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The Apostasy Fatwas

Introduction and Summary

A Common Word Between Us and You is an open letter from the Royal Aal al-Bayt Institute for Islamic Thought of Jordan. Dated 13 October 2007. It is addressed to the Pope, and other Christian leaders throughout the world, and is signed by 138 Muslims leaders from around the world. This letter invites Christians to agree together with Muslims on principles of love for God and one’s neighbour, emphasising justice and freedom of religion.

These notes here document how the Royal Aal Al-Bayt Institute has several fatwas ‘legal verdicts or edicts' posted on its website, which condemn people to death who have left Islam, specifically including Muslim-background Christians. If they are not killed, then these so-called ‘apostates’ are to be treated as legal non-persons, having no rights before the law. One of the fatwas identifies a Jordanian Christian man by name as an apostate.

There is a contradiction in the actions of the Royal Aal al-Bayt Institute. On the one hand the Institute is inviting Christians to come together with Muslims based on principles of love and mutual respect, but on the other hand it is condemning Christians to death simply because they have changed their religious beliefs away from Islam. This contradiction and lack of reciprocity should be pointed out by Christians in interfaith dialogue with Muslims; the Aal al-Bayt Institute should be requested to remove such hate-inciting statements from its website; and Christians who have signed letters welcoming the ‘Common Word’ letter without reservation should withdraw their signatures.

The letter to Christians known as A Common Word appears to affirm loving one’s neighbour, and states ‘…justice and freedom of religion are a crucial part of love of the neighbour’. However one should consider carefully whether the signatories of A Common Word have the same understanding of ‘freedom of religion’ and ‘justice’ as their intended Christian audience. How can one learn more about the people who wrote and signed this letter?

The Royal Aal al-Bay Institute, which produced the Common Word letter, is engaged in interfaith dialogue with Christians, and information about these activities can be found at, the web site for the Common Word project. If the reader accesses this site, and follows the link entitled THE GREAT TAFSIR PROJECT they will be taken to This is another site maintained by the Institute, a repository of Islamic knowledge. This material comes highly commended. On the home page of there is a commendation by Ahmad Al-Tayyib, the rector of Al-Azhar University:

We were delighted by viewing this site wherein we found a sea of knowledge copiously flowing with works of exegesis and the fundamental references and sources in this primary field of the Islamic Sciences and Heritage.

The home page also states:

ALTAFSIR.COM is a completely free, non-profit website providing access to the largest and greatest online collection of Qur’anic Commentary (tafsir or tafseer), translation, recitation and essential resources in the world.

This is a very popular site. At the foot of the front page of, a message reported in February 2008 that a total or more than 2.6 million ‘unique visitors’ had accessed the site since 2006.

It is entirely appropriate for Christian readers of A Common Word to study the teachings contained on, so that they can gain a deeper understanding of the Royal Aal al-Bayt Institute’s activities. However some may find this difficult because most of the site’s resources are – quite understandably – in Arabic. However, for passages that are in modern rather than classical Arabic, Google’s Arabic translator, found here, can help address this problem.

“Ask the Mufti”: the Chief Scholar of the Aal al-Bayt Institute’s edicts on Apostasy

There is a collection of fatwas on the site which deal with the subject of apostasy from Islam (ridda). At the time of writing (February 2008), they could be found here.

These fatwas are posted in a section of the site called ‘Ask the Mufti’. They were written by the Chief Scholar of the Royal Aal al-Bayt Institute, His Excellency Shaykh Sa‘id Hijjawi, who was formerly Grand Mufti of Jordan from 1992-2007, and before that Mufti in Oman. A brief CV of the former Grand Mufti can be found here, which also has a further link through to more biographical details. Among his many activities as one of the leading jurists of the Middle East, Shaykh Sa‘id Hijjawi has been a participant in high-level, international interfaith dialogue meetings with Christians.

A Grand Mufti is the highest religious authority in a Sunni Muslim nation. He is called upon to issue edicts (fatwas) on legal questions. These may be requested by individuals, or by courts. The collected corpus of his edicts form an authoritative legal resource.

