In the modern world, we are constantly being bombarded with objections that aim to undermine the very foundations of Islam. The absence of a traditional Muslim society which adheres to and rules by the divine law compounds the challenges, making it somewhat difficult to effectively combat such doubts.
Human beings are practical creatures that often need to see something in order to believe it. For many Muslims living in the West, the prospect of an ideal Islamic society remains an abstract and distant dream, making it hard for them to truly appreciate the wisdom and beauty of shari’ah law.
One of the most persistent objections of liberals and ex-Muslims alike is regarding the issue of the death penalty for apostates. They argue that this hadd punishment is a “restriction on religious freedom” and, thus, supposedly a sign of Islam’s weakness because it allegedly “compels its faithful to remain Muslims by force.” But such criticisms reveal a fundamental misunderstanding of the true nature of our faith.
Despite there being a lack of concrete examples of a society applying the laws of the Shari’ah in their entirety within the contemporary world, I remain ever optimistic in my conviction that we can in fact find similar examples, even in Western societies, to help our brothers and sisters better appreciate the true value of Islam.
In the contemporary tumultuous age of Covid, the handling of the pandemic revealed a stark truth: if people truly understood it, they would undoubtedly accept the wisdom of Islam’s punishment for apostasy.
It is important to recognize that secular societies are essentially atheistic systems of governance. Despite their claims of neutrality on metaphysical issues, their rejection of traditional religions such as Islam, Christianity and Judaism betrays a bias toward materialism. And materialism, in turn, is the hallmark of atheism.
Under secularism, the highest value is human life in its physical form. The soul is dismissed as a mere abstraction, and questions of salvation are deemed irrelevant. As a result, the role of government is reduced to safeguarding the physical well-being of its citizens, with no concern whatsoever for their spiritual welfare.
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In contrast, traditional religions demand that the rulers prioritize the ultimate salvation of their subjects over their physical bodies. For the Church, a good Christian king is one who facilitates entry into heaven and deters entry into hell. Similarly, Islam ordains imams to enjoin good and to both forbid and prevent evil.
Abu Sa’id al-Khudri (may Allah be pleased with him) said: I heard the Messenger of Allah ﷺ say:
“Whoever witnesses a munkar (something forbidden in Islam being perpetrated), he should change it with his hand; and if he is not able [to do so], then [he should change it] with his tongue; and if he is not able [to do so], then [he should hate it] with his heart — and that is the weakest [level] of faith.” (Sunan al-Nasa’i)
But this materialistic bias blinds secularists to the rationality of the Islamic law regarding apostasy. Shari’ah mandates severe punishment for apostates in order to prevent the spread of their doubts and to safeguard the souls of the faithful. This logic is intrinsic to a theocratic system, where the most precious thing is the soul, which must be protected at all costs.
To protect the health of the people, modern states have made a Faustian bargain, sacrificing precious freedoms and equalities. They deemed it to be better to live in a state of diminished liberty, rather than allegedly risking the lives of millions of people. This necessary evil has resulted in the implementation of inequalities in laws, where the vaccinated are separated from the unvaccinated and the freedom of movement and expression of citizens is restricted.
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The argument for the preservation of people’s health persuaded many into accepting that limiting these fundamental liberties is a small price to pay in exchange for the greater good. Shockingly, recent polls reveal that the majority of managers in the United Kingdom support mandatory vaccination. In France, 58% of French people wanted to make vaccination mandatory according to a poll commissioned by Odoxa-Backbone. Likewise, a Covid States Project poll showed that 64% of Americans were in favor of making the vaccine mandatory for everyone.
In the midst of this crisis, the mainstream media has resorted to censoring any information that is deemed to be anti-vax, with numerous YouTube channels being shut down simply for sharing scientific facts regarding Covid. For secular liberals, if this severe restriction on free speech saves lives, then it is completely justified.
One may argue that the comparison between the law of apostasy and the global management of the COVID-19 pandemic is unwarranted since no state has actually threatened to kill non-vaccinated individuals but have merely isolated them from society by depriving them of their rights.
However, let us take a moment to imagine a scenario where a virus far more deadly than COVID-19 ravages the world. Picture a virus that cannot be cured and has a mortality rate of 50% among those who contract it. This hypothetical virus is highly contagious, infecting 20% of those who come into contact with an infected person. Now, imagine scientists develop a vaccine which drastically reduces the risk of contagion and death from this virus.
Under such catastrophic circumstances, would people hesitate to go to any lengths necessary to protect themselves and their loved ones, even if this means taking extreme measures—like say, the death penalty—against those who refuse to take the vaccine?
The answer, I’m afraid, is all too clear.
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