On the listservs, there is an uproar dev …

On the listservs, there is an uproar developing over comments made by Harvard Muslim Chaplain Taha Abdul-Basser (his blogger profile here) in response to an email query about apostasy stating that apostates should be killed – though they can only be killed by a legitimate “Muslim governmental authority and can not be performed by non-state, private actors.”

Concerned Muslims who are Harvard alums (or not) are being encouraged to write to Harvard and complain. Some are calling for his removal. Below the fold, the message fragment that is being forwarded around:

There is a vibrant Muslim community at Harvard. They have a Muslim chaplain, employed by Harvard and loved and respected by Muslims all around Boston. His name is Taha Abdul-Basser. He gives Friday sermons, is invited to talks and to him local Muslims go when they need religious advice. Rarely does any one voice disagreement with him.

Recently, Muslim students as MIT had a disagreement on what Islam has to say on apostasy. Fortunately, some one from Harvard was able to get Brother Taha’s opinion on this. Enjoy.

assalamu alaikum wa rahmatullah

here is Brother Taha’s response on apostasy. he also suggested contacting two other people and if they get back, inshaAllah i will fwd the responses.
Wa-`alaykum as-salam

Taha Abdul-Basser:


I am familiar with these types of discussions.

While I understand that will happen and that there is some benefit in them, in the main, it would be better if people were to withhold from _debating_ such things, since they tend not to have the requisite familiarity with issues and competence to deal with them.

Debating about religious matter is impermissible, in general, and people rarely observe the etiquette of disagreements.

There are a few places on the Net where one can find informed discussions of this issue (Search ["Abdul Hakim Murad"|Faraz Rabbani" AND "apostasy"]) . The preponderant position in all of the 4 sunni madhahib (and apparently others of the remaining eight according to one contemporary `alim) is that the verdict is capital punishment.

Of concern for us is that this can only occur in the_domain and under supervision of Muslim governmental authority and can not be performed by non-state, private actors._

Some contemporary thought leaders have emphasized the differing views (i.e. not capital punishment) that a few fuqaha’ in the last few centuries apparently held on this issue, including reportedly the senior Ottoman religious authority during the Tanzimat period and Al-Azhar in the modern period. Still others go further and attempt to elaborate on the argument that the indicants (such as the hadith: (whoever changes his religion, execute him) used to build the traditional position apply only to treason in the political sense and therefore in the absence of a political reality in which apostasy is both forsaking the community and akin to political treasons in the modern sense, the indicants do not indicate capital punishment.

I am not aware of `Allama Taqiy al-Din Ibn Taymiya’s position on this issue but much is attributed to him by both detractors and supporters so one should be wary of accepting things attributed to him without asking experts. Perhaps you can ask Ustadh Sharif el-Tobgui or Shaykh Yasir Qadhi (I am copying both), both of whom are Ibn Taymiya specialists.

I would finally note that there is great wisdom (hikma) associated with the established and preserved position (capital punishment) and so, even if it makes some uncomfortable in the face of the hegemonic modern human rights discourse, one should not dismiss it out of hand. The formal consideration of excuses for the accused and the absence of Muslim governmental authority in our case here in the North/West is for dealing with the issue practically.

And Allah knows best.

Wa s-salam.