- Literally speaking, repentance has been variously defined but all the very many meanings revolve, in general, around "to return, to give up, to confess, to renounce, to resolve, to come back, and contrition" . Likewise, the conventional meanings of the word are also numerous. Scholars record no less than twenty three meanings, of these I mentioned the ones that have come to my knowledge . As for "Istetabah" that is, calling on someone to repent, it is hard to define this term. To me its conventional meaning is "Calling on someone to return to Islam after One's doubt and misgivings have been removed.
- Essentially, repentance or a call to repentance consists i n pronouncing the Two Testimonies, but in actual practice the mode of repentance will vary according to the varying Circumstances of the apostate. He who denied Allah shall be asked to pronounce the Two Testimonies, but he who denied the prophetic mission of Mohammad, peace upon h i m, shall have to acknowledge the prophet hood of Mohammad, peace upon him, i n add it ion to the Two Testimonies. As for the one who disbelieved Islam, he shall pronounce not on l y the Two Testimonies but al so renounce the particular pagan creed to which he belonged as well as all other pagan beliefs and faiths.
- The scholars of theology and jurisprudence differ widely over the call to repentance. There are five schools of thought : (I ) The call to repentance is obligatory; (2) The call to repentance is forbidden; (3) The call to repentance is desirable or commendable (that is an act whose neglect is not punishment but w hose performance is rewarded ); (4) The call to repentance is only for the Common People who lack understanding and perception; (5) The call to repentance is for those who lived in the early period of Islam. Personally, I give preference to the first opinion because it is more humane, avoids bloodshed, and is more cautious since it allows for uncertainties.
- Muslim jurists also differ over the number of times one is permitted to repent. There are nine opinions, in all: ( I) Man is given only one chance to repent; (2) He is given three chances; (3) He is given three days; (4) He is given twenty days to repent; (5) One month ; (6) Forty days; (7) Two months; (8) He can be given a hundred chances; Repentance can be offered any time, there being no time-limit. I refute the last one and I prefer the one which allows three opportunities over a period of three day s to repent. This accommodates the various opinions.
- As for the repentance of a "Zendik", Muslim theologians have three different opinions: ( I ) An apostate has a chance to repent but shall be killed at once; (2) He will be asked to repent. If he repents, he will be spared or, else, he shall be killed; (3) if he repents by his own free will, his repentance is acceptable. I prefer the third opinion because i t breaks a middle ground bet ween the first and the second opinions, and also because Voluntary repentance indicates a reformed state of mind and a sincerity of heart matching with outward behavior.
- Muslim theologians al so disagree over recurrent apostates. There are three different opinions: ( I ) A recurrent apostate shall be asked to repent and h is repentance is to be accepted, there being absolutely no bar to that. He shall not be k i l led; (2) He shall be asked to repent and h is repentance i s accepted for the first time. A second offence shall en tails death ; (3) The offender shall be asked to repent and his repentance can be accepted three times. If he offends the fourth time, He shall be killed. My opinion is that recurrent apostasy is caused by patent, recent doubts and the apostate shall have the absolute right to (Pardon) and he i s en t i t led to have his repentance accepted. But he who relapses t i me and again just to cheat on the ground of old doubts shall be k i l led i n the second instance.
- As for the reviler of Allah's prophet, peace and blessings of Allah upon him, Muslim jurists have three different opinions: (I ) The reviler of the prophet, peace upon h i m, is an apostate and shall be killed. No demand will be made of him to repent; (2) The reviler is an apostate but shall be asked to repent. If he does, his neck shall be spared, or else, he shall be killed; (3) I prefer this last opinion. The reviler of Allah's prophet, peace and blessings upon him, shall be asked to repent. If he repents that is well and good. If he does not, he shall be killed. This view spares u n necessary blood shedding, avoids doubts and uncertain ties, and also prevents widespread afflictions in the society.
Shahwan, Dr. Rajab
"of the Article on the Repentance of the Apostate in Islamic Jurisprudence,"
Journal Sharia and Law: Vol. 1995:
9, Article 4.
Available at: https://scholarworks.uaeu.ac.ae/sharia_and_law/vol1995/iss9/4