Answered by Shaykh Gibril F Haddad
The Islamic state would apply the punishments you mentioned only in the case of legally-qualified sane Muslims who unequivocally refuse to pray and consider themselves free of any such obligation, or unequivocally express denial of any indisputably obligatory belief (such as belief in the Qur’an) or ruling (such as the prohibition of intoxicants), whereupon the status of apostasy (ridda) becomes applicable to them, otherwise “only” the status of immorality (fisq), such as a person who does not pray but still knows that it is obligatory and that they one is guilty of sin in not doing so. The precondition for sentencing is absolute certainty, which spells mercy on the basis of the rule laid by the Prophet, upon him blessings and peace: “Ward off the penalties (hudud) as much as you can”(*), as Ibn Majah titled it: “through ambiguities.” Our Mother `A’isha said, “It is preferable for the ruler to pardon mistakenly than to punish mistakenly.”
In an immoral society, we are supposed to rush after the immense reward of holding fast to the priceless jewel of Religion - thank you, our Lord, for guiding us! - because the Believer there is as the living among the dead. If we cannot, then we must find a way out of that society and move elsewhere for dear life, just as our Lord told us that we shall be asked, “Was not Allah’s earth wide enough for you?” A few bows and prostrations and then we die and eternity begins. Eternity. Does it compute for you to leave prayer and then lose that? May Allah bring us out of our heedlessness and open our eyes to the basic common sense of never abandoning prayer, which is our first and last protection from disaster.
(*) Narrated from `A’isha by al-Tirmidhi and Abu Hurayra by Ibn Majah.
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