Muslims uphold the Freedom of Faith and the Freedom to Change one’s Faith

Muslim Academics/Scholars/Imams/Professionals uphold the Freedom of Faith and the Freedom to Change one’s Faith

” ... Let there be no compulsion in religion: Truth stands out clear from Error ...” [2:256]

This is Islam’s unambiguous affirmation of freedom of faith, which also applies to changing of faith. The Qur’an illuminates before the humanity the two highways [90:10], one of which leads to salvation. Islam is an invitation to the highway toward salvation, but it is based on FREEDOM OF CHOICE.

Apostasy (riddah) is a major issue that affects the understanding of, and perception about, Islam. Historically, Muslim scholars have not factored in the distinction between apostasy (changing one’s faith, which is strictly a sin against God) and treason (strictly a civil offense against an established public order) when it is stated that Islam mandates capital punishment for riddah. That unnuanced perspective about apostasy has fueled negative propaganda against Islam and a negative image of Muslims. In recent years in some notable and well known cases, a fatwa (legal, non-binding opinion) was issued against alleged apostates and, at times, even a bounty was announced on their head.

Many Muslim scholars and academics have argued against the stated historical position as inconsistent with the Qur’an and on the grounds that killing someone for making a considered choice negates the very Islamic value and principle of freedom of choice, affecting Islam’s position on universal human rights.

Freedom of choice in faith is central to Islam. This has been exemplified in the Qur’anic narrative regarding the choice made by Satan in contrast with Adam and Eve, and the broad agreement of Muslim scholars that only faith freely adopted is meritorious before God. Throughout history prophets and the communities of their believers have struggled to secure freedom of faith for themselves. Indeed it is a principle quintessential to both Islam and humanity.

Choosing a path in line with our beliefs about salvation has significant consequences in terms of our afterlife. In this world that freedom is bestowed upon us by God, which, by implication, must include the possibility of changing one’s faith. Freedom of religion is meaningless without the freedom to change one’s religion. Denial of such reciprocal rights is also inconsistent with the principle of justice (adl/qist), as clearly enunciated in the Qur’an [4/an-Nisa/135].

The Qur’an does not specify any worldly punishment or retribution solely for apostasy. Similarly, there is no clear prophetic judgment on apostasy, nor examples that such punishment was meted out (during the time of the Prophet or in the period of the Righteous Caliphate) to someone solely for abandoning Islam as a creed, in contrast with apostasy-cum-treason, involving taking up arms against the Muslim community or the state.

Islam upholds the fundamental principle pertaining to freedom of faith [“Let there be no compulsion in Deen” 2/al-Baqara/256; also see 39/al-Zumar/41]. Thus:


We the undersigned Muslims from diverse backgrounds affirm:
The freedom of faith and the freedom of changing one’s faith.
In light of the Qur’anic guidance and the Prophetic legacy,
the principle of freedom of faith does not lend itself
to impose in this world any punishment or retribution solely for apostasy;
thus there ought not to be any punishment
in the name of Islam or fatwa calling for the same.

In addiiton, we call upon:

our esteemed scholars (ulama) and jurists (fuqaha), to address this inconsistency between the Islamic principle of freedom of faith and the position mandating punishment for apostasy, and to bring our legacy of Islamic jurisprudence and general Islamic discourse up-to-date for the times with reference to indisputable and categorical Islamic principles.

our fellow Muslims, to be informed of Islam’s position on apostasy and to uphold the principle of choice so that we may exercise tolerance towards those who have left the “straight path” and deal with their subsequent views and actions (even when they are against Islam) within the conext of human rights and civil liberties allowed by law.

Imams and religious leaders, to educate and sensitize Muslim masses about notions of fairness and justice inherent in Islam and respond to apostasy in a dignified, constructive and patient manner.

governments of Muslim-majority countries, to address this matter constitutionally as well as legally, and actively engage in a process that eventually discards any law entailing punishment for apostasy.

Islamic organizations, to uphold universal human rights (not inconsistent with Islam) and to defend the rights of ex-Muslims in regard to apostasy.

100+ Signatories to the Statement

We the undersigned Muslims from diverse backgrounds affirm:
The freedom of faith and the freedom of changing one’s faith.
In light of the Qur’anic guidance and the Prophetic legacy,
the principle of freedom of faith does not lend itself
to impose in this world any punishment or retribution solely for apostasy;
thus there ought not to be any punishment
in the name of Islam or fatwa calling for the same.