Shaykh Hijjawi is one of the signatories of A Common Word, and as the Chief Scholar of the Aal Al-Bayt Institute, which produced the letter, we can assume that he not only endorses the letter, but may well have helped compose it.

There are sixteen separate fatwas (in Arabic) relating to apostasy by Shaykh Hijjawi on Some of these, such as No’s 3 and 5, refer explicitly and in considerable detail, to how Christians who have left Islam are to be treated.

One fatwa, No. 13, is especially interesting. It is dated from 1996, and mentions a Jordanian Christian by name. In this fatwa a legal inquiry is presented by someone whom the Gram Mufti refers to as ‘a respected lawyer’. Evidence is tendered that the individual has returned to Christianity after having been a Muslim. The accused however is claiming his right to become a Christian, on the grounds that Jordan’s Constitution guarantees freedom of religion. But what is the Grand Mufti's verdict? In reply, the Grand Mufti rules that the man is an apostate, and can be prosecuted. This fatwa is especially relevant because it demonstrates that, according to the Grand Mufti, there is no freedom of religion for Muslims to choose whether to believe in Islam, and no human rights for Christians who have left Islam.

Verses of the Qur’an, as well as hadiths (traditions) of Muhammad are cited by the Grand Mufti to support his rulings: some of these authorities are reproduced below.1

Here are some of the points made in the Grand Mufti’s fatwas. (The pronoun ‘he’ is used to refer to the apostate, following the Arabic, although the penalties apply to both men and women):

  • If a Muslim rejects Islam, he is to be declared an apostate.

Whoever desires a religion other than Islam, it shall not be accepted from him and in the Hereafter he shall be among the losers. (Sura 3:58)

  • Apostasy must be proved by the actions or declarations of belief of the apostate.

  • To be declared an apostate, someone must be an adult (having attained puberty), and be in their right mind.

  • Someone who is coerced to renounce Islam overtly, while remaining a believer in their heart, cannot be declared to be an apostate:

Whoever disbelieves in God after [having affirmed] his faith — except for him who is compelled, while his heart is at rest in faith — but he who opens up his breast to unbelief, upon such shall be wrath from God, and there is a great chastisement for them. (Sura 16:106)

  • Before an apostate is sentenced, he must be invited to repent and come back to Islam:

Say to the disbelievers, that if they desist, that which is past will be forgiven them; but if they return, the way of [dealing with] the ancients has already gone before! (Sura 8:38)

  • The punishment for apostasy is death, mandated by Allah when he said ‘sedition (fitna) is graver than slaying’:

They ask you about the sacred month, and fighting in it. Say, ‘Fighting in it is a grave thing; but to bar from God’s way, and disbelief in Him, and the Sacred Mosque, and to expel its people from it – that is graver in God's sight; and sedition is graver than slaying.’ They will not cease to fight against you until they turn you from your religion if they are able; and whoever of you turns from his religion, and dies disbelieving – their works have failed in this world and the Hereafter. Those are the inhabitants of the Fire, abiding therein. (Sura 2:217)

  • The death penalty is also supported by clear sayings of Muhammad (hadiths):

    • The prophet said ‘Whoever changes his religion, kill him.’2

    • Muhammad gave three reasons for which the killing of a Muslim is a legal act: infidelity after belief, adultery after marriage, and murder (defined as the illegal killing of another).3

  • The sentence for apostasy must be passed by the Muslim ruler.

  • If the apostate is not put to death, other rules apply:

    • His marriage is annulled by virtue of his apostasy.

    • He cannot not inherit the wealth of any of his relatives – whether they are Muslims or not – because the apostate is legally regarded as dead.

    • None of his actions after apostasy has any legal validity (as the apostate is a legal non-person).

    • An apostate cannot remarry, whether to a Muslim or a non-Muslim.

    • He cannot be a guardian for anyone else, so he loses custody of his children, and an apostate father has no say over his daughters’ marriages.

