Apostasy and Baha'is as Apostates in Islam

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Editor’s Note:  This is a translation of an editorial titled “What is apostasy, and are Baha’is apostates?” written by Mohammed Shebl, printed in an Egyptian newspaper “Al Qahirah” (Cairo) on May 5, 2009.

The treatment of Baha’is has occupied my thoughts and has disturbed my peace. You might be surprised, but when I see tyranny and oppression inflicted on Baha’is, and increasing on a daily basis, I feel a heavy load on my shoulders.

On one hand, National Identification Cards for Baha’is have not commenced being issued yet; but on the other hand, there are discussions about passing a law in the Egyptian parliament categorizing Baha’is as criminals, and deciding on the charges to be levied against them for their alleged apostasy.

To date, I have not heard whether arson charges have been brought against those who set the homes of a few Baha’is on fire. I also do not know the fate of the Baha’is who had to flee from their burning homes.

God, should anyone who accepts a different religion be subjected to so much cruelty? Is this what has become of human beings who were created noble by their creator, a creator who sends messengers with heavenly books and has given his creatures the freedom to choose their own path, and only requires that they be responsible to their Lord?

What I see in the Qur’an is the glorious verse: “Let there be no compulsion in religion” [Qur’an 2:256].  What is clearly evident from this verse and from the entire Holy Qur’an is that neither entering Islam nor exiting from it, nor even following or not following its commandments is compulsory.  However, there are ignorant clergy who believe that the freedom to choose is limited to entering Islam, while exiting is prohibited and punishable by the death penalty.

I consider it necessary to address a question that has been of utmost importance in recent days.  The question is: “What is apostasy, and are Baha’is apostates?”  I want you all to listen carefully with open minds to what is offered here. Even though this topic has been documented in scriptures for ages and ages and has been accessible to all, historically it has been overlooked.

Before starting the discussion, I should clarify that the verses in God’s book are the first guideline for the establishment of laws.  I would also like to share a tradition from Moaz Ibn Jabal who says that the Prophet Mohammad addressed him saying, “If you are asked to make a judgment, what would you base your judgment on?”  He responded, “First I refer to God’s Holy Book for guidance; if I cannot find a reference, I will refer to the Prophet’s traditions; and if I still cannot find the answer, I will use my own judgment”.  The Prophet Mohammad praised him and said, “Praise be to God that you have succeeded in carrying out the will of God”.  Consequently, if the response to the question of apostasy was documented in the Holy Qur’an, there would be no need for referring to other sources of information.

Let us investigate God’s commandment in the Qur’an in relation to apostasy.  The law is cited in the verse: “Nor will they cease fighting you until they turn you back from your faith if they can. And if any of you turn back from their faith and die in unbelief, their works will bear no fruit in this life and in the Hereafter; they will be Companions of the Fire and will abide therein” [Qur’an 2:217].

Regarding the implications of these verses and the meaning of “fire”, we read the interpretation of Shaykh Muhammad Rashid Reza (1865 -1925), pupil of Imam Muhammad Abduh: “at the time of weakness and fewness of Muslims, non-believers adhering to oppression and torture were forcing Muslims to recant their faith. This is how they made Emar Ibn Yaser and his family, Balal, Sahib, and others renounce Islam. When Muslims migrated from Mecca to Medina and their numbers increased, they initiated a war against non-believers, and God, praised be his name, revealed the verses stated above. The word “infidel” was mentioned when Muslims were declaring their belief through holy war, indicating that all the good deeds of those exiting Islam would be wiped out in this world and in the world to come, since turning away from religion is turning away from the three main tenets of the faith[1].

All messengers of God have confirmed these three principals. No one who has recognized and accepted these principals will cast them away, unless he is corrupt and filled with hatred.  Such a person will have no abode but hell and will eternally remain therein.

Let us continue discussing our serious and important question: “Have Baha’is abandoned the three principals?”  I leave this judgment to the readers. However, if you were to ask me, I would say that Baha’is believe in God and believe in the next world.  With respect to good deeds and moral conduct, I should say among them are those who adorn themselves with goodly deeds and those who do not, just as with the followers of all the other religions.

