Blasphemy and a violent response

 

By Kamran Siddiqui

The topic of blasphemy in Pakistan has become a contentious issue in recent years. The existing Blasphemy law is being exploited by public to punish their opponents and settle personal vendettas, outside the judicial jurisdiction in the name of blasphemy. Due to the sensitive nature of the topic, it is not difficult for flare up emotions and sentiments of common people. Whenever there is any suggestion to revisit the Blasphemy law, it is faced by strong and violent opposition from religious circles. If the religious groups are supporting this law on religious basis then there should be a clear evidence in support of severe punishment on a blasphemous act or remark, from authentic Islamic resources.

The most fundamental and essential source of Islam is Quran, the divine scripture. It is a direct word of God and hence it holds the primary position in Muslim jurisprudence. Therefore, if the harsh punishment to blasphemers is a religious decree than such evidence must be present in Quran. Furthermore, several verses in Quran also provide glimpses of the contemporary social and religious setup during Prophet’s time, and that how the local people perceived and responded to Prophet’s preaching.

Quran witnessed that while on one hand, people embraced Islam, on other hand there were people who showed animosity towards Prophet’s teaching and tried to create obstructions. These opponents used harsh accusations against Prophet that fall under the definition of blasphemy, which Quran has documented to show to Muslims the level of opposition and propaganda against the Prophet. As per Quran, these opponents called Prophet “Sahir” a magician (10:2; 38:4), “Kazzab”, a liar (38:4), “Majnoon”, mad (68:51), “Shaair Majnoon”, mad poet (37:36). Quran also witnesses that the actions of these opponents had put the Prophet under stress and grieve. We know that you are saddened by what they say (6:33).

Allah has cursed those people and warned them of a great retribution. Indeed, those who abuse Allah and His Messenger – Allah has cursed them in this world and the Hereafter and prepared for them a humiliating punishment (33:57). However, Allah has never instructed or ordered Prophet or the Muslim community to kill or punish those people, but rather advised to be patient. And certainly were messengers denied before you, but they were patient over denial, and they were harmed until Our victory came to them (6:34).

A very clear instruction from Allah; be patient, and ignore and avoid them.

And be patient, and your patience is not but through Allah. And do not grieve over them and do not be in distress over what they conspire (16:127).

Endure with patience whatever people may say and avoid them with a gracious avoidance (73:10).

Ultimately, the truth will prevail,

You are not by the favor of your Lord, a madman (68:3). So you will see and they will see, which of you is afflicted with madness (68:5-6)

There is no mentioning or even hint to retaliate, verbally or physically, against those people who put Prophet under stress and grieve, nor any punishment instructions. But rather a highly dignified and graceful advice to ignore and avoid them. Because what these opponents of the Prophet were doing were baseless, disgraceful and deplorable acts that indicated the low mental and moral levels of those people. A retaliation means that one has to come down to the same level as those people, which was neither suitable nor acceptable for the Prophet and his companions who preached and maintained highest levels of morality and human dignity. Rather, Allah advised him to stay focused on his goals and mission, and the time will show who is right and who is wrong, as the truth prevails.

Those acts of opponents had caused significant grief for Prophet as Quran documented, but what distinguishes an esteemed personality from a low intellect person is the consistent demonstration of high morals and gracious behavior during tough times. This was the practice of the Prophet along with his companions, which as per Quran, has been set as an example for all of us.

As far as the punishment is concerned, Allah has clearly mentioned that those people will face severe retribution for these acts in the life after. In other words, Allah has kept the responsibility on Himself to punish them and has not delegated this responsibility on us. Therefore, for any such act, we have to trust and leave it on Allah to deal with it.

The violent response of Muslims in general and Pakistanis in particular, against any blasphemy-related accusations has been seen for past several decades but a sharp increase in such incidents has been witnessed in the last few years. In fact, blasphemy-accusations has been used as an instrument to instigate violence and has led to a very negative impact, where the rest of the world sees Muslims and Pakistanis as intolerant aggressors, particularly towards people of other sects and religions.

A violent response or harsh punishment against the blasphemous person does more harm and damage to the Muslim cause then benefiting it. If we believe that the blasphemous claims against the Prophet or Islam are false and baseless, then the appropriate strategy, also advised by Allah in Quran, is to ignore them because these false and baseless claims or accusations cannot sustain or survive. A violent action or harsh punishment does not proof those claims to be false and baseless but rather gives an opposite perception. If one is determined to refute these blasphemous claims then the esteemed and effective approach would be to present a dignified rebuttal against those claims using scholarly resources to prove them false and baseless.

The violent reactions and verbal or physical retaliations tend to lose against blasphemers, the higher grounds of morality, dignity and gracefulness that the Prophet preached throughout his life and wanted to see in his followers. To maintain these higher grounds and a reputable position among the fellow global communities, the matter of blasphemy should be handled in a graceful and dignified manner by ignoring the blasphemers and leaving the matter for Allah to deal with, as He advised in Quran.

Kamran Siddiqui is a Professor at the University of Western Ontario in Canada.

2 Comments

  1. N.S.Kashghary says:

    A timely (and courageous ) article as the Supreme Court of Pakistan is going to commence the hearing of a 2014 appeal by Aasia Bibi, a condemned Christian woman, on blasphemy charges on Monday (Oct 8).

    Unfortunately the exponent proponents of death penalty for blasphemy use the same Quran, that the author has quoted from,to prove their case.

    The blasphemy laws have become part and parcel of the present day Pakistan and they are going to stay here for next few centuries,unless “something else” happens to change the geo-socio-political scenario of this part of the world altogether.

  2. It is unfortunate that day by day the majority of us Muslims in general and Pakistani Muslims in particular are getting further and further away from the essence of our beautiful religion. With the surge of fundamentalist approach, lack of knowledge and divisive ideas and above all mostly political gains, the essence of Islam is left far behind. The one fundamental rule of Islam is that human life is Allah’s creation and no one is allowed to harm it in any way. For the same reason suicide is a condemned action. In my opinion taking someone’s life is clear shirk because you place yourself equal to God to have the ability to take some one’s life. One cannot be mushrik and Muslim at the same time. As the author outlined nicely, the Prophet PBUH never allowed such acts in his times. The grace and dignity of our Prophet is far above this low level.
    In my opinion one big reason is the lack of genuine religious scholarship. Unfortunately our religious guidance and teachings are left to those who hardly have any knowledge of religion. These are the people who have the most influence on common people. Clearly, we have to go a long way to see any change.

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