n International Journal for Religious Freedom - Islamic discourses on accusations of unbelief and apostasy / Accusations of Unbelief: A Diachronic Perspective on Takfir, Camilla Adang (Ed.) and “Let There Be No Compulsion in Religion” (Sura 2:256): Apostasy from Islam as Judged by Contemporary Islamic Theologians, Christine Schirrmacher - review article

Volume 8 Number 1-2
  • ISSN : 2070-5484


The Muslim world is torn by numerous internal disputes. These battles are by no means limited to the age-old conflict between Sunnis and Shias, which is currently being carried on mainly by Saudi Arabia and Iran through proxy wars in such places as Syria, Iraq and Yemen. Even within the two great Muslim confessional communities, the issue of what constitutes ‘genuine’ Islam often leads to bloody feuds.

The historical origins and contemporary grounds for this growing phenomenon of intra-Islamic heresy charges and the closely related topic of the lack of public freedom of opinion and religion, including freedom to change one’s religion, in Muslim-majority societies are the topic of both Adang’s omnibus volume and Christine Schirrmacher’s habilitation treatise.

Fuelling this debate is the concept of takfir (derived from kafir = unbeliever, infidel), which can be rendered as excommunication or as branding as a heretic. The invocation of takfir implies accusing fellow Muslims of unbelief on the grounds that they have crossed a red line by holding ideas contrary to fundamental points of Islamic doctrine or politically unacceptable views.

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