THE LAW OF APOSTASY IN ISLAM
THE LAW OF APOSTASY
ANSWERING THE QUESTION WHY THERE
ARE SO FEW MOSLEM CONVERTS, AND
GIVING EXAMPLES OF THEIR MORAL
COURAGE AND MARTYRDOM
SAMUEL M. ZWEMER
MARSHALL BROTHERS, LTD,
LONDON, EDINBURGH & NEW YORK
Printed in Great Britain
Hunt, Barnard <S- Co., Ltd.,
PREFACE . . 7
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS . . . . . . . . 12
I. WHY so FEW MOSLEM CONVERTS ? . . . . 13
II. THE LAW OF APOSTASY . . 31
III. How IT WORKS 55
IV. CENTURIES OF INTOLERANCE AND PERSECUTION 75
V. HIDDEN DISCIPLES . . . . . . . . 103
VI. THE DAWN OF A NEW ERA 129
VII. BIBLIOGRAPHY . . . . 163
" The question of apostasy has furnished detractors of Islam a fruitful
source of alleging all kinds of barbarities against the Faith of Muhammad
(peace and blessings be upon his holy soul /) , and never was an allegation
more ill-founded than this. The habit which makes itself responsible for
laying such and other baseless and highly unjust charges at the door of
Islam is the psychological result of a mental activity in which the chief
elements are those of an inherent prejudice against Islam combined with
ignorance. It is the ignorance of the true and genuine Islam which
manifests itself so frequently in the Press and on the platform of
Christian missionary propaganda in so many ways in which its tenets
are depicted in the blackest of colours."
" Islamic Review," November 1916.
THE story is told that Damocles, at the court of Dionysius of
Sicily, pronounced the latter the happiest man on earth. When,
however, Damocles was permitted to sit on the royal throne,
he perceived a sword hanging by a horse-hair over his head.
The imagined felicity vanished, and he begged Dionysius to
remove him from his seat of peril. To-day we read of new
mandatories, of liberty, and of promised equality to minorities
under Moslem rule ; and newspapers assert that a new era
has come to the Near East. Economic development, in
tellectual awakening, reforms, constitutions, parliaments and
promises ! Does the sword of Damocles, however, still hang
over the head of each convert from Islam to Christianity ? Is
the new Islam more tolerant than the old ? Will the lives and
property of converts be protected, and the rights of minorities
be respected ? This little book is an attempt to answer one
aspect of these large questions, which are all of vital impor
tance to the work of Christian Missions.
Again and again has European pressure, aided by a few
educated Orientals, endeavoured to secure equality before the
law for all religions and races in the Near East. But as often
as the attempt was made it proved a failure, each new failure
more ghastly than the last. The reason is that the conscience
and the faith of the most sincere and upright Moslems are
bound up with the Koran and the Traditions. Civilization
cannot eradicate deep-seated convictions. Rifles and iron
clads, the caf 6, the theatre, written constitutions, representative
parliaments ; none of these reach far below the surface.
A truer freedom, a deeper religious experience, a higher life
than the one supplied by their own faith, must come before
Moslems can enter into the larger liberty which we enjoy.
Dr. Snouck Hurgronje, who cannot be suspected either of
ignorance or of prejudice in what he writes on this subject,
says : " The whole set of laws which, according to Islam,
should regulate the relations between believers and un
believers, is the most consequent elaboration imaginable of
a mixture of religion and of politics in their mediaeval form.
That he who possesses material power should also dominate
the mind is accepted as a matter of course ; the possibility
that adherents of different religions could live together as
citizens of the same state and with equal rights is excluded.
Such was the situation in the Middle Ages not only with
Mohammedans : before and even long after the Reformation
our ancestors did not think very differently on the matter.
The difference is chiefly this, that Islam has fixed all these
mediaeval regulations in the form of eternal laws, so that
later generations, even if their views have changed, find it hard
to emancipate themselves from them." l
Among the laws that regulate the relation between the
Moslem community and those who wish to leave it and join
some other faith, is the law of apostasy. To show what
this law is ; how it works in the community and towards
the individual ; what effect it has had on the relations of
Islam to Christianity ; and how it is necessary to abrogate
this law, or modify it, that there may be liberty of con
science and freedom to confess Christ such is the purpose
of this little book.
In its preparation we have consulted the Arabic sources,
and other literature given in the bibliography. We are also
indebted to correspondence received from missionary workers
in many lands from Java and Western China, to Morocco
and Nigeria. Their united testimony is the more important,
because it covers so large an area, and comes from unimpeach
Recent Moslem writers, especially those of the Woking
school, have attempted to show that Islam always was and
is now a religion of tolerance. They have emphasized the
one Koran text that seems to inculcate such a doctrine.
" Surely those who believe, and those who are Jews, and the
Sabaeans, and the Christians whosoever believes in Allah
and the Last Day, and does good they shall have no fear,
1 The Holy War, by Dr. C. Snouck Hurgronje (Putman, New York, 1915),
pp. 10, ii.
neither shall they grieve" (v : 69). This text, however, has
not proved a Magna Charta of liberty for minorities in any
Moslem land, not in Arabia during the seventh century, not
even in Egypt or India during the twentieth century.
Khwajah Kemal-ud-Din in his recent book, India in the
Balance (p. 136), says, "As to the change of religion and its
penalty under the Moslem rule, there need be no misgiving.
In Islam there is no penalty for apostasy." Such a statement
is categorical. He goes on to say, " Islam is not a religion
of the sword. On the contrary, it is a religion of peaceful
conversion, tolerant in ideal and altogether democratic in its
world vision. As such it must be judged by its principles and
its laws and not by their breach."
In the Islamic Review (November 1916) we read : "It can
be very safely asserted that Islam does not prescribe any
punishment in this world for apostasy. This, for very
obvious reasons, is due to the fact that the greatest triumphs
of the True Religion of Allah have throughout lain in the fact
of its being extremely rational, persuasive, and human."
And (to quote one more apologist for Islam) Mohammed Ali,
M.A., in his English translation of the Koran has a footnote
on the subject of apostasy, in which he states that " neither
here nor anywhere else in the Holy Koran is there even a hint of
the infliction of capital or any other punishment on the apostate."
While the Islamic Review, not satisfied with this special plea
regarding the Koran, makes an appeal to Tradition, saying
that " the life of the Holy Prophet, whose each and every
act has been minutely recorded by historians, likewise is
destitute of any direct or indirect reference which might give
us any hint as to the apostate having been condemned to die
solely for his change of faith." Such statements cannot be
allowed to stand unchallenged. This little book may be
considered as a presentation of the facts on the other side of
the question ; and we leave the decision to the candid reader.
Cairo, 1924. S. M. ZWEMER.
PREFACE . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7
Is Islam a religion of tolerance ? Opinion of Islamic scholars
Is there no penalty for apostasy ? This book the answer.
CHAPTER I. WHY so FEW MOSLEM CONVERTS ? 13
The indisputable fact that converts are few Various reasons
alleged The true reason given is the law of apostasy
Testimony from Egypt, a convert s letter Constantinople
Nigeria India Algeria Tunisia Java Sumatra
CHAPTER II. THE LAW OF APOSTASY . . . . 31
In the Koran Texts quoted and explained The importance
of Tradition How and when collected Its authority
Traditions on how Mohammed dealt with apostates Woking
denies that this Tradition is germane Hanifi law regarding
the apostate His property, family and person The death
penalty His children Maliki law according to Capt. F. H.
Ruxton The law in Turkey How it was modified Other
authorities The Minhaj-at-Talibin Summary in Al Mad-
khal Marriage annulled Act in India to mitigate this law
of apostasy How the law produces intolerance towards
missionaries In the fourteenth century at Trebizond And
in the nineteenth century the Armenian Massacres and
CHAPTER III. How IT WORKS 55
The law not a dead letter Doughty in Arabia A convert
threatened in East Arabia In Michigan University In
stances in Egypt In the Delta an inquirer is poisoned
The baptism at Sanabo Other cases of persecution in Egypt
In Turkey In Nigeria The martyr of Smyrna Shems
id-Din Mirza Paulos of Persia Use of poison in North
Africa Exporting converts from Syria to Egypt An Afridi
lad stoned to death for Christ What a girl convert suffered
in Java An Aden Arab threatened Conditions in Palestine
India Testimony of Sir S. K. Scott-Moncrieff The
martyr of Afghanistan A White Father " passed for
CHAPTER IV. CENTURIES OF INTOLERANCE AND
PERSECUTION . . . . 75
Who were the earliest apostates ? Obeidallah ibn Jahsh
Their fate War declared against apostates after Mohammed s
death What toleration of Christians meant Conditions
imposed on those who were tolerated Laws to show
disability and inferiority Gibbon s summary Toleration
became intolerable Dress and social position of Christians
Forced conversion to Islam in Persia The ordinances of
Omar Christians not to hold office Persecution of the
Copts and its result Martrydom of Geronimo A tragedy
in stone The burial permits given to Christians and Jews
Jihad and the Armenian Massacres Religious assassination
Even among the Bahais Conversions to Christianity
in all these centuries The ritual used Joseph Pitts made
Moslem His visit to Mecca Henry Martyn s earliest
convert " Whosoever shall confess Me before men."
CHAPTER V. HIDDEN DISCIPLES 103
Nicodemus came by night Such are found everywhere in
the world of Islam What would you do ? Bible readers in
Arabia Experience of colporteurs in Muscat Albania
Teheran Secret disciples in Egypt What about baptism ?
A Moslem convert s opinion William Famison How he
found Christ His letters His witness A martyr s death
in Cairo Two mullahs from Turkey Their boldness and
preaching before baptism Controversy and persecution
Secret believers in the Sudan and in Palestine A seeker
after God in Mecca The man who baptized himself The
Circassian officer The young woman of Meerut Hidden
disciples in Turkey The candy-seller The lad at school
For ever with the Lord.
CHAPTER VI. THE DAWN OF A NEW ERA . . 129
Price of religious liberty Early proclamations in Africa and
India Present conditions in India The Dutch East Indies
Africa Egypt under the old laws and the new Constitution
The long, long trail in Turkey Promises on paper
The new Treaties Whither do they tend ? Syria and
Palestine under Mandates Persia under the new government
Greater liberty Iraq The two areas of forbidden liberty
in Africa, the Sudan and Nigeria Signs of the dawn of
freedom A Turkish testimony The judgment of history on
Islam and human freedom.
BIBLIOGRAPHY . . . . 163
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS.
Plaster Cast of Geronimo Frontispiece
Group of Converts from Java . . . . . . . . Facing page 16
Facsimile of MSS. Page from " Bukhari " . . . . ,, 4
Facsimile of Page from a Standard Law Book . . ,, 48
Facsimile of Page from " Muslim," vol. ii, p. 34 . . 64
Tomb of Geronimo . . . . . . . . . . 88
The Cathedral at Famagusta . . . . . . . . ,, 96
" Medan-Moeslimin " (a Java Magazine] .. .. 112
Makhail Mansur, a Converted Sheikh . . . . . . ,, 120
Staff of Mission Hospital, Meshed . . ,,136
Mirza of Persia and Abdullah of Syria . . . . ,, 144
Turkish Flag of Freedom, 1908 ,, 154
WHY SO FEW MOSLEM CONVERTS?
" Those who care for Christ s Kingdom of God now know for certain
that the evangelization of Moslems is possible. And they know, too, that
the cant P. dv O. first-class-passenger axiom about the impossibility of
Moslem conversion to Christianity is utterly baseless, and has been
confuted by contrary fact, in almost all countries, again and again.
Conversions from Islam in the East Indies and parts of Africa run into
tens of thousands : and in other parts of the Moslem world, such as India,
Persia and Egypt, they are regular and familiar phenomena, if not yet
relatively numerous. And reports which come to hand of secret con
version and secret inquiry in lands where the penalty for apostasy is
death, show what would happen there too were freedom of conscience once
granted and made efficacious."
CANON W. H. T. GAIRDNER in " International
Review of Missions."
The Law of Apostasy in Islam
WHY so FEW MOSLEM CONVERTS ?
IN considering the task of evangelizing the Moslem world
we must record at the same time great sacrificial effort and
apparently small visible result. Looking back to the early
pioneers such as Raymond Lull and Francis of Assisi, or
down the past century to Henry Martyn s day, what is there
to show for all the tears and blood save the patience of
unanswered prayer. Like Simon Peter, the lonely worker at
Tangier or Tanta, at Adana or Aden, at Khartoum or
Kairwan, might well say, " Master, we have toiled all night
and taken nothing, nevertheless, at Thy word we will let
down the net." A confession of faithfulness "We have
toiled." A confession of failure " We have taken nothing."
A confession of dauntless faith " Nevertheless we will let
down the net."
These three short phrases on the lips of the Fisherman- Apostle
express actual conditions in the world of Islam. In Peter s
boat there doubtless were a few little sun-fish and some eels
entangled in the net, but in fisherman s vocabulary, in the
parlance of the market-place, Peter spoke the truth when he
said, " Master, we have toiled all night and taken nothing."
It is true that there are converts from Islam ; in Java
and Sumatra, no less than 45,000, won by faithful preaching
and by witness for Christ ; and yet the Dutch and the German
missionaries do not think their work very successful among
Mohammedans, because among the cannibal tribes, and
Animists, they have won for Christ in less than a century well-
nigh 900,000 converts. In India, too, there are thousands of
Mohammedan converts ; in every field there is some proof,
thank God, that the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation
also to Mohammedans, and yet when we report facts the
16 THE LAW OF APOSTASY IN ISLAM.
paucity of converts in every one of these fields is the great
Mr. Findlay Andrew writes from Western China : " Islam
has been referred to, as a challenge to Christian missions ; once
a Moslem always a Moslem in Western China. During the
past years but few Moslems have been reached with the
Gospel, and after a profession of faith been accepted as church
members or enquirers, the number has been very small, and
of those who have got the faith only about one remains in
church fellowship at the time of my writing."
In Persia there are beginnings of a movement toward Christ
among Mohammedans, and yet, after fifty years and more of
missionary effort, there are fewer than 300 converts from Islam.
In Arabia, where men and women have toiled for thirty-four
years, the total number of Mohammedan converts who are
professing openly that they believe in the Lord Jesus Christ,
and are His followers, is less than the number of years of toil
and tears and patience and prayer poured out on those desert
Turn to Turkey, and Dr. McCallum testifies : "All our work
is practically destroyed ; not a single church of Moslem
converts in existence in all the Turkish area after a hundred
years of foreign missions."
In North Africa, including Egypt, Tripoli, Tunisia, Algeria
and Morocco, the total number of Mohammedans who profess
and call themselves Christians must still be put at less than
five hundred. 1
Many reasons are given for the paucity of converts. Some
1 " Although there are 438 missionaries in Egypt, and although some of
the mission bodies are working almost exclusively for the Moslems, and
although there are about 19,000 Evangelical Christians in Egypt with good
church organizations and a well-educated ministry, and although there are
in the various mission schools approximately 2,500 Moslem students
continuously receiving instruction in Bible study, the visible result of the
missionary work for Moslems is not very great. At the present time we
probably could not point to more than 150 living converts from Islam in
Egypt. If the Moslem converts were distributed among the missionary
workers there would be about one convert for every three missionaries.
If the comparison is made with the Evangelical Church, there would be about
one for every congregation in Egypt. Every missionary method known to
man has been tried and is being tried, but until the present neither the
missions nor the Evangelical Church have whereof to boast in the face of
this great and baffling problem." Missionary Survey, 1924.
WHY so FEW MOSLEM CONVERTS ? 17
blame the church for lack of faith ; others the missionaries
for lack of love. The reason, others say, is that we have tried
to win by controversy rather than by kindness, and our
difficulty is one of method. Again, we are told that the time is
not yet, the hour has not struck, the harvest is not ripe.
In some cases hope deferred has made the heart sick.
" I venture the opinion," wrote such an one, " that Islam
is perhaps reprobate. Since the apostasy was subsequent
to God s offer of grace in Christ, He has withdrawn them
from his sphere of activity. Perhaps corporately Islam has
sinned against the Holy Spirit. I have toiled here two years,
living in this Moslem home, thinking and talking like a
Moslem, knowing their inner life as perhaps few do. Why is it,
I wonder ? To be quite candid, I expected that coming here
in absolute simplicity and poverty, living amongst them, as
near as possible as I believe Paul did, without committees or
funds, I asked and expected God to give the increase, and yet,
comparatively speaking, we have caught nothing/
Now all the reasons given above for the meagreness of
direct results in work for Moslems have a measure of truth,
yet none of them are sufficient. It is our conviction that
among the many reasons for the small number of converts
to the Christian faith in Moslem lands there is, perhaps,
none so important, and yet concerning which so little is
accurately known, as the Moslem law regarding apostates.
Every convert to Christianity is an apostate from Islam,
and although there have been apostates throughout all the
centuries, and we know of cases even during the life-time
of Mohammed the Prophet, the law of apostasy has become
fixed in Islam, and for thirteen centuries has exercised its
dread, if not its power, under all conditions and in every land.
The apostate dies to his faith and is regarded by his family
as worse than dead.
What the feeling is in Egypt, for example, may be judged
from the following notice sent out on black-edged paper and
in a funereal envelope, by a Moslem father, notifying his friends
of the apostasy of his son. It was dated October 30, 1909,
and in every respect resembled a polite and formal notice of
18 THE LAW OF APOSTASY IN ISLAM.
" MY SAD COMPLAINT.
" Whereas the Christians who belong to the Protestant
Church have officially recorded a disgraceful act which cannot
be wiped out and never shall be wiped out, by depriving
me of the sight of my son, the favourite of my heart, even
from a single glance of his portrait, and he being of the age
of twenty-two years and seventy days ending on the day of
his unhappy marriage, therefore let anyone who has any
religion, and everyone, whatever may be his religious persuasion,
shrink back from assisting these ravening wolves especially
those who share with them in their joys on the coming Sunday,
to-morrow, in the Church of Al Miniya (which is called the
Evangelical Church), because they are consciously renewing
the age of persecution under Nero.
" (Signed) M. ABDULLAH."
During the war there was grave suspicion that a leading
Moslem in Cairo deliberately arranged to have his son meet
with a tramway accident rather than permit his public baptism.
There have been cases in Egypt of relatives sending those of
their family who had leanings towards Christianity into
asylums for the insane, with the connivance of local author
ities. The penalty of public confession in countries like Arabia
and Afghanistan is well known.
Islam, from the earliest times and according to the teaching
of the Koran, has always made it extremely easy to enter the
Moslem brotherhood, and extremely difficult for those who
once enter its fold to find exit. It is not an exaggeration to
say that the doors of this vast temple reared by the Arabian
Prophet swing only inward, not outward. Like a cunning
trap, everything yields to the slightest pressure from without,
but these very yielding doors are securely barred and barbed
to lacerate those who attempt escape. Dr. D. S. Margoliouth
called attention to this in his first lecture on " The Early
Development of Mohammedanism " i 1
"It is a noteworthy fact about the Mohammedan system,
that since the Migration it has demanded no qualifications for
admission to its brotherhood. To those who are outside its
1 The Early Development of Mohammedanism, London, 1914, p- i.
WHY so FEW MOSLEM CONVERTS ? 19
pale it in theory offers no facilities whatever for the study
of its nature ; a man must enroll himself as a member first,
and then only may he learn what his obligations are. The
Koran may not be sold to Unbelievers ; soldiers are advised
not to take it with them into hostile territory for fear the
Unbeliever should get hold of it ; and many a copy bears
upon it a warning to Unbelievers, Not to be touched Pious
grammarians have refused to teach grammar to Jews or
Christians, because the rules are apt to be illustrated by quota
tions from the sacred volume. The Unbeliever is by one of the
codes forbidden to enter a mosque ; and even when permission
is granted him to do so, he is an unwelcome guest. The
crowning ceremony of Islam, the Pilgrimage, may be witnessed
by no Unbeliever ; the penalty for intrusion is death.
" It follows that such periods of instruction and probation
as are enjoined by some other systems upon neophytes are
unknown to Islam, and indeed there is no occasion for them.
Their purpose is to test the neophyte s sincerity in the first
place, and his moral worthiness in the second. Against in
sincerity the system is sufficiently armed by the principle that
whosoever abandons Islam forfeits his life ; there is then little
danger of men joining for some dishonest purpose and quitting
the community when that purpose has been served. A Moslem
who is in peril of his life may indeed simulate perversion, and
no difficulty is made about readmitting the repentant pervert ;
but where Islam can be safely professed the pervert cannot
legally hope to be spared. And it follows from this principle
that martyrdom in Islam means something very different from
what it means to the Christian. The Christian martyr is the
man who dies professing his faith, but not resisting ; the
Moslem martyr is one who dies for his faith on the battle
field ; more often in endeavouring to force it upon others
than in defending his own exercise thereof. For his sacred
book expressly permits him to refrain from confessing where
confession will result in death or torment."
In his history of the American Mission in Egypt (1854-
1896) Dr. Andrew Watson states that during this period as
many as seventy-five Mohammedans were baptized, most of
them from the poorer classes ; but all of them were subject
20 THE LAW OF APOSTASY IN ISLAM.
to persecution because the idea of personal liberty freedom
of conscience has no place in Moslem law, whether religious or
civil. " To this very day, relatives will bring about by secret
poisoning or other means the death of those whose Christian
proclivities cannot be removed by arguments or by promises."
He mentions among others a graduate of one of the Govern
ment colleges who became interested in the study of the Bible
and witnessed for Christ. " Efforts were made to reclaim him,
but the learned men of his former religion could not stand before
his clear reasoning and strong arguments. Force was then
resorted to, and he was seized by a mob and dragged to the
kadi s court. There he was not only maltreated, but, contrary
to law, imprisoned. His goods were seized, his wife divorced
him, and he himself sent to the Government hospital on the
plea that he was insane. His arrest was promptly brought to
the attention of Her Majesty s representative in Egypt, but
Sharif Pasha, the Prime Minister, persuaded Her Majesty s
Consul-General that the young man s presence as a converted
Moslem would be the cause of excitement and disturbance
and a possible religious mob, and he consented to a temporary
removal of the young man from the country, or to what was
in reality his banishment from his native land ; and all because
he had read his Bible, had become convinced of its truth,
and dared to say so. Two other persons from the upper
country, on its becoming known that they were attending
Christian assemblies, were seized, beaten and imprisoned.
Still persisting in their adherence to the Christian faith, they
were sent to Cairo and kept in prison until, through the
representations made to the Government through Sir Evelyn
Baring (now Lord Cromer), they were brought to the
American Mission in Cairo."
Of other cases we read that they were beaten, imprisoned,
exiled, or in many ways deterred from embracing Christianity
for fear of social persecution and family alienations. Corre
spondence received this year (1923) from a score of native
pastors in Egypt seem to indicate that this spirit of persecution
and intolerance is almost as prevalent as it was in the past.
Any revival of nationalism seems to result in Islamic pride
and manifestations of intolerance toward minorities.
WHY so FEW MOSLEM CONVERTS ? 21
The following letter, written by a Moslem convert in Cairo,
shows better than any argument could do the conditions that
obtained in Egypt in 1878. It was written on January 2ist
of that year. The writer afterwards escaped from Egypt,
received a medical education in Scotland, and has had a
remarkable career as a medical missionary in China :
" To HER HIGHNESS, THE MAHARANEE DULUP SINGH.
"As your Highness is a convert of the American Mission
School in Cairo, and as you have much interest in all who lovfe
the Lord Jesus Christ in this city and in this land, I wish to
take the liberty of telling you of my persecutions since I
became a Christian five months ago. I am an Egyptian, and
was a pupil in the American School five years, and also a
teacher the last two years. My father is a strict Mohammedan,
but when I was teaching and reading the Bible I found that
the Mohammedan religion is not the true one. I searched
many months for the true religion of God, and read the Bible
very much, and some other books ; and when I found that
Christianity is the true faith, I rejected my father s religion.
" Fearing that my father and relations would murder me, I
intended to fly away from their faces ; but when I consulted
Dr. Lansing and Dr. Watson, the two missionaries in Cairo,
they persuaded me that Cairo would be safer for me than
any other place. So it was arranged that I should come to
Dr. Lansing s house for protection. I sent letters to my father
and brothers about the reason for my leaving home and
embracing Christianity. I wished very much to show my love
to Christ and to profess His name, and so I was soon baptized
in the Mission Chapel by my name Ahmed .
" My brothers and friends and sheikhs and learned men came
often to see me and made much controversy with me, but by
the help of God I was always victorious, which made them very
angry. For fear of them, I never went out excepting to teach
in the school, which is only a few steps from Dr. Lansing s
house, and in a very public place. They had spies watching
me for several days, and after five weeks, on coming home
one afternoon, I was surrounded by ten persons, three of them
being my brothers. They caught me, and putting their hands
22 THE LAW OF APOSTASY IN ISLAM.
on my mouth and eyes, thrust me in a closed carriage in a
very violent manner.
" There was a cafe very near, and when some men saw this
they came forward to stop the horses from going and to help
me ; but my uncle, who was standing near, called out Let
them alone ; this is by the order of the Government. They
took me to my father s house, assuring me that if I did not
tell him that I was a Mohammedan when he asked me, he
would kill me. I did tell him, however, that I was a Christian,
and he brought the most learned philosopher in Cairo and a
very learned man, and with many others present they talked
with me very hotly eight hours, until I was sick and vomited.
"After three days of continued controversy, seeing that I
would not yield, they then threatened me with immediate
death according to their law, and in such a way I was certain
it would be done. Now the great trial had come, and I
began to feel a little weak. They wrote a paper saying that
I had returned home of my own will and also to Moham
medanism, and forced me to put my name to it. They
next took me to the police house and compelled me to
write with my own hand to the same effect. After this
they took me to the English Consulate, where I was again
forced to say the same thing, as my brothers were secretly
armed to kill me or any one who would defend me if I did not
do so. Although after all this had been done they knew I was
still a Christian at heart, it was proclaimed that I had returned
to Mohammedanism, and they made a great feast to deceive
and to take away the disgrace of the family. The controversy
still continued, and after a month, when I wished to have my
freedom and go to teach in the school they refused, I showed
them even more strongly that I am still a Christian, and insisted
upon my rights. But knowing the danger that I was now in,
the Lord helped me to escape out of their hands ; when I again
sought refuge at Dr. Lansing s house, to whom I am certainly
indebted for his kindness because of his giving me to eat and
treatment as his own beloved son.
" Now I wish to tell your Highness that I am again a prisoner,
unable to go out at all or even to step on the balcony ; because
they are so excited and watching me night and day, desiring to
WHY so FEW MOSLEM CONVERTS ? 23
quench their thirst with my blood, the blood of the helpless
young Christian. My brothers, according to their law, often
assured me that if they murdered me they would be martyrs
for doing so. I thank God who delivered me out of the
hands of my Government, which I fully believe is watching
me and allowing my relatives to do whatever they please and
wish, so that I may be destroyed. Oh, would that God would
bring freedom and justice here very soon. How dreadful is
such injustice and oppression. How freedomless is this miserable
country. How many persecutions for embracing God s true
religion I have suffered I cannot tell, and how many troubles
I have endured. As I have no freedom and no prospect of liberty
or safety, may I ask your Highness to have compassion on
me ; and, for the sake of Christ and of Justice, to help me and
deliver me out of the hands of such wicked and barbarous
" I hope your Highness will excuse me for troubling you
so much ; but you will see that I am in great distress
and need help. I know that you love Christ very much, and
also all the people who suffer for His sake. As you are a friend
of Her Majesty, the Good Queen of England, would you do
me the great favour to beseech her to use her exalted power to
help me, as I believe nothing else will avail. I wish her to know,
also, that I not only ask her help for myself, but for many
others who wish to embrace Christianity, but cannot for fear of
persecution and death. I am very anxious to study the Holy
Bible in the theological school, that I may, with the help of
God, preach to the ignorant people in this land. I do not wish
the Government to hear of this letter of your servant, lest it
should tear me into pieces. I wish your Highness to pray for
me that I may be strong and endure much, and all this help I
ask for the sake of the Lord Jesus, for Whose name I have
" I am your Highness most obedient and most humble
" P.S. Since writing the above this morning I have received
a secret visit from a true friend of my family, whom I can trust,
begging me not to leave this house, assuring me that my life
24 THE LAW OF APOSTASY IN ISLAM.
will not be spared. My father has given orders to my brothers
and all to kill me if they meet me and they are watching me
constantly. You thus see my perilous state. May God help
me, and shield me from the power of my many enemies.
" Sent Jan. 2ist, 1878."
This letter is typical not only of past but of present con
ditions ; from every part of the Moslem mission field the
testimony is positive and accumulative that one of the chief
causes for the paucity of converts and the difficulty of securing
public confessions on the part of secret disciples is the
intimidating power of this attitude towards apostates. A mis
sionary of long experience in Egypt writes : " I should say that
certainly the Moslem law on apostates seems to be a very real
cause for the hesitation on the part of converts to pass over
from their Islamic connections to become Christians. I do not
say that it is a cause for the paucity of converts, but rather
for the paucity of open confession in a legal way. I think we
have every reason to be quite assured that, if that law were
in some way annulled, there would be a very, very decided
" I think there can be very little room for doubt," writes
the Rev. W. T. Fairman, " that the Moslem law concerning
apostates is one of the factors to explain the paucity of converts
from Islam to Christianity. Death, forced separation from
wife and family, loss of property and legal rights, naturally
cause many who are convinced of the truth of Christianity to
hesitate to profess faith in Christ."
President C. F. Gates, of Robert College, Constantinople,
states : " The fear of death is certainly one cause for the fewness
of converts from Islam to Christianity. Every Moslem knows
that his life is in danger if he becomes a Christian. I have
known a good many instances of Moslems who would secretly
assert themselves as Christians, but would make no open state
ment because of the danger attending it."
Another missionary writes as follows : "As far as Turks are
concerned, the Moslem law of apostasy has been the great cause
for the paucity of converts. I have this on the testimony of
several of my Turkish friends. And Moslems who have accepted
WHY so FEW MOSLEM CONVERTS ? 25
Christianity here have always felt that they were endangering
their lives by doing so. Theoretically the penalty of death has
been abrogated, but, as a matter of fact, it still exists in actual
practice. The only difference being that before its abrogation
executions under this law took place in public, and now all
usually known is that converts disappear."
The Rev. William Miller once asked a convert from Islam
this question, " Is the law of apostasy a cause for the fewness
of converts ? " He replied, " It is the cause ! " Mr. Miller says,
" Persians know that some years ago scores of Babis and
Bahais were killed in Yezd and elsewhere for having left Islam :
and there is a universal fear that such a fate may await any
one who dares apostatize. Bahaism enjoins taqiyet (concealment
of faith) as a duty, but Christianity demands public confession ;
and hence in Persia it is far easier to become a Bahai than to
become a Christian. The law does not prevent earnest men
from becoming Christians, but it prevents many weaker seekers
for the truth from pressing on to a thorough study of Christianity.
The same testimony comes from lands where British or French
rule has been established, and where we might expect a change
in the attitude toward the apostate. In my Indian experience,
writes the Rev. H. U. Weitbrecht-Stanton, D.D., " the direct
operation of this law is confined to the North-west Frontier
and to Afghanistan. Even in the districts under British
administration, however, the spirit of the Moslem death penalty
for apostasy is operative. The life of Pennell furnishes instances.
Abdu l Karim was done to death in British territory, and he
was not the only one. Unquestionably, the absence of converts
in Afghanistan, and their paucity in the North-west Frontier
Province, as compared with the Central Punjab, is due to the
peril to life and limb which the convert suffers in the former,
but is protected from in the latter."
" If apostasy, according to the Koran, is death, then the
Moslems of Algeria have no legal right at present to enforce
such a law," says Mr. Alfred R. Shorey. "Attempts have been
made, however, to poison converts and persecute them. A case
which came directly under my notice was that of a young
Arab from Tunisia, who was brought to Christ, I believe,
through Mrs. Flad of Tunis. The young fellow s relatives tried
26 THE LAW OF APOSTASY IN ISLAM.
to poison him. He went to England and found work there
for a few months ; and then through the good offices of
Mrs. Parker, wife of the celebrated Dr. Parker, City Temple,
London, he was sent to Canada, and finally became a naturalized
Canadian. After twelve years absence he returned to North
Africa, and went to see his parents ; but he was even then
afraid that his father might poison or kill him. Another case
was that of a Kabyle girl, a baptized Christian, and now married
to a Christian Kabyle. She was twice poisoned, either through
jealousy or Moslem fanaticism ; probably through both, for she
openly confessed faith in Christ. The second time she was
very ill, and at death s door ; but was raised up, we believe, in
answer to prayer. To my mind, the chief cause of paucity in
the number of converts is fear of persecution and lack of
Mr. James L. Lockhead writes as follows : "Algeria being
under French law, and there being liberty of conscience, I
do not think that we can say that the Moslem law regarding
apostates accounts for the paucity of converts. Yet there is
always the deep-rooted idea in every one brought up in Islam
that to leave Islam for another religion is an awful and un
pardonable sin. I do not know of any convert here who has
been put to death for his faith in Christ. This is because Moslems
are afraid of French law ; but many of the fanatical Moslems
would fain put the converts to death and have said so. I was
walking on the street in Tunis with Sidi Elbeddai, our Bible
Depot-keeper there, and two Moslem students from the mosque
passed. In passing they spat on the ground as they saw
Sidi El Beddai, and said, Dog, son of a dog. This indicated
their feelings. Another convert from Tunis left there a number
of years ago for Canada. After an absence of a few years he
returned on a visit to his parents who were still in Tunis.
He refused to live with them, and through fear of treachery
was very careful of what food he partook. I do not consider
that it would be very safe for one of our converts to go into a
country alone, or to be much in the Arab town after dark.
He could be done away with, and it would be most difficult to
trace the culprits. It seems to me that the case of women
converts, especially among the middle or upper classes, is even
WHY so FEW MOSLEM CONVERTS ? 27
more dangerous. If a woman convert took a decided stand as
a Christian in the face of fanaticism she could be disposed of
We are told that in Tunisia the Moslem law for apostates
is not directly a cause for the paucity of converts. " I do
not know that the law has ever been formally abolished or
annulled," writes Mr. Evan E. Short, " but under French
protectorate its operation is unimaginable. There is sometimes,
however, a certain fear of what the Moslem authorities might
do, and this hinders inquirers. But the strong deterrent cause
is fear of family, social and business boycotting and persecution ;
which might even bring about death."
Even when our correspondents do not state that the law
against apostates is the cause of timidity in confessing Christ,
they point out that the attitude toward a convert who has left
the fold is one of secret, and often open, hostility. Miss I.
Lilias Trotter says : "As to your query about the effects in
Algeria of the Moslem law in regard to converts, we do not
think that it has much to do with their paucity and timidity,
for appeal can always be made to the French law.
We have known several cases of threatened disinheritance,
and of converts who have had to relinquish their share
of income that might have been theirs ; but their
affairs are, apart from Christianity, so apt to be in a
tangle, and the proceeds of property are so difficult to obtain
unless those interested are on the spot, that we have never
taken those matters very seriously ; and the breaking of
Ramadan does not, as a rule, involve more than being hooted
at in the street. In Tunisia it is different ; and we have
known of two of three cases of deliberate injustice on the
part of the families of converts, from which there seemed to
be no appeal. The latest, in this year, was the case of a North
Africa Mission convert, who went to his native town to claim
his share of his father s inheritance, but was violently opposed
by twelve of his relations on account of his confession of
Christ, and was thrown into prison for three days and then
sent off empty-handed. On his way back to his station in
another Tunisian town, he was again put in prison for three
days for breaking Ramadan. Here in Algeria our trouble is
28 THE LAW OF APOSTASY IN ISLAM.
not so much this open opposition as it is the brain-drugs or
probably hypnotism, which are used to will the converts
away ; and if the life in them is weak and faltering, they are
often brought thus into a paralysed state of soul. We believe
that three-fourths of the cases of backsliding might be traced
to this source, if the full truth were known."
