July 14, 2010

Apostasy in Iran

The question about apostasy situation in Iran has been asked from me through times, so I am going to discuss it in the following.

First let's see who is apostate in Islamic republic of Iran? An apostate is the former follower of Islam (or known to be a Muslim) that now rejects Islam. Conversion from Islam to another religion or belief makes you an apostate because that means you basically "abandoning Islam" which called apostasy in Islamic law. There is a detail definition of apostates in Shiite school perspective at end of this article.

What is the punishment of apostasy in Islamic republic of Iran? Death penalty but there is not a crime specified about apostasy in Penal Code. Faraj Sarkouhi, an Iranian journalist explained the situation:

"Tens of people have convicted of apostasy and sentenced to death in Iranian courts during past 3 decades but there are not crimes specified about apostasy in Penal Code, judges are required to use their knowledge of Islamic law and Islamic Jurisprudence in cases where no codified law exists." 1
Amil Imani, an Iranian columnist shed lights on how Iranian judges manage to legitimize execution of apostates:
At present, apostasy is illegal in most Islamic countries. Although execution of the apostate is not common, it does take place from time-to-time by frequently buttressing the “crime” with additional charges. The Islamic Republic of Iran, for instance, often adds the charge of mohareb (one who wars with God) to further legitimize its execution of apostates. A case in point pertains to the treatment of the religious minority Baha’is by the Islamic Republic. A number of Baha’is have been charged as apostates and mohareb, executed and some secretly buried in unmarked graves. 2
But, authorities in Islamic republic of Iran have tried to avoid media frenzy about this sensitive Islamic punishment so they take this stuff to their own militia. This militia has acted like judge, jury and executioner, most of the time only executioner. Paul Marshall, a senior fellow at Freedom House's Center for Religious Freedom makes crystal clear that situation has been worsening:
In the 1990s, the Islamic Republic of Iran used death squads against converts, including major Protestant leaders, and the situation is worsening under President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The regime is currently engaged in a systematic campaign to track down and reconvert or kill those who have changed their religion from Islam. 3
If we go back and study history of Islamic republic and development of Islamic militia with it, we can come to conclusion that the death squads started since the early revolution. First, they have been used to terror political opponents and purging dissidents and then enemies of Islam that Khomeini, himself was very sensitive to apostates. In fact, Islamic establishment have grown out of these death squads and terrorists.

Although between 1980 until 1989, during Khomeini era, Islamic establishment had openly punished apostates to death but still there were cases and people that they couldn't afford the public embarrassment to take them to court so Khomeini's clan used death squads to get rid of them. Victims of this kind of terror campaign usually found stabbed to death with multiple stab wounds in their body.

But execution of apostates is not new in Islamic history, in fact it was born with Islam itself. Islam means surrender and when someone chooses or forced to surrender to Islam then he/she loses everything and there is no way back out. Amil Imani put together a great collection of verses from Quran and Hadithes about punishment for apostates:
Apostasy is defined both in the Quran as well as the Sharia and its punishment is clearly stipulated:

“Those who blasphemed and back away from the ways of Allah and die as blasphemers, Allah shall not forgive them.” [Qur'an 4:48]

Islamic law does not allow the freedom to choose one's religion:

“Let there be no compulsion in the religion: Clearly the Right Path (i.e. Islam) is distinct from the crooked path.” [Qur'an 2:256]

The Quran also specifically addresses the issue of murtad milli:

“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 (of set purpose) gone astray.” [Qur'an 3:90]

The Hadith further restates the provision of the Quran regarding punishment of the apostate:

