What do contemporary Muslim theologians teach about religious freedom?


  • Christine Schirrmacher


Sharia law, death penalty, apostasy, religious freedom, Islam


What are the positions taken by influential Islamic theologians on religious freedom? How do classic Islamic theologians at influential institutions of scholarship such as al-Azhar-University in Cairo or the Islamic University of Medina judge this question? A minority of theologians express themselves bluntly by saying that religious freedom is for them exclusively the freedom to belong to the one true religion, Islam, or to turn towards it. And furthermore, in the case where there is doubt or criticism among Muslims, their idea is that the death penalty immediately has to be administered. For an additional minority, religious freedom applies to every individual and means the freedom to accept Islam or to turn from it, completely in the sense of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights. A ‘moderate’ majority of theologians defines religious freedom in a differentiated manner nowadays: In countries characterized by Islam they advocate for non-Muslims - in particular for Jews and Christians – a situation where they may retain their religion and not convert to Islam. For Muslims, however, they define religious freedom exclusively as freedom of thought with the possibility, under certain circumstances, of secretly holding doubts about Islam.