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Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Blasphemy Charges against Christians Shafaqat Masih and Shagufta Bibi in Pakistan, Muslims Condemn these charges.

Evil exists because good people do nothing about it – all it takes for evil to subside is for the good people to speak up.

The formula is simple: The evil people (in all nations and all religions) are less than 1/10th of 1% - if 5 of them scream, all we have to do is get 10 of us from a lopsided pool of  99% to speak up,  and I have seen them run – realizing that there is no support for them.

The latest is the SMS blasphemy charges, the good news is that the Deobandi Ulema have promised the Christians to bring amendments to blasphemy charges in Pakistan, it would be good to see them keep their promise.

Blasphemy and Apostasy are tools of tyrants to suppress people; it is not Islamic in any sense.  Prophet showed the right way by example, but the Muslim monarchs, dictators and a handful of ulema (it is shame that we call them Ulema instead of Jahil) like all damned fascists erected the apostasy and blasphemy charges to oppress.
Besides, these fanatics are dumb people, if they really want to convert other people, pray for them, like the Prophet, instead of pushing them. Don't kick the beehive if you want to gather honey.  

The Muslims of today – I mean the 99% of Muslims are civilized and cultured,  and we should not let 1/10th of 1% of Jahils (brutes) dictate the nature of Islam.
As a Muslim I condemn these shameful and ugly acts against Christians, and as Muslims, it is our duty to stand up for the oppressed. 

Please remember, Islam is not going anywhere; prophet is not going anywhere, and by opening ourselves up to criticism, we will learn a lot more about our faith than we would ever know. We need to move away from intolerance to acceptance of a different point of view without having to agree with it. Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) lived through it and Muslims can learn from his examples.

Criticism can fade away or rain on us depending on how Muslims respond to it.  Lack of conviction in one's faith breeds intolerance towards criticism, whereas firmness in faith can lead us to learn from criticism, explore the infinite wisdom and realize the strength of our faith (Imaan); a worthy feeling to have, instead of living in doubt and shooing criticism away.

Mike Ghouse
and WorldMuslimCongress@yahoogroups.com

ASIA/PAKISTAN - "Technological Blasphemy": Christian couple arrested for insulting Muhammad via SMS

Islamabad (Agenzia Fides) - A new "front" of blasphemy seems to be opening in Pakistan after the life sentence of a man accused of having sent a blasphemous SMS (see Fides 15/07/2013), cases and complaints of blasphemy via SMS increase. As reported to Fides, another blasphemy case was registered against a Christian couple in the town of Gojra, in Punjab. Shafaqat Masih, 35, and his wife Shagufta Bibi were arrested by the local police because accused by the Muslim Rana Mohammad Fiaz for having sent a blasphemous SMS on the Prophet Muhammad. The police traced the SIM card and arrested the couple.

A court of first instance validated the arrest, placing further investigation. Shafaqat Masih is disabled and his wife is a waitress in a local school. Their two teenage children are now being taken care of by the NGO "World Vision in Progress", which also aims to provide legal assistance. Gojra is a place which is "religiously sensitive" since 2009, when, due to a case of alleg ed desecration of the Koran, the Christian area of the city was set on fire, causing 8 deaths, destroying 40 homes and a church.

Currently the debate on blasphemy through new technologies, mobile phones, computer resources is alive in Pakistan. The Telecommunications Authority and the government are discussing technical solutions to the problem of the presence of blasphemous material on the Internet, on YouTube, on social networks. Many are calling for a law to limit and censor blasphemous Internet sites.

Another issue is the abuse of the law of blasphemy, sometimes used instrumentally to hit opponents. As reported to Fides, recently a delegation of 15 ulema in Karachi, of the Islamic school of thought "Deobandi," assured its support to the Christian community to propose an amendment to the blasphemy law: the goal is to stop their misuse against members of religious minorities.

Among the cases reported by Fides is that of a Christian 15-year-old from Karachi, Ryan Brian Patras, accused of having sent blasphemous SMS to some peers (see Fides 12/10/2012) and the victim of a plot. The boy and his family escaped by miracle from the murderous rage of a few extremists. (PA) (Agenzia Fides 23/07/2013)

Criticism of Islam, Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and free speech

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We need to welcome every criticism of Quraan, Islam and the Prophet and deal with it with grace. Let freedom of speech be the corner stone of Islam.

Islam is not going anywhere; prophet is not going anywhere, and by opening ourselves up to criticism, we will learn a lot more about our faith than we would ever know. We need to move away from intolerance to acceptance of a different point of view without having to agree with it. Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) lived through it and Muslims can learn from his examples.

Criticism can fade away or rain on us depending on how Muslims respond to it.  Lack of conviction in one's faith breeds intolerance towards criticism, whereas firmness in faith can lead us to learn from criticism, explore the infinite wisdom and realize the strength of our faith (Imaan); a worthy feeling to have, instead of living in doubt and shooing criticism away.

You may ask, "Why are you presenting a different point of view, and why should I believe you?" The great scholars from the past have done it, and what is the need for me to learn?

I will ask you, "Why wouldn't you review the work of Tariq Ramadan, Hamza Yusuf, Ziauddin Sardar, Wahiduddin Khan, Javed Ahmed Ghamidi, Asghar Ali Engineer, Chandra Muzaffar, and a host of other critical Muslim thinkers? Why should you believe every word of Maududi, Banna and others? Isn't Islam for all times and all people?

Way back in 1967, my sister had asked me, if I knew more than Allama Iqbal? That question has never left my mind, and I had to scramble for the answer, the answer was a definite no, but I did not want to discard individual responsibility of not learning and knowing it on my own. I was always stuck with one of the most powerful sentences from Prophet Muhammad's (pbuh) last sermon, "I leave behind two things, the Qur'an and the Sunnah and if you follow these you will never go astray." The responsibility to know was placed directly on us.

Like all Mothers, my Mother taught me responsibility, she said, "if you do wrong, you alone will get punished and not your brother who might have instigated you, it is not what he said, but it is how you respond that matters to me". She would invariably add, "On the Day of Judgment, you stand alone, there will be no one for you, as each one will be busy in reflecting his or her own deeds."

The Qur'an repeatedly reinforces the paramount principle of faith: "O You who believe, on you rests (the responsibility) of your souls"(Q5:105) and (Q53:38), "that no bearer of burdens shall be made to bear another's burden." The picture was clear to me.

