Shaykh Muhammad Hassan: No Compulsion in Religion, But...

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Translated from the original Arabic by Al Mutarjim


Egyptian Shaykh Muhammad Hassan, who is one of the most popular and well-known Islamic clerics in Egypt and even throughout the Islamic world (there was even a campaign in Egypt to try to get him to run for president), emphasizes in the following video that apostates from Islam must be killed. He argues, interestingly, that this does not conflict with the principle of no compulsion in religion, because no one is forced to enter Islam (or so he says). However, after they choose to enter Islam, they cannot be allowed to leave it. He contends that this is akin to treason, and every country in the world punishes treason by death. This is a very common argument from Islamic clerics and others who defend the killing of apostates, and try to reconcile it with modern ideas of freedom of religion and conscience (see here and here).

However, problems with this argument are twofold:

  1. Comparing apostasy in Islam with committing high treason is a false equivalence. A more accurate analogy would be that of apostasy and renouncing your citizenship. Unsurprisingly, there is no death penalty for the latter.
  2. Comparing apostasy in Islam with committing high treason against a state concedes that Islam is more akin to a political ideology than a religion. And a political party that requires its former members to be killed would likely be outlawed in most countries.

This video was originally aired on the Egyptian satellite station al-Nas, on Muhammad Hassan's program entitled "Ahadith an-nihaya," (Sayings of the End). We are not aware of the original air date this clip was taken from, but it appears to have been some time in 2008. The YouTube clip this has been taken from was posted in July 28, 2010. Video below, followed by the English transcript:

The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said: “It is not permissible (to shed) the blood of a Muslim who witnesses that there is no god but Allah and that I am the Messenger of Allah, except for one of the following three conditions: (First), the life for the life…” This means the killer is killed. But you are not the one who kills him, and neither am I the one who kills him. But the competent legal authority is the one who is responsible for this. Otherwise, Muslim society would descend into chaos, with everyone killing whomever he wanted whenever he wanted. No—blood is sacred; blood is sacred. “It is not permissible (to shed) the blood of a Muslim who witnesses that there is no god but Allah and that I am the Messenger of Allah, except under three conditions: (First), the life for the life…” The Almighty said: “In the law of equality there is (saving of) life to you, o ye men of understanding” (Qur’an 2:179). “In the law of equality there is (saving of) life to you, o ye men of understanding.” “The life for the life”—the killer is killed. The punishment of Almighty Allah is carried out upon him.

“(Second), the married person who commits adultery”—I will return to him (later) Allah-willing, in another of the signs.

“(Third), the one who abandons his religion, and separates himself from the community.” The hadith is in both of the Sahihs (i.e. Bukhari and Muslim). “The one who abandons his religion, and separates himself from the community.” Islam does not compel anyone to enter it. This (concept) needs to be firmly established. Islam does not compel anyone to enter it. No. There is no compulsion in religion. But rather we preach (Islam) in truth, mercy, propriety, and humility. Whoever says after the preaching—whoever says after (receiving) the preaching and the call (to Islam), “No, I will not enter this religion.” We say to him, “There is no compulsion in religion.” Truth stands out clear from error. We recite the saying of Almighty Allah, “Let him who will believe, and let him who will disbelieve” (Qur’an 18:29). We recite the saying of Allah Almighty, “You have your religion and I have my religion” (Qur’an 109:6). Beautiful. This is after the preaching and the call (to Islam).

But if he enters Islam of his own free will and choice, he does not have the right to leave the religion of Allah whenever he wants, to shake the foundations of Muslim society. No, he does not have the right. Absolutely not. But he does have the right, after having (Islam) preached to him, to say, “I will enter” or “I will not enter this religion.” But to enter it just to leave it whenever he wants? No. This is something which is unacceptable in the religion of Almighty Allah. Show me a constitution anywhere on earth which grants this for its citizens. But rather whoever comes out against the constitution of any nation is accused of treason. Everyone familiar with treason knows that the penalty is death. So what do you think about the one who betrays the religion of Allah Almighty, the one who betrays Allah and His Messenger? “O ye who believe! Do not betray Allah and His Messenger, nor knowingly betray your trusts” (Qur’an 8:27).