Saudi Islamic scholar reaffirms Islamic law’s death penalty for leaving Islam

Saudi Islamic scholar reaffirms Islamic law’s death penalty for leaving Islam


Robert Spencer and Dr. Robert Gorter

March 12th, 2023


It would have been interesting to see if Ahmed Al-Ghamdi had any comeback to Abd Al-Rahman Abd Al-Karim’s quotes from Muhammad and Abu Bakr. But really, what could he say?

The death penalty for apostasy is part of Islamic (Sharia) law. It’s based on the Qur’an: “They wish you would disbelieve as they disbelieved so you would be alike. So do not take from among them allies until they emigrate for the cause of Allah. But if they turn away, then seize them and kill them wherever you find them and take not from among them any ally or helper.” (Qur’an 4:89)

A hadith depicts Muhammad saying: “Whoever changed his Islamic religion, then kill him” (Bukhari 9.84.57). The death penalty for apostasy is part of Islamic law according to all the schools of Islamic jurisprudence.

This is still the position of all the schools of Islamic jurisprudence, both Sunni and Shi’ite. The late Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, who was once the most renowned and prominent Muslim cleric in the world, stated: “The Muslim jurists are unanimous that apostates must be punished, yet they differ as to determining the kind of punishment to be inflicted upon them. The majority of them, including the four main schools of jurisprudence (Hanafi, Maliki, Shafi’i, and Hanbali) as well as the other four schools of jurisprudence (the four Shiite schools of Az-Zaidiyyah, Al-Ithna-‘ashriyyah, Al-Ja’fariyyah, and Az-Zaheriyyah) agree that apostates must be executed.”

Qaradawi also once famously said: “If they had gotten rid of the apostasy punishment, Islam wouldn’t exist today.”

“Saudi Islamic Scholar Ahmad Al-Ghamdi In TV Debate: Islam Does Not Sanction The Killing Of Apostates; Saudi Islamic Scholar Abd Al-Rahman Abd Al-Karim: Consensus Is That Punishment Is Death,” MEMRI, March 2, 2023:

On March 2, 2023, Rotana Khalijiya TV (Saudi Arabia) aired a show in which Saudi Islamic scholars discussed the Islamic punishment for apostasy. Saudi Islamic scholar Ahmed Al-Ghamdi, formerly the head of the Mecca chapter of the Authority for Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, said that people are free to decide whether they adhere to Islam or become apostates, and he argued that there is no verse in the Quran explicitly stating that the punishment for apostasy is death. Abd Al-Rahman Abd Al-Karim from the Saudi Fiqh Association rebutted that the Quran prescribes the death penalty for apostates and that there is a consensus among Islamic jurisprudents on the subject.

Ahmed Al-Ghamdi: “People who do not adhere to the Islamic faith are free to do so. They must not be coerced. The same is true for people who converted to Islam and then became apostates. There are unambiguous verses in the Quran regarding their freedom to do so. Allah said [in the Quran:] ‘There is no coercion in religion.’ This is an unambiguous verse, and it applies to an infidel before his conversion to Islam, as well as to people who converted and then became apostates. They are free to do so, as Allah made it clear in the verse ‘There is no coercion in religion.’


“There isn’t an explicit verse in the Quran saying that an apostate should be killed as a punishment for his apostasy.”


Abd Al-Rahman Abd Al-Karim: “There has been a consensus among Islamic jurisprudents about the punishment for apostasy. First of all, according to a hadith, the Prophet Muhammad said: ‘He who changes his religion — kill him.’ In addition, when some people renounced Islam after the death of the Prophet Muhammad, [Caliph] Abu Bakr said: ‘By Allah, I will kill those who renounced Allah’s religion!’ And indeed, he applied the [death] punishment in that case.


“This is beyond discussion. These are the rules and punishments in the shari’a. There are seven religious punishments mentioned in the Quran, and one is allowed to doubt these religious punishments.”

Interviewer: “What are they?”

Abd Al-Rahman Abd Al-Karim: “The punishments for highway robbery, fornication, homosexuality, drinking alcohol, apostasy, murder, and theft. The punishment for these seven crimes is mentioned in the Quran.”


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