Umar bin Abd al-Aziz رحمة الله عليه was an extremely pious and just ruler of the Muslims. He was a rare exception of goodness within the otherwise debauched, corrupt and tyrannical Umayyad dynasty. For this reason, many Sunni Muslims consider him the fifth rightly-guided Caliph, in the same category as Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman and Ali رضى الله عنهم. He is also considered by many as the first Mujaddid, or divinely appointed Reformer, in the history of the Ummah. In summary, Umar bin Abd al-Aziz has a high rank and elevated status in Islam. His interpretation and practical enforcement of the Shari’ah is therefore worthy of careful consideration and carries much weight as a precedent for us. Since we are on the subject of religious freedom and the particular topic of apostasy, how did Umar bin Abd al-Aziz deal with apostates during his rule?
عَنْ مَعْمَرٍ قَالَ أَخْبَرَنِي قَوْمٌ مِنْ أَهْلِ الْجَزِيرَةِ أَنَّ قَوْمًا أَسْلَمُوا ثُمَّ لَمْ يَمْكُثُوا إِلا قَلِيلا حَتَّى ارْتَدُّوا فَكَتَبَ فِيهِمْ مَيْمُونُ بْنُ مِهْرَانَ إِلَى عُمَرَ بْنِ عَبْدِ الْعَزِيزِ رحمه الله فَكَتَبَ إِلَيْهِ عُمَرُ أَنْ رُدَّ عَلَيْهِمُ الْجِزْيَةَ وَدَعْهُمْ
مصنف عبد الرزاق كتاب اللقطة باب في الكفر بعد الإيمان
Ma’mar reported: Some residents of the Peninsula told me that some people had embraced Islam, but it was not long until they became apostates. Maymun bin Mihran wrote to Umar bin Abd al-Aziz, may Allah have mercy on him, regarding them and Umar wrote back saying, “Let them return to paying tribute and leave them alone.” (Musannaf Abd ur-Razzaq)
So we know that in this very early period of Islam, during the tenures of one of the rightly-guided Caliphs, apostates were not executed on account of their apostasy.
To be continued إن شاء الله