(9:53)

His Holiness(aba) said that an entire chapter of the Holy Qur?an was revealed regarding the hypocrites in which it is stated:

“They have made their oaths a shield; thus they turn men away from the way of Allah. Evil surely is that which they have been doing.”(63:3)

His Holiness(aba) said that it is clear, there is no death penalty for such people in light of Qur?anic teachings. Then when we look to the example of the Holy Prophet(sa) upon whom the Holy Qur?an was revealed we find that there was no punishment in Islam for apostasy. Once there was a person who came to the Holy Prophet(sa) and asked for his pledge of allegiance to be rescinded three times. The Holy Prophet(sa) did not respond and the person eventually left Madinah. Had the punishment for apostasy been death, then this person would have never openly declared this to the Holy Prophet(sa) and would have instead tried to secretly leave Madinah. Furthermore, if the punishment for apostasy was death, then why did the Holy Prophet(sa) not warn him about this? Why did the Holy Prophet(sa) not order for a watch to be kept over him so that if he tried to leave then he could be killed? Why were there no companions who advised him to reconsider since the punishment would be death? The fact that none of this happened clearly shows that there is no death penalty for apostasy.

His Holiness(aba) said that another proof is that during the establishment of the Treaty of Hudaibiyah, one of the conditions was that if any of the Muslims became apostates, the Quraish would not return them to the Muslims. Had the punishment in Islam for apostasy been death, then the Holy Prophet(sa) would never have agreed to this condition. However, the fact that he did agree shows that there is no death penalty for apostasy.

How the Holy Qur’an Teaches One to Spread Islam

His Holiness(aba) quoted the Second Caliph, Hazrat Mirza Bashiruddin

Mahmud Ahmad(ra) who states that upon studying the Holy Qur?an it becomes clear that the Qur?an intends for the faith to be spread by proofs and arguments, not by the sword or force. Thus, there is no punishment for apostasy in Islam. If it was permissible to kill those who did not conform to one?s beliefs, then why would Christians or people of other faiths not have the right to kill those who do not accept their beliefs? Thus, it completely contradicts reason to think that there can be any force or compulsion in such matters. No one can be forced to attain guidance. If the world were to understand this, then cruelty and injustice especially in the name of religion would end.

Why Hazrat Abu Bakr(ra) Took up Arms

His Holiness(aba) said that it is proven that the punishment for apostasy is not death. But then why did Hazrat Abu Bakr(ra) take up arms against them? His Holiness(aba) explained that not only were the people during his time apostates, but they were also rebels, who took up arms against the Muslims and were causing great disorder. The Holy Qur?an states that recompense must be the like of the crime. Not only did these people attack Madinah, but they were attacking innocent people as well. They would commit unspeakable crimes against those who remained firm upon their faith in Islam. Those who opposed Zakat sought to end it with the sword, and it was thus that Hazrat Abu Bakr(ra) had to fight against them.

His Holiness(aba) said that he would continue on this topic in future sermons. In summary, His Holiness(aba) said that those opposed to Zakat and the apostates took up the sword, stole from the treasury, killed innocent Muslims, even burned them alive, among other heinous crimes. And as the Holy Qur?an states, the recompense must be the like of the crime. Hence, this is why Hazrat Abu Bakr(ra) fought against them.

Funeral Prayers

His Holiness(aba) said that he would lead the funeral prayers of the following deceased members:

Muhammad Bashir Shad

Muhammad Bashir Shad who was a retired missionary residing in the USA. He served as a missionary in Pakistan, Sierra Leone (where he also established a printing press), Nigeria and Benin. Once while the Third Caliph(rh) was visiting Africa, Muhammad Bashir Shad Sahib presented him with a gift of a hundred new Ahmadis. When the Fourth Caliph(rh) was about to migrate from Pakistan, Muhammad Bashir Shad Sahib was the one who delivered the Friday sermon in the presence of the Fourth Caliph(rh). He is survived by his wife, a son and four daughters. His Holiness(aba) prayed that may Allah the Almighty grant His forgiveness and mercy and enable his children to remain attached to the Jama?at and Khilafat. Rana Muhammad Siddiq

Rana Muhammad Siddiq who recently passed away. He was regular in offering prayers and keeping fasts, he possessed many virtuous qualities and was strongly attached to Khilafat. He also advised his children to always remain attached to Khilafat. He is survived by six sons and one daughter. One of his sons is a missionary serving in Nigeria and could not attend the funeral. His Holiness(aba) prayed that may Allah grant him patience, and mayAllah grant the deceased forgiveness and mercy. Dr Mahmood Ahmad Khawaja

Dr Mahmood Ahmad Khawaja of Islamabad who recently passed away. He studied in Pakistan and abroad, and also taught in universities in Pakistan and abroad. His Holiness(aba) said he came to know him when he was teaching at a university in Ghana and saw him to be humble, selfless, simple and an excellent research scholar. He is survived by a son and a daughter. He also served in Sierra Leone under the Nusrat Jahan scheme. He would intently study the Holy Qur?an and would try to implement its teachings to the best of his abilities. He was quite renowned and well-respected for his work. Yet he remained humble and was a very sincere Ahmadi. Many people from around the world have sent messages of their condolences. His Holiness(aba) prayed that may Allah grant forgiveness and mercy to the deceased, grant patience to his family and enable them to carry on his virtuous qualities.