For the last time, there is no ‘blasphemy law’ in Islam

The fair name of Islam has recently been darkened by the murderous directive issued by certain Muslim leaders and endorsed by their supporters that Aasia Bibi must be assassinated as a result of her making blasphemous remarks about the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). Aasia Bibi might be guilty of blasphemy but this is not an offense for which the death penalty is prescribed by Islam. Not at all. No such instruction is contained in the Holy Qur’an and it is a significant point to bear in mind, that not one protagonist demanding her assassination has quoted a single verse from the Holy Qur’an as a basis of authority.

No Prophet of God was more blasphemed, maligned, insulted and abused during his lifetime than the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him).  He and his faithful followers were subjected to every kind of verbal invective and physical harassment. He was forced to migrate from Mecca to Medina due to the severity of persecution by the Meccans. Ten years later he returned to Mecca with ten thousand followers who could have taken the town by storm but the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) forbade any bloodshed. Much to the amazement of the Meccans he forgave them their cruel enormities and this was his general attitude throughout his life towards his enemies and blasphemous opponents. All Muslims look upon the Holy Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, as a perfect exemplar for mankind and they would do well to be moved and guided by his noble example.

There is no mention in the Holy Qur’an or anywhere else of any punishment for a blasphemous act. The consequences of her blasphemy in this world and in the next life lie solely in the hands of God. Humans are free to accept or reject whatever they believe in. God says in the Holy Qur’an:

‘There is no compulsion in religion.’ (2:256)

‘It is the truth from your Lord; wherefore let him who will believe and let him who will disbelieve.’ (18:29)

Islam recognizes the right of freedom of conscience and freedom of belief and that as far as one’s religious belief is concerned one is answerable to God alone. No man has the right to punish another for his choice of belief. There is absolutely no compulsion whatsoever in Islam and no punishment of any kind permitted in the Holy Qur’an for blasphemy.

Human rights are laid down in the Holy Qur’an which guarantee man the right of perfect freedom of faith and conscience. In such matters God is the Judge – not man.

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Why blasphemy law is not ‘Islamic’

After my previous post on the subject of ‘The Blasphemy law: (From being unIslamic to Islamic)’, I have been getting a lot of hatred for calling the law un-Islamic. Sadly, all of it is coming from (so called) Muslims. It is a disappointment that people do not ponder into religious history in the light of the Holy Qur’an and the traditions of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). I was shocked to see people defending the law as if it was a part of some Holy Scripture.

None of them could answer my simple questions that were

“Give me any example where the Allah commanded to kill the blasphemer? Why didn’t The Prophet (peace be upon him) killed any blasphemer in his life? Why is it, that this ‘blasphemy law’ wasn’t in place during the Khilafat-e-Rashidah (the period of ruling of the four Caliphs of Islam)?”

While many came up with stories about it, some just opted to talk rubbish. The stories were fascinating, I was amazed to see how individuals can distort facts just to gain their interest and influence. Not only it is a distortion of facts about the personality of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) but it is a distortion of the teachings of the peaceful religion called Islam.

The (so called) scholars focus on the execution orders that were given out by the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) on the day of Mecca’s conquest. Here are some names and their real cases:

Abdullah ibn Sa’d:

Abdullah ibn Sa’ d, who had become Muslim and been appointed as a scribe of revelation by the Prophet. He later reneged and joined the infidels. After the Conquest of Mecca, when he heard that the Prophet had ordered his execution, he took refuge with his milk-brother Uthman. The latter gave him shelter, then took him to the Prophet with a request once again to accept his conversion to Islam. The Prophet remained silent. Then Uthman asked a second time, whereupon the Prophet accepted Abdullah ibn Sa’d’s oath of allegiance. The latter subsequently became governor of Egypt during the caliphate of  Umar and Uthman, playing a major part in the conquest of Africa.

Abdullah ibn Khatal:

Abdullah ibn Khatal, who had previously accepted Islam and been sent by the Prophet to collect alms tax. A slave and one of the Ansar (dweller of Medina) went along with him. Coming to a halt in their journey, Abdullah ibn Khatal told the slave to prepare a chicken for a meal, but the slave went to sleep instead, and was unable to prepare the food in time. Abdullah ibn Khatal became angry and killed the slave. Fearing that if he returned to Medina, the Prophet would exact retribution for the slave’s death, he reneged and joined the infidels. On the day Mecca was conquered, he was executed upon orders of the Prophet (peace be upon him), not for apostasy, not for blasphemy, but for the killing of the slave.

