The Inquisition


  1. Origins

The Inquisition was never a pan-Christian movement – it was always a specific Roman Catholic institution. That being the case, Protestants hold no blame for its actions. The Inquisition began in the 12th century as a result of the quasi-Gnostic Cathar (Albigensian) heresy in Provence (France). A Crusade was called against the Cathars, and linked to this, was the need to expose heresy and heretics, convert and if necessary, punish them through secular means – imprisonment and execution. In the NT, heresy and apostasy are only punishable by excommunication. Henry Charles Lea, A History of the Inquisition of the Middle Ages, Vol. 1 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010, originally published 1888), p. 307, presents the origins of the Inquisition:

In 1204 Gui, Archbishop of Reims, summoned Count Robert, cousin of Philip Augustus, the Countess Yolande, and many other laymen and ecclesiastics to sit in judgment on some heretics discovered at Brienne, with the result of burning the unfortunate wretches. In 1201, when the Knight Everard of Chateauneuf was accused of Catharism by Bishop Hugues of Nevers, the Legate Octavian summoned for his trial at Paris a council composed of archbishops, bishops, and masters of the university, who condemned him.

Later, the Papacy organised a more systematic means of enforcing uniformity (p. 320): ‘Innocent III endeavored, at the Lateran Council of 1215, to secure uniformity by a series of severe regulations defining the attitude of the Church to heretics, and the duties which the secular power owed to exterminate them under pain of forfeiture, and this became a recognized part of canon law..’ It was under Pope Honorius III that the system became more firmly established (p. 321):

In a series of edicts dating from 1220 to 1239 he thus enacted a complete and pitiless code of persecution, based upon the Lateran canons. Those who were merely suspected of heresy were required to purge themselves at command of the Church, under penalty of being deprived of civil rights and placed under the imperial ban; while, if they remained in this condition for a year, they were to be condemned as heretics. Heretics of all sects were outlawed; and when condemned as such by the Church they were to be delivered to the secular arm to be burned. If, through fear of death, they recanted, they were to be thrust in prison for life, there to perform penance. If they relapsed into error, thus showing that their conversion had been fictitious, they were to be put to death. All the property of the heretic was confiscated and his heirs disinherited. His children, to the second generation, were declared ineligible to any positions of emolument or dignity, unless they should win mercy by betraying their father or some other heretic. All “credentes,” fautors, defenders, receivers, or advocates of heretics were banished forever, their property confiscated, and their descendants subjected to the same disabilities as those of heretics. Those who defended the errors of heretics were to be treated as heretics unless, on admonition, they mended their ways. The houses of heretics and their receivers were to be destroyed, never to be rebuilt. Although the evidence of a heretic was not receivable in court, yet an exception was made in favor of the faith, and it was to be held good against another heretic. All rulers and magistrates, present or future, were required to swear to exterminate with their utmost ability all whom the Church might designate as heretics, under pain of forfeiture of office.

We should conceptually distinguish the Episcopal and the later Papal Inquisitions (Michael C. Thomsett, The Inquisition: A History, [Jefferson & London: McFarland & Company, Inc., 2010], p. 13):

Pope Lucius III (1181–5) declared the Episcopal Inquisition on November 4, 1184, through his papal bull Ad abolendum (On Abolition). Also referred to as the Charter of the Inquisition, the bull stated the pope’s intention:

To abolish the malignity of diverse heresies which are lately sprung up in most parts of the world, it is but fitting that the power committed to the church should be awakened, that by the concurring assistance of the Imperial strength, both the insolence and mal-pertness of the heretics in their false designs may be crushed, and the truth of Catholic simplicity shining forth in the holy church, may demonstrate her pure and free from the execrableness of their false doctrines…. [W]e likewise declare all entertainers and defenders of the said heretics, and those that have showed any favor or given countenance to them, thereby strengthening them in their heresy, whether they be called comforted, believers, or perfect, or with whatsoever superstitious name they disguise themselves, to be liable to the same sentence…. And as for a layman who shall be found guilty either publicly or privately of any of the aforesaid crimes, unless by abjuring his heresy and making satisfaction he immediately return to the orthodox faith, we decree him to be left to the sentence of the secular judge, to receive condign [deserved] punishment according to the quality of the offense…. [B]ut those who after having abjured their errors, or cleared themselves upon examination to their bishop, if they be found to have relapsed into their abjured heresy—We decree that without any further hearing they be forthwith delivered up to the secular power, and their goods confiscated to the use of the church.

This bull specifically instructed bishops to turn unrepentant heretics over to civil authorities for punishment.

Pope Gregory IX established the Papal Inquisition in 1231 (p. 28):

In the same year, Gregory established the formal Papal Inquisition. Unsatisfied with the progress made toward stamping out heresy, Gregory took away from Church bishops the authority to manage punishment, and claimed it to be within the pope’s authority to set rules. Thus, the Medieval Inquisition replaced the earlier, less formal Episcopal Inquisition that had been established by Lucius III. The failure of the Episcopal Inquisition influenced Gregory’s decision to create a more encompassing Inquisition under the control of the papacy itself. He determined to staff investigations with professionals, primarily from the Dominican Order. Gregory’s Inquisition had an organized, systematic character and was far more effective in gaining the desired result, the punishment of heretics.

Thus, it can be seen that the original aim of the Inquisition was to extirpate heresy, not Islam or Judaism. Therefore, when the Reformation came, the Inquisition was used against Protestants, since the Papacy – and thus the Inquisition – saw them as heretics.

  • First Victims

The first victims were Cathars, who held to a form of Gnosticism. Another early victim was the Waldensian sect, essentially a proto-Protestant group (pp. 14-15):

Among the targets of the initial Episcopal Inquisition enacted by Lucius III were the Waldensians. This was a movement that began in about 1177 in Italy, based on the beliefs of Peter Waldo…

Among the important theological differences between the Waldensians and the Church was the former’s refusal to accept the concept of purgatory (purgare, meaning to make clean), since it is not mentioned in the Bible. They also refused to venerate the saints. Perhaps most offensive to the Church, the Waldensians believed that anyone, not only priests, had the right to consecrate sacramental bread and wine. In short, the Waldensians thought of the Churchas unbiblical in much of its dogma.

