Twenty-seven countries consider leaving the religion of Islam or apostasy from Islam illegal. The penalties for apostasy vary, but many nations do have provisions to invoke the death penalty, because of their adherence to Islamic sharia law. The Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain published an extensive report called the Political and Legal Status of Apostates in Islam which lists the nations and the penalties for apostasy.
Although the actual constitutions of some of these nations do not prescribe the death penalty for apostates from Islam, many of their constitutions are based on Islamic sharia law which means the nation can put an apostate to death based on sharia law rather than the nation’s laws. Different practices and punishments are carried out between countries and even within the same nation depending on the region.
|Afghanistan||Death (by adherence to Sharia law)|
|Algeria||Apostasy is not a criminal offence, however in 2009 religious leaders declared that apostasy is subject to capital punishment.|
|Bahrain||Death (by adherence to Sharia law)|
|Bangladesh||Death (by adherence to Sharia law)|
|Brunei||Death (by adherence to Sharia law)|
|Comoros||Death (by adherence to Sharia law)|
|Egypt||Not forbidden by state, however Islam is the official state religion and Sharia law the primary source of legislation|
|Indonesia||Death (by adherence to Sharia law)|
|Iran||Death (by adherence to Sharia law and Penal Code draft)|
|Iraq||Death (by adherence to Sharia law)|
|Jordan||Apostasy is not a criminal offense, however the government does not allow conversion from Islam. In cases decided by an Islamic law court, marriages have been annulled; custody of children has been taken away; individuals have lost their property rights, etc.|
|Kuwait||Death (by adherence to Sharia law)|
|Libya||Legal status currently unknown (interim government)|
|Malaysia||Up to 5 years imprisonment, and/or death|
|Maldives||Death (by adherence to Sharia law)|
|Mauritania||Forced repentance, followed by death by adherence to sharia law|
|Morocco||Death (by adherence to Sharia law)|
|Nigeria||Death (by regional adherence to sharia law)|
|Oman||Not a criminal offense, but apostates are stripped of familial status and rights|
|Pakistan||Death (by adherence to Sharia law)|
|Qatar||Death (by adherence to Sharia law)|
|Saudi Arabia||Death (by adherence to Sharia law)|
|Somalia||Death (by adherence to Sharia law)|
|Sudan||Imprisonment or death|
|Syria||Stripped of legal status and/or death|
|Tunisia||Legal status currently unknown (interim government)|
|Turkey||Not a criminal offense|
|UAE||Death (by adherence to Sharia law)|
|Yemen||Forced repentance, followed by death|
If we live in a nation where there is religious freedom we do not have to fear for our lives when we worship God. With a grateful heart – thank Him for this freedom. Pray that we will never take this blessing for granted.
Many nations have groups who try to gradually take away our freedom of religion. Ask the Lord to expose their attempts, reveal their strategies, and cause those in authority to resist their tactics.
Pray for a shift in world agencies such as the UN to refrain from supporting regimes that do not allow for religious freedom in their nation.
Ex-Muslims in each of these nations will most often face severe persecution for leaving Islam. Ask God to watch over them, keep them in safety. Pray they will become grounded and established in His Word and His ways.
Muslim apologists often quote “there is no compulsion in religion” (Qur’an 2:256) to argue that Islam does not punish those who may abandon their Islamic religion. Quoting tolerant verses such as this is a tactic that is often used, but the apologists fail to reveal that the tolerant verses were written in the early days of Islam while Muhammad was trying to garner support through peaceful means. It is the verses Muhammad received later that are crucial since the later verses have abrogated (annulled) the earlier verses.
This becomes especially important for those in the West when we look at the number of Westerners who converted to Islam, but then changed their minds. The New Statesman reports that over 100,000 people in Britain converted to Islam between 2001-2011, but up to 75% of them have since become apostates – leaving the religion. Many of those that have left Islam are women who married a Muslim, but later divorced. This puts not only the women themselves in danger since they are apostates, but it also jeopardizes any children from the marriage. Islam considers children of an Islamic father to be Muslim regardless of whether or not they are raised in a Muslim home. The arrest of Mariam Ibrahim in Sudan is a good example. Her Muslim father’s family believes she is an apostate from Islam because her father was a Muslim – even though her Christian mother raised her as a Christian.
