The Blasphemy law: (From being unIslamic to Islamic)

Pakistan is again in the spotlight internationally, due to a controversial death sentence against a Christian woman. The woman was accused of blasphemy last year and has been prison since. Just few weeks earlier she was charged with ‘blasphemy’ under the article 295 -c of the constitution of Pakistan. The only crime she committed was act out of anger upon her discrimination by her fellow workers. Yes, it will cost her, her life.

The blasphemy law has been on and off the discussion table for some time, since its ‘renewal’ in the mid 1980’s, it has disturbed lives of many Pakistani citizens, even Muslims. Many individuals and human rights activists have protested against it, even demanded its repeal, but the manipulative religion-political fractions of Pakistan have always enticed the ‘Muslim emotions’ on this issue. They claim it to be an ‘Islamic’ law. Lets take some time to see what is Islamic about it.

Background:

The blasphemy law was first constituted in medieval Britain. From the 16th century to the mid-19th century, blasphemy against the Church of England was held as an offense against common law. Blasphemy was also used as a legal instrument to persecute atheists, Unitarians, and others. The law was considered ‘Biblical’ in that era.

Introduction of the blasphemy law in Pakistan:

The blasphemy law was first introduced to the Pakistan Penal Code in 1860 by the British government as the means to protect the Muslim minority against the Hindu majority but offering all religions equal protection (Section 295). Before that, there was no blasphemy law in the sub-continent of India. Hence it is safe to say that the law was derived from the British version of the blasphemy law with minor changes to be applicable within the sub-continent.

Re-birth of blasphemy law:

After the division in 1947, this law came in as a heritage, though it went somewhere in the background. In 1977, however, the dictator General Zia-ul-Huq began a process of Islamising the Pakistani constitution (with his version of Islam).  In 1982, a presidential ordinance made defiling the Holy Qur’an punishable by life imprisonment (Section 295-A and B), whilst in 1991, General Zia made Sharia Law became the supreme law in Pakistan.

The death penalty:

Under pressure from religious extremists, the blasphemy law was again amended in 1986 to include defamation of the Holy Prophet, whether directly or indirectly, both in spoken and written form, as well as by way of impersonation (Section 295-C).  For the first time, blasphemy also carried the possibility of the death sentence.  In 1991, when the Federal Shariah Court rescinded the option of life imprisonment, the death penalty became an automatic punishment for anyone found guilty of blasphemy.

Repercussions:

After its re-activation, Pakistani courts were filled with cases of blasphemy, Muslims charging minorities, even other Muslims for blasphemy. For a Muslim, blasphemy is a very emotional subject, hence many used this loop-hole on their enemies, murders were carried out in broad day light and the victim was convicted of blasphemy, which shadowed the murderer with the support from the local clergy.

Conclusion:

Blasphemy law is an amenity provided by the state for anyone to settle their contentions. The law is man-made, derived from another intolerant imperial law not from the Holy Scriptures. Islam is a peaceful and tolerant religion. Practice of such laws in an Islamic state and labeling them Islamic has hurt the cause of Islam and Pakistan.

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About Hasan
A Muslim with a slightly different perspective. A student of history, theology and science.

23 Responses to The Blasphemy law: (From being unIslamic to Islamic)

  1. shah says:

    islam give this authority to the Mullah , if there is nothing found about a problem in quran and sunnha , ulllama can sort it out through consultation

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  3. Hasan says:

    sameen

    respected sir
    after reading your critique of my comment i am compelled to give a comprehensive answer…………so i will try to finish it tonight inshallah as i should give authentic refrences and what i have come to understand from them………..so please bear with me…….also debating with you has made me realize that i should clear some things first!
    1. we are both muslims!
    2. we both respect and love all our prophets including our last prophet Muhammad(pbuh).
    3. our intention of this dialogue is hopefully to reach a consensus rather than out do eachother with our respective opinions.
    4. we will both be honest about our affiliations that we are not writting all this under the pressure of any religo political or liberal secular group!

    my answer will come any way but i hope if these points are kept in mind ………then something useful may come out of this debate.

