The first question Islam likes to answer is: what freedom offers the One God to the faithful, when does He demand obedience. Then comes the question if one may leave the faith. Establishing the outward boundaries of faith is not yet an answer to the main question: what is faith according to Islam. It is, however, a question of concern to many people nowadays.
The practice of some Islamic countries doesn’t always offer believers these liberties at all time. In Algeria or Morocco it is allowed to leave Islam, if one abstains from propagating the new creed. In Egypt, however, it is not allowed. Who leaves Islam, may encounter difficulties, the other way round, the case of leaving Christianity, equally. Believers of small religious communities like the Baha’i are not everywhere welcome at universities, nor can they always obtain a passport or other official document. In several Islamic countries religion is mentioned in the passport and the Baha’i creed is not everywhere officially permitted. There are Islamic countries where residents without religion cannot apply for official documents or admittance to institutions either, even in those countries where members of the various religious communities hold a proportionate number of seats in the national parliament. The situation differs per country and it would be unjust to suggest that no freedom of religion exists in any Islamic country meaning that one is allowed to change religion and has access tot government positions or important documents and institutions.
However, that which the Qur’an says about change of religion, is the main rule in Islam. And it may very well differ from the present legal situation in existing states. Even the verdicts of the prophet pbuh should fit in the Qur’anic framework, according to Islam. They do so, but his sayings treat the diverse situations that he had to deal with and they still function as exemplary to the believers. The prophet’s sayings explain practical situation into more detail. Very well, what does the Qur’an say on leaving the faith:
… But hold not to the ties (marriage contract) of unbelieving women: ask for what ye have spent on their dowers, and let the (unbelievers) ask for what they have spent. Such is the command of Allah: He judges between you. And Allah is full of knowledge and wisdom. And if any of your wives deserts you to the unbelievers, and ye have your turn, then pay to those whose wives have deserted the equivalent of what they had spent and fear Allah, in Whom ye believe. Q:60:10,11
And those who accept Faith subsequently and emigrate and fight for the Faith in your company, they are of you. But kindred by blood have prior rights against each other in the Book of Allah. Verily Allah is well-acquainted with all things. Q:8:75
O Prophet! strive hard against the unbelievers and the hypocrites, and be firm against them. Their abode is Hell, an evil refuge indeed. They swear by Allah that they said nothing, but indeed they uttered blasphemy, and they uttered it after accepting islam: and they meditated a plot which they were unable to carry out: this revenge of theirs was only return for the bounty with which Allah and His Messenger had enriched them! If they repent, it will be best for them; but if they turn back, Allah (not me and you) will punish them with a grievous chastisement in this life and in the Hereafter: they shall have none on earth to protect or help them. Q:9:73,74
Those who believe, then reject Faith, then believe (again) and (again) reject Faith and go on increasing in unbelief, Allah will not forgive them nor guide them on the Way. To the hypocrites give the good tidings (so do not kill them) that there is for them a grievous chastisement. Those who take for friends unbelievers rather than believers: is it honour they seek among them? Nay, all honour is with Allah. Already has He sent you in the Book, that when ye hear the Message of Allah held in defiance and ridicule, ye are not to sit with them (this is not equal to killing them) unless they turn to a different theme: if ye did, ye would be like them. For Allah (not you and me) will collect the hypocrites and those who defy Faith all in Hell. Q:4:137-140
How shall Allah guide those who reject Faith after they accepted it and bore witness that the Messenger was true and that Clear Signs had come unto them? But Allah guides not a people unjust. Of such the reward is that on them (rests) the curse (this is not a death sentence) of Allah, of His Angels, and of all mankind, in that will they dwell; nor will their punishment be lightened, nor respite be their (lot); except for those that repent after that. And make amends; for verily Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful. But those who reject Faith after they accepted it and then go on adding to their defiance of Faith never will their repentance be accepted: for they are those who have gone astray. As to those who reject Faith, and die rejecting, never would be accepted from any such as much gold as the earth contains, though they should offer it for ransom. For such is (in store) a chastisement grievous and they will find no helpers. Q:3:86-91
It may be that Allah will establish friendship between you and those whom ye (now) hold as enemies, for Allah has power; and Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful. Allah forbids you not, with regard to those who fight you not for (your) Faith nor drive you out of your homes from dealing kindly and justly with them: for Allah loveth those who are just. Allah only forbids you, with regards to those who fight you for Faith, and drive you out of your homes and support in driving you out, from turning to them it is such as turn to them that do wrong. Q:60:7-9
… But if they turn renegades, seize them and slay them wherever ye find them; and take no friends or helpers from their ranks: except for those who join a group between whom and you there is a treaty, or those who approach you with hearts restraining them from fighting you or fighting their own people. If Allah had pleased, He could have given them power over you, and they would have fought you: therefore if they withdraw from you but fight you not, and send you peace, then Allah hath opened no way for you. Others you will find that wish to be secure from you as well as that of their people: everytime they are sent back to temptation, they succomb thereto: if they withdraw not from you nor give you (guarantees) of peace besides restraining their hands, seize them and slay them wherever ye get them: in their case We have provided you with a clear argument against them. Q:4:89-91
O ye who believe! eat not up your property among yourselves in vanities, but let there be amongst you traffic and trade by mutual good-will; nor kill yourselves: for verily Allah hath been to you Most Merciful! If any do that in rancour and injustice, soon shall We cast him into the Fire: and easy it is for Allah. Q:4:29,30
Nor take life – which Allah has made sacred – except for just cause. And if anyone is slain wrongfully, We have given his heir authority (to demand Qisas or to forgive): but let him not exceed bounds in the matter of taking life; for he is helped. Q:17:33
The punishment of those who wage war against Allah and His Messenger, and strive with might and main for mischief in the land is: execution, or crucifixion or the cutting off of hands and feet from opposite sides, or exile from the land: that is their disgrace in this world, and a heavy punishment is theirs in the Hereafter; except for those who repent before they fall into your power: in that case know that Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful. Q:5:33,34
The recompense for an injury is an injury equal thereto (in degree): but if a person forgives and makes reconciliation, his reward is due from Allah: for (Allah) loveth not those who do wrong. But indeed if any do help and defend himself after a wrong to him, against such there is no cause of blame. The blame is only against those who oppress men with wrong-doing and insolently transgress beyond bounds through the land, defying right and justice: for such there will be a chastisement grievous. But indeed if any show patience and forgive, they would truly be an affair of great resolution. Q:42:40-43
Non-Muslims like to say: whoever leaves Islam, may, no must, be killed by the islamic community. Who may be killed though? The person who killed, or persecuted and drove out the believers physically. Verbal attack on the believers or plain conversion to another creed is most certainly no reason to kill a person! Indeed the person can sincerely return to the true faith and this chance must always be offered. This shows itself the more obviously from the verse on women leaving for the non-believers. Retribution is allowed. However, we must retaliate at an equal footing. If someone is killed in the street, we are not allowed to kill a peaceful innocent soul from the adversary community. What’s more, retaliation may be a punishment other than capital; a convict’s expulsion is also an option. The Only who eventually will settle with those who left the Faith, is Allah Most High Himself.
Which traditions according the sayings of Prophet Muhammad saws, also called ahadith, exist on the topic of leaving the Faith?