In Java and in China, where Buddhism and Confucianism
have largely modified the exclusiveness and intolerance of
Islam, we yet find traces of the same spirit toward any
Moslem who abandons his faith.
" If I did not know I would myself be put to death for it,"
said a Mohammedan in Java to one of his relations who
had been converted to Christianity, " you would not leave
this house alive, you wretched dog of a Christian." 1
Another instance is given by Simon, which is pathetic in its
pregnant significance ; " One of our finest Mohammedan
Christians passed through a very dark time for years. One
misfortune followed upon another, and he was exposed to
constant persecution at the hands of his Mohammedan
relatives. At last his wife also died after the birth of a child.
He could not find a Christian wife. His Mohammedan
relations found him a Mohammedan woman. He could not
stand against this great temptation ; he fell away. He, of
course, received the wife only on condition that he himself
became a Mohammedan. He then wrote his missionary this
characteristic letter : The sorrow God has sent upon me is
too great, and the temptation too severe. I cannot endure.
I have become a Mohammedan that I may again have a wife.
I have received my portion from God, like the Prodigal Son.
I will consume it with riotous living. The good seed has
fallen with me among thorns and been choked by them.
I am now a lost sheep, which is lost in the wilderness. May
other Christians not imitate my conduct. I have not
become a Mohammedan because I really consider the religion
of the Mohammedan a good one. I know that the Lord
Jesus is alive and sitting at the right hand of God in heaven.
Five of my people have already died as Christians. My purpose
used to be never to be parted from them. My prayer now is
1 Progress and Arrest of Islam in Sumatra, by Simon, p. 285.
WHY so FEW MOSLEM CONVERTS ? 29
that master (the missionary) and his wife would help me to
lead my wife over to Christianity, so that I, like the Prodigal,
may return from the far country to God our Father." l
In his recent book, The Crescent in North-west China,
Mr. G. Findlay Andrew sums up this baffling difficulty in words
which might be used of other lands as well as of China. " Islam
has often been referred to as the Challenge to Christian
Missions. Once a Hwei-hwei (Moslem) always a Hwei-hwei
may rightly be said to be a direct challenge to the Church
of Christ to-day. During the past years a few Hwei-hwei
have been reached with the Gospel, and after a profession of
faith have been accepted either as Church members or as
enquirers. The number has, however, been very small, and of
those who have kept the faith only about one remains in
Church fellowship at the time of writing. In one station
in the far west of the province four Hwei-hwei were baptized
a few years ago on confession of their faith in Jesus Christ as
a personal Saviour. The persecution they had to endure was
great, and in some cases life itself was threatened. This
possibly was the cause of their falling away after having run
well for a season." 2
The first Moslem convert I myself ever met was Kamil
Abdel Messieh. He found Christ in Syria, was baptized at
Beirut, and was a faithful, brave pioneer evangelist along the
coast of Arabia in our Mission (1890-1892). And then the
law of apostasy was applied, and he died of poison at
Busrah, and was buried in a Moslem grave. The story
of his life was told by Henry H. Jessup, D.D., in The Setting
of the Crescent and the Rising of the Cross " (Philadelphia,
1898). As I pen these lines, thirty-two years later, at Cairo,
a Moslem student has just left my study, whose father turned
him out-of-doors and threatens to kill him if he continues
to read Christian books. He asked me, " What shall I do
then with the words of our Master, Whosoever denies Me
before men ? " And then the homeless lad looked with
pitiful longing for an answer as we prayed together. He knew
the Moslem law regarding apostates.
1 Progress and Arrest of Islam in Sumatra, by Simon, p. 323.
* The Crescent in North-west China, by Andrew, p. no.
THE LAW OF APOSTASY.
" The grand vizir of Turkey in 1843, in an official letter to Lord
Ashley, stated : The laws of the Koran compel no man to become a
Mussulman, but they are inexorable both as respects a Mussulman who
embraces another religion, and as respects a person who, having of his
own accord publicly embraced Islam, is convicted of having renounced
that faith. No consideration can produce a commutation of the capital
punishment to which the law condemns him without mercy. "
W. ST. CLAIR TISDALL, in Missionary Review.
THE LAW OF APOSTASY.
IN this chapter we propose to give the passages in the Koran
which deal with apostasy, together with the interpretation
of these passages in standard commentaries. Also to show
from Moslem Tradition and standard law books what the
code of Islam is in case of apostasy, and the penalties prescribed.
The word apostate in Arabic is murtadd, and one who
apostatizes is called man artadd an dinihi, i.e. " Who turns
his back on religion." Two words are used for apostasy in
Moslem law : irtidad and ridda. The latter term relates to
apostasy from Islam into unbelief, kufr ; the former, from
Islam to some other religion, for example, Christianity. l The
passages in the Koran dealing with apostasy are the chapter
of Women, verse 90 ; the chapter of the Table, verse 59 ;
and the chapter of the Bee, verse 108, viz :
" Why are ye two parties about the hypocrites, when God
hath overturned them for what they earned ? Do ye wish
to guide those whom God hath led astray ? Whoso God hath
led astray ye shall not surely find for him a path. They
would fain that ye misbelieve as they misbelieve, that ye
might be alike ; take ye not patrons from among them until
they too fight in God s way ; but if they turn their backs, then
seize them wheresoever ye find them, and take from them neither
patron nor help " (IV. 90, 91). " O ye who believe ! Whoso is
turned away from his religion God will bring (instead) a people
whom He loves and who love Him, lowly to believers, lofty
to unbelievers, strenuous in the way of God, fearing not the
blame of him who blames " (V. 59).
It will be sufficient to quote what the standard com
mentary of Baidhawi says on the first passage : " Whosoever
turns back from his belief (irtada), openly or secretly, take him
and kill him wheresoever ye find him, like any other infidel.
1 Mufradat-fi-gharib-ul-Quran-lil Sheikh-ar-Raghib , p. 191.
34 THE LAW OF APOSTASY IN ISLAM.
Separate yourself from him altogether. Do not accept intercession
in his regard."
All other standard commentaries agree with Beidhawi in their
comment on the verse.
A third Koran passage is the chapter on The Bee,
XVI. 108. In this verse two types of apostates are dis
tinguished : those who are compelled to apostatize, on
whom judgment is lenient ; and those who apostatize from
their own free will. The commentaries on this passage, also,
leave no doubt as to the interpretation. " Whoso disbelieves
in God after having believed, unless it be one who is
forced and whose heart is quiet in the faith, but whoso
expands his breast to misbelieve, on them is wrath from God,
and for them is mighty woe ! That is because they pre
ferred the love of this world s life to the next ; but verily
God guides not the unbelieving people."
Perhaps it is a mistake to use as our fourth reference Surah
II. 214, to prove that apostasy merits the death penalty. This
verse need not be translated as Dr. W. St. Clair Tisdall has
translated it, x " Whosoever shall apostatize from his religion,
let him die for it, and he is an infidel " ; but correctly,
" Whosoever shall apostatize from his religion and dies,
he is an infidel/ And we are not dependent on one Koran
text, but a careful examination even of the last passage,
together with the interpretation of the same, leaves no doubt
that according to the commentators the Koran here also declares
the punishment for apostasy to be death.
The famous commentary of Al Khazan (used most exten
sively in the Mohammedan University called Al Azhar),
quotes from Malik ibn Anas, Ahmad ibn Hanbal and others,
and gives this interpretation of the verse : "All the deeds of
the apostate become null and void in this world and the next.
He must be killed. His wife must be separated from him and
he has no claims on any inheritance " (page 155, vol. i, Cairo
edition). Ath Tha alibi (788 A.H.), in his commentary on
Sura II, verse 214, leaves no doubt that the verse in question,
whatever the grammatical construction may be, demands the
death of the apostate. (Cf. vol. i, p. 167, Algiers edition, 1323).
1 Mizan-ul-Haqq, by Pfander, revised by Tisdall, p. 364, London 1910.
THE LAW OF APOSTASY. 35
Finally the great commentary of Fakhr-ud-Din-ar-Razi (vol. ii,
p. 220, lines 17 to 20, Cairo edition, 1308) distinctly favours
the interpretation of this verse as given in the translation by
Dr. Tisdall and objected to by the Woking critics. He says
the apostate should be killed and loses his wife and heritage.
Still it is only fair to state that the Arabic Koran text does not
necessarily require this rendering, and that Tabari in his com
mentary does not seem to favour it. In Zarkani s commentary
on Al Muwatta (vol. iii, p. 193) there are many examples
given of Jews and Christians who turned Moslem, and when
they afterwards apostatized were immediately killed. The
statement is made that " change from Islam to any religion what
ever requires the death penalty. 1 Al Nahayat fi Gharib al
Hadith, by Ibn Athir (Cairo edition, vol. iv, p. 38), gives
instances how the law was applied, and defines when the
apostate becomes a Kafir. And to quote, among many, only
one Moslem history used as a textbook in the secondary schools
of Egypt, Ibn Taqtaqi, in his History called Al Fakhri fil
Adab as Sultaniya (p. 67, Cairo edition, 1317), says that Abu
Bekr killed all the apostates of Mecca after the death of
Islamic law is based in the first instance on the teaching
of the Koran, but no less on Moslem Tradition. These two
primary sources then become fixed as canon law by what is
called general agreement, Ijmaa. All books on canon law,
therefore, include a section on the punishment due to apostasy.
Generally this section is grouped with those on other crimes
that demand corporal punishment. These are seven : rebellion,
apostasy, adultery (on the part of a free woman), reviling,
wine-drinking, theft, and highway-robbery. l
The earlier laws and practices in regard to the apostate
from Islam were perhaps less rigid and less severe than those
codified after the Moslem state extended its domain and
authority beyond Arabia. Many of the " Traditions " regard
ing apostates were manufactured to express later tendencies
for which Divine authority and the Prophet s example were
needed. 2 Yet the manufacture of such Traditions is the more
1 Cf. Al Ghazali s Wajiz, vol. ii, pp. 164-169 (Cairo 1317).
1 Cf . Caetani s Annali dell Islam (Introduction), vol. i: 340 and 352;
vol. ii : A. H. ii sec., 77, 120, 128 ; vol. iii : A. H. 14 sec., 252, etc.
36 THE LAW OF APOSTASY IN ISLAM.
significant as they became part of orthodox Islam long before
the laws were codified.
This great authoritative source of Moslem law, Tradition,
is called in Arabic Hadith. Mark Twain once defined a
" classic " as a piece of literature which every one talked
about but no one had read. One fears that this remark
would apply to the Hadith as regards many who profess to
interpret Islam, and who are well aware that the Koran is not
the only source of Islamic theology, jurisprudence and the
practical duties of daily life. These sources, indeed, are four ;
and among them the Hadith is undoubtedly of the greatest
importance. Both in quantity and in quality of interest and
of influence the Hadith collections surpass the Koran. Ijma a
and Qiyas also (i.e. the agreement of the learned as repre
senting the body of believers and their legal deductions) are
based on sunnat-an-nabi, i.e. the practice or example of the
Prophet as recorded in Traditions. What the mihrab (prayer-
niche) is to the true Kibla Mecca, that the Hadith is to the
sunnat. It is the exact indication of what Mohammed did
and what has, therefore, Divine approval and authority.
These collections of Traditions are as popular among the
common people as Sheldon s What Would Jesus Do P proved
popular as a story. Only in the former case it is not religious
fiction, but actual divine revelation (al-wahi-ghair-al-matlu) .
The six standard collections are well known by name, but
who has read them ? In the sixth century of the Hijra, Imam
Hussain al Baghawi prepared a careful and authoritative
collection from all of the six standard books, and entitled it
Mishkat-ul-Masabih. This volume had an enormous vogue,
and is perhaps the best known summary of the vast Moslem
Talmud. It has been translated by Moslems into Persian
and other languages, and was translated into English by
Captain Matthews and published at Calcutta in 1809. A new
but greatly abridged translation by Rev. William Goldsack
appeared in 1923. l
It is as hopeless to judge of the real character of Islam
from the Koran alone, as it is to deduce the beliefs and
1 Christian Literature Society for India. Selections from Mohammedan
Traditions. Translated from the Arabic. 1923 : Madras.
THE LAW OF APOSTASY. 37
practices of Christians in Mexico from the Pauline epistles, or
of orthodox Judaism from the Pentateuch. There is not
a single Moslem sect that looks to the Koran as the only
rule of faith and practice. The lock of Koran obscurity opens
only to the key of Tradition. The Hadith is at once the
strength and the weakness of Islam. It reveals the real
Mohammed and indicts him. Intelligent Moslems reverence
and yet dread the collections of Al-Bukhari and Muslim. The
untrustworthiness of many of the Traditions and the weak
ness of the whole as a support of Islam only increases the
importance of knowing them. 1
The most celebrated collection among the six standard
works on Traditions is that of Bukhari. He devoted sixteen
years to his selection of seven thousand orthodox Traditions
out of six hundred thousand that were current. In every
standard collection of this sort we find a special section
devoted to the subject of apostasy and the treatment apostates
received at the hands of Mohammed or his companions. The
commentaries on the Traditions leave no doubt as to their
interpretation. Such Traditions in regard to apostates and
Mohammed s estimate and treatment of them are given in
both Bukhari and Muslim. The two standard commentaries
on the former give much additional information, and add also
the comment on the Koran passages that deal with apostasy,
viz. : Fath-ul-Bari, by Al Askalani, vol. xii, pp. 89-91 and
pp. 214-225 (Cairo edition) ; and Amdat-ul-Qari, by Al Aini,
vol. xi, pp. 143-144 and pp. 230-236. The first section in
both of these commentaries on the Hadith is entitled, " On
Unbelievers and Apostates who make war on Islam " ; the
second section in both is entitled, " On the repentance of
Apostates and Rebels, and when killing them is incumbent."
To begin with the famous collection of forty Traditions by
An-Nawawi, we find the following : " The Apostle of God
said the blood of a fellow-Moslem should never be shed
except in three cases ; that of the adulterer, the murderer,
1 Cf. Professor Wensinck s article in the Moslem World for July 1921. He
says : " It is not amazing that the canonical books of Tradition especially
Bukhari and Muslim in the eyes of the community have acquired
a rank nearly as high as the Koran. Oaths are sworn on a copy of
Bukhari ; at times of public calamity or danger the book is read to repel
them ; they are a staff and weapon for Moslems to this day."
38 THE LAW OF APOSTASY IN ISLAM.
and whoever forsakes the religion of Islam. " The comment
given on this Tradition is as follows : " The adulterer should
be stoned ; the murderer, when convicted of his crime, should
be killed with the sword ; but he who departs from Islam,
becoming disobedient to God and His Apostle, let him be cut
off or crucified or destroyed from the earth."
Other Traditions are given as follows : " It is related from
Ikrimah that he said, Hypocrites were brought to Ali and
he burnt them/ The news of that reached Ibn Abbas, and
he said, If it had been I, I would not have burnt them,
because of the prohibition of the Apostle of God ; Do not
punish with the punishment of God ; but I would certainly
have killed them according to the word of the Apostle :
Whosoever changes his religion, kill him. Al Bukhari.
" It is related from Ali that he said, I heard the Apostle
of God say : There will come forth a people at the end of
time, young in age and foolish in vision, who will speak the
best words in creation ; but their faith will not pass their
throats. They will pass through religion as an arrow passes
through the thing hit. Therefore, whenever ye meet them, kill
them ; for verily for whoever kills them there is a reward
on the day of resurrection. " Muslim, and Al Bukhari.
"It is related from Anas that he said, A band of men of
the Ukl tribe came to the Prophet and embraced Islam. But
they fell ill at Madina, so the Prophet ordered them to go to
the camels given in alms and drink their urine and milk.
Then they did so and regained their health. After that they
apostatized and killed the keepers of the camels and drove off
the camels. Then (the Prophet) sent after them, and they
were brought back. Then he cut off their hands and feet and
put out their eyes. After that he did not staunch the bleeding
until they died. And in another Tradition it runs, drove nails
into their eye?,. And in another Tradition it runs, He
ordered nails, and they were made hot ; and he pierced them
with them. And he cast them out on to the stony plain.
And they asked for a drink, but they were not given to drink,
until they died. " Muslim, and Al Bukhari. 1
We would not quote such Traditions if it were not necessary
1 See facsimile text of the last tradition, opposite page 40.
THE LAW OF APOSTASY. 39
in order to refute the statements of those who constantly assert
that there is no penalty for apostasy in Islam. In one case
they even base their assertion upon the Traditions above given.
For example, in 1922 the Moslems of the Ahmadiya Sect in
Britain with headquarters at Woking, circulated in the House
of Commons and elsewhere a paper dealing with apostasy in
Islam. It consists of special pleading to show that Islam has
always been a religion of tolerance, and has protected minorities
of Christians and Jews. The argument is specious but not
convincing. We quote two paragraphs : "In the days of the
prophet all the reliable records of his life are silent on the
subject. There were many apostasies doubtless, but no one
was punished, for it is, and has ever been, the watchword of
Islam, that there shall be no compulsion in religion."
" We, however, read of the putting to death of the party
of Ukl in our traditions who, after professing Islam, feigned
that the climate of Medina was insalubrious, and being told
to go to the place where the herds of camels belonging to the
State were grazed, murdered the keepers and drove the herds
along with them. They were charged under the crime of murder
and dacoity, for which the punishment of death has been
provided in Ch. v, verse 33. This episode has generally been
cited by the Quranic commentators under the verse which
ordains the death penalty for murder and dacoity ; and there
is no other case which can even be twisted to show that the
punishment of death was ever inflicted on apostasy from Islam."
We leave the reader to judge whether " this episode " given
in every standard work on Tradition under the head of
"Apostates " was recorded to illustrate the penalty for murder
and robbery or the penalty for apostasy. Whatever may have
been the original intention, Moslems themselves have con
sidered it an authoritative Tradition for the application of the
death penalty on apostates.
We turn now to the various books on jurisprudence used in
Moslem law schools.
One of the most famous books of Hanafi Law is that called
the Hedaya, by Burhan ed Din Ali. It was translated by
Charles Hamilton by Order of Council in Bengal, and the English
edition was printed in London in 1791. Translations of this
40 THE LAW OF APOSTASY IN ISLAM.
code are found in Turkish and other languages. It is used as
a text-book in schools of law and is authoritative. We quote
from volume II, chapter ix, page 225, " The Law concerning
Apostates " :
" When a Mussulman apostatizes from the faith, an exposition
thereof is to be laid before him in such a manner that if his
apostasy should have arisen from any religious doubts or scruples,
those may be removed. The reason for laying an exposition
of the faith before him is that it is possible some doubts or errors
may have arisen in his mind, which may be removed by such
exposition ; and as there are two modes of repelling the sin
of apostasy, namely, destruction or Islam, and as Islam is
preferable to destruction, the evil is rather to be removed by
means of an exposition of the faith ; but yet this exposition of
the faith is not incumbent (according to what the learned
have remarked upon this head), since a call to the faith has
already reached the apostate.
"An apostate is to be imprisoned for three days ; within which
time, if he returns to the faith, it is well ; but if not, he must be
slain. It is recorded in the Jam a Sagheerihat " an exposition
of the faith is to be laid before an apostate, and if he refuse the
faith he must be slain " ; and with respect to what is above
stated, that "he is to be imprisoned for three days," it only
implies that if he requires a delay, three days must be granted
him, as such is the term generally admitted and allowed for
the purpose of consideration. It is recorded from Hani fa and
Abou Yusef that the granting of a delay of three days is laudable,
whether the apostate require it or not : and it is recorded from
Shaft i that it is incumbent on the Imam to delay for three
days, and that it is not lawful for him to put the apostate to
death before the lapse of that time ; since it is most probable
that a Mussulman will not apostatize but from some doubt or
error arising in his mind ; wherefore some time is necessary for
consideration, and this is fixed at three days. The arguments
of our doctors upon this point are two-fold. First, God says,
in the Koran, " Slay the unbeliever," without any reserve of a
delay of three days being granted to him ; and the Prophet has
also said " Slay the man who changes his religion," without
mentioning anything concerning a delay. Secondly, an apostate
I M -SIMILE or \ MANUSCRIPT I AGE FROM AL BUKHARI ; telling how
Mohammed treated Apostates. (See page 38 .)
THE LAW OF APOSTASY. 41
is an infidel enemy who has received a call to the faith,
wherefore he may be slain upon the instant, without any
delay. An apostate is termed on this occasion an infidel enemy,
because he is undoubtedly such ; and he is not protected, since
he has not required a protection ; neither is he a Zimmee, because
capitation tax has not been accepted from him ; hence it is
proved that he is an infidel enemy. It is to be observed that,
in these rules, there is no difference made between an apostate
who is a freeman and one who is a slave, as the arguments upon
which they are established apply equally to both descriptions. . . .
If an apostate die or be slain in his apostasy, his property
acquired during his profession of the faith goes to his heirs who
are Mussulmans, and whatever he acquired during the apostasy
is public property of the community of Mussulmans ; that is,
it goes to the public treasury. This is according to Hanifa. . . .
All acts of an apostate with respect to his property (such as
purchase, sale, manumission, mortgage, and gift) done during
his apostasy are suspended in their effect. If, therefore, he
become a Mussulman those acts are valid ; but if he die, or be
slain, or desert into a foreign country, those acts are null.
" If any person kill an apostate, before an exposition of the
faith has been laid open to him, it is abominable (that is, it is
laudable to let him continue unmolested). Nothing, however,
is incurred by the slayer ; because the infidelity of an alien
renders the killing of him admissible ; and an exposition of the
faith, after a call to the faith, is not necessary.
" If a Mussulman woman become an apostate, she is not
put to death, but is imprisoned, until she return to the faith.
Shafei maintains that she is to be put to death ; because of
the tradition before cited ; and also, because, as men are put
to death for apostasy solely for this reason, that it is a crime
of great magnitude, and therefore requires that its punishment
be proportionably severe (namely, death] , so the apostasy of a
woman being likewise (like that of a man) a crime of great
magnitude, it follows that her punishment should be the same
as that of a man. l
1 Hamilton s Hadaya, or Guide ; a Commentary on the Mussulman Laws,
vol. ii, p. 227. The same laws are given in all books on fiqh (jurisprudence).
E.g. the celebrated manual, Badayet-ul-Mujtahid, by Ibn Rushdi Al Qartabi,
vol. ii, p. 383 (Cairo edition).
42 THE LAW OF APOSTASY IN ISLAM.
" If a husband and wife both apostatize, and desert to a
foreign country, and the woman become pregnant there, and
bring forth a child, and to this child another child be afterwards
born, and the Mussulman troops then subdue the territory,
the child and the child s child both are plunder, and the
property of the state : the child is so, because as the apostate
mother is made a slave, her child is so likewise, as a dependant
on her ; and the child s child is so, because he is an original
infidel and an enemy ; and as an original infidel is fee, or the
property of the state, so is he : the woman s child may, more
over, be compelled to become a Mussulman, but not the child s
child. Hassan records from Haneefa that compulsion may be
used upon the child s child also, to make him embrace the faith,
as a dependant of the grandfather." x
In an article by Johann Kresmarik on criminal law in Turkey
(Zeitschrift der Deutschen Morgenlandischen Gesellschaft, vol. Iviii,
pp. 69-113) there is one section on " Irtidad." He quotes
from a number of Turkish law books, showing that their
interpretation of the law for apostasy is no less severe than
that above indicated.
An excellent summary of the Moslem law of apostasy is given
by Juynboll in the Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics, vol. i,
p. 625. He refers to other authorities, especially : Matthews
Mishcat, vol. ii, p. 177 f. ; C. Snouck Hurgronje, Indische Gids,
1884, vol. i, p. 794 ; and El Dimishqi-Tar garnet id Umma fi
Ikhtilaf al A imat, p. 138 (Bulaq edition, 1300).
Of the four Orthodox schools of Islam the Maliki sect
seems to be the sternest with regard to apostasy. According
to Captain F. H. Ruxton : 2
" In Maliki and Shaft i i Law the punishment is irrespective
of sex, whilst in Hanafi Law a female apostate is to be kept
in confinement until she recant.
"Again, the Hedaya speaks of the possibility or otherwise of
an apostate selling his property, of his marriage continuing,
of the validity of his or her testamentary disposition, whilst
in the Mukhtassar such dispositions are not admitted ; seeing
that the apostate is to be put to death on the third day on
1 Hamilton s Hadaya ; a Commentary on the Mussulman Laws, vol. ii, p. 244.
1 The Moslem World, vol. hi, p. 38.
THE LAW OF APOSTASY. 43
the evidence of two witnesses, whilst his or her property is
forfeited to the Bait-ul-mal, and his or her testamentary dis
position becomes null and void.
" In strict law, therefore, a convert cannot exist. But though
in all probability no European Power has troubled itself over
the Mohammedan Law of Apostasy, still we know that no man
could directly be charged with the offence in any Native
Court. His life is thus safeguarded by the Paramount Pow r er ;
but the convert himself, in the eyes of his fellow-men and of
the law of the country, remains an outlaw."
He gives further particulars showing that although the life
of the convert may be safeguarded by European Powers, yet
the convert surfers certain legal disabilities, which he has sum
marized as follows :
" i. The convert s Moslem brothers are forbidden to give
him branches to be carried on Palm Sunday ; to buy an
animal slaughtered by him ; to sell him wood from which
a crucifix might be made, or copper from which bells could be
cast ; to alienate a house in order that it may be used as
a church. (Cf. Ch. i, on the Use of the Flesh of Animals ;
Ch. xiii, on Sale.)
"2. A Moslem is forbidden to lend or hire to the convert
the services of his slave, or to lend or hire him an animal to
ride. A Moslem is forbidden to give, without payment, his
personal services to a Christian. (Cf. Ch. xxvi, Commodatum ;
Ch. xxxii, Hire.)
" It is, however, to be remarked that a Hubus ( endowment )
created by a Christian in favour of a church or hospital is
valid. (Cf. Ch. xxxv, Hubus.)
"3. A Christian may not bear witness against a Moslem,
though the latter may bear witness against the former, under
the same conditions as govern all evidence. (Cf. Ch. xxxix,
"4. No Moslem, not even a slave, can be put to death
for the murder of a Christian. (Cf. Ch. xl, Homicide.)
"5- No Mohammedan woman may marry a Christian.
(Cf. Ch. v, Marriage.)
" 6. Difference of religion is a bar to inheritance. (Cf.
Ch. iv, Succession.)
44 THE LAW OF APOSTASY IN ISLAM.
" There are, of course, many more such disabilities, but
none which need be reckoned of practical importance under
present day conditions." So far Captain D. H. Ruxton.
In Turkey the Law of Apostasy was naturally the law of
the courts for many centuries, until, on November 3rd, 1839,
Sultan Abdul Medjid issued an imperial rescript named the
Hatti Sherif, promising to protect the life, honour and property
of all Ottoman subjects irrespective of religion. This was a
great step forward. In August 1843, however, an Armenian
youth, some twenty years of age, was beheaded in Constan
tinople for apostasy. He had once accepted Islam, then left
the country ; later on he returned to the practices of
Christianity. " In spite of threats and promises he adhered
to his ancestral faith, with the above results. Sir Stratford
de Redcliffe did all in his power to save his life, but without
success. This execution aroused the ambassadors of England,
France, Russia, and Prussia, who united in a formal demand
upon the Sultan to abolish the death penalty for a change of
religion. Hitherto there had been full liberty to change from
and to all non-Moslem religions, and for anyone to abandon
the faith of his fathers and to embrace Islam, but the right
had been denied to a Mohammedan to depart from that faith.
" Under pressure brought to bear by the before-named
ambassadors, led by the British, the Sultan, on March 2ist,
1844, gave a written pledge as follows : The Sublime Porte
engages to take effectual measures to prevent, henceforward,
the persecution and putting to death of the Christian who is
an apostate/ Two days later Abdul Medjid, in a conference
with Sir Stratford, gave assurance That henceforward neither
shall Christianity be insulted in my dominions, nor shall
Christians be in any way persecuted for their religion. " 1
Later history has shown how futile were all these promises
and how the spirit of the law is interpreted by Islam
triumphing again and again in spite of all treaties and regu
lations. The recent Armenian massacres were not the killing
of apostates, but surely emphasize the fact that religious
liberty does not exist under Turkish rule.
The Treaty of Berlin (1878, Art. 2) states that absolute
1 Daybreak in Turkey, by James L. Barton (Boston : The Pilgrim Press)
THE LAW OF APOSTASY. 45
religious liberty is to exist in all the various territories men
tioned in the preceding articles, including the " whole Turkish
Empire." The Sixty-second Article begins : " The Sublime
Porte, having expressed willingness to maintain the principle of
religious liberty and to give it the widest sphere, the contracting
parties take cognizance of this spontaneous declaration."
"A high official once told me," writes Dr. Barton, " that
Turkey gives to all her subjects the widest religious liberty.
He said, There is the fullest liberty for the Armenian to become
a Catholic, for the Greek to become an Armenian, for the
Catholic and the Armenian to become Greeks, for any one
of them to become Protestants, or for all to become Moham
medans. There is the fullest and completest religious liberty
for all the subjects of this empire.
" In response to the question, How about liberty for the
Mohammedan to become a Christian ? he replied, That is
an impossibility in the nature of the case. When one has once
accepted Islam and become a follower of the Prophet, he can
not change. There is no power on earth that can change him.
Whatever he may say or claim cannot alter the fact that he
is a Moslem still and must always be such. It is, therefore, an
absurdity to say that a Moslem has the privilege of changing
his religion, for to do so is beyond his power. For the last
forty years the actions of the official and influential Turks have
borne out this theory of religious liberty in the Ottoman empire.
Every Moslem showing interest in Christian things takes his
life in his hands. No protection can be afforded him against
the false charges that begin at once to multiply. His only safety
lies in flight." 1
The punishment of death is sometimes decreed for lesser
offences. In the latter part of the year 1879 one of the Turkish
Ulama, named Ahmad, was condemned to death for having
assisted Dr. Koelle, an English clergyman residing in Constanti
nople, in the translation of the Book of Common Prayer and
a tract on " Christ the Word of God." Owing to the urgent
representations of the British Ambassador the man s life was
spared, but he was banished to the island of Chio. Canon Sell
(Faith of Islam, p. 278) writes :
1 Daybreak in Turkey, by James L. Barton, pp. 256-7.
46 THE LAW OF APOSTASY IN ISLAM.
" On January i6th, 1844, the Earl of Aberdeen wrote to
Sir Stratford Canning thus : The Christian Powers will not
endure that the Porte should insult and trample on their faith,
by treating as a criminal any person who embraces it. All that
was gained by this was the publication by the Porte of a
Memorandum in the year 1856, containing these words : As all
forms of religion are and shall be freely professed in the Ottoman
dominions, no subject of His Majesty the Sultan shall be
hindered in the exercise of the religion that he professes, nor
shall he be in any way annoyed on this account. None shall
be compelled to change his religion/ It will be seen that this
does not meet the case of a convert from Islam, but the British
Ambassador advised the British Government to be content with
this statement. In a despatch, dated Feb. i2th, 1856, he says :
The law of the Koran is not abolished, it is true, respecting
renegades, and the Sultan s Ministers affirm that such a stretch
of authority would exceed even His Majesty s legal powers.
The Ambassador went on to say that though this is the case,
the British Government could remonstrate were the Koranic
There are references to the bearing of the law of apostasy
in all Mohammedan works on jurisprudence. For example, we
find the following regulations in a manual of the law of marriage
from the Mukhtasar of Sidi Khalil, translated by A. D. Russell,
a judge and magistrate in the Mohammedan colony of Trinidad,
South America. The book is, therefore, intended for use as a
present-day manual, and does not deal with conditions in
" Section 107. (Where separation is imperative) in con
sequence of the conversion of one (of two spouses), the
annulment of the marriage will be without repudiation.
" Section 108. Contrary to the principle indicated in the
last section, an irrevocable repudiation is involved where separa
tion becomes necessary owing to the apostasy of one of the
spouses. This will be so even where the husband apostatizes
in order to embrace his wife s faith." 1
We read also in Mohammedan Jurisprudence, by Abd-ur-
Rahim, that : "Apostasy or change of faith from Islam to
1 A Manual of the Law of Marriage from the Mukhtasar of Sidi Khali
(Translated by A. D. Russell : London), pp. 39-40.
THE LAW OF APOSTASY. 47
infidelity places the apostate outside the protection of law. The
law, however, by way of indulgence, gives the apostate a certain
locus poenitentiae." 1 For instance, he will first be asked to
conform to the Faith, and if he entertains any doubt, efforts
must be made to remove it by argument. He will be given an
option of three days to re-embrace the Faith before sentence
is passed on him. But since a man loses the protection of law
by the very act of apostasy, if a Moslem kills an apostate before
the chance of re-embracing the Faith has been given, no penalty
of the law will be incurred, although it will be considered as
an improper act. According to the two disciples, so long as
the sentence has not been passed on an apostate he will be
allowed to retain possession of his property ; but according to
Abu Hanifa, it passes to his heirs at the instant of apostasy.
Perhaps the most succinct account of apostasy is that given
in the celebrated book Minhaj-at-Talibin, by Nawawi. The
adherents of this school of Shafi i number some sixty million
persons, of whom about half are in the Netherlands Indies,
and the rest in Egypt and Syria, the Hadramaut, Southern
India and Malaya. The manual from which this account is
taken is a standard work in all of these countries and
especially in Egypt. 2
"Apostasy consists in the abjuration of Islam, either
mentally, or by words, or by acts incompatible with faith.
As to oral abjuration, it matters little whether the words are
said in joke, or through a spirit of contradiction, or in good faith.
But before such words can be considered as a sign of apostasy
they must contain a precise declaration :
" (i) That one does not believe in the existence of the
Creator, or of His apostles ; or
" (2) That Mohammed, or one of the other apostles, is an
imposter ; or
" (3) That one considers lawful what is strictly forbidden
by the ijma , e.g. the crime of fornication ; or
" (4) That one considers to be forbidden what is lawful
according to the ijma .
1 Mohammedan Jurisprudence, by Abd-ur-Rahim (Thacker & Co. : Calcutta,
19"). p. 253.
* Minhaj-at-Talibin : a Manual of Mohammedan Law according to the
School of Shafi i, by Nawawi, from the French Edition of A. W. C. van den
Berg, by E. C. Howard, District Judge, Singapore. London : Thacker, 1914.
48 THE LAW OF APOSTASY IN ISLAM.
" (5) That one is not obliged to follow the precepts of the
ijma , as well positive as negative ; or
" (6) That one intends shortly to change one s religion ;
or that one has doubts upon the subject of the
truth of Islam, etc."
"As to acts, these are not considered to be incompatible
with faith, unless they show a clear indication of a mockery
or denial of religion, as, e.g. throwing the Koran upon a muck
heap or prostrating oneself before an idol, or worshipping the
sun. No account is taken of the apostasy of a minor or a
lunatic, nor of acts committed under violent compulsion.