Waldensians also refused to swear oaths, so that in a tribunal aimed at presenting evidence of heresy, a member of this sect was treated as a suspect refusing to tell the truth. Both Church and secular authorities were troubled as well by the Waldensians’ refusal to go to war.

Hence, even though they posed no military threat to the Papacy or the State, they were condemned and persecuted by the Inquisition. Another group were alleged witches, p. 15: ‘The Waldensians were later accused of practicing witchcraft and were among those persecuted in Europe’s Great Witch Hunt (1450–1750), a variant of the Inquisition focused on witches as heretics.’ As witch-fever mounted, the Papacy acted (p. 97):

It has indeed lately come to Our ears, not without afflicting Us with bitter sorrow, that in some parts of Northern Germany … many persons of both sexes, unmindful of their own salvation and straying from the Catholic Faith, have abandoned themselves to devils, incubi and succubi, and by their incantations, spells, conjurations, and other accursed charms and crafts, enormities and horrid offences, have slain infants yet in the mother’s womb, as also the offspring of cattle.

—Pope Innocent VIII, papal bull Summis desiderantes affectibus, December 5, 1484

Sometimes, witches were treated leniently – notably (if somewhat ironically) in Spain (p. 101):

In Spain in the mid-period of the Great Witch Hunt, Inquisition tribunals were far more lenient than in the rest of Europe. This may seem to contradict the history of the Inquisition’s harshness against other groups, notably converted 

Jews and Lutherans. In Spain, as elsewhere, accused witches told fantastic tales of their supernatural exploits, stories brought out under torture or the threat of it. But the inquisitor in Saragossa, Pedro Ciruelo, had an explanation. He believed that the stories inquisitors were hearing came from pacts entered with the devil, but that people entered these pacts as the result of ignorance and superstition. Ciruelo urged leniency toward accused witches.

Other times and elsewhere, they felt the full wrath of the Inquisition (p. 102): 

In 1427, Franciscan missionary and preacher Bernardino da Siena campaigned against baby killers and witches, whom he termed “devilish women” (femmine indiavolate). He encouraged his listeners to denounce witchcraft and to show no sympathy for witches, asking how they would feel if a witch had murdered one of their children. He asked that anyone who suspected another of being a witch report them at once to the Inquisition. The denunciations soon began in large numbers. A trend began, in which those accused of the most fantastic crimes were most likely to be found guilty and burned at the stake.

Other groups attacked by the Inquisition included the proto-Protestant John Wyclif’s followers in England – the Lollards (p. 91):

Although Wyclif died at the end of 1384, he remained a problem for the Church for many years to follow. In 1401, an anti–Wyclif statute was extended to the Lollards by Parliament, condemning Wyclif and his followers. The statute, De hæretico comburendo (The Burning of Heretics), described the Lollards:

And of such sect and wicked doctrine and opinions, they make unlawful conventicles and confederacies, they hold and exercise schools, they make and write books, they do wickedly instruct and inform people, and, as much as they may, excite and stir them to sedition and insurrection, and make great strife and division among the people, and do daily perpetrate and commit other enormities horrible to be heard, in subversion of the said Catholic faith and doctrine of the Holy Church,

in diminution of God’s honor, and also in destruction of the estate, rights, and liberties of the said English Church; by which sect and wicked and false preachings, doctrines, and opinions of the said false and perverse people, not only the greatest peril of souls, but also many more other hurts, slanders, and perils, which God forbid, might come to this realm….

In 1408, the Constitutions of Oxford banned all of Wyclif ’s writings, especially his late-life translation of the Bible into English.

Later, the attack on heresy in England became legally formalised (p. 92):

In the decades after Wyclif ’s death, Lollards were brought before the tribunals of the Inquisition and an active crusade was initiated against them. Many recanted but many more were found guilty of heresy and executed. Heresy trials in England had been rare up until this time, but the Lollards were of special interest to the inquisitors. The movement had gained in popularity in spite of persecution. One writer of the day claimed that out of every two men encountered on the road, one was sure to be a Lollard.

In 1401, Henry IV became King of England and under his rule a new policy was undertaken in dealing with the Lollards. Parliament passed an act the same year legalizing the burning of heretics, the first law of its kind in England, which led to executions of hundreds of accused heretics. This law outlawed preaching, teaching or publishing by Lollards; offenders were to be tried by courts of the local diocese and upon being found guilty, handed over to civil authorities and burned at the stake.

In Bohemia (present-day Czech Republic), Jan Hus, a follower of Wyclif, was condemned by the Pope, and his supporters were persecuted (p. 93): ‘When followers of Hus expressed their view agreeing with Hus that indulgences were improper, they were beheaded, becoming the first martyrs in what came to be known as the Hussite Church.’ Hus himself was burnt, and we should note what the death-sentence involved as to terminology (pp. 94, 95): ‘ The ritual continued; a paper hat was placed on his head with the inscription Hæresiarcha (leader of a heresy) and a drawing of the devil. He was then delivered under guard to the local secular authorities with the order, “Take him and do to him as a heretic.”… Then the fire was lit.’ Note what was stated: ‘do to him as a heretic’. It follows that the initial emphasis of the Inquisition was on heresy, not Judaism or Islam, and burning people was originally the punishment of a heretic. 

  • Spain under Islam

Islam did not arrive in the Iberian Peninsula as a missionary faith, but rather as a political conqueror. It began in 711 (Roger Collins, Early Medieval Spain: Unity in Diversity, 400-1000, [Basingstoke & London: Macmillan Education Ltd, 1983], p. 151):

Essentially, the Arab conquest of Spain seems to have developed along the following lines: after the military subjugation of most of North Africa had been completed, but long before the cultural and religious assimilation of its indigenous Berber inhabitants can have occurred, an expedition, probably originally intended as a probing raid, was sent into Spain in 711 by Musa ibn Nusayr, the Arab governor of Ifrikiya (the new Arab North Africa), under the command of his former slave Tarik.

