Q. What make a person kafir? What keeps a person in faith in spite of these apparent words of denial? Who is the authority to judge this person, and what is the sentence? Is there a deadline for Tawbah or should it be put to death immediately? Can you give us a detailed article (complete on the subject) in the Hanafi madhhab on this issue?
A. Apostasy [ar Ridda]
Apostasy [ar Ridda] is to regress from the truth to that which is false, to fall back from guidance into misguidance and from illumination and blessings to darkness and evil. It is nullification of one’s faith. The literal definition of apostasy (ar-Riddal) is to retract from something and to withdraw from it for something else. It is the worst type of unbelief and is ruled as the most repugnant. It destroys and wipes out one’s (righteous) works provided one dies in that state; and it destroys the rewards of one’s actions from the moment one regresses from the truth. This is according to Shafi’i – in that he restricts the rule to death. So if one were to come back to Islam after his retraction from it, his actions would not be invalid and he would be rewarded for them and would not have to repeat them, such as having to repeat hajj for instance. Imam Shafi’i’s view is owing to the verse: “As for any of you who revert from their religion and die unbelievers.” (Quran 2:217) However, Imam Abu Hanifa maintained that the act itself destroys one’s works and rewards. Allah says: “As for those of you who revert from their religion and die unbelievers, their (righteous) actions will come to nothing in this world and the next.”(Quran2:217)
According to the Sacred Law, apostasy is the intent to sever the continuance of Islam or to utter a word of disbelief or perform a certain action regardless of whether it is an action or saying of belittlement, pride or belief. Allah says [If you ask them (about their mockery of you and the Quran while they were travelling with you to Tabuk), they will say: “We were only joking and playing around.” Say, “Would you make a mockery of Allah and of His signs and of His Messenger?” Do not try to excuse yourselves. You have disbelieved after having believed. If We pardon one group of you (due to their sincerity and repentance) We will punish another group for being evildoers].
The apostate therefore is the one who rejects the existence of the Creator, or rejects the existence of the Prophet or belies him. Likewise, declaring something forbidden as lawful is disbelief by consensus, such as adultery, and drinking alcohol. Equally, to forbid what Allah has made lawful holds the same ruling, such as trade, and marriage. Furthermore, to reject what is absolutely agreed upon by consensus, such as the five daily prayer constitutes disbelief. To resolve oneself to disbelief or retract from what is necessarily known amounts to disbelief. Examples include: to intentionally belittle that which is clearly acknowledged in Islam, such as to deliberately discard a mus-haf in filth.
Conditions of Apostasy
A) Maturity – there is no consideration given to the retraction [ridda] of a boy who has the capacity to distinguish, on the basis that he is not yet accountable. There is no weight or consideration relating to what he says or believes. The Prophet said: ‘The pen has been lifted from three. The young until he experiences a sexual dream. The sleeping person until he wakes. And the insane until he returns to his senses’. (Ahmad; Abu Dawud; Ibn Majah).
However, AI-Ikhtiyar [a comprehensive fiqh text of the Hanafi school] states: If a young boy who has acquired understanding and intellect embraces Islam, it is valid and likewise, if he retracts from Islam, then his retraction is considered apostasy. Such a person is to be ordered to accept Islam and is not to be killed.
However, Imam Abu Yusuf said, “His Islam is valid though his reneging from Islam is not valid.” Note: the reason one’s Islam is considered valid prior to maturity is because Islam is connected with one’s understanding and intellect and not maturity; and the proof is that an individual may mature but may not have the presence of mind, thus rendering his Islam as invalid. Also, the intellect can be present in the young just as it is with the developed.(kitab Sharh As Sawi). If however, the boy has not attained intellect and understanding, then his Islam and his retraction from Islam are both invalid. The same applies to the insane. The reason is that Islam and disbelief are concerned with the intellect. In addition, if an intoxicated person denounces his Islam, it does not amount to anything according to principle of istihsan (equity in Islamic law).(Al Ikhtiyar).
B) Sanity – the retraction of an insane person is disregarded, because sanity is key for accountability and sanity is regarded as conditional in one’s capacity and capability concerning his beliefs and other matters (i.e. one must fit the criteria before he is held accountable for what he believes and sanity is critical to this). As for the intoxicated person, Imam Shafi’i and Ahmad hold that his retraction [ridda] stands, and that he is not to be killed except after three days when he recovers (and still maintains his claim).
The Hanafis maintain that according to equity in Islamic law [istthsan], the retraction of an intoxicated individual is not regarded, regardless of whether it is aggravated by one’s intoxicated state or not; because the matter is connected to what one believes and intends and the intoxicated at the time is not in his right mind and is deemed like a sleeping person. On this basis, his retraction does not take affect because in such a state, belief and a firm resolve is not valid from him.
C) Choice – the apostasy or retraction of one who is coerced is disregarded, provided his heart is content and at rest with faith. Allah says, “Except for someone who was forced to do it whose heart remains at rest in his faith.” (Quran 16: 106)
The Repentance of An Apostate
The repentance of an apostate whether male or female is necessary according to the majority of scholars and is recommended according to the Hanafis. One is to be asked to repent three times before being killed on the basis of the following proof narrated in the Muwatta of Malik who reported from Umar Ibn al-Khattab that Abu Musa sent a man to Umar. Umar asked him, “Is there any recent news?” He said, “Yes; a man disbelieved after embracing Islam.” He said, “What did you do with him?” He said, “We brought him near and cut his throat.” Umar said, “Did you imprison him for three days? And feed him a loaf of bread each day? And request that he repent on the possibility that he may repent and return to the command of Allah? Umar then said, “By Allah, I did participate nor order such a thing and I am not pleased with what you have informed me.” (Muwatta of Imam Malik).
And Allah knows best.