Even where the guilty person, after pronouncing the words
or committing the acts, becomes mad, he may not be put to
death until he has recovered his sanity. This favour, however,
does not, according to our school, extend to the case of drunken
ness. Apostasy, and a declaration of having returned from one s
errors, pronounced by a drunken person, have the ordinary
" Witnesses need not recount in all their details the facts that
constitute apostasy ; they may confine themselves to affirming
that the guilty person is an apostate. Other authorities are of
the contrary opinion ; but the majority go so far as to make
no account of the mere denial of the accused, even where the
assertions of the witnesses are made in general terms. But
where, on the other hand, the accused declares that he acted
under compulsion, and the circumstances render this assertion
plausible, e.g. if he has been kept a prisoner by infidels, he-
has a presumption in his favour, provided he takes an oath ;
but this presumption does not arise in the absence of such
circumstances. Only where the two witnesses required by law
do not declare that the accused is apostate/ but that the
words pronounced by him are words implying apostasy/ and
the accused then maintain that he only pronounced them
under compulsion, the presumption is in his favour, and
it is not necessary for him to give more detailed explanations.
Where, after the death of an individual whose faith has never
been suspected, one of his sons who are both Moslems declares
that his father abjured Islam and died impenitent, and adds
the cause of the apostasy, this son alone is excluded from the
FACSIMILE OFMSS. PAGE FROM STANDARD WORK ENTITLED " HUJJAT-AL-UMMA
FI IKHTILAF-AL- IMA," by Abi Abdullah Mohammed Al Ouraishi, A.M. 145:
prescribing the death penalty for apostasv.
THE LAW OF APOSTASY. 49
succession, and his portion escheats to the State as a tax ;
but his deposition has no effect upon the rights of his co-
inheritors. The same rule applies also where the cause of the
crime is not mentioned and the son limits himself to saying
that his father died apostate.
"An attempt should be made to induce the apostate to return
from his or her errors, though according to one authority this
is only a commendable proceeding. The exhortation should
take place immediately, or, according to one jurist, in the
first three days ; and if it is of no effect, the guilty man or
woman should be put to death. Where, on the contrary, the
guilty party returns from his or her errors, this conversion
must be accepted as sincere, and the converted person left alone ;
unless, according to some authorities, he has embraced an occult
religion such as the Zend, whose adherents, while professing
Islam, are none the less infidels in their heart, or some doctrine
admitting of a mystic or allegorical interpretation of the Koran.
" The child of an apostate remains a Moslem, without regard
to the time of its conception, or to one of its parents remaining
a Moslem or not. One authority, however, considers the child
whose father and mother have abjured the faith to be an apos
tate, while another considers such a child to be by origin an
infidel. (The child should be considered as an apostate.
This is what the jurists of Irak have handed down to us as the
universally accepted theory.)
"As to the ownership of the property of an apostate dead in
impenitence, it remains in suspense, i.e. the law considers it
as lost from the moment of abjuration of the faith ; but in case
of repentance it is considered never to have been lost. How
ever, there are several other theories upon the subject, though
all authorities agree that debts contracted before apostasy, as
well as the personal maintenance of the apostate during the
period of exhortation, are charges upon the estate. It is
the same with any damages due in consequence of pecuniary
prejudice caused to other persons, the maintenance of his wives,
whose marriage remains in suspense, and the maintenance of
his descendant or descendants. Where it is admitted that
ownership remains in suspense, the same principle must be
applied to dispositions subsequent to apostasy, in so far as
5o THE LAW OF APOSTASY IN ISLAM.
they are capable of being suspended, such an enfranchisement
by will, and legacies, which all remain intact where the
exhortation is successful, though not otherwise. On the other
hand, dispositions which, by their very nature, do not admit
of such suspension, such as sale, pledging, gift, and enfranchise
ment by contract, are null and void ab initio, though Shafi i,
in his first period, wished to leave them in suspense. All
authorities, however, are agreed that an apostate s property
may in no case be left at his disposition, but must be deposited
in charge of some person of irreproachable character. But
a female slave may not be so entrusted to a man ; she must
be entrusted to some trustworthy woman. An apostate s
property must be leased out, and it is to the court that his
slave undergoing enfranchisement by contract should make his
So far the legal text-books of Islam. Observe, however,
that all the above laws regarding apostasy are based in the
first instance, as we have seen, on the Koran itself, which to all
Mohammedans is the unalterable, eternal Word of God. The
matter is summed up very briefly in the famous book Al
Madkhal, of Mohammed Al Abdari Ibn Hadj, vol. ii, p. a8i
(Cairo edition), where we read :
"As for apostates, it is permitted to kill them by facing
them or coming upon them from behind, just as in the case of
polytheists. Secondly, their blood if shed brings no vengeance.
Thirdly, their property is the spoil of true believers. Fourthly,
their marriage ties become null and void."
Thus far we have given the opinion of orthodox juriscults,
all of them belonging to the Sunni school. This sect embraces
the vast majority of Moslems everywhere. In Persia, parts of
India and Mesopotamia, however, the Shi ah sect are in the
majority, and number altogether about fifteen millions. In
their law books the law of apostasy is no less severe. We read :
" Every individual of the male sex who, born in the religion
of Islam, apostatizes, no longer enjoys the protection of Islam,
but is ipso facto condemned to death. His wife should be
separated from him ; and his property is confiscate. . . .
" The woman guilty of apostasy is not punished with
death, even if she was born in the Moslem faith, but she is
THE LAW OF APOSTASY. 51
condemned to perpetual imprisonment, and is to be beaten
with rods at the hours of prayer. . . .
"A child born of a heretic after the apostasy of the father,
and of a Mohammedan mother, shares equally with those
whose birth preceded the apostasy of the father. The child
descended from a heretic father and mother, and conceived
after the apostasy, is subject to the same conditions as his
parents ; and if he is assassinated, the murderer cannot be
punished by the law of retaliation." 1
Regarding marriage disabilities we find the following regula
tions laid down as present-day principles of Mohammedan
law, applicable to all Moslems in British India. We quote
from Principles of Mohammedan Law, by Faiz Badruddin
Tyabji, M.A., published at Bombay, 1913 :
"Subject to Act XXI, of 1850, where either party
apostatizes from Islam, the marriage becomes null and void.
" Where a marriage is made void by the apostasy of the
husband, if it has been consummated, the wife is entitled to
the whole of her mahr (dowry) ; if it has not been con
summated, she is entitled to half of the mahr.
" The wife is entitled to no part of the mahr where the
marriage becomes void by her apostasy.
" If both parties apostatize together and come back to
Islam, the marriage is re-established."
The Act of 1850 referred to is given in the same Law
Book, and is entitled the Caste Disabilities Removal Act
(p. 30). In it the following clause was inserted to establish
certain rights for apostates in India :
" So much of any law or usage now in force within the
territories subject to the government of the East India
Company as inflicts on any person forfeiture of rights or
property or may be held in any way to impair or affect any
right of inheritance, by reason of his or her renouncing, or
having been excluded from, the communion of any religion,
or being deprived of caste, shall cease to be enforced as law
in the Courts of the East India Company, and in the Courts
established by Royal Charter within the said territories."
This provision introduced into the Law Courts of India,
1 Droit Musulman ; Recueil de Lois concernant Les Musulntans Schyites,
by A. Querry, vol. ii, pp. 528-533. Paris : 1872.
52 THE LAW OF APOSTASY IN ISLAM.
does not yet, however, obtain in Turkey, Egypt, Syria,
Palestine, Persia, Arabia, nor in any country under the old
Moslem law. It is to be hoped that under the new mandatories
such provision will be made as would definitely declare the
abrogation of the law of apostasy above described as regards
personal rights, property rights and marriage. Until these
laws, characterized by a high court in the Madras Presidency
as being contrary to " justice, equity, and good conscience,"
are removed, we cannot expect Moslems in large numbers to
face the consequences of apostasy, even if they are convinced
of the truth of Christianity.
In regard to the present situation and the need of urging
special corrective legislation, we may quote the words of the
Rev. Canon W. H. T. Gairdner. What he says in regard to
Egypt may be said of Persia, Syria, and the entire Near East.
" It is submitted that to secure in Egypt the same level of
elementary personal freedom which is considered a necessary
minimum in civilized countries, a further modification of
existing law and usage is still necessary. For example :
" (a) Conversions from Christianity to Mohammedanism are
registered officially, and the new status of the convert is thus
established. But there is no way of securing the registration
and recognition of at least equally mature and considered con
versions to Christianity, whose status is thus exceedingly un
satisfactory, vis-a-vis the Government, the law, and the public.
" (b) A convert, on being baptized, especially if he changes
his name, as he is morally obliged to, is deprived of his
patrimony, and that not only when there is a special clause
in the family trust which secured the property to orthodox
Mohammedans exclusively, but also where there is no such
clause, i.e. where the family property is divided in the normal
way. It is even doubtful whether a convert could secure
the probate of a special legacy in his favour, except by
virtually declaring himself a Moslem when doing so and in
order to do so.
" (c) A woman has no power to change her faith in Egypt.
If unmarried, her person can be claimed by her father or
guardian ; and if married, by her husband, and the British-
officered police will execute the order of the Moslem court to
THE LAW OF APOSTASY. 53
this effect. She then disappears from view, and every form of
pressure is applied to make her actually or virtually recant, and
oblige her to live an actually or virtually Mohammedan life."
The law in regard to apostasy is doubtless one of the chief
factors in Moslem intolerance towards those who produce
apostates, e.g. missionaries. From the time of the earliest
convert to Christianity, Obeidallah Ibn Jahsh (who was also
the first missionary, and of whose conversion and subsequent
persecution in Abyssinia we will speak later), until the Middle
Ages the record is one of constant, continued intolerance and
persecution. All of Raymond Lull s converts were put to
death, and he himself suffered martyrdom. These pages of
mission history are wet with tears and blood.
In some missionary letters from Franciscans in the fourteenth
century, found in MSS. in the library at Cambridge, we read
this thrilling account : l
" You will know that there perished lately in the city of
Trebizond Brothers Anthony of Milan, Monald of Ancona, and
Ferdinand (perhaps a mistake for Francis) of Petriolo, who
especially (as all the brothers bear witness) in Lent (?), and in
the presence of Qadi (as the bishop or prelate is called), and of
all the people giving sight to a blind man, and very often dis
crediting Mohommet and his law, are brought to the square or
Maydan where, after sentence had been pronounced and they
did not cease to preach, all cried out, Let all who despise
our law and hold our prophets as cheap as mud be put to death/
And when they were most cruelly pricked with swords and
spears, they said, This way of salvation is the joy of inward
delight to us. On their knees, and wounded with many blows
they were at length beheaded and torn limb from limb, and their
limbs were carried and hung up about the towers and walls
of the city. But some of them, bought by the merchants or
stolen, were brought back to us. A Saracen, too, who had pity
on them tried to dissuade the butchers from so much cruelty, but
he was instantly killed. And an Armenian priest who seemed
friendly to the martyrs was whipped through the whole city
with a [an animal s] head tied round his neck."
That was in the fourteenth century. On Feb. I2th, 1916, in
1 The East and West, " Fourteenth-Century Missionary Letters," A. C.
Moule, p. 357, Oct., 1921.
54 THE LAW OF APOSTASY IN ISLAM.
the same locality and according to the same principle of
intolerance, similar cruelty was perpetrated (Report of Viscount
Bryce on the Armenian Atrocities, p. 158) : " Dr. Shimmun was
in the village of Spurghan when the Turks attacked the place.
He was among those who took refuge on a mountain near the
lake. He was captured and told that since he had been a
good doctor and had helped the wounded they would not kill
him, but that he must accept the Mohammedan faith. He refused,
as about all Christians did. They poured oil on him and before
applying the torch, they gave him another chance to forsake his
religion. Again he refused, and they set his clothes on fire.
While he was running in agony from the flames, the Turks shot
him several times. After he fell to the ground unconscious,
they hacked his head off. Mr. Allen, an American missionary,
who went from village to village burying the victims of this
butchery at Urumia, found the body of Shimmun half-eaten
And what is the law of apostasy to-day ? The following letter
has recently come from a correspondent in Constantinople :
"A rather sad thing happened over here the other day.
While Dr. Zwemer was in Smyrna (1920) he succeeded in
getting a Mohammedan to stand up and confess Christ. I have
forgotten what the young fellow s name is. Of course, the
Turks got hold of it, and the other day an article appeared in
one of the papers which was signed by this same boy, in
which he stated that he had not made a confession of any
kind, but on the contrary he was a stronger Mohammedan
than ever. One of the Y.M.C.A. men went to call on him to
find out what was the matter, and, lo and behold, he was
not to be found ! A thorough investigation has been conducted,
and it has been found that the poor fellow has been killed,
and that this article appeared after his death. You can
see that it is a rather risky thing for any Mohammedan to
give up his faith, especially in public."
The spirit of Islam has not changed since the days of Omar.
Then, as now, a convert to Christianity was outlawed, and ran
the risk of assassination. If the law of apostasy intimidates
the fearful or timid, it is also a challenge to brave men and
women to heroism and sacrifice. We will see how it works.
HOW IT WORKS.
Why did you take off the white turban from your fez ? Why have
you ceased being an " imam " ? Shemseddin replied, Because I am a
" For more than an hour and a half he was questioned, and as the case
went on the crowd increased. His answers were clear, distinct, gentle,
unequivocal. You may kill me, said he, you may slay me in any way
you please ; you may make me a slave, but my heart is freed. I see in
Islam many plants not of God s planting, and by the grace of God I want
to do all I can to root them up. I see a great building, very high, very
glorious, built by force, but no heart or soul in it. Some day it will fall
down and destroy those who occupy it.
S. RALPH HARLOW, in Student Witnesses for Christ.
How IT WORKS.
THE law of apostasy as outlined in our last chapter is not a
dead letter. It is known to all Moslems from their youth up, if
not in its detail of legal penalties, yet in its power of producing
an attitude bitterly hostile toward converts to Christianity.
What else could such a law produce except a fanatic attitude
toward all who are not Moslems ? The more Mohammedan a
country or a community, the more does it despise the Christian.
Those who have wandered in Arabia in the tracks of
C. M. Doughty recognize the picture he gives of the Arab s
attitude toward the Nasrany. " Allah curse the Yahud and
Nasara. Some of the camelmen said, Thou wast safe in thine
own country, thou mightest have continued there ; but since
thou art come into the land of the Moslemin, God has delivered
thee into our hands to die so perish all the Nasara ! and be
burned in hell with your father, Sheytan. " l
Apostates from Islam run grave risks in Arabia. Even to
this day in the coast towns, where the Moslem law is not allowed
to operate, this desire to kill a convert remains, and it must
be guarded against.
I shall certainly shoot my brother with this revolver if I
ever see him going to the Christians Sunday afternoon service !
So declared recently the brother of one of the converts baptized
in Basrah in 1920. Oh, please stay away from the church
service, so that your brother will not carry out his threat, the
convert s mother pleaded with him. You say your new religion
is a religion of love, she continued ; you will not show love if
you give your brother a chance to kill you. For her sake he
stayed away some Sundays until his brother went to India.
His mother finally became convinced that he was in very truth
determined to remain a Christian, and her visits to him have
become less frequent. Recently she said, It would be a feast-
1 Wanderings in Arabia, by C. M. Doughty (London : Duckworth), vol. ii,
58 THE LAW OF APOSTASY IN ISLAM.
day for me if you would only say, " Secretly, I m a Moslem."
He replied, It would be a feast-day for me if I could only hear
you say, " I m a Christian, but secretly." There s no doubt
of it, she declared, you are indeed a Christian. Callers come
to the hospital just to look at this convert, and to see how his
change of religion has changed his appearance. Two Arabs
from the interior came once while he was taking a noon-day nap.
Where is he ? Where is he ? they asked. A patient uncovered
our friend s face. Here he is, he said. But he still looks
like a man ! they exclaimed. What did you expect to find ?
they were asked, but they hastened away without answering.
Children point him out to each other as they pass the hospital
and see him on one of the benches, and they all curse him
with expert tongues." 1
It is a long call from the East Coast of Arabia to the University
of Michigan in the United States, but the sword of Damocles
that threatens and intimidates every convert hangs there, too,
as by a thread. A few years ago I met an Indian Moslem
student at the University, who was eager for baptism, and had
a thorough knowledge of the New Testament ; but, said he,
" I am afraid to confess Christ publicly because of my father
in the Punjab. The arm of Islam," he continued, " is long
and cruel, and I do not know what might happen to me if my
father heard that I had denied his faith and trampled on my
long heritage as a Moslem."
From every mission field there are abundant illustrations of
how this law of the apostate works to intimidate, and leads to
persecution where it does not actually end in the death of the
convert. Dr. R. S. McClanahan says : "Although I cannot
give many instances of those who have really suffered because
of this law, yet I know of one young man who became a
Christian in the Delta some years ago, who, after being baptized
at Alexandria and becoming an official in the postal department,
has been having all kinds of difficulty placed in his way because
of his being unable to prove this change which he has made.
The Christians who have known him since childhood are
intimidated and afraid to testify that he changed his name from
Abd el Majid to Abd el Masih ; and the Moslems in his village
1 Neglected Arabia. Quarterly Report for 1922.
How IT WORKS. 59
in the Delta of course will never testify to the change. The
government officials, hiding behind some formality, are trying
to prevent him from holding his regular standing by raising
the question as to whether Abd el Masih is the identical Abd
el Majid whose name appeared in certain credentials which he
received for successful work during the war."
Another missionary in Egypt states, regarding a visit made
some years ago to a village near Denshawi in the Menoufieh
province : "I visited this village to meet with a tailor there
who was reading the Scriptures, and was asking for help in
solving difficulties which had arisen during his reading. It was
impossible to have a private talk with him, and the visit issued
in a very interesting discussion in the presence of a crowd of
over thirty persons, shut up in the little tailor shop in the
centre of the village ; the tailor himself, at my suggestion,
being the spokesman. Shortly after my visit the notorious
Denshawi troubles took place, and during the confusion and
disorder which ensued, and whilst the officials were engrossed
in the trial, the Omdeh of the village gave the tailor a cup of
coffee. He died almost immediately afterwards, and was quietly
buried and forgotten. As I was leaving after the discussion
at which the Omdeh had been present, he said in my hearing
No one in this village has ever become a Christian, and I will
see to it that no one ever does. It seems to me that there
can be only one inference to be drawn from this incident.
This man was not a convert, but simply an enquirer. If this
was done with an enquirer, what would be done when time
and opportunity afforded a chance to enforce Islamic law
against a convert ? "
Both these incidents are comparatively recent ; and the spirit
of Islam has not changed, although there has been much
shouting for liberty, freedom and independence. The pastors
of the evangelical churches are themselves intimidated by threats
when they baptize Moslem converts in Egypt.
"At the winter meeting of the Assiout Presbytery, February
1922," writes W. T. Fairman, " the pastor of Sanabo presented
a request from a man called Mohammed F for baptism
for himself and his little daughter. The pastor said that in his
opinion this man was a true believer. He had been attending
60 THE LAW OF APOSTASY IN ISLAM.
church for some four years and had asked for baptism several
times, but had always been put off. Presbytery appointed
a committee of two, the pastor and myself, to examine
this man, and advise what action should be taken. Although
he was an unlettered man, I found that he was well grounded
in the doctrines of Christianity, and in no uncertain tones
could speak of a real spiritual experience. The pastor gave
him a very good character, and said he had no doubts concern
ing him. We reported to Presbytery that in our opinion this
was an undoubted convert, and advised his baptism. At the
close of that session he and his little daughter were baptized.
The man was a widower, and the daughter was placed in the
orphanage at Assiout by her father and the pastor. Presbytery
then dismissed, and the man went away. He wrote to his
relatives at Sanabo, informing them of what he had done, and
telling them it was of no use for them to say anything ; he had
made up his mind, had acted, and it was irrevocable. If they
wished to see him, they could visit him at Mallawi. They
went to Mallawi, but he had gone and no one knew where.
They immediately went to the pastor and threatened to beat
him to death if he did not disclose the man s whereabouts.
The pastor said he could not do so ; then the relatives of
the convert insisted on his going with them to the orphanage
and asking for the girl. He first denied any knowledge of her
whereabouts, but finally went with them, and the girl was
handed over. They then said, Since you knew where the girl
was you must know where the man is. And although they
threatened to kill him if he did not tell, he insisted that he did
not know, and said that he had no further responsibility as the
man was of full age, and not a child. But he was so alarmed
that he left the town and the church, taking his wife and
family with him. Finally the convert was found by the
authorities and arrested at Deirout ; but when he was con
fronted by the relatives and the Kadi, he stood firm and refused
to recant. What has happened since then, I do not know.
The pastor on my advice returned to his church and is still there."
The following instances of persecution are found in the reports
of the Egypt General Mission (1903-1922) : "A father saw his
son reading the Bible, and taking it from him consigned it to
How IT WORKS. 61
the flames, and attempted to fatally injure the boy by throwing
him over the balusters. Later the lad received a second copy
of the Word of God ; and a tract which for weeks he carried
hidden in his pocket. When the father finally chanced to see
it, he gave the boy a cruelly severe beating, and continued
his ill-treatment until his son was forced to leave home." Of
another convert we read that he was beaten daily with a native
whip, and only those who have seen them know what they
are like. Since he remained obdurate, burning pieces of wood
were brought and placed red hot on his body to force him to
recant, but it was all of no avail. He said, " Kill me, and I
will go straight to be with Jesus." Some of his companions
suffered in a similar way. In one case the father decided to kill
his son, so he poured paraffin oil all over him, and was just
going to light it when an uncle came in and pleaded for the
life of the son. The father listened to the appeal, and banished
his son from his house and home for ever.
In 1912 a storm of persecution arose against A. T .
His clothes were taken away, his Bible burnt. His father
attempted to poison him. His uncle shot him, the bullet
entering his leg. His father told him to make his choice between
his fortune (some 2,000) and his faith, and with the chief
men of the village actually entered his private apartments in
the house (his harem, or wife s rooms), a terrible insult in
Islam, to search for incriminating papers. Twice attempts
were made to poison him ; twice they attempted by bribes and
threats to make his wife unfaithful to him. The whole story
of this man is one of loneliness, poverty and contempt, cheer
fully borne for Christ.
In 1923 a young man in one of the villages of the Delta
accepted Christ and secured work as a cook. "At home his
Testament was burned, and his brothers made it very unpleasant
for him ; but that was as nothing compared to the storm which
broke over him when, after due preparation, he decided to go
forward and openly confess Christ in baptism. Relatives from
far and near gathered at his home, threatening and cursing
him : a cousin, who had been in jail, said that even if he hid
in a fortress of brass he would get him out and kill him.
Under the threats and hatred the young man s courage failed,
62 THE LAW OF APOSTASY IN ISLAM.
and he promised not to be baptized then. Three times he
has now come to the point of being baptized, and through
fear has withdrawn each time. His brothers, who have often
heard the Gospel, are dead against him his own mother, who
really loves him, would rather see him dead than baptized." 1
If this is the condition of affairs in Egypt to-day we cannot
expect greater liberty in Turkey. Our correspondents write
of converts who were imprisoned and after their imprisonment
utterly disappeared. This was the fate of twenty men and
women from the Cesar ea district some few years ago. " The
attitude at present instead of being more tolerant is more
strict and merciless. The Nationalist Government is composed
for the most part of men who are not religious at all. They
are using Islam as a means to accomplish the ends being
pursued by the Pan-Islamic movement. In the territories
under the Greek and Allied occupation there has been an
unusual freedom during the last three years, but in Anatolia
this period has already closed, and it will probably be closed
in Constantinople very soon, and the law against apostasy will
be rigidly enforced. How long this state of things may continue,
no one can say. It may not last very long. Many believe the
attempt will be made to punish with death any Moselm who
should become a Christian."
President C. F. Gates, of Robert College, writes : "I have
known instances of converts who suffered because of the
fanaticism of their co-religionists. For example, while I was
in Mardin, a Moslem became a Christian and was sent to Mecca.
He was there kept in confinement, but one evening he stepped
out of doors and was shot. In Smyrna a Moslem became a
Christian, and two years later was stabbed. One of my former
students became a Christian and was tracked down as he was
about to take a steamer to leave the country, and sent back
under guard expecting a sentence of death. He, however,
managed to escape, and is still alive. It is a well-known fact
1 Miss M. Cay, of Shubra Zanga, Egypt, also calls attention to the fact
that, although the law regarding apostates cannot be legally enforced in
Egypt, the people in the country villages are chiefly afraid of their own
relatives and neighbours, who apply the law indirectly ; for, as a matter of
fact, " they generally accuse the convert falsely of something that has no
apparent connection with religion, in the hope of getting him severely
punished under the criminal code."
How IT WORKS. 63
that converts to Christianity from Islam are liable to be killed,
not by judicial condemnation and execution, but by secret
assassination or by mob violence."
The Rev. S. Ralph Harlow, in his Student Witnesses for Christ,
tells the story of Shemseddin, who was a convert at the college
near Smyrna, and who suffered grave persecution. " In the
life of our campus Shemseddin s influence was wonderful. His
conversion marked a turning-point in the spiritual life of the
college, and Greek and Armenian boys who bore the name of
Christian, but to whom Christianity had been of little real value
as an influence in their lives, now stopped to inquire as to the
hidden power of their own faith.
" Shemseddin was the first student in the college to sign the
Student Volunteer declaration. For two years he continued
thus to bear witness to Christ as Lord. His daily words and
acts were indeed a Gospel written in flesh and blood.
"And now (1921) from across the water comes this word :
that outside the walls of Smyrna his body has been found,
stabbed in many places. Just how he died, who killed him,
those in Smyrna have never been able to determine. But one
thing we do know, that only his earthly body was struck by
the knives of the murderers, and that his spirit, clad in the
armour of God, went to meet his Captain face to face."
Under British rule in Nigeria no death sentence can be passed
on any convert from Islam, but some years ago this was not
the case. " In Kano," says Dr. Walter R. Miller, " about
twenty years before our advent a Mullah who had been to
Mecca heard the Gospel while passing through Egypt ; and,
although only feebly understanding it, had apparently been
impressed by the grandeur of the personality of Christ. He
returned to Kano and preached what he knew. He was then
tortured and died, refusing to give up what he believed.
Nearly thirty years later, as a direct sequence of this, many of
his disciples who had fled came under the sound of the Gospel.
To make a long story short, a little Christian village was started
here, a community of over one hundred and thirty souls lived
under Christian law and teaching, and many were baptized.
Sleeping sickness has, during the last four years, nearly
annihilated this little community. I cannot say that there is
64 THE LAW OF APOSTASY IN ISLAM.
any change of attitude on the part of Moslems here. I believe,
nay I have proof, that were the British power removed, every
Christian would be executed at once. It is an anomaly that
the British government prevents a Christian inheriting from his
Moslem father, even though the latter and his son have con
tinued to live in most friendly relations."
We are told that conditions in Persia have changed radically
in the last twenty years. The constitution has resulted in more
liberty of thought and action. The police department now
handles many matters which the Mullahs formerly attended
to, and safeguards converts from mob violence and the
fanaticism of individual ecclesiastics. The fact that converts
are under the wing of foreign missionaries often makes the
multitude fear to touch them, as they suppose such apostates
receive some sort of political protection from them.
A few years ago conditions were different. All of the early
converts faced persecution, and some were put to death.
From this land comes the story of Mirza Paulos, a Moham
medan priest, who was converted to Christianity. After his
conversion he was subjected by the Moslem ecclesiastics to all
sorts of indignities and punishments. "At last, finding that not
chains nor torture could move him, he was cast into the streets
almost naked and told to be gone, and on pain of death never
to go near the missionaries again. Paulos went straight to
the man who had baptized him and said, bruised and torn as
he was, Sahib, I have thought that I was one of Christ s sheep
but, now that He has counted me worthy to thus suffer for
Him, I know I am. Bearing the marks of the Lord Jesus on
his body, despoiled of all his worldly goods for the sake of his
faith, despised as an outcast by his race, Paulos tried in
different ways to earn his daily bread. His children began to
sell fruit on the streets, but, being recognized, their fruit was
considered polluted by the touch of a Christian s child.
Finally, with wife and children, Paulos forsook the city which
had always been his home, in which he had been respected
and honoured ; and, after some months, arrived in Teheran,
where for five years he lived sometimes in distress and need,
sometimes in persecution, always in poverty : but never once
thinking of return to the faith which would reward him with
FACSIMILE OF THE TEXT IN THE STANDARD COLLECTION OF
TRADITIONS BY MUSLIM ; telling how Mohammed tortured the
This is Page Thirty-four from Volume Two, Chapter on the Apostate :
Muslim, Cairo Edition.
How IT WORKS. 65
position and comparative wealth. He seldom referred to what
he endured, but said : I do not like to speak of these things
as suffering. Compared with the sufferings of my Lord they are
nothing. I cease not to praise and thank Him that He has
made known His salvation to me. " l
From North Africa word comes that although persecution
according to the law of apostasy does not exist openly, all those
who turn from Islam to Christ suffer from their relatives such
nagging or bullying or coaxing that one often sees " a look of
dumb agony over the severance of family ties."
One correspondent goes on to say : " We feel that the danger
that they run here is of a worse order. All around them is
the risk of brain drugs and spells and hypnotism, and we have
come to the conclusion that a large proportion of the seeming
backsliding of converts may be traced to these combined
influences ; for I cannot but think that the spells (i.e. definite
Satanic influences invoked and brought to bear) have their
part in the havoc wrought. As regards the physical side of
the attempts ; we think, from comparing notes on symptoms
with a missionary from India, that datura is largely used for
drugging. Whatever the drug may be, it is well known in
their domestic intrigues, and can be administered unnoticed
in food or drink. It seems to excite the emotions and paralyses
the will power. According to the description that we have had
from one poor soul after another, a great darkness comes down
over their spirits, and lasts for several months before it wears
away, and they feel meantime that they cannot come near us
or have anything to do with us.
" We have just now a girl convert in one of our stations who
walked faithfully with Christ for years, but fell last spring under
the power of a sorcerer woman who was, we believe, sent by
the girl s elder brother to live in the house on purpose to turn
her from us ; and suddenly she would have nothing to do with
us. She knows all my thoughts to the bottom of my heart,
and I have to do as she tells me that was her explanation
for refusing all intercourse. In answer to prayer the woman
was got out of the house, but the cloud on the girl s spirit is
only now beginning to lift. Another story conies to mind
1 S. M. Jordan, in The Indian Witness, Nov. 8th, 1906.
66 THE LAW OF APOSTASY IN ISLAM.
that may seem to some incredible, but it was told me by the
missionary concerned, who fought and died in the ranks of the
North Africa Mission with a passion for souls that few have
shared. One of the converts in her solitary station was a
young fellow of good family. All went well with him for a
time, then suddenly he left off coming to the Mission House,
and all touch was lost except round by heaven. The winter
came, and the workers were clearing out the fireplace when they
caught sight of this man s name on a bit of paper. They
smoothed it out and deciphered it. It proved to be a charm
written to prevent his setting foot in the house or having
anything to do with the missionaries. They prayed in the
Name of Jesus that the evil spell might be broken, and burned
the paper. Within an hour the convert was back in that room,
bowed in broken-hearted confession to God of his backsliding.
Later on he told the missionary that he knew he had been
drugged, and that he had shrunk with a shrinking that
amounted to hatred from the thought of going near them."
These remarkable experiences are paralleled by similar
experiences in East Arabia, where drugs and sorcery are often
used to influence those who are turning away from Islam.
Dr. F. Harper writes that in such cases the chief mischief
in Egypt is done by a drug called manzoul, which contains
mostly Indian hemp (Canabis Indica). Datura has an astrin
gent action, and is used for the same purpose to increase
Dr. Henry H. Jessup, in giving an account of fifty- three
years spent as a missionary in Syria, states that he baptized no
fewer than thirty Moslems, and had knowledge of between
forty and fifty converts ; but the great majority had to flee
the country for fear of persecution.
" A Moslem convert, Naamet Ullah, who was converted in
1895, came to Beirut in the spring. He was arrested, thrown
into the army, and wrote me a letter from the military barracks.
He was taken with his regiment to Hauran, where he deserted,
reappeared in Beirut, thence to Tripoli, where he took ship to
Egypt, and disappeared from view." 1
" In June, 1900, two men with their wives, converts from
1 Fifty-three Years in Syria, by Henry H. Jessup, vol. ii, p. 635.
How IT WORKS. 67
Islam, passed through here, en route for Egypt. They were
brought to accept Christ through their godly Protestant neigh
bours in an interior city, and, after long probation, were
received as brethren. We obtained passage for them on a
steamer bound for Alexandria, and they went to their new home
in Egypt, where they engaged at once in self-supporting work
and gave great satisfaction by their sincerity and steadfastness.
The old mother of one of the women insisted on coming with
them to Beirut, and after they sailed returned to Damascus.
In order to relieve the minds of the brethren who sent them on
to us, and who feared they might be prevented from sailing,
I wrote a letter to one of them as follows : The goods you
forwarded to us came safely, and we shipped them to Egypt by
the Khedivial steamer, June 30th, to our business agent. The
large bale, which was found too old for shipment, we returned
to the Damascus agent to be forwarded to you. We have hopes
of great profit from the portion sent to Egypt.
The reason for writing in this commercial style was that an
Arabic letter giving the literal facts might have been read by
the postal police, and might have brought some of the parties
concerned into trouble. l
Mrs. V. H. Starr of Peshawar tells of a Moslem convert, a
lad of eighteen, who laid down his life for Christ. He belonged
to the wild Afghan tribe of the Afridis, and came to the hospital
for treatment. He remained as a servant, and soon asked to
become a Christian. His father and brother came down on
business in 1914. They were glad to see their boy again, and to
find him earning regular wages. As they appeared friendly,
no alarm was felt. Soon after the father asked permission to
have his boy visit him. He was given a day off ; and, dressed
in his best, and with a happy smile, departed. Evening came
and he did not return. No trace of the lad was found. After
wards the truth came to light. He had been enticed from the
hospital, and reproached with the disgrace brought on the
family because he had turned Christian. There was but one
alternative, either the new faith must be given up, or his life.
Details are unknown, but the fact is certain that this Afridi
lad was stoned to death by his own father, because for him
1 Ibid., vol. ii, pp. 691-692.
68 THE LAW OF APOSTASY IN ISLAM.
there was no alternative. Perhaps for this little Stephen of
the twentieth century the heavens also opened and he saw the
glory of God and Jesus. 1
Even in Java, where the number of converts from Islam
connected with the various Dutch missions is nearly thirty
thousand, the spirit of persecution still exists ; and many a
convert finds that a man s foes are those of his own household.
In Het Zendings Blad of the Reformed Church (October 1923)
we find a translation of a pathetic letter written by a Javanese
girl to her companions, from which we translate these para
graphs : " You know that my brother, Joseph, has been driven
away from home, and that your poor sister is all alone. I must
tell you what happened to me on Thursday, May 3ist, at two
o clock. My father called me, and began to talk as usual
against the Christian religion. Our conversation will not
interest you ; but when I began to cry, my father and also
my mother began to beat me. They dragged me to a room in
the rear of our house, and the more I cried the more angry they
became. Father struck me with his sandals on my head and
on my back, while both my father and my mother seized me
fast when I tried to escape. Then my mother took away my
bracelets because I pronounced the name of Christ.
" What do you suppose my father said to me ? He turned
to my mother, and exclaimed, Let us kill her ; one daughter
more or less does not matter. Again I tried to escape, but
I was locked in a small room. When my father said, Let us
kill her, it was no mere expression of his lips he intended to
do so, beating my head against the hard walls and trying to
choke me. Then I began to pray, and mother said, Look !
Look ! She is praying again. Then my father struck me on
my face with his sandals ; and they left me. I remembered
the story of Paul in the dungeon how, after his beating, he
sang praise to God ; and I was filled with a great longing to
sing. So I sang softly, so that no one might hear me, We
praise Thee, Thee alone !