Thereafter the conquest continued so that within a few years most of the Peninsula was under Islamic rule (Joseph F. O’Callaghan, Reconquest and crusade in medieval Spain, [Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2003], p. 1):

From 711, when a mixed force of Arabs and Moroccan Berbers crossed the Strait of Gibraltar and overthrew the Visigothic kingdom, until the collapse of the Umayyad Caliphate of Cordoba in 1031, Muslim supremacy in Spain was unquestioned. As the seat of Islamic power was Cordoba, an eccentric location in the southern part of the peninsula, the Muslims did not permanently occupy large stretches of mountainous zones in the north. That made it possible for small groups of Christians to form the tiny, independent states of Asturias, Leon, Castile, Navarre, Aragon, and Catalonia. Clinging to the Cantabrian and Pyrenees mountains, this congeries of Christian enclaves, variously ruled by kings or counts, was kept on the defensive for nearly three hundred years, as Muslim armies marched northward every summer to ravage their lands but never to conquer them. 

The treatment of non-Muslims was based on subjugation, especially of the Catholics (Collins, Early Medieval Spain, p. 203):

New synagogues were built, such as the one founded in Cordoba by Hasdai ibn Shaprut’s father Isaac, while a ban existed on the erection of Christian churches. Like the Christians, the Jews were obliged, as non-Muslims, to wear distinctive dress, and both groups were forbidden, by a survival of principles from earlier Roman and Visigothic legislation, to own Muslim slaves. Their other slaves could in theory obtain liberty by embracing Islam, but it is tempting to wonder if the difficulties of applying these rulings in practice differed appreciably from those of earlier centuries.

Other restrictions were made (p. 207): ‘They were forbidden to build new churches or to advertise their worship by the ringing of bells…’ Islamic law was State law, and blasphemy was severely punished (Darío Fernández-Morera, The Myth of the Andalusian Paradise: Muslims, Christians, and Jews under Islamic Rule in Medieval Spain[Wilmington: ISI Books, 2016], pp. 102-103):

In Umayyad Córdoba, Maliki authority Uthman ibn Kinana (d. 802) asserted that a ruler could choose what kind of punishment to administer for blasphemy, either beheading or crucifixion. The few documents that have reached us confirm the application of these penalties. The qadi (judge) Said ibn Sulayman al-Balluti agreed that death must be dealt to a blasphemer. In Umayyad Córdoba between 961 and 976, the ulama condemned to death a man, Abu al-Hayr, for insulting the Companions of the Prophet publicly and saying that one should be allowed to drink wine (something expressly prohibited, as we will see). Earlier, in 919, a Córdoban qadi prescribed death for a Christian female dhimmi guilty of saying publicly that Jesus was God and Muhammad a false prophet. In 1064, in Muslim-ruled Toledo, a Muslim man was crucified for blasphemy at the entrance to the city’s main bridge. 

In the History of the Judges of Córdoba, al-Khushani gives another instructive example under Umayyad ruler Abd al-Rahman II in the mid-ninth century. Abd al-Rahman removed a judge for prescribing a punishment less strict than death against a Muslim man accused of uttering words offensive to Allah—blasphemy. The ruler then named a new judge, who had the impious man suffer the death prescribed by Maliki jurisprudence: crucifixion. While being placed on the cross, the blasphemer shouted that he was innocent and that he did believe after all that there was no other God but Allah and that Muhammad was indeed His Prophet, but this repentance did not stop his crucifixion. 

An extant account of the punishment of an alim accused of blasphemy under Abd al-Rahman II indicates that in Islamic Spain a blasphemer could be both crucified and stabbed on the cross, a curious combination that was in fact proper according to Maliki doctrine. To be sure, as in Catholic Spain, the authorities could finesse what constituted blasphemy in view of their interests of the moment, and a blasphemer might be given the opportunity to recant and be guided back to the straight path. A blasphemer’s life, however, remained always at serious risk in al-Andalus.

Heresy and apostasy were also capital crimes (Ibid.):

Heresy also was punishable with death, though circumstances, or a ruler’s intervention, could save the occasional alim suspected of heresy. Al-Khushani records that a favorite of the Umayyad ruler Muhammad I (reigned 852–886) was accused of holding heretical views. The Córdoban fuqaha decided that this heretic deserved death “to extirpate the bad effects that his ideas would cause.” The only way Muhammad I found to save his favorite was to remove the judge before whom the case was being argued, thereby nullifying the judicial process, which then died out through legal inertia.

Islamic law treatises used even by Muslims under Christian domination prescribed death for a Muslim who, after three days in jail, still did not repent from his heresy; after he was killed, his property went to the community. In these treatises, apostasy and blasphemy were even worse than heresy: if a Muslim practiced another religion in secret, he must be killed and no attention must be given to his denials or his vows of repentance; a Muslim who offended Allah must be killed; whoever insulted the Prophet Muhammad must be killed and no repentance was acceptable.

Along with other restrictions, such as the Jizya, it is clear that Muslim Andalusia was no Paradise for the native Catholic inhabitants (Kenneth Baxter Wolf, Christian martyrs in Muslim Spain. [Cambridge & New York: Cambridge University Press, 1988], pp. 11-12):

The Christians of Cordoba were without a doubt subject to regular taxation. Eulogius complained of a “monthly tribute” that constituted a financial hardship for the Christians. Similarly Alvarus wrote of an “unbearable tax” that weighed heavily on Christian necks. There is little doubt, given the tone of victimization that both men adopted when speaking of the levies and the regularity with which they were collected, that tributum, vectigal, and census were simply Latin synonyms for the universal dhimmz tax, the Jizya.