I don't wish this for others, but the best thing that has ever happened to me was walking away from Islam and Quraan when I was 15. I made the same mistake that every maligner of Islam makes; reading the wrong translations of Quran and blaming the religion for it. After 30 years of searching for the truth on my own as the Prophet had advised "to read the book", I found the truth. Islam is an inclusive faith, it is about co-existence, it is a faith that appreciates all of God's creation and urges one to respect the otherness of others (Quran 109:6) without having to agree, it explicitly says (Quraan 49:13), that all of us are his creation, created to be different, and that we have to learn about each other to mitigate the conflicts and nurture goodwill. Today, I am proud to be a believer, not a blind one, but a critical believer in Islam.

The Critical thinking has given me inordinate confidence to the point of challenging Pastor Jeffress in Dallas, that if he finds three faults in Quraan, I will convert to his faith, and if he cannot, all I asked of him was to become a blessed peacemaker and work with me in mitigating conflicts and building a cohesive America, where all of us can aspire to live without the fear of the other. He backed off as we returned the bad challenge with the request to reason and finding the truth. We held a Quraan Conference with ten Non Muslim Clergy on the panel and four Muslims including Imam Zia Shaikh, Dr. Basheer Ahmed, Imam Shakoor and Brother Hamid Shaikh, and I moderated the event. A full accounting of the event, including media interviews and the program is recorded in details at  www.QuraanConference.com

When you have an issue with your spouse and child, you don't scream and shut them down; the problem will not go away unless you face it and solve the issue. When people accept the solutions willingly, we will have peace. Isn't that Islam is all about, freedom?

Indeed, we must gracefully respond to every criticism of Quraan, Islam and the Prophet and I have the patience to welcome it.

Aren't we supposed to learn and know each other to mitigate conflicts and create the kingdom of heaven right here on the earth, while waiting to go the next heaven? Didn't God say, the best among you is the one who learns about the other (49:13), so the myths, phobias and fears can be dismantled?

I urge fellow Muslims to open to all the criticism with confidence, don't shut it, and let freedom of speech be the corner stone of Islam. Islam stands on its own; it does not need our defense, and it is silly to protect God or the Prophet, they are not weaklings or our property to protect, they belong to the whole universe, don't they?

Muhammad Yunus, a Muslim thinker and a writer at New Age Islam responds,   "Doesn't the Qur'an repetitively say, "repel evil with good" (13:22, 23:96, 41:34). Shouldn't you take the opportunity to demonstrate the good in your faith and remove the cloud of hatred that is forming by the twin growing menaces of the day: Islamophobia and Radicalization? Inscribe on the facade of your mosques in bold and golden letters, the verses of the Qur'an that demonstrate the divine scheme on religious pluralism - 2:62, 2:136, 4:124, 5:69, 22:17, 64:9, 65:11 for example.

Tell the believing world by visual display on billboards at all Islamic centers that the divine Light is lit in all places of pure worship (24:35) and God's name is proclaimed regularly in monasteries, churches, synagogues and mosques (22:40). Inform the atheist and all categories of non-believers that they all are recipients of a portion of divine spirit (15:29, 32:7-9, 38:72) and God will judge them as well along with the believing humanity (22:17). Tell the whole world that however they demonize our Prophet, we must ignore them as this is an article of faith for us (6:112, 25:31).

Dr. Tariq Cheema of World Congress of Muslim Philanthropists, adds another point of view, "the Muslim scholars and intellectuals around the world must rise to the challenge and offer guidance to the faith-loving masses on how to encounter the exploitation of freedom of speech, which is often quite provocative and insulting. On the other hand every one must strive for a legislation that guards the sanctity of all religions and their Prophets, scriptures, and symbols alike."

Prioritizing Sunnah

The most important Sunnah (Prophet's example) and the first Sunnah is to be the Amin; the trust worthy (81:21), the truth teller and someone who mitigates conflicts and nurtures good will for the peaceful coexistence of his or her neighbors, communities, tribes and nations.

That was the first example of Muhammad (pbuh) to be a good citizen, wasn't it? Wasn't that the first model prophet had set up for one to follow? Mind you, he was called Amin by non-Muslims. Shouldn't we start with the same first foot forward? To be good citizens, whether in Pakistan, America, Saudi Arabia, China or Indonesia, we have to earn it by being a participant and a contributor towards the wellbeing of the nation. Your presence should relax others, and make them comfortable that you are a peacemaker and they can trust you for your fairness. Do you follow the Prophet?

The second most important Sunna to follow is to be Rahmatul Aalameen (Mercy to mankind) (21:107). To be a Rahmat (Mercy) to fellow beings who are Atheist, Baha'i, Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jain, Jewish, Sikh, Wicca, Natives, Zoroastrians and others, we must be kind to them, no one should be afraid or apprehensive of us. Should anyone be afraid of a Muslim, then we have not followed the Sunna of the prophet.

Please note that I have stripped the title of Allama or Maulana from all the names above. We have a habit of placing individuals next to God, they are just like you and I, of course with more knowledge, sometimes real, and sometimes looped up. Practicing and rehearsing the same wrong thing over and over again does not make them perfect. We need to reserve the titles to the Prophets; all others must be referred to just by their names with utmost respect.

We should not be loose with titles, unless they have shown that Allah is Rabbul Aaalamen (Universality of the Creator) and Muhammad is Rahmatul Aalameen in their actions and words. How many of them would qualify to be an Allama then?

All other Sunna emanates from these two basic steps, clearly and unambiguously corroborated by the Qur'an (81:21, 21:107).

We cannot compromise on free speech, however much a few may abuse it, but free speech is an enduring value and the hallmark of civilization. I believe in free speech and that is the only way societies will grow. As Muslims we need to seriously consider the gains Muslims have had, that far outweigh the tensions given by a handful of loonies.

Islam is a universal inclusive faith, it is from Rabbul Aalameen (creator of the universe, its prophet is Rahmatul Aalameen (Mercy to mankind) and we should be Mukhlooqul Aalameen (Universal, all embracing beings). Islam is about goodness and not forcing others, and not domineering but co-existing, just as the Prophet did and proclaimed in the Madinah treaty. Islam is about appreciating everything God has created on this universe (55:16).

If they curse the prophet, prophet is not going to be cursed, have the strength in your faith and return badness with Good; we know all the examples of his work. When you hear someone curse the prophet, just say I am sorry you feel that way, but if you wish to seek the truth, find it on your own or I will connect you with someone who can guide you, if you don't that is your choice and nothing will come off me or the prophet, your words do not have the power to reduce Islam or the prophet, I will pray peace of mind to you. 

Don't feel compelled to convince anyone, let go. What did Allah say to Prophet when he was frustrated that people were not getting his message? You do your dharma (duty) and let them have the freedom to accept. Elsewhere God says there is no compulsion in matters of faith (2:256).