" At six o clock I heard my mother approach, and I said to
her, Let me out ! At seven o clock father came, but it
was only to torture me with all kinds of questions difficult
1 Mrs. V. H. Starr, in The Moslem World, vol. xi, p. 80.
How IT WORKS. 69
questions which I could not answer. After describing other
punishments which she received, and the pain she felt in her
body, the letter goes on to say, After I had been crying for
an hour, mother opened the door, and told me to come and eat ;
while my father threatened to beat me if I attempted to escape.
Mother asked me if I would now cease to confess my faith in the
Christian teaching, but I did not dare to promise because my
deepest desire is to remain a Christian. They have taken
away my Bibles and my books, and I envy Joseph, my brother,
because he has only been driven away from home. This
took place in Central Java, in connection with one of the
Christian day schools for Moslem children.
One of the outstanding converts in Egypt was Makhail
Mansur. Some thirty years ago he completed his twelve years
course in the Azhar University, and although scarcely twenty
years of age, had already attained the rank of a Sheikh. A
brilliant student, he was master of the Arabic language and
literature, but had never been in contact with Christianity.
One day he chanced upon a single verse of Scripture quoted in
an attack on Christianity, that gripped him irresistibly
" And this is eternal life, that they should know thee, the only
true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent." Learning
that these words were quoted from the Gospel by John, he
was eager to obtain a copy of the book. With a Bible hidden
under his flowing robes he went home and began to read.
In telling of this incident afterwards, he said that he never
stopped reading all the night. The words of the book burned
like fire in his soul. He wrestled with doubts and fears
and worked his way through theological problems. Like
Saul of Tarsus he saw all his past life and all his prospects
in ruins if he became a Christian. But the decision was
made, and then he sought baptism. Fearing to confess his
faith in his native town, and because of delay and mis
understanding, he eventually went to a Roman Catholic
church in another town, and was there baptized. For some
years he remained with that church, teaching in their schools.
He was taken to Rome and introduced to Pope Leo XIII.
But this journey, instead of impressing him with the greatness
of Rome, showed him her weakness. He returned to the
70 THE LAW OF APOSTASY IN ISLAM.
Evangelical church after coming back to Egypt, and remained
a faithful member of that church as long as he lived. At first
he was employed as a teacher, but he soon began to exercise his
marvellous power of oratory, and for many years held meetings
for religious discussion. These meetings increased in size,
until no mission building was large enough to hold the crowds,
almost wholly composed of Moselms and many of them students
from the Azhar. For eighteen years he continued these
meetings in Cairo twice a week. The timidity of the early
days completely left him. His Christian friends sometimes
feared for his safety, but he himself seemed not to know what
fear was. He persisted in regarding all as his friends.
Occasionally he received a threatening letter. And once he
held up such a letter in his meeting before a dense crowd, and
opening his coat, said, " If anyone wishes to shoot, I am ready,
but I shall continue, by the grace of God, to preach Christ s
Gospel." He was a man of striking personality, a quick sense of
humour and a rare friendliness of manner. He died in 1918.
How many were definitely won through his ministry it is not
easy to say, but one of them was his own brother, who shares
a measure of his gifts and is at present continuing his ministry.
Both brothers are an illustration of the fact that boldness to
confess Christ is the part of wisdom even when dealing with
fanatic Moslems in such a city as Cairo.
Aden and its hinterland have so long been under British
rule (since 1837) tnat one would expect the law against
apostates had lost its power, but the spirit of Islam dies hard.
" Sheikh Salem, a convert, did undoubtedly suffer from this
law," writes Dr. J. C. Young. " When he was up in Dhala
with Captain Warneford, as his Arabic secretary, the Arabs
there held a meeting in the mosque. It was openly declared
that he ought to be put to death, and he was warned that his
life was in danger ; so he returned to Aden, where he was
safe, except from the sudden stab of some frenzied fanatic,
of which I am glad to say there were none in Aden at the time.
Although, only a few weeks ago a large stone was thrown at a
youth who was sitting on the seashore speaking to the Rev. C. J.
Rasmussen and two of the Danish ladies. This lad, years ago
when only a boy of twelve, had been attracted by Sheikh
How IT WORKS. 71
Salem s message in our hospital ; and on his return to Aden
after the war he told the Danish missionary lady who was
dressing his foot that he had heard the story of the Gospel
years before and had never lost the impression made upon
him by the message."
In Palestine before the war, conditions were such that
Bishop Ridley, who visited the Mission in 1908, said " Baptism
of Moslems is not unknown in Palestine, though the converts
are relatively few. In some cases they have been sent to
Egypt for safety. The baptism of a convert under the Turk
is a signal for imprisonment, and probably his martyrdom will
follow. Despite treaties, freedom of conscience is not tolerated.
. . . Not long since a sheikh entered a mission school, dragged
out one of the pupils and beat her almost to death. Among
those who found Christ in the Jaffa Hospital was an Afghan,
but he was shot at afterwards by a Moslem, whom he declined
to prosecute, and he was brought back to the hospital, where
he was baptized at his own request before he died." l
Although the number of converts in India has been con
siderable the difficulties they meet, even there, are great.
What Sir G. K. Scott-Moncrieff wrote in his valuable book,
Eastern Missions from a Soldier s Standpoint, in 1907, is still
largely true in some parts of India. " Of course the law of
the land gives, as far as it can do so, religious liberty, and no
one can be punished in a court of justice on the plea of con
version to another faith. But let a man once pass the line
which divides respect for the religion of the ruling race from
acceptance of its teaching, and he will then find all the power
of bigotry and persecution directed against him in every
possible way. I know of two cases where Christian sub
ordinates in the Public Works, both converts from Islam,
were the victims of cleverly concocted conspiracies, got up by
their former co-religionists, with evidence so skilfully cooked
as to be on the face of it incontrovertible, and yet to one who
knew the men incredible. Both conspiracies were successful
in achieving the ruin of the victims. I have known the case
of a young chief, about to be baptized, who was kidnapped,
1 History of the Church Missionary Society, by Eugene Stock (London, 1916),
vol. iv, p. 127.
72 THE LAW OF APOSTASY IN ISLAM.
stripped and beaten, after bribes had been found useless ;
and a young Mohammedan friend of mine, who was as fully
persuaded of the truth of the Gospel as ever a man could be,
implored me to take him to England, there to be baptized,
for he said that life in his country would be an impossibility." l
Along the northern border of India Moslem fanaticism is
more intense. " At Mardan," wrote Dr. Marie K. T. Hoist,
" a mullah s daughter came to the hospital to seek advice about
her eyes. While in the hospital she was at first very much
opposed to the teaching, then slowly became interested, and
one Sunday afternoon, when Bartimeus was the subject of the
lesson in the ward, she finally decided for Christ. How
marvellously God took possession of that young girl, gave her
strength to leave all and confess Jesus in baptism, and how
later, when threatened with death in her own home across the
border, she confessed Christ without flinching, refusing to
repeat the Kalima, and finally through a Mohammedan woman
was helped to escape, might fill an interesting chapter in a
future book. Was it very hard ? the missionary asked, on
her return from furlough. Yes, at first. I was so lonely.
Then flashed through my mind the text you gave me before
you left : Be thou faithful unto death and I will give thee a
crown of life.
The story of Abdul Karim, an Afghan who found Christ in
the C.M.S. Hospital at Quetta, and afterwards joined Dr. T. L.
Pennell at Bannu, is radiant with the glory of the martyrs.
An apostate from Islam, but an Apostle of Christ !
" In the summer of 1907 Abdul Karim was taken with an
intense desire to enter Afghanistan, and preach the Gospel
there. He crossed over the frontier at Chaman, and was seized
by some Afghan soldiers. These finally brought him before
the Governor of Kandahar. He was offered rewards and
honours if he would recant and accept Mohammedanism, and,
when he refused, he was cast into prison loaded with eighty
pounds of chains. He was examined by H.M. the Amir and
the Amir s brother, Nasirullah ; but remained firm in his
confession of Christianity.
" Finally, he was marched off to Kabul under very painful
1 Ibid., vol. iv, pp. 154-155-
How IT WORKS. 73
conditions. As far as could be gathered from reports that
filtered down to India, he had to walk loaded with chains and
with a bit and bridle in his mouth from Kandahar to Kabul,
while any Mohammedan who met him on the way was to smite
him on the cheek and pull a hair from his beard. After reach
ing Kabul, it was reported that he died in prison there ;
but another report, which purported to be that of an eye
witness, and seemed worthy of credence, related that he had
been set at liberty in Kabul, and had set out alone for India.
" On the way the people in a village where he was resting
found out who he was probably one of them had heard him
preaching in India and they carried him off to their mosque
to force him to repeat the Mohammedan Kalimah, There is no
God but God, and Mohammed is the Prophet of God/ This is
the accepted formula of accepting Islam, and if a convert can be
persuaded to say this publicly, it is regarded as his recantation.
" Abdul Karim refused. A sword was then produced, and
his right arm cut off, and he was again ordered to repeat it, but
again refused. The left arm was then severed in the same way,
and, on his refusing the third time his throat was cut. There
is no doubt that, whatever the details of his martyrdom may be,
Abdul Karim witnessed faithfully up to the last for his Saviour
Christ, and died because he would not deny Him." 1
The catalogue of tortures endured because of faith in God,
given in the eleventh chapter of the epistle to the Hebrews,
could be paralleled in the lives of those who have suffered for
Christ because they were apostates from Islam. Every one
who makes the choice faces the possibilities of loneliness,
disinheritance, persecution and even death. We are reminded
of the story told in the life of Cardinal Lavigerie. One reads
how when he founded the White Fathers, that wonderful
missionary society which has had so glorious a part in the work
for the conversion of Africa, young men from all over Europe
came to Algiers to beg for admission. They had heard the call
to Africa, with its burning climate, its deserts and its mysteries,
its cruel negroes and its fanatical mussulmans, and, as soldats
1 Among the Wild Tribes of the Afghan Frontier, by T. L. Pennell (London,
iQOQ), pp- 20V-J94- This whole story must be compared with that given in
Chapter II regarding the treatment of the earliest apostates in Islam. The
Afghans were doubtless familiar with such Traditions.
74 THE LAW OF APOSTASY IN ISLAM.
d elite, were ready to start for the post of danger. On the
papers of one young priest when he presented them, the
Archbishop, in place of the usual formula, wrote : Visum pro
martyrio, " Passed for martyrdom." " Read, do you accept
that ? " he said, returning them. " I came for that," replied
the priest simply.
CENTURIES OF INTOLERANCE AND
" Mohammed did not merely preach toleration ; he embodied it into
a law. To all conquered nations he offered liberty of worship. A nominal
tribute was the only compensation they were required to pay for the ob
servance and enjoyment of their faith. Once the tax or tribute was agreed
upon, every interference with their religion or the liberty of conscience
was regarded as a direct contravention of the laws of Islam. Could so much
be said of other creeds ? Proselytism by the sword was wholly contrary
to the instincts of Mohammed."
SEYID AMEER ALT, in The Spirit of Islam, p. 175.
" Das Mittel dessen sich Muhammed bediente um die Herzen zu
gewinnen und seiner Lehre Eingang zu verschaffen war in letzter Instanz
die aussere Gewalt. Fur ihn war die Ausbreitung des Glaubens wesentlich
identisch mit den Kampf gegen die Ungldubigen. Muhammed war
Prophet und Despot in einer Person."
OTTO PAUTZ, Mohammeds Lehre der Offenbarung, p. 283.
CENTURIES OF INTOLERANCE AND PERSECUTION.
THE incidents recorded in the previous chapter show how the
law of apostasy works in the present day. It is but the natural
outcome the outgrowth of centuries of intolerance toward
those who leave the fold of Islam. The earliest apostates,
some of whom were converts to Christianity and suffered
for their apostasy, were contemporaries of the Prophet Moham
med himself. Their story is preserved for us in two of the
earliest records, namely : The Life of the Prophet, by Ibn
Hisham (died A.D. 834), and the story of Moslem Conquest, by
Al Baladhuri (died A.D. 892). In the latter volume we read of
one, " abu- Amir, who fled from the face of Allah and his
Prophet to Makkah and thence to Syria where he was converted
to Christianity. Hence the text revealed by Allah : There
are some who have built a mosque for mischief and for infidelity
and to disunite the " Believers," and in expectation of him
who, in time past, warred against Allah and his Messenger. " l
Another interesting account is that given of Mikyas ibn-
Subabah : " Numailah ibn-Abdallah al-Kinani killed Mikyas
ibn-Subaba-al-Kinani, the Prophet having announced that
whosoever finds him may kill him. The Prophet did this for
the following reason : Mikyas had a brother, Hashim ibn-
Subabah ibn-Hazm, who embraced Islam and witnessed with
the Prophet the invasion made on al-Muraisi. Hashim was
mistaken by one of the Ansar for a polytheist and killed.
Mikyas thereupon came to the Prophet and the Prophet decreed
that the relatives of the slayer responsible for the bloodwit
should pay it. Mikyas received the bloodwit and became
Moslem. Later he attacked his brother s slayer, slew him, and
1 Futuh Al-Buldan, by Al-Baladhuri, translated by Hitti (New York, 1916),
p. 1 6. On the death of Mohammed many of the Arabs, even in Mecca,
apostatized from Islam. On these also the death penalty was mercilessly
enforced. Cf. Ibn Hisham, vol. iii, p. 104 (Cairo edition).
78 THE LAW OF APOSTASY IN ISLAM.
took to flight, after which he apostatized from Islam, and
My soul has been healed by having him lie,
deep in the blood flowing from his veins his clothes soaked,
I took revenge on him by force, leaving it,
for the leaders of banu-an-Najjar, the high in rank, to
pay his blood wit,
Thereby I attained my ambition, and satisfied my ven-
and I was the first to forsake Islam." 1
But he was not the first to forsake Islam. The earliest
convert from Islam to Christianity, and therefore the first
apostate, was Obeidallah Ibn Jahsh, who accompanied those
that fled from Mecca and went to Abyssinia (Ibn Hisham,
vol. i, pp. 76 and in). The account given by Ibn Hisham, as
taken from Ibn Ishak, is fragmentary, but one can read between
the lines how important was the early influence of Christianity
on Islam, and how Moslems themselves dared to record that the
light of Christianity was greater than the light from the new
religion : "In regard to Obeidallah Ibn- Jahsh, however, he
remained in uncertainty until he became a Moslem ; then he
fled with the Moslems to Abyssinia, taking with him his wife,
Um Habiba bint Abu Sufyan, and she was a Moslem. But after
he married her he became a Christian and left Islam, so that
finally he perished there, a Christian. Ibn Ishak says that
Mohammed Ibn Jafar told him : Obeidallah Ibn Jahsh when
he became a Christian used to pass by the companions of the
Prophet (upon him be prayers and peace) while they were
together in Abyssinia, and say to them, We can see clearly, but
you are still blinking ; that is, we have correct vision and you
are groping for sight, and do not yet see clearly. The word he
used is applied to a puppy, which blinks when it desires to open
its eyes to see things. The other word he uses means to see
very clearly. Ibn Ishak goes on to say that the Apostle
of God (upon him be prayers and peace) inherited the wife of
Obeidallah Ibn Jahsh, Um Habiba ibn Ali Sufyan ibn Harb, and
paid 400 dinars dowry for her. " 2
1 Futuh Al-Buldan, by Al-Baladhuri, translated by Hitti (New York, 1916),
8 Moslem World, vol. iii, pp. 328-329, quoted from Ibn Hisham, vol. i, p. 76.
CENTURIES OF INTOLERANCE AND PERSECUTION. 79
According to Caetani, Mohammed had advised the emigration
to Abyssinia, not to save his people from corporal violence or
torture, but because he feared they would yield to pressure and
insinuations, and forswear the faith of Islam. Consequently, as
only a part of the Moslems were going to Abyssinia, we must
infer that Mohammed estranged himself from the disciples
whom he did not trust, and from those who would have
remained in the fatherland if they had not been disposed to
yield to the pressure and reasoning of the Quraish. Hence
their escape to Abyssinia was attributed to weakness, and not
to abnegation and courage. The later return of the emigrants
to Arabia, therefore, confirmed the fact that Mohammed had
not been successful : that nearly every emigrant had been
converted to Christianity during the long stay in Abyssinia.
Caetani gives the list of names of these emigrants, and goes
on to say that these men were of a more elevated spirit than
their kinsmen ; and animated with a nobler and more sincere
religious feeling, could not content themselves with the
Quraish s clumsy worship of idolatry, and aspired to find a
religion that would better satisfy their conception of the
spiritual world. " Do you know," they said to one another,
" that your folk do not follow the true faith, and that they have
falsified the religion of your forefather Abraham ? How can
we reverence a stone that does not see nor hear, that can be
of no benefit, nor do any harm ? Find another faith, because
yours is worthless. According to tradition, such were the
opinions these men were exchanging among themselves ; and
since they were all animated by the same desire to discover
the real faith, they decided to unite all their efforts to introduce
the religion which, through ignorance, had been blotted out
by their ancestors. These men subsequently repelled idolatry
and abstained from eating the meat of animals that had been
killed under the pagan sacrifices. Afterwards they scattered
all over the world in search of al-Hanifiyyah (the religion of
Abraham). Ibn Hisham, p. 143 ; Al Halabi, vol. i, pp. 169-170.
Although Caetani criticizes the traditions regarding the so-
called persecution in Mecca, and denies that there were two
emigrations to Abyssinia, he admits the historicity of these
early accounts, especially that of Obeidallah Ibn Jahsh. x
1 Annali dell Islam, by Caetani; Introduction, sections 180, 271, 277;
vol. i, A. H. 7, sections 53, 55, 58, etc.
80 THE LAW OF APOSTASY IN ISLAM.
Not only were there apostates from Islam to Christianity in
Abyssinia, but many of the Arabs themselves turned back to
their old idolatry after Mohammed s death, and were treated
as apostates. War was declared against them to the knife.
In Oman many of them were butchered. " Certain women
at an-Nujair having rejoiced at the death of the Prophet,
abu-Bakr wrote ordering that their hands and feet be cut off.
Among these women were ath-Thabja al-Hadramiyah, and
Hind, daughter of Yamina, the Jewess." l Only by submitting
and paying tribute did any of them save their lives. When the
Arabs of Bahrain apostatized under the leadership of Al-Hutam,
war was made upon them ; and one of the Moslem poets
celebrated the victory and the death of Al-Hutam as follows : 2
" We left Shuraih with the blood covering him
like the fringe of a spotted Yamanite garment.
It was we that deprived Um-Ghadban of her son,
and broke our lance in Habtar s eye.
It was we that left Misma prostrate on the ground,
at the mercy of hyenas and eagles that will attack
The spirit in which the conversion of the neighbouring
countries was undertaken is clearly shown in the following
lines, ascribed to Ali ibn Abi Talib :
Our flowers are the sword and dagger :
Narcissus and myrtle are nought.
Our drink is the blood of our foeman ;
Our goblet his skull, when we ve fought. 3
This is in accord with the teaching of the Koran, as far as
putting opponents to death is concerned, for in Surah v. 27
it is written : " Verily the recompense of those who wage war
against God and His Apostle and run after evil in the land is
that they be slain or crucified, or that their hands and their
feet be cut off on opposite sides, or that they be banished from
the land." 4
Although it is true that the Islamic ideal of the brotherhood
1 Al-Baladhuri, p. 155.
Ibid. p. 128.
* As-saifu wa l khanjar rlhanuna
Ufun ala 1 narjis wa l as
Dam adauna shurabuna
Wa jumjumat ras al kas.
4 Cf. The Mizdnu I Haqq (Balance of Truth), by the late Rev. C. G. Pfander,
D.D., pp. 360, 361.
CENTURIES OF INTOLERANCE AND PERSECUTION. 81
of all believers was a powerful attraction, and that certain
privileges were always granted new converts, yet the condition
of the Christians did not continue so tolerable under later
Caliphs as during the first century. T. W. Arnold admits this,
although he is a great apologist for Islam as a religion of
tolerance. (Arnold s Preaching of Islam, p. 66.) 1 There was
no such thing as real equality, either in religious or civil affairs.
To abandon Islam was treason, to abandon Christianity for
Islam brought high privilege, and even pardon for past
offences. In civil affairs the Christians not only paid a special
tax, but were subject to many disabilities. Toleration by
Moslem rulers was always conditioned on the acceptance of
an inferior status. (Compare Shedd s Islam and the Oriental
Churches, pp. 121 and 134.)
Non-Moslems, according to law, were obliged to observe the
following rules, and they applied to each individual : 2 " He
shall not found churches, monasteries, or religious establish
ments, nor raise his house so high as, or higher than, the houses
of the Moslems ; nor ride horses, but only mules and donkeys,
and these even after the manner of women ; draw back and
give way to Moslems in the thoroughfares ; wear clothes
different from those of the Moslems, or some sign to distinguish
him from them ; have a distinctive mark when in the public
baths, namely, iron, tin, or copper bands ; abstain from
drinking wine and eating pork ; not celebrate religious feasts
publicly ; nor sing nor read aloud the text of the Old and New
Testaments, and not ring bells ; nor speak scornfully of God
or Mohammed ; nor seek to introduce innovations into the
state, nor to convert Moslems ; nor enter mosques without
permission ; nor set foot upon the territory of Mecca, nor dwell
in the Hedjaz district." 3
1 " In the interests of the true believers, vexatious conditions were sometimes
imposed upon the non-Muslim population (or dhimmis, as they were called,
from the compact of protection made with tiicm), with the object of securing for
the faithful superior social advantages. Unsuccessful attempts \\vn- made by
several caliphs to exc hide them from the public offices. Decrees to this effect
were passed by Al Mutawakkil (847-861), Al Muqtadir (908-832), and in
Egypt by Al Amir (1101-1130), one of the Fatimicl caliphs, and by the
Mamluk Sultans in the fourteenth century." Vexatious conditions that
is a euphemism indeed, for what Christians suffered for all these long centuries.
1 The Law Affecting Foreigners in Egypt as a Result of the Capitulations, by
James Harry Scott (Edinburgh : William Green & Sons, 1908), pp. 157-158.
* Siraj-el-Muluk, Boulak Edition, 1289, p. 229, the chapter on the " Rules
82 THE LAW OF APOSTASY IN ISLAM.
In Gibbon s History of the Roman Empire (vol. v, p. 493),
these regulations are referred to in the following terms :
r< The captive churches of the East have been afflicted in every
age by the avarice or bigotry of their rulers ; and the ordinary
and legal restraints must be offensive to the pride or the zeal
of the Christians. About two hundred years after Mahomet,
they were separated from their fellow subjects by a turban or
girdle of a less honourable colour ; instead of horses or mules,
they were condemned to ride on asses, in the attitude of women.
Their public and private buildings were measured by a diminu
tive standard ; in the streets or the baths, it is their duty to
give way or bow down before the meanest of the people ;
and their testimony is rejected, if it may tend to the prejudice
of a true believer. The pomp of processions, the sound of
bells or of psalmody, is interdicted in their worship ; a decent
reverence for the national faith is imposed on their sermons and
conversations ; and the sacrilegious attempt to enter a mosque
or to seduce a Mussulman will not be suffered to escape with
impunity. In a time, however, of tranquillity and injustice, the
Christians have never been compelled to renounce the Gospel or
to embrace the Koran ; but the punishment of death is in
flicted upon the apostates who have professed and deserted
the law of Mahomet."
These were laws of toleration, but such toleration is the acme
of intolerance in its effect on those tolerated. We may admit
that early Moslems were more tolerant toward other faiths
than their Christian contemporaries, and that the history of
Christian Europe has many a page of bitter religious perse-
concerning Tributaries." See also U.S.A. Consular Report, 1881, p. 32, note.
" There are in Mount Lebanon men still living who remember when no
Christian dared to enter a city of Syria when wearing white or green clothes,
for the Unbelievers were allowed to appear only in dark-coloured stuffs. In
Horns and Hamah the Christians, even down to the year 1874, when I was there,
could not ring bells outside of their churches ; in Beirut the first to put up a
large bell were the Capucine monks, and soon after that the American
missionaries in 1830 hung a small church-bell upon the roof of their place of
worship. In 1876 the prior of the Franciscan monks set up a bell, a thing until
then unheard of, over the new church which that order had erected in the city
of Aleppo, but owing to the Herzegovinian and Bosnian troubles then raging,
and the evident displeasure of the Aleppine Moslems, a large deputation of
influential Christians residing in Aleppo begged of the prior to take down the
obnoxious metal, telling him that it might be the cause of an onslaught upon
all Christians in the city. The prior wisely took it down."
CENTURIES OF INTOLERANCE AND PERSECUTION. 83
cution ; but in the words of Dr. Shedd : "It must also be
remembered that what was an advance in the seventh century
is a hopeless barrier in the twentieth, and that active perse
cution in its very nature must run its course and cease, while
toleration is capable of permanency and is for that reason far
more dangerous. The strong argument is the true argument,
and Islam is condemned most conclusively by the fairest
The regulations for Christian minorities laid down in the
Hedaya are similar : "It behoves the Imam to make a dis
tinction between Mussulmans and Zimmees in point both of
dress and of equipage. It is therefore not allowable for
Zimmees to ride upon horses, or to use armour, or to use the
same saddles and wear the same garments or head-dresses as
Mussulmans ; and it is written, in the Jama Sageer, that
Zimmees must be directed to wear the Kisteej openly, on the
outside of their clothes (the Kisteej is a woollen cord or belt
which Zimmees wear round their waists on the outside of their
garments) ; and also, that they must be directed, if they ride
upon any animal, to provide themselves a saddle like the
panniers of an ass. . . . It is to be observed that the insignia
incumbent upon them to wear is a woollen rope or cord tied
round the waist, and not a silken belt. It is requisite that the
wives of Zimmees be kept separate from the wives of Mussul
mans, both in the public roads, and also in the baths ; and it
is also requisite that a mark be set upon their dwellings, in
order that beggars who come to their doors may not pray for
them. The learned have also remarked that it is fit that
Zimmees be not permitted to ride at all, except in cases of
absolute necessity ; and if a Zimmee be then, of necessity,
allowed to ride, he must alight whenever he sees any Mussul
mans assembled ; and if there be a necessity for him to use a
saddle, it must be made in the manner of the panniers of an
ass. Zimmees of the higher orders must also be prohibited
from wearing rich garments." 2
1 Islam and the Oriental Churches, by William Ambrose Shedd (New York,
1908), pp. 136-137.
a Hedaya, book ix, chapter viii : " Zimmees is the spelling here for
Dhitnmis, i.e. non-Moslems allowed to live in a Moslem state under conditions
84 THE LAW OF APOSTASY IN ISLAM.
And here is a modern instance of toleration.
When Dr. St. Clair Tisdall was in Persia near Isfahan, he had
a Moslem acquaintance there who dwelt in a neighbouring
village. This Persian said to him : " When I was a little boy,
some fifty years ago, my parents and I and all the people of our
village were Zoroastrians. One day the chief Mujtahid of
the city of Isfahan issued a decree, commanding us all to
embrace Islam. We petitioned the Prince-Governor of the
province, we refused to change our religion, we offered bribes
to leading Moslem nobles and Ulama. They took our money,
but did not help us at all. The Mujtahid gave us until midday
on the following Friday to be converted, declaring that we
should all be put to death if we did not at that time at latest
become Moslems. That morning all the lowest ruffians from
the city surrounded our village, each with some deadly weapon
in his hand, awaiting the appointed hour to permit him to begin
the work of plunder and murder. We waited in vain until
it was almost midday, hoping that our enemy would relent.
As he did not, just before noon we all accepted Islam, and thus
saved our lives." 1
The So-called Ordinances of Omar, or " Constitutional
Rights " of the non-Moslem minorities are traditionally said
to have been the Covenant adopted by the Christian cities
that submitted to the Arab Conquest. But none of the earliest
Mohammedan historians give it, and Sir William Muir doubts
its authenticity and considers that it contains oppressive
terms that are more characteristic of later times than of the
reign of the tolerant Omar. It reads as follows : "In the
name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate ! This is the
writing from the Christians of such and such a city to Omar
ibnu-1 Khattab. When you marched against us, we asked for
protection for ourselves, our families, our possessions and our
co-religionists ; and we made this stipulation with you, that
we will not erect in our city or the suburbs any new monastery,
church, cell or hermitage ; that we will not repair any of such
buildings that may fall into ruins, or renew those that may be
situated in the Moslem quarters of the town ; that we will
1 The Mizdnu 7 Haqq (Balance of Truth), by the late Rev. C. G. Pfander,
D.D., p. 366. Tisdall s revised edition.
CENTURIES OF INTOLERANCE AND PERSECUTION. 85
not refuse the Moslems entry into our churches either by night
or by day ; that we will open the gates wide to passengers
and travellers ; that we will receive any Moslem traveller
into our homes and give him food and lodging for three nights ;
that we will not harbor any spy in our churches or houses, or
conceal any enemy of the Moslems ; that we will not teach our
children the Koran l ; that we will not make a show of the
Christian religion nor invite any one to embrace it ; that we
will not prevent any of our kinsmen from embracing Islam, if
they so desire. That we will honour the Moslems and rise up
in our assemblies when they wish to take their seats ; that we
will not imitate them in our dress, either in the cap, turban,
sandals, or parting of the hair ; that we will not make use of
their expressions of speech, nor adopt their surnames ; that
we will not ride on saddles, nor gird on swords, nor take to
ourselves arms nor wear them, nor engrave Arabic inscriptions
on our rings ; that we will not sell wine ; that we will shave
the front of our heads ; that we will keep to our own style of
dress, wherever we may be ; that we will wear girdles round
our waists ; that we will not display the cross upon our churches
nor display our crosses or our sacred books in the streets of the
Moslems or in their market places ; that we will not take any
slaves that have already been in the possession of Moslems,
nor spy into their houses ; and that we will not strike any
Moslem. All this we promise to observe, on behalf of ourselves
and our co-religionists, and receive protection from you in
exchange ; and if we violate any of the conditions of this agreement,
then we forfeit your protection and you are at liberty to treat us
as enemies and rebels. 2
1 It is considered a crime for any one to handle, to read or to learn the
Koran until he has himself become a Moslem. This rule is still common in
Arabia and other wholly Moslem lands.
2 The Constitution of Omar. From Arnold s Preaching of Islam, p. 59.
Compare also The Book of Religion and Empire, by Ali Tab. iri (A.D. 847-861),
translated by A. Minguna (Manchester University, 1923). This book is by a
Christian rem-gadc, and written at a time when religious toleration had changed
into persecution at the court of the Caliph, who is called a " Hater of
Christians." The writer himself may have turned to Islam as a relief from
such regulations as were enforced by his patron, who " forbade the employ
ment of Christians in Government offices and the display of crosses on Palm
Sunday ; he also gave orders that wooden figures of demons sli< uld I e fixed on
their doors, that they should wear yellow cowls, and a zonarion round the
waist, that they should ride saddles with wooden stirrups with two gl< 1 < s
86 THE LAW OF APOSTASY IN ISLAM.
A side light is thrown on the conditions under which
Christians lived during all these centuries by the fetwas or
religious decisions which exist regarding the appointment of
non-Moslems to any office in the Moslem state. Such a non-
Moslem is always referred to as a dhimmi, or one whose rights
are protected by the payment of tribute. The text of such
documents showing the relation of those who are Moham
medans to minorities is given by Goldziher l and also by Belin. 2
A more recent fetwa was discovered by Richard Gottheil in
a library at Jerusalem. The manuscript is probably of the
twelfth century. In answer to the question whether Christians
and Jews may be appointed as official scribes, tax-gatherers,
etc., the following reply is given : "To place an infidel in
authority over a Moslem would never enter the mind of one
who had a Sound heart. He who does so must be either
a godless fellow or be ignorant of Moslem law and practice."
He attempts to prove that a dhimmi is not even to be used
as a scribe, a money-changer or a butcher, etc. ; citing pass
ages from the Koran, from traditions emanating from the
" companions " and the " followers," as well as from learned
men in preceding generations. The verses cited from the
Koran are iv. 143, 140 ; v. 56, 62. From the Hadith a story
is told how Mohammed refused the aid of an unbeliever until
he had confessed his belief in the new faith. A further Hadith
is cited : " Do not obtain light from the fire of idolaters/
with the usual explanation, " Do not consult them on any
point," citing in support of this Koran iii, 114. The story
is told of Abu Bakr, how he ordered his followers not to have
dealings with idolators who had become Moslems but had
returned to then- idolatry." 3
The history of the Coptic church in Egypt and that of the
Nestorian church in Persia is eloquent in its testimony to the
martyr spirit of these churches. In Persia Christian women
received a thousand lashings with thongs from a bull s hide
the saddle, that the men s clothes should have inserted a couple of
patches of colour different from that of the clothes themselves, each patch to
be four inches wide, and the two patches were also to be of different colours."
1 Revue des Etudes Juives, vol. xxviii, p. 75.
* Journal Asiatique, 1851, p. 431.
* Festschrift Ignaz Goldziher, von Carl Bezold (Strassburg, 1911), pp. 206
CENTURIES OF INTOLERANCE AND PERSECUTION 87
to make them apostatize, but they remained faithful. In
Egypt the Copts were tolerated under Moslem rule, but what
this tolerance meant is really one long and sickening account
of horrible persecution. As Fortescue says : " During this
time enormous numbers apostatized. That is not surprising.
It was so easy, during a general massacre of Christians, to
escape torture and death by professing Islam. Then it was
death to go back. The wonder is rather that any Copts at all
kept the faith during these hideous centuries." l During the
whole period of Moslem rule, with some brief respite under
certain governors, there were constant instances of Christian
massacre and wholesale robbery of Coptic property. During
all this period vast numbers turned Mohammedan to escape
massacre ; and because it was death to return to Christi
anity, few had the courage to do it. So the number of Copts
diminished steadily. 2
" In 1389 a great procession of Copts who had accepted
Islam under fear of death marched through Cairo. Repenting
of their apostasy, they now wished to atone for it by the
inevitable consequence of returning to Christianity. So as
they marched they proclaimed that they believed in Christ
and renounced Mohammed. They were seized, and all the men
were beheaded one after another in an open square before the
women. But this did not terrify the women ; so they, too,
were all martyred." 3
The story of the martyrdom of Geronimo by the Pasha AH,
a Calabrian renegade, deserves notice, partly as a typical
instance of older Algerian methods with apostates and partly
because of its dramatic sequel.
It was about the year A.D. 1536 when, amongst the prisoners
brought into Oran by the Spaniards, after a raid on some
troublesome Arab tribes, was a boy of about four years old.
With the others he was put up for sale as a slave. He was
bought by the Vicar-General, Juan Caro, brought up as a
Christian, and baptized by the name of Geronimo. During an
1 The Lesser Eastern Churches, by Adrian Fortescue, p. 94.
1 What conditions were even in the nineteenth century is made clear by
Kuriakos Mikhail in his book. Copts and Moslems under British Control
The Lesser Eastern Churches, by Adrian Fortescue, p. 247.
88 THE LAW OF APOSTASY IN ISLAM.
outbreak of plague in A.D. 1542, Geronimo escaped, returned
home, and for some years lived as a Mohammedan. In May,
A.D. 1559, a t the age of twenty-five years, he determined to
leave his home, to return to Oran, and once more to adopt
Christianity. He was received by his old master, Juan Caro,
married to an Arab girl who was also a Christian, and enrolled
in one of the squadrons called " Cuadrillas de Campo."