“Kill whoever changes his religion.” __Sahih al-Bukhari 9:84:57

“The blood of a Muslim who confesses that none has the right to be worshiped but Allah and that I am His Apostle, cannot be shed except in three cases: In Qisas for murder, a married person who commits illegal sexual intercourse and the one who reverts from Islam (apostate) and leaves the Muslims.”__ Sahih al-Bukhari 9:83:17
This public condemnation of apostates and inciting hate towards them doesn't stop here. Islamic clerics have frequently mentioned "apostates don't deserve to live the life and they should be killed". During Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in Iran, Judges had order to punish apostates, non-believers, blasphemous people to death penalty without any discretion. Ayatollah Khomeini to guide Muslims wrote in his book:
"If an innate apostate repents, his repentance is not acceptable and his punishment is still intact and has no effect in regaining his property and his wife. His possessions that divided between the heirs, he won't get them back either, even though if he claims he is a Muslim at heart. And punishment for the [innate] apostasy is that if the apostate is a man, he should be killed, and if the apostate is a woman, she will get life imprisonment and during five daily prayers, she should be lashed. They have to give her hard time on her life, water and food to push her to repent, and because her repentance is acceptable. Then if she repents, she will be free. But a milli apostate should be given chance to repent, if he refuses to repent, he should be killed. A word of caution, it is better to ask the apostate to repent and should be killed on the fourth day."  4
Ayatollah Khomeini in his speeches frequently used to threat apostates or people who ridicule mullahs with death penalty. He talked about apostates quite often. i. e.
"Whoever insults Prophet, whoever insults sacred Imams, there is an obligation for Muslims to kill him" 5

"If anyone ridicules a mullah, he ridicules Islam. If he does it intentionally (he is sane, not crazy) then he is an innate apostate. His wife is forbidden to him. His possessions must also be given to heirs. He should be killed."  6
Ayatollah Khazali said:
"Jihad means slaying enemies' blood when he weakens people's belief. Commanding the just means, lady cover your face. Why some would say let people decide on their own? Who the hell are people? People fulfill god's wishes. People are respected and precious only to carry out god's wishes, not to disturb it." 7
Mullah Hasani, Supreme Leader's representative in West Azerbaijan and leader of Friday Prayer in Urmia city said:
"According to Islamic tradition, anyone who heard of apostasy, it is an obligation to kill him [the apostate]. During recent five-six years, how much chain newspaper committed apostasy."  8
Now that we established that apostasy is already punishable by death in Iran, the question is why did Islamic Iran propose to make the death penalty for apostasy part of the penal code? Amil Imani answers that:
"Apostasy -- or the formal renunciation of religion -- is already punishable in Iran with death. But now, Iran wants to make the death penalty for apostasy part of the penal code. The European Union is concerned and has asked Iran to reconsider.” Who is an apostate according to the legislation? Anyone in the world, not just Iranians, born to a Muslim parent; also, any convert to Islam who leaves it. Only one parent needs to be a Muslim at the time of conception for Islam to own that child for life. Islam is Ummahist. Islam doesn’t recognize nationalities and national boundaries. And these Islamist zealots are very serious and have no sense of humor. Some say they have no sense at all, and they may be right. What they certainly have is a thirst for blood, particularly for the blood of infidels and apostates."
How about two reformists that charged with apostasy?

This is the question that many have asked me because it publicized in Wikipedia too and unfortunately it is not well updated. In recent years, there have been only two apostasy cases that have become public in Iran. Hashem Aghajari and Hassan Youssefi Eshkevari - both reformists - have been arrested and charged with apostasy in the Islamic Republic of Iran. The only motive behind their apostasy charges were solely political, not for self-professed conversion to another faith or abandoning Islam. Both of them have been committed Muslim and they have never claimed otherwise. Later their charges were overturned and they convicted on minor offences.9 None of these two high-profile reformists were executed.

On the case of Hashem Aghajari, specifically Ayatollah Khamenei, Islamic Iran's Supreme Leader and Ayatollah Hashemi Shahroudi who was then head of the judiciary intervened and rejected the apostasy allegation:
"According to Islamic jurisprudence, Hashem Aghajari's case is not apostasy." 10

Martin Luther said "Reason is the enemy of faith" and apostasy law is the medieval law, there, only to limit mankind by slaving his mind and so his life. Apostasy laws are there to advance idiotic religious authority over masses and sadly, to kill them when people reject the religious idea. Apostasy law is a gross violation of human rights. For now, I am hoping less people would be sacrificed with these barbaric doctrine in Islamic Iran.

