A Christian asked me that why Islam says to execute one who changes his religion. He gave a hadith as reference.

The hadith :

Narrated Ikrima: Ali burnt some people and this news reached Ibn `Abbas, who said, "Had I been in his place I would not have burnt them, as the Prophet (ﷺ) said, 'Don't punish (anybody) with Allah's Punishment.' No doubt, I would have killed them, for the Prophet (ﷺ) said, 'If somebody (a Muslim) discards his religion, kill him.' "

حَدَّثَنَا عَلِيُّ بْنُ عَبْدِ اللَّهِ، حَدَّثَنَا سُفْيَانُ، عَنْ أَيُّوبَ، عَنْ عِكْرِمَةَ، أَنَّ عَلِيًّا ـ رضى الله عنه ـ حَرَّقَ قَوْمًا، فَبَلَغَ ابْنَ عَبَّاسٍ فَقَالَ لَوْ كُنْتُ أَنَا لَمْ أُحَرِّقْهُمْ، لأَنَّ النَّبِيَّ صلى الله عليه وسلم قَالَ ‏"‏ لاَ تُعَذِّبُوا بِعَذَابِ اللَّهِ ‏"‏‏.‏ وَلَقَتَلْتُهُمْ كَمَا قَالَ النَّبِيُّ صلى الله عليه وسلم ‏"‏ مَنْ بَدَّلَ دِينَهُ فَاقْتُلُوهُ ‏"‏‏.‏

Reference : Sahih al-Bukhari 3017
In-book reference : Book 56, Hadith 226
USC-MSA web (English) reference : Vol. 4, Book 52, Hadith 260

So what should be my reply ? What is the explanation and the context of the hadith? What is the logical answer?

We know that in Islam, punishment behind other crimes such as fornication, orders to kill mushrik in Quran etc. has a background, context and logic. So what is the logic, background and context behind this ?

It will be helpful if anyone answer.

  • You can easily answer this if you are not being ignorant and delete my answer, i gave 3 interpretation of the hadith provided according to Shabir Ally. You just wasted my research brother, thanks alot. Commented Mar 23, 2019 at 4:21
  • Islamqa on the subject. Commented Mar 23, 2019 at 16:25
  • @AndreRamadhan I'm so sorry if your answer got deleted but I didn't delete anything. You must be mistaken bcz stack exchange doesn't allow me to delete anything. Commented Nov 7, 2022 at 8:44

1 Answer 1


Muhammad ﷺ said that because it is the legal punishment for apostasy that Allah has prescribed. There isn't any special context on which it is dependent, rather it is a common ruling also present in several other ahadith, see my answer here.

Its purpose is similar to that of other Hudud like those for fornication, drinking wine, murder, robbery, theft, adultery, slander etc. These punishments are prescribed for transgressions against Allah or the people or both and among their purpose is to protect the people from harm and to achieve the goals of shariah. Apostasy is a grave one among them as it is Kufr of a Muslim, being worse than original Kufr; and it may lead to misguidance of others.

Regarding how to reply to the Christian, one approach might be to explain that the punishment is the same in the Torah e.g. Deuteronomy 13:12-16 (see commentary) and Deuteronomy 13:6-10 (see commentary).

If you hear it said about one of the towns the Lord your God is giving you to live ... have led the people of their town astray, saying, “Let us go and worship other gods” ... you must certainly put to the sword all who live in that town. You must destroy it completely, both its people and its livestock.

Deuteronomy 13:12-15

Christians believe the Torah to have been given by God \ Jesus, regardless of whether they consider themselves subject to the law. Whatever explanations and reasons they have for their own scripture, they can extend the same to Islam.

  • I don't think this addresses the question meaningfully because it sounds to me like the OP is asking for rationale, not legal source texts.
    – G. Bach
    Commented Mar 23, 2019 at 3:31
  • @G.Bach IMO the purpose of the question is to have a reply for the objection, and in the given context this is a strong and adequate response since whatever explanation they have for their own scripture they can apply the same to Islam. I don't see how Islamic rationale or values would be useful as a response.
    – UmH
    Commented Mar 23, 2019 at 6:20
  • 1
    The same explanation that Christians use to never apply that punishment does not apply to Islam, because according to Islamic doctrine the punishment is still in effect, while Christian doctrine holds differently about many laws from the Old Testament, this one included. The additions to your answer seem much more on point.
    – G. Bach
    Commented Mar 23, 2019 at 10:33
  • 1
    @G.Bach That is not an explanation, at most it is a distraction. Whether or not they apply the punishment or consider it abrogated, they agree that God legislated it at some point.
    – UmH
    Commented Mar 23, 2019 at 10:38
  • It's not a distraction because the impetus of this question has always been a moral objection whenever I've seen it asked; it seems far-fetched to think that it would be purely about legal construction. There's a large moral difference between believing killing apostates once was the law and may have been acceptable back then but that hasn't been the law in thousands of years while the status quo of religious freedom is morally and legally correct, and believing that killing apostates is currently morally and legally correct.
    – G. Bach
    Commented Mar 23, 2019 at 11:16

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