A Narrative about Four Chances of Repentance Granted to an Apostate
Subject Matter of the Narrative:
According to Bayhaqiy's narrative no. 16610 it is reported:
روي أن رسول الله استتاب نبهان أربع مرات وكان نبهان ارتد.
It is narrated that the Prophet asked Nabhan to repent four times. Nabhan was guilty of apostasy.
Similar narratives are also reported in Abu Ya`laa's narrative no. 1785 and Abd al-Razzaq's narrative no. 18699. Besides these narratives, opinions of the companions on the issue have also been narrated in Bayhaqiy's narrative no. 16666, 16667, 16668 and 16669 and the opinion of Ibrahim Al-Nakha`iy has been reported in Abd al-Razzaq's 18697.
Comment on the Narrative
None of the cited narratives has been reported with a reliable and unbroken chain of narrators.
As for Bayhaqiy's narrative no. 16610 and Abd al-Razzaq's narrative no. 18699, their chain not only includes an unspecified person, but is also broken, as it is narrated as an act of the Prophet (pbuh) by Abd Allah ibn Ubaid ibn Umair (عبد الله بن عبيد بن عمير), while he had never seen the Prophet (pbuh).
As for Abu Ya`laa's narrative no. 1785, it includes Ismail ibn Zakariya Al-Khalqaniy, who, although is considered acceptable by some experts, is considered to be weak by Al-`ajaliy (العجلي) in his book Ma`rifah al-Thiqaat (معرفة الثقات). Ibn Mu`een is also reported to have said that he is a weak narrator (see: Tehzib al-Kamal, Vol. 3, Pg. 94). This narrative further includes Abd Allah ibn Muhammad ibn Aqeel, who has been considered to be one of unreliable memory by some experts, and careless in reporting by other experts. Ibn Sa`d is reported to have said that he reports strange (Munkar) narratives. It is also reported that Imam Malik and Yahya ibn Sa`eed did not accept his narratives; Ya`qoob is reported to have said that he was a truthful person but his narratives are weak; (Tehzib al-Tehzib vol. 6, pg. 13). In short, Abd Allah ibn Muhammad ibn Aqeel is generally considered to be unreliable in reporting sayings of the Prophet (pbuh).
In view of the fact that the narration has not been reported by a chain that can safely be termed as reliable, we do not consider it prudent to accept the incident as correctly reported. It is possible that it may have been the practice of some of the companions of the Prophet (pbuh) to ask a person to repent for his apostasy a few times before subjecting him to the punishment of death. This practice and/or opinion of some of the companions may erroneously have been reported as the practice of the Prophet (pbuh).
(This write-up is prepared by the Hadith Cell of Javed Ahmad Ghamidi)
 See: Al-Majruheen vol. 2, pg. 3.
 See: Al-Kaashif vol. 1, pg. 594.
 According to the Qur'an, as a result of the advent of the Messenger of God in the Banu Ishmael, those who rejected faith from amongst the polytheists were subject to the death penalty, under the provisions of the Divine Law relating to the advent of God's messengers. If any of these polytheists had accepted Islam at the hands of the Messenger and later decides to return to his previous beliefs, then he too should be grouped with those who had rejected the call of the messenger and, thus, also be subjected to the same punishment. If seen in this perspective, the narrative under consideration actually means that those people who were to be punished, according to the law of God, had they not accepted Islam, would face the same punishment, if at any time during their lives they leave the folds of Islam and return to their previous beliefs.