Chapter

Rethinking Classical Muslim Law of Apostasy and the Death Penalty

Abdullah Saeed

in Silenced

Published in print December 2011 | ISBN: 9780199812264
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199919383 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199812264.003.0015
Rethinking Classical Muslim Law of Apostasy and the Death Penalty

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In Chapter Fifteen, “Rethinking Classical Muslim Law of Apostasy and the Death Penalty,” Abdullah Saeed – some of whose writings have been banned in his native Maldives –argues that current human rights discourse is not Western but is shared by many Muslims. Like Abu-Zayd, he emphasizes the need to understand early Islam, especially the “post-prophetic period,” during which apostasy laws were shaped. In a setting of armed conflict, apostasy meant joining a non-Muslim enemy and so threatening the community of believers. Later, the Abbasids curtailed religious dispute lest it undermine their claims to legitimacy, and so apostasy was akin to treason. Since most Muslims do not now live in closed tribes, apostasy is no longer related to desertion or treason and should not be treated as if it were.

Keywords: apostasy; freedom religion; traitor; hadith; abrogation

Chapter.  4435 words. 

Subjects: Islam

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