Shaykh Hamza Yusuf and his take on apostasy laws.

“And do not mix the truth with falsehood or conceal the truth while you know it.” (Qur’an 2:42)

As mentioned in a previous post here:

I went into some discussion on why I felt that Sunni scholar Sheikh T.J Winters (Abdul Hakim Murad) was perhaps misinformed on the issue of apostasy. I respect Sheikh Hamza Yusuf a great deal. I had a chance to learn from him at Zatyuna Institute (prior to becoming Zaytuna College) back in 2001.  I was at Zaytuna institute the day the infamous 9/11 event took place.  Sheikh Hamza Yusuf is a great orator and spokesperson for Islam.

This entry is going to be along the same line as the one concerning Sheikh T. J Winters (Abdul Hakim Murad) above.  If you are going to read this entry, I would suggest you read the entry regarding the respected teacher T.J Winters to get a sense of continuity, as well as context. We need people who are willing to be readily transparent when dealing with the academia of the west, or we will be in a great deal of trouble. I think when we have a group of people, especially academics, and intellectuals.

Thus, with policymakers, we must be earnest with them.  If we are not earnest we may lose many allies when it comes to being transparent and truthful with academics and educators.

Take for example the following clip:



youtube At 2:48  Sheikh Hamza Yusuf says, ” There are no verses in the Qur’an where any cohesion is mentioned…the Qur’an states clearly in chapter 18 whoever wants to believe let him believe, and whoever wants to disbelieve let him disbelieve”

I guess the question to Sheikh Hamza Yusuf, is then why is it the ‘ijma or ‘consensus‘  of scholars like Imam Shafi’i, Imam Malik, Abu Hanifa, and Imam Ahmad is to execute people who leave Islam?  What was it about their ijtihad that did not allow them to take these verses (mentioned by Sheikh Hamza Yusuf) into consideration? What I am genuinely curious about is that it would seem to me in my limited knowledge that Shafi’i, Malik, Abu Hanifa, and Ahmad all had the same information in front of them. What was it about the Qur’an that was not clear to them?  Surely, Imam Shafi’i, Imam Malik, Abu Hanifa, and Imam Ahmad are scholars of great repute?

When discussing the issue of apostasy Sheikh Hamza Yusuf mentions a scholar and I did not catch his name. At 5:42 minutes I heard mention was “one of the greatest scholars of Islam ‘Ata’  did not believe there should be any capital offense in apostasy ” and that does not translate to much. I am sure the academics would like to know ‘Ata’ Who?  Who was he and when did he live? 7:30 in the clip he says, that: “The Islamic tradition is not amendable to the same degree that other traditions are to reformation; the reason for that is that the Islamic tradition sees itself as a reformation of the Jewish and Christian sectarianism.” Then, what does that statement mean in light of the many myriads Islamic groups and sects there are today?  Many of whom wear the same title and yet spite the other?

9:36 “How can you have a religious tradition that can blow up people on buses and little children and things like that but your not allowed to kill frogs.” “I mean its just so weird this modern madness.” I would go further and ask how can you have a religious tradition that can say your not allowed to kill frogs but you can kill people for leaving the faith?  That is just madness!

Here is a list of some of the oral traditions that are authentically* attributed to the Blessed Prophet Muhammed. * When I say authentically that is to say according to Sunni scholarship on the matter.

The Prophet said, ‘If somebody (a Muslim) discards his religion, kill him.’ “  Note that there is no distinction as to how that Muslim came to be a Muslim. (Bukhari 52:260)

“Allah’s Apostle never killed anyone except in one of the following three situations: (1) A person who killed somebody unjustly, was killed (in Qisas,) (2) a married person who committed illegal sexual intercourse, and (3) a man who fought against Allah and His Apostle and deserted Islam and became an apostate.” (Bukhari (83:37)

“Allah’s Apostle, ‘Whoever changed his Islamic religion, then kill him.'” (Bukhari 84:57)

A man who embraces Islam then reverts to Judaism is to be killed according to “the verdict of Allah and his apostle.” (Bukhari 89:271)

