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, intellectual 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 importance 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 ironclads, the cafe, the theatre, written constitutions, representative parliaments; none of these reach far below the surface. A truer freedom, a deeper religious experience, a higher life than the one supplied by their own faith, must come before Moslems can enter into the larger liberty which we enjoy.

Dr. Snouck Hurgronje, who cannot be suspected either of ignorance or of prejudice in what he writes on this subject, says: "The whole set of laws which, according to Islam,


should regulate the relations between believers and unbelievers, is the most consequent elaboration imaginable of a mixture of religion and of politics in their medieval 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 medieval 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."1

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 conscience 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 unimpeachable 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, 11.


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 br 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 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.


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. & 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 conversion 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
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