Have confidence, read what is good in Islam and ignore the bad things others say, write, or put it in the film about Islam or its Prophet.  From the very first day of his mission, the Prophet was criticized and the Qur'an reviled and the criticism and revulsion only gained momentum through the medieval ages as Islam continued to win the hearts of other people. It has come to surface again with greater ferocity, but we the Muslims as peace makers must act peacefully.    

Islam is not going anywhere, prophet is not going anywhere, and by opening up you will enjoy your Imaan (faith) immensely with genuine admiration for its wisdom. I thank Allah for helping me see the light and beauty of Islam, and you can too.

Mike Ghouse is a speaker, thinker, activist, pluralist and a writer committed to building cohesive societies. More about him at www.MikeGhouse.net

Related Articles:

• Huffington Post -Muslims don't get it http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mike-ghouse/freedom-of-speech-and-the-legitimacy-of-muslim-protests_b_1902427.html

• Dallas Morning news -Separation of church and state http://theghousediary.blogspot.com/2012/09/texas-faith-is-separation-of-church-and.html

• Dallas Morning news - right to free speech http://theghousediary.blogspot.com/2012/09/texas-faith-religion-and-right-to-free.html

• Critical Muslim by Ziauddin Sardar http://worldmuslimcongress.blogspot.com/2012/09/critical-muslim-by-ziauddin-sardar_30.html

# # #
Mike Ghouse is a speaker, thinker and a writer on pluralismpolitics, peace making, foreign policy, IslamIsraelIndiaPakistaninterfaith, and cohesion at work place or social settings. He is committed to building a Cohesive America and offers pluralistic solutions on issues of the day at www.TheGhousediary.com. Mike has a strong presence on national local TV, Radio and Print Media, and is a frequent guest on Sean Hannity show on Fox TV, and a commentator on national radio networks, he contributes weekly to the Texas Faith Column at Dallas Morning News, fortnightly at Huffington post, and several other periodicals across the world. His personal site www.MikeGhouse.net indexes everything you want to know about him.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Blasphemy Law in Islam – A Definition

I just happen to run into this article and pleased to share it here at www.BlasphemyLaws.com and www.WorldMuslimCongress.com - Its well written for those who want to get a good idea about the law - Mike Ghouse
In November 2010, I posted some research work about Blasphemy Law in Pakistan. I got a great response from all over the world and specially from Pakistan. Since then I was assigned to collect some more and detailed information about Blasphemy Law. During my research I visited several websites, journals and newspapers and also verified their responses. I feel first there is high requirement to chalk out the basic & important details about Blasphemy Law before discussing the detail version about Blasphemy Law. So here I have come up with some basic information about Blasphemy Law in Islam.

What does Blasphemy Law means ?
In Islam it is any irreverent behavior toward holy person, religious artifacts, customs, and beliefs that Muslims admire. Let be clear that the Quran and the hadith do not speak about blasphemy. Law experts created the offense, and they made it part of Sharia. Where Sharia applicable, the penalties for blasphemy can include fines, imprisonment, flogging, amputation, hanging, or beheading. Muslim leader (religious) may call for the punishment of an alleged blasphemer by issuing a fatwa.
Who would be Blasphemers?
It is agreed by all Islamic authorities that a blasphemer can be Muslim or non-Muslim. To be declare as guilty of blasphemy offense, an individual must be an adult, of sound mind, and not under threat. Some jurisdictions do not punish individuals who commit blasphemy accidentally. The Maliki school of jurisprudence permits the exoneration of accused individuals who are converts to Islam.
How Blasphemy against holy persons yet?
  • Speaking ill of Allah.
  • Finding fault with Muhammad.
  • Slighting a prophet who is mentioned in the Qur’an, or slighting a member of Muhammad’s family.
  • Claiming to be a prophet or a messenger.
  • Speculating about how Muhammad would behave if he were alive (happened in Nigeria).
  • Drawing a picture to represent Muhammad or any other prophet, or making a film which features a prophet (happened in Egypt).
  • Writing Muhammad’s name on the walls of a toilet (happened in Pakistan).
  • Naming a teddy bear Muhammad (happened in Sudan).
  • Invoking God while committing a forbidden act.
How Blasphemy against beliefs and customs of Islam yet?
  • Finding fault with Islam.
  • Saying Islam is an Arab religion; prayers five times a day are unnecessary; and the Qur’an is full of lies (happened in Indonesia).
  • Believing in transmigration of the soul or reincarnation or disbelieving in the afterlife (happened in Indonesia).
  • Finding fault with a belief or a practice which the Muslim community (Ummah) has adopted.
  • Finding fault with or cursing apostles (Rasul or Messenger), prophets, or angels.
  • Expressing an atheist or a secular point of view or publishing or distributing such a point of view.
  • Using words that Muslims use because the individuals were not Muslims (happened in Malaysia).
  • Praying that Muslims become something else (happened in Indonesia).
  • Whistling during prayers (happened in Indonesia).
  • Flouting the rules prescribed for Ramadan.
  • Reciting Muslim prayers in a language other than Arabic (happened in Indonesia).
  • Consuming alcohol.
  • Gambling.
  • Being alone with persons of the opposite sex who are not blood relatives.
  • Finding amusement in Islamic customs (happened in Bangladesh).
  • Publishing an unofficial translation of the Qur’an (happened in Afghanistan).
  • Practicing yoga (happened in Malaysia).
  • Watching a film or listening to music (happened in Somalia).
  • Wearing make-up on television (happened in Iran).
  • Insulting religious scholarship.
  • Wearing the clothing of Jews or of Zoroastrians.
  • Claiming that forbidden acts are not forbidden.
  • Uttering “words of infidelity” (sayings that are forbidden).
  • Participating in non-Islamic religious festivals.
How Blasphemy against artifacts yet?
  • Touching a Qur’an or touching something that has touched a Qur’an because the individuals were not Muslim (happened in Nigeria).
  • Damaging a Qur’an or other books of importance to Islam, for example, hadith (happened in Pakistan).
  • Spitting at the wall of a mosque (happened in Pakistan).
What would be Punishment in Blasphemy?
The punishments for different instances of blasphemy in Islam vary by jurisdiction / region / country and even cities. A guilty blasphemer may, among other penalties, lose all legal rights. The loss of rights may cause a blasphemer’s marriage to be dissolved, religious acts to be rendered worthless, and claims to property (including any inheritance) to be rendered void. Repentance may restore lost rights except for marital rights; lost marital rights are regained only by remarriage. Women have blasphemed and repented to end a marriage. Women may be permitted to repent, and may receive a lesser punishment than would befall a man who committed the same offense.
Difference between Blasphemy against Allah and Muhammad
There is a distinction between a blasphemer who insults Allah and blasphemenr who finds fault with Muhammad. Difference is based on the notions of the  “right of God” and the “right of Man.” A blasphemer who violates the “right of God” can seek forgiveness through repentance.
The Qur’an advises Muslims to reject those who find fault with God. Detail Reference
A blasphemer who violates the “right of Man” must seek forgiveness from the person insulted. In the case of an insult to Muhammad, the Muslim community is considered to be under an obligation to avenge the insult because the possibility of forgiveness expired upon the death of Muhammad.
Here is summary and brief version of my long research work. It took time to collect and verify the information about such sensitive topic. Please share your opinions regarding Blasphemy Law and its relationship with Islam in comment section. Subscribe with my rss for more updates. To get more details and information about project management,web design you can connect to me on twitter, facebook, linked in and google+.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Blasphemy Article by Maulana Wahiduddin Khan

