Why Do 78% of Pakistani Muslims Favor Killing “Apostates” From Islam?

Ma’ariful Qur’an by Maulana Mufti Muhammad Shafi (1898-1976), former Grand Mufti of (pre-Partition) India, and founder of Darul Ulum Karachi, is the best known Koranic commentary in Urdu.

In an essay of mine published yesterday at The American Thinker focusing on the Organization of the Islamic Conference’s 1990 Cairo Declaration, and its negation of freedom of conscience, including Shari’a-sanctioned killing of “apostates” from Islam,  I cited Pew Survey data published just this past August 13, 2009 which reveal that among Pakistani Muslims, there is


“…broad support for harsh punishments: 78% favor death for [apostates] those who leave Islam; 80% favor whippings and cutting off hands for crimes like theft and robbery; and 83% favor stoning adulterers.”



Why might 78% of Pakistani Muslims sanction such draconian punishment circa August, 2009? I believe hard evidence as to why can be found in the mainstream, widely disseminated teachings of  Maulana Mufti Muhammad Shafi.


A graduate of the Darul Ulum Deoband, Maulana Mufti Muhammad Shafi (1898-1976) taught for twenty-seven years until 1943. During this period, approximately thirty thousand students from all over the world experienced his discourses. He also managed the Darul Ifta department of Darul Ulum Deoband, where juristic questions from across the world were discussed, and served as the Grand Mufti of India prior to the Partition of India. After the creation of Pakistan in 1947, Mufti Muhammad Shafi moved to Karachi, where he established Darul Ulum Karachi in 1950. After only a few months, it had more than two thousand students. His two sons, Mufti Muhammad Rafi Uthmani and Justice (R) Mufti Muhammad Taqi Uthmani currently teach at the institute. 

Mufti Muhammad Shafi  is the author of “Ma’ariful Qur’an [Koran]”, which is the best-known work of tafsir (Koranic commentary) in Urdu. He also wrote more than three hundred books. In addition to his literary works, Mufti Muhammad Shafi   broadcasted tafsir of the Koran on Radio Pakistan for a number of years.

His commentary on Koran 2:217* makes plain how this verse sanctions the killing of apostates (from Ma’ariful Qur’an, pp 537-538) :


“Towards the end of the verse (Koran 2: 217), it has been said that the act of turning into an apostate after having become a Muslim shall be dealt with under the injunction…that is, they shall be those whose deeds have gone waste in this world and in the Hereafter.


Here are some injunctions relating to the apostates:


1) Some examples of  ‘deeds going waste in this world’ are that the wife of an apostate goes out of the bond of marriage; if a relative of an apostate dies a Muslim, he gets no share in the inheritance; all obligations such as prayers and fasting fulfilled in one’s state of Islam are reduced to nothing; for such a person funeral prayers are not offered and he or she is not buried in the graveyard meant for Muslims ‘Deeds going waste in the Hereafter’ means that one gets no reward for acts of worship and enters the Hell to stay there for ever.


2) Should an apostate become a Muslim once again, at least this much is certain that he could hope to salvage himself away from Hell in the Hereafter, while during the remaining tenure of his life in the mortal world, the injunctions of Islam will be operative for him. But, there is a difference of opinion among jurists about what would happen to a person who has already done his Hajj – would it be obligatory on him, given the capability, to do it all over again, or would it not? Similarly, in the Hereafter, would the reward for his previous religious performances, such as prayers and fasting, revert back to him, or would they not? Imam Abu Hanifah says that it is obligatory on him to do his Hajj again and he does not subscribe to the opinion that he will be rewarded for his previous prayers and fastings while Imam Shaf’i differs on both issues.


3) For one who is basically a disbeliever, the position is that the reward for his good deeds in a state of disbelief is held in abeyance. If there comes the time when he embraces Islam, he gets a matching reward for all such deeds, but in the event that he dies an infidel, everything goes waste. The hadith statement: ‘You have embraced Islam with all the good deeds which you have

performed earlier,’ means just this.


4) In short, the fate of an apostate is worse than that of an original disbeliever. This is why Jizyah can be accepted from an original disbeliever while a male apostate who does not return to Islam is killed. If the apostate is a woman, she is imprisoned for life. The reason is that their conduct insults Islam and the insult of such a binding authority deserves no less a punishment.”


*Koran 2:217 , Pickthall and Arberry translations:


Pickthall: ‘They question thee (O Muhammad) with regard to warfare in the sacred month. Say: Warfare therein is a great (transgression), but to turn (men) from the way of Allah, and to disbelieve in Him and in the Inviolable Place of Worship, and to expel His people thence, is a greater with Allah; for persecution is worse than killing. And they will not cease from fighting against you till they have made you renegades from your religion, if they can. And whoso becometh a renegade and dieth in his disbelief: such are they whose works have fallen both in the world and the Hereafter. Such are rightful owners of the Fire: they will abide therein.’


Arberry: ‘They will question thee concerning the holy month, and fighting in it. Say: ‘Fighting in it is a heinous thing, but to bar from God’s way, and disbelief in Him, and the Holy Mosque, and to expel its people from it — that is more heinous in God’s sight; and persecution is more heinous than slaying.’ They will not cease to fight with you, till they turn you from your religion, if they are able; and whosoever of you turns from his religion, and dies disbelieving — their works have failed in this world and the next; those are the inhabitants of the Fire; therein they shall dwell forever.’

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