Miqyas ibn Ayubabah:

Miqyas ibn Ayubabah, Hisham ibn Ayubabah’s brother. In the Dhu Qarad campaign, an Ansari(Medina dweller) had killed Hisham by mistake. After this Miqyas came to Medina and accepted Islam. He asked the Prophet for compensation for his brother’s death, and his request was granted. He stayed in Medina for a few days, then killed the person responsible for his brother’s death, escaped to Mecca and reneged. The Prophet ordered that he be put to death.

Ikrimah ibn Abu Jahl:

Ikrimah ibn Abu Jahl who, following in his father’s footsteps, was an uncompromising opponent of Islam. Seeing that he was sure to meet his end in Mecca, he fled to the Yemen. His wife, Umm Hakim bint Harith, who had accepted Islam, appealed to the Prophet for asylum on behalf of her husband. Her request was granted, and she went to the Yemen to collect Ikrimah. He returned with her and became Muslim at the hand of the Prophet.

Habbar ibn al-Aswad:

Habbar ibn al-Aswad, who had been responsible for great persecution of the Muslims. When the Prophet’s daughter Zaynab, was on her way from Mecca to Medina, he stabbed her camel’s side with a spear. The camel went into a frenzy and Zaynab fell down. She was with a child at that time. Not only did she suffer a miscarriage, but the effects of the mishap remained with her for the rest of her life. Orders were given for him to be killed, but he came to the Prophet and pleaded for mercy. “Prophet of God,” he said, “forgive my ignorance. Let me become a Muslim.” The Prophet forgave him.

Where in all of these events, was an execution for blasphemy? One should remember that before the migration of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), all the time he spent in Mecca was among those who used to conspire his murder, abuse him in front of the crowds, attack him and chase him through streets. Why were those people set free? Of course the ones who were executed were also blasphemers, but the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was a greater man. He never seek revenge upon anyone for his personal grudges.

If however, we are lead to believe that the Prophet (peace be upon him) ordered those executions on the basis of ‘crimes of blasphemy’ then it will make it seem like that was (God forbid) an act of revenge. Qur’an is clear about revenge

‘And the recompense of an injury is an injury the like thereof; but who so forgives and his act brings about reformation, his reward is with Allah. Surely, He loves not the wrongdoers.’

[Ch. 42 V.41]

There had been incidents where even God wanted to take revenge for the abuse and blasphemy done with Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), the famous incident of Ta’if should be recalled. The Prophet asked God for their mercy from God not revenge!

For those who still think the infamous blasphemy law is Islamic, they should re-visit Islamic history and see on that day when Mecca was down on its knees, Prophet Muhammad had all the chance to take revenge from each and every living being in that city. If blasphemy law was Islamic, the Mecca should have had been bathing in blood. The truth is death penalties have never been common in Islam.

The actions and decisions of the Prophet (peace be upon him) on that day clearly showed the world that he was a very wise intellectual and what he did on that day was justice to those who were wronged by these individuals mentioned above.

Islam: Religion of Peace (Part 10: Militant elements)

PreviousPart 9 Read from the beginning

The growing talk of militancy and the use of force which we hear, needs to be carefully analyzed before we can understand the importance of this bizarre phenomenon. The narrow, non-tolerant attitude is certainly becoming more popular with the Muslim ‘clergy’ in almost all Muslim countries. The responsibility for this mainly lies on the shoulders of Saudi Arabia, which is attempting to capture the imagination of the whole Muslim world and seems resolved to spread its political influence under a religious guise. As it enjoys the unique advantage of being the custodian of the two holiest cities in Islam, Mecca and Medina, it is certainly in a position to exploit this situation to its best advantage.

The religious philosophy of the Saudis emanates from Wahabism, which draws its inspiration from the non-tolerant world of medieval Islam rather than from the more understanding and benign Islam of the time of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him). The spread of Saudi influence is aided by Saudi petro-dollars and the colossal size of Saudi bank balances in major banks throughout the world. It is to the credit of Saudi Arabia that part of the interest accruing from these colossal investments is being used to form channels of aid from Saudi Arabian coffers to the poorer Muslim nations with sizable Muslim populations. More often than not, this aid is provided not to boost their ailing economies, but to build mosques, training schools and institutes producing scholars of a Saudi brand.