Maulana Wahiduddin Khan

The Quran is the most authentic source of Islam. The Quran clearly states which actions are crimes and specifies what kind of punishments are to be meted out for them.

One notable example is what is called ‘qazaf’. The following is the verse of the Quran in this regard: “Those who defame chaste women, but cannot produce four witnesses, shall be given eighty lashes.” (24:4)

We learn from this verse of the Quran that if a pious woman is defamed without any proof, such a person, in the eyes of the Quran, becomes a criminal who deserves physical punishment by a court of law. When the Quran mentions this crime, it also mentions the specific punishment along with it.

Now let us look into this matter from another aspect. The Quran states that since ancient times God has sent prophets in succession to every town and every community. It says, moreover, that the contemporaries of all of these prophets adopted the same negative attitude -- but with far greater intensity -- as has been mentioned in the Quran with regard to chaste women. For instance, the Quran says: “Alas for human beings! They ridicule every messenger that comes to them.” (36:30)

There are more than two hundred verses of this nature, which reveal that the contemporaries of the Prophet repeatedly perpetrated the same act which is now called ‘abuse of the Prophet’ or ‘using abusive language about the Prophet’. Prophets down the ages have been mocked and abused by their contemporaries (36:30), some of the epithets cited in the Quran being “a liar” (40:24), “possessed” (15:6), “a fabricator” (16:101), “a foolish man” (7:66). The Quran mentions these words of abuse used by prophets’ contemporaries but nowhere does the Quran prescribe the punishment of lashes, or death or any such deterrent punishment.

This clearly shows that ‘abuse of the Prophet’ is not a subject of punishment, but is rather a subject of dawah. That is, one who is guilty of abusing the Prophet should not have corporal punishment meted out to him: he should rather be given sound arguments in order that his mind may be addressed. In other words, peaceful persuasion should be used to reform the person concerned rather than attempting to kill him.

There is a verse in the Quran to this effect: “God knows all that is in their hearts; so ignore what they say, admonish them and speak to them in such terms as will address their minds.”(4:63)

This verse means that those who adopt a negative stance towards the Prophet will be judged by God, who knows the innermost recesses of their hearts. The responsibility of the Prophet and his followers is to observe the policy of avoidance, and, wishing well, convey the message of God to them in such a manner that their minds might be properly addressed.

This case is made out in the Chapter entitled Al-Ghashiya: “Do they never reflect on the camels and how they were created, and on the sky, how it is raised aloft, and on the mountains, how they are firmly set up, and on the earth, how it is spread out? So, exhort them; your task is only to exhort, you are not their keeper. But whoever turns back and denies the truth, will be punished by God with the greatest punishment. Certainly, it is to Us that they will return.” (88:17-26)

These verses of the Quran tell us about what approach the Prophet was required to adopt. This approach was that people should be addressed by arguments. Attempts should be made to satisfy them rationally as to the veracity of the religion. And notwithstanding any negative reaction on the part of those addressed, this same positive style of dawah (conveying the message of God to people) has to be adhered to. It is not the task of the dayee to assume the role of a keeper. So far as punishment and reward are concerned, that is a subject wholly in the domain of God. God will gather together everyone on the Day of Resurrection and then, according to their deeds, will reward or punish them.

Another important aspect of this matter is that at no point in the Quran is it stated that anyone who uses abusive language about the Prophet should be stopped from doing so, and in case he continues to do so he should be awarded severe punishment. On the contrary, the Quran commands the believer not to use abusive language directed against opponents: “But do not revile those [beings] whom they invoke instead of God, lest they, in their hostility, revile God and out of ignorance.” (6:108)

This verse of the Quran makes it plain that it is not the task of the believers to establish media watch offices and hunt for anyone involved in acts of defamation of the Prophet, and then plan for their killing, whatever the cost. On the contrary, the Quran enjoins believers to sedulously refrain from indulging in such acts as may provoke people to retaliate by abusing Islam and the Prophet. This injunction of the Quran makes it clear that this responsibility devolves upon the believers, rather than that others be held responsible and demands made for them to be punished.

Looked at from this angle, the stance of present-day Muslims goes totally against the teachings of the Quran. Whenever anyone -- in their judgement -- commits an act of ‘abuse of the Prophet’, in speech or in writing, they instantly get provoked and their response is to start leading processions through the streets, which often turn violent, and then they demand that all those who insult the Prophet be beheaded.

All those who initiate such provocative processions and demand the killing of supposed ‘abusers of the Prophet’, are instead themselves the greatest culprits when it comes to abuse of the Prophet. Their violent conduct has resulted in the public being lead into believing that Islam is a religion of a pre-civilized era, that it imposes a ban on free thinking, that it is a religion which believes in thought crime, and that it is a religion of violence, etc.

It is Muslims themselves who are entirely responsible for the formation of this negative image of Islam. Distorting the image of Islam in this way is, indeed, the greatest of all crimes.

Center for Peace and Spirituality - USA

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Islam and the Political Theology of Blasphemy

There is a lot of good material out there, the most important question is how do we get this to the Imams who currently hold a book in their hand that tells them otherwise, how do we earn their confidence to replace the wrong one with the right book?

I believe it is our responsibility, each one's. There is a way other than invoking the wrath of those to have chased Ghamidi out of Pakistan, the good news is Maulana Wahiduddin Khan is getting his message out and has not been kicked out of India - I guess that is the function of a democracy.

My proposal is finding a way to produce a book, a good authentic Islamic book, that the holders of the old books would feel comfortable in replacing with the new, after a conference. Who can invest in this?

