Why is it so that so many Muslims are afraid to speak publicly and criticize Islam and its traditions? Because the Sharia laws of blasphemy and apostasy can actually get you killed.
These laws were canonized into Islam centuries ago to censure and stifle free speech and free thinking in the Muslim world. Secularism.org reports: Saudi Arabia comes into particular criticism for a 2014 law defining the “promotion of atheist thought in any form” as terrorism, and for the prosecution of liberal activists and campaigners generally. The report notes that the kingdom issued a death sentence in 2017 to an alleged ‘apostate’, Ahmad Al-Shamri, on the accusation of atheism.
And in 2015, in Sudan, 25 men were charged with apostasy for taking the Quran as their sole source of Islam and rejecting the prophet’s hadith. /www.secularism.org.
Blasphemy is considered any speech that may be perceived as offensive to the Prophet and Islam, and apostasy is abandoning Islam or in some countries, as Sudan, abandoning the brand of Islam sanctified by the government (Sahih Bokhari hadith vol.3 book 45 #687 and vol.9 book 84 #57&58). They are punishable by death in 13 predominantly Muslim countries. But the 2015 attack on Charlie Hebdo in France, reminds the world, that you don’t have to live there or be a Muslim to be subjected to blasphemy related allegations. Blasphemy linked vigilante violence is a real threat to freedom of speech and free thinkers everywhere. .sahih-bukhari.com/
These laws were extracted from hadith books, they have no foundation in the Quran. They serve to maintain a blind following of the status quo, ensuring that no one rocks the boat. The Quran, on the other hand, addresses the rational mind and advocates for free thinking. So there is no blind faith (2:170, 5:104), no leap of faith, no apostasy, and no blasphemy in Its message (2:256 there is no compulsion in The Deen).
The cognitive faculties of the mind, and critical thinking are repeated themes throughout the Quran.
These deeply rooted faculties include the inherent ability to reason, conceive, perceive, think, and judge. And a critical thinker is able to make use of the knowledge he has accumulated, and to seek relevant sources of information to inform himself. Critical thinking leads to free thinking, precisely what Quran wants from the reader.
Root words used to describe critical thinking in Quran: Click link for verses, definitions are taken from Lane’s Lexicon:
فقه (fa-qaf-ha): To have or possess understanding, knowledge, or intelligence, especially of the law. A faculty firmly rooted in the mind. (page 306) appears 21 times – http://corpus.quran.com
عقل (ayn-qaf-lam): The act of withholding, restraining from doing something not suitable or befitting by us; To use your faculty of reason. (page 2113) appears 49 times – http://corpus.quran.com
بصر (ba-sad-ra):He was, or became, endowed with mental perception: or firm belief, or knowledge, understanding, intelligence, or skill. He perceived it mentally, he knew it or understood it. (page 210) appears 148 times – http://corpus.quran.com
لبب (lam-ba-ba): The inside of a nut or almond, or what is the best part of anything. In the case of a man it is understanding, intellect, intelligence, the mind, that is put into the heart of man, so called because it is the best part of him. (page 2643) appears 16 times- http://corpus.quran.com/
نظر (nun-zua-ra): He looked at it intellectually; regarded it; comparing it; examining it intellectually; in order to adduce an opinion about it. (page 2811) appears 129 times- http://corpus.quran.com/
علم(ayn-lam-mim):He knew, or learned the case or affair soundly, thoroughly, or well; to possess knowledge as a faculty firmly rooted in the mind, hence he taught him; (page 2139) appears 854 times- http://corpus.quran.com/
دبر (dal-ba-ra): To mediate, think, ponder about a thing and the result of it; he acted with or exercised forethought. (page 844) appears 28 times- http://corpus.quran.com
فكر (fa-kaf-ra): Repeated thought, consideration, mental examination, pondering, the arrangement of known things in the mind in order to obtain a clear knowledge and meaning. (page 2431) appears 18 times- http://corpus.quran.com
سمع (sin-mim-ayn): He gave ear, hearkened, listened, – intentionally; he understood its meaning, the meaning of a person’s speech (page 2431) appears 185 times- http://corpus.quran.com
قلب (qaf-lam-ba): to turn something over and over; he turned the thoughts over and over in his mind meditating what he should do. (page 2553) appears 168 times- http://corpus.quran.com
The Quran addresses the rational mind over 1600 times. It’s constantly directing and redirecting the mind to think, examine, study, ponder, reflect, and attain wisdom from Its verses to understand Its message.
This is in stark contrast to simply following what has been passed down from generation to generation. Quran is saying to compare and judge between Its words and what is actually being practiced today.