Apostasy, Blasphemy and Heresy Persecution The Companions of the Holy Prophet (sa)

Blasphemy in Islam

24 The Review of Religions – August 2007 It is pertinent to discuss the subject of the teachings of Islam on the offence of blasphemy as it is being used daily to persecute members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. Whatever the quality of a Muslim’s faith, even if he were a namesake Muslim, he holds an immense measure of respect for the Holy Prophet(saw). This feeling is being exploited by the unprincipled and politically motivated Mullahs against other religious minorities. They partic- ularly accuse Ahmadis of disparaging the honour of the Holy Prophet(saw) and thus of being guilty of blasphemy for which the maximum sentence in Pakistan and some other countries is death. I intend to examine the validity of the charge made against Ahmadis. Do they disparage the honour of the Holy Prophet(saw), or do they, in fact, honour him and exalt him as Khataman Nabiyyin (Seal of Prophethood)? I will also explore how valid the death sentence is in accordance with Sharia Law. There is no doubt that blasphemy is the most repugnant, detestable and loathsome act, which touches on the sensitivities of all decent-minded and believing people. No matter which faith one belongs to, any violation by words or deeds of the sanctity of God or His chosen Messengers, is considered deeply offensive. And yet, denigrating God and slandering the Prophets of God goes back into the mists of time. All prophets suffered slander, mockery or derision during their lifetimes from their opponents and the practice continued after their deaths. What is the Blasphemy in Islam An address by Dr Iftikhar Ayaz OBE (UK) at the Ahmadiyya Muslim Annual Convention in Dacca, Bangladesh. 25The Review of Religions – August 2007 punishment for such an offence? The history of mankind reveals many sad periods of religious strife, bigotry, persecution and conflict. Muslims have not always acquitted themselves in their dealings with other people in accordance with the teachings of Islam. Their conduct has been regrettable, sometimes even reprehensible. There can be no doubt that the teachings of Islam proclaim and insist upon complete freedom in matters of conscience and tolerance and respect for the beliefs of others. The pursuance of this Islamic requirement would eliminate one of the principle causes of international misunderstanding and conflict. But Islam does not stop here. It exhorts Muslims to strive actively for peace. O ye who believe! come into submission wholly and follow not the footsteps of Satan; surely, he is your open enemy. (Ch.2: V.209) There is severe condemnation of the conduct of one who, when he wields authority, strives to create disorder in the land and to destroy tithe and offspring: …Allah loves not disorder. (Ch.2: V.206) Everything that tends to destroy local peace, create international tension or to disturb international relations is sought to be avoided and its mischief has been resented. Our beloved, the Holy Prophet Muhammad(saw) came as a blessing for mankind. Allah in His mercy revealed to him the complete Book, the Holy Qur’an – a guidance for all mankind for all times to come, which remains untarnished, unchanged and guarded by Divine decree. Allah revealed a complete code of life guarded by Divine decree – a law to govern all dimensions of human life. That Islamic law is known as Sharia. Before we look at what Sharia has to say about blasphemy, we BLASPHEMY IN ISLAM 26 The Review of Religions – August 2007 must understand the character and structure of Islamic law. Sharia is based on a simple principle. What is right must be done and what is normally wrong must not be done. It is therefore important to correctly define what is right and wrong. These are important legal questions, so who can answer them? Certainly not man according to Muslim legislators. We have the Holy Qur’an, which is the very word of God. Supplementary to it, we have the Hadith – records of the Holy Prophet’s(saw) actions and sayings from which we must derive help in arriving at legal decisions. If, in the unlikely event, there is nothing either in the Qur’an or Hadith to answer a particular question, we have to follow the dictates of reason in accordance with certain definitive principles. Islamic law is derived from four sources: the Qur’an, the Sunnah of the Holy Prophet(saw), Ijma’, that is consensus of opinion among the learned Muslim jurists, and Qiyas, that is analogy and reasoning. To elaborate further and show the position of these sources, it is appropriate to mention a famous and important Hadith. It is said that the Holy Prophet(saw) sent Mu’adh, one of his Companions, as Governor of Yemen and also appointed him to dispense justice (no trained lawyers existed at that time). The Holy Prophet(saw) asked Mu’adh ‘According to what will you judge?’ He replied, ‘According to the Word of God (Holy Qur’an)’. The Holy Prophet(saw) then asked ‘And if you find nothing therein?’ ‘According to the traditions of the Messenger of God’ said Mu’adh. ‘And if you find nothing therein?’ ‘Then shall I interpret with my reason’ said Mu’adh. And thereupon, the Holy Prophet(saw) said, ‘Praise be to God who has favoured Mu’adh with what the Prophet is willing to approve’. Having understood the nature and source of Islamic law, we BLASPHEMY IN ISLAM 27The Review of Religions – August 2007 should know the definition of crimes and their categories in Islamic law. Muslim legislators and jurists have defined crime as going against or beyond the commands and prohibitions laid down in the Holy Qur’an. In other words, crossing the bounds fixed by God. Since such crimes are violations of the rules made by God, they are considered crimes against religion. In Islamic law, crimes are divided into two major groups: • crime for which Hadd (punishment ordained by God) is given, such as adultery (Zina), false accu- sation of adultery (Kadhf), and robbery. • crimes such as homicide, bodily harm and damage to property are considered offences. The punishment for such crimes are such as Qisas (retaliation), Kaffara (expia- tion) and Ta’zeer (disciplinary action). The major difference between these two groups of crimes is that the punishments (Hadd punishments) ordained against the first group are considered the ‘rights of God’ for which there is no pardon or concession, while the punishments prescribed against the second group are the ‘rights of man’ and therefore they can be reduced or totally ruled out and pardoned. For instance, in the case of murder, the offender can be pardoned if the victim’s next of kin agrees to do so. The act of blasphemy is an act against the sanctity of God or against the honour of the Messengers of God. As such, this offence, committed against God, comes under Hadd punishments ordained against God. No earthy punishment has been prescribed and no human interference is permitted to increase or reduce the punishment. This admon- ishment appears at the end of many verses in the Holy Qur’an, as for example at the end of a long exposition of the rules of fasting, God says: BLASPHEMY IN ISLAM 28 The Review of Religions – August 2007 …These are the limits by Allah, so approach them not.… (Ch.2: V.188) Let us examine what the Holy Qur’an and the traditions of the Holy Prophet(saw) have to say about punishments ordained by God. Allah the Almighty says about the arrogant: …‘What think ye of that which your Lord has sent down?’, they say ‘Stories of the ancients.’ that they may bear their burdens in full on the Day of Resurrection, and also a portion of the burdens of those whom they lead astray without knowledge. Behold! evil is that which they bear … Then on the Day of Resurrection He will disgrace them.’… (Ch.16: Vs.25, 26 & 28) Pride and arrogance are the primary ingredients of mis- conduct and misbehaviour, and it is only such people who would hurt and offend others. The punishment for the arrogant is described in the same Chapter: So enter the gates of Hell, to abide therein. Evil indeed is the abode of the proud. (Ch.16: V.30) Again in Chapter 33, Allah the Almighty declares: Verily, those who annoy Allah and His Messenger – Allah has cursed them in this world and in the Hereafter, and has prepared for them an abasing punishment. (Ch.33: V.58) Let us look at the honour of the Holy Prophet(saw) and how he was persecuted. He was mocked during his Makkan period and in Madinah, he was continuously ridiculed by the Jews who used every opportunity to make sickening jokes against him. The Holy Qur’an refers to the arch persecutor of the Holy Prophet(saw), Abu Jahl, and says: Hast thou seen him who forbids a servant of Ours BLASPHEMY IN ISLAM 29The Review of Religions – August 2007 when he prays? Tell me if he (Our servant) follows the guidance or enjoins righteousness, what will be the end of the forbidder? Tell me if he (the forbidder) rejects and turns back, does he not know that Allah sees him? Nay, if he desists not, We will assuredly drag him by the forelock, a forelock lying, sinful. (Ch.96: Vs.10-17) To look at the true status of the Holy Prophet(saw), we should refer to the Holy Qur’an which says: Allah and His angels send blessings on the Prophet. O ye who believe! you also should invoke blessings on him and salute him with the salutation of peace. (Ch.33: V.57) Now we will look at the time of the Holy Prophet(saw) and the extent to which he was reviled, jeered at, conspired against and persecuted. His opponents tried by all means at their disposal to divert the Holy Prophet(saw) from his mission. The Qur’an remarks: Many of the People of the Book wish out of sheer envy from their own selves that, after you have believed, they could turn you again into disbelievers after the truth has become manifest to them. But forgive and turn away from them, till Allah brings about His decree. Surely, Allah has the power to do all that He wills. (Ch.2: V.110) We see how serious Allah the Almighty considers the offences of those opposing, maligning and obstructing Allah and His Messenger in his prayer and in his mission. Because of the gravity and perfidy of these offences, Allah considers them to be ‘His right’to punish the offenders as He so wishes. He does not transfer this right of dispensing justice to anyone – not even to His most beloved of Prophets. Instead, He tells the Holy Prophet(saw) BLASPHEMY IN ISLAM 30 The Review of Religions – August 2007 ‘Forgive them and turn away from them’. It is because Allah the Almighty considers the offence so grave that no