There was a fettered man beside Abu Musa. Mu’adh asked, ‘Who is this (man)?’  Abu Musa said, ‘He was a Jew and became a Muslim and then reverted back to Judaism.’  Then Abu Musa requested Mu’adh to sit down but Mu’adh said, ‘I will not sit down till he has been killed. This is the judgment of Allah and His Apostle (for such cases) and repeated it thrice.’  Then Abu Musa ordered that the man be killed, and he was killed. Abu Musa added, ‘Then we discussed the night prayers'” (Bukhari 84:58)

Allah’s Apostle: ‘During the last days there will appear some young foolish people who will say the best words but their faith will not go beyond their throats (i.e. they will have no faith) and will go out from (leave) their religion as an arrow goes out of the game. So, wherever you find them, kill them, for whoever kills them shall have reward on the Day of Resurrection.” (Bukhari 84:64-65)

“Was not there a wise man among you who would stand up to him when he saw that I had withheld my hand from accepting his allegiance and kill him?”  (Abu Dawud 4346)

Now I respect Sheikh Hamza Yusuf and Sheikh T.J Winters immensely.  They have a huge challenge ahead of them. However, I feel it is an immense difficulty for them to articulate positions on this matter as they defend the Ahl Sunnah position of Islam. The task for them is to navigate difficult questions while affirming the tradition both ‘ijma (consensus) of the Sunni tradition (which is to kill apostates) as well as these various hadith graded as ‘sahih’ (sound) according to the scholars of the Sunni tradition of the hadith (which also mention killing apostates). If they go against the ‘ijma (consensus) of their scholars they could possibly be accused of apostasy themselves!

However, they could navigate around this by challenging ‘ijma (consensus) themselves. They cannot go against the hadith on the matter because they would also be accused of apostasy and attacking the hadith scholarship. Thus, the only way for them to navigate it is to try as many modern-day apologists have done is to say that the hadith ‘need to be contextualized’. There really is no need for this rigorous and intellectually exhausting semantics with academic audiences. There is a very readily available solution to this problem.   The good thing is that Sheikh Hamza Yusuf alluded to it in his remarks.  He quoted the Qur’an!

Yet, the challenge, respectfully, is that Sheikh Hamza Yusuf and Sheikh T.J Winters (Abdul Hakim Murad) is that one cannot both have their cake and eat it too. Either the Ahl Sunnah and their ‘ijma (consensus) is correct or it is not correct.

Mind you this is the same body of scholarship that is who are familiar with every verse and hadith that both Sheikh Hamza Yusuf and Sheik Abdul Hakim Murad are familiar with, even more intimately so. Or, you simply defend the words of Allah(swt) in the  Qur’an and say that the ‘ijma (consensus) of the Ahl Sunnah was mistaken in the matter.

If I had to take the words of Allah (swt) or those of Bukhari, I will take Allah (swt). If I had to take the words of Allah (swt) or the ijtihad (personal effort in juristic understanding). I will take Allah (swt).

If it had been thy Lord’s will, they would all have believed,- all who are on earth! will you then compel mankind, against their will, to believe!: (Qur’an 10:99)

Shall I seek other than God as a source of law, when He has revealed to you this book fully detailed? Those who received the scripture recognize that it has been revealed from your Lord, truthfully. You shall not harbor any doubt. The word of your Lord is complete, in truth and justice. Nothing shall abrogate His words. He is the Hearer, the Omniscient.” (Qur’an 6:114-115)


December 8, 2016 · 4:38 am

7 responses to “Shaykh Hamza Yusuf and his take on apostasy laws.

  1. should you not at least have the decency to give your name, if you are going to be making these statements?

    being his student disagreeing with him and so forth. or ar we to merely take your word for it, that you know better than him. You the invisible man, with the invisible qualifications, and unknown character.

    • “The good deed and the evil deed are not alike. Repel the evil deed with one which is better, then lo! he, between whom and thee there was enmity (will become) as though he was a bosom friend.” (Holy Qur’an 41:34)

      I hope you will pardon me but don’t you see the irony in an anon asking another anon who they are?

      Also who I am should be of little consequence because I feel it would distract you from the entry itself to focus on ad hominem.

      I certainly do not malign the qualifications of Sheikh Hamza.
      As far as his character, I do not feel that I do use ad hominem on the respected Sheikh either.