The endorsement of the signatories listed here does not
necessarily represent the institution they are affiliated with.
Dr. Omar Afzal
[retired from South Asian Collection, Cornell University; USA]
Dr. Ahrar Ahmad
[Professor of Political Science, Black Hills State University; USA]
Dr. Mohammad Fadel
[Faculty of Law, University of Toronto; Canada]
Dr. Mohammad Omar Farooq
[Associate Professor of Economics and Finance, Upper Iowa University; USA]
Dr. Layla al-Marayati
[Muslim Women’s League; USA]
Dr. Abdulaziz Sachedina
[Professor, University of Virginia; USA]
Mike Mohamed Ghouse
[President, World Muslim Congress; USA]
Dawn Ross
[New Product Launch Planning Manager in the Orthopedic Industry; USA]
Dr. Mohammed Fahmy
[Professor, University of Northern Iowa; and Islamic Center, Waterloo, Iowa; USA]
Dr. Khaleel Mohammed
[Professor, Religious Studies, San Diego State University; USA]
Dr. Badrul Haque
[Economist, and Chair, Board of Trustees The Bangladeshi-American Foundation; USA]
Dr. Salim Rashid
[Professor of Economics, University of Illinois, Urbana Champaign; USA]
Nurjahan Ruby Amatulla
Syed Abdul Hamid
[Head Of Information Technology, an Islamic Bank; Pakistan]
Ris Rizqullah
[Indonesian Society for Islamic Economy; Indonesia]
Mirza A. Beg
[Geologist and columnist; USA]
M. Basheer Ahmed
[M.D., Former Professor of Psychiatry, Southwestern Medical School, Dallas, Texas; USA]
Haseeb Muhammad
[Operations Officer (CAD) at a local Bank and graduate Student at International Islamic University, Islamabad; PAKISTAN]
Ghulam Yusuf
[Retired Director General of Govt. of Pakistan; CANADA]
Dr. Fahim Quadir
[Associate Professor of the Division of Social Science and Graduate Program Director in Development Studies, York University, Toronto; CANADA]
Dr. Thomas Hamza Mohammed Haidon
[International Qur’anic Center, Free Muslim Coalition, Jurisdoctorate, International Law; NEW ZEALAND]
Dr. Najah Kadhim
[Executive Director, International Forum for Islam Dialogue (IFID), London, and a Senior Lecturer-University of Hertfordshire; UK]
Walid Zafar
[Student, International Political Economy, University of Puget Sound; USA]
Sheila Musaji
[Editor, The American Muslim; USA]
Omar Ali, M.D.
[Assistant Professor of Pediatric Endocrinology, Medical College of Wisconsin; USA]
Dr. Radwan Masmoudi
[Founder, member of the Board, and President of the Center of the Study of Islam & Democracy (CSID)]
Dr. Fatima Zohra
[Obstetrician/Gynaecologist; AUSTRALIA]
Dr. M. A. Muqtedar Khan
[Assistant Professor, University of Delaware; Senior Nonresident Fellow, Brookings Institution; Fellow, Alwaleed center, Georgetown University; http://www.ijtihad.orgl/ USA]
Kamal Yassin, M.D.
[Physician; Islamic foundation of Greater St. Louis; USA]
Bahar Bastani, M.D.
[Professor of Medicine - Nephrology, Saint Louis University; USA]
Maqsud Sobhani
[Manager, Customer Service, Paxar; BANGLADESH]
Levent Akbarut
[Aerospace Software Engineering Manager; Islamic Congregation of La Cañada Flintridge, Los Angeles County, California; USA]
Dr. Miah Muhammad Adel
[Professor, Space Physics, Environmental Physics, Water Sciences, University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff; USA]
Dr. A. Rashied Omar
[Research Scholar of Islamic Ethics and Peacebuilding, Joan B. Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, University of Notre Dame; USA]
Na’eem Jeenah
[Coordinator, Masjidul Islam, Johannesburg, South Africa; Ex-President, Muslim Youth Movement of South Africa; MA (Religious Studies); University of the Witwatersrand; SOUTH AFRICA]
Dr. Stephen N. Connolly
[Lecturer in organic chemistry, School of Science & Technology, University of Teesside; UK]
Dr. Mohammad Yusuf Siddiq
[Professor, Dept. of History & Islamic Civilization, Sharjah University; UAE]
Hesham A. Hassaballa, M.D.
[Physician, Author, and Columnist, God, Faith, and a Pen; USA]
Dr. Javed Jamil
[Executive Chairman, International Centre for Applied Islamics, Saharanpur; INDIA]
Dr. Abusaleh Shariff
[Ph. D., Development Economics and Demography, National Council of Applied Economic Research, New Delhi, INDIA]
Dr. Syed Nawab Haider Naqvi