In May, 1569, he was sent from Oran with nine companions
to surprise a village or Douar on the seashore. On this
expedition he was taken prisoner by a couple of Tetuan
brigantines, and carried to Algiers, to be once more sold as a
slave. When a body of slaves was brought in, the Pasha had
a right to choose one in every ten for himself, and thus
Geronimo passed into the hands of Ali. Every effort was made
to induce him to renounce Christianity once more, and to return
to Islam, but in vain. The Pasha was then engaged in building
a fort called the Burj-Setti-Takelilt (named afterwards, for
some unknown reason, " Le Fort des Vingt-Quatre Heures "),
to protect the water-gate, Bab-el-Oued, of Algiers. On
September i8th, A.D. 1659, Geronimo was sent for and given
the choice of either at once renouncing Christianity, or being
buried alive in one of the great cases in which blocks of concrete
were being made for the construction of the fort.
But the faith of Geronimo was not to be shaken. The
chains were then struck off his legs, he was bound hand and
foot, and thrown into the case of concrete. A Spanish renegade
called Tamango, who had become a Moslem under the name
of Jaffar, leapt in upon him, and with his heavy mallet
hammered him down into the concrete. The block was then
built up into the north wall of the fort, but its position was
noted and remembered by " Michael of Navarre," a Christian
and a master mason, who was making the concrete. The
facts were collected by Don Diego de Haedo, and printed in
his Topography of Algiers.
In A.D. 1853 the French found it necessary to remove the
fort. At half-past twelve on December 27th of that year,
the explosion of a mine split one of the blocks of concrete and
revealed the bones of Geronimo, which had lain in their strange
tomb for nearly three hundred years, The block containing
CENTURIES OF INTOLERANCE AND PERSECUTION. 89
the bones has been placed in the cathedral, but as the relics
have obstinately refused to work a miracle, the title of
Geronimo to be a saint has not been made good. " Ossa
venerabilis send Dei Geronimi," so runs the epitaph.
A plaster cast taken of the cavity shows the arms of Geronimo
still bound, but in the awful struggles of suffocation his legs
had broken loose. 1 (See frontispiece).
There is many another tragedy recorded in stone through
out the Near East ; many of the churches were changed into
mosques, and costly mosaics which once proclaimed the
Gospel story are now plastered over with Mohammedan
inscriptions. All of these ruins are eloquent though mute
witnesses of what centuries of persecution meant to the
Christian minorities. Take, for example, the cathedral of
Famagusta, the key of the kingdom of Venice and one of the
most beautiful cities in Cyprus. When the Turks besieged
the city in 1571, Braggadino, the brave Christian general,
resisted to the utmost. Finally he surrendered to Mustapha
Pasha, the Turkish commander, on honourable terms. But
the Turk broke his faith, and the handful of survivors
were massacred. " According to contemporary historians
Marcantonio Braggadino was obliged to witness the murder
of his chief officers and many times to endure the pangs of
death before he was released from life. For twice and thrice
did Mustapha make Braggadino, who showed no sign of fear,
stretch out his neck as though he would strike off his head,
but spared his life and cut off his ears and nose, and as he lay
on the ground Mustapha reviled him, cursing our Lord and
saying : Where now is thy Christ that He doth not help
you ? The general made never an answer, but with lofty
patience awaited the end.
Twelve days after, on a Friday, Braggadino was led,
full of wounds which had received no care, into the presence
of Mustapha, on the batteries built against the city, and for
all his weakness was made to carry one basketful of earth up
and another down, on each redoubt, and forced to kiss the
1 Cf. Cyril Fletcher Grant s Studies in North Africa (London, 191 2) pp. 239-240.
A. Berbrugger s Geronimo, le Martyr du Fort des Vingt-Quatre ffewfs a
Alger (Algiers, 1859).
go THE LAW OF APOSTASY IN ISLAM.
ground when he passed Mustapha. Then he was led to the
shore, set in a slung seat and a crown at his feet, and hoisted
on the yard of the Captain of Rhodes, hung like a stork, in
view of all the Christian soldiers on the port. Then the noble
gentleman was led to the square, the drums beat, the trumpets
sounded, and before a great crowd they stripped him and made
him sit amid every insult on the grating of the pillory. Then
they stretched him on the ground and brutally flayed him alive.
With an incredible courage this amazing man bore all with
great firmness . . . never losing heart, but ever with the sternest
constancy reproaching them for their broken faith, with never
a sign of wavering he commended himself to his Saviour,
and when the steel reached his navel he gave up his . . . spirit
to his Maker.
" The martyr s skin was then stuffed with straw and paraded
in the streets on a cow, while the red umbrella under which
the living Braggadino had ridden out to hand the keys in state
was held over him in mockery. Finally it was sent to
Constantinople as a trophy. On its way the gruesome object
was hung on a ship s yard and paraded round the Turkish
littoral as a spectacle." 1
Under the Ottoman Turks, however (1517-1882), conditions
for Christian communities became somewhat better, and
they flourished as far as it is possible for Christians to flourish
under Moslem government. But that this theory of govern
ment was one of rule by the sword is evident not only to one
who studies the history of minorities, Jewish and Christian, in
the Ottoman Empire ; but it is also evident from the very
inscriptions we find on the royal swords of all this period.
In the Arab Museum at Cairo there are many specimens of
beautiful swords. One of them (No. 3595) dates from the
sixteenth century, and bears this inscription, after honorific
titles : " Abu Nasr Tuoman Bey, Father of the poor and of
Moslems ; Slayer of unbelievers and polytheists ; Reviver of
justice throughout the world ! " Another, dating from the
eighteenth century, belongs to a Turkish dynasty and has an
inscription with similar references to the use of the sword
against unbelievers. Throughout the entire Moslem world,
1 " A Tragedy in Stone," in The Near East, October nth, 1923.
CENTURIES OF INTOLERANCE AND PERSECUTION. 91
with the exception of such lands as China where Islam made
no sword conquest, a wooden sword is in the hands of every
preacher at the Friday service in the mosques. This emblem
is typical of Islam. It is the visible symbol of that law for
the infidel and the apostate which has never been abrogated
in all the history of Mohammedan States except under Akbar
We are often assured by educated Moslems of the present
day that the treatment of Christian and Jew in Turkey for all
these centuries was one of tolerance, and that the minorities
lived in peace with their Moslem neighbours. But the treat
ment of their dead is proof to the contrary. The following
account of an historical document is from an authoritative source.
" In what the Turks no doubt regard as the happier days of
a century ago non-Moslem subjects of the Sultan met with
scant respect from the Faithful during their lives ; and when
they were unfortunate or fortunate ! enough to shuffle off
this mortal coil, Moslem scorn still pursued them. When such
an one died it was necessary to obtain special authorization
to bury him in Turkish soil ; and this had to be procured by
the Church, or head of the religion to which he had belonged.
It would be thought that such permission would be accorded
in terms free from offence, but in point of fact the representa
tives of the Padishah seem to have gone out of their way in
order to make them as brutal as possible. Below we give
specimens of such authorizations, translated from the Turkish
of three actual letters issued by the authorities, sanctioning
the burial of an Orthodox Christian, of an Armenian, and of a
Jew, respectively. These were discovered by a correspondent,
among some treasured souvenirs of an old Constantinople
family. They contain expressions which are highly objection
able ; but we reproduce them, in order that our readers may
be able to estimate more correctly the spirit which actuated the
Proud Osmanlee of those days, and which is doubtless
responsible for much of the hatred felt for him to-day by the
peoples who were formerly under his rule.
"It will be observed that the date of the Letter of Authority
to the Armenian Priest is missing ; but our correspondent
informs us that the letter may be regarded as having been
92 THE LAW OF APOSTASY IN ISLAM.
written at about the same time as the other two, or between the
years in the Turkish Calendar 1223-1239 (A.D. 1808-1824).
" The following are translations from the three letters :
" To the Greek Priest. O Thou, whose cloak is as black
as the devil, and whose garment is the colour of tar, detestable
monk, fat, filthy, and crafty priest, who art deprived of the
grace of the Holy Jesus Christ, take notice :
" Authorization has been accorded to dig a grave and to hurl
inside the repulsive putrid flesh (which even the earth shrinks
from) of the infidel Constantin, who belonged to thy race and
has just died. The 21 Chaban 1223.
" To the Armenian Priest. Thou who wearest the crown of
the devil, who art clothed with a garment of the colour of tar,
fat, cunning, and filthy priest, and deprived of the divine
pardon, here is the object of our present communication :
" The infidel, Kirkor, who belonged to the detestable herd
that constitutes thy filthy race, has just died. It is true that
the earth does not wish to have this pig s carcase ; but in order
to prevent its stink from infesting the Mussulman quarter,
I order thee to dig a grave immediately, to throw it inside, and
to beat down, without ceasing, the earth with which thou shalt
cover up this blasphemous pig s hole.
" To the Jews. O thou, Rabbi of the traitorous nation,
which denies the coming of Jesus Christ, and does not recognize
Holy Moses, take notice :
" One of the individuals of the encumbering herd of thy
community established at Salonika has just rendered his soul
to the pitiless devil, and thus plunged it into the flames of Hell.
" The venerable Chery authorizes thee, traitorous Rabbi,
to find, somewhere, a latrine, which you will fill by throwing
into it his stinking carcase. The 15 Redjeb, 1239." 1
Such was the regard paid to minorities, dead or alive, by
Islamic authorities at the beginning of the igth Century !
In how far the Armenian persecutions, deportations and
massacres were due to the spirit of Jihad may be disputed, 2
but no one can read the official documents on the treatment
of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire without coming to the
same conclusion reached by Viscount Bryce in the preface of a
1 " Correspondence from Turkey," in The Near East, Nov. 24th, 1921.
* It is not disputed by many who have studied the history of Islam, Cf,
Schulthess, Die Machtmittel de$ J$laws (Zurich, 1923).
CENTURIES OF INTOLERANCE AND PERSECUTION. 93
Blue Book on the subject : " The vast scale of these massacres
and the pitiless cruelty with which the deportations were
carried out may seem to some readers to throw doubt on the
authenticity of the narratives. Can human beings (it may
be asked) have perpetrated such crimes on innocent women
and children ? But a recollection of previous massacres will
show that such crimes are part of the long settled and often
repeated policy of Turkish rulers. In Chios, nearly a century
ago, the Turks slaughtered almost the whole Greek population
of the island. In European Turkey in 1876 many thousands of
Bulgarians were killed on the suspicion of an intended rising,
and the outrages committed on women were, on a smaller scale,
as bad as those here recorded. In 1895 and 1896 more than
a hundred thousand Armenian Christians were put to death
by Abd-ui-Hamid, many thousands of whom died as martyrs
to their Christian faith, by abjuring which they could have
saved their lives. All these massacres are registered not only
in the ordinary Press records of current history but in the
reports of British diplomatic and consular officials written at
the time. They are as certain as anything else that has
happened in our day. There is, therefore, no antecedent
improbability to be overcome before the accounts here given
can be accepted. All that happened in 1915 is in the regular
line of Turkish policy. The only differences are in the scale of
the present crimes, and in the fact that the lingering sufferings
of deportations in which the deaths were as numerous as in
the massacres, and fell with special severity upon the women,
have in this latest instance been added. The record of the
rulers of Turkey for the last two or three centuries, from the
Sultan on his throne down to the district Mutassarif, is, taken
as a whole, an almost unbroken record of corruption, of in
justice, of an oppression which often rises into hideous cruelty.
The Young Turks, when they deposed Abd-ul-Hamid, came
forward as the apostles of freedom, promising equal rights and
equal treatment to all Ottoman subjects. The facts here
recorded show how that promise was kept. Can any one still
continue to hope that the evils of such a government are
curable ? Or does the evidence contained in this volume
furnish the most terrible and convincing proof that it can no
94 THE LAW OF APOSTASY IN ISLAM.
longer be permitted to rule over subjects of a different
faith ? " !
The Armenian massacres were the disgrace of the igth
century no less than of the 20th. Each quarter of a century
has been marked by one infamous butchery. In 1822 fifty
thousand defenceless Christian subjects were murdered on the
island of Chios. In 1850 ten thousand Nestorians were
butchered in the Kurdish mountains. In 1860 eleven thousand
Maronites and Syrians were murdered in the Lebanon and
Damascus. In 1876 followed the Bulgarian atrocities in which
the American Consul-General estimated that the number of
Bulgarians killed by the Turks was at least fifteen thousand.
In 1892 there was a slaughter of Yezidees at Mosul ; and of
Armenian and Cretans there were other butcheries in 1867 and
1877. In 1894 fanaticism and intolerance again broke out.
The first blow fell at Sassoun, where ten thousand Armenians
were slain. There were eleven massacres in 1895, and the
scenes of Sassoun were repeated elsewhere. " At Birejik the
soldiers found some twenty people, men, women and children,
who had taken refuge in a cave. They dragged them out
and killed all the men and boys, because they would not become
Moslems. After cutting down one old man, who had thus
refused, they put live coals upon his body, and as he was
writhing in torture, they held a Bible before him and mockingly
asked him to read them some of the promises he had trusted."
The British Blue Book (1896), is a chapter of horrors; one
ghastly story of rape, pillage and massacres. Those who are
sceptical whether Islam was propagated by the sword have
only to study the history of the Armenian massacres to see
that the spirit of intolerance and hatred of unbelievers and the
law of Islam bidding them to humiliate Christians and bring
them low still prevails.
In reply to those who assert against all evidence that these
Armenian massacres were political and not due to religious
hatred, hear what Dr. Johannes Lepsius says in his report
of the massacres of 1914-1918. 2
1 The Treatment of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire, 1915-1916. Docu
ments presented to Viscount Grey of Falloden by Viscount Bryce.
8 Quoted in Armenia : A Martyr Nation, p. 269. Cf. the original work by
Dr. Johannes Lepsius, Deutschland und Armenien, 1914-1918. Sammlung
CENTURIES OF INTOLERANCE AND PERSECUTION. 95
" What are the Armenian massacres then ? Without
question their origin was political ; or to state it more exactly,
they were an administrative measure. But facts go to prove
that, considering the character of the Mohammedan people,
whose very political passions are roused only by religious
motives, this administrative measure must and did take the
form of a religious persecution on a gigantic scale. Are we
then simply forbidden to speak of the Armenians as persecuted
on account of their religious belief ? If so, there have never
been any religious persecutions in the world ; for all such
without exception have been associated with political move
ments, and even the death of Christ was nothing but a political
event, for political motives turned the balance at His
" We have lists before us of 559 villages whose surviving
inhabitants were converted to Islam with fire and sword ;
of 568 churches thoroughly pillaged, destroyed and razed to
the ground ; of 282 Christian churches transformed into
mosques ; of 21 Protestant preachers and 170 Gregorian
(Armenian) priests who were, after enduring unspeakable
tortures, murdered on their refusal to accept Islam. We
repeat, however, that those figures express only the extent
of our information, and do not by a long way reach to the
extent of the reality. Is this a religious persecution or is it
not ? . . ."
The whole doctrine of Jihad, or religious war in Islam,
indicates the spirit of intolerance which, although denied by
modern Moslem writers, is at the very heart of Islam. Among
modern apologists, Jihad is regarded as a war in defence of Islam.
That this is not correct has been conclusively shown. Professor
D. B. Macdonald says that Islam must be completely made
over before this doctrine can be eliminated. (See article,
D jihad, in the Encyclopedia of Islam). The verse often quoted
to prove the tolerance of Islam, " Let there be no compulsion
in religion," preceded and was abrogated by the verse of
the Sword. And the command in ii. 186-7 to fig nt against
diplomatischer aktenstiicke. (Potsdam, 1919.) This work of over 540
pages is based on official documents, and gives many cases of forced con
version to Islam and of the application of the principles that underlie the
law of apostasy. E.g. pp. 35-37, 387, etc., etc.
96 THE LAW OF APOSTASY IN ISLAM.
those who fight, but not to transgress by attacking first, was,
according to Zamakhshari and others, abrogated by the
command, " Fight against all the idolators." (See Zamakh
shari in loco and article on Jihad by W. R. W. Gardner in
The Moslem World. Vol. ii.) l
The Turkish massacres, whatever may have been their
immediate cause, were carried on in a spirit of religious hatred.
Mr. Trowbridge, in describing the massacres at Adana,
April 1909, says, " The fact that Mohammedan teaching was
essentially at the root of this massacre is evidenced in many
ways ; for example, by the fact that shops belonging to Turks
were chalk-marked Islam the night before the massacre, so
as to save them from pillage and burning. I have a photo
graph of one of the shops so marked in Turkish lettering. But
the most signal proof is in the conspicuous part which the
mullahs and muftis took in the outrages."
Not only a spirit of intolerance and persecution, but the
example of religious assassination has worked like a leaven in
Moslem life and thought. Much is made in these days of the
new religion of the Bab and its offspring, Bahaism ; but even
this religion, which is a decided advance compared with the old
Islam, does not scruple at religious assassination. In an
article on this subject (Moslem World, Vol. iv, p. 143), the late
Rev. S. G. Wilson sums up the evidence as follows : " Sayid
Kamil, a Bahai of Shiraz, said to Prof. Browne with a look of
supreme surprise, You surely cannot pretend to deny that a
prophet, who is an incarnation of the Universal Intelligence,
has a right to inflict death, openly or secretly, on those who
stubbornly opposed him. A prophet is no more to be blamed
for removing an obdurate opponent than a surgeon for an
amputation of a gangrenous limb. This opinion prevailed
among the Bahais. At Yezd they said, A divine messenger
has as much right to kill and compel as a surgeon to amputate.
The Bahai missionaries maintained that, A prophet has a
right to slay if he knows it necessary ; if he sees that the
slaughter of a few will prevent many from going astray, he is
justified in commanding such slaughter. No one can question
1 That the Koran itself teaches such warfare is clearly shown by Obbink,
De Heilige Oorlog (Brill, Leiden, 1901).
CENTURIES OF INTOLERANCE AND PERSECUTION. 97
his right to destroy the bodies of a few that the souls of many
may live. A Bahai acquaintance of Dr. Frame, of Resht, told
him without any appearance of shame, that he paid so much
to have a persecutor removed. In connection with all the
above facts, it must be kept in mind that religious assassination
has been freely practised since the beginning of Islam, and that
the prophet Mohammed gave it the sanction of his example
on numerous occasions."
In spite of all these laws and this spirit of intolerance it is
remarkable that there were, nevertheless, throughout all the
centuries conversions from Islam to Christianity. Although
these conversions were not common, yet we find in the Greek
orthodox church a regular ritual adopted for the acceptance
of Moslem converts who apostatized from their religion and
entered or re-entered the fold of the church. One of these
formulas of abjuration is given by Prof. Edouard Montet in
the original Greek with translation. x It is from a manuscript
supposed to date 1281 A.D., but the text itself goes back to the
ninth century. The ritual as given includes an anathema on
the Saracens, Mohammed and the Caliphs, the Koran, the
Moslem paradise, Moslem pilgrimage to Mecca, and other
doctrines. One paragraph of this ritual is significant :
" J anathematise toutes les ordonnances de Moamed, dans
lesquelles, insultant les Chretiens, il les appelle des negateurs,
des faiseurs de compagnies et d associations, et il excite les
Sarrasins & les hair et a les massacrer, appelant voie de Dieu
la guerre contre les Chretiens et nommant les Sarrasins qui
muerent dans une telle guerre des fils de Dieu dignes du
paradis." Which shows that the new convert from Islam
rejected the old method of propagandism, at least in his open
and public confession.
Various instances of conversions are given, although they
are scanty, both in the Christian and the Moslem records.
In one case a Moslem is said to have been converted by the
miraculous vision of a lamb in a Christian church at the time
of the Eucharist. He was imprisoned by the Khalifa Harun
ur Rashid and after two years was executed, a martyr to his
1 Etudes Orientates et Religieuses, by Edouard Montet (Geneve, 1917),
98 THE LAW OF APOSTASY IN ISLAM.
faith. 1 Two other stories in Bar Hebraeus may be quoted to
illustrate the incidents that would often be connected with
conversions. They are such as would be frequent whenever
the country was disturbed, and rare when the government
was strong, and might easily be paralleled by modern instances.
One is that of a girl living in the twelfth century (1159 A.D.)
in the neighbourhood of Mosul, who was betrothed to a
Christian. Her father, born a Christian, had apostatized to
Islam, the rest of the family keeping their faith ; and in
consequence, opposition was made by the Moslems to her
marriage to a Christian. The Maphriana, who authorized the
marriage ceremony, was arrested, and the girl, of course, was
brought before the authorities. She persisted in the profession
of faith in Christianity. Finally her firmness and that of the
Maphriana, who had been imprisoned for forty days, triumphed
in so far that she was not compelled to accept Islam ; but she
could not remain in her home, and ended her days as a nun in
How conversions to Islam took place in Algiers in 1678 is
vividly related in quaint English by Joseph Pitts, the Exeter
sailor boy who was taken prisoner by pirates and was the first
European to visit Mecca.
" We returned back to Algiers in some small time ; and a
little after that, he carried me into Camp with him ; and it so
happen d, that his two Brothers, being Spahys, or Troopers,
were with him in one and the same Tent. His younger Brother
would be frequently (behind his Back, and sometimes before
his Face) perswading me to turn Mahomaten, and to gain me,
made me large Offers ; but I little regarded them.
" The eldest Brother, who was my chief Patroon, I found,
was not very fond of my turning ; for he would often threaten
me, that if I did turn Turk, and did not learn my Book well,
-he would beat me soundly. But when his younger Brother,
who had been so often tampering with me, saw that no Argu
ments nor Offers would prevail, he began to lie very close to
his Brother to force me to turn ; and as an Argument, would
often tell him, That he had been a Profligate and debauch d
1 Bar Hebraeus, Syr. Chron. p. 132.
3 Shedd, Islam and the Oriental Churches, pp. 149, 153.
CENTURIES OF INTOLERANCE AND PERSECUTION. 99
Man in his time, and a Murderer ; and that the Proselyting
me would be some sort of an Atonement for his past Impieties ;
and flatly told him, that otherwise he would never go to
Heaven. Whereupon (as guilty Men are willing to lay hold
on every pretence to Happiness, though never so slight, and
groundless) the eldest Brother endeavoured to perswade me ;
and finding that would not do, he threatened to send me
hundreds of miles into the Country, where I should never see
the Face of any Christian. But rinding all these Methods to be
ineffectual to the End they drove at, the two Brothers consulted
together, and resolved upon Cruelty, and Violence, to see what
that would do. Accordingly, on a certain day, when my
Patroon s Barber came to trim him, I being there to give
Attendance, my Patroon bid me kneel down before him ;
which I did : He then ordered the Barber to cut off my Hair
with his Scissars : but I mistrusting somewhat of their Design,
struggled with them ; but by stronger Force my Hair was cut
off, and then the Barber went about to shave my Head, my
Patroon all the while holding my Hands. I kept shaking my
Head, and he kept striking me in the Face. After my Head,
with much ado, was shaved, my Patroon would have me take
off my Clothes, and put on Turkish Habit. I told him plainly
I would not : Whereupon I was forthwith hauled away to
another Tent, in which we kept our Provision ; where were
two Men, viz., the Cook and the Steward ; one of which held
me while the other stript me, and put on me the Turkish Garb.
I all this while kept crying, and told my Patroon, that although
he had chang d my Habit, yet he could never change my
Heart. The Night following, before he lay down to sleep,
he calTd me, and bid me kneel down by his Bed-side, and then
used Entreaties that I would gratify him in renouncing my
Religion. I told him it was against my Conscience, and withal,
desired him to sell me and buy another Boy, who perhaps might
more easily be won ; but as for my part, I was afraid I should
be everlastingly damn d, if I complied with his Request.
He told me, he would pawn his Soul for mine, and many other
importunate Expressions did he use. At length I desired him
to let me go to bed, and I would pray to God, and if I found any
better Reasons suggested to my mind than what I then had,
ioo THE LAW OF APOSTASY IN ISLAM.
to turn, by the next Morning, I did not know what I might do ;
but if I continued in the same mind I was, I desired him to
say no more to me on that Subject. This he agreed to, and so
I went to Bed. But (whatever ail d him) having not Patience
to stay till the Morning for my Answer, he awoke me in the
Night, and ask d me what my Sentiments now were. I told
him they were the same as before. Then he took me by the
Right-hand, and endeavoured to make me hold up the Fore
finger, as they usually do when they speak those Words, viz.,
La Allah ellallah, Mohammed Resul Allah (which initiates them
Turks, as I have related before) but I did with all my might
bend it down, so that he saw nothing was to be done with me
without Violence ; upon which he presently call d two of his
Servants, and commanded them to tie up my Feet with a Rope
to the Post of the Tent ; and when they had so done, he with
a great Cudgel fell a beating of me upon my bare Feet. And
being a very strong Man, and full of Passion, his blows fell
heavy indeed ; and the more he beat me, the more chafed
and enraged he was, and declared, that in short, if I would not
turn, he would beat me to Death. I roar d out to feel the Pain
of his cruel Strokes ; but the more I cry d the more furiously
he laid on ; and to stop the Noise of my crying, would stamp
with his Feet on my Mouth ; at which I beg d him to despatch
me out of the way ; but he continued beating me. After I had
endured this merciless Usage so long, till I was ready to faint
and die under it, and saw him as mad and implacable as ever,
I beg d him to forbear, and I would turn. And breathing a
while, but still hanging by the Feet, he urg d me again to speak
the Words. Very unwilling I was, and held him in suspense a
while ; and at length told him, that I could not speak them.
At which he was more enrag d then before, and fell at me again
in a most barbarous manner. After I had received a great
many Blows a second time, I beseech d him to hold his Hand,
and gave him fresh hopes of my turning Mahometan ; and after
I had taken a little more Breath, I told him as before, I could
not do what he desired. And thus I held him in suspense
three, or four times ; but at last, seeing his Cruelty towards
me insatiable, unless I turn d, through Terrour I did it, and
spake the Words as usual, holding up the Fore-finger of my
CENTURIES OF INTOLERANCE AND PERSECUTION. 101
Right-hand : And presently I was had away to a Fire, and
care was taken to heal my Feet, (for they were so beaten,
that I was not able to go upon them for several Days) and so
I was put to Bed." l
The story of Henry Martyn s earliest Moslem convert is
illustration of the swift application of mutilation according to
the law of apostasy : " Sabat and Abdallah, two Arabs of
notable pedigree, becoming friends, resolved to travel together.
After a visit to Mecca they went to Cabul, where Abdallah
entered the service of Zeman Shah, the famous Ameer. There,
an Armenian lent him the Arabic Bible, he became a Christian
and he fled for his life to Bokhara. Sabat had preceded him
there, and at once recognized him on the street. I had no
pity, said Sabat afterwards. I delivered him up to Morad
Shah, the King. He was offered his life if he would abjure
Christ. He refused. Then one of his hands was cut off, and
again he was pressed to recant. He made no answer, but
looked up steadfastly towards heaven, like Stephen, the first
martyr, his eyes streaming with tears. He looked at me, but
it was with the countenance of forgiveness. His other hand
was then cut off. But he never changed, and when he bowed
his head to receive the blow of death all Bokhara seemed to
say, " What new thing is this ? " Remorse drove Sabat to
long wanderings, in which he came to Madras, where the
Government gave him the office of mufti, or expounder of the
law of Islam in the civil courts. At Vizagapatam he fell in
with a copy of the Arabic New Testament as revised by
Solomon Negri, and sent out to India by the Society for
Promoting Christian Knowledge in the middle of last century.
He compared it with the Koran, the truth fell on him like a
flood of light, and he sought baptism in Madras at the hands
of the Rev. Dr. Kerr. He was named Nathaniel. He was then
twenty-seven years of age. When the news reached his family
in Arabia his brother set out to destroy him, and, disguised as
an Asiatic, wounded him with a dagger as he sat in his house at
Vizagapatam." 2 It is the same story in Arabia, Turkey,
1 A Faithful A ccount of the Religion and Manners of the Mahometans, by
Joseph Pitts of Exon (London, 1738), pp. 192-196.
1 Henry Martyn, by George Smith (London, 1892), pp. 226-227.
102 THE LAW OF APOSTASY IN ISLAM.
Afghanistan, Persia, Algiers, India no mercy for the Apostate
and no equality or liberty for Christian minorities.
As we look back upon these centuries of persecution of our
fellow Christians the Nestorians, the Armenians, the Greeks and
the Copts we realize the truth of our unity in Christ, and come
to a similar conclusion as that reached by Adrian Fortescue, the
Roman Catholic historian : " In a land ruled by Moslems there
is at bottom an essential solidarity between all Christians.
These other Christians too are children of God, baptized as we
are. Their venerable hierarchies descend unbroken from the
old Eastern Fathers, who are our Fathers too. When they
stand at their liturgies they adore the same sacred Presence
which sanctifies our altars, in their Communions they receive
the Gift that we receive. And at least for one thing we must
envy them, for the glory of that martyr s crown they have worn
for over a thousand years. We can never forget that. During
all those dark centuries there was not a Copt nor a Jacobite, not
a Nestorian nor an Armenian, who could not have bought relief,
ease, comfort, by denying Christ and turning Turk. I can think
of nothing else like it in the world. These poor forgotten
rayahs in their pathetic schisms for thirteen hundred years of
often ghastly persecution kept their loyalty to Christ. And
still for His name they bear patiently a servile state and the
hatred of their tyrants. Shall we call them heretics and
schismatics ? They are martyrs and sons of martyrs. The long
bloodstain which is their history must atone, more than atone,
for their errors about Ephesus and Chalcedon. For who can
doubt that when the end comes, when all men are judged, their
glorious confession shall weigh heavier than their schism ?
Who can doubt that those unknown thousands and tens of
thousands will earn forgiveness for errors of which they were
hardly conscious, when they show the wounds they bore for
Christ ? When that day comes I think we shall see that in
their imperfect Churches they were more Catholic than we
now think. For there is a promise to which these Eastern
Christians have more right than we who sit in comfort under
tolerant governments : Qui me confessus fuerit cor am hominibus,
confitebor et ego eum cor am Patri meo." l
1 The Lesser Eastern Churches, by Adrian Fortescue (London, 1913).
" And Naaman said, If not, yet, I pray thee, let there be given to thy
servant two mules burden of earth ; for thy servant will henceforth offer
neither burnt- offering nor sacrifice unto other gods, but unto Jehovah.
In this thing Jehovah pardon thy servant ; when my master goeth into
the House of Rimmon to worship there, and he leaneth on my hand, and
I bow myself in the house of Rimmon : when I bow myself in the house of
Rimmon, Jehovah pardon thy servant in this thing."
2 Kings v. 17, 1 8.
" The same came to Jesus by night." John iii. 2.
"Most blest believer he!
Who in that land of darkness and blind eyes
Thy long expected healing wings could see,
When thou didst rise;
And, what can never more be done,
Did at midnight speak with the sun ! "
THERE must have been others who came to Jesus by night, as
well as did Nicodemus ; and in the Old Testament story it is
evident that Naaman was not the only one who worshipped
Jehovah, and yet remained outside of the inner circle of Israel.
In all Mission fields the experience has been similar. In the
days of persecution, of intolerance, and of open hostility toward
the religion of Christ, those who were afraid to confess Him
before men, and yet believed in Him secretly, came by night.
Missionaries among Moslems all testify to the fact that under the
law of apostasy it is exceedingly difficult to urge a convert to
make open confession, when such open confession inevitably
would mean martyrdom. Here, for example, are four recent
instances from one corner of the great Moslem world. All of
them come within the experience of one worker ; and such
cases could be multiplied from many fields :
This summer I met X - who was educated in a little
mission school on the borders of the desert near Damascus.
With other Arab Moslems he heard of Jesus, studied His
teaching ; and he is to-day a Christian, but not baptized. He
is looking for a place to teach under Christian influences. He
has been asked to go back to his home village, which he left
when in danger ; but if he does so he will risk his life, for he is
marked. So he remains in Beirut as a silent believer waiting
for God s guidance. Would you urge X - to return, confess
Christ in his own village, and be ready to die there ?
" In a nearby girls school a Turkish woman came to an
American teacher secretly, asking her to read a Book which she
did not understand. It was the Gospel. After a year she openly
confessed that Jesus was her Master, and said she would become
a Christian if the teachers could protect her. She did not dare
to confess Christ before her own people, for that would mean
io6 THE LAW OF APOSTASY IN ISLAM.
death or suffering. No protection could be guaranteed, and
she had no money to take her out of the land. She drifted
back, was married to a Turk ; and somewhere behind these
veils a Turkish woman is looking silently to the Master and
longing. What would you have told her ?
" A sixteen year old boy is to-day in a mission school. His
Arab father has divorced the Turkish mother. After several
years of intimate contact with the teachers and with the word
of God, he has accepted the teachings of the Master. But he
is not a baptized Christian. Should he confess openly to-day,
he might not be alive when this letter reaches you. And he
is not a Moslem ; the love of Christ has changed him. Silently
he lives a quiet, good life an example of purity and morality
both to Christian boys and Moslem boys loved and respected
by all. Silently he receives the life-giving power from the
Master. What would you urge him to do ?
" One of our teachers is an elderly Arab lady, called the
Stranger/ because she left her own land years ago to come here.
As a girl she learned of Christ, accepted Him, confessed Him,
was thrown out of the home and found a refuge in a mission
school. For thirty years she has been a quiet faithful teacher,
respected as a Christian. After the first violent outbreaks
she has suffered little persecution ; but in her new home, where
her Moslem childhood is not known so well, she quietly con
tinues to witness for Christ." Such are the problems that face
missionaries among Moslems in every land. Nor is their
solution as easy in experience as it might prove on paper.
During my early missionary experience in Arabia I remember
hearing of a company of Arabs in the city of Hofhuf in Hassa,
who met together night after night to read the Scriptures.
One of them came to our dispensary and showed a marvellous
acquaintance with the contents and the teaching of the New
Testament. He told me that the others in this group were
also convinced that Jesus Christ was superior to Mohammed,
that His character and life were the highest example, and that
He died and rose again, a Living Saviour. Yet to reveal the
existence of such a group to enemies of the Gospel would
disperse them and endanger them.
The entrance of God s word always gives light and often gives
HIDDEN DISCIPLES. 107
life. The real pioneer missionary is, in nearly every case, the
colporteur, and it is my conviction that no Societies have been
so greatly used of God in the Moslem world, both extensively
and intensively, during the past quarter of a century, as have
the British and Foreign, and the American Bible Societies.
The changed attitude towards the Scriptures and the Christian
Message has been largely due to the output and the outreach
of these agencies. In their annual reports we often read of a
number of secret believers among Moslems. In Muscat, Arabia,
" not a few know that the Gospel is true and the only Word, but
few are willing to make the all-surrender, as it involves too much
loss in this world." l Regarding the Delta in Egypt, we read
that many of the Moslems purchase the Bible and are studying
it, searching for the way of salvation. Some of them in the
villages invite the colporteurs to come and explain to them
things they have read in the Bible, but could not understand or
reconcile with what they had been taught.
A colporteur in Albania gives the following incidents. " One
day I entered a coffee-house, where I found a Moslem whom
I had known for many years. After the usual greetings, he
began to talk about our Lord Jesus Christ and His Gospel.
He had been a violent and bad man in his youth, but now in
his old age he was different. He spoke respectfully about the
teachings and parables of the Gospels and gave Jesus Christ
the name, Our Lord, although when speaking of Mohammed
he merely spoke of him as Mohammed. The other Moslems
present listened to him attentively. I then learned from him
that he had bought a Turkish New Testament when he was at
Constantinople. Some time ago I met a man in the street with
a book under his arm. I asked him what it was. He showed
it to me, and I found it was a New Testament, evidently well
read, for it was much marked. The man said, I have had
this book for many years, and it is my guide for the present
life and also for the future and everlasting one. " 2 Such
examples, which could be multiplied, show that the Holy Spirit
is continually working through the Word of God and bringing
men to repentance.