    You are right, atleast my intention is to clear the name of my religion (Islam) from this repelling man made law known as blasphemy law.

    You are welcome to put forward your references from Qura’an, Hadith and Islamic history.

  4. sameen says:

    mr hasan what you have provided is very basic with some biases………like about zia and saying “his version of islam” i suppose yours is better………but then again wasnt there just one islam………this law is applicable in a practicing islamic country according to sharia………all the uproar and sentiments concerning this law in the first place are quite misplaced…………it doesnt give death penalty in all cases………that depends on the act of blasphemy………secondly not once in pakistan’s history has anyone been given death penalty under this law………..thirdly its as aplicable to muslims as to non muslims thus it has no enemity with any minority!……………..killing people or giving punishments outside of law has never been endorsed in islam as you yourself very well know!………but the issue here is more deep…………..forcing a liberal/secular agenda on a people fundmentally orthodox is foolish………as far as ameniding this law is concerned ……….yes that is quite possible but then again who will do it…………the secular liberal sects who would rather do away with it then amend it…………….the main problem is lack of trust between the people and the ruling govt…………its not merely relegion as all of you prefer to call it………all this anarchy arises when a state refuses to grant justice to it citizens………when blatant abuse of human rights prevails………..when secular minds try to define what they dont beleive in…………….Islam is only one………..there are no versions…………..either you accept or dont………….truth is only one either you accept it or dont!……….gay marriages and alcohol drinking are hallmarks of a secular society indeed but they are not the only evils that prove you are a secular…………….denying the word of god and questioninghe authenticity of hadeeth is just the same for us fundamentalists or extremists as you love to label us…………..oh i forgot maulvi too……………your logic over compassion as you and nadeem farooq paracha and the likes of you an him claim is not logic at all to us fundos……………the logic i relate to will find in the article i qouted………….the rest of the logic i prefer will be compiled soon inshallah!

    • Hasan says:

      Dear Sameen,

      I just don’t get since when did religion become so complicated especially Islam! I would like to know if in a (Shariah practicing) country Hindus and many others are allowed polytheism (blasphemy towards Allah) all you are concerned is about blasphemy towards Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).

      We allow Christians in Pakistan to believe that Jesus (peace be upon him) is the son of God (again blasphemy towards Allah and the Prophet of Islam [peace be upon him]) but we will punish those who do blasphemy towards the Prophet (peace be upon him).

      Correct me if I am wrong, doesn’t this (Muslim) belief (God forbid) put Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) above Allah?

      • sameen says:

        respected sir………….you keep on amusing me………..letting a minority practice their faith is called tolerance not blasphemy………………one cannot force a minority enter the folds of islam………..the blasphemy law is for all prophets and all holy books not only for quran majeed or the last prophet………….i am amzed you didnt know that…………….this was the last amendment made to it…………..blasphemy means disrespect or slander of a personality or book not Allah…………Allah is the God ……………polytheism or atheism is shirk!………..not blasphemy…………Allah expects us to fulfill what he orders in th quran…………as far as non muslims are concerned we are ordered not to force them into religion we can just convey the message through our good actions or through debate but we cannot force them……………if they insist on polytheism Allah says he will himself do whatever he wants with them on the day of judgment…but when a man has enterd the fold of islam then the laws apply to him and if he doesnt abide by sharia he can be forced but that also only by law not by ppl………..but on the other hand where huimans are concerned he tells us that the respect,money,land and life of other muslims is haram on us………….this is for common muslims only for anbiya and the holy scriptures the respect is greater……………our prophet was a human………………….Allah says that if in the rights of men you take anyones right away then i cannot forgive you unless the man concerned forgives you…………Allah may or may not forgive us if we dont fulfill his rights but his law says that he cannot forgive those who take the rights of their fellow humans……………….so you see if fellow human are so importan how cant the prophets be so important…………….you tell me as a journalist you know verywell there is a law for libel and slander right!…………..dont you think that should be done away with………….i mean our prophets dont need a law to protect their name why should we?…………right or are we above him then?……………….hmmm your logic sir is unable to appeal to me……………..but since i am a maulvi…………….i probably dont get logic right?……….i am still compiling what you asked for.

