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Ruling on Killing Muslims by Muslim Outlaws under the Pretext of Apostasy

Answered as per Shafi'i Fiqh by Darul Iftaa Jordan
What is the ruling on killing Muslims by Muslim outlaws under the pretext of apostasy?

All praise is due to Allah; and may His blessings and peace be upon our Prophet Mohammad and upon all his family and companions.

Islam is the religion of Allah, which He revealed to all mankind and through which He has sealed heavenly laws, completed virtuous behavior, and observed man`s nature and honor on this earth. This religion aims at fulfilling the general intentions of Islamic Sharia, amongst which is preserving human life.

Prophet Mohammad(PBUH) has considered every person who pronounces the testimony of faith and adheres to the rulings of Sharia as a Muslim, and it is impermissible for anyone to label him as a disbeliever. He(PBUH) said: “ Whoever prays like us and faces our Quibla and eats our slaughtered animals is a Muslim and is under Allah's and His Apostle's protection. So do not betray Allah by betraying those who are in His protection. “{Bukhari}. Al-Imam al-Aini said in his explanation to Sahih Al-Bukhari: “ People are judged by what they reveal, not what they conceal, so one who reveals his adherence to the rulings of Islam is considered a Muslim “

The Scholars of the people of Sunnah have agreed that whoever observes the Islamic rituals is a Muslim and it is impermissible to guess what he conceals inside him or condemn him with disbelief unless he was indeed established as a disbeliever. It is also impermissible to condemn whoever has doubts with disbelief; rather, we should resort to dialogue in order to dispel those doubts. However, if he has been educated beyond the excuse of ignorance and doubt and is shown the truth; still, he insisted on his attitude, then he becomes the responsibility of a Sharia judge who enjoys the authority to condemn him with disbelief, or apostasy. Moreover, it is impermissible for anyone to judge that a certain person is a disbeliever because this undermines Islamic Sharia and facilitates shedding the blood of others. This is why Al-Imam al-Milibari said: “ A Mufti must exercise maximum caution before ruling that a person is a disbeliever because it is a serious and grave matter “ {Fatih Al-Mo`ein}.

Condemning a Muslim with disbelief is one of the grave major sins because it is impermissible to do so to a Muslim who testifies that there is no God but Allah and that Mohammad is His Messenger, unless it was established that this Muslim denies the ordinances of Islam known to all people: Scholars and laymen, didn`t have any doubts, and insisted on his attitude intentionally and knowingly. It is incumbent upon every Muslim to think well of other Muslims because, in principle, they are Muslims. Prophet Mohammad(PBUH) said(what means): “ Whoever calls a man a disbeliever, or an enemy of Allah while he is neither, then such a description applies to him “{Muslim}. In his commentary on this narration, Al-Imam An-nawawi said: “ It is intended to deter a Muslim from saying that to his Muslim brother, and that was before the emergence of Khawarij(Muslim outlaws) and other sects. “ Al-Imam Al-Ghazali(May Allah have mercy on his soul) said: “ The mistake of sparing the lives of a thousand disbelievers is easier than the mistake of shedding the blood of a Muslim “{Al-Iktissad Fi Al-`Etiqaad}.

Therefore, there are due conditions and criteria that must be met before ruling that a certain Muslim is a disbeliever, or an apostate, and such conditions are extremely difficult to be met and only apply to a very small number of people. Moreover, issuing such a verdict is the exclusive responsibility of a Muslim authority which consists of a Sharia judge and his assistants who carry out careful investigation in this regard, and they leave no stone unturned to avoid condemning the defendant with disbelief, or apostasy. This is because they abide by the command of the Prophet(PBUH) who said: “ ,and cursing a believer is like murdering him, and whoever accuses a believer of disbelief, then it is as if he had killed him, “{Bukhari}. Consequently, killing Muslims by these ignorant groups under the pretext of disbelief and apostasy violates the teachings of Islam, and has never been done before, save by the Muslim outlaws(Khawarij) who label a Muslim as a disbeliever for committing a major sin. They have also labeled those who refused to follow them as disbelievers in order to justify killing them and establish a pretext to do more killing and shedding of forbidden Muslim blood. Prophet Mohammad(PBUH) said: “Beware! Do not renegade as disbelievers after me by striking (cutting) the necks of one another. “ {Bukhari}. And Allah knows best.

This answer was collected from the official government Iftaa Department of Jordan.

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