Punishment for Blasphemy in the Light of Religious Scriptures
Pakistan is the land of hot issues it would not be a false statement at all. Whether it is the religious, political, economic or social issues; Pakistan is the place you will find on top of all. Lately, the issue of blasphemy has arisen when a session court (lower court) sentence Asiya Bibi (who was Christian by faith) to death after finding her guilty her of sacrilegious comments.
The debate of repealing this law has come out of blue this time after 2-3 decades of legislation regarding. There are several opinions regarding this blasphemy act 295 (c) of the constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan. There are oodles of angles to this law, whether it be religious, democratic, political or human right.
We have gathered some evidences from the Quran, Hadith, Sunnah and history (compiled by historians) for the exact punishment for blasphemy. This will also answer the most asked question “What Muhammad (S.A.W) would have done?” “How he would have responded?” and many supplementary questions like “What Quran says?”, “Is there any evidence in Hadith?” and “What other religions say about blasphemy?”
Let’s start from a Quranic verse:
The above verse of Surah e Ahzab (Chapter 33:6) shows the right of a Allah’s Apostle Muhammad (S.A.W) on Muslims. It is clear from the word of GOD that Muhammad (S.A.W) has more right over our lives and closest of relations.
The following Reference of Holy Quran Chapter 4 V 65 was revealed when a man was beheaded by the Hazrat Umar (R.A) due to non compliance of judgment given by Holy prophet Mohammad (S.A.W).
Context of Revelation (Chapter 4, V 65):
Al-Hafiz Abu Ishaq Ibrahim bin `Abdur-Rahman bin Ibrahim bin Duhaym recorded that Damrah narrated that two men took their dispute to the Prophet , and he gave a judgment to the benefit of whoever among them had the right. The person who lost the dispute said, “I do not agree.” The other person asked him, “What do you want then” He said, “Let us go to Abu Bakr As-Siddiq.” They went to Abu Bakr and the person who won the dispute said, “We went to the Prophet with our dispute and he issued a decision in my favor.” Abu Bakr said, “Then the decision is that which theMessenger of Allah issued.” The person who lost the dispute still rejected the decision and said, “Let us go to `Umar bin Al-Khattab.” When they went to `Umar, the person who won the dispute said, “We took our dispute to the Prophet and he decided in my favor, but this man refused to submit to the decision.” `Umar bin Al-Khattab asked the second man and he concurred. `Umar went to his house and emerged from it holding aloft his sword. He struck the head of the man who rejected the Prophet’s decision with the sword and killed him.
Consequently, Allah revealed, the aforementioned verse.[Context taken from Tafseer Ibn-e-Kathir]
Let’s get to another verse where Allah (SWT) announces the punishment for enemies (of ALLAH and His Apostle) and who so ever attributes disgrace to Allah and His Apostle Mohammad (S.A.W).
May we present another verse from the Quran where Allah immediately answers to the sacrilegious comment made by the blood relative (uncle) of Allah’s Apostle Mohammad (S.A.W).
Context of Revelation
Abu Lahab (Father of Flame) was the nickname of ‘Abd Al-’Uzza, the Holy Prophet’s uncle and his inveterate enemy and persecutor. He was so called either because his complexion and hair were ruddy or also because he had a fiery temper. The Surah recalls an incident during the early preaching of the Holy Prophet (S.A.W). On being commanded by Allah (S.W.T) to call together his relatives and to deliver to them the Divine Message, the Holy Prophet, one day, stood on mount Safa and called the different Meccan (Makkah’s) tribes by name, the tribes of Luwayy, Murrah, Kilab and Qusayy and his near relatives, and told them that he is God’s Messenger, and that if they did not accept his Message and did not give up their evil ways, Divine punishment would overtake them. The Holy Prophet had hardly his speech, when Abu Lahab stood up and said, ‘Ruin seize thee, is it for this that thou hast called us together’ (Bukhari).
Another precedent from the Holy Quran where Allah (SWT) directly replied to Waleed bin Mughaira, who called Mohammad (S.A.W) Majnoon (Insane) by uncovering the hidden truth regarding his illegitimate birth upon him.
Now let’s move to the evidences from Hadiths.
Sahih Bukhari Volume 5, Book 59, Number 372:
Allah’s Apostle sent ‘Abdullah bin ‘Atik and ‘Abdullah bin ‘Utba with a group of men to Abu Rafi (to kill him). They proceeded till they approached his castle, whereupon Abdullah bin Atik said to them, “Wait (here), and in the meantime I will go and see.” ‘Abdullah said later on, “I played a trick in order to enter the castle. By chance, they lost a donkey of theirs and came out carrying a flaming light to search for it. I was afraid that they would recognize me, so I covered my head and legs and pretended to answer the call to nature. The gatekeeper called, ‘Whoever wants to come in, should come in before I close the gate.’ So I went in and hid myself in a stall of a donkey near the gate of the castle. They took their supper with Abu Rafi and had a chat till late at night. Then they went back to their homes. When the voices vanished and I no longer detected any movement, I came out. I had seen where the gate-keeper had kept the key of the castle in a hole in the wall. I took it and unlocked the gate of the castle, saying to myself, ‘If these people should notice me, I will run away easily.’ Then I locked all the doors of their houses from outside while they were inside, and ascended to Abu Rafi by a staircase. I saw the house in complete darkness with its light off, and I could not know where the man was. So I called, ‘O Abu Rafi!’ He replied, ‘Who is it?’ I proceeded towards the voice and hit him. He cried loudly but my blow was futile. Then I came to him, pretending to help him, saying with a different tone of my voice, ‘ What is wrong with you, O Abu Rafi?’ He said, ‘Are you not surprised? Woe on your mother! A man has come to me and hit me with a sword!’ So again I aimed at him and hit him, but the blow proved futile again, and on that Abu Rafi cried loudly and his wife got up. I came again and changed my voice as if I were a helper, and found Abu Rafi lying straight on his back, so I drove the sword into his belly and bent on it till I heard the sound of a bone break. Then I came out, filled with astonishment and went to the staircase to descend, but I fell down from it and got my leg dislocated. I bandaged it and went to my companions limping. I said (to them), ‘Go and tell Allah’s Apostle of this good news, but I will not leave (this place) till I hear the news of his (i.e. Abu Rafi’s) death.’ When dawn broke, an announcer of death got over the wall and announced, ‘I convey to you the news of Abu Rafi’s death.’ I got up and proceeded without feeling any pain till I caught up with my companions before they reached the Prophet to whom I conveyed the good news.”