        • Hasan says:

          Allah is the God ……………polytheism or atheism is shirk!………..not blasphemy

          Wow! so according to you ‘shirk’ has a different definition than blasphemy? The polytheist and the atheists totally defy the whole concept of God, so according to you that is ‘technically’ not blasphemy. The fact that God has weird faces (according to Hindus), or God is an earthly being (according to Christians and others) or the fact that there is no God (according to the atheists) is not blasphemy at all?

          as far as non muslims are concerned we are ordered not to force them into religion we can just convey the message through our good actions or through debate but we cannot force them

          Exactly! this is what we learn from Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), every one in Mecca (except Muslims) was a blasphemer, everyone in Taif was a blasphemer, I bet you if the punishment for blasphemy was written in Qura’an, He wouldn’t have had hesitated for once prosecuting those who were convicted of blasphemy. But what did he do? He forgave! Allah has clearly told us in the Holy Qura’an

          [33:57] Verily, those who malign Allah and His Messenger — Allah has cursed them in this world and in the Hereafter, and has prepared for them an abasing punishment.

          – Surah Al Ahzaab

          I think the message is clear here. The punishment of such people who commit blasphemy towards God and His prophets is upto God and God alone.

          but when a man has enterd the fold of islam then the laws apply to him and if he doesnt abide by sharia he can be forced but that also only by law not by ppl

          You continue to mutilate the very concept of Islam Miss, if ‘force’ was necessary, then Allah shouldn’t have had said the following:

          [2:256] There should be no compulsion in religion. Surely, right has become distinct from wrong; so whosoever refuses to be led by those who transgress, and believes in Allah, has surely grasped a strong handle which knows no breaking. And Allah is All-Hearing, All-Knowing

          [2:257] Allah is the friend of those who believe: He brings them out of every kind of darkness into light. And those who disbelieve, their friends are the transgressors who bring them out of light into every kind of darkness. These are the inmates of the Fire; therein shall they abide.

          – Al-Baqarah

          Again, it is ALLAH to decide the punishment for those who ‘claim’ to be Muslims but are not.

          Allah may or may not forgive us if we dont fulfill his rights but his law says that he cannot forgive those who take the rights of their fellow humans……………….so you see if fellow human are so importan how cant the prophets be so important…………….you tell me as a journalist you know verywell there is a law for libel and slander right!

          Your analogy is ABSOLUTELY spot on! now if someone speaks ill of the Prophets (any of them) the matter is now between them (the Prophet[s] whom are in question), the blasphemer and Allah. Right? since when did me and you start deciding these matters?

          History proves that Prophet Muhammad didn’t really care for blasphemers rather he just simply ignored them until they got tired. The famous story of the woman who used to throw trash on the Prophet (peace be upon him), those people who put camel junk on the Prophet (peace be upon him) while he was praying in Bait-ul-Haram, when Hadhrat Fatima (may God be pleased with her) saw him in this situation, she came crying and started putting it off him. Who in all these people including those in Taif was ‘killed’ or ‘cursed’ upon by the Prophet (peace be upon him)? Rather He prayed for their guidance, asked Allah (who became furious at these incidents) for mercy. That is the man who is my leader, my beacon.

          .dont you think that should be done away with………….i mean our prophets dont need a law to protect their name why should we?…………right or are we above him then?

          The verses I quoted above (from Surah Al-Ahzab) clearly say that the matter of ‘slander’ towards God and Prophets is to be decided by GOD ALONE. If you equate Prophets’ characters same as any other human beings then again your maligning the very institute of Prophet-hood.

          The Prophets are far far more better than a ‘normal’ human being in every way. The slander laws are meant for ‘ordinary’ humans like you and me who might do something really vicious, create disorder in the society when abused or slandered.