The Cordoban authorities also prosecuted Christians guilty of blasphemy. In the spring of 850, a priest named Perfectus was arrested and later executed for publicly expressing his opinions about the errors of Islam to a group of Muslims. Months later a Christian merchant named Joannes suffered a severe lashing, public humiliation, and a long prison term for invoking the prophet’s name as he sold his wares in the marketplace.

Clearly, the laws regarding blasphemy were enforced with vigour against the native Catholics by the conquering Muslims.

  • Spain under Reconquista and Inquisition

From the eleventh century, the Muslim dominance of the Peninsula began to recede, and the re-conquest (Reconquista) began, completed in 1492 with the fall of the last Muslim emirate, Granada. During the era of Islamic domination, many Catholics had converted to Islam, usually to avoid the Jizya and to gain social preference (as elsewhere in Dar al-Islam). The Catholic rulers – and the Catholic Church – were determined to win these ‘back’ to the Papal obedience (although by then, we are speaking of the descendants of the original converts). Roman Catholic policies were already negative towards Judaism, but the idea, though perhaps exaggerated, the Jews had been favoured by the Muslims above Catholics intensified hostility. At any rate, the Catholic rulers were determined to have a monolithic Catholic populace, either by expulsion of Jews and Muslims, or their conversion. The problem for the Catholics, is that many Jews and Muslims merely feigned conversion (Conversos and Moriscos), but secretly practised their old faiths. Hence the Inquisition (Thomsett, The Inquisition: A History, p. 147): ‘Two years after Spain’s King Enrique IV requested that the pope establish a new Inquisition, Pope Pius II (1458–64) complied. The overall purpose of this new Inquisition was to investigate instances of heresy among the Conversos of Spain.’ 

The Inquisition began to accelerate in action and scope under Queen Isabella of Castile, and her husband, Ferdinand of Aragon (p. 149):

In 1478, after repeated requests from Hojeda and other anti–Conversos, Isabella and Ferdinand asked Pope Sixtus IV (1471–84) to issue a papal bull to establish a new Inquisition. On November 1, 1478, Sixtus issued his bull, Exigit sinceras devotionis affectus, creating the new Inquisition to be based in Castile. Terms of this new Inquisition included a ruling that three priests were to be appointed to a tribunal, with their selection left up to the royal couple as Ferdinand and Isabella had insisted. In 1480, the first tribunal was established, consisting of royal appointees of two Dominicans, Juan de San Martín and Miguel de Morillo, as well as Juan Ruiz de Medina as adviser. Allegations of Converso plots to arm and assault or assassinate the inquisitors led to numerous arrests and the convictions of many among the accused. On February 6, 1481, six Conversos were found guilty of heresy and condemned to be burned at the stake. The Spanish Inquisition had begun after years of consideration, debate and negotiation.

As well as secret Jews, secret Muslims were also targeted (p. 152):

…the Spanish Inquisition is best remembered for its persecution of Conversos. But in addition, Muslims who had converted to Christianity were also investigated and for the same reasons. Those suspected of secretly practicing Islam after conversion were called Moriscos (meaning Moor-like), and the majority of these Moriscos resided in Granada, Aragon and Valencia. By law, all Muslims living in Castile were legally required to convert in 1502. Muslims in Aragon and Valencia were not legally required to convert until 1526, although the majority had undergone forced conversions during the Revolt of the Brotherhoods (1519–23).

Arguably, there was a measure of revenge in all this – retribution for the treatment of Catholics during the long years of Islamic domination. There was also the fear of a fifth column – Islam still dominated across the sea in North Africa, and the Ottoman empire was still expanding. However, it was lack of conformity to Catholicism that was the defining issue. Later, the Spanish Inquisition turned on the nascent Protestant movement (p. 169): ‘The Inquisition was most active against Protestants in the 1550s and 1560s. In 1558, inquisitors in Valladolid and Seville arrested many accused of practicing Lutheranism or sympathizing with the movement. Arrests included many members of the clergy and nobility.’ Their fates were no different than the Moriscos, even though they posed no military/political threat (p. 170):

On May 21, 1559, fourteen accused heretics were sentenced to death, including some already dead who were exhumed and their remains burned at the stake. In Seville on September 24 of the same year, more than one hundred more were condemned, with twenty-one receiving death penalties. In December 1560, seventeen more were burned at the stake. Most of the condemned in these trials were from the clergy and nobility. Their heresy was being Protestant, which inquisitors easily defined as a form of “error” or being knowingly heretical. An outcome of this sudden inquisitorial fervor against Lutherans was the beginning of anti–Inquisition expression. Pamphlets and books appeared around Europe protesting the punishments of Lutherans in Spain.


The Inquisition was a purely Roman Catholic institution, of which Protestants are innocent. Indeed, they were also its victims – and proto-Protestants like the Waldensians were among its earliest victims. The basic issue was heresy. However, as we have seen, Islamic Spain also punished heresy – along with blasphemy and apostasy. It follows that Muslim criticism of the Spanish Inquisition is a case of the pot calling the kettle black.

Islamic Law On Heresy, Apostasy And Dhimmis In Relation To Spain


It is a favorite tactic of dawah team to reference the Inquisition, especially the Spanish variant thereof, as a stick with which to assault Christianity. In fact, the Inquisition began as an attack on heresy – the Cathars in Provence, the Waldensians in north Italy, then the Lollards in England, and Hussites in Bohemia. There were particular political circumstances that led to the Inquisition in Spain addressing Jews and Muslims who were suspected of feigning conversion, and it should be noted that the Spanish Inquisition effectively eradicated Protestants, who posed no potential subversive threat to the Spanish Crown, but were simply persecuted for heresy.

The problem with the dawah teams criticism is that it is so hypocritical. Muslim Andalusia persecuted heretics and apostates, as well as imposing dhimmi status on non-Muslims. Neither can this be presented as an exceptional quirk of Iberian Muslims. Rather, it was based on Islamic Law – Shari’ah – itself founded on the Qur’an and Sunnah. In this paper, we will examine what Islamic Law says about heretics, apostates and dhimmis.

