Islam and blasphemy
|Part of a series on|
and other religions
Blasphemy in Islam is any irreverent behavior toward holy personages, religious artifacts, customs, and beliefs that Muslims revere. The Quran and the hadith do not speak about any worldy punishment for blasphemy. Jurists created the offence, and they made it part of Sharia. Where Sharia pertains, the penalties for blasphemy can include fines, imprisonment, flogging, amputation, hanging, or beheading. Muslim clerics may call for the punishment of an alleged blasphemer by issuing a fatwā.
Mohsen Haredy, an Islamic scholar, says Muslim countries have their own views of Sharia, and blasphemy are the internal issues of those countries.
Blasphemy versus apostasy
Muslim jurists dispute about what irreverent behavior amounts to blasphemy. They dispute about whether behavior that is deemed blasphemous amounts to a rejection of Islam, that is, apostasy. Some jurists believe that blasphemy automatically removes an individual from the fold of Islam. Jurists may conflate and confuse apostasy, blasphemy, hypocrisy, heresy, and unbelief. An individual may find himself accused of being an atheist, a heretic, a hypocrite, a blasphemer, and an apostate on the basis of one action or utterance.
Islamic legal authorities agree that a blasphemer can be Muslim or non-Muslim. To be convicted of blasphemy, an individual must be an adult, of sound mind, and not under duress. 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.
Blasphemy against holy personages
Individuals have been accused of blasphemy or of insulting Islam for:
- 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 (Nigeria).
- Visual depictions of Muhammad or any other prophet, or films about Muhammad or other prophets (Egypt).
- writing Muhammad's name on the walls of a toilet (Pakistan).
- naming a teddy bear Muhammad (Sudan). See Sudanese teddy bear blasphemy case.
- invoking God while committing a forbidden act.
Blasphemy against beliefs and customs
Individuals have been accused of blasphemy or of insulting Islam for:
- 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 (Indonesia).
- believing in transmigration of the soul or reincarnation or disbelieving in the afterlife (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 (Malaysia).
- praying that Muslims become something else (Indonesia).
- whistling during prayers (Indonesia).
- flouting the rules prescribed for Ramadan.
- reciting Muslim prayers in a language other than Arabic (Indonesia).
- consuming alcohol.
- being alone with persons of the opposite sex who are not blood relatives.
- finding amusement in Islamic customs (Bangladesh).
- publishing an unofficial translation of the Qur'an (Afghanistan).
- practicing yoga (Malaysia).
- watching a film or listening to music (Somalia).
- wearing make-up on television (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.
- converting from Islam to Christianity or publishing or distributing such a point of view
- talking about or trying to convert others from Islam to Christianity or publishing or distributing such a point of view
Blasphemy against artifacts
Individuals have been accused of blasphemy or of insulting Islam for:
- touching a Qur'an or touching something that has touched a Qur'an because the individuals were not Muslim (Nigeria).
- damaging a Qur'an or other books of importance to Islam, for example, hadith (Pakistan).
- spitting at the wall of a mosque (Pakistan).
The punishments for different instances of blasphemy in Islam vary by jurisdiction, but may be very severe. A convicted 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. In some jurisdictions blasphemy may be subject to the death penalty. Many severe punishments are imposed in various Islamic societies.
Blasphemy against God
Islamic law makes a distinction between a blasphemer who insults God and a blasphemer who finds fault with Muhammad. The distinction is based on the notions of the "right of God" and the "right of Man." Reviling God violates the "right of God," who has the power to avenge the insult. Reviling Muhammad violates the "right of Man," who, in the case of Muhammad, does not have the power to avenge the insult. A blasphemer who violates the "right of God" can seek forgiveness through repentance.
The Qur'an speaks of punishment in relation to those who make mischief in opposition to God and Muhammad:
The punishment of those who wage war against Allah and His Messenger, and strive with might and main for mischief through the land is: execution, or crucifixion, or 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 return repenting before you apprehend them. And know that Allah is Forgiving and Merciful.” (5:33-34)
Blasphemy against Muhammad
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.
One of the best and the most well-known examples used by Muslim activists against the punishment for blasphemy is of an old woman who threw garbage on Muhammad every time he passed in front of her house. One day the garbage was not thrown; Muhammad got worried and inquired about the woman. He found out that she was sick, when he went to meet her, she felt guilty and finally she accepted Islam. However, the authenticity of this story has been questioned by Islamic scholars as no such story appears in the authentic hadith.