1 Report of the American Bible Society, 1923.
z Report of the British and Foreign Bible Society, 1923.
io8 THE LAW OF APOSTASY IN ISLAM.
In Persia a Moslem priest entered the Society s depot at
Teheran seeking an English primer. As he could not obtain
what he wanted he bought a Gospel in English. Later he
returned and bought a Persian Bible. A week later he came
again and said : " For a long time I have been seeking the
truth, and I think I have found it now. Can this book save
me ? " " No," replied our agent, " the book cannot save you,
but the Saviour can of Whom it speaks." A fortnight passed
and again he entered the depot. " I have now found what
I was seeking for," he said, " and I intend to pass on to others
the good news of salvation." A Persian Moslem of good
family made this confession : " The Injil (Gospel) is the best
of all books. I have read it and found that it brings peace and
love and salvation." 1
Where thousands of copies of the Gospel are circulated every
year we may well expect that there are secret believers. The
Rev. J. H. Boyd, of Tanta, writes mentioning six of them ;
and says his list could be greatly enlarged. " One in
Alexandria, who was one of the best informed in the Scriptures
of any man I have known, frequently attended church, and
did not hesitate to let it be known before others that he was a
Christian. However, he never dared make public profession.
Another is a teacher in a government school who freely con
fesses Christ before others, and hopes to be baptized soon. He
is a fine young fellow. Then there is a telegraph operator
who has acknowledged Christ as His Saviour before different
ones, and whom I believe to be a saved man. A fourth
is a Sheikh who is attending one of our village meetings
and is a thorough believer. He made a beautiful explanation
of the way of salvation in a recent conversation with me ; and
he also told of an Azhar man who had spoken out at a mourn
ing/ calling upon all to read the Bible as the book of God, and
telling them that it was their loss not to do so. Some of his
hearers wrote to the chancellor of the Azhar, and he was
dropped in the last year. Another Sheikh, a teacher in one of
our schools, speaks of himself as a Christian. He is of good
family ; a nice, clean, straight fellow. Christ, looking on him,
would love him ; as would any of His followers. Finally, a rich
1 Ibid, 1924.
HIDDEN DISCIPLES. 109
planter in a discussion before many others on the train acknow
ledged the merits of Christianity ; then added, Get me, and
you will get five hundred with me. Later he vigorously
protected another who was being beaten for his Christian
tendencies, and encouraged him to hold his new faith, telling
him that he was in the right way."
Here such questions arise as conditions of baptism. May
it be privately administered, or must we always insist on
public profession ? What preparation is necessary ? Are there
cases where outward conformity to Islamic customs or the
demands of home-life may be countenanced ? It is difficult to
answer such questions. But when a man has been moved by
God s Spirit and earnestly strives to enter in at the strait
gate, we ought not to make harder for him what is already hard
enough. We ought not to make demands of him which accord
ing to the circumstances in which God has placed him he cannot
fulfil ; but look to the main point, namely, faith in Christ and
prayer-life in Him. We may leave the incidental and external
for his own conscience. This surely is the lesson of Elisha s
reply to Naaman, the secret of his holy moderation in demands
for conformity to the laws of Israel. God will complete His
work of grace. The pure in heart will not lose the vision once
granted them if they continue to seek God.
Yet the problem remains difficult and requires much prayer.
We dare not forget the demands of discipleship. Never were
they put more sternly and more plainly than by Christ Himself.
" Whosoever shall deny Me before men. ..." " Except a man
forsake all that he hath he cannot be My disciple."
At the first Missionary Conference on behalf of the Moham
medan world, held at Cairo, April 4-9, 1906, one of the topics
discussed related to conditions of baptism. And although all
present insisted that this holy rite should not be administered
to those who were simply intellectually convinced of Christ s
Deity and His atoning work, yet it was felt that to demand a
public confession involved enormous difficulties. Baptism in
private in the presence of a few friends seems to have been the
practice in a number of Missions where persecutions or possibly
the death penalty might prove the result of public baptism.
To baptize publicly in Damascus or Teheran or Morocco,
no THE LAW OF APOSTASY IN ISLAM.
where the government is purely Mohammedan and the popula
tion ignorant and fanatical, would be a serious mistake. In
countries under Christian rule, English, French, German or
Dutch, it may be both safe and wise to advise a convert to
profess Christ boldly in baptism, as a proof of his sincerity and
a testimony to others. The battle for religious liberty must be
fought and won at some time, but no one can decide for another
when that time has come." 1
A Moslem convert who was present at the Conference above-
mentioned gave it as his opinion that baptism should not be
postponed. It is a means of grace. He quoted the example
of Peter with the centurion and Philip with the eunuch. " I see
no reason why a Moslem convert should not be baptized as
soon as he professes his faith in Christ as the Son of God and a
divine Saviour and Redeemer, for it is on this ground that he
is baptized." 2 If baptism is postponed too long, even the
missionary may regret it. There have been instances where
this privilege was withheld for fear of persecution ; and yet
did not prevent it, or even martyrdom.
A few years ago a young Egyptian came to my study in
Cairo and expressed his desire to receive instruction in the
Christian faith. He seemed bright and intelligent and appar
ently belonged to a good family, so that he immediately
captivated my interest. I was the more surprised, therefore,
when, on asking his name, he pulled out his pocket-book and
presented me with a card on which I read, " William Famison/
I said : " You are not an Englishman, are you ? " He said,
" No, but I have changed my name and wish to become a
Christian." He then told me that his father held a good position
under the Egyptian Government and was an enlightened
Moslem, but very devoted to Islam, and deeply grieved that his
son had been reading Christian books. He first became
interested in the message of the Gospel through some of the
illustrated leaflets of the " Nile Mission Press," especially one
on " The Black Stone and Rock of Ages," which he carried in
We had prayed together, and I advised him to keep on good
1 Methods of Mission Work Among Moslems, p. 146.
2 Ibid. p. 151.
HIDDEN DISCIPLES. in
terms with his father if possible. This, he said, was very
difficult, and a few weeks later he came and told me that an
attempt had been made on his life by his own people. He
showed me a knife which he was carrying to protect himself.
I read with him that part of the Sermon on the Mount which
speaks of loving our enemies and of non-resistance, and told
him it were better to die than to resist those who attacked him
only for his religion. He was persuaded to leave the knife with
me, and after a few weeks said that he had no desire any more
to use that kind of weapon. He faithfully attended church
services and made rapid progress in reading such books as I
gave him. From the outset he expressed his ambition to become
a preacher of the Gospel, and said he desired to win his own
people to the truth. Constantly, however, his face had a
haunted look. He was living at home and had to do his reading
and praying in secret. One day he came to me greatly excited
and said his father had received a letter which he had also seen,
and of which he gave me this copy :
CAIRO, January 19, 1916.
" DEAR SIR :
" For the love of Islam and Moslems I venture to tell you
that your son is about to become a Christian or has already done
so, as many assert. Make haste, by Islam and its prophet, and
take steps to bring your frivolous son back to his religion or
else you will expose him to danger, not because we have any
feeling for him, but because we love our religion and desire to
defend the honour of the believers. Make haste, by God, the
Koran and the Apostle.
" Written by a lover of his religion, an ardent and severe
revenger for its sake.
" P.S. (i) To be certain that you receive this letter I dropped
it by my hand into your box during the absence of the door
" P.S. (2) The relation that existed between your son and
me caused me to tell you this. That you may be assured that
I am telling the truth I would say that he goes daily to the
house of the accursed Zwemer. He has gone to the American
Mission also and spent a day with the Theological students.
H2 THE LAW OF APOSTASY IN ISLAM.
Then he went out accompanied by a cursed Christian, whose
name I learn to be S - F ."
After receiving this letter we both felt that it was the part
of wisdom that he should leave Cairo. I thought he might find
work as a teacher or tutor of the new missionaries at Assiut,
and so, with a glad heart, and yet with many misgivings as to
his family, he left for upper Egypt. William was twenty years
of age, and so I felt that, not only according to Moslem law,
but in every other way, he was entitled to choose for himself.
At Assiut he secured work as teacher, but this did not satisfy
him. He tried to fit himself for baptism, was bold in confessing
Christ and made friends both among Moslems and Christians
in quite a remarkable way. In one of his letters he wrote in
English as follows (this letter is typical of his style and of what
he was trying to do) :
November 5, 1916.
" DEAR DOCTOR :
" I humbly ask apology for my delay in answering your
last letter dated ist inst. There happened two things that
depressed on my idle time. The first concerns that Moslem
whom you met here in Church after service. The second is my
trying to find work in the Oases whatever the temperature
" But as for the Moslem, I dare say he is one of the most
intelligent and pious young men I have ever seen. I accom
panied him to a native cafe and there stayed from 9.40 a.m.
until 2 p.m. In the course of this period we discussed
Christianity and Islam until I overcame him generously. While
we were talking he meditated a moment and then stood up
quickly and asked to go to a certain place and come back soon.
After nearly five minutes he came back accompanying a sheikh
teacher of the , with whom I conversed for nearly an hour
or more, in the course of which I prevailed on him, which
circumstance caused him to apologize and go. I am sorry to tell
you that he asked me to explain to him, but I could hardly
convince him perfectly, although I mentioned and others ;
so please explain the former to me.
" Our Moslem asked me to pay him a visit in his house ; but
No H 15 Jul. 1S22 Tahoen ke VIII
Tempat goena menoboeka soearanja kaoeca tnoeslimin diseloeioeh
Keloemr tlp-tiap tanggai 1 dn 15 boeian OUancka.
yanan 3 hoc
.i>0 Boeat ioe
K AT RAN CAN.
Soerat-soerat karangan soepoja dialametkan pada Rcdactk. kcperJoean
lain-iamnja soepaja diaiamatkan pada Directie.
AORES BUHEAU MEDAN MOESLJ MI N SOLO.
Orang Boemi* poetera Djawa
29715.908, jang berigama Islam:
29.605 /t orang. Jang kesasar dalam
Kristeu 24,663, wadjiblah orang
Islam memikirkan jang kesasar
C OVER PAGE OK A MALAY MOM.KM MAGAZINE, published at Solo, Java;
July i5th, u)22.
The text reads: "The total population of Java U 29,715,908. ( >t tlu->-
29,605,000 arc Moslems; - .}, > .* hav become Christians. We mu<t put
an end to this apostas\."
HIDDEN DISCIPLES. 113
I answered the purpose accompanying the fellow who intro
duced the Moslem to you in church. I found there a junior
brother and two seniors as well as a friend of theirs. We began
conversation about intercession and crucifixion, but I heartily
thank God for my victory, the circumstance that compelled
the friend of the opponent to strongly ask me to pay him a visit
the next day in his house there in the middle of the native
districts. You know that that friend called A A
invited my companion, L. D., too. The next day I called B
and reminded him of the promise but, alas, he refused for fear
of any expected harm from those Moslems and so I went
accompanying God s Might. At 5 p.m. I was at the door of
A. K., who came out and took me into a large room in which
I found two sheikhs, an engineer, another carrying the Bible,
our Moslem of the Church and his brother and three other
Effendies. I think they are employees. I entered and saluted
them and shook hands with every one. We started from 5 p.m.
until 10.10 p.m. We discussed nearly every fundamental
point irregularly according to their irregular character. When
they failed, they began to mock and make fun of me and my
false religion, as they say. My Moslem of the Church cut the
conversation quite soon and rebuked them, later on they would
have done wrong. We then separated. When I see I will
tell you some important things about this meeting. Now I often
meet my Moslem and have many long chats with him. In
reality, I love him very much for he is wise and impartial.
" Now let us go back and speak about me. You know that
I have no relation with anyone in Alexandria as well as with
that missionary. I am ready to do any work, even an inter
preter, but remember my will to be a missionary and also that
the school-year will be over on the i8th inst. I can stay some
days in Cairo on condition that I never leave the room except
late at night. Do you agree ? I pray to God day and night so
that you may consider me as one of your humble boys and not
a foreigner come to ask for refuge and help. Don t you know
that you alone are my family, friends and relatives ? Oh !
I beg you to remember this please. I m expecting a long letter
" I remain, yours obediently,
s "WM. FAMISON."
ii4 THE LAW OF APOSTASY IN ISLAM.
The last paragraph in this letter requires a word of explana
tion. I was hoping to find him permanent work in Alexandria,
but he preferred to be at a greater distance from Cairo.
When I visited Assiut in the spring of 1916, William was
delighted and welcomed me as a son would a father. The
delight of meeting seemed to have so excited him, however, that
early on a Sunday morning at two o clock he came running
from the college building to the place where I was staying and
said that he had seen a vision (or had a dream) in which Christ
appeared to him wrapped in white, and said : You must
preach to the Moslems," and that he felt he must come instantly
and tell me of it. When he had talked and prayed he slept in
my room, and the next morning went about his duties as usual ;
but there is no doubt that the dream had made a deep impres
sion upon his mind. As I refused to give him any financial aid
and always advised him to work for his own support, he made
friends with one of the Christians at Assiut, and when the
college closed, worked, in company with others, at a Y.M.C.A.
Canteen in the Kharga Oasis. He wrote at that time :
" I felt very ashamed of myself for ceasing writing to you
since a long time, although I have been confined to bed exactly
after leaving Assiut. Can I apologize ? Am still feeling unwell
because of the excessive heat.
" I left Assiut on the 2gth of May for Markaz el Sherika and
suffered the greatest trouble since then, especially in the last
few days. I did not hear from my family for a very long time
and for this am anxious to know all about them.
" Hoping to hear from you soon,
" Yours truly,
The summer was indeed trying for one who had been brought
up, as Egyptian young men are, without work, sitting in the
cafes and having a " good time," but William never flinched.
At one time he wrote to me :
" Everyone on this little globe of earth is exposed to the
world s sufferings and temptations, either God s or devil s ;
but the hero is he who knows a word called endurance. That
is, he must persist and struggle for victory. Life is but strife.
HIDDEN DISCIPLES. 115
" I venture to say that the success of a man depends upon
temperament and faith notwithstanding the sayings of others,
as no one in the whole world is able to please all the people of
" God only knows how I behave, and as long as I pray, read
the Bible, and live a pure Christian daily life, I give up almost
caring entirely for the different opinions of others. No one can
point out the right way to God. If you remember that I ever
disappointed or disobeyed you, be sure that what you heard is
true or that I am to blame. When I was newly put into touch
with you, you were a foreigner to me as well as all who are here.
The reason is that you are accustomed to treat others as sons
Again he speaks of his future, and of his desire to find a place
where he would be safe. He wrote :
" In regard to returning to Cairo and settling in it I can tell
you plainly that this is beyond my power as long as I live with
you. You know well that I introduced myself to you to shelter
and strengthen me as well as to advise me ; for this I started
to Assiut, escaping persecution. Then how can I come back
to Cairo ? It is undoubtedly true that I must be back at Cairo
when I am unable to find a vacancy far away. In this circum
stance I will be exposed to a great many dangers the least of
which to live among a Mohammedan family again, the thing
" Of course I will yield and bear bitter persecution uncom-
pared with the previous ; as I am powerless to withstand such
fanatic and severe people. . . . My religion or rather worship is
encircled in (i) Studying the Bible, (2) Prayer, (3) Dealing with
others according to the Bible ; notwithstanding trifles." (He
Finally he determined to come to Cairo. As soon as he
arrived he went to his father, and, as far as I know, they were
reconciled to the fact that he had become a Christian, for he
told me that his father had taken the Oath of Divorce, which is
one of the strongest oaths, that he would not hurt his son or
attempt to interfere with his attendance at Christian services.
It was at this time that he made definite application to join
a class of evangelists at the Theological Seminary of the
n6 THE LAW OF APOSTASY IN ISLAM.
American Mission. He was even anxious to enter the theo
logical classes, so keen was he on devoting his life to the work
of preaching. Time and again he brought other Moslems to
see me, and was never happier than when he sent inquirers
and we engaged in prayer together. Owing to the shortness
of his stay at Assiut, the pastor of the church there had not
deemed it wise to receive him for baptism, although this was
his earnest desire. There were obstacles in the way to his join
ing the regular seminary classes. According to ecclesiastical
order, it seemed almost an absurdity to have an unbaptized
Moslem, although he professed to be a Christian, study theology.
I, therefore, advised him to wait another year and to find some
work. He made application to one of the government depart
ments and was on the eve of receiving an appointment as
interpreter with the British Army for Mesopotamia. On
November 29 he came to me with this good news, and said :
" Now you will surely baptize me before I start on my long
journey." I assured him that I would. We had prayed
together, and he left very happy. The next news I received was
through a Christian friend who came on Saturday morning,
December 2, saying that William had met with a tramway
accident. Street traffic in Cairo is often so badly regulated that
accidents are frequent, but we were all shocked when we heard
the news. It was confirmed by the newspaper the following
day, which stated that a young student, aged 21, was coming
down from Heliopolis to Abbassia on Thursday evening at
eight o clock. He descended from the car on the wrong side,
was hit by another car coming from the opposite direction and
thrown on the sidewalk with bruises on his head. A policeman
arrived immediately on the spot, and, instead of calling for
assistance, he took the unfortunate youth to the police station
where a full " proces verbal " was made. From the police
station the youth was taken to the Cairo Governorate to be
visited by the medical officer of the police. He had to wait
there some time before the doctor made his appearance, and
another cross-examination followed similar to that made at
the police station. He was at last sent home about n p.m.,
without any medical assistance being given him.
Two days after the " accident " I received a telephone
HIDDEN DISCIPLES. 117
message from a young Copt, a mutual friend who raised the
question whether William had been killed in an accident or
whether his death was due to foul play. It is not necessary to
give details, but when we visited the Chief of Police, he admitted
that there was every indication that the " accident " had been
arranged by those who preferred to have him die as a Moslem
rather than confess Christ openly. During the war, conditions
were such in Cairo that any further investigation of such a
case would have been unwise. I am convinced that William
Famison died a martyr, and that those who had a hand in his
death were " foes of his own household."
Two weeks before his death he came to me with a beautiful
poem, written in Arabic, on the character of Jesus, which he
begged me to print in our Christian Arabic paper. The short
story of his life gives encouragement. A number of his friends
were led to study the Scriptures through William s bold
witnessing. Only two days after the accident one of his Moslem
friends came and gave me a comforting letter, as he expressed
it, to console my heart at the great loss.
The young men of Egypt were never more ripe for personal
evangelism than they are to-day ; they have lost their grip
on the old faith of their fathers, and are both morally and
intellectually adrift. Modern education is preparing the way
for agnosticism and unbelief unless we forestall this result by
the message of the living Christ.
Is it not a rebuke to our apathy and to the weakness of our
forces that a Moslem should baptize himself with a new name
and bear witness to Christ even before he entered the circle of
missionary influence ? " Say not ye, there are yet four months,
and then cometh the harvest ? Behold, I say unto you, lift
up your eyes, and look on the fields ; for they are white
already to harvest."
As in Egypt so in Turkey there are seekers after God.
We owe the following account of the confessions of two
Turkish mollahs to Dr. Johannes Lepsius of Potsdam, Germany.
" Our forefathers sprang from the conqueror of Rumelia. Our
own father left the world and gave himself day and night to
religious meditation. To him were vouchsafed remarkable
signs and miracles of grace. He left us no earthly possessions,
n8 THE LAW OF APOSTASY IN ISLAM.
but we cannot thank him enough, for he turned our course to
the quest for truth. We are unmarried, and have never
engaged in worldly occupations, having devoted ourselves to
searching after truth.
" In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.
Lord God, King of worlds, Thou Who art lifted above time and
space, the source of all and in truth our Father, take from our
eyes and from those of Thy other children the veil of deep
ignorance, that our hearts may rejoice in the knowledge of the
truth which Thine only begotten Son, our Lord Christ, has
revealed. Make dear to the hearts of all men the glorious
teaching of Thy holy gospel that they all may have a share in
its blessings and may be one in spirit and belief ; that they may
live and walk in the light of Thy glory. Amen.
" I, Kuth Oghlu Sheikh Achmed Keschaf, was born in 1864.
For many years I studied and then became a soldier. When
the Turkish troops were called out against Greece I was
appointed chaplain in the second battalion of the i8th Regiment
of Reserves. After the war I returned home to undertake with
my brother thorough investigations as to what the real truth
was. We became convinced that it was the religion of Christ.
This we freely preached among the Moslems of our land,
awakening their violent hostility. We were obliged to leave
our home country and set out for Arabia. On the journey my
brother preached for some time in the mosques of Eskidhe and
" In the Hissar Mosque of Smyrna he zealously taught the
holy gospel. That he could preach daily four or five hours
without notes called forth the greatest astonishment and admira
tion. It was said that such learning could not be the fruit of
study, but must be God-given. From all other mosques the
multitudes streamed to him. The other mollahs were envious.
They saw that his teaching would destroy the foundations of
Islam, for he exposed the weakness and falsity of the Koran in
a way that proved its utter perversity. None of his hearers
could fail to realize that Mohammed was a false prophet, that
his miracles were spurious, that the stories about his watering
the earth with his fingers or splitting the moon were pure fables.
He set forth mighty proofs that neither the Koran nor Moslem
HIDDEN DISCIPLES. 119
traditions were trustworthy. Then he passed to the Moslem
view of Christians. These he said were not Kafirs. It was folly
and nonsense to hold them to be lost souls. Moslems must be
friendly with them, for there were no grounds for hatred. The
New Testament was a beautiful, useful and holy book.
" Great numbers, as a consequence of this teaching, found
their faith in the Koran destroyed. To the numerous learned
mollahs in his audience he would turn with the challenge :
If my words are false disprove them. Then you will see how
many additional arguments against your views I can produce.
But they feared to take up the gauntlet and many who were
taught in modern knowledge said, The words of the young
Rumelian preacher are true/
" After a time he was threatened by fanatics. Then he
stopped preaching. But great crowds assembled and waited
hours in the hope of his reappearance. A fanatic arose and
cried out : Why wait ye on this preacher ? Have ye not
heard all he spoke against Islam ? It is written in the books,
;< When the Lord of Time, Imam Madhi, shall come then will
all Moslems in the world unite and fall on the Christians."
Then there shall be but one religion in the world. But the
preacher denies all this. He has taken away from us our
courage and hope of a future victory.
" Numerous refugees from Crete, Russia, Bulgaria, Bosnia
and Herzegovina were present at the meetings. They said :
Alas ! We have left our homes because of the Christians,
enemies of our faith. We await Imam Mahdi, sword in hand,
to lead us back and to revenge us on our enemies. Then arose
a Bosnian, Hadji Mustafa, and cried out : Where is the
preacher ? I will hew him down and send his soul to hell.
The two brothers from Rumelia are Kafirs, said a
Mudarris (religious teacher) from Magnesia named Sabri
Effendi, and whoever denies it is a Kafir himself. They deny
that a man named Judas took the form of Jesus and was
crucified in His stead ; they deny that Gabriel in the shape of
an Arab boy revealed the Koran to Mohammed ; they deny
that Mohammed s footstep left an imprint on a stone in
Jerusalem ; they deny that the earth is 500 years journey in
length and that it is seven storied and that oxen bear up these
120 THE LAW OF APOSTASY IN ISLAM.
stories. They deny that in paradise are Huris and Ghilman,
marrying and feasting. They deny that Jesus in the last day
will come from heaven, die, and be buried in the grave of
Mohammed. They have said a thousand things against the
Koran and are apostates/
" The people, however, gathered around my brother to such
an extent that the government, fearing a mass movement to
Christianity, put us on a steamer and sent us to Mecca into
banishment. But we did not cease to preach Christ and won
many to a knowledge of the truth. When freedom was pro
claimed we came back to Salonika. In Adrianople my brother
preached during the thirty days of the Ramadan (the Moslem
Lent), each day for five hours in the Altan Mosque. In his
sermons he explained and proved Christian truth on the grounds
of reason and science. Many were convinced. Later we
travelled to Philippopel in Bulgaria, to make open confession
of our Christian faith.
We have, writes the brother, worked through hundreds
of books to get at the truth. We have examined every word in
the Koran and the Hadith with the greatest care, and have
detected numberless errors. We saw that it was wrong to
continue Moslems. We have both therefore accepted Christ.
We hope to lead our people to the same end and are preparing
to publish much for this purpose. We have seen in our journeys
in Rumelia, Anatolia, and Arabia that the Moslem learned ones
have always been put to silence. We confess our weakness, but
are determined to work with what we have to wake the children
of Islam out of error.
" (Signed) SHEIK ACHMED KESCHAF,
SHEIK MOHAMMED NESSENDI."
A German missionary tells of his experiences in the days
before the world war among Moslems in the Sudan and in
Palestine. He enumerates several instances of " hidden
disciples " who dared not openly confess Christ.
" On a thirty days missionary journey by camel through
two provinces of the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan in the autumn of
1913, our Nubian evangelist and I arrived at K , and were
heartily welcomed by the Ma mur who invited us to meet him
A converted Moslem Sheikh, graduated from the Azhar, and for
tucnty-two years a bold preacher of Jesus Christ. His outspoken candour
;md moral courage seemed to protect him from persecution, although he was
HIDDEN DISCIPLES. 121
and his friends that evening at the so-called club under the
palm trees. We accepted the invitation and talked on religious
subjects for almost three hours. Our friend, the Ma mur, was
most interested, as he had studied religious and scientific
questions. Finally, he told us that he was convinced that
Jesus Christ is the Son of God in a figurative way, and that He
has become a Saviour of men and of Moslems. Then, while all
listened attentively, we sketched the whole life of Jesus Christ ;
and when we had finished, all were deeply impressed by our
Lord s life and atonement. When we left K , we gave the
Ma mur a New Testament ; and later he wrote us that he had
studied it day and night and was confident that Jesus Christ
is the true and only Light. Amongst the Bishareen tribe there
is a mother and daughter who earn their bread by keeping
cattle. One day they came to our dispensary at A - ; and
while the girl s eyes were being treated she heard Bible teaching
for the first time in her life. She listened so attentively that
the following day, when her turn came, she repeated the Bible
story she had heard word for word. Later she lost her eyesight,
but her inner eyes were opened. By means of Arabic type for
the blind, she learned to read the Gospel and to give her
testimonies to patients in the hospital. She was really a con
verted girl, but her mother would never agree to her baptism
for fear the tribesmen would kill her. A Nubian Sheikh of high
position, has been coming regularly to our Mission. He is very
anxious to know more about the Gospel, and has even acknow
ledged some of the essential doctrines ; but he is a Nicodemus-
soul who does not dare to confess Christ openly, as he would
lose caste. In a little mountain village of Palestine, whose
inhabitants are predominantly Mohammedans, a young
Syrian-Arab told us that he had married a Christian girl and
that he himself was inclined to accept Christ ; but that he would
never dare to confess Him openly as he feared the results from
the bigoted Moslems of his village."
More than twenty-six years ago I received a letter written
in Mecca but post-marked at Aden and addressed to me at
Bahrein, asking me to send a Bible dictionary and a Bible com
mentary to the writer who lived in Mecca and whose brother
carried on business at Aden. Similar cases of the word of God
122 THE LAW OF APOSTASY IN ISLAM.
finding eager readers in isolated places are given in the reports
of the Bible societies. In 1914, Mr. C. T. Hooper, of the British
and Foreign Bible Society, and I made a journey down the Red
Sea to Jidda to open a Bible depot. On our return we landed
at Yembo, the port of Medina. At first there was considerable
difficulty about our landing. We were told that Hejaz was
sacred soil and no Christians were allowed to land. Suddenly
one man in the curious crowd that gathered around the jetty
interceded for us, and said, " They shall land because they are
my guests." He made a way for us through the crowded,
narrow streets, invited us to his home, and, after the usual Arab
hospitality, said that he was a secret believer in Christ. " Call
me not Mohammed," said he, " my name is Ghergis " (George).
We said, " How can your name be Ghergis when you are of
Moslem parentage and living here among Mohammedans ? "
He showed us his Bible, and then told us how, after reading
Matthew s Gospel, he had baptized himself in obedience to the
command of Christ before he ever met a missionary or a
Christian worker ! Afterwards this man proved his faith by
his works ; not only by kindness shown to strangers, but by
his willingness to distribute Gospels and Christian books sent
to him by post. During the war we utterly lost trace of him.
I shall never forget my experience with a Circassian officer in
the Turkish army who accompanied our caravan into the
interior of Arabia in 1897, at the time of my first visit to Hassa.
During the first halt on our journey I was called to see him, his
friends telling me that he was suffering greatly from dysentery.
I found him nigh unto death. As soon as I sat by his side, he
said, " I am not anxious to have you give me remedies for my
disease because it is too late ; but I wish you to show me the
way Home." Then, reaching under his pillow in the tent, he
handed me an Arabic Testament, which he said he had found
in the home of one of the Christians at the time of one of the
Armenian massacres. This book had been his constant com
panion, and he begged me to read him a message and to offer
prayer. His mother and daughter listened to his confession and
were cordial in their gratitude to me. The next morning there
was a hasty Moslem funeral. The Imam of the caravan
muttered the usual prayers, and when we moved on, a low
HIDDEN DISCIPLES. 123
mound of sand in the desert was all that remained to testify of
this secret believer in our Lord.
Miss Dora J. Snelson of the Church Missionary Society at
Meerut, India, gives the following touching story of another
secret disciple. " One day last year an Indian Christian lady
asked me to go with her to see a Mohammedan neighbour
whom she had been visiting, and who was anxious to become a
Christian. When we reached the house, we were taken to a
room where a beautiful woman was sitting with her brother
and his wife. After the usual introductions, the brother
explained the reason of their wish to see me. Briefly told, his
story was as follows : Long ago, when we lived in Lahore, we
gave permission for a Christian missionary to come to the house
to teach my sister to read. It was an ordinary thing ; many
girls were being taught in this way. My sister learned very
quickly. After some time we discovered to our alarm that she
was taking too much interest in the religious part of her lessons,
and we forbade the visits of the missionary. But the seed had
been sown only too well. Left alone, my sister s faith in this
new religion only grew stronger and stronger. I did not know
what to do. She was like a bit of myself, for I had brought her
up. She had been my mother s legacy to me and my elder
brother. And now here she was, practically a Christian. Then
I began persecution. I starved her ; I locked her up for days
together. Look at her now her weakness and her loss of flesh
are due to my treatment of her. But nothing shook her deter
mination to be a Christian. At last, strenuously as she opposed
it, we made a marriage arrangement for her, and it was carried
out. But very soon her husband returned her to us, saying that
he did not intend to keep her, as she was a Christian. It was
an added disgrace to us to have a deserted wife on our hands.
The very intensity of our love for our sister made us renew our
persecutions in order to induce her to come back to her own
faith. But all to no purpose. Patiently she endured all the
indignity and the ridicule and the suffering. Months before
this we had destroyed all her Christian books, so she had nothing
to encourage her in this obstinacy. Now I have to own myself
beaten. We can fight no longer, and my brother and I have
decided to let her have her way and be admitted into your faith ;
124 THE LAW OF APOSTASY IN ISLAM.
but on certain conditions. Her baptism must be kept as secret
as possible, so that no further disgrace can attach itself to our
good name. After she is baptized you must not induce her to
leave home ; she must return and live as usual, keeping her
seclusion just as she has always done.
" An evening or two later she came, and she corroborated all
that the brother had told me, and also revealed the depth of
her love to her Saviour. There was no doubt that she had been
deeply taught of the Holy Spirit. Thus began her definite
preparation for baptism. Two or three times she whispered :
This is the first step ; I shall come right out some day. Her
brothers visited me, to insist that all the arrangements for the
baptism should be as private as possible, and they promised to
attend the service themselves. On the day of the baptism her
two brothers brought her in a closed carriage to the school. The
brothers walked to our little mission church and a Christian
friend went with the sister and myself in the carriage. The
sister was closely veiled all the time. She told me that her
brothers were taking her away that evening for a visit to
relatives, where the lady of the house was also a secret believer
in Christ. I gave her the address of our missionaries in the
place. I have never seen her since the day of her baptism.
She has not returned to Meerut, and she has for the time
being disappeared. Is it that God has provided for her some
better thing than remaining in contact with us ? Some day
we shall understand." 1
Giovanni Papini says in his wonderful book, The Story of
Christ : "It was not by chance that Jesus chose His first
followers among fishermen. The fisherman who spends the
greater part of his days in solitude and encompassed by pure
waters is the man who knows how to wait. He is the man of
patience who is not pressed for time ; who casts his net and
leaves the rest to the Almighty." This is the great lesson all
missionaries among Moslems have to learn. The patience of
unrewarded toil, the patience of unanswered prayer, the
patience of waiting for results always invisible except to the eye
of faith. A Swedish lady who has done brave pioneer work
among out-cast Moslem girls at Port Said, and has gathered
1 Church Missionary Outlook, September i, 1922,
HIDDEN DISCIPLES. 125
over a hundred of them into a Christian school, where some
confessed and afterwards seemed to grow cold, hopes on :
" We have, I believe, no real reason to think that they have
altogether forsaken Christ. There were those in Israel who had
not bowed their knees to Baal yet Elijah did not know them.
I am sorry I cannot tell you anything more definite. Personally
I have an assurance that the Lord Jesus is going to find many
on that day when He makes up His jewels."
Mary Caroline Holmes, for many years a missionary in the
Near East, gives such remarkable testimony regarding these
hidden disciples that we condense what she wrote in the
Moslem World (April, 1923) on this subject. " Perhaps to many
it will come as a surprise that these hidden believers are in such
numbers that they have an organization with a supreme head
residing in a certain city, to whom I once had a letter of
introduction, but unfortunately did not find him at home
when I called to present it. But these believers find each other
wherever they go by means of a key-word upon which I
stumbled one day, and which I have used many times, and thus
discovered other Jesus-lovers in Islam. A rug merchant
exclaimed at one of their secret meetings which I was invited to
attend, Of a truth thou art our sister, after satisfying himself
that I had understood the very beautiful hymn they had sung,
that little group of believers behind the locked door, all about
the broken bread and poured out wine, symbolic of the sacrifice
on Calvary. Thou art the first to understand us. We are
Christian Christians, he continued with a look of conviction
and exaltation. I sat in that meeting scarcely able to credit my
senses, and witnessed a fervour of devotion rarely seen, an
orderly type of worship, hymns, Christian hymns used only by
themselves, and sung from memory throbbing with love for
the Saviour of men. And women were there, Moslem women
addressed as sisters and unveiled !
" Are there others like you ? I queried, incredulous.
Many, was the reply. And where ? I next asked. Every
where ! was the answer. I knew one of those present, a
Government official, has been expelled from one of their sacred
cities, and he was a Turk, because his religious attitude did not
satisfy every one. This had happened some years previously,
126 THE LAW OF APOSTASY IN ISLAM.
and he had found his Saviour away up in old Turkestan,
whither he had gone to get away from the appeal from Jesus,
Who won him in the end. He came week after week to talk
religion with us, puzzling me by the very evident knowledge he
had of Christianity and of the Bible, for as yet I had not learned
to spot these hidden disciples. But one day when he asserted
there was but one Nur al alam (Light of the World), I asked,
Do you mean that as I do ? You know I believe, too, there is
but one Light of the world, the Lord Jesus Christ. I mean
just what you do/ was his simple answer. I once saw him pick
up from the ground a fragment of bread some careless hand had
dropped, carefully wipe from it every trace of soil, and then
reverently kiss it, saying as he did so, I never can see bread on
the ground to be trodden under foot. Our Lord said of bread,
" This is My body broken for you." It is sacred to me.
" And the candy-seller who lived among little children, to
whom he sold his sweets. Never can I forget his words, ringing,
clear, and with strong conviction as he asked me, as though to
satisfy himself that I was a true believer in Jesus, Ya Sitt, have
you ever seen Him ? Whom do you mean ? I enquired.
