Muslim scholars say the original rulings on apostasy were similar to those for treasonous acts in legal systems worldwide and do not apply to an individual’s choice of religion. Islam advocates both freedom of religion and freedom of conscience, a position supported by verses in the Quran, Islam’s revealed text, such as:
- “If it had been the will of your Lord that all the people of the world should be believers, all the people of the earth would have believed! Would you then compel mankind against their will to believe?” (10:99)
- “(O Prophet Muhammad) proclaim: ‘This is the Truth from your Lord. Now let him who will, believe in it, and him who will, deny it.'” (18:29)
- “If they turn away from thee (O Muhammad) they should know that We have not sent you to be their keeper. Your only duty is to convey My message.” (42:48)
- “Let there be no compulsion in religion.” (2:256)
Religious decisions should be matters of personal choice, not a cause for state intervention. Faith imposed by force is not true belief, but coercion. Islam has no need to compel belief in its divine truth. As the Quran states: “Truth stands out clearly from error. Therefore, whoever rejects evil and believes in God has grasped the most trustworthy hand-hold that never breaks.” (2:256)
Before issuing this position statement, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) consulted with members of the Fiqh Council of North America, an association of Muslim legal scholars that interprets Islamic religious law.
CAIR is America’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.