FMC Blog: Free Speech Zone

Free Muslims Applaud Release of Afghani who was Sentenced to Death for Converting to Christianity

Note: Islamic scholar, Professor Khaleel Mohammed was consulted on the religious matters discussed, and has provided significant advice and contribution to this statement.

The Free Muslim Coalition is appalled by the decision of the Afghani Attorney General to prosecute Abdul Rahman, under the opaque article 130 of the Afghani constitution, which permits the Attorney-General to bring prosecutions that fall outside the criminal code, in accordance with "Hanafi (a school of Islamic legal thought) jurisprudence". Mr Rahman has been charged under article 130, for "attacking Islam", through his conversion to Christianity from Islam. According to Judge Alhaj Ansarullah Mawlawy Zada, who will be trying the case, Mr Rahman faces the prospect of death by hanging.

The determination to prosecute and any subsequent punishment is in clear violation of the laws of the Qur'an, Islamic jurisprudence and Afghanistan's obligations pursuant to international human rights law. FMC appeals to the Afghan Attorney General and President, Hamid Karzai to immediately drop all charges against Mr Rahman, make provision for his immediate release, and provide him and his family with adequate protection from state and non-state actors. In addition, Afghanistan should repeal article 130 and any other legislative provision that violates the fundamental freedoms of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to which Afghanistan is a signatory to.

The Qur'an

The Qur'an guarantees freedom of religion and conscience. It prescribes no earthly punishment for a Muslim who effectively leaves Islam for another religion. The Qur'an makes the following, authoritative proclamations:

There shall be no compulsion in religion: the right way is now distinct from the wrong way. Anyone who denounces the devil and believes in GOD has grasped the strongest bond; one that never breaks. GOD is Hearer, Omniscient. [2:256]

Say, ‘O you who disbelieve! I don't worship what you worship. Nor do you worship what I worship. And I'm not worshipping what you worship. Nor are you worshipping what I worship. To you is your religion and to me is my religion.' [109:1-6]

So remind. You are only a reminder. You are not a dictator over them. He who turns away and disbelieves, God will punish him with a great punishment. Certainly to us is their return. Then certainly upon us is their reckoning. [88:21-26]

Say, "I have solid proof from my Lord, and you have rejected it. I do not control the retribution you challenge me to bring. Judgment belongs with GOD alone. He narrates the truth, and He is the best judge." [6:57]

The implication of these verses is that while an individual who leaves Islam may face punishment from God in the afterlife, they are immune from punishment in life. Furthermore, the Qur'an proclaims that Jews and Christians are accorded the protected status of ahl-al kitab or People of the Book:

"Believers, Jews, Christians, and Sabaeans -- whoever believes in God and the Last Day and does what is right -- shall be rewarded by their Lord; they have nothing to fear or to regret." [2:62]

The jurisprudence to which the Afghani law is based on, does not arise from the Qur'an, but from traditions attributed to the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). These specific traditions, are general in nature, and do not provide adequate guidance in the case of Mr Rahman, particularly in light of the countless traditions which espouse the mercy of the Prophet. Furthermore, the two particular hadith from which form the penalty of death for apostasy is based upon, when read from a contextualist perspective, show that apostasy at the time of the Prophet Muhammad was coupled with seditious and treasonous acts against the Islamic state. During this time period, the Islamic state faced a number of non-Muslim enemies. In our view, application of these particular traditions (as well as traditions of a similar nature that can be interpreted to violate the human rights of Muslim and non Muslim peoples) in the modern Muslim world is misguided, particularly in light of the obligations of Muslim countries to protect universal human rights.

However, application of these laws without concurrent, clear evidence of seditious or treasonous conduct would place Mr Rahman outside the scope of the offence under traditional Islamic jurisprudence. From all indicators, Mr Rahman is a model citizen, who is involved in the preservation of life and care of the ill. In this regard FMC invokes the Islamic jurisprudential doctrine of "Amaan", or "safe conduct" which provides protection and immunity to non-Muslims. Such a declaration is valid when the non-Muslim in question has not committed acts of or analogous to sedition or treason. A similar declaration has been made by a Muslim organisation in Kabul.

Domestic and International Human Rights Law

The prosecution of Mr Rahman contravenes the Afghani constitution, which guarantees the freedom of religion and conscience and international human rights standards, specifically the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the ICCPR.

Article 7 of the Afghan Constitution

Article 7 of the draft Afghani Constitution declares: "the state shall abide by the UN Charter, international treaties, international conventions that Afghanistan has signed, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights". Afghanistan is a signatory to the ICCPR, a treaty to which Afghanistan is legally bound to follow.


Article 18 enshrines the freedom of thought, conscience and religion: "Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion" and that "this right shall include freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice". According to the Human Rights Committee's General Comment 22, this necessitates that the freedom to ‘have or to adopt' a religion or belief necessarily entails the freedom to choose a religion or belief, including the right to replace one's current religion or belief with another or to adopt atheistic views, as well as the right to retain one's religion or belief". The Comment elucidates further that the "the use of threat of physical force or penal sanctions to compel believers or non-believers to adhere to their religious beliefs to recant their religion or belief or to convert" is prohibited.

Clearly, from the view of the Qur'an and international human rights law, the prosecution of Mr Rahman is illegal. FMC stands in solidarity with Mr Rahman, and reiterates that charges against him be rescinded, he is released and that he be provided with adequate protection. Further, the Afghani constitution should be amended to provide specific protection for individuals in Mr Rahman's situation. Sadly, application of the penalty of death for the "crime" of apostasy is not limited to Afghanistan, but occurs in other Muslim countries.

Further FMC invokes the doctrine of Amaan, and orders the government of Afghanistan to protect him from harm. Failure to meet this obligation, according to Islamic jurisprudence is haram.

FMC will petition the government of Afghanistan, and if necessary submit an amicus curie brief on behalf of Mr Rahman to the Afghani court. FMC would also be willing to present oral submissions to that court.

Posted March 27, 2006 by Thomas Haidon