          Tell me, are you at that level where you forgive someone for putting camel junk on you while you are praying? Or you forgive someone who throws trash on you on your way to the mosque? Can you forgive those who stone you to near death and drive you out of a city where you went in with a message of Peace?

          I bet you will not be able to stay calm if someone slaps you, you might be able to bear it once, may be twice, or thrice but you will not stand it the next time and you start equating Prophets with you (as a normal human being)?

          Please bring forth the evidences from Qura’an in favor of this blasphemy law. I am eagerly waiting for it.

          • sameen says:

            respected sir
            after reading your critique of my comment i am compelled to give a comprehensive answer…………so i will try to finish it tonight inshallah as i should give authentic refrences and what i have come to understand from them………..so please bear with me…….also debating with you has made me realize that i should clear some things first!
            1. we are both muslims!
            2. we both respect and love all our prophets including our last prophet Muhammad(pbuh).
            3. our intention of this dialogue is hopefully to reach a consensus rather than out do eachother with our respective opinions.
            4. we will both be honest about our affiliations that we are not writting all this under the pressure of any religo political or liberal secular group!

            my answer will come any way but i hope if these points are kept in mind ………then something useful may come out of this debate.

  5. readinglord says:

    It appears from the apostasy and blasphemy killings that the prophets are sent by God to exterminate human beings and not to civilise and humanize them. Here is a tradition which I heard from a sufi bazurg:

    It appears from the apostasy and blasphemy killings that the prophets are sent by God to exterminate human beings and not to civilize and humanize them. Here is a tradition which I heard from a sufi bazurg:

    “An Arab committed some misdemeanor in the presence of the prophet . A Sahaabi, HazratUmar Farooq, was so enraged that he took out his sword to kill the Arab, but the prophet prevented him from doing that by saying, “Do you want, Umar, to make me exterminate the Arabs whom I have come to civilize and save.”

    Question arises: Why should God who reminds the Arabs (includingMushrikiin, of course) that He had saved them from an imminent disaster by sending rehmatulaalimiin and who loves human beings more than their mothers can be so blood-thirsty (na-auz-billah)? But man is zaloomun jahoolan as Allama Iqbal hads said:

    “کسے خبر تھی کہ لے کر چراغے (حرمتے) مصطفوی
    جہاں میں آگ لگاتی پھرے گی (مللائی) بولہبی”

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  11. isa says:

    a’S-Selaamu `alaykum Akhee Hasan.

    I have posted the below in your
    “Why blasphemy law is not Islamic” page, and wished to also post it here, as the topic is the same, and has been left unanswered. Albeit, this reply has been slight modified to reflect your question b’idhni’L-Laah. Please excuse me if the following edited version of the original reply does not flow as well as its original:

    Akhee Hasan, you state:

    Ok Kashif, I would like you to prove it from the Holy Qura’an this divine code of death. Give me references from the Qura’an and Hadith. . .

    In Surah an-Nisaa’, Aayah 91, Allaah `Azza wa Jall states (in the translation of the meaning):

    You will find others who wish to obtain security from you and [to] obtain security from their people. Every time they are returned to disbelief, they fall back into it. So if they do not withdraw from you or offer you peace or restrain their hands, then seize them and kill them wherever you overtake them. And those – We have made for you against them a clear authorization.

    The Aayah clearly talks about apostasy. Returning to disbelief is only possible after belief. Hence apostasy. And you read yourself that the Aayah commands us (under an Islaamic State) to kill them.

    You continue:

    . . . Give me a tradition where in the life of the Holy Prophet or during Khilafat-e-Rashidah, a blasphemer was given death sentence. . .

    The Prophet SallaaAllaahu `alayhi wa Sallam had ordered it. Ahaadeeth regarding this will be provided later on inshaaAllaah. Anyway, you yourself give ripe examples of this in your recount of all the people during his, SallaaAllaahu `alayhi wa Sallam’s time, with the exception of Abdullah ibn Khatal in your example. Until you bring proof that he was killed purely due to the crime of murdering his female slave, then I will have to respectfully contest your claim, and say that he was killed on all counts charged, including apostasy. Also the case of Miqyas ibn Subabah (somehow you made the same typo twice :p) holds the same reasoning. He was killed on both charges, i.e. murder and apostasy. Unless you can clearly prove otherwise, I will remain unchanged in my thoughts regarding the issue, alongside other Muslims that feel the same way.