The Prophet said, "Who is ready to kill Ka'b ibn al-Ashraf who has really hurt Allah and His Apostle?" Muhammad bin Maslama said, "O Allah's Apostle! Do you like me to kill him?" He replied in the affirmative. So, Muhammad bin Maslama went to him (i.e. Ka'b) and said, "This person (i.e. the Prophet) has put us to task and asked us for charity." Ka'b replied, "By Allah, you will get tired of him." Muhammad said to him, "We have followed him, so we dislike to leave him till we see the end of his affair." Muhammad bin Maslama went on talking to him in this way till he got the chance to kill him. Narrated Jabir bin 'Abdullah
Blasphemy against beliefs and customs
The punishment for non-conformity with prevailing beliefs and customs varies by jurisdiction. In September 2009, Abdul Kahar Ahmad pleaded guilty in a Malaysian Sharia court to charges of spreading false doctrines, blasphemy, and violating religious precepts. The court sentenced Ahmad to ten years in prison and six lashes from a rattan cane. In October 2009, Somalia's hardline Islamist group al-Shabaab whipped women who were wearing a bra, and whipped men for being beardless. The group said violation of Islamic custom deserved whipping.
- Blasphemy at dictionary.com
- Saeed, Abdullah; Hassan Saeed (2004). Freedom of Religion, Apostasy and Islam. Burlington VT: Ashgate Publishing Company. pp. 38–39. ISBN 978-0-7546-3083-8.
- See the articles about Islamic jurisdictions under Blasphemy law.
- Islamic Voice[dead link]
- "Blasphemy Salman Rushdie". Constitutional Rights Foundation. 2009. Retrieved 10 July 2009.[dead link]
- Doran, Michael Scott (January–February 2004). "The Saudi Paradox". Foreign Affairs. Retrieved 27 July 2009.[dead link]
- Saeed and Saeed, p. 48.
- "Blasphemy: Islamic Concept". Encyclopedia of Religion 2. Farmington Hills, MI: Thomson Gale. 2005. pp. 974–976.
- "Egypt bans 'blasphemous' magazine". BBC. 8 April 2009. Retrieved 13 July 2009.
- Ibrahim, Yusha'u A. (20 June 2009). "Nigeria: Blasphemy - Rioters Burn Police Outpost, Injure 12". Daily Trust. Retrieved 30 July 2009.
- Ibrahim, Yusha'u A. (11 August 2008). "Nigeria: Mob Kills 50-Year-Old Man for 'Blasphemy'". Daily Trust. Retrieved 30 July 2009.
- "Nigeria: International Religious Freedom Report 2008". U.S. Department of State. 2008. Retrieved 2 August 2009.
- "Blasphemy Laws and Intellectual Freedom in Pakistan". South Asian Voice. August 2002. Retrieved 21 June 2009.[dead link]
- "Pakistan city tense after 'blaspheming' Christians shot". BBC. 20 July 2010. Retrieved 21 July 2010.
- "Pakistan bans Da Vinci Code film". BBC News / South Asia. 4 June 2006. Retrieved 4 June 2009.
- "Document - Pakistan: Fear for safety/ Prisoner of Conscience (POC), Mohammed Younus Shaikh". Amnesty International. 19 August 2005. Retrieved 21 June 2009.
- "KARACHI: Writer of sacrilegious book gets life term". Dawn the Internet Edition. 12 August 2005. Retrieved 21 June 2009.[dead link]
- Soage, Ana Belén (June 2007). "Faraj Fawda, or The Cost of Freedom of Expression". Volume 11, No. 2, Article 3/8. Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. Retrieved 16 July 2009.[dead link]
- Durant, David (30 September 2007). "Banned Authors Week: Farag Foda". Retrieved 15 July 2009.
- Boyle, Kevin; Juliet Sheen (1997). Freedom of Religion and Belief. Routledge. p. 30. ISBN 0-415-15978-4.
- Djavadi, Abbas (28 February 2009). "In Today's Iran, Anything Else Is "Blasphemy"". Iran & Beyond. Retrieved 7 July 2009.[dead link]
- MacFarquhar, Neil (24 June 2007). "Iran Cracks Down on Dissent". The New York Times. Retrieved 11 July 2009.
- Fathi, Nazila (29 June 2004). "Iran Drops Death Penalty for Professor Guilty of Blasphemy". The New York Times. Retrieved 10 July 2009.
- "Iran Frees Professor Set to Die for Speech". The New York Times. 1 August 2004. Retrieved 11 July 2009.
- "Pakistan: Use and abuse of blasphemy laws". AI Index: ASA 33/008/1994. Amnesty International. 27 July 1994. Retrieved 19 February 2010.[dead link]
- Riaz Ahmed Gohar Shah is convicted of blasphemy[dead link]
- Indonesian prophet jailed for blasphemy
- Mbachu, Dulue (22 November 2002). "100 Killed in Nigeria Riots Triggered by Miss World Pageant". The Washington Post. Retrieved 31 July 2009.[dead link]
- "Nigeria: No justice for Kaduna killings". Issue 120. Pambazuka News. 24 July 2003. Retrieved 31 July 2009.
