Rifqa Bary and the Noor Islamic Center’s “Theology” of Apostasy

Rifqa Bary Fled Qaradawi’s “Justice”


The legal team representing Rifqa Bary has issued an “Investigation and Intelligence Memorandum in Support of Petition for Dependency” which discusses the theology and jurisprudence of apostasy espoused by her local mosque—the Noor Islamic Center’s guiding “spiritual lights,” in a subsection entitled, “Significance of THE NOOR CENTER’s Relationship to Qaradawi (from pp. 12-14).” I have added more extensive quotes from Qaradawi’s opinions on apostasy, and also included Qurtbi’s classical exegesis on Koran 2:217. Finally, Yusuf Al-Qaradawi is considered “mainstream” not only by millions of Muslim supporters worldwide who tune in regularly to his Al-Jazeera broadcasts, but also by American pseudo-academic Professor John Esposito of Georgetown University—an advisor on Islam to Presidents, and our military.


From the Memorandum:


The connection between THE NOOR CENTER’s de facto resident scholar Salah Sultanand the spiritual leader of Hamas, Yusuf Al-Qaradawi is important to note respecting the Rifqa Bary case.


Both men share the same extremist Salafi and anti-Jewish sentiments, and both have been documented as openly defending extreme punishments in accordance with Islamic law. Counterterrorism expert and president of the Investigative Project on Terrorism Steven Emerson has stated that “Sultan is an acolyte of Qaradawi” Sultan appointed Qaradawi as honorary chairman of the board of trustees of the Islamic American University when he founded that organization and continues to serve in that capacity today despite having been banned from the U.S. since 1999. Sultan also serves on the boards of two organizations founded and chaired by Qaradawi, the European Council for Fatwa and Research and the Islamic Association of Muslim Scholars.



This makes Qaradawi’s published statements in support of the death penalty for Islamic apostates in accordance with Islamic law all the more relevant. An official fatwa published on Qaradawi’s own Islamonline website invokes Qaradawi in defending the position that most.


Islamic jurists agree that apostasy must be punished by death. Detailing the issue and showing some of the evidence for the punishment of apostasy, the prominent Muslim scholar Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, (see, Ask the Scholar, “Source of the Punishment of Apostasy,” Islamonline.net, 7/23/2003) bases his support for killing apostates on the Muslim prophet Muhammad’s affirmation of that principle in the canonical hadith:



“All Muslim jurists agree that the apostate is to be punished. However, they differ regarding the punishment itself. The majority of them go for killing; meaning that an apostate is to be sentenced to death. Many authentic Hadiths have been reported in this regard. Ibn `Abbas reported that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, ‘Whoever changes his religion, you kill him.” (Reported by all the group except Muslim, and at-Tabarani also reported it with a sound chain of narrators. Also recorded in Majma` Az-Zawa’id by Al-Haythamiy.) There is also the Hadith of Ibn Mas`ud that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, ‘The blood of a Muslim individual who bears witness that there is no god but Allah and that I am the Messenger of Allah, is not to be shed except in three cases: in retaliation (in murder crimes), married adulterers (and adulteresses), and the one who abandons his religion and forsakes the Muslim community.’  (Reported by the Group) The actual example of one of the greatest Companions, `Ali ibn Abi Talib (may Allah be pleased with him) gives credit to this also. He himself carried out the punishment on some people who had deified him. He gave them three days respite to repent and go back to their senses. When they proved adamant, he put them to fire.”



In a later article by Qaradawi, (Dr. Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, “Apostasy: Major and Minor,” Islamonline.net, April 13, 2006), he again emphasizes that the Islamic scholarly consensus upholding the death penalty for apostates, including the citation of Koran 2:217. [Note here is Qurtubi’s classical, mainstream Islamic exegesis on 2:217: “Scholars disagree about whether or not apostates are asked to repent. One group say that they are asked to repent and, if they do not, they are killed. Some say they are given an hour and others a month. Others say that they are asked to repent three times, and that is the view of Malik. Al-Hasan said they are asked a hundred times. It is also said that they are killed without being asked to repent.”] Qaradawi adds in that same article that public apostasy, such as that exhibited by Rifqa Bary in the nationwide media coverage of this case, is especially grave and constitutes a criminal act and treason against the Muslim ummah.


“The greatest kind of danger that faces Muslims is that which threatens their moral aspect of existence, i.e., their belief. That is why apostasy from Islam is regarded as one of the most dangerous threats to the Muslim community. The ugliest intrigue the enemies of Islam have plotted against Islam has been to try to lure its followers away from it; they have even used force for this purpose. In this regard, Almighty Allah says, [And they will not cease from fighting against you till they have made you renegades from your religion, if they can.] (Al-Baqarah 2:217)That is why the Muslim jurists are unanimous that apostates must be punished, yet they differ as to determining the kind of punishment to be inflicted upon them. The majority of them, including the four main schools of jurisprudence (Hanafi, Maliki, Shafi`i, and Hanbali) as well as the other four schools of jurisprudence (the four Shiite schools of Az- Zaidiyyah, Al-Ithna-`ashriyyah, Al-Ja`fariyyah, and Az-Zaheriyyah) agree that apostates must be executed… Islam lays down this severe punishment in order to protect its unity and the identity of its community. Every community in this world has basic foundations that are to be kept inviolable, such as identity, loyalty, and allegiance. Accordingly, no community accepts that a member thereof changes its identity or turns his or her loyalty to its enemies. They consider betrayal of one’s country a serious crime, and no one has ever called for giving people a right to change their loyalty from a country to another whenever they like. Apostasy is not only an intellectual situation whose handling is confined to discussing the principle of freedom of belief; it also involves a change of loyalty and identity. People who apostatize from Islam give up their loyalty to the Muslim nation and pay allegiance, heart and soul, to its enemies. This is denoted in the agreed-upon hadith that clarifies the kinds of people whose blood is lawful to shed and describes among those people the apostate, by saying, “Or someone who abandons his religion and the Muslim community” (Ibn Mas`ud).”



Given THE NOOR CENTER’s close ties to Qaradawi and the theological affinity between the two, the potential threat to Rifqa Bary is not limited to her family alone, but additionally from others from THE NOOR CENTER and the local Islamic community who have been influenced by the ideology. Such individuals may feel religiously justified in acting on the theological guidance that Qaradawi provides in cases of public apostasy, namely acts of violence directed at Rifqa Bary.

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