punishment in this world can do justice to the gravity of the offence. Allah the Almighty has prepared an abasing punishment for such people in the Hereafter. Narrowing the subject of blasphemy to the Muslims, one notices that the passions of Muslims are aroused very quickly when the honour of the Holy Prophet(saw) is impugned. At least, the politically oriented leadership of Muslim clergy, notoriously known as Mullahs, exploit this emotional reaction of the innocent less educated masses, as we see happening in some countries today. How did the Holy Prophet(saw), that excellent exemplar, the best and most Beloved of all Prophets, that interpreter par excellence of the Holy Qur’an, react to those who reviled him? During the lifetime of the Holy Prophet(saw), there were many vulgar and abusive campaigns by his opponents whose desire was to create dissension among the migrants (Muhajirs) and the locals (Ansar) and to create inter- tribal rivalry. They were singing: ‘Drive out that fool of yours that you may be safe. Here is a rider come among them who has divided them (he says) “This is permitted and this is forbidden”’. At one occasion in Madinah, the opponents nearly succeeded in creating dissension among the Muslims. They would have fought each other but when the Holy Prophet(saw) heard the news, he addressed them: ‘O Muslims! Remember God, remember God. Will you act like pagans while I am with you? After God has guided you to Islam and honoured you and saved you from paganism? After he has delivered you from unbelief and made you friends by doing so?’ BLASPHEMY IN ISLAM 31The Review of Religions – August 2007 Let us remember the incident after the battle of al-Mustaliq, while the Holy Prophet(saw) was staying by a watering place, an unpleasant dispute took place amongst the migrants and locals. Taking advantage of that incident, the leader of the Munafiqun, Abdullah bin Ubay, used extremely vile language against the Holy Prophet(saw). When the Prophet(saw) was told of this, Umar(ra) who was with him, said, ‘Go and kill Abdullah bin Ubay.’ The Holy Prophet(saw) answered: ‘What if men should say Muhammad kills his own companions? No, go and give orders for him to set off.’ The Holy Prophet(saw) was undoubtedly very hurt, but took no action against Abdullah bin Ubay, instead giving orders for him to move away. The Qur’an refers to this incident: They say, ‘If we return to Madinah, the one most honourable will surely drive out therefrom the one most mean;’ while true honour belongs to Allah and to His Messenger and the believers; but the hypocrites know not. (Ch.63: V.9) When the son of Abdullah heard of this incident, he went to the Holy Prophet(saw) and offered to kill his own father for the insult that he had caused to the Holy Prophet(saw). The Holy Prophet(saw) refused this and said, ‘No, let us deal kindly with him and make much of his companionship while he is with us.’ That demonstrates the Holy Prophet’s(saw) reluctance to punish those who blaspheme, preferring to leave any such punishment in the hands of Allah. When the Muslim Empire stretched from the Indus to Andalusia, Muslim jurists and judges who understood the injunctions of the Holy Qur’an and the Sunnah refused to punish the blasphemers to create false martyrs. There are many such incidents in Andalusia and in the Ottoman Empire. I will quote one example from the book Spanish Islam by Dozy: BLASPHEMY IN ISLAM 32 The Review of Religions – August 2007 A group of Christian Zealots, led by a priest named Eulogius, were determined to denounce Muhammad publicly. Issac, a Cordovan monk, went to the Qadi (judge) and professed a desire for conversion; but when the judge, well pleased, began to expound Islam, the monk interrupted him; ‘Your Prophet,’ he said, ‘has lied and deceived you. May he be cursed.’ The Qadi reproved him and asked him if he was drunk. The monk replied, ‘I am in my right mind. Condemn me to death.’ The Qadi had him imprisoned and asked Abdur Rahman II to dismiss him as insane.’ (Spanish Islam: A History of the Moslems in Spain, Dozy Reinhart, Darf Publishers, London 1988 – reprint from 1913) The only time when blasphemers were sentenced was when other offences were also involved. Of course, there have been incidents in Islamic history where blasphemy has been punished with the death of the offender. Those incidents involved either political pressure from the rulers or by the unprincipled, power- seeking Mullahs, who disre- garded Islamic Sharia for their own ends. The fact remains that in Islam, there is no punishment for blasphemy or heresy or for apostasy. These are the preserves of Allah the Almighty and no human being is permitted to interfere – the Holy Prophet(saw) understood this point and acted accordingly. Only Allah can judge and dispense justice on these offences. Hadhrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad(ru) in his book Murder in the Name of Allah states: ‘There is no such punishment (death sentence) for blas- phemy in the Holy Qur’an or in the traditions of the Holy Prophet of Islam. Blasphemy against God is mentioned in the Holy Qur’an in the following words: “And revile not those whom they call upon beside Allah, lest they, out of spite, revile Allah in BLASPHEMY IN ISLAM 33The Review of Religions – August 2007 their ignorance…” (Ch.6:V.109).’ He further states: ‘No authority has been granted to any man to inflict any punishment for blas- phemy against God. Blasphemy was committed by Jews against Mary, the mother of Christ. It has been mentioned in the Holy Qur’an where it says: “And because of their disbelief and their uttering against Mary a grievous calumny” (Ch.4:V.157). Again no punishment other than by God Himself is prescribed.’ Members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in Pakistan and unfortunately in a few other Muslim states as well, are being persecuted. Here, in this peace- loving country (Bangladesh), Ahmadis were recently hit by a colossal wave of persecution. In Pakistan, Ahmadis have been sentenced to death and murdered on wrongful charges of blasphemy ever so often. What travesty of Islamic justice is this! Ahmadis are being accused of maligning the honour of the Holy Prophet(saw) of Islam. The fabrication and falsehood of this charge can be seen from the writings of the founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad(as), the immaculate and obedient servant of the Holy Prophet(saw). He said: ‘The basis of our religion and the foundation of our belief is that there is no God but Allah and Muhammad(saw) is His Prophet. The faith that we follow in this earthly life and the faith in which, by the Grace of God, we will depart from this temporary life, is that of our Lord and great Master, Muhammad(saw).’ And again: ‘A superior status, com- prising all that is good BLASPHEMY IN ISLAM 34 The Review of Religions – August 2007 belongs to our Lord and Master, Seal of the Prophets, Muhammad Mustafa(saw). It is unique to him and it is unapproachable.’ The quality of Muslim faith and the measure of respect that he holds for the Holy Prophet(saw) cannot be quantified by any yardstick, nor can another person sit on judgement on the sincerity of the belief of others. In Pakistan, unfortunately, blasphemy carries a more restricted definition. It is being defined as an insult to the honour of the Holy Prophet(saw) and it is under this charge that the members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community are being persecuted and prosecuted. They are being persecuted for the passion, love and devotion that Ahmadis have for the greatest of all Prophets, Muhammad(saw) about whom the founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community wrote: ‘After the love of Allah, it is the love of Muhammad which has captivated my heart. If this love is blasphemy, by God! I am a great blasphe- mer.’ The matchless intense love for the Holy Prophet(saw) continues to flow in his followers to this day and each and every Ahmadi, wherever he is on this planet, is committed to sacrifice every- thing for the sake of the honour of his beloved Prophet(saw). Those who are thirsty for the blood of Ahmadis, let them listen! Let them heed what the Promised Messiah(as) had to say when one of his loving Companions, Hadhrat Sahibzada Abdul Latif(ra) was stoned to death in Kabul, Afghanistan. He said: ‘This blood will not go to waste. God will not remain silent on this killing. Its consequences will be horrible. This is a ruthless murder. Under the blue sky, the example of this brutal murder will not be found. O Land of Kabul! Be a witness BLASPHEMY IN ISLAM 35The Review of Religions – August 2007 of this heinous crime on your soil. O Land of Misfortune! You have fallen from the sight of God because you are the place of horrible cruelty.’ Any land where the blood of the flag bearers of Islam, the Holy Prophet(saw) and the Kalima will be shed, will suffer the same fate. And no doubt the terrible things happening in countries where Ahmadis are persecuted today are not only a warning to them, but a brilliant sign of the truth of the Promised Messiah(as). The Promised Messiah(as) has come to revive the teachings and pristine pure traditions and practices of Islam, and it is Allah’s decree that he will succeed. BLASPHEMY IN ISLAM Verse references to the Holy Qur’an item count ‘Bismillah…’ (In the Name of Allah…) as the first verse of each Chapter. In some non- standard texts, this is not counted and should the reader refer to such texts, the verse quoted in The Review of Religions will be found at one verse less than the number quoted. In this journal, for the ease of non-Muslim readers, ‘(saw)’ or ‘saw’ after the words, ‘Holy Prophet’, or the name ‘Muhammad’, are used. They stand for ‘Sallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam’ meaning ‘Peace and blessings of Allah be upon him’. Likewise, the letters ‘(as)’ or ‘as’ after the name of all other prophets is an abbreviation meaning ‘Peace be upon him’ derived from ‘Alaihis salatu wassalam’ which are words that a Muslim utters out of respect whenever he or she comes across that name. The abbreviation ‘ra’ or (ra) stands for ‘Radhiallahu Ta’ala anhu and is used for Companions of a Prophet, meaning Allah be pleased with him or her (when followed by the relevant Arabic pronoun). Finally, ‘ru’ or (ru) for Rahemahullahu Ta’ala means the Mercy of Allah the Exalted be upon him. In keeping with current universal practice, local transliterations of names of places are preferred to their anglicised versions, e.g. Makkah instead of Mecca, etc.