Jesus. Have you ever seen Him ? I knew I was disappoint
ing his simple faith when I said, No, only with the eye of faith/
No, no, not that way. With these eyes, these eyes I have seen
Him/ uttered with such conviction, such assurance, that I felt,
somehow, I had missed something very wonderful in my
Christian experience. And he is not alone in his belief that
Jesus visits these hidden believers in bodily presence. Every
one of them will tell you that he has had a vision of the Christ.
And who am I to say it is not true ? Such a knowledge of the
Scriptures as they have would put many a one to shame who
was born and reared in the Church, so to speak. The majority
of those I have known found Him through the study of the
Word, and not because of direct missionary activity. As an
example, take the grave, long-robed official, who as he walked
the deck of a steamer on which I was travelling, when he came
near where I was sitting, without turning his head or glancing
in my direction, quoted a verse from the Bible and continued
his walk. But I understood and knew what he wanted, and
when I saw him standing apart, waiting, I approached and made
HIDDEN DISCIPLES. 127
friends with him through the Book ; and such an exposition of
Holy Scriptures as followed, book, chapter and verse accurately
quoted and well understood by this seemingly devout Moslem,
who in reality was an ardent adorer of our Lord. He told me
that he was sent as a young man to Al Azhar, the great Moslem
university in Cairo, where he lost all faith, even in the existence
of God Himself. But, he added, I was the most unhappy of
men, and finally I cleared my room of everything but a mat
upon which I seated myself, and raising imploring hands to
heaven, I cried, " Oh God ! If there be a God, reveal Thyself to
me." Then I took the Bible, not the Koran, and found not only
my God, but my Saviour as well.
" Many of these secret believers are from the higher walks of
life, like the two officials mentioned, and a Pasha whom I saw
when making a round of calls during one of the great Moslem
feasts. There were two brothers present, one a Pasha, and
member of the old Ottoman Parliament, the other the Governor
of an important province. The Pasha, being the elder, took the
lead in the conversation, and suddenly began to speak in perfect
English on religious subjects. There were not less than twenty
other Moslem men present, all relatives, and the Pasha was
speaking with such earnestness and conviction, that I turned
the conversation back into the Arabic that the others might
have the benefit of it, and said, You appear to know our
Book, for even in English he had quoted freely from it. I
know it very well, he replied. I have made a profound study
of it, mentioning certain missionaries to whom he had turned
for guidance in his studies. You never found anything bad
in it, did you ? I inquired. On the contrary, I found but one
theme, like a scarlet thread, running through the entire Book,
beginning in Genesis and ending in the third verse of the Seven
teenth Chapter of the Gospel according to St. John, " And this
is life eternal, that they might know Thee, the only true God,
and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent." That is what the
whole Bible teaches, and to have eternal life is to know our
Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, using the Christian phraseology,
not the Moslem." Miss Holmes finally tells of a young lad who
learned to love Jesus at school, but was restrained from any
public confession. " In his second year at college he was
128 THE LAW OF APOSTASY IN ISLAM.
stricken with typhoid fever, and although he seemed to get
better, a relapse came and it was soon evident that he was
leaving us. He seemed to realize his condition, for he prayed
constantly to Jesus in the presence of his family, and without
opposition from them. His mother, perhaps the most remark
able Moslem women I know, did say to him once, but with no
show of anger, Oh, my son, pray to our saints. Pray to Ali
and Mohammed. No, mother/ the dying boy replied, I want
Jesus and Jesus only. When the end came, he suddenly lifted
his arms as though welcoming someone near and dear, crying,
Yes, dear Jesus, I see You. I am coming, and passed to be
for ever with Him he had secretly loved and openly acknow
ledged at the last. And there are those who tell us no Moslem
is ever really converted ! "
Do not these hidden disciples in these many lands make a
strong appeal for intercession ?
THE DAWN OF A NEW ERA
" Western influence also is responsible for the presence of Christian
missionaries, and for the abrogation of the death penalty to which
an apostate from Islam was formerly liable, both matters which may be
explained by the principle of toleration, Ibut which seem to indicate a
pro-Christian attitude on the part of the Western powers."
O LEARY, in Islam at the Cross Roads.
" The words of the Prophet are final ; There shall be no interference
with their (Christian) faith, or their observances : nor any change in
their rights and privileges. So runs the charter given by the Prophet
to the Christians of the Najran, and its terms are such as to leave no shadow
of a right for a Moslem ruler to interfere with the personal or religious
liberty of his non-Moslem subjects. The Turkish Sultan cannot disregard
this charter as successor to the Prophet and I cannot conceive what these
much-talked- of Christian minorities can, in reason, demand from the
Turks more than the rights and privileges that came within the purview
of the charter."
KEMAL-UD-DIN, in The Islamic Review.
THE DAWN OF A NEW ERA.
THE battle for religious liberty, freedom of conscience and
worship has been age-long and world- wide. Christianity itself
has suffered during this struggle ; witness the Inquisition, the
Crusades and the persecutions of the Middle Ages, as well as the
condition of those countries nominally Christian where these
great blessings do not yet obtain for all sorts and conditions of
men. Bacon in one of his essays says that there were "four areas
in which it was hard to reconcile sovereignty with liberty ;
namely, religion, justice, counsel and treasure." Christianity
no less than Islam has sometimes failed to solve the difficulty.
Religious liberty was purchased at so great a price in the Protes
tant lands of Europe and America that the principle of religious
tolerance is one of our most cherished ideals. The coloured
races under British rule in Africa remember the proclamation
made by Queen Victoria, when a constitution was granted to
Natal in 1842. " There shall not in the eye of the law be any
distinction of persons, or disqualification of colour, origin,
language or creed ; but the protection of the law in letter and
in substance shall be extended to all alike." At an earlier date,
in 1833, the Government of India Act declared, " No person by
reason of his birth, creed or colour shall be disqualified from
holding any office," and the Directors of the East India Com
pany in transmitting it to their Agents in India, sent out
elaborate instructions in order that " its full spirit and intention
might be transfused through the whole system of administra
tion." And they declared that they understood the meaning
of the enactment to be that there should be " no governing caste
in India ; that whatever other tests or qualifications might be
adopted, distinctions of race or religion should not be of the
number ; that no subject of the king, whether of Indian or
British or mixed descent should be excluded from any post in
the covenanted or uncovenanted service."
The Queen s proclamation after the Mutiny in India set forth
132 THE LAW OF APOSTASY IN ISLAM.
most admirably the right attitude of Western governments
toward those of other than the Christian faith ; " Firmly re
lying ourselves on the truth of Christianity, and acknowledging
with gratitude the solace of religion, we disclaim alike the
right and desire to impose our convictions on any of our sub
jects." The terms of the proclamation proceeded : " We declare
it to be our royal will and pleasure that none be in any wise
favoured, none molested or disquieted, by reason of their
religious faith or observances, but that all shall alike enjoy the
equal and impartial protection of the law ; and we do strictly
charge and enjoin all those who may be in authority under us
that they abstain from all interference with the religious belief
or worship of any of our subjects on pain of our highest dis
pleasure. And it is our further will that, so far as may be, our
subjects, of whatever race or creed, be freely and impartially
admitted to offices in our service, the duties of which they may
be qualified by their education, ability, and integrity duly to
Based on these principles the sections of Moslem law which
infringe the rights of those who are no longer Moslems, have in
India been considered abrogated. A Caste Disabilities Removal
Act was passed in 1850. It reads as follows : " An Act for
extending the principle of Section 9, Regulation VII 0/1832 of the
Bengal Code, throughout the Territories subject to the Government
of the East India Company.
" Whereas it is enacted by Section 9, Regulation VII, 1832,
of the Bengal Code, that whenever in any civil suit the parties
to such suit may be of different persuasions, when one party
shall be of the Hindu and the other of the Mohammedan
persuasions : or when one or more of the parties to the suit
shall not be either of the Mohammedan or Hindu persuasions :
the laws of those religions shall not be permitted to operate to
deprive such party or parties of any property to which, but for
the operation of such laws, they would have been entitled ;
and whereas it would be beneficial to extend the principle of
that enactment throughout the territories subject to the govern
ment of the East India Company ; it is enacted as follows :
" So much of any law or usage now in force within the
territories subject to the Government of the East India Com-
THE DAWN OF A NEW ERA. 133
pany, as inflicts on any person forfeiture of rights or property
or may be held in any way to impair or affect any right of
inheritance, by reason of his or her renouncing, or having been
excluded from, the communion of any religion, or being
deprived of caste, shall cease to be enforced as law in the Courts
of the East India Company, and in the Courts established by
Royal Charter within the said territories."
"It has been held with reference to Bombay Regulation IV
of 1827, that the term caste is not restricted to Hindus.
It comprises any well-defined native community governed for
certain internal purposes by its own rules and regulations.
Act XII of 1887, Section 37, mentions questions regarding
caste amongst those which have to be decided in accordance
with Mohammedan law." 1 This Act should therefore leave
no question as to the legal rights of Moslem converts in India.
The following letter, however, which appeared in the Leader
of Allahabad, May 3ist, 1924, is interesting in this connection,
as it shows that in the Native state of Bhopal the law of
apostasy is still a power.
"A sensation, initiated unfortunately from Delhi, has been
created over a law of apostasy supposed to have been recently
enacted in Bhopal, presumably for the purpose of insulating
the state against the Shuddhi movement. A week back I was
in Bhopal, and made careful enquiries into the allegations
appearing in the press. There certainly is what may be called
a law of apostasy in Bhopal, but the devotees of local antiquities
who alone could have dug it out of its peaceful oblivion, while
communicating the result of their researches obviously missed
to supplement the information with the undoubted fact that
the law is as old as the state itself, and that no single instance
of its having been enforced can be found. It is regrettable
that communal disputes should be introduced even into native
states. It is especially unfortunate that Bhopal of all states
should have been singled out for so much attention. Bhopal s
record in the matter of religious toleration is spotless. There
are grants, not only for mosques, but also for temples and
churches. Preferential treatment of one community at the
1 Principles of Mohammedan Law, by F. B. Tyabji (Bombay, 1913),
PP- 30. 3i-
134 THE LAW OF APOSTASY IN ISLAM.
expense of the other is foreign to the state. The relations
between the Hindus and Mussulmans and the state are worthy
of serving as an example to us."
It has been pointed out that the attitude of all Western
governments toward Islam is one of the most difficult and
delicate problems of colonial politics. When the matter was
discussed at the Edinburgh Missionary Conference (1910), the
following resolution, characterized by great timidity, was
passed : " It is not singular that, in the effort to give to
Mohammedanism the outward respect due to it in a region
peopled by its adherents, the British officials should sometimes
lean over backward. But the Commission is of the opinion
that in Egypt, the Sudan and Northern Nigeria the restrictions
deliberately laid upon Christian mission work, the deference
paid to Islam are excessive, and that a respectful remonstrance
should be made to the British Government on the subject." l
The general policy of Western governments in Africa has of
late been modified, and it seems that where formerly Moham
medanism was fostered under the specious plea of toleration
and neutrality, there will be a change. The excessive deference
for Islam has not proved the wisest policy, even for the secular
aims of governments. May we not hope that even as under
the new mandatories so, none the less but rather more, in
every Colonial possession in Africa a more enlightened and
more generous policy will be followed, guaranteeing not only
free admission of missionary agencies, but freedom of con
science and of worship to those who desire to accept
As Dr. St. Clair Tisdall wrote, " The Christian Churches of
the British Empire and of the United States have a right to
demand that, if English local Governments do not help forward
the spread of the Gospel, at the very least they should no longer
be permitted to oppose it, or to thwart the noble and self-denying
efforts of our missionaries, who are devoting their lives to
obeying our Divine Lord s last Command, and are doing work
which, wherever it has been fairly tested, is acknowledged, even
1 Cf. J. du Plessis, " Government and Islam in Africa," in the Moslem World,
vol. xi, p. -2 ff.
2 Cf . Article on " The British Empire and Islam " in The East and the West,
THE DAWN OF A NEW ERA. 135
by non-Christians, to have produced the highest mental, moral
and spiritual results." :
The attitude of the Dutch Government in her extensive
Colonial empire was once painfully neutral as regards Islam, but
it has been modified by long experience until now it offers a
high ideal. As early as 1854 a law was promulgated granting
full religious liberty. In translation, Articles 119, 120,123 and
124 read as follows :
Art. 119. Every one shall have complete freedom to confess
his religious beliefs, subject to the protection of society and its
members against infringement of the general ordinances of the
Art. 120. All public religious services within buildings or
enclosed places shall be permitted in so far as these cause no
disturbance of the public order. For public religious services
outside buildings and enclosed places the permission of the
Government shall be required.
Art. 123. Christian teachers, priests and missionaries must
be provided with a special permission granted by the Governor-
General or in his name in order to carry on their work in any
particular part of the Dutch Indies. If the permission is found
harmful, or the conditions thereof are not fulfilled, it may be
withdrawn by the Governor-General.
Art. 124. Native priests who do not profess the Christian
religion shall be under supervision of the princes, rulers and
chiefs in so far as concerns the religion which each of them
professes. These will make sure that nothing is undertaken by
the priests which would be inconsistent with these regulations
and with the ordinances promulgated by the Governor-General
or in his name. 2
Under such regulations sixteen Societies carry on a successful
work among Moslems, and, as we have seen, the convert is
One reason for the large number of converts from Islam in
the Dutch East Indies is undoubtedly the more liberal policy
of the Dutch Government in recent years. No less than thirty-
nine million subjects in the Dutch colonies profess the faith of
Mohammed (that is, about one-sixth of the total population of
the Moslem world), and there is no other government, not even
excepting Great Britain, which has had a larger experience with
1 W. St. Clair Tisdall, " Islam and National Responsibility," in the Moslem
World, vol. v, p. 29.
1 Treaties, Acts and Regulations Relating to Missionary Freedom, p. 80.
International Missionary Council (London, 1923).
136 THE LAW OF APOSTASY IN ISLAM.
the Moslem problem and has from time to time modified its
policy to meet the exigencies of the situation than has the
Dutch Government. Dr. C. Snouck Hurgronje, in his book
Nederland en de Islam, 1 takes up the question as to the causes
and methods of the rapid spread of Islam in Malaysia, and
concludes that, although the religious motive was supreme and
there were economic and social reasons as co-operative factors,
one cannot explain the propagation of the Moslem faith solely
on the ground of the preaching of Islam, as does T. W. Arnold,
nor as a compulsory economic movement, as do Dr. Becker
and the Italian savant Caetani ; the chief factor in the spread
of Islam was the sword. " The supreme cause for the spread
of the faith, both according to the letter and the spirit of the
sacred law, must be found in methods of forcible propagandism.
The Moslem law considers all non-Moslems as the enemies of
the great monarchy of Allah, whose opposition to His rule
which is solely by Moslems must be broken down." In speaking
of the Moslem conception of the Dar-ul-Islam and the Dar-ul-
Harb, Dr. Hurgronje scores Sir William Hunter and other British
statesmen for their failure to understand the real significance
of the question. The teaching of Jihad, or holy warfare, does
not rest, as Professor Arnold insists, on a misunderstanding of
certain Koran texts, but it is the teaching of all Moslem jurists
for all the past centuries. " The little group of modern Moslems
who assert that Islam must only be propagated by preaching
and conviction, no more represents the true teaching of their
religion in which they were born, than the modernists do the
Roman Catholic Church." 2 Dr. Hurgronje admits that the
Young Turks, and the followers of the new Islam, desire nothing
so much as to relegate Jihad to the museum of antiquities, and
yet he makes clear that liberty, equality and fraternity are
impossible under Islam to non-Moslems.
In speaking of the relation of the Dutch Colonial Govern
ment to Islam, Dr. Hurgronje holds that neutrality as regards
dogma and the purely religious portion of jurisprudence is the
only safe policy. The Dutch Government cannot afford to
discourage pilgrimage to Mecca, even by regulations, in spite of
its political and economic evils, and although the sum of five
1 Nederland en de Islam (Leiden, 1911), pp. 7, 8, 9, 12, 20 and 60-77.
r K W
THE DAWN OF A NEW ERA. 137
million florins spent by pilgrims every year might be used for a
better object. As regards the Moslem law of marriage and
inheritance, the question is more difficult. A codification of
these laws is undesirable, as many of them are mediaeval and
in direct opposition to modern civilization and culture. The
Government should therefore allow these laws either to fall
into disuse, or by a process of evolution reach a higher standard.
Although advocating a policy of neutrality as regards the
Moslem faith and its jurisprudence, Dr. Hurgronje is very
emphatic in stating that no form of pan-Islamism should be
allowed expression in the Dutch colonies. While allowing
freedom of worship to all Moslems, the government must
oppose all ideas of a universal Caliphate with political power,
or of Turkish intrigue in Malaysia. All teaching in regard to
Jihad and the Caliphate should be prohibited in Moslem schools
as far as possible.
One would imagine that with such an able and learned
advocate for a policy of strict neutrality the Dutch Government
would never be guilty of favouritism ; and yet Mr. J. Verhoeven
points out some articles and regulations of the Dutch Govern
ment which are directly opposed to the propagation of Christian
ity and favour Islam, showing how especially Article 71, by
which the social and religious affairs of the natives are put into
the hands of the Mohammedan village priest, has hindered
missions. He writes, that in Middle and West Java particularly,
individuals or families who show any desire for Christian
instruction have again and again lost their communal interests
in village property because of Article 71. In the case of a
widow who was deprived of her legal rights to property solely
because three of her children had joined the Christian church,
the official reason given was that " No Christian can have a
part in the lands belonging to a Mohammedan village." l
1 Cf. Orgaan dcr Nederlandsche Zendings Vereeniging, Feb. 1911. Article
by J. Verhoeven : He writes : " Het vreedzaam voortwerken van de verheven
beginselen van CHRISTUS wordt in de binnenlanden van Java her meest
bemoeilijkt door Art 71 van ons Regeeringsreglement. waarbij bepaald
wordt dat " alle huishoudclijke bclangen " en deze omvattcn u/lc niaats-
chappelijke en godsdienstige belangen van den Inlander moeten geregeld
worden door het dorpsbestuur, waarin de Mohammedaansche dorpspriester
als zoodanig zitting heeft en vooraldoor zijne dagelijksche inkomsten 66k " de
eerste viool bespeelt." Het wel en wee van den vreesachtigen Inlander
berust in de hand van dit bestuur, dat onmogelijk kan gecontroleerd worden
138 THE LAW OF APOSTASY IN ISLAM.
Nevertheless, there is complete freedom for the person of
converts in the Dutch East Indies, and the law of apostasy has
become a dead letter. Would that this were the case in all
Moslem lands !
The various treaties, acts and regulations that assure a
greater or less degree of missionary freedom in British Mandate
territory in Africa, e.g. Togoland, Tanganyika, The Cameroons,
South-west and South Africa, include in their provisions a large
Moslem population. The same is true of French territory in
Equatorial Africa, and of Belgian and Portuguese colonies. In
nearly every case missionary freedon is guaranteed, and in
consequence the life and liberty of converts protected. 1
While these treaties and concessions to the rights of minorities
are a hopeful indication of a new spirit of tolerance and a desire
to inagurate religious freedom, there are still two large areas in
Africa where the British Government itself has not granted these
rights, either to missionaries or to Moslem converts. A mis
sionary writes from the Sudan in 1923 : " Outside of Khartoum
and Omdurman there is practically no mission work going on
among Moslems. The whole province of Dongola, with a
population of 151,849, has no mission schools. During my
recent tour there a Mohammedan merchant told me he was
ready to give a portion of his land freely to missionaries if they
would only start a school. I believe, too, this is the time.
Being in and out among the people,! know full well their feelings
towards missionaries. They are ready to trust them with the
care of their children, and are not objecting in any way to the
teaching of the Christian faith. What blocks our entrance to
this region is the statute of the Anglo-Egyptian Government." 2
What is this regulation ?
" No mission station is allowed to be formed north of the tenth
parallel of latitude in any part or district of the Sudan which is
recognized by the Government as Moslem " (Regulations, Ch. xix.
Sec. i). These conditions still hold to-day, yet Sir Harry
Johnstone, writing in 1919 of the missionary policy of the
Government, said : " With regard to missionaries of Christian-
door gebrek aan voldoend aantal betrouwbare Europeesche controleerende
ambtenaren. Diep ingrijpend is daarom het verschil in de levensom-
standigheden van den bewoner van Particuliere met die van Gouvernements-
1 Treatise, etc., pp. 24-27, 42, 64, etc.
* Egypt General Mission News, December, 1923.
THE DAWN OF A NEW ERA. 139
ity of all sects of Christianity we have nothing to reproach
ourselves with save, perhaps, in Nigeria and the Sudan.
Throughout all our great tropical African dominions Christian
ity of a reasonable type has made enormous progress. At the
same time Mohammedanism has not been discouraged or
flouted, and the good elements in it are perhaps seen at their
best in British Africa and India. We must, however, sweep
away resolutely the indefensible restrictions on Christian mis
sionaries which, I believe, still exists in British-governed
Nigeria and the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan. It was pretended
twenty years ago and less that the entry and circulation of
Christian missionaries in the Fula States of Nigeria and the
regions of the Sudan mainly inhabited by Arabs might excite
displays of Islamic hostility, and lead to native revolts. Such
fears were far-fetched. In Africa, at any rate, there is now
little or no enmity towards exponents of the Christian faith,
especially if they are white men from Europe or America. Such
missionaries are usually acquainted with medicine and are apt
instructors in general education. The Moslem generally accepts
them on that basis. They may or may not effect much change
in his religious views (so far as dogma is concerned) ; but
ethically they Christianize him, and they are a potent force in
education. The real opposition to their free movements and
presence in such countries arose almost entirely from the
military governors so dear to the heart of Foreign Office and
Colonial Office. These earlier administrators of North Central
Africa disliked the Christian missionary because he was generally
a shrewd person of good and modern education, who criticised
maltreatment of the natives, was learned in law, and a lover of
freedom. All nonsense of this kind must now be swept away." 1
When we study a large scale map of the Anglo-Egyptian
Sudan, and note the imaginary line called the tenth parallel of
latitude which is supposed to set bounds to the Gospel and
" limit the Holy One of Israel " by shutting out even medical
missions from Moslem tribes numbering hundreds of thousands,
" nonsense of this kind " seems indeed to be inexcusable.
Egypt to-day has some religious freedom. It came by struggle.
The following paragraph and two letters tell the story of the
1 According to recent Missionary testimony the present Government
still continues certain restrictions on work among Moslems in Northern
Nigeria and handicaps the progress of missions.
140 THE LAW OF APOSTASY IN ISLAM.
first firman for religious toleration in Egypt, which was secured
by the United States Government through President Abraham
Lincoln in 1861 : 1 " Faris, the agent of some missionaries in
Upper Egypt, told me," says Dr. Lansing, " of the case of a
Coptic woman who had some years before been seduced by a
Moslem, and who now wished to return to her old faith ; and
he said that the Copts were very anxious that he should under
take her defence with the Government. He asked what he
should do, and I told him that if in a friendly way he could do
anything with the Government to secure her in her return to the
faith of her fathers, he might do so ; but that he must be very
careful not to compromise himself or implicate us with the
authorities. He, however, went beyond his letter of instruc
tions, and four months after it resulted in an affair which
almost cost him his life, but which made us politically the first
men in Egypt. The following letters tell how :
ABRAHAM LINCOLN, President of the United States of America,
to His HIGHNESS MOHAMMED SAID PACHA, Viceroy of Egypt
and its Dependencies, etc.
GREAT AND GOOD FRIEND,
I have received from Mr. Thayer, Consul-General of the
United States at Alexandria, a full account of the liberal,
enlightened, and energetic proceedings which, on his complaint,
you have adopted, in bringing to speedy and condign punish
ment the parties, subjects of your Highness in Upper Egypt,
who were concerned in an act of cruel persecution against Faris,
an agent of certain Christian missionaries in Upper Egypt.
I pray your Highness to be assured that these proceedings,
at once so prompt and so just, will be regarded as a new and
unmistakable proof equally of your Highness friendship for
the United States, and of the firmness, integrity, and wisdom
with which the Government of your Highness is conducted.
Wishing you great prosperity and success,
I am, your good friend,
Washington, October 9, 1861.
By the President : WILLIAM H. SEWARD,
Secretary of State/
1 Egypt s Princes, by G. Lansing. Philadelphia, 1864, p. 322 and pp. 342-343.
THE DAWN OF A NEW ERA. 141
To the HONOURABLE ABRAHAM LINCOLN,
President of the United States of America.
HONOURABLE SIR AND FRIEND,
Mr. Thayer, Consul-General of the United States of
Alexandria, has presented me the letter you were pleased to
write me, expressing your feelings of satisfaction for the punish
ment which I have inflicted on some individuals guilty of evil
and cruel treatment towards an agent of certain Christian
missionaries in Upper Egypt. Mr. Thayer, who I am happy to
say, entertains with me the most friendly relations, had already
expressed to me the feelings of your Government.
In this case, honourable sir and friend, I have only executed
the rule which I have always endeavoured to follow, in pro
tecting in an equal way, without consideration of creed, all
those who, either by inclination or for the fulfilment of a duty,
sojourn in the country submitted to my administration.
I am profoundly sensible of the friendly manner in which
you express your sentiments both to myself and to my Govern
ment, and I pray you, honourable sir and friend, to accept with
this offering of my thanks, my sincere wishes for the success,
perpetuity, and integrity of the American Union, which, I hope,
under your able Presidency, will soon see an end of the trials
with which the Almighty has been pleased to afflict it.
Your most devoted friend,
Alexandria, November 21, 1861.
One must read between the lines of this interesting diplomatic
correspondence, and realize the condition of all Copts in Egypt
at the time to understand the effect of such a ruling on religious
liberty. It was the first step.
At present Egypt is in a transition period. The declaration
of complete independence, the withdrawal of many important
advisory members from government departments, the struggle
between the extremist and the moderate parties in the recent
elections, the uncertainty of the future relationship between
Britain and Egypt ; all these indicate that the time is not yet
for drawing any definite conclusions regarding liberty for
converts or freedom of conscience. When the new Constitution
142 THE LAW OF APOSTASY IN ISLAM.
declares (Art. 149) " Islam shall be the religion of the State," and
when the new flag is of the old green Mohammedan shade, one
may be permitted to doubt the full face value of Articles 3, 4,
12, 13 and 14, and yet hope that they are the harbingers of real
liberty. These articles read as follows :
Art. 3. All Egyptians shall be equal before the law. They
shall have equal enjoyment of civil and political rights and shall
be equally liable for public charges and duties without any
distinction of race, language or religion. They alone shall be
eligible for civil, military and public office ; strangers shall only
be eligible in exceptional cases to be denned by law.
Art. 4. The liberty of the individual shall be guaranteed.
Art. 12. There shall be absolute freedom of conscience.
Art. 13. The State shall, in conformity with established
custom in Egypt, protect the free exercise of all religion or belief,
on condition that there shall be no violation of public order or
Art. 14. Freedom of thought shall be guaranteed. Within
the limits of the law all persons shall have the right to express
freely their views by word, writing, pictures or otherwise. 1
Although the law of apostasy, as far as it applies to the life
of a convert in Egypt, may not be publicly executed or enforced
before any court, other disabilities still obtain. A Mohammedan
lawyer in Cairo answering an inquiry on this subject, expressed
himself as follows : " The present law (1923) in Egypt regarding
apostates is complete freedom. Any one can adopt whatever
religion he desires. There are no local laws concerning the
matter, and the old Mohammedan laws in regard to apostasy,
as well as in regard to other details, are a dead letter. That is,
they have fallen into disuse. Many Mohammedans have become
Christians, and they are actually delivering lectures and
enjoying their full rights. In my experience I know of no one
who has suffered loss of property or desertion by his wife
because of a change of religion. Recent law books do not
mention the subject." This statement is optimistic, and
illustrates the proverb of the wish becoming father to the
thought. A colleague of this lawyer, who is also a practising
barrister in Egypt, writes as follows : "As a general principle,
carefully followed by the Egyptian Government in all of its
1 Treaties, Act and Regulations Relating to Missionary Freedom, p. 104.
International Missionary Council, London, 1923.
THE DAWN OF A NEW ERA. 143
recent enactments, Mohammedan law (Hanifi Code) is followed
out as regards rules of succession and personal status (marriage,
divorce, apostasy, etc.). Mohammedan criminal law is entirely
done away with, and so is the civil law of obligations in general
and special contracts, e.g. sale, lease, etc. As regards apostasy
in particular, there is no recent law. The old law is followed
in the above sense, i.e. in inheritance and marriage ; but no
sentence for criminal punishment could be passed upon an
apostate, because Egypt follows the recent penal code (since
1883) , which in principle is almost textually borrowed from the
French penal code. This does not punish apostasy, and the
general principle in modern penal law is no punishment unless
a crime is within the law, i.e. penal law. A Moslem who deserts
Islam loses the right of inheritance, as the Mohammedan law of
succession explicitly states : Difference of religion is a bar to
inheritance. But he does not lose the property which he owns
at the time of apostasy. The Mohammedan law of marriage
holds here to-day, and the Mohammedan wife of an apostate
has the right to be divorced unless she herself embraces
Christianity. The Mohammedan law allows a Mohammedan
to marry a Christian wife, but does not allow a Mohammedan
woman to marry a non-Mohammedan."
When these remaining civil disabilities are removed by special
enactment, Egypt will have liberty and equality for Moslem
The history of religious toleration in Turkey is a long, long
trail of broken promises. As early as 1453, when Mohammed II
captured Constantinople, he issued an edict of toleration deter
mining the privileges, immunities and special franchises of the
Christian clergy and of Christians. In 1856 the famous Hatti
Humayoun declared that " No one shall be disturbed or
annoyed by reason of the religion that he professes. The
worship of all the religions and creeds existing in Turkey being
practised with all liberty, no one shall be prevented from
exercising the religion that he professes. Each community is
at liberty to establish schools, only the choice of teachers and
the method of instruction being under the inspection and
control of the Government." At the Berlin Congress in 1878
the Turkish Commissioner declared that " throughout the
144 THE LAW OF APOSTASY IN ISLAM.
(Ottoman) Empire the most different religions are professed
by millions of the Sultan s subjects, and not one has been
molested in his belief or in the exercise of his mode of worship.
The Imperial government is determined to maintain this
principle in its full force, and to give it all the extension that
it calls for."
In spite of these regulations the normal state of affairs in
Turkey in its bearing on missionary work and on freedom of
conscience was in direct contradiction to the provisions made.
A missionary wrote in 1904, that "All the reforms introduced
in 1897 have proved absolute failures, and in the grimmest
sense of the word the status quo has not been affected by them."
The travel of missionaries was restricted, colporteurs were
arrested and often imprisoned, no building for Christian worship
might be erected without official permission, and this often
required years. A strict censorship of the Press was exercised.
All sorts of obstructions were put in the way of educational
work. Even medical work was limited by the requirement of
special permits and examinations from those engaged in it.
There was neither freedom of speech nor freedom of the Press
in Turkey during the reign of Abdul Hamid. The convert from
Islam was murdered or fled to other lands. " So many stories
of Turkish Press censorship have been told that a quarto volume
of them might be gathered together. The American Bible
Society at one time published a revised edition of the Turkish
Scriptures when a zealous censor demanded that such verses
as Proverbs iv. 14-17 ; vi. 16-19 ; xix. 29 ; xx. 21 ; xxi. 7 ;
xxii. 28 ; xxiv. 15, 16 ; xxvi. 26, be omitted, as bearing too
pointedly on the present condition of affairs in Turkey. It
took some exertion to convince him that the right to publish
the Word of God intact has been secured by treaty. The
editor of the weekly religious paper Avedaper was publishing a
series of articles about eschatology, but was forbidden to use the
word Millennium, as that seemed to intimate that there could
be a more blessed period than the reign of Abdul Hamid II." l
After the revolution there were high hopes of a coming dawn
of " liberty, justice, equality and brotherhood." These words
1 Missionary Review of the World, Oct. 1904 "The Normal State of Affairs
e ffi u H l|2.2
O o 03 C CX
8 C c? B 9 a
THE DAWN OF A NEW ERA. 145
were emblazoned on banners and worn on arm-bands by the
crowds in the streets of Constantinople. There appeared to be
a sudden growth of most cordial relations between Moslems and
Christians. The London Times, August 21, 1908, described the
celebrations at Beirut in the following terms : "Again and
again the Moslem speakers gave the salutation, Es-salaam
alaikum ya akhwaty (Peace be upon you, O brethren), which
had been withheld from the Christians for so many years except
by all but the most liberal and enlightened Moslems. At one
place in the streets was a large inscription which expressed the
new spirit in a verse from the Koran side by side with a verse
from the Bible The deliverance is from God, and victory is
near ; The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.
Then came a sentiment perhaps never written before in public
Long live the Moslem-Christian brotherhood/ and below
it Long live liberty. It was almost impossible to believe our
ears and eyes. Then, at many places and many times during
the day, when the people caught sight of a Christian priest and
turbaned Moslem in proximity to each other, they were pushed
into each other s arms and made to kiss each other ! . . . On
that Sunday the largest and most remarkable demonstration
took place in the Armenian church among the bazaars. The
commander of the troops and many of the officers, together
with the military band, were present. The Bishop, many of
the priests, and many more of the Moslems made fraternal
speeches, in which all bewailed the awful events of the present
reign in Armenia, and welcomed the new era, in which there was
to be liberty, equality, and fraternity, ending the so-called
Armenian question for ever."
But the Armenian question was not settled. After the
revolution came the tragedy of Adana ; and after Adana, the
massacres and deportations of more than a million Christians
in Turkey as a grim and ghastly comment on the assurance of
liberty and equality. One is forced to the conclusion of Freeman
in his history of the Saracens. " To those who expect to see a
Mohammedan state become tolerant and civilized without
ceasing to be a Mohammedan state, I would again hold up the
solitary example of the illustrious Mogul. If European Turkey,
or Asiatic Turkey, is to be reformed from within, without the
146 THE LAW OF APOSTASY IN ISLAM.
coercion of either enemies of friends, the career of Akbar must
be the guiding star. Let the individual Mohammedan have
the fullest equality with the individual Christian, but let not
the individual Christian have to recognize a Mohammedan
master as his sovereign. So long as a Government remains
Mohammedan, so long must it be intolerant at home ; so long
will it be restrained only by weakness from offering to other
lands the old election of Koran, Tribute or Sword. " l
Neither during the world war nor since the Armistice has
there been any semblance of religious liberty or freedom of
conscience in Turkey. Deportations, murders, massacre, rape,
pillage these do not spell equality or fraternity.
The Nationalists under Mustapha Kemal have now a Consti
tutional Assembly, and the form of a Turkish Republic, but
the State religion remains Islam ; and in the publication of
religious fetwas they have indicated that to them also Moslem
divine law is superior to any constitution. 2 On April 20, 1920,
the Nationalist newspaper, published at Brusa, interspersed
its statement regarding the duty of all Nationalists with
quotations from the Koran, and laid down principles in this
" i. Is it not the duty of all Moslems to take up arms in
defence of the Khalifa when the seat of the Khalifa is occupied
by the enemy, when all means of defence are taken from the
Sultan so that he can no longer defend the true interests of the
nation, and when courts-martial are established in the capital
under British laws ? Reply : Yes.
"2. Can those who thus take part in the fight against the
enemy be stigmatized as enemies of their country and their
religion ? Reply : No.
"3. Are not those who die in such fighting martyrs
(Shuhida), and are not those who survive victors (Ghazi) ?
" 4. Are not all Moslems bound by the Holy Law under such
circumstances to assist in the struggle against the enemy ?
