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Full text of "The law of apostasy in Islam : answering the question why there are so few Moslem converts, and giving examples of their moral courage and martyrdom"

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THE LAW OF APOSTASY 
IN ISLAM 



ANSWERING THE QUESTION WHY THERE 

ARE SO FEW MOSLEM CONVERTS, AND 

GIVING EXAMPLES OF THEIR MORAL 

COURAGE AND MARTYRDOM 



BY 

SAMUEL M. ZWEMER 




MARSHALL BROTHERS, LTD, 
LONDON, EDINBURGH & NEW YORK 



Printed in Great Britain 

by 

Hunt, Barnard <S- Co., Ltd., 
Aylesbury. 



CONTENTS. 



PAGE 

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. 



PREFACE. 

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, 



8 PREFACE 

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 
able witnesses. 

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. 



PREFACE 9 

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. 



SYNOPSIS 

Page 

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 
China. 



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 
forced conversions. 



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 
martyrdom." 

10 



SYNOPSIS ii 

Page 

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 



12 



CHAPTER I. 
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 



CHAPTER I. 

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 

15 



16 THE LAW OF APOSTASY IN ISLAM. 

paucity of converts in every one of these fields is the great 
outstanding fact. 

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 
acres. 

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 
decease. 



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 
people. 

" 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 
suffered much. 

" I am your Highness most obedient and most humble 
servant, etc., 

"A. F. 

" 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. 

"A. F. 
" 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 
change." 

" 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 
moral courage." 

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 
easily." 

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. 



CHAPTER II. 
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. 



CHAPTER II. 
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. 
3 33 



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 
Mohammed. 

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, 
Evidence.) 

"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) 
p. 250. 



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 
law applied." 

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 
past centuries. 

" 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 
legal consequences. 

" 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 
periodical payments." 

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 
by dogs." 

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. 



CHAPTER III. 
HOW IT WORKS. 



55 



Why did you take off the white turban from your fez ? Why have 
you ceased being an " imam " ? Shemseddin replied, Because I am a 
Christian. 

" 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. 



CHAPTER III. 
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, 
p. 279. 

57 



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 

earliest Apostates. 

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. 
5 



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 
sexual passion. 

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. 



CHAPTER IV. 

CENTURIES OF INTOLERANCE AND 
PERSECUTION. 



75 



" 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. 



76 



CHAPTER IV. 

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). 

77 



78 THE LAW OF APOSTASY IN ISLAM. 

took to flight, after which he apostatized from Islam, and 
said : 

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- 

vengeance, 
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), 
p. 67. 

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 
him." 

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 
6 



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 
judgment." 1 

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 
of tribute." 



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 
and 207. 



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 
(London, 1911). 

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 
in India. 

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 
condemnation. 

" 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), 
pp. 205-228. 

7 



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 
Jerusalem. 2 

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). 



CHAPTER V. 
HIDDEN DISCIPLES. 



103 



" 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 ! " 

HENRY VAUGHAN. 



104 



CHAPTER V. 

HIDDEN DISCIPLES. 

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 

105 



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 
his pocket. 

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 
keeper. 

" 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) : 

ASSIUT COLLEGE, 

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 
may be. 

" 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 



MEDAN MOESLIMIN 

Tempat goena menoboeka soearanja kaoeca tnoeslimin diseloeioeh 
HINDIA NEDERLAND. 

Keloemr tlp-tiap tanggai 1 dn 15 boeian OUancka. 



yanan 3 hoc 
.i>0 Boeat ioe 



Bajar let 



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. 

^1 



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 
itoe. 



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 
soon. 

" 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, 

"WILLIAM." 

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 
the world. 

" 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 
or brethren." 

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 
I abhor. 

" 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 
means contradictions.) 

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 
Gornuldhene. 

" 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 




MAKHAIL MANSUR. 

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 
often threatened. 



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 ? 



CHAPTER VI. 
THE DAWN OF A NEW ERA 



129 



" 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. 



130 



CHAPTER VI. 
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 
discharge." 

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 
Christianity. 2 

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, 
April, 1924. 



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 
penal code. 

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 
protected. 

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. 

2 Idem. 




6 

Cfl 4) 







j b 

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- 
landen." 

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, 

ABRAHAM LINCOLN. 
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, 

MOHAMMED SAID. 
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 
morals. 

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 
converts. 

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 
in Turkey." 








e ffi u H l|2.2 

O o 03 C CX 

8 C c? B 9 a 



8, 






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 
10 



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 
fashion : 

" 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) ? 
Reply: Yes. 

" 4. Are not all Moslems bound by the Holy Law under such 
circumstances to assist in the struggle against the enemy ? 
Reply: Yes. 

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 
public order. 

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. 

10* 



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. 
Boston, 1922. 



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 
human mind. 

" 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 
dawned. 

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 
religieux. 

" 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 
and valid. 

" 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 
thoroughly. 

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 
be transgressed." 

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. 



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