  1. Heretics and Apostates

Islamic law has problems with the court testimony of heretics:

4832 AL-HEDAYA Vol. II (Hanafi Manual)

[The evidence of the sect of Hawa, and other heretics, admissible, but not that of the tribe of Khetabia.]

THE evidence of the sect of Hawa* (that is, such as are not Soonis) is admissible; excepting, however, the tribe of Khetabia, whose evidence is inadmissible, for reasons that will be hereafter explained. – Shafe’i maintains that the evidence of no tribe whatever of the sect of hawa is admissible, because the heterodox tenets they profess argue the highest degree of depravity. – Our doctors, on the other hand, argue that although their tenets be in reality wrong, yet their adherence to them implies probity, since they have been led to embrace them from an opinion of their being right; and there is, moreover, reason to think that they will abstain from falsehood, because it is prohibited in every religion. Hence the case is the same as if a person should eat of an animal which had not been slain according to the prescribed form of Zabbab, because of its being lawful amongst his sect. It is otherwise where the baseness proceeds from the actions, not from the belief. – With respect to the sect of Khetabia, it is to be observed that they are in a high degree heretics; and amongst them it is lawful to ear positive testimony to a circumstance on the grounds of another having sworn it to them. Some have said that it is an incumbent duty upon that sect to give evidence in favour of each other, whence their testimony is not free from suspicion.

* Anglice, the air; a derisive appellation given by the Soonis to the Shiyas.— Hawa, also, is used to express the sensual passions, whence the term Ail Hawa signifies sensualists, or Epictureans.

However, there were worse practices. The Catholic Inquisition punished – often by execution – false Catholics, whether Jews or Muslims who feigned conversion, but it also persecuted Protestants, who were heretics and had left the Catholic Church (i.e. they had apostatized). As for Islamic law, conversion from Islam – apostasy – is usually seen as a crime to be punished by the State:

4130AL-HEDAYA Vol. II (Hanafi Manual)

CHAP. IX Of the Laws concerning Apostates.

[An exposition of the faith is to be laid before an apostate]

When a Muslim apostatises 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 only two modes of repelling the sin of apostasy, namely, destruction or Islam, and 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 his head,) since a call to the faith has already reached the apostate.

* That is, it is lawful to kill an apostate without making any attempt to recover him from his apostasy.

4134 AL-HEDAYA Vol. II (Hanafi Manual)

[A female apostate is imprisoned until she return to the faith.

If a Muslim woman become an apostate, she is not put to death, but is imprisoned, until she return to the faith.Shafe’i 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 proportionally serve, (namely, death,) so the apostasy of a woman being likewise (like that of man) a crime of great magnitude, it follows that her punishment should be the same as that of a man…  

7512 AL-RISALA (Maliki Manual)


A freethinker (zindiq) must be put to death and his repentance is rejected. A freethinker is one who conceals his unbelief and pretends to follow Islam. A magician also is to be put to death, and his repentance also is to be rejected. A apostate is also killed unless he repents. He is allowed three days grace; if he fails to utilise the chance to repent, the execution takes place. This same also applies to women apostates.

If a person who is not an apostate admits that prayer is obligatory but will not perform it, then such a person is given an opportunity to recant by the time of the next prayer; if he does not utilise the opportunity to repent and resume worship, he is then executed. If a Muslim refuses to perform the pilgrimage, he should be left alone and God himself shall decide this case. If a Muslim should abandon the performance of prayer because he disputes its being obligatory, then such a person shall be treated as an apostate – he should be given three days within which to repent. If the three days lapse without his repenting, he is then executed.

Whoever abuses the Messenger of God – peace and blessing of God be upon him – is to be executed, and his repentance is not accepted…

The property of an apostate after his execution is to be shared by the Muslim community.

7599 AL-RISALA (Maliki Manual)


God, Glorified be He, has prohibited the shedding of the blood of Muslims; so also has he prohibited assault on their property except for a lawful cause.

It is not lawful to shed the blood of a Muslim except when he commits apostasy, or when he commits adultery, or when he kills a person and this is not in retaliation, or when he becomes an outlaw, or when he renounces the faith.

Sahih Al-Bukhari 5.632 Narrated by Abu Burdah, The Prophet (peace be upon him) sent AbuMusa and Mu’adh to Yemen and said to both of them “Facilitate things for the people (be kind and lenient) and do not make things difficult (for them). Give them good tidings, and do not repulse them; and both of you should obey each other.” …

Once Mu’adh paid a visit to AbuMusa and saw a chained man. Mu’adh asked, “What is this?” AbuMusa said, “(He was) a Jew who embraced Islam and has now turned apostate.” Mu’adh said, “I will surely chop off his neck.!”

Sahih Al-Bukhari 9.17 Narrated by Abdullah, Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) said, “The blood of a Muslim who confesses that none has the right to be worshipped but Allah and that I am His Messenger, cannot be shed except in three cases: in Qisas for murder, a married person who commits illegal sexual intercourse and the one who abandons Islam (apostate) and leaves the Muslims.”

Sahih Al-Bukhari 9.37 Narrated by AbuQilabah, Once Umar ibn AbdulAziz sat on his throne in the courtyard of his house so that the people might gather before him. Then he admitted them and (when they came in) he said, ‘What do you think of al-Qasamah?” They said, “We say that it is lawful to depend on al-Qasamah in Qisas, as the previous Muslim caliphs carried out Qisas depending on it.” Then he said to me, “O AbuQilabah! What do you say about it?”  

He let me appear before the people and I said…“By Allah, Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) never killed anyone except in one of the following three situations: a person who killed somebody unjustly, was killed (in Qisas); a married person who committed illegal sexual intercourse; and a man who fought against Allah and His Messenger, deserted Islam and became an apostate.”  Then the people said, “Didn’t Anas ibn Malik narrate that Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) cut off the hands of the thieves, branded their eyes and then threw them out into the sun?” 

