This is the most excellent essay I have yet read on the subject of apostasy. Those of us who have sought to cultivate our conscience through the Book of God may have experienced cognitive dissonance when God's Word is disregarded in favour of historical interpretations.
It is unfortunate that we give greater importance to certain ahadith conflicting with the Qur’anic values and thus bring bad name to Islam. Commitment to these values is far more important than to opinion of the ‘Ulama based on medieval ethos.
The only problem with this article though is that while correcting Mawdudi's weird thesis on apostasy the author expresses his surprise at "how an Islamic scholar of Mawdudi’s status can confuse things to such an extent...." Any right-minded Muslim who has researched Mawdudi's worldview, notably critiqued in a study by Sheila McDonough, will only have loathing for him. Mawdudi was merely a Muslim version of V.R.Savarkar, and viewed Islam as a political state programmed to express its frustration at colonialism by oppressing others. Another similarity they share is a zest for revolutionary beliefs after the withdrawal of the British Empire.
It is my view that Muhammad Asad's critique of the concept of revolution from the Islamic standpoint in his 1948 work The Principles of State and Government in Islam, which would be revisited in his future projects, is the earliest of its kind and is an indirect reference to Mawdudi's thesis. Asad would also live through the so-called Islamic revolution in Iran, witnessing the growth of the movement. "Islamisation" here was nothing short of intellectual dishonesty, a form of cultural realisation and of authoritarian control over Muslims. In these states women were invisible and difference of opinion was not tolerated. In short, Islam itself was curtailed in the name of Islam. The irony was impossibly crude.
In contrast, Islam inspires God's unceasing teachings and mercy, uplifting man to a level which he attains through His belief in the One God accompanied by good works which rescinds the first and only response of the angels to Almighty Allah on His declaration to "establish upon the earth one who shall inherit it" (The Second Chapter, Verse 30):
They said: "Wilt Thou place on it such as will spread corruption thereon and shed blood - whereas it is we who extol Thy limitless glory, and praise Thee, and hallow Thy name?"
Almighty Allah answers:
"Verily, I know that which you do not know."
In the thirty-third verse of the tenth chapter of His Book, Almighty Allah says unto man:
It is God [alone] who guides unto the truth. Which, then, is more worthy to be followed - He who guides unto the truth, or he who cannot find the right way unless he is guided? What, then, is amiss with you and your judgment?
May we believe so, and may He save us from the fitnah of group-thought and cult worship and open us to critical intelligence and the Light we merit. Also, the Prophet repeated thrice that "the worst of men is a bad learned man...." May He grant us religious scholars at whose death the Ummah is poorer, those who seek to benefit the Ummah by being true to the message of Allah and are/were true in their opinions. This also means avoiding the invention of ethnocentric commentaries on Islam. On a Ramadan night four years ago, the Yemeni Muslim historian Al-Shaiba issued a lecture in which he pointed out such flaws.
He added that among the best companions of the prophet (PBUH) were Bilal (Ethiopian), Salman (Persian), Suhaib (Roman)—and the list goes on. Al-Shaiba criticized Arab historians for perpetuating stereotypes and writing boring narratives. They wrote some legends, according to their sectarian and/or political backgrounds. Jarallah added that most of Arab historians limit themselves to their geographical locations, giving only a partial sense of the whole heritage. “Many Arab historians wrote about the life-story of the prophet (PBUH) almost similarly, but they have clear differences when they write about the aftermath.
"That’s why the Islamic history did not develop,” al-Shaiba said. “All of that passed through us as a sacred heritage, to which Arab and Muslim historians remain bound even today.” Arab and Muslim historians and researchers should be able to question that heritage, making use of what is useful and ignoring the rest, said the Sana’a University professor in a bombshell statement. “We should believe in dialogue and respect others’ opinions,” he said.
In the words of the Prophet Muhammad, upon whom be peace:
Verily God doth not taketh away knowledge from the hands of His servants; but taketh it by taking away the learned; so that when no learned men remain, the ignorant will be placed at the head of affairs. Causes will be submitted to their decision, they will pass sentence without knowledge, will err themselves, and lead others into error.