Chapter

Pre-modern Islamic Legal Restrictions on Freedom of Religion, with Particular Reference to Apostasy and its Punishment<sup>*</sup>

Abdullah Saeed

in Islamic Law and International Human Rights Law

Published in print October 2012 | ISBN: 9780199641444
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191741104 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199641444.003.0012
Pre-modern Islamic Legal Restrictions on Freedom of Religion, with Particular Reference to Apostasy and its Punishment*

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The application of freedom of religion has been problematic in all three Abrahamic traditions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. In their formative period, these three traditions saw apostasy as an apocalyptic manifestation of social and religious disorder. Once the Jewish people, the church, and the umma (community) had achieved legal and political power, apostasy was declared a public offense punishable by law. Although Judaism and Christianity have moved away from their earlier understandings of punishment for apostasy, Muslims are still engaged in a vigorous debate on the relevance of apostasy laws in the modern world. This chapter provides an overview of the apostasy law as it developed in classical Islamic law, to trace the development of the idea of apostasy and its punishment, and to examine how Muslims in the modern period are questioning the use of the death penalty for apostasy and arguing for religious freedom.

Keywords: religious freedom; human rights; Judaism; Christianity; Islam; apostasy law; Islamic law

Chapter.  10647 words. 

Subjects: Human Rights and Immigration

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