    The Prophet SallaaAllaahu `alayhi wa Sallam intended very much so to kill the apostates (or at the very least, to have them killed), but due to his beloved fellow Sahaabah requesting clemency on the apostates’ behalf that he, SallaaAllaahu `alayhi wa Sallam came across, for whatever reason they had, he, SallaaAllaahu `alayhi wa Sallam granted it. It was also granted to Habbar ibn al-Aswad, due to Habbar Radiya’L-Laahu `anh claiming ignorance. As you are well aware, there are different types of apostasy. Some that do not require an immediate execution. It seems that most of the examples you gave were of that type, w’Allaahu A`lam.

    So, the issue is as simple as that. You must agree that if there were no interventions on behalf of the apostates’, then surely we would have had a few records of seeing apostates being killed.

    The Saheeh Sunnah indicates that it is essential to put the apostate to death. Here are Ahaadeeth from Imaam al-Bukhaari rahimahu’L-Laah regarding apostates, sharing our beloved Prophet SallaaAllaahu `alayhi wa Sallam’s view on the matter:

    `Abdullaah ibn Mas`ood said: The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “ It is not permissible to shed the blood of a Muslim who bears witness that there is no god except Allaah and that I am the Messenger of Allaah, except in one of three cases : a soul for a soul (i.e., in the case of murder); a previously-married person who commits zina; and one who leaves his religion and separates from the main body of the Muslims.

    Narrated Ikrima, “Some atheists were brought to Ali and he burnt them. The news of this event, reached Ibn Abbas who said, “If I had been in his place, I would not have burnt them, as Allah’s messenger forbade it, saying, “Do not punish anybody with Allah’s punishment (fire).” I would have killed them according to the statement of Allah’s Messenger, “Whoever changed his Islamic religion, then kill him.”

    Narrated Abu Bruda, “Abu Musa said…..Behold there was a fettered man beside Abu Musa. Muadh asked, “Who is this (man)?” Abu Musa said, “He was a Jew and became a Muslim and hen reverted back to Judaism.” Then Abu Musa requested Muadh to sit down but Muadh said, “I will not sit down till he has been killed. This is the judgment of Allah and his messenger,” and repeated it thrice. Then Abu Musa ordered that the man be killed, and he was killed. Abu Musa added, “Then we discussed the night prayers”

    This last narration is especially meaningful, as it shows that apostasy is punishable by death according to both Allaah and His Messenger’s judgment.

    And from Imaam Muslim we have the following Hadeeth:

    `Abdullaah ibn Mas`ood said: The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “ It is not permissible to shed the blood of a Muslim who bears witness that there is no god except Allaah and that I am the Messenger of Allaah, except in one of three cases : a soul for a soul (i.e., in the case of murder); a previously-married person who commits zina; and one who leaves his religion and separates from the main body of the Muslims.
    I know, Imaam Bukhaari also narrated the above Hadeeth.

    You must concede, that even though we may have no authentic sources relaying incidents where there were apostates being killed due to apostasy, bar the ibn Khatal and Miqyas ibn Subabah, Radiya’L-Laahu `anhumaa examples, Rasulu’L-Laah

    SallaaAllaahu `alayhi wa Sallam had every intention to do so.

    As for the matter of apostates being killed during the time of the Khulafaa’i Raashideen, I am surprised that you didn’t recall the Riddah Wars and when `Ali ibn Abi Taalib Radiya’L-Laahu `anh had the heretics that claimed he was Allaah (la ilaaha !) burnt? Both instances were clearly a reciprocation for apostasy!

    So there you go Akhee Hasan. Proofs from Al-Qur’aan, Saheeh Sunnah and from the time of the Khulafaa’i Raashideen that apostates are to be killed.

