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Logo of the Campaign for Collective Apostasy in Spain, in which the Catholic Church is abandoned
Countries in which the death penalty applies to apostasy (as of 2016)

The expression apostasy ( Greek ἀποστασία apostasía 'apostasy', ' stepping away (from the original seat or location); from ἀφίσταμαι aphístamai ' falling away ',' stepping away ') describes in theology the turning away from a religious affiliation (for example leaving the church or converting to another creed , Conversion ). One who is apostasy is an apostate . While a heresy only denies one or more traditional teachings of the religious community concerned , apostasy, also called apostasy from the right faith , consists in the rejection of the abandoned religion as such.

The term comes from the Christian tradition, especially the Roman Catholic Church , and was previously punished with excommunication . Today it is mainly used for apostasy in Islam and may be punished with the death penalty. This is practiced in some countries in the Islamic world.


The book of Deuteronomy provides for stoning , i.e. the death penalty , for public apostasy and prayer to “star gods” under certain conditions ( Dtn 17 : 1-7  EU ). This punishment is no longer practiced and is not required by any rabbi living today.


For Christianity , which, like Judaism , relates to Deuteronomy - the 5th book of Moses - the same statements apply.

In the book The Shepherd of Hermas (145), which was previously valued especially in the Orient and counted among the Apocrypha , it says that there is no forgiveness for those who consciously deny the Lord (74.2 or 8.8.2). Apostasy, then, was among the sins for which the ancient Church imposed continual penance and excommunication , and left the forgiveness of sin to God alone.

In Roman Catholic church law , apostasy is used in Can. 751 sentence 2 of the Codex Iuris Canonici from 1983 as a legal term . There are three cases of apostasy:

  • Apostasia a fide , the complete and voluntary giving up of the Christian faith : It does not matter whether the apostate joins another religion or becomes an atheist or agnostic . According to Can. 1364 § 1 Codex Iuris Canonici 1983 she is punished with excommunication.
  • Apostasia ab ordine , the resignation of the priesthood . The Council of Chalcedon set the penalty of excommunication for this in 451. Today Apostasia ab ordine leads to the loss of priestly rights according to Can. 194 § 1 No. 2 Codex Iuris Canonici 1983, but only rarely leads to excommunication.
  • Apostasia a religione , the culpable departure of a religious community by a monk or nun with the intention of not returning and to evade the obligations of religious life. Since the Council of Chalcedon it has been excommunication. However, this only applies to the final and unauthorized leaving of the order; Temporary unauthorized stay outside the community or the monastery as well as resignation from the order with appropriate dispensation (resignation indult ) of the competent ecclesiastical authority do not count as apostasy ; nor changing to another religious order.

The Roman Emperor Gratian declared Christianity to be the state religion in 380 with the edict of the Three Emperor (see also Church history ) and in 383 issued a decree according to which apostasy resulted in the loss of civil rights.


During the Koran no worldly prescribes punishment for apostasy from Islam, the Prophet Muhammad is certain according to tradition the commandment of such punishment have expressed. According to the Sharia , publicly proclaimed apostasy from Islam is punishable by death if the invitation to return (istitāba) to the Islamic faith is not followed.

In parts of the Islamic world, the death penalty for apostasy is still provided today, v. a. in Iran and Pakistan. For example, decades after his conversion to Christianity in 1983 , Mehdi Dibaj was sentenced to death, released after eleven years and murdered shortly afterwards. Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani in Iran, sentenced in 2010, was in custody for several years; after international protests the accusation of apostasy was dropped by the prosecution.

In 2007, the case of the Copt Mohammed Hegazy sparked heated discussions in Egypt . He and his family have been in hiding since the death sentence. In Sudan , the heavily pregnant Christian woman was in May 2014. Maryam Yahya Ibrahim Ishaq sentenced for alleged apostasy from Islam to 100 lashes and death. She, too, was finally released after international protests and was allowed to travel to the USA.


  • apostasy
  • Islam and apostasy
    • Frank Griffel : Apostasy and Tolerance in Islam. The development of al-Ġazālī's judgment against philosophy and the reactions of the philosophers . Brill, Leiden 2000, ISBN 90-04-11566-8 .
    • Bülent Ucar : The death penalty for apostates in the Sharia. Traditional viewpoints and newer interpretations to overcome a paradigm of demarcation. In: Hansjörg Schmid, Andreas Renz, Jutta Sperber, Duran Terzi (eds.): Identity through difference? Mutual delimitations in Christianity and Islam. 2nd Edition. Verlag Friedrich Pustet, Regensburg 2009, ISBN 978-3-7917-2065-4 , pp. 227–245.
    • Katharina Knüppel: Religious Freedom and Apostasy in Islamic States . Lang, Frankfurt am Main 2010, ISBN 978-3-631-59802-3 .
    • Assem Hefny: Hermeneutics, Koran Interpretation and Human Rights. In: Hatem Elliesie (Ed.): Contributions to Islamic Law VII. Islam and Human Rights = Islam and Human Rights = al-Islam wa-Huquq al-Insan (=  Leipzig Contributions to Orient Research. Vol. 23). Lang, Frankfurt am Main 2010, ISBN 978-3-631-57848-3 , pp. 73-97.

See also

Web links

Wiktionary: apostasy  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Wilhelm Gemoll : Greek-German school and hand dictionary . Reviewed and expanded by Karl Vretska with an introduction to the history of language by Heinz Kronasser. 9th edition. Hölder-Pichler-Tempsky u. a., Vienna et al. 1965.
  2. Gunther Gottlieb: Gratianus. In: Real Lexicon for Antiquity and Christianity. Volume 12, Hiersemann, Stuttgart 1983, ISBN 3-7772-8344-4 , Sp. 718-732.
  3. ^ The Encyclopaedia of Islam. New Edition. Brill, suffering. Vol. 7, p. 635. See Yohanan Friedmann: Tolerance and Coercion in Islam. Interfaith Relations in the Muslim Tradition. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge u. a. 2003, ISBN 0-521-82703-5 , pp. 124, 126.
  4. ^ Matthias Kamann: Persecution of Christians: CDU General Secretary protests at Iran's ambassador. In: welt.de . January 4, 2013, accessed October 7, 2018 .
  5. http://kath.net/news/45925