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Murtadd

Murtadd (Arab., ‘one who turns away’, hence ridda). An apostate from Islam. The ultimate punishment for an apostate, according to Qurʾan 3. 86–9/80–3; cf. 2. 161–2/155–6, lies in the next world after death. There are, however, penalties in this world, including restrictions on inheritance and annulment of marriage. In accord with the fundamental principle, ‘There is no compulsion in religion’ (2. 257/6), no physical pressure may be put on those who seek to change their religion, though in practice this happens, even to the extent of death. The penalty of death is not mentioned in the Qurʾan, but comes from a ḥadīth transmitted through al-ʿAbbās, ‘Whoever changes [badala] his religion [dīn], kill him.’ But even here the issue is debated. According to some Muslims, the hadith includes the provision that the one who changes religion must also subsequently attack Islam, so that the death penalty is then an act of jihād, in defence of Islam (see SATANIC VERSES); otherwise, those who are over-zealous are themselves liable to account for their actions on the Day of Judgement (for varying opinions, see J. W. Bowker, What Muslims Believe, 1998, 100–5). It is also a matter of dispute whether a murtadd should be given time to repent or reconvert.

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