Hence, wherever you follow the flow of Saudi aid, you will also observe a rapid increase in the narrow, non-tolerant attitudes of Muslim ‘clergy’. No doubt, when the Christian world hears these voices roundly condemning all non-Islamic values and preaching jihad (that is, holy war), against non-Islamic governments, they are led to believe that the talk of this holy war will readily be translated into actual belligerency. What is happening is in fact completely different.

The Muslim ‘clergy’ talks highly about holy wars and the utter destruction of non-Islamic forces. What they actually mean by non-Islamic forces is not Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, or atheist forces. According to their view, all Muslim sects other than their own are either no Muslim in their character or hold to doctrines that render them liable to earn the wrath of Allah and His true servants. The real enemies of Islam, as they discern them, are not non-Muslims but some sects of Islam within the world of Islam. The awakening militant tendencies are much more directed by Muslims of one sect against Muslims of another sect than against non-Muslims. This is why so much stress is laid by them on capital Punishment for Apostasy. That is their weapon against Muslims who differ on some doctrinal issues from the majority sect of a country. These sects are, in fact, dealt the death-blow in two steps—first, their doctrines are declared to be non-Islamic, which earns them the title of apostates; and second, the doctrine of death being the penalty for apostasy, they are considered liable to be executed.

A neutral observer will agree that this growing militant tendency is creating disorder among the Muslims themselves and that it is responsible for generating extreme hatred in the hearts of adherents of one sect against the adherents of another. No one who has even a remote understanding of modern warfare can imagine a real threat from so-called ‘Islamic’ militancy. Of course, there is danger in these growing tendencies and one is bound to be perturbed by them. The danger from ‘Islamic’ militancy is a threat to the world of Islam itself; it is an inward-looking threat which is destroying the peace of Muslims everywhere. All the intolerance, narrow-mindedness and bigotry which we observe in the Muslim world today is playing havoc with the peace of the Muslim world.

Islam: Religion of Peace (Part 9: Khomenism)

PreviousPart 8

There is a long history of growing Iranian consciousness of its exploitation and enslavement by foreign powers of one type or another. Despite the fact that a very large majority of Iranians are Muslims.  One cannot ignore the fact that Iranians have never been able to forget or forgive the conquest by Arabs of their homelands. Although the wounds appeared to have been healed long ago and many potent factors such as commonality of religion and common enmity against other countries have played an important role in cementing the Iranians to the Arabs, it cannot be denied that there is still an undercurrent of dissatisfaction at the Arab domination of Iran for the past few centuries. One must also bear in mind that in the pre-Islamic era, Iran could boast one of the most powerful and illustrious civilizations ever to have influenced mankind anywhere in the world. At the inception of Islam, the Arabs knew of only two worlds—that in the West, dominated by the Roman Empire, and that in the East, commanded and governed by the Chosroes of Iran. The memories of that remote and glorious past, though subdued to some extent by the strong influence of Islamic brotherhood, could not entirely be wiped out. There always has been along and lingering shadow of the great Iranian civilization in the hearts of Iranian intellectuals.

The long history of Iranian-Arab feuds and Iranian punitive excursions into Arabia also left ugly and irritating scars on the Arab minds which even the great healer, time, could not obliterate. This is only human. People throughout the world may sometimes find it difficult to dissociate themselves from the past or to forget injuries and insults to their honor. Such chapters of history are never permanently closed but are opened again and again.

Let us now turn to more modern times It is not against the Arabs alone that the Iranians have been nursing their grievances. During the Second World War, the Iranians were subjected to a worse kind of domination by predominantly British forces. Whilst in the Arab case there had at least been the redeeming factor of a common cultural and religious bond, in the case of the British the chasm between the ruler and the ruled, rather than narrowing grew wider. Nor could it be bridged by any social, cultural or religious similarities.

After the decline of British influence there followed an era of indirect control and subjugation of Third World countries by the major powers through stooges and puppet regimes. It was in this period of neoimperialism that the Iranian protégé was transferred from the British lap to the American lap. The Shah of Iran thus became a symbol of American imperialism which supported conflicting ideologies to its own as it does today, for example, in Poland, Nicaragua, Israel and South Africa.

The fuel of hatred which was ultimately sparked off by the Khomeinian revolution was not only a product of American oppression but had been accumulating for centuries, like the subterranean reserves of oil and gas. The important point to note is that this hatred was not essentially religious in origin. If Khomeini had not exploited the hatred in the name of Islam, some communist leader would certainly have exploited it in the name of social justice. Whatever religious or irreligious name was given to the revolution, the underlying forces and factors would remain the same.