At the conquest of Makkah:
Holy prophet Mohammad (S.A.W) announced general amnesty to all except those who were guilty of blasphemous acts and sacrilegious statements, Ibn e Khatal was one of the convict (Tareekh-e-Tabari Page 104 / History written by Al Tabari) This is evident from the following Hadith.
Sahih Bukhari Volume 5, Book 59, Number 582:
Narrated Anas bin Malik:
On the day of the Conquest, the Prophet entered Mecca, wearing a helmet on his head. When he took it off, a man came and said, “Ibn e Khatal is clinging to the curtain of the Ka’ba.” The Prophet said, “Kill him.”
Sahih Bukahri Volume 5, Book 59, Number 369:
Narrated Jabir bin ‘Abdullah:
Allah’s Apostle said, “Who is willing to kill Ka’b bin Al-Ashraf who has hurt Allah and His Apostle?” Thereupon Muhammad bin Maslama got up saying, “O Allah’s Apostle! Would you like that I kill him?” The Prophet said, “Yes,” Muhammad bin Maslama said, “Then allow me to say a (false) thing (i.e. to deceive Kab). “The Prophet said, “You may say it.” Then Muhammad bin Maslama went to Kab and said, “That man (i.e. Muhammad demands Sadaqa (i.e. Zakat) from us, and he has troubled us, and I have come to borrow something from you.” On that, Kab said, “By Allah, you will get tired of him!” Muhammad bin Maslama said, “Now as we have followed him, we do not want to leave him unless and until we see how his end is going to be. Now we want you to lend us a camel load or two of food.”
(Some difference between narrators about a camel load or two.) Kab said, “Yes, (I will lend you), but you should mortgage something to me.” Muhammad bin Mas-lama and his companion said, “What do you want?” Ka’b replied, “Mortgage your women to me.” They said, “How can we mortgage our women to you and you are the most handsome of the ‘Arabs?” Ka’b said, “Then mortgage your sons to me.” They said, “How can we mortgage our sons to you? Later they would be abused by the people’s saying that so-and-so has been mortgaged for a camel load of food. That would cause us great disgrace, but we will mortgage our arms to you. “Muhammad bin Maslama and his companion promised Kab that Muhammad would return to him. He came to Kab at night along with Kab’s foster brother, Abu Na’ila. Kab invited them to come into his fort, and then he went down to them. His wife asked him, “Where are you going at this time?” Kab replied, “None but Muhammad bin Maslama and my (foster) brother Abu Na’ila have come.”
His wife said, “I hear a voice as if dropping blood is from him, Ka’b said. “They are none but my brother Muhammad bin Maslama and my foster brother Abu Naila. A generous man should respond to a call at night even if invited to be killed.” Muhammad bin Maslama went with two men. (Some narrators mention the men as ‘Abu bin Jabr. Al Harith bin Aus and Abbad bin Bishr). So Muhammad bin Maslama went in together with two men, and sail to them, “When Ka’b comes, I will touch his hair and smell it, and when you see that I have got hold of his head, strip him. I will let you smell his head.” Kab bin Al-Ashraf came down to them wrapped in his clothes, and diffusing perfume. Muhammad bin Maslama said. “have never smelt a better scent than this. Ka’b replied. “I have got the best Arab women who know how to use the high class of perfume.” Muhammad bin Maslama requested Ka’b “Will you allow me to smell your head?” Ka’b said, “Yes.” Muhammad smelt it and made his companions smell it as well. Then he requested Ka’b again, “Will you let me (smell your head)?” Ka’b said, “Yes.” When Muhammad got a strong hold of him, he said (to his companions), “Get at him!” So they killed him and went to the Prophet and informed him. (Abu Rafi) was killed after Ka’b bin Al-Ashraf.”
Punishment in Bible for blasphemy:
The punishment for blasphemy in most of the major religions is death. It is stated in the Old Testament of the Bible, which is the authority for both the Jews and the Christians:
And he that blasphemeth the name of the LORD, he shall surely be put to death, and all the congregation shall certainly stone him: [Book of Leviticus 24:16]
A reference from Hindu Scripture:
“If a man born of a lower class intentionally bothers a priest, the king should punish him physically with various forms of corporal and capital punishment that make men shudder.” [Manusmriti 9:248]
It is evident from the above references that the punishment for the act of blasphemy in any religion or any form is very severe. Hence, people who are waging a campaign against the article 295 (c) of the constitution to repeal the said law, is not aligned with Islamic, Christianity and Hinduism religious law.
The current law is compliant with the ethical and moral values of society Islamic Republic of Pakistan.
In a nutshell, this law should stay in place to prevent blasphemous acts. But by no means,anyone should be allowed to use this law for personal vendetta or misuse it. Procedural changes should be made with the consent of Ulema to prevent the misuse of the underlying law.