Death for Apostasy on The Nile

Original illustration of an Egyptian Muslim woman from Lane’s An Account of the Manners and Customs of the Modern Egyptians


E.W. Lane wrote an informative firsthand account of life in Egypt (An Account of the Manners and Customs of the Modern Egyptians), particularly Cairo and Luxor, composed after several years of residence there (first in 1825-1828; then in 1833-1835). James Aldridge in his study Cairo (1969) called Lane’s account “the most truthful and detailed account in English of how Egyptians lived and behaved.” Lane had perfect command of Arabic and went on to write a colossal Arabic-English lexicon, which is still used to this day by both Muslim and non-Muslim scholars for Arabic to English translations. Lane’s brief, disturbing first hand narrative description of a woman condemned and murdered for apostasizing from Islam to Christianity is provided below (from p. 108):



“Apostasy from the faith of El-Islam is considered a most heinous sin, and must be punished with death, unless the apostate will recant on being thrice warned.


I once saw a woman paraded through the streets of Cairo, and afterwards taken down to the Nile to be drowned, for having apostasized from the faith of Muhammad, and having married a Christian. Unfortunately, she tattooed a blue cross on her arm, which led to her detection by one of her former friends in a bath. She was mounted upon a high-saddled ass, such as ladies in Egypt usually ride, and very respectably dressed, attended by soldiers, and surrounded by a rabble, who, instead of commiserating, uttered loud imprecations against her. The Kadee (Cadi), who passed sentence upon her, exhorted her, in vain, to return to her former faith.


Her own father was her accuser!


She was taken in a boat into the midst of the river, stripped nearly naked, strangled and then thrown into the stream.”

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