I have pointed out many times to those who regard excesses committed by Khomeini against some of his own people, and acts of revenge perpetrated in other countries, as Islamic in character that Islam as a religion has nothing to do with the expression of Iranian dissatisfaction. In a manner of speaking, the West should treat Ayatollah Khomeini as their benefactor rather than as their enemy. I say this because I am quite positive that if Khomeini had not exploited the situation and given it an Islamic face in order to support and perpetuate a junta of Muslim ‘clergy’, the situation would most certainly have been exploited by Iranian leaders of leftist inclination. The same Iran which we see as green sprinkled with red today would have instead appeared to us entirely red. It would be naive to say that the communist leadership created and trained by Dr Mossadeq had been weakened and enfeebled to such a degree at the time of the Shah’s overthrow that it could not have played an effective and revolutionary role at this epoch-making juncture of Iranian history. In fact, the communist leadership was well supported and trained. It was entirely ready to seize an opportunity. But for Ayatollah Khomeini, Iran could well have ended up as a radical Marxist regime. Such an event would have had disastrous consequences for the oil-rich but militarily weak Middle East. So even Khomeinian Islam—however gory and loathsome it may appear to the West—could be seen as a blessing in disguise. The role of Ayatollah Khomeini should be seen in this perspective.

It would be naive to say that the communist leadership created and trained by Dr Mossadeq had been weakened and enfeebled to such a degree at the time of the Shah’s overthrow that it could not have played an effective and revolutionary role at this epoch-making juncture of Iranian history. In fact, the communist leadership was well supported and trained. It was entirely ready to seize an opportunity. But for Ayatollah Khomeini, Iran could well have ended up as a radical Marxist regime. Such an event would have had disastrous consequences for the oil-rich but militarily weak Middle East. So even Khomeinian Islam—however gory and loathsome it may appear —could be seen politically as a blessing in disguise. The role of Ayatollah Khomeini should be seen in political perspective.

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Islam: Religion of Peace (Part 8: Examining Terrorism [Iranian Revolution])

PreviousPart 7

Let us turn to some particular illustrations of terrorism in order to diagnose the underlying maladies. We shall begin with Iran and see how Khomeinism came to be born. It is common knowledge that in the days of the Shah there was great prosperity. The highly ambitious industrial and economic development plans augured a bright future for the country. But can man live by bread alone? As far as Iranians under the despotic rule of the Shah were concerned, the answer was an emphatic ‘No’. They wanted to have a responsible share in the running of affairs in their own country. They could no longer just be satisfied with full stomachs. Their hunger for self-respect, dignity, their craving for freedom and liberation from a highly regimented system of oppression made them continuously restive and volatile. This situation was ripe for a violent and bloody revolution.

If the nature of this imminent revolution had not been essentially Islamic, it would have been a communist revolution and could have been even bloodier and more extreme. The turmoil which was to shake Iran from north to south and east to west was a natural and inevitable consequence of a long political oppression.  The negation of fundamental human rights and liberties, were also a subversion and exploitation by a great Western foreign power. Iran was aware of the fact that the despotic regime of the Shah was fully backed, supported and sanctioned by the government of the United States of America. The people’s hatred and urge for revenge did not stop at the toppling of the Shah’s regime and the destruction of all internal forces which in one way or another had been responsible for the maintenance of the monarchy.

The consciousness of American support had brought out the Shah the very worst of his despotic tendencies. He had been held in awe to begin with, but gradually awe gave way to terror. The fear of revolt stiffened his attitude even more with the passage of time. Gradually a police state of the worst type came to be born in Iran. With the passage of time Iranians became aware that the police state was fully and unequivocally supported by the government of the USA. The Shah played the part of a mere puppet whose strings were tied to the subtle, manipulating fingers of the USA. This, as it was mentioned above, led to a situation ripe for revolution motivated by a consuming fire of hatred.

The situation was capitalized upon by Ayatollah Khomeini. The ideology which he propounded to give color and complexion to his revolution was Shi’a Islam. But was it really the love of Shi’a Islam which generated hatred against the USA, or was it the name of Islam a mere facade to hide the underlying motives? Had Khomeini not raised the banner of Islam, would there not have been a revolution in some other name? Is it not a fact that had Khomeini not exploited the situation and given it an Islamic color and complexion, the same situation of hatred could have been equally exploited by a non-religious philosophy such as nationalism or scientific socialism?

