The problem of apostasy in Islam

The analysis of Fr Samir Khalil Samir, Egyptian Jesuit, lecturer in Arabic culture and Islamology at St Joseph University in Beirut

Fr Samir Khalil claims that analysing the Koran one cannot clearly state that an apostate is to be condemned to death. The Koran has 14 suras concerning punishment for this crime but only one sura states that 'God will inflict on them [heathens] severe punishment in this world and in the eternal life'. The earthy punishment is not specified but as a rule the Koran says: for theft - amputation of hand; for adultery - 100 lashes of the whip; false accusation - 80 whips. That's why, the specialist in the Koran claims that there is no Koranic commandment to condemn apostates to death as the penal law in Saudi Arabia, Iran, Yemen, Mauritania or Afghanistan provides for. If his analysis is correct Islamic fundamentalists who claim that 'killing apostates is a religious duty' is not in accordance with the Koran. This is a very important statement, especially for those who choose Christianity. For the last 30 years the accusation of apostasy has been the basic tool to eliminate political opponents. Fundamentalists' groups very often accuse their political opponents of betraying the Koran. Fr Samir's analysis is very important and it shows discussions within the Muslim communities concerning ways of interpreting the sacred texts. This is an extremely significant issue because it concerns freedom in Islam and the final solution of the issue will bear serious consequences for Muslims and other believers.

"Niedziela" 1/2007

Editor: Tygodnik Katolicki "Niedziela", ul. 3 Maja 12, 42-200 Czestochowa, Polska
Editor-in-chief: Lidia Dudkiewicz • Translation: Aneta Amrozik • E-mail: