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What are the reasons and causes of apostasy?



Alhamdulillah, praise and thanks to Allah for the countless blessings He has blessed us all with. Blessings and salutations to the Prophet Muhammad PBUH, his wives, his family, companions and all those that follow his teachings to the day of judgement.

I will divide my answer for the above question into two divisions:

First: The reasons for apostasy

Second: The causes of apostasy

Pertaining to the reasons for apostasy, it may be due to the four following reasons:

  • Rejecting rulings which are agreed upon and generally known (ma’lum min al-din bi al-dharurah). For example, rejecting the obligation of zakah, fasting and hajj, rejecting the prohibition of intoxicants or rejecting that al-Quran is the words of Allah SWT. These rulings are known by Muslims whether the learned or common people. Hence, rejecting these matters may lead to someone to become an apostate.

However, for those who reject rulings which do not have the consensus of scholars, or agreed upon but not generally known may not result in apostasy. For example, those who reject the sanctioning of Dhuha prayer or the prohibition of marrying a divorced woman who does not complete her ‘iddah period yet.

There was an incident where Sayyidina Umar RA wrote a letter to Abu Ubaidah RA about a group of people who consumed intoxicants by interpreting the saying of Allah SWT:

لَيْسَ عَلَى الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَعَمِلُوا الصَّالِحَاتِ جُنَاحٌ فِيمَا طَعِمُوا إِذَا مَا اتَّقَوا وَّآمَنُوا وَعَمِلُوا الصَّالِحَاتِ ثُمَّ اتَّقَوا وَّآمَنُوا ثُمَّ اتَّقَوا وَّأَحْسَنُوا ۗ وَاللَّـهُ يُحِبُّ الْمُحْسِنِينَ

“There is not upon those who believe and do righteousness [any] blame concerning what they have eaten [in the past] if they [now] fear Allah and believe and do righteous deeds, and then fear Allah and believe, and then fear Allah and do good, and Allah loves the doers of good.”

Surah al-Maidah (93)

He then included in his letter, asking Abu Ubaidah RA to advise them and if they still defended their opinion saying that it is permissible based on their wrong interpretation of the above verse, then Abu Ubaidah RA should kill them. Conversely, those who believe that the ruling is haram (prohibited), but still drink it anyway, then they should be whipped 80 times. Then, Abu Ubaidah brought them into judgement in front of some witnesses, they answered that it is haram. So, Abu Ubaidah punished them by 80 whippings, where they regretted their actions afterwards. Refer Mahasin al-Takwil by al-Qasimi (6/368).

  • Performing actions of the disbelievers. For example, prostrating to idols or other acts of worships of the disbelievers. It is the same for practising anything that contradicts the teachings of Islam, for example purposely throwing al-Quran or books of hadith and tafsir (commentary of the Quran) to impure places, on the condition that it is done by his own will not when he is forced to do so.
  • Uttering words or statements that contradict Islamic teachings whether due to his belief, disobedience or mockery. For example, a person who insults the religion, Allah, a prophet or he said: “Islam is inappropriate to be practised in modern times”, “the creator of the universe does not exist”, “zakat is unnecessary in a socialist community” or “obligation of hijab for women is outdated”.

These utterances could lead to apostasy regardless if it is due to his belief, anger or disobedience, insulting the religion or Allah SWT out of anger, in an argument or mockery, whether it is just for the sake of making people laugh, as a joke or taunt. For example, a person telling his friend who offers him advice by saying: “Later when you enter Paradise, close the door and don’t let me in,”

This is in accordance with the statement of Allah SWT in the Quran:

