Apostasy occurs in a highly polarized situation and is accompanied by a complete change of loyalties. The apostate allies with an opposing coalition of beliefs even as the former organization is perceived as being evil. Being a distinct type of religious defection, it not only marks the denouncement of a loyalty but also chronicles the apostate’s personal experience as having been “captured” and extends the narrative to a sensation of feeling “rescued”.
If the move (from one faith to another) is voluntary, then it marks a period of transition during which the person’s system of values and morals may or not be altered, together with a reaffiliation of his or her beliefs, which are altered. However, apostasy due to proselytism is just as common as apostasy born out of one’s own volition.
Having until recently been in the United Arab Emirates studying, I’ve had some of my Islamic peers in college walk up to me and another friend of mine, asking us to “come over” to the other side, all the while smiling sheepishly. At first, I was only shocked because of the blatancy. However, I’ll deem that a just reaction to anyone who’s subjected to such “requests” before being given four years to get used to it. (At the same time, we must take note of the fact that the atheist who argues with a theist is a proselytist himself and, by extension, me and my friend.)
At the fundamental level, it’s a conflict between the freedoms of two individuals: the proselytist will argue that he hath the right to speak whatever he wanteth to speak, while the other will argue that he’s being forced to listen to something he’d rather not hear. If just the religious doctrine – that so much as commands the believers of that faith to spread the “word of [our] God” – were to be considered, there is some doubt whether proselytism should be condemned (even as apostasy is).
“Let there be no compulsion in the religion: Surely the Right Path is clearly distinct from the crooked path.” – Al-Baqara 2:256, Qur’an
This line of verse from the second chapter of the Qur’an instructs the Muslims practising da’wah that there must no mandates issued that any non-Muslim is to be forced to turn to Islam and live by the will of Allah. Literally (Arabic), da’wah means “to issues summons” or “to invite”. A Muslim who practices da’wah therefore becomes the Islamic equivalent of a missionary and is called a da’i.
At the same time, the Qur’an also clearly states that accusations of disbelief must be not be made lightly against another person.
“O ye who believe! When ye go abroad in the cause of Allah, investigate carefully, and say not to any one who offers you a salutation: “Thou art none of a believer!” Coveting the perishable goods of this life: with Allah are profits and spoils abundant. Even thus were ye yourselves before, till Allah conferred on you His favours: Therefore carefully investigate. For Allah is well aware of all that ye do.” – Qur’an 4:94
Such an edict points clearly at the culpability of an individual who decides to apostatize from the Islamic faith, understandable because of the caution advised against accusing him of apostasy. This can also be interpreted from a saying of Prophet Muhammad recorded in a hadith.
“If a man is attacking a kafir [non-believer] with a spear, and it has reached his throat, and at that moment he says ‘There is no god but God’, the Muslim must immediately withdraw his spear.”
If acceptance of a god’s will is enough to redeem a man from a position of condemnation to one of brotherhood, then the rejection of the same god’s will is enough to a reject a good man with complete disregard to his previous obeisance. At this juncture, there are a few facts to be noted.
- The rejection of god’s will is punishable (by death in most nonsecular countries that find proselytism legal)
- During the tenure of an individual as a Muslim, he is either to accept god’s will or die
The second point follows directly from the first, and is in obvious conflict with the no-compulsion instruction: if it isn’t compulsory for a person to be a believer of the Islamic way of life, then it shouldn’t be compulsory for the same person to be condemned to death if he chooses to apostatize. If you argue that the second point does not follow from the first, here is some proof:
“And whoever contradicts and opposes the Messenger after the right path has been shown clearly to him, and follows other than the believers’ way, We shall keep him in the path he has chosen, and burn him in Hell – what an evil destination!” – Qur’an4:115
What is the correct interpretation? More importantly, is there a loss of context that has not been considered? What is the purpose of da’wah? When the choosing of the “right” path is statedly discretionary, why is the practice of da’wah incentivized? When the choosing of the “right” path is statedly discretionary, why is there no penalty in place to prevent compulsion? When every religion is defended as being non-violent, why is there any conflict with human rights issues? (Note: these questions are not limited to Islam, which is only an example.)
In other words, the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights being just and unalienable, are religions only waging tougher battles against the capriciousness their basilar doctrines represent after having transgressed into newer times, times that not only find the necessity of any religion reduced incredibly but also its rigours often conflicted with the methods to survive for the evolving today?