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In this translation of a hadith attached to Imam Malik’s commentary:

"if someone changes his deen, strike his neck!" refers to those who leave Islam for other than it - like the heretics and their like, about whom it is known. They are killed without being called to tawba because their tawba is not recognised. They were hiding their kufr and publishing their Islam, so I do not think that one calls such people to tawba, and one does not accept their word. As for the one who goes out of Islam to something else and divulges it, one calls him to tawba. If he does not turn in tawba, he is killed [ Translation of the Muwatta Malik Book 36 Hadith 15 ]

I am having trouble understanding what is meant by

like the heretics and their like, about whom it is known.

Please explain to me in other words, what kind of Apostate Imam Malik is referring to when he says

their tawba is not recognised

3

Imam Malik is talking about a zindeeq زنديق . In the terminology of the jurists this is a person who outwardly shows himself to be a Muslim and hides that he is actually a disbeliever, a synonym of munafiq.

When a Zindeeq's kufr is established he is to be captured and executed. The legal authority will not accept any feigned repentance after he has been apprehended, because no credibility can be be given to his words. This is the view of the Malikis, Hanafis, and one view of the Hanbalis.

It is different from the law about other apostates, as they are imprisoned and told to repent. If they revert to Islam they are freed. While if they refuse for a set amount of time, they are executed.

Ref:

وأما الزنديق: فهو الذي يظهر الإسلام ويسر الكفر. فإذا عثر عليه قتل ولا يستتاب، ولا يقبل قوله في ادعاء التوبة إلا إذا جاء تائبا قبل ظهور زندقته

الفقه الإسلامي وأدلته

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