I am writing a paper on the topic, "Have Muslims failed Allah, Prophet and Islam" hope to be out and published this week. I have already written and published a few, one among them is
http://worldmuslimcongress.blogspot.com/2012/09/muslims-condemn-killing-of-ambassador.html  and there are a few more at www.WorldMuslimCongress.org

Mike Ghouse is committed to building cohesive societies - www.MikeGhouse.net 
 Courtesy - Minaret of freedom institute

[This is the sixth in a series of my notes on the International Institute of Islamic Thought conference on iftaa and fatwa held in Herndon, VA. These notes are raw material for an edited report I will write on the conference and represents my perception of the discussion. The proceedings will be published by IIIT at a later time. The Minaret of Freedom Institute thanks IIIT for the grant that makes the publication of these notes possible. Responsibility for any errors in the notes is mine alone.]
Moderator: Iqbal Unus
“Islam and the Political Theology of Blasphemy”
Muqtedar Khan, Prof of Political Science, University of Delaware
One day Mullah Nasr-ud-din gave his wife five pounds of ground meat and told her to cook it for a party he wanted to give for his friends that evening. It was in the days of Islamic feminism, so she cooked it, but invited her friends over for a party and served it to them. In the evening when the mullah got home she regretted her actions. When he asked her where are the five pounds of meat, she said the cat ate it. The mullah then weighed the cat, which was exactly 5 pounds. “Okay,” said the mullah, “I see the meat, now where is the cat?” I get the same feeling when I read about political theology. I see the politics, but where is the theology? It’s missing.
Watching the televised debates in Pakistan is not like watching an intellectual program, but more like watching a horror flick. A law promulgated in the 80s by Zia al-Haqq sentences anyone who insults the prophet to death. There have been accusations of violations of this law, often false. In a dispute between two Muslims, one became so angry that he threw the business card of the other away. The other’s name was Muhammad, so he sued his antagonist for insulting the Prophet. In another case a father and son, Salafis, were sentenced to 20 years in prison because they tore down a Sufi poster for Mawlid-an-Nabi plastered on their front door. There are two aspects to the issue: The substantive question of whether insulting the Prophet should be punishable in the first place, and cases of abuse of the law as well.
The British passed law in the 1930s after a writer was murdered for insulting the Prophet that blasphemy against ANY religious symbol you will be imprisoned for 3 years (Section 295A). From 1930 to 1986 there were only two 2 cases prosecuted under this law, but since Zia introduced the death penalty, hundreds of cases have been prosecuted. 125 cases are current, including 80 cases where the convicted have been found innocent after having spent 8 or 9 years in prison. Even if the court exonerates you, when you get home there is a welcoming party ready to kill you. Two prominent Pakistanis have been assassinated in the past few months. The governor of Punjab, Salman Taseer, was assassinated by his own bodyguard for his sympathy for a Christian accused of insulting the Prophet, The Minister of Minority Affairs was also assassinated in front of his own house.
Taseer’s assassin Mumtaz Qadri has become a national hero supported by thousands of lawyers and doctors and judges for committing murder. He was inspired to that murder by a public speaker called “Mufti” Hanif Qureshi, who said a believing Muslim must kill anyone who insults the Prophet immediately. There is much hate and almost no teaching on any religious value in such speeches. There is a consensus from the extreme Sufis through the extreme Salafis in Pakistan that not only those who insult the Prophet but those who think insulters of the Prophet should not be killed are all to be killed.
No one in these debates has mentioned the Qur’anic verse “take not life which God hath made sacred except by way of justice and law: thus doth He command you that ye may learn wisdom” (6:151). In Pakistan the struggle is between secular democrats and pietists. The democrats do not challenge that those who insult the Prophet deserve be killed, they are only concerned that the law is easily abused as an instrument of revenge. It requires only three witnesses, so if three of you dislike my presentation today, you need only sign a petition that I have insulted the Prophet and I am finished. I could be in jail for ten years before the rest of you can persuade a judge of my innocence. Then when I come out the chance of my being killed is very high. Tuseer was such a liberal, as is Shari Rahman, who initiated a bill to repeal the law in parliament and who is in hiding now. She can no longer even take state protection for anyone assigned to protect might turn out to be her assassin. There are many laws in Pakistan that are abused and should not be on the books in the first place.
The other debate over the meaning of Islamic laws is more interesting to me. Even if there could be a guarantee that a blasphemy law would be implemented with complete justice, there remains the question of whether someone who insults the Prophet should be killed instantly. I want to focus on the challenge advanced by two people. Allama Javid Ghamdi, who after opposing this law had to leave the country, and his supporter Dr. Farooq Khan who was killed in his own house within two weeks after Ghamdi started opposing the law. These are the only two Pakistanis continuously arguing that it is unIslamic to kill anyone on these grounds. It is instructive to see what people bring forth as their proofs.
Everybody accepts the Qur’an as the first source and the Sunnah as the second of Islamic law. The liberals do not rely so much on ijma, and some people draw on ijtihad. The Shia use the term as’al a lot more than the Sunnis who focus on qiyas and ijtihad. Those critical of the Hanafi use the term râ’i a lot. The official position of the religious establishment is that blasphemy against Muhammad is punishable by death. The blasphemer has no recourse, and no opportunity for eventauba: even if he repents he must be killed. The establishment’s biggest argument is that there is complete consensus among thesahâba, but their proof of such consensus is limited to quotations from after the tenth century and later scholars like Ibn Taymiyyah to this effect. The Sunnah of forgiveness shown by the Prophet Muhammad toward those who insulted or abused him, prominent in the seerah and hadith, is deemed irrelevant on the grounds that the Prophet has a right to forgive that we do not. Interestingly, we can forgive people who insult Allah, violating huqûq Allah (because Allah can take care of them), but not those who insult the Prophet, violating huqûq ibâd/insân. Further, it is said that even if you had no intention to insult, you are still guilty of blasphemy if someone concludes you have insulted, then you have blasphemed and deserve the death penalty.
I will give you an example of hikma from the Nakshbandi Sufi order. It is the best-written English opinion from Pakistan, not necessarily the most dominant version:
“1. The verdict of infidelity for insulting the Prophet (saws) will depend upon the apparent words and no consideration will be given to the intention and the purpose of the person committing the insult and the circumstances of the time.” What is very interesting is that they are always introducing the issue of infidelity, which means they are talking of blasphemy and apostasy at the same time, but they do not want to acknowledge there is confusion between apostasy and blasphemy.