    Having had said this, I wish to stress a point I barely touched upon earlier on inshaaAllaah. And that is not all apostates are to be killed straight away. As far as I understood from my research, there are two types of apostates. The type that is not given a chance, and killed on the spot. Then there is the other type that is asked to come back to Islaam, and given advice regarding their doubts that took them away from Islaam in the first place. After three days of this, if they repent, and become Muslim, great! Otherwise, it is the death sentence for them.

    And I ask Allaah `Azza wa Jall to protect us from apostating, and I ask Him to raise us up amongst the Saaliheen, aameen, Allaahumma aameen, thumma aameen!

    Any mistakes within what I have written are from myself and shaytaan, and all correct information is from Allaah.

    SubhaanAllaaha wa bi hamdiK, ash’hadu an laa ilaaha illaa Ant, astaghfiruka wa atoobu ilayK.

    Your Brother,
    Isa,

    wa’S-Selaamu `alaykum

  12. Salman Arshad says:

    @ Hassan:

    Here is a very comprehensive list of hadiths that explain why the Blasphemy law is perfectly Islamic.

    www dot ahlehadith dot com/mazameendetailcfc0.php?mid=184&cid=38

    • Hasan says:

      Dear Brother Salman,

      My question is simple, If blasphemy towards a Prophet (any Prophet) is punishable by death, what is the punishment of blasphemy towards Allah? Allah is the supreme power right? We respect Allah, we pray to Allah, the idolaters in Pakistan are free to do blasphemy towards Allah. Is that justified?

      Are we not (God for bid) equating Prophets with God?

  13. Thank you for this information. It clears up a question I have had while researching this situation in Pakistan. Some of the law’s more strident, Pakistani Muslim opponents have been talking about how this a throw back to colonialism. The first time a read it, I thought it was a typo, but now it makes perfect sense.

    I appreciate what you are doing here. It seems we may have similar goals, though mine is directed towards trying to point out the lies and distortions that many have promoted in the name of Christianity and Jesus of Nazareth. I wish I had a dollar for every time I am accused of being a heretic (which, if of course, I am, if I protest the current false orthodoxy). Kashif’s remark is typical of what I encounter: the assumption by the (all due respect) pseudo-orthodox is that I am being arrogant by interpreting scriptures, yet they easily forget (or ignore) that their doctrines and dogmas are based upon the personal interpretations of others and that the faith they claim to represent is in no way monolithic. The ‘fundamentalist’ mind set is rarely based upon the fundamental teachings of Jesus or Mohammed (pbuh).

    • Hasan says:

      I wish you Good luck in your noble cause, and request prayers for myself. I understand what you might encounter, but I believe we have a duty to spread the true word of God, I believe all religions are one and the same, because they were all meant for us to know and feel the presence of God.

      The trouble with the human mind (as it has been from the beginning) is that it cannot adhere to change that easily. Something you have known (or thought) to be true since childhood, isn’t easy to deny when the mind is mature. But we can float a thought around and hope for a noble soul to re-think what he or she have been believing in for so long.

  14. kashifiat says:

    Pls read from here

    http://kashifiat.wordpress.com/2010/11/28/%D8%A2%D8%B3%DB%8C%DB%81-%DA%A9%DB%8C%D8%B3-%DA%A9%D8%A7-%D8%AA%D8%AC%D8%B2%DB%8C%DB%81-%D8%A7%D9%88%D8%B1-%D9%82%D8%A7%D9%86%D9%88%D9%86-%D8%AA%D9%88%DB%81%D8%A6%D9%86-%D8%B1%D8%B3%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AA/

  15. kashifiat says:

    Who give you the authority to conclude that its Man made law, You need to learn from Islamic teachings. Death sentence is 100% according to the teaching of Islam, Its divine code.

    • Hasan says:

      Ok Kashif, I would like you to prove it from the Holy Qura’an this divine code of death. Give me references from the Qura’an and Hadith. Give me a tradition where in the life of the Holy Prophet or during Khilafat-e-Rashidah, a blasphemer was given death sentence.

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