[M.A. (Yale); PhD (Princeton); HEC Distinguished National Professor and Director General, Federal Urdu University of Arts, Science and Technology, Islamabad, PAKASITAN]
Dr. Ashraf M. Abbasi
[Chairman, Pakistani American Congress-Council of Presidents; Houston, USA]
Dr. Shafique Pathan
[MBBS, FRSH (England), DCCP; Obesity, Diet Consultant; Bandar West, Mumbai; INDIA]
Zaid Shakur
[Staff Writer, InFocus News; USA]
Dr. Hasan Zillur Rahim
[Freelance writer on Islamic issues, blog:; former Editor of IQRA, magazine of South Bay Islamic Association of San Jose, California; USA]
Faroque Khan, M.B., M.A.C.P
[Chair, Board of Trustees. Islamic Cenmter of Long Island, New York; ex-President, Islamic Medical Association of North America (IMANA): 1986-1988; USA]
T. O. Shanavas, MD
[Pediatrician; Author, “Creation And/Or Evolution: An Islamic Perspective”, Xlibris Corporation; USA]
Shahed Amanullah
[MBA, Technology Consulting; Editor-in-chief,; USA]
Dr. Mohammed Nazrul Islam Khan
[Chemist; Vice-President and Director, FRC Chemical Technology, Inc.; Islamic Society of Cerro Gordo, Mason City, Iowa; USA]
Dr. Asma Afsaruddin
[Associate Professor, Arabic & Islamic Studies, University of Notre Dame, Indiana; USA]
Dr. Aslam Abdullah
[Ph.D, Islamic Studies and Communiations; Director, Islamic Society of Nevada and Editor, Muslim Observer; USA]
Imam Kamara AbdilHaqq Muhammad
[Islamic Teacher and Associate Imam at ADAMS Center of Northern Va.; USA]
Nayyer Zaman Ali, MD
[also, Columnist, Pakistan Link Newspaper; USA]
Dr. Sulayman Nyang
[Professor, African Studies Department, Howard University; USA]
Mrs. Sarwat Husain
[Publisher and Editor-in-Chief, Al-Ittihaad News, San Antonio, Texas; USA]
Dr. Samer Kantakji
PhD in Islamic Accountancy;; SYRIA]
Dr. Anisa Abd el Fattah
[Founder and Chairwoman, National Association of Muslim American Women (NAMAW)]
Shaheryar Azhar
[M.B.A; Retired banker (Senior Vice President) from a major bank in New York; Moderator, The Forum, an e-discussion forum; USA]
Aijaz Husain
[Retired civil servant (Specialized field: Economics & social welfare); M.A. (Economics); M.S.W. (McGill); CANADA]
Shah Abdul Hannan
[Chairman, Islamic Economic Research Bureau; former Chairman, Islami Bank Bangladesh Ltd., former deputy governor, Bangladesh Bank; Author/Scholar; BANGLADESH]
Aderemi Taofiq Adeseun
[Nasfat (Nasrullahi faith society); Pharmacist, Retired Country Manager of Janssen-Cilag in Nigeria; NIGERIA]
Farzana Hassan
[President: Muslim Canadian Congress; Author of “Islam, women and the challenges of Today”; Master from the University of Massachusetts; Currently enrolled in a doctoral program in Educational Leadership; CANADA]
Dr. Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad
[President/Director, Minaret of Freedom Institute, Bethesda, Maryland; USA]
M. Saiful Islam
[Senior Programmer Analyst, DST Systems; MBA; Kansas City; USA]
Robert Salaam
[Government Contractor; Host, The American Muslim Blog Radio Show; USA]
Dr. Farid Islam
[Associate Professor, Department of Finance & Economics, Utah Valley State College, Orem, Utah; USA]
Ahmed M. Rehab
[Executive Director, Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-Chicago); M.S. Software Engineering; USA]
Dr. Fawzia Afzal-Khan
[Dept of English, Montclair State University, Upper Montclair, NJ; Phd. English Literature, Tufts University, Medford, Mass; USA]
Dr. Jeffrey Lang
[Mathematics Department, University of Kansas; Ph.D. in Mathematics, Purdue University; USA]
Ahmed Bedier
[Executive Director, Tampa Chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations and President of the Tampa/Hillsborough Human Rights Council; USA]
Dr. Mohammad A. Auwal
[Professor, Dept. of Communication Studies, California State University, Los Angeles; USA]
Dr. A. F. M. Anwar
[Dean, School of Engineering, University of Connecticut; Electrical Engineering; USA]
Mohammed Abdul Aleem
[CEO,; MBA/Management Information Systems; Culver City, CA; USA]
Dr. Amir Hussain
[Department of Theological Studies, Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles; PhD in Religious Studies from the University of Toronto; Los Angeles, California, USA]