“2. Truly, whoever abused the Prophet (saws) or ascribed any fault to him or attributed any defect to his family to his religion or his habits or reproached him or compared the Prophet (saws) with any defective thing with the objective of derailing his personality and prestige is truly an abusive person and deserves to be executed. We make absolutely no exception to this verdict whether the insult has been committed intentionally or unintentionally. This has been the verdict of all the ulema of the ummah from the time of the companions to the present day.” This is factually not correct at all, but it is their claim.
“3. If a Muslim abuses the Prophet (saws) or lies about him or picks out faults about him, or robs him of his dignity, he commits the act of infidelity against Allah azzowajal.” But if that I sthe case, they had established that it would be possible to forgive him and leave Allah to deal with him. I have sent many e-mails asking for an explanation on this point, but gotten no response.
“4. When a person (a Muslim) speaks ill of the Prophet (saws) is any connection, he becomes an infidel. According to some Ulema, if a man uses an insulting word even for the sacred hair of the Noble Prophet Muhammad (saws) he will become an infidel.”
They provide an example. One mufti has issued a fatwa saying that if you say you don’t like kaddu (a vegetable resembling a water squash), then you have insulted the Prophet and deserve to be killed on the authority of Imam Shafi.
“5. It is beyond doubt that the whole of the Ummah is unanimous that one who slanders the Prophet Muhammad (saws) or other Prophets, is an infidel, whether he committed this act while considering it legitimate or illegitimate. He is an infidel in the opinion of the Ulema, and whoever doubts his infidelity is also an infidel.”
They provide sources:
1. Imam Shahab Ul-Deen Khafaji Hanafi’s, ‘Naseem Ur Riyadh’, Vol 4, pg. 426
2. Qadi Iyad’s, ‘Ash Shifa’, Vol 2, pg. 214
3. Imam Abu Yusuf, Kitab-al Khiraj, pg. 182
4. Fatawa Qadi Khan, Vol 4, pg. 882
5. Allama Akhi Yusuf, Dhakhairat al-Uqba, pg. 240
Yet, contrary to their claims, Qadi Iyad’s says there is no consensus. In the face of the criticism that if you make your argument on the claim of consensus, which is the third source of law, you are admitting you have no evidence from Qur’an or Sunnah, they have turned to two ayahs in the Qur’an: “Truly if the Hypocrites and those in whose hearts is a disease and those who stir up sedition in the City desist not We shall certainly stir thee up against them: then will they not be able to stay in it as thy neighbors for any length of time: They shall have a curse on them: wherever they are found they shall be seized and slain (without mercy).” (33:60-61) But even in this interpretation there is a clear condition “if they do not cease.” But if you look a few ayahs early you find: “Those who annoy God and his Apostle God has cursed them in this world and in the Hereafter and has prepared for them a humiliating Punishment” (33:57), in other words Allah will handle this; mind your own business. Without identifying myself or saying I am writing a paper on this issue I asked one of these muftis why they ignore this verse and received no response. Look at 24:12-26 dealing with the slander against Aisha. None of them call for killing although this is clearly slander against the Prophet’s family.
The other verse offered in defense of the death penalty is: “The punishment of those who wage war against God and His Apostle and strive with might and main for mischief through the land is: execution or crucifixion of the cutting off of hands and feet from opposite sides or exile from the land: that is their disgrace in this world and a heavy punishment is theirs in the Hereafter. Except for those who repent before they fall into your power: in that case know that God is Oft-Forgiving Most Merciful” (5:33-4). But this verse is about war, not insults. Why do those who claim otherwise not ask for hands and feet to be cut off or for exile? In opposition to this majority view, are many verses of the Qur’an that say when people become abusive either turn away or change the subject or change their ways.
When they turn to the hadith literature, the story of Ka`b ibn al-Ashraf has become popular. The story that Ka`b was executed for insulting the Prophet is clear proof for them and, I think, played a role in Khomeini’s fatwa against Salman Rushdie. But if you read the whole story you see that he was an enemy in a time of war and committed treason against those he was treaty-bound to defend. Not only that, he was also responsible for making a treacherous agreement with the Quraish against Medina. He also insulted the Prophet, but it is difficult to make a case that this was the sole reason for his execution.
Ashraf al-Qadri, a leader of the Nakshbandi who brings Ibn Taymiyyah’s books with him into the studio, cites the case of man who had two women sing abusive songs against the Prophet. When the Prophet conquered Mecca, he gave list of ten people to be executed and this man was among them. They cite seerah that the Prophet ordered that he must be killed even if he was found under the curtain of the ka`ba. This man, however, was also a murderer, an apostate, and an enemy of the Islamic state. Again, the case that he was condemned merely for insulting the Prophet is not clear. Interestingly, while one of the two women was killed, the other sought security from the Prophet, who forgave her. Apart from these problems, what is the status of books of seerah? Can we make laws with irreversible consequences based on biographical reports? I have not seen any an epistemology from any madhhab that says legal conclusions can be drawn from the seerah.
Javid Ghamdi has been accused of denying the hadith, but at least in the context of this debate, he does not. He argues that the Qur’anic verse “if anyone slew a person unless it be for murder or for spreading mischief in the land it would be as if he slew the whole people: and if anyone saved a life it would be as if he saved the life of the whole people” (5:32) governs the entire issue of punishment by death in the Qur’an and allows capital punishment in only two cases, murder and spreading fasâd (corruption, social disharmony, mischief, including terrorism) in the land. Insulting the Prophet cannot be considered spreading fasâd in the land, but the civil disturbance caused to the attempt to enforce this law might be. Then he comes to the issue of the Hanafi position. Imam Abu Hanifa did not subscribe to this position. He is very clear in saying that a dhimmi cannot be killed. He says if a dhimmi emphatically insists on insulting the Prophet he should be banished from the land. He expresses surprise hat anyone would even think of killing a non-Muslim for this when we don’t kill people for committing shirk the greatest sin of all. His position regarding Muslims who commit this act is that they become murtad, which many scholars do consider a capital crime. But non-Muslims are not committing apostasy by insulting the Prophet. None of the muftis seem to understand what Abu Hanifa is saying.
Don’t these scholars understand that they are manipulating the Qur’an and the seerah and they are selecting evidence for the purpose of supporting a pre-determined position? I thin they do. I think this is a hostile debate between a secular political elite and a “religious” counter-political elite. The reason no one is paying attention to the valid religious arguments of Taseer and Ghamdi is that this is not a religious debate but a political one. If you think having an elected government is a guarantor of peace and harmony, just look at Pakistan today.