I said, “I shall tell you the narration of Anas. Anas said: “Eight people from the tribe of Ukl came to Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) and took the pledge of allegiance to Islam (became Muslim). The climate of the place (Medina) did not suit them, so they became sick and complained about that to Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him). He said (to them), ‘Why don’t you go out with the herdsman of our camels and drink, the camels’ milk and urine (as medicine)?’ They said, ‘Yes.’ So they went out and drank the camels’ milk and urine. After they had recovered, they killed the herdsman of Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) and took away all the camels.  

This news reached Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) , so he sent (men) to follow their traces and they were captured and brought (to the Prophet (peace be upon him). He then ordered their hands and feet to be cut off, their eyes were branded with heated pieces of iron, and then he threw them out into the sun until they died.” I said, “What can be worse than that which those people did? They deserted Islam, committed murder and theft.”… 

  • Dhimmis

A feature of life for non-Muslims in Al-Andalus is that they were reduced to dhimmi status, which allowed them to endure a second-class existence with severe restrictions on religious liberty in return for paying the Jizyah (Darío Fernández-Morera, The Myth of the Andalusian Paradise: Muslims, Christians, and Jews under Islamic Rule in Medieval Spain [Wilmington: ISI Books, 2016], pp. 113-114): 

Even in 1100, centuries after the Muslim conquest of Spain, the Andalusian clerics’ obsessive preoccupation with the contaminating potential of the infidels was echoed in the regulations issued in Seville by the faqih Ibn Abdun:

A Muslim must not massage a Jew or a Christian nor throw away his refuse nor clean his latrines. The Jew and the Christian are better fitted for such trades, since they are the trades of those who are vile. A Muslim should not attend to the animal of a Jew or of a Christian, nor serve him as a muleteer [neither Catholics nor Jews could ride horses; only Muslims could], nor hold his stirrup. If any Muslim is known to do this, he should be denounced.… No … [unconverted] Jew or Christian must be allowed to dress in the costume of people of position, of a jurist, or of a worthy man… They must on the contrary be abhorred and shunned and should not be greeted with the formula, “Peace be with you,” for the devil has gained mastery over them and has made them forget the name of God. They are the devil’s party, “and indeed the devil’s party are the losers” (Qur’an 57:22). They must have a distinguishing sign by which they are recognized to their shame [emphasis added].

Non-Muslims in Al-Andalus were to be distinguished from Muslims and avoided if possible (pp. 111-112):

In Umayyad al-Andalus, the ninth-century Maliki cleric Ibn Habib warned against performing ablutions with whatever a Christian had touched or used. Safran cautiously observes that this warning could have “implied” that Muslims should also, for example, keep away from bathhouses used or owned by Christians. In fact, all Maliki manuals of jurisprudence contain many injunctions regarding the problems posed by water, garments, and food touched by Christians.

Maliki scholar Yahya ibn Umar al-Kinani (d. 901), who grew up in Umayyad Córdoba before traveling to pursue his divine studies in Egypt, Baghdad, and Hejaz, warned Muslims against Jews or Christians who in the marketplace might try to blend with Muslims by not wearing the distinguishing piece of cloth or belt that was required of both…

The Utbiyya confirms that Malik taught that Christians should not be allowed to build new churches, and that if the churches had been built, they should be destroyed. Muslims were forbidden to help even in the renovation of existing churches.

Other restirctions were ritually abusive (p. 115): “In Muslim-controlled cities, Christians were forbidden to celebrate their religion in public, even in their own neighborhoods (crosses could not be displayed even on the outside of church walls or on top, and bells could not be wrung)…” This was not mere theoretical jurisprudence. Kenneth Baxter Wolf, ‘Convivencia as Persecution in Ninth-Century Córdoba’ relates the experience of Eulogius (Mark T. Abate [Ed.] Convivencia and Medieval Spain: Essays in Honor of Thomas F. Glick, Cham: Palgrave Macmillan, 2019, p. 145): “One challenge faced by Christian dhimmis living under Muslim rule was how to participate in a pluralistic society dominated by Islam without compromising their own religious identity… Thanks to the writings of the priest Eulogius, we are in an unusually good position to appreciate it in all its complexity.” This is addressed in detail (p. 151):

Eulogius’ response is one of the most revealing passages in the Memoriale sanctorum.

Clearly [the ones who say this] do not think of the destruction of churches, the taunts directed at priests, and the fact that we pay a monthly tribute with such hardship as constituting “troubles.” … Who among all the persecutors of the faithful has attacked the church as cruelly as this abominable one? Who has heaped up so much in subversion of Catholics as this ill-omened one? No one of us [clergy] may walk secure in their midst, no one may pass by in peace, no one may penetrate their enclosures without being dishonored.

Indeed whenever the need for any ordinary thing compels us to go forth in public, or some pressing domestic necessity forces us to head out into the forum from the recesses of our huts, the moment they notice the symbols of our sacred order, with a shout of derision they attack, as if madmen or fools. This is not to mention the daily mockery on the part of the children, for whom it is not enough to inflict verbal abuse and heap up shameful [examples] of scurrility; they do not cease from pelting us with rocks from behind. Why should I mention what they do as an insult to the venerable sign? For when the appropriate time for singling psalms compels us to give a signal to the faithful, and the hour demands that we make the accustomed indication of prayer to the people, the crowds of people, enticed as they are by lying superstition, try to detect the clang of reverberating metal and do not hesitate to exercise their tongues in every curse and obscenity. Therefore not unfairly are they cursed, who inform their followers with so much hate aimed at God’s portion. We are often—indeed incessantly— slandered by them and everywhere we endure their ferocity on account of religion. Many of them judge us unworthy to touch their garments and abhor our coming close to them. They deem it pollution if we mix in any of their affairs.

