In a recently televised discussion, Javed Ahmed Ghamidi has clarified that his reliance on the principle of prescription of death penalty on only two occassions (al-Maidah 5:32) does not in anyway weakens any of the authentic ahadith ascribed to the Prophet(s). For instance this one narrated by Ikramah(r) and recorded by Bukhariy in his collection
Some Zanadiqa (atheists) were brought to ‘Ali and he burnt them. The news of this event, reached Ibn Abbas who said, “If I had been in his place, I would not have burnt them, as Allah’s Apostle forbade it, saying, ‘Do not punish anybody with Allah’s punishment (fire).’ I would have killed them according to the statement of Allah’s Apostle, ‘Whoever changed his (Islamic) religion, then kill him.’
(Sahih Bukhariy, Volume 9, Book 84, Number 57)
The above hadith and few others are generally understood by classical Muslim scholars as adding a third instance invoking capital punishment (i.e killing apostates). Ghamidi opines that all of these should be revisited in the light of principles established in Quran rather than adding something explicitly to the body of these principles.
He asserted that there’s no doubt in the authenticity of the ahadith in question, per se. However the application of these traditions or deductions from them are redundant in modern times even if there’s an ideal Islamic state. No one except Prophet(s) can claim the removal of all the excuse in relation to accepting the revealed truth of God Almighty, a concept which is called Itmaam al-Hujjah and therefore no one except him could implement death penalty for apostates. As he is no more amongst us, the ultimate decision would be revealed by God on the day of judgement and should be postponed as such. This right cannot be claimed by anybody after Prophet no matter how much effort is put in to present the true message of Islam.
Ghamidi’s reiteration of his position has a multidimensional importance in the overall framework of contemporary Islamic scholarship and its methodology which is currently experiencing its formative period. Firstly first it establishes that the school of Ghamidi/Islahi has dropped the sheer skepticism towards the science of hadith in general though its not among the primary sources of understanding Islam, in principle. Secondly it raises many questions regarding the pre-formative history of Muslims. For instance the concept of Itmam al-Hujjah (as understood by Ghamidi) seems anachronic in light of coarse presentation of Islam that earliest of the Muslims used to extend during their expansions.
Before I start meandering I give these bleary thoughts some time to transform into meaningful questions.