Of the 55 Muslim countries only five have a very strict punishment for blasphemy including Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Iran. When Pakistanis are asked does this make the other 49 countries murtid, they say, no, because they are founded on nationalist, not Islamic, principles. I think we need to rethink the question of ijma, because it does not exist unless we define out of consideration those who disagree with it. We may have ijma on basics like God is one, but beyond those how can one establish it? Ibn Taymiyyah didn’t even use the word ijma, he said “general consensus.” How can the Pakistanis of all people where the majority are Hanafis claim ijma when Abu Hanifa does not agree with them? I think we must look critically when anyone invokes ijma as the sole source of a law, especially things like death and war. How can people miss the point that the fact that there is a debate demonstrates that there is no ijma. And if there were an ijma, the Qur’an overrides it. Selective sources are insufficient, and sources must be examined inclusively.
I think in an Islamic society there should have a single authorized body with a monopoly on the issuing of fatwas. In Morocco you could not have a debate like this because they have an amîr al mu`minîn. Finally, I think the debates are political rather than religious and political preferences invariably color the discourse that contemporary Islamic scholars deploy as theology in the public arena.
Discussant: Khaled Troudi
You indicated that there is no clear hukm on blasphemy, but I invite you to review the contextual meaning of these verses and these hadith. For example, verse 5:33: “The punishment of those who wage war against God and His Apostle and strive with might and main for mischief through the land is: execution or crucifixion of the cutting off of hands and feet from opposite sides or exile from the land: that is their disgrace in this world and a heavy punishment is theirs in the Hereafter.”  Verses 9:64-66 clearly apply to mocking the Prophet: “The Hypocrites are afraid lest a Surah should be sent down about them showing them what is (really passing) in their hearts.  Say: ‘Mock ye! but verily Allah will bring to light all that ye fear (should be revealed).’ If thou dost question them they declare (with emphasis): ‘we were only talking idly and in play.”  Say: ‘Was it at Allah and His signs and His apostle that ye were mocking?’ Make ye no excuses: ye have rejected faith after ye had accepted it. If We pardon some of you We will punish others amongst you for that they are in sin.” Muslims are in a weak state and vulnerable to mockery. The seerah explains these verses. “Whoever curses the Prophet, kill him,” is an authentic hadith. The Prophet gave orders to kill people who insulted him and Islam: Abdullah ibn Ubay, Ibn Salud, Ka`b ibn al-Ashraf, Asma bint Marwan, and Ibn al-Hanif were all killed. I would also ask why you did not take into account many traditions used by these scholars about those who insult the Prophet or Islam? For example Ibn al-Mundhar says scholars who agree that those insult the Prophet must be killed mentioning by name opinions of Imam Malik, Al-Laith, Ibn Hanbal, Shafi, and Abu Hanifa. The Shia tradition according to Khui has the same conclusion. Why did you focus only on Pakistan and not Saudi Arabia and Iran?
Discussant: Louay Safi
I think the issue is timely and the situation is serious. I agree that Pakistan is a special case. There is a beautiful hadith: “Allah does not take away the knowledge by taking it away from (the hearts of) the people, but takes it away by the death of the religious learned men till when none of the (religious learned men) remains, people will take as their leaders ignorant persons who when consulted will give their verdict without knowledge. So they will go astray and will lead the people astray.” [Bukhari] You’ve heard of a power vacuum; I think we have a knowledge vacuum. We have people obsessed with a virtual text taken out of its discourse. The Qur’an is not individual texts, but has a complete meaning that stimulates thinking, that forces you to think in your social and critical context. When the Qur’an talks aboutfasâd, it is not talking about making people uncomfortable; it is talking about taking life or property, about rape and massacre, depriving people of their dignity or rights—not verbally disparaging someone’s religious sensitivity. Knowledge is being taught as something that has been achieved. This is not knowledge; knowledge is a process.  Calling for someone to be killed for such reasons is not free speech but incitement. Pakistan spends less than 1% of its income on education. What you see here are people who are angry about their deprivation.
Khan: I explained why 5:33 did not apply. If I say, “Dick Cheney is a dog who eats from garbage,” have I declared war on the United States? No. So how could an equally repugnant statement against the Prophet be a declaration of war? And if it is a declaration of war, then why are they not calling for crucifixion? They are not arguing; they are making a pretense at an argument. The other arguments are indeed strongly worded, but none calls for death. Yusuf Qaradawy has written a new book in which he makes the same argument. I didn’t bring up the verses because none of the scholars brought it up. I am not taking sides, issuing my own fatwa; I am analyzing the debate in Pakistan on this issue. I introduced the verses from Surat-an-Nur only because I sent e-mails to the ulama asking why they did not talk about this and they did not respond. They are more interested in killing somebody than in knowing what the real Islamic position on this issue is. Ibn al Munza is the one everybody in Pakistan quotes to show there is ijma, but there is no ijma. Is Imam Abu Hanifa outside the fold of Islam? He’s a salaf. Do the salafis believe in the tabi`în or not? This man inciting murder in violation of the law of their country is fasâd by definition. A case was filed by five people, none of whom was a witness to the alleged crime. A man died because of it. We can no more say Ka`b ibn al-Ashraf was killed for insulting the Prophet than we can say bin Ladin was killed for insulting George Bush or his father. Abu Hanifa’s view is widely available in translation into Urdu on the Internet but it continues to be misrepresented.
General Discussion
M. Ayoub: As usual you are the conscience of the Muslims. You are absolutely right that the verse 5:33 does not apply here becausehirâba is highway robbery, not slander. Fasâd means making life impossible for people. I have a feeling that in Islam there is no blasphemy law and this is a British law the Muslims have inherited. I do not see it in the rest of the Muslim world as it is in Pakistan. In Arabic we do not even have a clear word like blasphemy. Kufr does not mean blasphemy, but rejection.
Kenneth Honerkamp: I lived in the Northwest frontier from 1969-79; I was in the Deobandi madrassas and I never heard of this issue. What happened? What is the political advantage? Lastly, I have a story from Morocco. A sharîf (a member of the Prophet’s family) got into an argument with a Moroccan man. The vehemence of the argument escalated until the man said, “You and your family are dogs.” The sharîftook the man before a judge accusing him of insulting the Prophet and demanding he be killed. After hearing both sides, the judge said, “If you were a real sharîf you would never have let the dispute come to this point,” and he dismissed the case. So, what political groups profit from this?
Anwar Haddam: We see the need to contextualize fatwas and see themaqâsid behind them. Protecting the lives of human beings is one of the most important objectives of Shariah. Implementing this law isfasâd. As to your suggestion of a state monopoly on iftaa, I think we need to protect the independence of the muftis from the state. It is implementation of the fatwas that must be the monopoly of the state.
Khan: It is interesting that the two words they use in Urdu do not mean blasphemy, but (tawhîn) insult.
M. Ayoub: In Arabic this means “weakening.”
