Blasphemy Laws and Their Legality in The Islamic Sharia
“Lo! this Qur’an guides to that which is most upright”. (17:9)
The outrage against blasphemy in Muslim states observed in the passing years and the way authorities have handled it, makes it crucial for us to scrutinize the issue sternly.
The legality of Blasphemy laws as they exist today in most parts of the Muslim World, in the light of Islamic Sharia needs to be examined and its Islamic basis inspected. For a law to be Islamic, it should either be found in the Quran or in proven Sunnah of Prophet himself or of his Sahaba. As far as the Quran and Sahih Hadis are concerned, there is no special law stated to deal with the offence of blasphemy, let alone executing those who commit it. Nor can any law became part of Islamic sharia on the basis of Zaeef Rivayat (weak traditions) and neither would such a law be accepted as something holy in the general Muslim public and be able to evade criticism. Sometimes people tend to refer Quranic verses of 5: 33 to be the basis of the blasphemy law.
“The only reward of those who make war upon Allah and His messenger and strive after corruption in the land will be that they will be killed or crucified, or have their hands and feet on alternate sides cut off, or will be expelled out of the land. Such will be their degradation in the world, and in the hereafter theirs will be an awful doom.” (5:33 – Pickthal)
Even to someone with little knowledge of the Quranic language the context is very clear. Those being subjected in the verses mentioned are those who do Fisaad-Fil-Arz (spread corruption on earth) and no law for act of blasphemy is mentioned in them.
“…It is a Book We have sent down upon you so that you may bring forth mankind from the darkness into the light…” (14:1)
Analyzing the prophetic traditions, we can see that in the life of the Prophet no one was executed for the offence of blasphemy alone. We will try to prove our point here and by doing naka’d (analysis) of the 2 weak rivayat generally quoted.
One of the rivayat is of Ka’b ibn Ashraf who committed blasphemy several times when he lived in Medina, wrote poetries extremely abusive and critical of the Prophet but was not punished, until he broke the treaty and went to Mecca and committed espionage for the Quraish against the Muslims, whom his very community, the Jews, were in treaty with. He was killed not because of the blasphemy against the prophet he committed, because he had done it even in Medina and wasn’t harmed by the Muslims who had complete control over the city but was punished for the espionage he did, breaking the pact of Medina.
The second rivayat (tradition) quoted, is of Abdullah ibn Khatal who also happened to do blasphemy against the Prophet. When he was still Muslim, he was sent for zakat collection by the Prophet. He was accompanied by a person from amongst the Ansar and a servant. On the way, Ibn Khatal killed the servant on the pretext of insubordination, became an apostate, and ran away to Makkah. He was ordered to be killed neither for the blasphemy he did nor for apostasy but for killing a Muslim man and betraying his oath.
To the contrary we also find some rivayat in which the Prophet condemned a person who had beaten his slave for disrespecting the Prophet. But Even if you are not ready to accept the argument presented by these rivayat or the rivayat which suggest to the contrary, you must keep this in view that on basis of such weak rivayat, which people like Imam Bukhari had rejected, no laws in Islamic sharia could be added.
John the Damascus the first known Christian critic of the Prophet
Now let’s analyze the way of the early Islamic community. In the time of the Ummayads you find people who were under Islamic rule and who were known for being critics of Prophet and wrote abusive criticism against him but were ignored and tolerated because of them being Dhimis (Protected Minorities). One of them was John of Damascus.
Now let’s come to the Perspective of the Fiqh (Islamic Jurisprudence). Though Fiqh is not a Hujah (compulsion) like the Quran and the Hadis but still it must be clear to the reader how major Fuakaha saw the issue. We must explore how Muslims were to be dealt with in Islamic Fiqh when they committed blasphemy against the Prophet and how Non-Muslim did it and how law dealing with them differs.
As far as the Jurisprudence of Imam Abu Hanifa is concerned, no laws related to blasphemy could be applied on Non-Muslim subjects of an Islamic state because when they are pardoned for the biggest crime one can do i.e Kufr, Imam Abu Hanifa found no reason to kill them for blasphemy. Similar were the views of other Aimah. Imam Abu Hanfia suggested the punishment of the 80 lashes (in response of them making false allegation against the prophet) for non-Muslim blasphemers of the Prophet or exiling them. Exile was issues on the pretext that such people do not deserve the protection of a state which is run in the name of the man they commit blasphemy against, as per his views.
However, For Muslims who became apostate and did blasphemy the approach is different. As for Imam Abu Hanifa the crime of blasphemy like the crime of apostasy for Muslims is pardonable but if not asked for pardon by the offender is punishable by death. The argument of Imam Abu Hanifa was that when even false prophets were pardoned so should be an ex-Muslim blasphemer since it is not a bigger offence.
Now let’s talk about the blasphemy laws applicable in an Islamic country like Pakistan. First of all, it being called an Islamic law and justified in the name of Islam seems to be a farce, since Islam did not put forth any such law in its holy scripture. Not only is it un-Islamic but also against the Usool (rules) of Islamic Fiqh, especially the Fiqh of Imam Abu-Hanifa which is followed by the majority in the country. The Law makes no distinction between the punishment for the Muslim blasphemers and non-Muslim blasphemers which was the core distinction the fukaha especially Hanafis made. Non-Muslims being punished for something which was never applicable on them is an act against Islamic Sharia itself. Then is the question of how the law makes the crime unpardonable. How people who even deny the crime are prosecuted and convicted, whether they be Muslims or non-Muslims. When in the Hanafi fiqh it was a pardonable crime, even for the Muslim blasphemers.
Thus, the argument to the readers is to be not emotionally associated with something that is not part of Islam and don’t be offended when it is called a black law because that is what it is. It is a tool to persecute the religious minorities. May Allah Guide us all to True Path.
Author is a political writer and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Disclaimer: Views expressed are exclusively personal and do not necessarily reflect the position of Oracle Opinions.