1 Freeman, History and Conquests of the Saracens, p. 203.
2 This was the case before the abolition of the Caliphate and the expulsion
of the Caliph. Whether the present Nationalist government will grant liberty
of worship and speech to minorities is an open question.
THE DAWN OF A NEW ERA. 147
"5. Are fetwas issued by a Government which is under the
influence of the enemy binding under the Holy Law upon
Moslems ? Reply : No."
Recent regulations regarding foreigners in Turkey and the
prohibition of Christian teaching to Moslem pupils in Mission
Schools do not indicate a larger degree of liberty under
Islamic Nationalist Government, but rather a recrudescence of
the old spirit. 1
If one could appeal to constitutional rights and to the
promises made on paper, there might be hope for the Christian
minorities. But what does the Turk care for a " scrap of
paper " ?
The last of all these official documents in which Turkey
assures the world that she will respect the rights of minorities
and give religious liberty to all her subjects is the Treaty of
Peace signed at Lausanne, July 24, 1923. The following Articles
are intended to protect minorities :
Art. 37. Turkey undertakes that the stipulations contained
in Articles 38 to 44 shall be recognized as fundamental laws, and
that no law, no regulation nor official action shall conflict or
interfere with these stipulations, nor shall any law, regulation
nor official action prevail among them.
Art. 38. The Turkish Government undertakes to assure full
and complete protection of life and liberty to all inhabitants of
Turkey without distinction of birth, nationality, language, race
or religion. All inhabitants of Turkey shall be entitled to free
exercise, whether in public or private, of any creed, religion or
belief, the observance of which shall not be incompatible with
public order and good morals. Non-Moslem minorities will
enjoy full freedom of movement and of emigration, subject to
the measures applied, on the whole or on part of the territory, to
all Turkish nationals, and which may be taken by the Turkish
Government for national defence, or for the maintenance of
Art. 39. Turkish nationals belonging to non-Moslem minori
ties will enjoy the same civil and political rights as Moslem. All
the inhabitants of Turkey, without distinction of religion, shall
be equal before the law. Differences of religion, creed or confes
sion shall not prejudice any Turkish national in matters relating
to the enjoyment of civil or political rights, as, for instance,
1 Cf. article by James L. Barton on " The Present Status of Missionary
and Educational Work in Turkey " in the Homiletic Review. January, 1924.
148 THE LAW OF APOSTASY IN ISLAM.
admission to public employments, functions and honours, or the
exercise of professions and industries. No restrictions shall be
imposed on the free use by any Turkish national of any language
in private intercourse, in commerce, religion, in the Press, or in
publications of any kind at or public meetings. Notwithstanding
the existence of the official language, adequate facilities shall be
given to Turkish nationals of non-Turkish speech for the oral
use of their own language before the Courts. 1
We are reliably informed that at Lausanne, General Ismet
Pasha, the spokesman for the Turkish Government and
Minister of Foreign Affairs of that Government, declared to
Ambassador Child, as well as to representatives of the American
Board, that they desired American missionaries, educators and
physicians to remain in the country and carry on their work
as before. He went so far as to put into writing : " I hope above
all things that Americans will not worry about the future of
their educational and philanthropic institutions in Turkey.
We want these institutions to stay, and have no intention of
adopting laws that will embarrass the continuation of the
admirable American altruistic work among our people." The
same sentiment was expressed by Dr. Fouad Bey, a Turkish
unofficial representative, recently in the United States.
The abolition of the capitulations was an omen of sinister
import. On the other hand, the new government in Turkey
has now gone a step further in the abolition of the Caliphate as
a religious institution. Dr. James L. Barton says : 2
" It is impossible to measure the import of the separation of
Church and State by which the religious establishment of
Islam heads up in the Caliph at Constantinople, while the
affairs of State centre in the Grand National Assembly at
Angora. The Turks repeatedly affirmed at Lausanne that
Church and State were now separate, and that there was
absolute religious freedom in Turkey. It is impossible to
believe that such a fundamental and even revolutionary
change can be practically perfected without a long period of
trial. And yet the attempt is in itself of startling significance
and may mean much or little.
" The work in Turkey has been swept as with a besom of
1 Treaties, etc., pp. 97 and 98.
2 The Problem of Turkey as the American Board Views it. pp. 8, 9, 10.
THE DAWN OF A NEW ERA. 149
destruction, but we can even now see tokens of new life and
power and of possible opportunities not before realized. We
do not attempt to explain the providences that have produced
present political conditions ; they are beyond the reach of the
" We turn to history for our encouragement, to the promises
for our assurance, to the God of missions for our spiritual
equipment, and to the command of our Lord Jesus Christ for
our marching orders.
That which is seen is temporal, but that which is unseen
is eternal. "
The brief history of constitutional government in Persia
furnishes abundant illustration of the difficulty of reconciling
the old Mohammedan law and the new conditions ; and yet
every step has been one of progress for liberty. When the
new constitution was written and prepared for adoption, the
leaders prefaced the document with an article definitely
accepting the authority of the religious law of Islam as recorded
in the Koran and in the commentaries of Imam Jaffar. They
might as well have bound together the Jewish Talmud and
the American Constitution, making the former supreme and
inviolate. But the reasons for this preface to the constitution
can easily be understood. It was intended to capture the
consent of the mullahs and the conservative party ; but it will
prove impossible to apply the old criminal code and the law
against apostasy in proportion as education gains foothold
and Western thought penetrates the masses. The old day of
absolute intolerance, missionaries tell us, has gone for ever :
" In 1812 Persian children in the streets stoned Henry Martyn
until he feared for his life. A whole roomful of white-bearded
mullahs, after they had agreed to a friendly debate with him
on religion, lost all their ecclesiastical dignity in a mad attempt
to tear him to pieces. These same things might have occurred
anywhere in Persia twenty years ago. The law of Islam still
forbids close association with infidels, still demands the death
of all who leave its ranks, still bans pictures and every form
of art. Yet in 1923, in the city of Teheran, two missionaries
talked earnestly for hours with a white-bearded mullah, one of
150 THE LAW OF APOSTASY IN ISLAM.
the leading ecclesiastics of the city, and found him sincerely
interested in Christ as the Saviour of the world. The conver
sation took place in the home of a high-class Persian, known
openly as a baptized believer in Jesus Christ, and behind the
old mullah, as he talked, hung a large picture of our Lord turning
to heal a suppliant."
Dr. Robert E. Speer told the story of Mirza Ibrahim, a
Mohammedan of Khoi, who was publicly baptized in 1890 ;
in spite of the attempted dissuasion and bribery of the mullahs,
the desertion of his wife and children, and the loss of all his
property according to the Moslem law of apostasy. While
preaching, he was arrested and taken before the governor, and
when he was beaten and reviled, he only replied, as his face
shone, " So was my Saviour beaten." "After a short imprison
ment he was removed to Tabriz. As he was led away from the
prison, he solemnly called his fellow-prisoners to witness that
he was free from their blood if they should reject the way of
life, and They all rose with heavy chains on their necks and
bade him go in peace, while they prayed that his God and the
Saviour whom he trusted would protect him. One of the
Mohammedan officers who had watched him, said to the
Mohammedan crowd in the yard : This is a wonderful man.
He is as brave as a lion. A mullah has just been trying to
convince him of his error, but he replies to everything, and the
mullah has gone away with his head hanging down. He says
that Mohammed is not a prophet, and that unless they can
prove that he is, from the Holy Books, he will not give up his
faith in Christ, even if they cut off his head. His last request,
as he set out for the capital of the province, was : * Pray for
me that I may be a witness for Christ before the great of my
people. I have no fear though I know that I shall die. At
Tabriz he was cast into a dark dungeon, chained to vile
criminals, beaten, stunned and deprived of his clothes and
bedding. One night, when he witnessed for Christ to his
fellow-prisoners, they fell upon him, kicked him, and took
turns in choking him. His throat swelled so that he could
scarcely swallow or speak, and on Sunday, May 14, 1893, he
died from his injuries. When the Crown Prince was informed
of his death, he asked, How did he die ? And the jailor
THE DAWN OF A NEW ERA. 151
answered, He died like a Christian. Now a new day has
Holy Meshed, once as exclusive as Mecca itself, and still
" the glory of the Shi ah world," is now a Mission station and it
has a great hospital where converts from Islam minister to the
people and manifest the mercy and compassion of Jesus Christ
our Lord. Public baptisms have taken place in the capital
and in many other cities of Persia ; and in this land we are
beginning to see the signs of a coming harvest. The change
that has taken place in Tabriz is even more noticeable. Once
Mohammedans were beaten for attending Sunday services. In
1892 the government closed the doors of the church and school
on the pretence that there was a tank under the church in
which to baptize converts. When the buildings were again
opened the government forbade Moslem women and children
to enter the school or the church. To-day in this city there is
complete liberty. Moslem newspapers are criticizing the
Moslem ecclesiastics, and one of the leading editors told
Dr. Speer that there was no hope for Persia until the power of
Islam was shattered. The new Constitution is stated by a
leading Moslem convert to be " the greatest blow against the
tottering walls of Islam. I say freely that Islam and the spirit
of constitutional government are incompatible for ever." 1 In
Isfahan thirteen Moslems were recently publicly baptized, and
there was no attempt at persecution. Persia may prove to be
the first Moslem land where liberty of conscience and freedom
of speech will produce a new nation.
The French mandate for Syria and the Lebanon, of July 24,
1922, also ensures " complete freedom of conscience and the free
exercise of all forms of worship." (Article 8.) 2 Doubtless the
1 Report on India and Persia. By Robert E. Speer and Russell Carter.
Board of Foreign Missions of the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A., 1922.
2 It reads : " Le Mandatairc garantira a toute personne la plus complete
liberte de conscience ainsi que le libre exercice de toutes les formes de culte
compatibles avec 1 ordre publique et les bonnes moeurs. II n y aura ine galite
de traitemcnt entrcs les habitants de la Syrie et du Liban du fait des differences
de race de religion ou de langue.
" Le Manclataire developpera 1 instruction publique donne"e au moyen des
langues indigenes en usage sur les territoires de la Syria et du Liban.
II ne sera porte aucune atteinte au droit des communaute s de conserver
leurs ecoles en vue de 1 instruction et de 1 education de leurs membres dans
leur propre langue a condition de se conformer aux prescriptions generates sur
1 instruction publique edictee par 1 administration."
152 THE LAW OF APOSTASY IN ISLAM.
usual provisions are made for the enforcement of Moslem law
as relates to person and property, but no mention is made of
the possible transfer of Moslems to the Christian community,
nor as regards the rights of those who are thus transferred.
The difficulties in Palestine, Syria and Mesopotamia, are far
greater, naturally, than they are in the Philippine Islands ;
but one would like to see provision made for these countries in
such outspoken and unmistakable language as is found in
Article 3 of the Act of Congress, U.S.A., August 29, 1916. (This
Act applies also to the more than 400,000 Mohammedans of the
Philippine Islands.} "... that no law shall be passed abridging
the freedom of speech, of the press, or the right of the people
peaceably to assemble and petition the Government for redress
or grievance. That no law shall be made respecting an establish
ment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, and
that the free exercise and enjoyment of religious profession
and worship, without discrimination or preference, shall for
ever be allowed : and no religious test shall be required for
the exercise of civil or political rights. No public money or
property shall ever be appropriated, applied, donated or used,
directly or indirectly, for the use, benefit or support of any
sect, church, denomination, sectarian instruction or system of
religion, or for the use, benefit or support of any priest, preacher,
minister or other religious teacher or dignitary as such. Con
tracting polygamous or plural marriages hereafter is prohibited.
That no law shall be construed to permit polygamous or plural
marriages. . . ." x There is a long road to travel in Egypt and
Syria before such an act can appear on the statute books or be
enforced as law.
The Mandate for Palestine declares, in Article 15 : " The
Article X reads : " Le Controle exerce par le Mandataire sur les missions
religieuses en Syrie at ail Liban se bornera au maintien de 1 ordre publique et
de la bonne administration ; aucune atteinte ne sera portee a la libre activite
des dites missions religieuses.
" Les membres de ces missions ne seront 1 objet d aucune me sure restrictive
au fait de leur nationalite, pourvu que leur activite ne sorte pas du domaine
" Les missions religieuses pourront egalement s occuper d ceuvres d in-
struction et d assistance publique sous reserve du droit general de reglementa-
tion et de Controle du Mandataire ou des Gouvernements locaux en matiere
d education d instruction et d assistance publique." Correspondance d Orient
October, 1923. Paris.
1 Treaties, Acts, etc., pp. 82.
THE DAWN OF A NEW ERA. 153
Mandatory shall see that complete freedom of conscience and
the free exercise of all forms of worship, subject only to the
maintenance of public order and morals, are ensured to all.
No discrimination of any kind shall be made between the
inhabitants of Palestine on the ground of race, religion or
language. No person shall be excluded from Palestine on the
sole ground of his religious belief." But in Article 52 we read :
" Moslem Religious Courts shall have exclusive jurisdiction in
matters of personal status of Moslems in accordance with the
provisions of the Law of Procedure of the Moslem Religious
Courts of the 25th October, 1333 A.H., as amended by any
Ordinance or Rules. They shall also have, subject to the pro
visions of any Ordinance or of the Order of the 2oth December,
1921, establishing a Supreme Council for Moslem Religious
Affairs, or of any Orders amending the same, exclusive juris
diction in cases of the constitution or internal administration
of a Wakf constituted for the benefit of Moslems before a
Moslem Religious Court. There shall be an appeal from the
Court of the Qadi to the Moslem Religious Court of Appeal,
whose decision shall be final."
Other provisions are made for appeal to the Chief Justice,
and yet, as long as Moslem law obtains, one would like to see a
definite provision made for the case of apostates, in order that
the provisions of Article 83 may not prove a dead letter. In
this Article we read that " all persons in Palestine shall enjoy
full liberty of conscience." l
For the difficulties which converts face in Palestine have not
been altogether removed because of the British mandate. In
fact, in some respects, they have increased. The actual situa
tion is described by the Rev. A. J. Mortimer, of Nablous : 2
" What are the present prospects of winning converts from
Islam in Palestine ? Is it easier for a Moslem to become a
Christian under the terms of the British Mandate than it was
under the Turkish regime ? Is the law now administered
Ottoman or British, and, if the latter, is there complete
religious freedom ? The law, as at present administered, is
neither wholly Ottoman nor wholly British, but a compound of
1 Cf. Treaties, Acts and Regulations Relating to Missionary Freedom. Inter
national Missionary Council, London, 1923, pp. 21-24.
1 Church Missionary Outlook. 1923.
154 THE LAW OF APOSTASY IN ISLAM.
the two. The basis is still Ottoman, but from time to time, as
occasion arises, new ordinances are published from Govern
ment House, superseding or modifying the old order.
" When the High Commissioner, Sir Herbert Samuel, arrived
in Palestine to take up his post he read publicly in Jerusalem
and Haifa, before representatives invited from the surrounding
districts, a letter from King George V to the people of Palestine,
in which, among other things, complete freedom of conscience
was proclaimed. This clause was confirmed by the new consti
tution lately promulgated after the signing of the Mandate.
Under the old Ottoman law any one wishing to change his
religion was compelled, in order to have the change legalized,
to submit to an examination not exceeding two hours in
duration by the local head of his former religion, with a view
of his being dissuaded from the step. In the event of his not
being dissuaded, his change of religion became legally recognized
" In practice, however, so far as Palestine is concerned, the
law seems to have been applied only in the case of Moslems
wishing to change their creed, and not vice versa. In one notable
case the result of the examination as announced was an
obvious falsification of the facts, and was followed by the dis
appearance of the convert ! On the other hand, an experienced
missionary worker has related that in Egypt, on more than one
occasion, he has effectively claimed the right, under this law, of
interviewing would-be perverts to Islam, and that in most cases
he was successful, generally after a few minutes conservation,
in dissuading the pervert from his intention. Quite often
the motive for the change was not religious conviction, but the
desire to contract a marriage. A new ordinance, reviving
this Ottoman law, has lately been published, with modifications,
e.g. the arrangements for the examination are to be made
under the direction of the local governor, generally an English
man, and the ordinance is, of course, equally applicable to
Moslem, Jew, or Christian.
" This law, so long as it is equitably administered (and the
supervision by an English governor is a guarantee of fair play),
should be welcomed by the missionary, seeing that it affords
equal advantages to the heads of each religion. At the same
THE FALSE DAWN IN TURKEY.
A scarlet flag, of which thousands were sold on the day of the opening
of the Turkish Parliament, December iyth, 1908. The inscriptions read
" Brotherhood, freedom and equality."- -" Constitutional Freedom."
THE DAWN OF A NEW ERA. 155
time the would-be convert to Christianity must be possessed
of intellectual conviction to face the ordeal of a two hours
cross-examination at the hands of the local mufti, and also of
courage, both moral and physical, having survived his examina
tion to meet the obloquy, not to say persecution, at the hands
of his former co-religionists, which is fairly certain to follow.
The present attitude of the Arab population in refusing to
recognize the new Palestine Constitution under the British
Mandate tends to complicate matters should new cases of
conversion arise in the near future."
We turn from Palestine to Mesopotamia. Here the outlook
is very hopeful, and the missionaries look forward to a day of
complete religious freedom after centuries of fanaticism and
oppression toward Christian minorities under Turkish rule.
In the treaty between His Britannic Majesty and His Majesty
the King of Iraq, signed at Baghdad on October 10, 1922, we
have two Articles that grant religious and missionary freedom
to all in this ancient land of the Caliphate. Article 3 reads :
" His Majesty the King of Iraq agrees to frame an Organic Law
for presentation to the Constituent Assembly of Iraq, and to give
effect to the said Law, which shall contain nothing contrary to
the provisions of the present Treaty, and sha 1 ! take account of
the rights, wishes and interests of all populations inhabiting Iraq.
This Organic Law shall ensure to all complete freedom of con
science and the free exercise of all forms of worship, subject
only to the maintenance of public order and morals. It shall
provide that no discrimination of any kind shall be made
between the inhabitants of Iraq on the ground of race, religion
or language, and shall secure that the right of each community
to maintain its own schools for the education of its own
members in its own language, while conforming to such educa
tional requirements of a general nature as the Government of
Iraq may impose, shall not be denied or impaired. It shall
prescribe the constitutional procedure, whether legislative or
executive, by which decisions will be taken on all matters of
importance, including those involving questions of fiscal,
financial and military policy." And Article 12 of the same
Treaty states : "No measure shall be taken in Iraq to obstruct
or interfere with missionary enterprise or to discriminate
156 LAW OF APOSTASY IN ISLAM.
against any missionary on the ground of his religious belief or
nationality, provided that such enterprise is not prejudicial to
public order and good government." 1
Far more important, however, than all these promises of
liberty, on paper, is the rising tide of freedom in the hearts of
all people in all lands, and in spite of all the old Islamic laws.
Nationalism has done its work if not always wisely yet most
Our correspondents in many Mission fields are almost
unanimous in expressing the hope that we are facing the dawn
of a new day of liberty. Although some express this hope with
fear and trembling, especially those who have had such hopes
disappointed after the proclamation of liberty, fraternity and
equality in Turkey. In the old Moslem lands, such as inner
Arabia and Afghanistan, there are few signs of new liberty for
converts. The entrance of missionaries is forbidden in the Hejaz
and across the Indian Afghan frontier. In Tunisia, according
to a missionary residing at Kairouan, " The old intolerant
attitude still exists, though some classes of Moslems may be
more tolerant. As far as French authority or influence works,
certainly it would be on the side of toleration, although the
French government rather seeks to appear friendly to Islam."
From Algeria, however, a missionary writes : " The attitude
of Moslems towards Christianity is much more tolerant to-day.
There is great laxity with regard to the Moslem tenets of
drinking wine and eating pork ; there are many so-called
Moslems who take wine very freely. In fact, there is more
drunkenness amongst Moslems of Algeria than amongst
Europeans. Yet there would still be a deal of persecution for
any Moslem who dared to confess Christ in preference to
Mohammed." In Persia they tell us there have been " radical
changes during the past twenty years." The constitution has
given more liberty of thought and action, and the police depart
ment now handles many matters which formerly were brought
before the religious courts. It also safeguards converts from
mob violence and fanaticism. As one of the missionaries
expresses it, "A better day is coming, and the harvest is
beginning to be gathered in. There may be bloodshed yet, but
Christ will prevail."
1 Treaties, etc., pp. 95 and 96.
THE DAWN OF A NEW ERA. 157
Another correspondent, writing in regard to the French
colonies in Africa, says : " I do not think one can say that
there is a more tolerant attitude on the part of Moslem authori
ties towards converts to Christianity. They may be more
tolerant towards natives who become naturalized French
citizens, and who may even go the length of wearing a European
hat ! That would be explained as having been done from self-
interest and temporarily. To renounce Islam and embrace
Christianity, and to declare this openly is quite another matter
in the eyes of Moslems." In Egypt, however, there certainly
is a more tolerant attitude toward converts. And yet mission
aries differ in their interpretation as to the real reasons for this
changed attitude. One who has had twenty years experience
in every part of this field, says : " The full enforcement of the
law against apostasy is not possible because of the strong
supervision of British officials. What would and will happen
when that supervision is withdrawn remains to be seen. The
new constitution, with its boasted gift of religious liberty,
seems to me to leave the question of Moslem converts where it
was." While a more hopeful view is expressed by Dr. R. S.
McClanahan : " That Moslems would be even willing to inquire,
to attend meetings, to make investigations, to buy the Scrip
tures, and to read them, and also books of discussion on the
subject, that Christian missionaries should be given so much
of a hearing in public and in private as they are, and that many
leaders in the movement for independence in the country are
finding that liberty of conscience is an essential of any liberty
at all ; these things certainly suggest a more tolerant attitude.
I believe it is simply the normal reaction which comes out of
all this talk of liberty and independence and freedom, of which
the atmosphere has been full for several years." There have
been public baptisms and marriages of Moslem converts ; in
one case the officiating clergyman, bridegroom and parents
were all converts from Islam.
Tolerance toward converts from Islam seems often to be in
direct proportion to the proximity of foreign governments and
their influence, and the impact of Western civilization in
breaking down fanaticism. This is evident, for example, in
such cities as Aden and Constantinople. " Undoubtedly there
158 THE LAW OF APOSTASY IN ISLAM.
is a more tolerant attitude now than there was when I came
to Aden," writes Dr. J. C. Young. "At the morning service
the people listen with attention and often with real reverence,
and in the school both Moslem and Jewish scholars regularly
join together in repeating the Lord s Prayer every morning at
the opening service before the clinic begins. The people buy
Scriptures more readily than they did. One morning I sold
fifteen copies, where a few years ago not a single copy would
have been sold ; and I am confident that as the entrance of
God s Word ever giveth light, the time will come when all
barriers will be swept away in the flood of blessings that will
come to Arabia." And from Constantinople, a missionary
writes : There is a more tolerant attitude due, perhaps, in
part to closer contact with the Western world and to greater
publicity. One or two Moslems have become Christians here,
and are living as Christians. I cannot say that they are out of
danger, but they have not as yet been molested. I think we
should appeal to the Moslem world to place their religion on the
same basis as Christianity ; subject to criticism and investiga
tion, with freedom for every man to change his faith under stress
of conviction. It is, however, difficult for such an appeal to
reach the ignorant masses among whom it is considered as a
crime for a Moslem to change his faith."
In some cases the persecution of a convert and his martyrdom
has proved the truth of the words of our Lord, " Except a grain
of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone. But if
it die, it bringeth forth much fruit." Dr. Walter R. Miller gives
this interesting account of what happened in Nigeria. "About
twenty years before our coming, a Mallam of Kano, passing
through Egypt from Mecca, heard the Gospel ; and, only
feebly understanding it, had apparently been impressed by the
grandeur of the personality of Christ. He returned to Kano
and preached what he knew ; and was tortured and killed
because he refused to give up what he believed. As a direct
consequence of this, nearly twenty years later, or possibly more,
many of his disciples who had fled came under the sound of the
Gospel. A little Christian village was started here, and a
community of over one hundred and thirty souls lived under
Christian law and teaching, and many were baptized. Alas,
THE DAWN OF A NEW ERA. 159
sleeping sickness has, during the last four years, nearly anni
hilated this little community ! " But Dr. Miller goes on to say,
" I cannot say that there is any change of attitude on the part
of Moslems here. I believe nay, I have proof that were the
British power removed, every Christian convert would be
executed at once. It is an anomaly that the British Government
prevents a Christian inheriting from his Moslem father, even
though the latter and his son have been living in most friendly
relation before the father s death."
One of the most hopeful features in the whole situation is
that educated Moslems in all lands are beginning to have a
more liberal outlook. They are conscious that political liberty
can exist only where the rights of minorities are respected, and
that Islamic law must be modified in order to secure the free
dom desired. An open-minded Turk in conversation with
Dr. W. Nesbitt Chambers at Adana expressed himself in terms
such as these : " The past six hundred years demonstrate that
the Turks of themselves cannot make progress. The Magyars,
the Roumanians, the Bulgarians and others, freed from
Turkish domination, made advance. Compare Sofia and
Adrianople neighbouring cities. If the Ulema, the Khojas
and other leaders had been men of culture and education and
serious and open-minded, they would have considered the
needs of the country and would have introduced those changes
necessary for the welfare and best interests of the people of the
country in all phases of life. Six hundred years of this is
sufficient. Now is the time to inaugurate those movements
that will make for the peace and the best interests of all the
people. . . .
" Is it not time for the Turkish race, possessed of excellent
qualities that would make for progress if they had the oppor
tunity and were properly led, to consider with deep seriousness
this condition and seek a remedy ? Open the windows and let in
the light !
" Must we not admit that Islam is too small a religion, too
circumscribed, too formal ? Must we not place the responsi
bility of our backwardness, and not only ours but the backward
ness of Moslem lands, at the door of Islam ? We are challenged
for an answer. Should we not seek the reason in what appears
i6o THE LAW OF APOSTASY IN ISLAM.
to be the fact, that Islam does not furnish the high ideal, the
inspiration to investigation, the desire for progress in the
different phases of life, material, social and spiritual ?
The holy Koran is in a language known to but compara
tively few in the Moslem world ; the repetition of its words,
and other religious exercises enjoined, do not develop moral
excellence, or, as history shows, an impulse for progress and
human welfare. Is the assertion that the Koran supersedes the
Gospel tenable ? Is it necessary that Allah should withdraw
a revelation or substitute a different one already given ? We
recognize Jesus the Messiah of the Gospel as a prophet of God.
Let us turn to what light He may give on the human problem.
Let that stand which can give light and a lead." l
In the Persian press a Moslem editor expressed himself
regarding the need of a new liberty as follows ("Azad," i.e.
Freedom, published at Tabriz, Jan. i, 1922) : " Oh, Persians
of the Shiah sect, either you believe or you do not believe.
But those who do believe, let them give ear and hear what I
am saying. How unworthy are those who confess that Islam
is a religious system both spiritual and worldly, but who forget
that a tree must be known by its fruits. While, as you say,
this religion has the happiness of this world to offer as well as
the coming world, yet in every point all Moslems over the
world are low, poor, unclean, without civilization, foolish,
ignorant and in general they are two hundred years behind
American and European Christians, and even behind Zoroas-
trians. . . . Refuse to tie yourselves as the followers all of one
man and say that his command is the command of God and the
prophet, and second you can treat your various tribes so that
they will not be tools in the hands of your neighbour nations.
If you do these things I assure you that your kingdom will be
great. Therefore arise and take your sword and dig up all
those thorns which have grown up around Mohammed may
the blessing of God be upon him and his children so that we
may be blessed both in this world and the world to come.
I shall be glad to receive any suggestions or any advice from
any reader of this paper." 2
1 The Moslem World, vol. xi. pp. 232, 233, 234.
2 Robert E. Speer s Report on India and Persia, pp. 381-382.
THE DAWN OF A NEW ERA. 161
Not only in Turkey and in Persia, but in Mecca itself, voices
have been pleading for religious liberty. In 1899 a conference
was held, or is supposed to have been held, at Mecca, on the
problem of Islam s decay and disintegration. The full report
of these discussions make an interesting study of Islamic
thought, and was published at Cairo under the title, Um-al-Qura,
i.e. " Mother of all cities," Mecca. Eighty-six causes for the
decline and disintegration of Islam are noted. One of the
delegates said the decline of Islam is due " not to our rulers,
because they are only selected by their subjects. What we
are, our rulers will be. I believe that the cause of our calamity
is the loss of liberty. We do not know what liberty means,
because we do not have it. The one who enjoys it can define
it thus : it is the virtue by which man is free in word and in
action, and in no way or manner is antagonized. It must touch
several departments ; it must advocate human rights, and hold
rulers responsible, because they are the representatives of the
public. They should not hestitate to execute justice, and ought
not to be afraid in giving the needed advice. And again there
must be freedom in education and freedom in public speech ;
freedom of the press and freedom in scientific discussions.
And there must be liberty in doing justice, so that no one
should fear a man who is wicked, treacherous and perfidious.
There must be, above all, a liberty in religion, the virtue that
will vindicate the rights of men and secure the honour of the
family ; that will encourage education and make it thrive.
Liberty is the soul of religion. Doubtless, liberty is the dearest
thing to man after his life. To lose it is to banish hope, and
check labour ; to let the soul expire, the laws die and the rules
Surely when such voices are heard in Turkey, Persia, and
even from Mecca, we may take courage. The cry for national
independence includes far more than a desire for self-govern
ment. Islam itself must to-day face a crisis in the hearts of
Moslems. The character of the Koran, the life of the Prophet
of Arabia, and the legislation based upon both, all conflict with
religious freedom. Missionaries and converts may together
find strength in the thought that Islam is being brought before
the judgment of history. This judgment will be more relentless,
162 THE LAW OF APOSTASY IN ISLAM.
more searching, more just than any private judgment could be.
It alone is final. In this faith we can rest and wait. Mean
while, there will arise in all lands an ever-increasing number of
converts from Islam who will fearlessly face the law of apostasy
because of their love for Jesus Christ.
ABD-UR-RAHIM. Mohammedan Jurisprudence. Thacker & Co.,
AD DIMISHQY. Targamet ul Ummafi Ikhtilaf al A imat.
AL AiNi. Amdat-ul-Qari. Vol. XL
AL ASKALANI. Fath-ul-Bari. Vol. XII.
AL BUKHARI, and MUSLIM. Traditions.
AL GHAZALI S Wajiz. Vol. II. Cairo, 1317. A.H.
AMEER ALL The Spirit of Islam. Calcutta, 1902.
ARNOLD, T. W. The Preaching of Islam.
BARTON, JAMES L. Daybreak in Turkey. The Pilgrim Press,
BERBRUGGER, A. Geronimo, le Martyr du Fort des Vingt-quatres-
heurs. Alger, 1859.
BEZOLD, CARL. Festschrift Ignaz Goldziher. Strassburg, 1911,
pp. 206, 207.
Caetani Annali dell Islam. Milano, 1913.
Cairo Conference Report. Methods of Mission Work Among
DELEVAUX, ABBE L. Geronimo L Emmure de Bab-el-Oued. Drame
Historique. Alger, 1920.
DOUGHTY, C. M. Wanderings in Arabia. London, 1923.
FAIZ BADRUDDIN TYABJI. Principles of Mohammedan Law.
D. B. Taraporevala & Sons, Bombay, 1913.
FINDLAY, ANDREW G. The Crescent in North-west China. London,
FORTESCUE, ADRIAN. The Lesser Eastern Churches. London, 1913.
GIBBON, EDWARD. History of the Roman Empire.
GOLDSACK, WILLIAM. Selections from Mohammedan Traditions :
translated from the Arabic. Madras, 1923.
HAMILTON, CHARLES. Al Hedaya, by Burhan ed Din Ali. 4 vols.
HARLOW, S. RALPH. Student Witnesses for Christ. New York.
HOWARD, E. C. Minhaj-at-Talibin ; A Manual of Mohammedan
Law according to the School of Shafi i, by Nawawi, from the
French Edition of A. W. C. van den Berg. Thacker, London,
IBN HISHAM. Vol. I. Cairo Edition.
IBN RUSHDI AL QARTABI. Badayet-al-Mujtahid. 2 vols. Cairo.
Islamic Review (November, 1916). Apostasy and its Consequences
under Islam and Christianity, p. 485 ff.
JESSUP, HENRY H. Fifty-three Years in Syria. Revell. New York.
JESSUP, HENRY H. Kamil. The Setting of the Crescent and the
Rising of the Cross. Philadelphia, 1898.
JUYNBOLL. Article on "Apostasy " in Encyclopedia of Religion and
Ethics. Vol. I.
KORAN. Arabic text and Palmer s Translation.
MACDONALD, D. B. Article on " D jihad," Encyclopedia of Islam.
164 THE LAW OF APOSTASY IN ISLAM.
MARGOLIOUTH, D. S. The Early Development of Mohammedanism.
MATTHEWS. Mishcat. Vol. II.
MOHAMMED AL ABDARI IBN HADJ. Al Madkhal. Vol. II.
MONTET, EDOUARD. Etudes Orientates et Religieuses. Geneva, 1917.
MOULE, A. C. Fourteenth-century Missionary Letters. " The East
and West." October, 1921.
OBBINK. De Heilige Oorlog. Brill, Leiden.
OECONOMOS, LYSIMACHOS. The Martyrdom of Smyrna and Eastern
Christendom. London, 1923.
OSBORNE, ROBERT D. Islam under the Khalifs of Baghdad. London,
PAUTZ, OTTO. Mohammed s Lehre der Offenbarung.
PENNELL, T. L. Among the Wild Tribes of the Afghan Frontier.
PFANDER, C. G. The Mizanu l Haqq (Balance of Truth). London,
QUERRY, A. Droit Musulman. Recueil de Lois concernant les
Musulmans Schyites. Vol. II., pp. 528-533. Paris, 1872.
REEVES, W. PEMBER. Christiani ad Leones ; The Great Powers and
the Eastern Christians. London, 1922.
Reports of Egypt General Mission, 1903-1922.
RUSSELL, A. D. A Manual of the Law of Marriage from the
Mukhtasar of Sidi Khali. London.
RUXTON, F. H. Convert s Status in Maliki Law. The Moslem
World. Vol. III.
SCHULTHESS, FRIEDRICK. Die Machtmittel des Islams. Zurich, 1923.
SCOTT, JAMES HARRY. The Law Affecting Foreigners in Egypt as a
Result of the Capitulations.
SELL, CANON EDWARD. Faith of Islam. London, 1907.
SHEDD, WILLIAM AMBROSE. Islam and the Oriental Churches. New
SIMON, GOTTFRIED. The Progress and Arrest of Islam in Sumatra.
Marshall Brothers, London.
SMITH, DR. GEORGE. Henry Martyn. London, 1892.
SMITH, H. P. The Bible and Islam. London, 1897.
SPEER, DR. ROBERT E. Missions and Modern History. New York
1904. Vol. II. " The Armenian Massacres," pp. 441-484.
Report on India and Persia. Board of Foreign Missions, New
STOCK, EUGENE. History of the Church Missionary Society. London,
Treaties, Acts and Regulations Relating to Missionary Freedom.
International Missionary Council, London, 1923.
WATSON, ANDREW. History of the American Mission in Egypt.
United Presbyterian Board of Publication, Pittsburgh.
WILSON, S. G. Bahaism. The Moslem World. Vol. IV.
WILSON, S. G. Bahaism and its Claims. New York, 1915.
ZAMAKSHARI. Commentary on the Koran.
University of Toronto
Acme Library Card Pocket
Under Pat. "Rei. Index File"
Made by LIBRARY BUREAU