Those who wait in watch for you, and, if a victory comes to you from God, say, ‘Were we not with you?’ but if the disbelievers have some luck, they say, ‘Did we not gain mastery over you, and did we not defend you against the believers?’ God will judge between you on the Day of Resurrection, and God will never grant the disbelievers a way over the believers. (Sura 4:141)

    • An apostate must not be prayed for by Muslims after their death, and must not be buried in a Muslim cemetery.

    • If a male apostate repents and comes back to Islam, and wishes to resume his marriage, he must remarry his wife with a new ceremony, and provide a new dowry for her.

    • The apostate’s wealth and possessions are to be entailed upon an heir. If the apostate repents and returns to Islam, he receives his wealth back. If he dies while still apostate, his wealth is inherited by his Muslim heir, but only the amount which he had at the time of his apostasy. Any wealth which has accrued after he left Islam is considered fay4 (and thus the collective property of the Muslim community).

Implications for dialogue

It does not seem to be the case that the signatories of A Common Word understand concepts such as justice, loving one’s neighbour and ‘freedom of religion’ in the same way that most Christians would. The Chief Scholar of the Royal Aal al-Bayt Institute, who was a highly prominent signatory of the Common Word letter, is calling for Christians who have converted to Islam to be killed, or else they should be deprived of their rights and treated legally as ‘dead men walking.’ Indeed, because these fatwas are available over the internet, former Grand Mufti and the Royal Aal al-Bayt Institute are effectively calling for the death of Christians day after day, and will do so until this material is taken down from the site.

Christians — and many others as well — will regard this as a moral inconsistency. How can anyone invite Christians to affirm loving one’s neighbour and freedom of religion, and at the same time promote the killing of Christians, just because they have left Islam? If freedom of religion means anything, it means the right to choose what one believes. This is an excellent issue to raise in interfaith dialogue with the signatories of A Common Word.

It is also worth asking how peace can be achieved in this world as long as violence is promoted as the way to resolve religious differences.

Christians who wish to enter into dialogue with Muslims on the basis of the invitation offered to them in A Common Word should ask the Aal al-Bayt Institute to take the apostasy fatwas off its website, and offer an public apology to former Muslims for inciting hatred and violence against them. This would be a most welcome sign of good will, and demonstrate a commitment to universal values of reciprocity, love for one’s neighbour and freedom of religion.

Finally, the Christian scholars and leaders who have signed letters welcoming A Common Word should consider withdrawing their signatures.


1 The English translation of the Qur’an used here is that produced by the Aal al-Bayt Institute. This can also be found on

2 Sahih al-Bukhari 9.57.

3 ‘The blood of a Muslim who confesses that none has the right to be worshipped but Allah and that I am His Apostle, cannot be shed except in three cases: … for murder; a married person who commits illegal sexual intercourse; and the one who reverts from Islam …’ (Sahih al-Bukari 9.83.17.)

4 Derived from a root meaning to ‘return to a good state’ or ‘restore’, fay is reported by the great Arabic lexicographer Lane to mean ‘the possessions of the unbelievers, as accrues to the Muslims’ without war, or after the cessation of hostilities. This bloodless booty is what Allah has ‘restored to the people of his religion, of the possessions of those who have opposed them, without fighting, either by the latter’s quitting their homes and leaving them vacant to the Muslims, or by their making peace on the condition of paying a poll-tax or other money or property to save themselves from slaughter.’ (Lane’s Arabic-English Lexicon. Vol 6, p. 252, citing Al-Azhari, a tenth century Arabic lexicographer.)