In summary, based on the Qur’an, apostasy is conversion from the belief in God and of the Unity of God to disbelief. Only a person who changes his belief in God to denial and negation of God, and to disbelief in the continuation of life in the next world, can be labeled an apostate.

The Holy Qur’an clearly promises the Lord’s reward to all those who believe and conduct their lives based on the three principals: “Those who believe (in the Qur’an) and those who follow the Jewish (Scriptures), and the Christians and the Sabians, and who believe in Allah and the last day, and work righteousness, shall have their reward with their Lord; on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve” [Qur’an 2:62].

In conclusion, we know that many label Baha’is as apostates. Even if we were to accept that accusation, the law of God concerning such individuals is that they are condemned to remain in hell eternally, but no tyranny and oppression should be inflicted on them in this world. We can only say: “Ye have your religion and I my religion” [Qur’an 109:06].

Notes:

[1] The three principals are:

a: the world is created by a mighty and powerful Creator, and He is the only One Who should be worshiped,

b: belief in the next world and life after death,

c: practicing goodly deeds and seemly conduct that will benefit the individual himself and all the creation of God.

[Published on May 5, 2009 at: http://basmagm.wordpress.com/2009/05/05/%D9%85%D8%A7%D9%87%D9%89-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B1%D8%AF%D8%A9/. Translation by Iran Press Watch.]

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11 Responses

  1. M

    May 16, 2009 7:18 pm

    By reading and contemplating on the verses mentioned above and lots of similar verses in the Quran, we have to conclude that Quran respects those that follow different belief systems. We should accept that harsh verses revealed in the Quran were for the beginning of Islam and in response to tyranny inflicted on Muslims by non-believers.

    Otherwise, we have no choice but to accept that Quran is a book filled with contradictory verses, those that talk about peace and those that Iranian and Egyptian mullahs adhere to justify oppression and harassment of whomever that does not follow their narrow, hate filled path.

    Reply
  2. Tom Howe

    May 16, 2009 8:46 pm

    Thank you to Mohammad Shebl for his enlightening discourse. The Baha’is are clearly innocent, completely innocent. They are meek, humble, generous, obedient to government, and well-wishers of all.

    Reply
  3. hossein

    May 18, 2009 3:11 am

    This is a solid and straight forward argument in that it is based on the holy Quran and correct Hadith. It becomes even more solid when one considers the fact that many of those who became Baha’is came from other than a Muslim background; namely Christian, Jewish, Zoroastrians , Budhists etc. The alleged crime of apostasy attributed to such Baha’s of non Muslim backgrounds, is simply untenable. Actually, on closer examination it would seem that the exact opposite may be true; the Jew, Christian, Budhist, and Zoroastrian, never believed in the Quran or Muhammad before they became baha’is, but when they believed in Bahaullah, they all submitted to the Will of God, and not only believed that the Prophet Muhammad [PBUH] is a messenger from God and that the Holy Qur`an, as being the depository of the Word of God, revealed through Muhammad [PBUH], but that each and every Bahai has the moral and spiritual obligation to defend Islam, the Prophet Muhammad and the Quran..Now what just and fair minded person could possibly labile these Bahais, of non Muslim backgrounds, as aposates from Islam. The Quran exhorts Muslims to be fair, and thoughtful in their judgment. The state is that many of dear Muslim brothers do not heed the counsel of the holy Quran where it says;
    O believers , if any bad man come to with news, investigate it at once, lest through ignorance ye harm others, and speedily have to repent of ye have done Chapter [Quran- Ch. Al Hajarat # 6] And in another place, the holy Quran counsles the belivers to not follow blindly in the foot steps of their forefathers and the men of religion for these very men will lead them astray. In Quran chapter Al Zukhruf verse 22-23 God says
    “But they say: Verily we found our fathers of that persuasion and verily, in their do we guide ourselves.And thus never before thy time did we send a Warner to any city but its wealthy ones said: Verily, we found our fathers with a religion, and in their tracks we tread” And again in the Quran chapter AL Anaam, verse 116 God says again “But if thou obey the majority [of the people] on earth, they will surely lead astray form the path of God: For they follow but a concert and they are only liars”
    For any thoughtful and just person will surely see the clear guidance offered in the Holy Quran…The holy tradition [hadith] counsels Muslim to think sayng: An hour’s reflection is to be preferred to 40 years of worship.
    Many of the verses in the Quran exhort the true believers, those with percieving hearts to REFLECT….So brothers in God do reflect; did nay of the ones who perptrated the terrible deeds of burning the homes of the innocent Baha’is in Suhja al Shuraniyyah, abide by the exhortations of the Holy Quran?; did they think for themselves and investigateas the Quran orders them to do?; or did they blindly follow in the foot steps of their forefathers and willingly like sheep let themselves be lead astray and misguided by their clergy? Be fair in your judgment!
    hossein