- "16 die in cartoon protests in Nigeria". CNN.com. 19 February 2006. Retrieved 11 April 2010.
- "Nigeria Christian Killed In Riot Over Blasphemy; Dozens Injured". BosNewsLife. 13 February 2008. Retrieved 1 August 2009.
- Samson, Elizabeth (10 September 2008). "Criminalizing Criticism of Islam". Wall Street Journal Europe. Retrieved 26 June 2009.[dead link]
- "Jordan charges Dutch politician with blasphemy". Reuters. 1 July 2008. Retrieved 18 June 2009.
- Khouri, Malek (Spring 2006). "Anxieties of fundamentalism and the dynamics of modernist resistance: Youssef Chahine's Al Maseer". BNET. Retrieved 15 November 2009.[dead link]
- Walsh, Declan (31 May 2010). "Pakistan lifts Facebook ban but 'blasphemous' pages stay hidden". London: guardian.co.uk. Retrieved 31 May 2010.
- "Annual Report of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom May 2009". Pakistan. United States Commission on International Religious Freedom. May 2009. Retrieved 24 June 2009.
- "Reports: Sudan arrests UK teacher for teddy bear blasphemy". CNN.com. 26 November 2007. Retrieved 11 April 2010.
- Bearak, Barry (12 May 2001). "Death to Blasphemers: Islam's Grip on Pakistan". The New York Times. Retrieved 21 June 2009.
- Hussain, Zahid (September 2001). "Lethal Law". Newsline. Retrieved 19 June 2009.[dead link]
- "Blasphemy Prisoner Acquitted After Six Years in Prison". International Christian Concern. 16 August 2002. Retrieved 27 June 2009.[dead link]
- Adams, Brad (19 November 2007). "Pakistan: Dubai Should End Shutdown of Pakistani Channels". Human Rights Watch. Retrieved 20 August 2009.
- "Bangladesh". International Religious Freedom Report 2008. U.S. State Department. Retrieved 7 August 2009.
- Ahmed, Rumi (30 September 2007). "Chronology of Major Blasphemy Cases in Bangladesh [1972-2007]". Retrieved 5 August 2009.
- Patung (11 April 2007). "Islam is for Arabs". Indonesia Matters. Retrieved 23 June 2009.
- The Peace FAQ: Blasphemy
- Patung (27 February 2006). "Abdul Rahman, Blasphemer". Indonesia Matters. Retrieved 23 June 2009.
- In Egypt, writer, Salaheddin Mohsen is sentenced to three years in prison for atheism and blasphemy against Islam
- Murphy, Kim (7 May 1990). "A Matter of Censorship". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 16 July 2009.
- Zenati, Hassen (5 June 2004). "Al-Azhar confiscates publications". Middle East Online. Retrieved 16 July 2009.
- Censorship and Persecution in the Name of Islam: A Tunisian Weekly Counts the Ways
- Abdoun, Safaa (11 December 2008). "Late Publishing Mogul Madbouli leaves behind a Literary Legacy". Daily News Egypt. Retrieved 16 July 2009.[dead link]
- "Jordanian poet accused of 'atheism and blasphemy'". The Daily Star Lebanon. 25 October 2008. Retrieved 18 June 2009.
- Alrawi, Karim (31 January 1992). "Egypt's Rushdie". v.5, no. 187, p. 27. New Statesman & Society. Retrieved 18 July 2009.
- "Egypt: Internet writer Kareem Amer ill treated". English PEN. 12 September 2008. Retrieved 13 July 2009.
- "Independent weekly hit by two bombs after threats from radical movement". Reporters Without Borders. 11 July 2006. Retrieved 6 August 2009.[dead link]
- "To: Government of Bangladesh". Scholars for Peace in the Middle East. Undated (2008?). Retrieved 6 August 2009.
- Mineeia, Zainab (21 October 2008). "Afghanistan: Journalist Serving 20 Years for "Blasphemy"". IPS (Inter Press Service). Retrieved 2 July 2009.
- Wiseman, Paul (31 January 2008). "Afghan student's death sentence hits nerve". USA Today. Retrieved 13 July 2009.
- "2008 Report on International Religious Freedom - Afghanistan". United States Department of State. 19 September 2008. Retrieved 2 July 2009.
- "Supreme court confirms death sentence for two journalists for "blasphemy"". Reporters sans frontières. 6 August 2003. Retrieved 13 July 2009.[dead link]
- "Malaysia: Christians To Be Allowed to Use word "Allah"". The Becket Fund. 26 February 2009. Retrieved 31 August 2009.
