However, on the issue of apostasy, the Qur'ān only talks about the consequence of an apostate in the hereafter: whether his repentance will be accepted or not; the nullification of his good deeds; and the punishment in the hereafter. The laws dealing with worldly punishments for apostasy have been outlined in the authentic and reliable ahādāth of the Imams of Ahlul Bayt (a.s.).10
Here is a selection of the ahādāth on this issue:
1. Shaykh al-Kulayni narrates a sahāh (correct) hadith from `Ammār as-Sābāti who said: I heard (Imam) Abu `Abdullāh (as-Sādiq) (a.s.) saying, "A Muslim from among the Muslims who renounces Islam and rejects the prophethood of Muhammad and considers him untrue, then verily his blood is lawful (mubāh) for anyone who hears that from him, his wife is to be separated from him the day he became murtad, his wealth will be divided among his heirs, and his wife will observe the`idda of a widow (i.e., four months). The Imam is obliged to kill him, and not ask him to seek forgiveness."11
2. Shaykh at-Tusi narrates a sahāh hadāth from al-Husayn bin Sa`ād who said: I read (a question) in handwriting of a person addressed to (Imam) Abu 'l-Hasan ar-Rizā (a.s.): "A person born as a Muslim, then becomes an unbeliever (kāfir),polytheist (mushrik), and leaves Islam--should he be asked to seek forgiveness, or should he be killed and not be asked to seek forgiveness?" The Imam (a.s.) wrote: "He should be killed."12
3. Shaykh al-Kulayni narrates a sahāh hadāth from `Ali ibn Ja`far from his brother (Imam) Abu 'l-Hasan (Musa al-Kāzim) (a.s.). `Ali ibn Ja`far said, "I asked him about a Muslim who became Christian." He answered, "He should be killed and not be asked to seek forgiveness." Then I asked: "What about a Christian who becomes a Muslim and then turns away from Islam (i.e., becomes murtad)?" He replied, "He should be asked to seek forgiveness; so if he returns (to Islam, then okay), otherwise he should be killed."13 This hadāth covers both types of murtad: fitri as well as milli.
4. Shaykh as-Sadāq quotes a sahāh hadith from Muhammad bin Muslim who said that (Imam) Abu Ja`far (al-Bāqir) (a.s.) said, "Whoever rejects the prophethood of a prophet/messenger and considers him untrue, then his blood is lawful."14
5. Shaykh al-Kulayni quotes a sahāh hadith from Muhammad bin Muslim who said, "I asked (Imam) Abu Ja`far (al-Bāqir) (a.s.) about the murtad." He said, "Whoever turns away from Islam and rejects what has been revealed to Muhammad (s.a.w.) after he had been a Muslim, then there is no repentance for him; rather it is obligatory to kill him; and his wife should separate from him, and his wealth should be distributed among his heirs."15
All these five ahādith are authentic and sound from the sanad(chain of narrators) point of view; and even their meaning is quite clear.16
This is the opinion of all the Sh`iah jurists. For example, Shaykh Muhammad Hasan an-Najafi, after discussing the ahādāth on murtad fitri in his renowned encyclopedia of Sh`iah jurisprudence, Jawāhiru 'l-Kalām, says: "There is no considerable difference that I have found in the above-mentioned laws; on the contrary, there is unanimity (ijmā`) of both kinds on them because of the textual evidences quoted earlier."17
Neither is this a new or a debatable issue one among the Sh`iah jurists. Even the scholars of the past centuries had the same views; for example, Shaykh at-Tusi (d. 460 AH) in an-Nihāya; Ibn Idris (d. 598 A.H.) in as-Sarā'ir; Ibn Hamza at-Tusi in al-Wasila, al-Muhaqqiq al-Hilli (d. 676 AH) inSharāya`u 'l-Islām, al-`Allāma al-Hilli (d. 726 AH) in Qawā`idu 'l-Ahkām, and the First Martyr (d. 786 AH) and the Second Martyr in Sharhu 'l-Lum`ati 'd-Dimishqiyya.
Those who might suspect a division on this issue between the "usuli" and the "akhbāri" schools, should know that even themuhaddithān have chapters in their collections of hadith on "the punishment for murtad" citing the ahādāth on this subject. See, for example, Shaykh Hurr al-`āmili, who has seven pages of ahādāth under the title "abwāb haddi 'l-murtad -- sections on the punishment for murtad" in the 18th volume of hisWasiā'ilu 'sh-Shā`a.
9. For the discussion on the place of the Qur'ān and the sunnah in shari`ah, see my An Introduction to the Islamic Shari`ah.
10. Those who know Arabic and have the aptitude to handle thefiqh istidlāli text may refer to the late Ayatullāh al-Khu'i'sMabāni Takmilati Minhāji 's-Salihiyn, vol. 1, pp. 324-337 for the ahādith used by our jurists.
11. Furu al-Kāfi, vol. 7, p. 257. This hadith has also been quoted by Shaykh as-Sadāq, Man la Yahdhuruhu al-Faqāh,vol. 3, p.89, and Shaykh at-Tusi, Tahdhibu 'l-Ahkām, vol. 10, p. 136
12. Tahdhibu 'l-Ahkām, vol. 10, p. 139
13. Furu` al-Kāfi, vol. 7, p. 257. It has also been quoted by Shaykh at-Tusi, Tahdhibu 'l-Ahkām, vol. 10, 138.
14. Man La Yahzuruhu 'l-Faqih, vol. 4, p. 76.
15. Furā` al-Kāfi, vol. 7, p. 256; it has also been quoted by Shaykh at-Tusi, Tahdhibu 'l-Ahkām, vol. 10, p. 136.
16. For the authenticity of these ahādith, see Sayyid Abu 'l-Qāsim al-Khā'i, Mabāni Takmilati Minhāji 's-Sālihiyn, vol. 1, pp. 324-337 and also the transcript of his lectures by Shaykh al-Gharawi, at-Tanqāh, vol. 3, p. 224-229.
17. Jawāhiru 'l-Kalām, vol. 41, p. 605. By both kinds of unanimity, he means "al-ijmā` al-manqāl -- the unanimity of jurists of all times as quoted by one or more jurist" as well as "al-ijmā` al-mahassal -- the unanimity of the jurists of all times as ascertained by studying their views".