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Christians in Betlehem,Gaza and South Lebanon are suffering the "Fay" horrific injustice that their homes and lands are being confiscated by their moslim rulers' interpretation of this Islamic belief system.. Pure theft! Contrary to Israel's way in '48:Israel offered the Arabs to stay. Only when they left and did not return after the Arab armies / leaders instructed them to leave all and to return after the Jews have been pushed into the sea.Israel even offered the following day via the radio to return to their homes,otherwise those who fled would be seen as collaborators with the enemy."The Apostasy Fatwas"' Quote of FAY: Derived from a root meaning to ‘return to a good state’ or ‘restore’, fay is reported by the great Arabic lexicographer Lane to mean ‘the possessions of the unbelievers, as accrues to the Muslims’ without war, or after the cessation of hostilities. This bloodless booty is what Allah has ‘restored to the people of his religion, of the possessions of those who have opposed them, without fighting, either by the latter’s quitting their homes and leaving them vacant to the Muslims, or by their making peace on the condition of paying a poll-tax or other money or property to save themselves from slaughter.’ (Lane’s Arabic-English Lexicon. Vol 6, p. 252, citing Al-Azhari, a tenth century Arabic lexicographer.)

Posted by MEW on 2008-03-07 19:41:49 GMT

Apart from the sanctioning of lies, the supremicism, the supercessionism and the merciless penalties, three other matters concern me: these is no appelate process against the pronouncement of apostasy; the person pronouncing penalties is an enelected cleric; a person from the age of puberty is treated as an adult. This barbaric, pre-medieval creed must be opposed and defeated!

Posted by paul2 on 2008-02-17 12:53:45 GMT

This article is very enlightening for all those idiots believing pacific coexistence with Islam is possible but then again, look at how many cults there are in America that sprouted out like mushrooms after a rain and how many pseudo-intellectuals still worried to death about important issues such as what was first: the hen or the egg... To me is worrying the amount of converts this bloody, YES, bloody religion has been able to make among jailbirds, which I add to the fascist and racist cult of MAD DOG followers (Black Muslims) and their stupid creed, according to which all white men are demons and lets not talk about what the Koran says about Jews....

Posted on 2008-02-17 11:45:33 GMT

Promoting faith in God through deception and lies is a real losers' game. It is the trademark of the fanatic whose god is their plaything in the quest for worldly power and glory. Don't these guys know that there is a Day of Reckoning? Then again maybe they don't believe in that either.

Posted by theterribl on 2008-02-17 03:28:54 GMT

This article should be sent to all those who participate and or believe in Interfaith actions including the Leaders of our comunity

Posted by E.E. on 2008-02-16 01:01:50 GMT

To me, it is enough to read Mohammed´s teachings about duplicity, which he applied to the Jewish tribe of Mecca keeping them buttered up until such time he gathered enough followers and then killed them all. It is a book about duplicity and either the foolish and stupid western world contains it at even at risk of genocide if need be or Islam will dominate the world. Europe is already in their bag and the USA with its foolish laws Muslims are using to their advantage, is next.....

Posted on 2008-02-15 10:02:48 GMT

Looking at this reminds me of Oslo. Israel gave and Arafat and his thugs took. Even though Israel fulfilled their Oslo agreements, the Arafat clan didn't implement one "agreement". In fact he boasted about it being another well planed Trojan Horse. This "commom word" is another Trojan Horse. All Christian leaders who have signed such an agreement should be asked to step down from their positions. For whatever reason, either ignorance or stupidity, they are not capable of carrying out their duties as "protectors of the flock". This is a very serious issue. I can understand the unlearned having some difficulties in seperating the god of Islam and the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, but for the life of me I cannot understand or put up with the so-called learned and educated not knowing the difference, or even worse knowing the difference and not telling the populace the truth. Talk about wolves in sheeps clothing. I believe in the Bible, I believe in having a Torah based life, I believe Yeshua is the Messiah, but I want it known that I want nothing to do with those who call themselves believers in the Messiah of Israel and sign such documents. I am very glad my Heavenly Father makes the decision on who is and who is not a citizen of Biblical Israel, as I believe these "common word" people have lost the right to such citizenship. HaShem makes or has made the laws that Biblical Israel is to live by, known as Torah. Islam has no; I repeat NO place in the Kingdom of the one true God.

Posted by Philip Hammond. on 2008-02-15 08:27:09 GMT