- "'Allah' cannot be used by non-Muslims: Malaysia". expressindia.com. 5 March 2009. Retrieved 30 August 2009.[dead link]
- "Annual Report of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom May 2009". Indonesia. United States Commission on International Religious Freedom. May 2009. Retrieved 24 June 2009.
- "Indonesia". International Religious Freedom Report 2007. U.S. State Department. Retrieved 22 June 2009.
- "Malaysia canes three women over extramarital sex". BBC News. 17 February 2010. Retrieved 17 February 2010.
- "Cartoonist arrested over harmless play on name Mohammed". Reporters Without Borders. 19 September 2007. Retrieved 7 August 2009.
- "Journalists fined over Islam joke". BBC News. 15 January 2007. Retrieved 22 November 2009.
- "BANGLADESH: Cartoon incident, Prothom Alo takes action against persons responsible". The Daily Star. 19 September 2007. Retrieved 12 February 2010.
- Dummett, Mark (19 September 2007). "Cartoonist jailed in Bangladesh". BBC News. Retrieved 12 February 2010.
- Wafa, Abdul Waheed; Carlotta Gall and Taimoor Shah (11 March 2009). "Afghan Court Backs Prison Term for Blasphemy". The New York Times. Retrieved 12 July 2009.
- "Malaysia: Muslims warned to avoid blasphemous yoga". Welt Online. 22 November 2008. Retrieved 31 August 2009.
- "Somali Men Get 40 Lashes For Watching Pornography". Newstime Africa. 1 December 2009. Retrieved 4 December 2009.
- "Iran bans made-up women on TV". The Mercury. 3 December 2009. Retrieved 4 December 2009.
- Minchakpu, Obed (March 2007). "Muslims in Nigeria Club Christian Teacher to Death". Compass Direct News. Retrieved 30 July 2009.
- Minchakpu, Obed (29 March 2006). "Teacher Accused of Blasphemy in Nigeria Disappears". Compass Direct News. Retrieved 30 July 2009.
- "Hated without cause: faith's high price". The Sydney Morning Herald. 22 November 2009. Retrieved 12 February 2010.
- "Nigeria teacher dies 'over Koran'". BBC News. 21 March 2007. Retrieved 12 February 2010.
- "Two Christians punished for 'burning' Quran". Nerve News ... of India. 27 November 2006. Retrieved 1 November 2009.
- "Man gets death sentence for blasphemy". Daily Times. 19 June 2008. Retrieved 4 September 2009.
- "After Gojra, 3 'blasphemy' killings in Pak Punjab for 'desecrating Quran'". Thaindian News. 5 August 2009. Retrieved 16 August 2009.
- "'Blasphemy' claims three more victims". Daily Times. 5 August 2009. Retrieved 20 August 2009.
- Mansell, Hannah (15 June 2004). "Young Christian man accused of blasphemy killed". Religious Intelligence. Retrieved 18 August 2009.[dead link]
- "Muslim Police Constable Murders Christian in Hospital Accused of Blasphemy". Article 14510. Barnabas Fund. 10 June 2004. Retrieved 20 August 2009.
- See Blasphemy law.
- "Govt warned against amending blasphemy law". The News. 12 February 2010. Retrieved 16 February 2010.[dead link]
- France 24: Praying for a pardon: Christian sentenced to death for 'blaspheming against Islam'
- Quran 5:33-34
- Abolish Patently Inhuman Blasphemy laws of Pakistan, Islamic Sharia Laws, Aiman Reyaz, New Age Islam, New Age Islam
- Misra, Sidi (11 February 2011). "Is It True That Someone Threw Trash on the Prophet". Seeker's guidance. Retrieved 5 December 2012. "When asking whether this story is authentic or not, someone may be alluding to a tale that is commonly heard today: It goes that a Jewish woman in Mecca who would throw garbage on the doorstep of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) in defiance of his message, and one day she fell sick and could not throw the garbage, so the Prophet (peace be upon him) visited her. Then it is said that she was so amazed at his character that she realized his prophethood and accepted Islam. I have not found a basis for this specific incident in the books of hadeeth or reliable works of prophetic biography, and it seems as though this story has become popular on the tongues of people without any source to support it, and Allah knows best."
- Rubin, Uri. The Assassination of Kaʿb b. al-Ashraf. Oriens, Vol. 32. (1990), pp. 65-71.
- "Malaysia court sentences Muslim sect leader to 10 years in jail, caning over false teachings". 3news.co.nz. 21 October 2009. Retrieved 15 November 2009.
- Sheikh, Abdi (17 October 2009). "Hardliners whip young women for bra-wearing 'deception'". The Scotsman. Retrieved 15 November 2009.[dead link]