Khan: In Urdu they use Arabic words with entirely different meanings. They also use the word shâtim. They are not using the word sulh, which is very interesting. The word shâtima does not occur in the Qur’an at all. Sabba appears in this interesting verse: “Revile not ye those whom they call upon besides God lest they out of spite revile God in their ignorance.  Thus have We made alluring to each people its own doings.  In the end will they return to their Lord and We shall then tell them the truth of all that they did” (6:108). It is also used in Ibn Taymiyyah’s book.  It also arises in the Sunni-Shia debate with regard to insulting the companions of the Prophet. In every case that has come up since Zia al Haqq put the law in its current form, not a single defendant has claimed that it was their intention to insult. All have been apologetic for giving offense, but as I have said lack of intention is no excuse.
As for the political advantage, in Third World countries debates are rarely on policy; they are almost always on cultural symbols. In Pakistan they have found, just a year or two after the Danish cartoons, the power of campaigning on religious symbols. When extremist Christian pastors in America insult the Prophet or Islam they get little attention here, but they make the front page in Pakistan.
I agree with you about monopolies. There is, I think, a hadith that if you see a scholar going to a rich man’s house, assume he is a thief. The role of the scholars as the critics of the powerful has, I think, been lost.
Sami Ayoub: The notion of ijma in the sense that everyone agreed never existed. When verses are taken out of context to support killing, we must put them back into context to challenge that claim.
Khan: If we say there is ijma, then we exclude ourselves from the conversation. As soon as we ask a question, ijma is put into question. The opinion of the Muslims of Herndon is of more concern for me than an imagined consensus form a thousand years ago. The verses that the ulama of Pakistan are using based on he interpretation attribute to Ibn Taymiyyah were not brought by his student Ibn Kathir into histafsîr. He says these verses apply to hypocrites.
M. Ayoub: I argue that Khomeini did not issue a fatwa against Salman Rushdie because had he done so, it would have been on the grounds of apostasy, that his insulting the Prophet and his wife constititutedkufr, in which case he should have been given time (three days by the most widely accepted view) to repent. I think he was making a recommendation. He gave the reason, saying, it was so no one would insult Islam again. If you think this is a fatwa—
Haddam: That is the problem. That is why we need a definition of a fatwa.
Khan: They put a monetary reward.
M. Ayoub: Khomeini put no monetary reward.
Adam El Shiekh: At the time of Khomeini’s fatwa, I commented in a khutba that you couldn’t kill someone without a hearing, even in absentia, producing a record for history. I was targeted for execution and had to go underground for three or four months. Dr. Moqtedar says the fatwa is still valid in Pakistan, but after a year or two I was able to go back and stayed there for a few years.
Sarah Albrecht: How would you see your own role as a scholar in this debate?
Khan: What motivates me is that if they were to apply this rule against those who insult Jesus, then all Muslims would be accused of insulting Jesus, because we say he is not God. It sounds ridiculous. I don’t want to get involved in Pakistan’s internal politics, but if they claim Islam as their justification, they are drawing me in. I am providing a critique of these people using their own methods to show they are not sincere in their use of their own methods.
Moustafa Kassem: What about Imam Ghazali’s Fausal al-Tafriqa which is a manual on this question. He identified intention, level of knowledge, and outside pressure, as relevant issues that must considered as well as the necessity of giving three days for repentance.
Khan: There is zero mention of Ghazali or of the three day period in this debate.
Laila Ghouri: Islam has not divorced itself from the crazy actions of Muslims. Violent acts of the IRA are not attributed to Christianity or Jesus, while the violent or crazy actions of Muslims are linked to Islam or Muhammad. Why is this and what can and should be done about it?
Daoud Nassimi: The penal laws of Islam are for an Islamic state and not for an individual to apply. When Allah commands us to fight fî sabîl Allah it does not mean physical fighting but a spiritual fight. Anything else is fighting against Allah. Preventing people from the path of Allah is included in the definition of fasâd, for example: “Those who reject God and hinder (men) from the path of God for them will We add Penalty to Penalty; for that they used to spread mischief (fasâd)” (16:88).
Khan: I am familiar with that verse, but I am not sure insulting anybody constitutes preventing some one from the path of Allah. One of the failed anti-Shariah laws proposed that performing wudu be punishable by fifteen years in prison. So, you can wash you feet but if you washed your feet for the purpose of prayer you could have been imprisoned for fifteen years. That would be an example of preventing people from the path of Allah. An insult is not a war. Shâtima does not mean insult, but vilification. The argument of these people is that Pakistan is an Islamic state but the state is controlled by kufâr. The fact that I argue against killing someone who demonizes the Prophet doesn’t mean I don’t want to stop him. I might feel like killing such a man, but my religion prevents me from doing so. The Qur’an says clearly when you come across ignorant people, say “Peace!” and turn away. People who abuse the Qur’an are engaged in psychological torture against those who hold it dear, but that does not justify killing them. It is conceded that shâtimaagainst the Qur’an is not a capital crime, but perhaps that will change in the future. What bothers me is that the Muslim masses are so ignorant of the sources that they are easily taken in by such faulty arguments. There is a story, I think about Ali, that he was once about to kill a man in battle, but the man spat upon him, so Ali backed off because he was no longer sure if his motive to kill the man was the just cause of battle or the affront of the personal insult.
Ghauri: You make valid points, but I have a problem with the analogies to insulting Dick Cheney or Obama. When you insult the Virgin Mary or Christ, the Catholic Church does respond. Where do you draw the line?
Adam El Sheikh: If you tell these people that the Prophet is described in the Qur’an as a man like me or you, they will say this is an insult.
M. Ayoub: There is a blasphemy law in the gospels, but it prohibits blasphemy against the Holy Spirit only. If you blaspheme against Jesus you might be forgiven, but blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is unforgivable.
Khan: It is clear that some of the ulama believe that if you do not believe the Prophet has `ilm al-Ghayb (knowledge of the unseen), you are not a Muslim. I met the king of Saudi Arabia only once and he told me, “You don’t understand that Saudi Arabia is different from other countries because the people are more conservative than the ulama and the ulama are more conservative than the king. I would be happy to appoint a woman minister tomorrow. The ulama will not let me because the people will not let them. I nearly said, “That’s very democratic.” That happens in the United States where the imam’s salary and his job depend on the doctors and engineers with no formal training in Islam, who do the fundraising in the mosque. Imams have told me “When I get tenure like you have, I will give the khutbas you want me to give.”
To Laila’s question: Yes, we should respond to insults to the Prophet, but not violently. The Qur’an says in two places, “Respond to evil with good.” We can fund a yearlong celebration of the Prophet Muhammad or of the Qur’an. Better yet, people will stop believing these attacks on the Prophet and on Islam when they see Muslims behaving magnanimously.
Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad, Ph.D.
Minaret of Freedom Institute