Dr. Laury Silvers
[Assistant Professor of Religious Studies, Skidmore College, USA]
Dr. M. Kabir Hassan
[Professor of Finance, University of New Orleans; USA]
Dr. Mahdi Tourage
[Book Review Editor, American Journal of Islamic Social Scinces (AJISS); Visiting Assistant Prof. of Islam, Department of Religion, Colgate University, Hamilton, NY; USA]
Professor Mehnaz M. Afridi
[ABD, Antioch University, specialty - Judaism and Islam; Interfaith Activist, Los Angeles, California; USA]
Dr. Ahmet T. Karamustafa
[Professor of History and Religious Studies, Washington University in St. Louis; PhD in Islamic Studies; USA]
Prof. Seval Yildirim
[Assistant Professor, Whittier Law School, California; USA]
Dr. Vernon James Schubel
[Professor, Department of Religious Studies, Kenyon College; Ph.D. History of Religions; USA]
Aslam Rana
[degree in Architecture; Director, Building Inspection Services, City of Dothan, Alabama; USA]
Azhar Azeez
[Member of ISNA executive council; MBA in Marketing; USA]
Jean-Mathieu Potvin
[Lawyer, Doctoral candidate, McGill Institute of Islamic Studies, Montreal; Master of Laws (Islamic Law), SOAS, University of London; CANADA]
Asmaa Ibnouzahir
[Member of Presence Musulmane Montreal; Masters in Nutrition; CANADA]
Enamul Hoque
[Engineer; Master of Science in Electrical Engineering; USA]
Huma Dar
[PhD Candidate, Department of South & South East Asian Studies, University of California at Berkeley; USA]
Dr. Shifa Naeem
[Psychiatrist; FCPS in Psychiatry; Karachi, PAKISTAN]
Dr. Shahjahan Khan
[University of Southern Queensland, PhD in Statistics from Canada; Chief Editor: Journal of Applied Probabiliy and Statistics (USA), and President: Islamic Countries Society of Statistical Sciences (ISOSS), AUSTRALIA]
Dr. Amin U. Sarkar
[Dean & Professor of Economics, College of Business & Technolgy, Black Hills State University, South Dakota, USA; Ph.D. Resource Economics; USA]
Mohammed Ahsan Rial
[CEO, Dishari Management International; BS Engineering, MBA; CANADA]
Dr. Habib Siddiqui
[PhD; Anti-war and peace activist; Columnist and author of books “Islamic Wisdom”, “Book of Devotional Stories”; Chairman of the Board of Directors, Bangladesh Expatriate Council, USA]
Dr. Abdullah al-Ahsan
[Professor, Department of History and Civilization, International Islamic University Malaysia; Vice President, JUST; MALAYSIA]
Dr. Mahmood Ahmed
[Ph.D. in Economics; Senior Vice President, Research Planning and Development Division, Islami Bank Bangladesh Limited; BANGLADESH]
Dr. Aslam H. Chowdhury
[PhD in Physics; University of Arkansas, Pine Bluff; Muslim Association of Arkansas; USA]
Garba I. Malumfashi
[Research Student, LL.B., B.L. PhD (on-going), University of Dundee, Scotland, UK]
Dr. Chandra Muzaffar
[Professor of Global Studies, Universiti Sains Malaysia and President, International Movement for a Just World (JUST); PhD in Political Science; MALAYSIA]
Dr. Muhammad Hashim Kamali
[International Institute of Islamic Thought and Civilisation, International Islamic University Malaysia; PhD in Islamic and Middle Eastern Law, currently Professorof Islamic law and jurisprudence at IIUM; MALAYSIA]
Dr. Mustafa Kamal Sherwani
[LL.M. (Alig.) LL.D. (Lucknow); Dean, Faculty of Law and Shariah, Zanzibar University,
Mohamed M. Karim
[Sales & Marketing, D.R. Components, an Independent Distributor for Electronic Components for BAE Systems, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, Honeywell; BBA/Sales & Marketing; Florida, USA]
Jibril Abdullah
[Laborer/musician; USA]
Lisa Newlin
[DHom (UK), BA (USA - Indiana University), Diploma in Biochemic Therapy (Germany) Homeopath; United Arab Emirates]
Dr. Mohja Kahf
[Associate Professor of Comparative Literature, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, Arkansas ; USA]
Dr. Salahuddin Ayyub
[PhD, Economics; Research Executive, New Concept Information System Pvt Ltd, Sarita Vihar, New Delhi]
Dr. S.M. Ghazanfar
[PhD, Economics (Washington State University), University of Idaho faculty, 1968-2002]
Carl Julien
[B.A. Graphic Designer, Muslim, USA]


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