Detail definition:

There are two types of apostates according to Shitte Islamic school: 11
  1. Innate apostate (Murtad Fitri) means a person who is born of a Muslim parent and then he rejects Islam. "Fitrah" means creation. The term Innate apostate implies that the person has apostated from the faith in which he was born (In Islamic belief, "created" is the right word).
  2. Milli apostate (Murtad Milli, translated as voluntary apostate) means a person who converted to Islam and then later on he rejects Islam. Milli is from millat which means religion. The term Milli apostate implies that the person has apostated from his religion and the Muslim community.
Sunni Islamic school does not differentiate apostates in this regard.


1. Faraj Sarkoohi, Passing the execution of apostates' bill; Fear of non-Islamic tendencies? (Persian), RadioFarda, 26 February 2008

2. Amil Imani, The Anachronism of Apostasy, 12 February 2010

3. Paul Marshall, Apostates from Islam, The Weekly Standard, April 10, 2006, Vol. 11, No. 28

4. Ayatollah Khomeini, Tahrir al-Wassilah. Tahrir al-Wassilah is a book (in two volumes and four editions) written in Arabic language to guide Muslims.

5. Sahifeh-e Nour (Sahifeh Noor or Sahifeye Noor) on Vol. 7, P. 182. it is a book collection of Ayatollah Khomeini's speeches, orders and recommendations.

6. Sahifeh-e Nour (Sahifeh Noor or Sahifeye Noor) on Vol. 14, P. 376

7. يالثارات الحسين journal, Vol. 80, P. 4

8. Hamshahri newspaper (Persian), Dec. 17, 2002

9. Iranian university professor Hashem Aghajari who was sentenced to death, instead, was sentenced to five years in prison (Persian), VOA, July 20, 2004

10. Hashem Aghajari death sentence have been revoked, BBC Persian, June 01, 2004

11. Sayyid Muhammad Rizvi, Irtidad (Apostasy) in Islam


Anonymous said...

Mr. Imani is not an atheist. He believes in God.

Fariborz said...

Well, I didn't say he doesn't. In fact I do not know him and I do not know who is he. I only qouted some of his points.

Winston said...

I'll be more than glad to link to this awesome blog. Thanks for it

Anonymous said...

I would like to exchange links with your site www.blogger.com
Is this possible?

Fariborz said...


sorry for delay, let me just figure out what I am gonna do for blogrolling and probably make an icon for this Iranian Atheist too.

@ Anonymous
of course blogger.com will have a link here too. Iranian Atheist hosted on blogger.com.

Anonymous said...

hi , can u start a comunity like american atheists . can we do this . i hope that .... tell us .

Fariborz said...

@ Anonymous

Hi. I think we can. Would you like to contribute?

Anonymous said...

If you are open to having a guest blog poster please reply and let me know. I will provide you with unique content for your blog, thanks.

Anonymous said...

found your site on del.icio.us today and really liked it.. i bookmarked it and will be back to check it out some more later

Anonymous said...

Terrific work! This is the type of information that should be shared around the web. Shame on the search engines for not positioning this post higher!

Anonymous said...

What a great web log. I spend hours on the net reading blogs, about tons of various subjects. I have to first of all give praise to whoever created your theme and second of all to you for writing what i can only describe as an fabulous article. I honestly believe there is a skill to writing articles that only very few posses and honestly you got it. The combining of demonstrative and upper-class content is by all odds super rare with the astronomic amount of blogs on the cyberspace.

Anonymous said...

It is terrific work - keep cross linking and blogging - you'll get there.
Bill, UK Atheist.

Anonymous said...

very nice work, why there is no freedom in muslim countries for religion and women. i think religion is root of every problem.

Anonymous said...

thanks for the interesting information