In fact Khomeini outpaced forces which were coming fast at his heels and a given time might have overtaken him and all he stood for. That is why the situation in Iran became extremely complicated and confused. The basic urge of the revolution was not against communism or any leftist philosophy, but was aimed at the Shah and his mentors.  Though because there was a real likelihood of leftist leadership taking over the reins of revolution from Khomeini, he had to fight on three fronts simultaneously. After toppling the Shah, he not only undertook to eradicate and exterminate all supporters of the former Shah, but also to root out American influence wherever it was suspected to be. That in itself could have lent support to the leftist ideology, which if permitted to flourish unchecked, might have succeeded in snatching the power from Khomeini’s hands and replacing the Islamic ideology with Marxism-Leninism.

Fortunately for Ayatollah Khomeini, he was shrewd and powerful enough to wield the double-edged sword of Islamic ideology not only against American rightism but as effectively against Russian leftism.

But when all is said and done, it is clear that whatever else it was, it certainly was not Islam which guided and instructed the Iranian revolution. At best, you can if you wish, call what happened and is happening in Iran Khomeinism. The real forces at work are not truly and essentially religious in character. Political powers have exploited the reaction of the Iranians against the Shah to achieve purely political ends.

continued

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Islam: Religion of Peace (Part 7: Islamic Terrorism?)

PreviousPart 6

Many intellectuals today relate Islam closely to terrorism. Sadly, one cannot deny that on many occasions some Muslims are found involved in terrorist activities either on behalf of a group or on behalf of a country with a predominately Muslim population.

Are there not equally, other groups involved in terrorism and subversion throughout the world? Would it be fitting to label all brands of terrorism by using the same principle which gave birth to the term ‘Islamic terrorism’ creating a list of Sikh terrorism, Hindu terrorism, Christian terrorism, Jewish terrorism, atheist terrorism, Buddhist terrorism, Animist terrorism and pagan terrorism?

It is not easy to close one’s eyes to various brands of terrorism which unfortunately flourish all over the world; in fact, it is impossible for an observer not to be aware of the persecution, bloodshed and murder, often in the name of some purported ideal or noble cause. Terrorism is a global problem and needs to be studied in its larger perspective. Unless we understand the forces behind the violence, we shall not be able to understand why some Muslim groups and states are turning to terrorism to achieve certain objectives.

I am fully convinced that almost every form of communal violence witnessed in the world today, wherever that is and whatever cloak it wears, is essentially political in nature. Religion is not the exploiter; it is itself exploited by internal or external political interests.

For instance, we find terrorism generated by racism—but that, in the final analysis, is essentially political in nature. There are other small expressions of terrorism born out of rebellion and hatred against prevailing social systems and cultures. These are generally regarded as acts of madmen and anarchists. There is a special kind of terrorism which is related to the Mafia’s struggle for supremacy; this terrorism is directed by certain factions against other factions within the Mafia. Obviously, this terrorism is really a power struggle and therefore political.When we examine so-called ‘Islamic terrorism’, we discover political forces working behind an Islamic facade.  More often than not, the real manipulators and exploiters are not even Muslims themselves.

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Islam: Religion of Peace (Part 6: Freedom of belief)

PreviousPart 5

‘For you your religion, and for me my religion.’

[Ch. 109 v.7]

The verses quoted above clearly indicate that Islam tells its followers to tolerate other religions around them. The Holy Qur’an teaches Muslims to respect other people’s beliefs. Even within Islam there is no constraint or force. Every man’s belief is his own and no Muslim has the right to denounce that. As the Qur’an says:

‘There shall be no compulsion in religion.’

[Ch. 2 v. 257]

This principle of no compulsion was reiterated after the victory of Badr [Ch 3. v.21] and again in ‘Al-Ma’idah’ (The Table Spread with Food), which is the last revealed chapter. By the time Muhammad (peace be upon him)’s authority was fully established, not only in Medina but also in Mecca, it was vital to emphasize that the Prophet’s only role was to convey the word of Allah.

‘Obey Allah and obey the Messenger, and be on your guard, but if you turn away, then remember that the duty of our Messenger is only to convey the message clearly.’

[Ch. 5 v.93]

And finally:

‘The Messenger’s duty is only to convey the message. And Allah knows what you reveal and what you hide.’

[Ch. 5 v.100]

These verses clearly emphasize the fact that religious belief is a personal matter. It is God alone, not the state or the religious authorities who knows what one reveals to God or what one hides.

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