Yusuf al-Qaradawi is one of the most influential Sunni Islamic clerics in the world. He is the chairman of the International Union of Muslim Scholars and the European Council for Fatwa and Research. He hosts a weekly television program called Sharia and Life that is broadcast on Al Jazeera to an estimated audience of 60 million, and he is also the chief religious scholar for IslamOnline, a popular website containing a wide range of Islamic topics ranging from news to fatwas (religious rulings on matters of Islamic law). He is also considered the spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood. His opinions on topics are embraced by millions of Muslims around the world.
In an interview, al-Qaradawi admitted, “If they had gotten rid of the apostasy punishment, Islam wouldn’t exist today… Surah 5:33 says, ‘The punishment of those who wage war against Allah and His apostle…is that they should be murdered or crucified.’ According to Abi Kulaba’s narration, the verse means the apostates. And many hadiths, not only one or two, but many, narrated by a number of Muhammad’s companions state that any apostate should be killed.”
Perhaps the best evidence that killing apostates from Islam is still held by many Muslims can be found in the fact that 27 countries consider apostasy from Islam illegal and a prosecutable offence. The punishments vary from fines, imprisonment, flogging to the death penalty in 11 of the 27 nations.
Apostasy laws are the ultimate form of control over the Muslim people. Islam imprisons its adherents and eradicates its rivals.
Pray that citizens in nations that are democratic in nature and allow many freedoms will value their liberty and thank Almighty God for His incredible blessings.
Jesus came to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and to set the oppressed free. People who are unable to leave a religion are not free – pray for God’s discernment and declare His freedom to those who are captives of Islam. In addition, pray for protection for those that have left the religion of Islam.
Pray that Western governments and the United Nations will expose the nations involved in religious oppression. Ask God to reveal to them to reconsider giving financial support to nations that do not allow basic human rights such as the freedom to choose your religion.
Amal Farah has not spoken to her family since 2005 after she told them she was leaving the Islamic faith. She believes if she still lived in her native Somalia, rather than in Britain, she might actually be dead for leaving Islam. She shared her story with The Telegraph for the first time after reading about Mariam Ibrahim, the Sudanese woman that remains trapped in Sudan after being released from prison for refusing to renounce her Christian faith.
Amal’s father was a high-ranking general in the Somali army and very secular. A landmine killed him when Amal was only three years old. After the death of her father, Amal says her mother became more religious. “We were all Muslims, of course, but the older I got the more I was told to pray, to wear conservative clothes and so on. …I disliked being told what to do, like being forced to wear the hijab. I dreamt of having control over my own life.”
This loss of control became quite tangible when her mother prepared her to be circumcised. She says, “I was really scared, and she was talking about how it was religious purification – an essential rite. I asked if there was anything I could do to change her mind, and she said no. I think that’s when I realized that I hated this feeling of powerlessness.”
Amal began to question her faith even more as she attended a British university. “I met atheists, staunch Christians, Jews, Hindus – they challenged me about my views, and I about theirs. It was an incredible sensation to be able to ask questions, and discuss ideas without fear, without looking over my shoulder. I had been in a cocoon- unquestioning, with everyone told they had to think the same way.”
She read different translations of the Qur’an and listened to tapes of imams from other nations such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt, but ultimately she made the decision that Islam was not for her. Her mother was heartbroken with her decision and told her that she was going to hell. Amal describes her mother as feeling guilty that had daughter had left Islam, and also as “very, very angry.”
Her mother believed exposing her daughter to “corrupt Western ways” had cause her to abandon Islam, and she moved with the rest of her family back to Somalia in order to ensure that her other children remained Muslim.
The experience of many young women in Islam is similar to the life of Amal – as a Muslim, they are disenchanted with the control over their lives. Pray that many young Muslims will find themselves in a position of safety where they are able to ask questions and explore their faith without fear.
Ask God to equip Christian students on college campuses to understand the fundamental differences between Christianity and Islam that will enable them to have encouraging and truthful conversations with other students.
Oftentimes Muslims who leave the Islamic faith have a distorted view of God and it is difficult for them to be open to the Christian faith. Pray that the Lord will divinely connect the Christians with Muslims who are open to truth, empowering the Christians to stand strong in their faith and share the gospel without compromise.