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“Halting Between Two Opinions”: Conversion and Apostasy in Early Islam

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Abstract The phenomenon of individuals converting to Islam and later returning to their former religions is well attested in both narrative and documentary records from the early Islamic period. Such shifts in religious commitments posed social and legal problems for the communities to which their former members sought reentry. Specifically, legal authorities were faced with the challenge of assessing the trustworthiness of returning apostates, whether their return was wholehearted and sincere or, rather, opportunistic and deceitful. The present discussion offers the historical context and a comparative analysis of some of the legal mechanisms by which the Jewish geʾonim of Babylonia and Eastern Christian church leaders attempted to overcome this challenge.

Affiliations: 1: The Martin Buber Society of Fellows, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem Rabin Building, Room 2201, Mount Scopus, Jerusalem 91905 Israel


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