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Narrated By Jabir bin ‘Abdullah : A bedouin gave the Pledge of allegiance to Allah’s Apostle for Islam and the bedouin got a fever where upon he said to the Prophet “Cancel my Pledge.” But the Prophet refused. He came to him (again) saying, “Cancel my Pledge.’ But the Prophet refused. Then (the bedouin) left (Medina). Allah’s Apostle said: “Medina is like a pair of bellows (furnace): It expels its impurities and brightens and clears its good.”

Bukhari 1883, Bukhari 7209, Bukhari 7211, Bukhari 7216, Bukhari 7322, Muslim 1383

I have seen many people use this hadith to argue against the death penalty for apostates, as Muhammad didn't order the bedouin's execution.

But of course, ahadith can be taken out of context. Is there any context which explains why this hadith does not mean the penalty for apostasy isn't death?

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  • There's no real hint that this Bedouin was an apostate.
    – Medi1Saif
    Sep 22 at 12:15
  • Read the variant reports of this Incident. Some of them mention that part of the pledge’s obligations incumbent on the bedouin was emigration to madina. So he did disobey the prophet and his pledge, but due to his poor health. I don’t think anybody can call that Apostasy otherwise there would be no muslims left as everyone gives in to comfort over their islamic obligations at some point.
    – Hisham
    Sep 26 at 2:53

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The hadith does not prove that the bedouin wanted to renounce Islam. Rather from the context it only shows that he wanted to leave Medinah because its climate did not suit him. The Bay'ah (pledge) included the promise of remaining in Medinah as migration was obligatory at that time. The bedouin's action of leaving Medinah was fisq (disobedience) not kufr and hence he was not an apostate. Hence this hadith does not change the ruling of punishment on apostasy.

Secondly if for argument's sake we assume that the bedouin wanted to leave Islam: the hadith will still not be acted upon, because:

  • the punishment of apostasy is proven through tawatur (multiplicity of sources) and ijma' (consensus), one khabar ahad (solitary report) is not sufficient to overrule it as there is greater probability for a single person to make a mistaken in the transmission or comprehension of the report.

  • it would be a contradiction between the prophet's command to us and the prophet's own action in a specific case. In case of such a contradiction we are to follow the command. For example if the Prophet told us to not marry more than 4 women, but himself married 9 women, then we follow the command.

  • it would be considered abrogated: since the later actions of the Prophet at the conquest of Makkah, his instruction to Muadh bin Jabal when dispatching him to Yemen as governor, and the actions of the sahaba during the Ridda wars proves that they punished apostates.

For further references on apostasy you can see: Is punishment for leaving Islam death?


The Pledge of Islam included other promises apart from belief in Islam, such as the promise to refrain from theft, fornication, murder, slander and other disobedience (60:12). Similarly it included the promise to participate in Jihad and at times also to migrate and stay in Medinah (see e.g. Bukhari 4305) and this was the part of the pledge taken by the Bedouin which he wished to cancel:

وقول الأعرابي: (أقلني بيعتي) يريد: أقلني ما بايعتك عليه من البقاء بالمدينة

The saying of the Bedouin (Cancel my Pledge) means: cancel the pledge in which I promised to you that I would stay in Medinah.

Mu‘lim bi Fawaa’id Muslim

This is also apparent in a wording of the hadith in Musnad Ahmad and Musnad Humaidi:

جاء إلى رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم رجل من الأعراب فأسلم، فبايعه على الهجرة، فلم يلبث أن حم فجاء إلى النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم، فقال: أقلني، فقال: " لا أقيلك "، ثم أتاه، فقال: أقلني، فقال: " لا أقيلك "، ثم أتاه، فقال: أقلني، فقال: " لا "، ففر، فقال: المدينة كالكير، تنفي خبثها، وتنصع طيبها

A man from the Bedouins came to the Messenger of Allah ﷺ, accepted Islam and gave the pledge to emigrate. Then he developed a fever so he came to the Prophet ﷺ and said: "Cancel my pledge". The Prophet replies "No". This happened three times and then the man fled from the city. The Prophet ﷺ said: "Medina is like a furnace, it eliminates its impurities and purifies what is good."

Musnad Ahmad

قدم أعرابي المدينة، فبايع النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم على الهجرة، ثم حم، فأتى النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم، فقال: يا رسول الله أقلني بيعتي، قال: «لا» ، فلما اشتدت به الحمى أتى النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم، فقال: يا رسول الله أقلني بيعتي، قال: «لا» ، ثم اشتدت به الحمى، فأتى النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم، فقال: يا رسول الله أقلني بيعتي، قال: «لا» ، ثم اشتدت به الحمى، فخرج هاربا من المدينة، فقال النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم: «المدينة كالكير تنفي خبثها، وتنصع طيبها

A Bedouin came to Medinah and gave the pledge to the Prophet ﷺ to emigrate. Then he developed a fever so he said: "O Messenger of Allah Cancel my pledge". The Prophet relpied "No" and his fever increased even more. This happened three times and then the man fled Medinah. The Prophet ﷺ said: "Medina is like a furnace, it eliminates its impurities and purifies what is good."

Musnad Humaidi

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    A great well-detailed answer. For more context, I would like to mention that Madinah had a pretty harsh climate and environment, before Prophet (PBUH) arrived and renamed it, it was called Yathrib, which's meaning is commonly known as "the city of diseases and misfortune". Before the Prophet (PBUH) arrived, it used to continuously have droughts, plague, and other things of the sort so it was generally considered an unhygienic place by most people. Sep 22 at 16:27

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