      Sheikh Hamza Yusuf is a man of immense character and has done more for the Ummah of Muhammed (saw) than most Muslims (myself included) have done (or could achieve) in a few life times over.

      I am also not suggesting that you are, but I hope it is apparent that I am not a sycophant.

      Sheikh Hamza (may Allah continue to bless him) made a public statement. I am confident that the ‘4 imams of Sunni jurisprudence’ have also dealt wtih the same material that Sheikh Hamza mentioned. However, these imams have an ‘ijma or consensus on apostacy. Their consensus (with Abu Hanifa having the caveat on women) is not something palatable to the West.

      In the future I do hope that you would deal with the substance of the article. I do hope that you keep Sheikh Hamza as well as myself in your sincere supplications. Peace!

  2. The other quick note I would like to share is this, I sincerely hope this is not the sentiment of someone who is close with Sheikh Hamza. This idea that laymen are all uncouth illiterates who are not able to spot things that don’t add up is not going to work. If you feel the respected Sheikh is being misrepresented and you want to defend him, than may Allah bless you.

    However, if your post is suggessting that Sheikh Hamza ‘would’ endorse the idea of browbeating people into silence, because they say things that are uncomfortable, that is simply frightening.

  3. rich

    The browbeating is yours alone.

  4. Rich if you had something to contribute I am sure myself and the readers would be most interested. Apparently to critique even those we respect is simply not allowed. You may find better use of your time responding to Mufti Muhammad Darwaish (The defender of Ahl Sunnah Wal Jammah) indirect labeling of Hamza Yusuf a disbeliever, for his ‘defense’ of Dante here:

  5. His opinion is that of the sunna , and by the sunna we mean the Asharis and the Maturidis, not the so called sunna of the wahabis/salafis. One of the rules of the true ahl al sunna is, that they don’t take a hadith simply because it is sahih, but they have to way it against all evidence in from the quran and the sunna and if the evidence is outway then it is disregarded as is the case with apostasy killing. There are many instances when the prophet Sallah Allahu alihi wassalm, let non-believers walk out free. The scholar that was mentioned’s name is a member of the Hanafi school named Ara ibn Abi Rabah. Imam Abu Hanifa made it very clear that a woman who is an apostate should not be killed and they cite the following evidence:

    “Do not kill a child, nor a woman, nor an old man, nor obliterate a stream, nor cut a tree…” (Sunan Al-Bayhaqî)

    Ibn Abbas said: Do not kill women if they apostatize from Islam, but imprison them and call them to Islam, and coerce them upon it.

    Ata ibn Abi Rabah said about the female apostate: She is not killed. – Abu Bakr Ibn Abi Shaybah (d. 235 AH/849 CE). Al-Musannaf

    • Dear respected drhazym. Thank you for your comment. The following statement did not register well for me. “One of the rules of the true ahl al sunna is, that they don’t take a hadith simply because it is sahih, but they have to way it against all evidence in from the quran and the sunna and if the evidence is outway then it is disregarded as is the case with apostasy killing.” According to which particular usuli approach is this done? Also do you consider the Sunnah to be mutawattir narrations, ahad narrations, mass transmitted practice, as in the case of the ‘Amal of Madinah’ or ‘all the above’ ? You also cited the following oral tradition…… ““Do not kill a child, nor a woman, nor an old man, nor obliterate a stream, nor cut a tree…” (Sunan Al-Bayhaqî)” However; it seems as if there was more to follow with the …. Also, what is the context of all these lone narrator reports? The context in my research all seem to indicate war; thus seems that a woman could be killed outside of war. For example if we are to understand this as a blanket statement than a woman could not be killed for committing adultery. Also, your 2nd point really did not do allot to put aside the idea that people are killed for apostasy. Read carefully what you quoted. “Ibn Abbas said: Do not kill WOMEN if they apostatize from Islam, but imprison them and call them to Islam, and coerce them upon it.” So even if this was the case, this AN opinion and this singular quotation is in reference to women and is only making the point stronger that men are to be killed for apostasy. Also, the comment about ‘coerce them upon it’ seems to stand in stark contrast to what Sheikh Hamza Yusuf quoted from the Holy Qur’an will you than compel them to believe?

      Thank you for your comment.

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