Here Eulogius identifies three particular “troubles” faced by dhimmi Christians—“the destruction of churches, the taunts directed at priests, and the fact that we pay a monthly tribute”—adding a fourth—curses directed at the sound of bells—in medias res. It turns out that each of these “troubles” can be traced to a legal restriction imposed on the Christians by virtue of their status as dhimmis, that is, as members of a “People of the Book” residing within the Dar al-Islam and subject to the terms of a capitulation agreement or dhimma.

How far did such restriction reflect Islamic law? Very closely, as we shall see (Ahmad ibn Naqib al-Misri, Reliance of the Traveller: Revised Edition [Beltsville: Amana publications, 1988] p. 602):

o9.R The caliph (025) makes war upon Jews, Christians, and Zoroastrians (N: provided he has first invited them to enter Islam in faith and practice, and if they will not, then invited them to enter the social order of Islam by paying the non-Muslim poll tax (jizya, def: 01 L4)-which is the significance of their paying it, not the money itself – while remaining in their ancestral religions) (0: and the war continues) until they become Muslim or else pay the non-Muslim poll tax (0: in accordance with the word of Allah Most High,

“Fight those who do not believe in Allah and the Last Day and who forbid not what Allah and His messenger have forbidden-who do not practice the religion of truth, being of those who have been given the Book-until they pay the poll tax out of hand and are humbled” (Koran 9:29)

The second-class status of dhimmis becomes clear when we look at the provisions of the Dhimmi “contract”:


011.1 A formal agreement of protection is made

with citizens who are:

(1) Jews;

(2) Christians;

(3) Zoroastrians;

(4) Samarians and Sabians, if their religions do not respectively contradict the fundamental bases of Judaism and Christianity;

(5) and those who adhere to the religion of Abraham or one of the other prophets (upon whom be blessings and peace)…

011.3 Such an agreement is only valid when the subject peoples:

(a) follow the rules of Islam (A: those mentioned below (011.5) and those involving public behavior and dress, though in acts of worship and their private lives, the subject communities have their own laws, judges, and courts, enforcing the rules of their own religion among themselves);

(b) and pay the non-Muslim poll tax (jizya).

011.4 The minimum non-Muslim poll tax is one dinar (n: 4.235 grams of gold) per person (A: per year). The maximum is whatever both sides agree upon. It is collected with leniency and politeness, as are all debts, and is not levied on women, children,

or the insane.

011.5 Such non-Muslim subjects are obliged to comply with Islamic rules that pertain to the safety and indemnity of life, reputation, and property. In addition, they:

(1) are penalized for committing adultery or theft, though not for drunkenness;

(2) are distinguished from Muslims in dress, wearing a wide cloth belt (zunna:r);

(3) are not greeted with “as-Salamu ‘alaykum” 

(4) must keep to the side of the street;

(5) may not build higher than or as high as the Muslims’ buildings, though if they acquire a tall house, it is not razed;

(6) are forbidden to openly display wine or pork, (A: to ring church bells or display crosses,) recite the Torah or Evangel aloud, or make public display of their funerals and feastdays;

(7) and are forbidden to build new churches.

We have seen that this was the case in Al-Andalus – the essential features of religious discrimination as outlined here were normative in Islamic Iberia. The Dhimmis were under Muslim authority, and never the reverse:

4018 AL-HEDAYA Vol. II (Hanafi Manual) [The protection granted by a Zimmee.]

If a Zimmee grant protection to an alien infidel, his protection is not valid, because the acts of a Zimmee are liable to suspicion, with respect to granting protection, on account of his infidelity; besides, a Zimmee has no authority with respect to Muslims.

We noted that Islamic law requires non-Muslims to walk separately from Muslims on the road, and also in relation to transport and this religious Apartheid was true of Al-Andalusia:

 4122AL-HEDAYA Vol. II (Hanafi Manual)

[Their wives must not associate with the wives of Muslims.]

It is requisite that the wives of Zimmees be kept separate from the wives of Muslims, 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 thus, of necessity, allowed to ride, he must alight wherever he sees any Muslims 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.

3994 AL-HEDAYA Vol. II (Hanafi Manual)

[and, if they refuse the faith, to pay tribute.

If they do not accept the call to the faith, they must then be called upon to pay Jizyat, or capitation-tax*; because the prophet directed the commander of this armies so to do; and also, because by submitting to this tax, war is forbidden and terminated, upon the authority of the Koran. (This call to pay capitation tax, however, respects only those from whom the capitation-tax is acceptable; for as to apostates and the idolaters of Arabia, to call upon them to pay the tax is useless, since nothing is accepted from them but embracing the faith, as it is thus commanded in the Koran.) – If those who are called upon to pay capitation-tax consent to do so, they then become entitled to the same protection, and subject to the same rules as Muslims, because Alle has declared “Infidels agree to a capitation-tax only in order to render their blood the same as Muslim blood, and their property the same as Muslim property.”

*    Tribute from the person, in the same manner as Khiraj is tribute from lands.

4125 AL-HEDAYA Vol. II (Hanafi Manual)

[when he becomes liable to the same penalties with an apostate.

A Zimmee, upon breaking his contract of subjection, stands in the same predicament with an apostate, – that is, he is condemned to death upon absconding to the territory of the infidels, in the same manner as holds in the rule with respect to apostates. The rule also with respect to such property as he may carry off along with him into the said territory, is the same as with respect to the property of an apostate; – that is, if the Muslims afterwards conquer that territory, the property aforesaid is forfeited to the state, in the same manner as the property of an apostate: – but if the Zimmee be made captive, he is a slave : contrary to the case of an apostate, who, if he repent not, is put to death.

It follows that if a Spanish Catholic had left Al-Andalus to the Catholic Kingdom of Asturias in north-eastern Spain, or to Francia (the kingdom of the Franks) to escape his dhimmi status (e.g. paying the Jizya), he was to be killed. 