    Reply
  4. Marty Flick

    May 18, 2009 3:03 pm

    In a broader sense, every Messenger who appeared – especially in cases where an ‘ummah’ was pre-existent, was the fulcrum point for apostasy. In other words, Jews who chose to follow Issa [Jesus or, Yeshua] apostatized from their community – just as Christians who recognized Muhammad [pbuh] apostatized Christianity. Islam as a term, doesn’t denote the community of Muhammad. I’m told the word means ‘submission to Allah’s will’ – the Prophet Himself taught that the Prophets of old preached Islam.
    In that sense, apostasy cannot be considered a crime against the prophet or messenger, so long as the new Divine Educator can be proven to also be preaching Islam!
    Persecution, in this light, is itself a crime – particularly the blatant, blind sort of persecution we see now. No evidence, no justice, no chance for the prisoner to present his or her own case! This countermands the very first verse Mr. Shebl quotes – it is time to present the true evidence; to prove to the world that Baha’u’llah certainly conformed to the three principles cited in the footnotes!
    “[1] The three principals are:

    a: the world is created by a mighty and powerful Creator, and He is the only One Who should be worshiped,
    b: belief in the next world and life after death,
    c: practicing goodly deeds and seemly conduct that will benefit the individual himself and all the creation of God.”

    My thanks to M. Shebl for pointing that out!

    Reply
  5. Guy Shannon

    May 19, 2009 12:34 am

    To comment and be among such writers is indeed humbling. All of the responses that came before mine, and the aticle itself, put forth both honorable and reasonable evidences to support the facts; facts which I ultimately believe focus upon the unity of God and His Revelations to humanity. One must admit, regardless of our personal beliefs and adherances, there remains within us a force, though hidden a times – even turned to hate and anger – a force that causes us to have the wish to be bound together as human beings in one common cause. As our current history progresses, this force grows stronger as we increasingly witness traditions gone afoul of the truth, corruption of our institutions, and harmful disunity take its toll upon the human race. We stand back and count the destruction and the dead and ask, for what reason, for what gain? And there is no reasonable answer except to say it is a futile process that leads to nothing, except a foundation of innocent bodies upon whcih to re-build our cities. Does it make sense that God would act against His own Revelations? Would He, the Unknowable Essence, the Creator of Infinite Unity, on one hand Reveal peace and teach this concept to mankind; while on the other send war upon us? Would this be the God of justice, love, and unity? Would He be the Healer of the wounds of mankind? For us to promulgate unfounded difference is not the work of God, or compliance with His teachings, that is all too obvious though one knows nothing of other relgions but his own. When the piano keys are hammered by the hand in random sounds, the sounds of this great instrument are hororible, the result is not music but awful sounds are produced. But when the keys are played in an order of harmony, then this great instrument can bring tears, raise emotions, and in every way enrapture the listener giving forth a highly spiritual experience. That is the true purpose of the piano; and harmony created in unity is the real purpose of religion. We cannot recognize the greatness of the instrumentality of religion until we recognize its necessary unity.

    Reply
  6. sb

    May 19, 2009 1:37 pm

    I know of no other people who are so blamelessly accused and who yet strive to show such respect and meekness to their interrogators, jailers, and persecutors even while under threat. This is the real “submission,” to love truly those who would do you grievous harm.

    This behavior is well documented and proves how “seemly” are the Baha’is.

    Reply

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