Andrew March

in Islamic Studies

ISBN: 9780195390155
Published online December 2009 | | DOI:

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Apostasy (ridda, irtidad) is an important theological and legal problem in Islam. As a legal matter, virtually all classical jurists, and many modern ones, regard death as the mandatory punishment for apostasy, citing a number of authoritative Hadith on the question. Much of the debate, therefore, centers on how to identify apostasy, particularly on the part of those claiming to be faithful Muslims. A crucial issue is that the early Muslim community faced a political revolt on the part of certain Arabian tribes after the death of Muhammad, which became known as the “Wars of Apostasy” (Hurub al-ridda), which raises the questions of whether apostasy is a crime only when it is accompanied by political rebellion, and whether all political rebellion is potentially apostasy. A further matter relates to the political-social institutions of Muslim societies. While orthodox doctrines insist on socio-political expression for religion, achieved primarily through law, Sunni Islam never developed a formal church-like institution of authority that would be empowered to rule on the boundaries of theological orthodoxy. Accusations of apostasy are, thus, very much related to the perennial Islamic contest over authority, legitimacy, orthodoxy, and acceptability, which plays out in a dispersed, polycentric manner rather than from a central authority.

Article.  4742 words. 

Subjects: Islam

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