7512 AL-RISALA (Maliki Manual) 37.19 CRIMES AGAINST ISLAM

…If any dhimmi (by ‘dhimmi’ is meant a non-Muslim subject living in a Muslim country) curses the Prophet – peace be upon him – or abuses him by saying something other than what already makes him an unbeliever, or abuses God Most High by saying something other than what already makes him an unbeliever, he is to be executed unless at that juncture he accepts Islam.

Part of the dhimmi status was that non-Muslims had to pay Jizyah as a sort of “protection money”, and this was practice in Al-Andalus: 

7351 AL-RISALA (Maliki Manual) 25.10 LEVIES ON NON-MUSLIMS

Jizyah tribute is taken from non-Muslim citizens in an Islamic state, who are freeborn male adults. It is not taken from their women, children and slaves. Similarly, jizyah tribute is taken from Magians, that is Zoroastrians, as well as Christian Arabs.

The amount of jizyah taken from people whose currency is gold is four pieces of gold from each man. And for the people whose currency is silver, forty dirhams. The poor from amongst them are allowed some concession.

Customs duties are taken from their merchants who conduct international commerce. The rate is a tenth of the value of their wares. This is taken from them each time they come, even if they enter the Muslim state many times in a year.

If they carried foodstuffs specially to Mecca and Medina only, one half of one tenth of the value of that is taken from them.

Customs duties taken from the citizens of those nations which are at war with the Muslims states shall be one tenth of the value of their wares except where they agreed to pay more.

In the case of a Rikaz treasure buried by the pre-Islamic people, the finder shall pay a fifth of it to the state.

4118 AL-HEDAYA Vol. II (Hanafi Manual)

[In a case of arrear for two years, one year’s tax only is levied.

… capitation-tax is a sort of punishment inflicted upon infidels for their obstinacy in infidelity, (as was before stated;) whence it is that it cannot be accepted of the infidel if he send it by the hands of a messenger, but must be exacted in a mortifying and humiliating manner, by the collector sitting and receiving it from him in a standing posture: (according to one tradition, the collector is to seize him by the throat, and shake him, saying, “Pay your tax, Zimee!”)… SECONDLY, capitation-tax is a substitute for destruction in respect to the infidels…  

7389 AL-RISALA (Maliki Manual) CHAPTER 30: A Chapter on Jihad or Holy War


Jihad is a duty upon Muslims from which, however, a section of the community can relieve other sections. What is preferable in the Maliki view is that the enemy should not be fought until they are called upon to accept the religion of God, that is, the Islamic faith. But this caution can be ignored when the enemy attacks first.

The choice given by the Muslims to the enemy is for the enemy to either accept the Islamic faith or undertake to pay the periodic tribute known as jizyah. If they decline to accept either of these, they are then fought.

Jizyah tribute can only be accepted from them if they are located in a place where the Muslim government can have authority over them. But if they are very far away, jizyah tribute shall not be accepted from them until they migrate into the Muslim territory, and if they refuse to do that they are to be fought.

Flight from the enemy in battle is one of the mortal sins in Islam when the enemy are twice the number of Muslims or less. But if they are more than twice the number of Muslims, there shall be no harm in that.

A Muslim is under an obligation to fight the enemy, under the command of the Muslim ruler, whether such a ruler is a devout Muslim or a sinner.

There is no harm in killing the infidels taken captive. But nobody shall be killed after they have been given an assurance of their safety. Nor must there be a violation of a covenant once entered into with them. Women and children are not to be killed. Muslims must avoid the killing of monks and learned men except where these fight them. Similarly, if a woman fights she can be killed.

It is lawful for a Muslim of humble status to conclude a peace treaty on behalf of the rest of the Muslims. Similarly a woman and a child have permission to do that, but in the case of the child, he has to be able to appreciate the implications of the peace he concludes on behalf of fellow Muslims. However, according to another view, such a peace treaty, that is, one by a Muslim of humble status, a woman and a child, is subject to the ratification of the Muslim ruler.

Sahih Muslim 4294 Narrated by Burayd, When the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) appointed anyone as leader of an army or detachment… He would say: Fight in the name of Allah and in the cause of Allah. Fight against those who do not believe in Allah. Wage a holy war…  

When you meet enemies who are polytheists, invite them to three courses of action. If they respond to any one of these, you also accept it and restrain yourself from doing them any harm. Invite them to (accept) Islam; if they respond to you, accept it from them and desist from fighting against them… If they refuse to accept Islam, demand from them the Jizyah. If they agree to pay, accept it from them and hold your hand. If they refuse to pay the tax, seek Allah’s help and fight them.  

Sahih Al-Bukhari 4.404A Narrated by AbuHurayrah, Sa’id narrated that AbuHurayrah once said (to the people), “What will your state be when you can get no Dinar or Dirham (i.e. taxes from the Dhimmis)?” On that someone asked him, “What makes you know that this state will take place, O AbuHurayrah?” He said, “By Him in Whose Hands AbuHurayrah’s life is, I know it through the statement of the true and truly inspired one (i.e. the Prophet (peace be upon him).” The people asked, “What does the statement say?” He replied, “Allah and His Messenger asylum (granted to Dhimmis, i.e. Non-Muslims living in a Muslim territory) will be outraged, and so Allah will make the hearts of these Dhimmis so daring that they will refuse to pay the Jizyah they will be supposed to pay.”


It is true that the Catholic Inquisition in Spain persecuted non-Catholics – Jews, Muslims and Protestants, to the extent of executing false Catholics and those who had apostatized to Protestantism. However, dawah team are in no position to criticize the Spanish Inquisition, both from a historical perspective, given the treatment of non-Muslims in Al-Andalus, but even more importantly, from a theological standpoint, when we consider the attitude of Islamic law to heretics, blasphemers, apostates and dhimmis. Dhimmis were always under threat of execution unless the paid the humiliating Jizyah, and were always humiliated and the victims of discrimination. The complaints of dawah team about the Catholic Spanish Inquisition ring hollow; people in glass houses should not throw stones.