Is a person who abandons the religion of Islam (who becomes an apostate) killed according to the hadith "Kill a person who changes his religion"?

Details of the Question

Is the hadith "Kill a person who changes his religion" (Bukhari, Jihad, 149) sound?
- How can it be explained if it is misunderstood?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

A person who conveys the message of Islam feels sorry for people; people’s deviation from the right path, their disobedience to Allah’s commands and rebelling against them strike his heart. He is affected from their conversions from Islam and he feels desperate when can do nothing to prevent it; this makes him enraged and exasperated.

Addressing the Prophet (pbuh) as follows,

“It may be that you (O Messenger) will torment yourself to death because they refuse to believe.” (Surah ash-Shu’ara, 26/3),

the Qur’an illustrates the pain of the Prophet (pbuh) in the way of conveying the message of Islam and his mood due to this pain. Essentially, every conveyor of message has this kind of mood depending on the severity of the pain and they should have it.

Apostasy means a change of religion. So, an apostate is a person who denies the sacred things he previously believed. And this person has betrayed Muslims in a sense. Those who betrayed for once may betray again. For this reason, according to some scholars, an apostate does not have the right to live. However, according to the method the scholars of Islamic Jurisprudence systemized, the apostate should be explained in detail the matter due to which he converted at first. He will be observed for a particular time and he will be attempted to be convinced about the issues about which he is confused. If all of these do not work, and when it is made sure he is a source of trouble for Islamic life, then he will be treated accordingly. (1)

Nonetheless, none of the believers can remain indifferent against the conversion of a Muslim because Islamic consideration on humanity is against this. Perhaps, every believer who hears this feels sad and grievous in the face of this case of conversion depending on their conscience. However, the pain of the conveyor of the message of Islam is much deeper because, people’s leading to the right path is their purpose of existence.

This wass the mood of the Prophet (pbuh) related to the case that Khalid b. Walid (may Allah be pleased with him) experienced. Hastening to evaluate the Islamic principles on the matter of conversion, Khalid (may Allah be pleased with him) committed an execution. When the Prophet (pbuh) heard this, he became sad and he prayed to Allah opening his hands:

“O Allah! I take refuge in you from what Khalid did”. (2)

The sensitivity of the Prophet (pbuh) on this issue was reflected in the same way on the people around him. For example, Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) asked a person who returned from Yamama if there was a serious matter. The person who returned replied that there was nothing serious but that a person among them had converted. Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) stood up nervously and asked : “Have you done something to him?”. When the man replied: “We killed him”, Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) sighed as the Prophet (pbuh) did and asked, addressing the man: “You should have put him in a cell and kept him there for a while”. Then, he opened his hands and prayed to Allah Almighty: “O Allah, I swear that I was not there when they committed this thing. And I swear again that I was not pleased when I heard the thing they did.” (3)

Footnotes:

1. Bukhari, Diyat, 6; Muslim, Qasama, 25; Sarakhsi, Mabsut, 10:98; Qasani, Badiu’s-Sanai, 7:134.
2. Bukhari, Maghazi, 58; Ibn Hisham, Sira, 4:72
3. Muwatta, Aqdiyyah, 58.

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