Power and Apostasy
by Duane A. Miller, PhD
The hadith is strikingly clear: “Whosoever changes his religion, slay him.” Nor is the original Arabic difficult to interpret or understand, as with some hadith and Qur’anic passages. Nor is the doctrine that the will of Allah is that the apostate from Islam be executed extremist or radical. It is simply orthodox, historical Islam. It is about as radical or extremist as hearing a Christian say that baptism and communion are the central rituals of the Christian faith, or that christians should regularly attend church, or that the Christian’s life should be characterized by honesty, generosity, and kindness. Obviously Christians fail at times to live according to these basic truths, but that doesn’t make them any less true.
And so it is with apostasy from Islam. The one who leaves Islam for no religion–think secular humanism, agnosticism, atheism–or for another religion–usually evangelical or charismatic Christianity–knows these things full well. In some rare cases the state will actually carry out the execution. But usually it is left to family or local Muslims operating extra-legally to convince the apostate to return to Islam, or if that fails, force them to flee their homeland, or if that too fails, find some other way of silencing them. And in some cases, that does mean death. In cases where the state does not carry out the sentence, it is rare that the Muslim police force will go out of its way to find the person who killed the convert. After all, they were simply carrying out the divine will.
Given these realities, why is it that since the 1960s we have seen a substantial number of people leaving for Islam for the Christian faith? This was one of the main questions that led me to the research that culminated in the publication of Living among the Breakage: Contextual Theology-making and ex-Muslim Christians (Pickwick, 2016). What is so attractive about the Christ, his faith, and his community, that even the threat of exile, imprisonment, or death cannot hold some people back? The material is covered in the book, but also in the seminars that TCIIS provides for local communities and churches.