وَلَئِن سَأَلْتَهُمْ لَيَقُولُنَّ إِنَّمَا كُنَّا نَخُوضُ وَنَلْعَبُ ۚ قُلْ أَبِاللَّـهِ وَآيَاتِهِ وَرَسُولِهِ كُنتُمْ تَسْتَهْزِئُونَ ﴿٦٥﴾ لَا تَعْتَذِرُوا قَدْ كَفَرْتُم بَعْدَ إِيمَانِكُمْ ۚ إِن نَّعْفُ عَن طَائِفَةٍ مِّنكُمْ نُعَذِّبْ طَائِفَةً بِأَنَّهُمْ كَانُوا مُجْرِمِينَ ﴿٦٦﴾

And if you ask them, they will surely say, "We were only conversing and playing." Say, "Is it Allah and His verses and His Messenger that you were mocking?" (65) Make no excuse; you have disbelieved after your belief. If We pardon one faction of you - We will punish another faction because they were criminals. (66)

Surah al-Tawbah (65-66)

  • Disbelief in one’s heart like rejecting the existence of Allah, His angels, His Books, His Prophets, the Hereafter or qadha’ and qadar. These are clearly explained by scholars in detail in their books. Hence, it is the obligation of a Muslim to know their limitations of dos and don’ts set in Islam although the ruling is generally unknown. Hence, we should prevent ourselves from getting involved in doubts and the trap of shaytan.

Based on the above statement, it is clear that those who commit these are no longer a Muslim, could lead to dianatan (by religion) apostacy, not qada’an or by court (through adjudication of a judge). Still, the author would like to state here that the scholars are cautious in ruling that a person has renounced Islam and become an apostate. The following are some of the opinions of shcolars:

  • Imam al-Nawawi said: “Indeed, the righteous opinion in the madhhab is not decalring a person as an apostate for his sin without disbelief that could invalidate his religion.”
  • Imam Abu Ubaid said: “Indeed, we are of the opinion that sins and ma’siah (transgressions) do not remove Iman (faith) nor does it imply kufr (disbelief) upon a person. However, iman is denied on his truthfulness and sincerity as stated by Allah SWT in the evidences.”
  • Abdullah bin Muhammad al-Qarani stated a maxim: “None may be said as kufr (disbeliever) merely due to his words or actions, but through set conditions and being free from any possible denials.” Refer Dawabit al-Takfir Inda Ahl al-Sunnah wa al-Jamaah (pg. 219).

Second: The Causes of Apostasy

Based on our observation, there are bunch of causes that lead to apostasy which are listed as follows:

  • Ignorance and lack of Islamic knowledge. Lack of tarbiyah, education and nurture from parents and family or seen as a trivial matter without any proper consideration. This is acknowledged by the Director of the Department of Islamic Religious Affairs of Sabah.
  • Peer pressure may also play a role because the attitude and actions of a human either are affecting or affected and influencing or influenced by each other.
  • Mass media including the internet and information overload whether through audio or video may lead to apostasy. This is due to people’s expectation that everything uploaded through the internet should be followed and abide by without any filtration.
  • Economic crisis which causes people have to ask for help from non-Muslim organizations, especially where they are deceived by sweet words as if these organizations care for them.
  • Due to the intention having a relationship or marrying others of different religion. This has been a trend nowadays from time to time. Berita Harian newspaper dated 14th September 2011 stated: Divorce is among the factors identified as a cause of apostasy and intended apostasy among the newly reverted Muslims in Sabah. The Director of the Department of Islamic Religious Affairs of Sabah (JHEAINS), Dato’ Amri Suratman said: Most cases of divorce will be followed by cases of apostasy or intended apostasy by newly reverted Muslims who lack religious understanding.
  • Newly reverted Muslims who try to understand and practice Islam but are unguided which then makes them vulnerable to teachings of their old religion and returning to their previous faith.
  • Lack of iman (faith) and it gradually decreases until its light fades away. Hence, it is easy for them to be diverted, especially with offers and worldly materials that it blinded them from the truth of Islam.

May Allah protect us all from any means that could lead us towards apostasy and I pray to Allah SWT for us to always be guided with His Taufiq and hidayah. Ameen.