Islam and blasphemy

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Blasphemy in Islam is impious utterance or action concerning God, Muhammad or anything considered sacred in Islam.[1][2] The Quran admonishes blasphemy, but does not specify any worldly punishment for blasphemy.[3] The hadiths, which are another source of Sharia, suggest various punishments for blasphemy, including death.[3][4] Various fiqhs (schools of jurisprudence) of Islam have different punishment for blasphemy, depending on whether blasphemer is Muslim or non-Muslim, man or woman.[3] The punishment can be fines, imprisonment, flogging, amputation, hanging, or beheading.[5][6]

Muslim clerics may call for the punishment of an alleged blasphemer by issuing a fatwā.[7][8]

Islamic scriptures[edit]

Quran[edit]

There are a number of surah in Qur'an relating to blasphemy, from which Quranic verses 5:33 and 33:57-61 have been most commonly used in Islamic history to justify and punish blasphemers.[4][9][10] For example,[4]

Those who annoy Allah and His Messenger - Allah has cursed them in this World and in the Hereafter, and has prepared for them a humiliating Punishment.

Quran 33:57

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 neighbours for any length of time: They shall have a curse on them: whenever they are found, they shall be seized and slain (without mercy).

Quran 33:61

Hadiths[edit]

When still alive Muhammad called for the murder of Ka'b ibn al-Ashraf, because he insulted him.[11]

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

Sahih al-Bukhari, 4:52:270, see also Sahih al-Bukhari, 5:59:369, 3:45:687, 4:52:271

It has been narrated on the authority of Jabir that the Messenger of Allah said: Who will kill Ka'b b. Ashraf? He has maligned Allah, the Exalted, and His Messenger. Muhammad b. Maslama said: Messenger of Allah, do you wish that I should kill him? He said: Yes. He said: Permit me to talk (to him in the way I deem fit). He said: Talk (as you like).

Sahih Muslim, 19:4436

Muhammad declared that there shall be no punishment for murdering anyone who disparages, abuses or insults him (tashtimu, sabb al rasool),[4]

Narrated Ali ibn AbuTalib: A Jewess used to abuse the Prophet and disparage him. A man strangled her till she died. The Apostle of Allah declared that no recompense was payable for her blood.

Sunan Abu Dawood, 38:4349 see also Sunan Abu Dawood, 38:4348

Blasphemy as apostasy[edit]

Blasphemy has historically been seen as an evidence of rejection of Islam, that is, the religious crime of apostasy. Some jurists believe that blasphemy automatically implies a Muslim has left the fold of Islam.[3] A Muslim may find himself accused of being a blasphemer, and thus an apostate on the basis of one action or utterance.[12][13] Some[14][15] modern Muslim scholars contest that Islam supports blasphemy law, stating that Muslim jurists made the offense part of Sharia.

Examples of blasphemy[edit]

Writer Salman Rushdie was accused of blasphemy and became the subject of a fatwā issued by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the Supreme Leader of Iran, in February 1989.

Individuals have been accused of blasphemy or of insulting Islam for:

Blasphemy against holy personages[edit]

Blasphemy against beliefs and customs[edit]

Blasphemy against artifacts[edit]

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).[82][83]
  • spitting at the wall of a mosque (Pakistan).[84][85]

Punishment[edit]

The punishments for different instances of blasphemy in Islam vary by jurisdiction,[3][86][87] 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, in some Fiqhs, 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. Muslim women may be permitted to repent, and may receive a lesser punishment than would befall a Muslim man who committed the same offense.[13] In some jurisdictions blasphemy may be subject to the death penalty.[88] Many severe punishments are imposed in various Islamic societies.

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.[3]

Punishment by different Islamic schools of jurisprudence[edit]

The Quran does not explicitly mention any worldly punishment for blasphemy (sabb allah or sabb al-rasul), as it does for apostasy (riddah). Islamic jurisprudence (fiqh) of Sunni and Shia madhabs have declared different punishments for the religious crime of blasphemy, and they vary between schools. These are as follows:[2][3][89]

Hanafi – views blasphemy as synonymous with apostasy, and therefore, accepts the repentance of apostates. Those who refuse to repent, their punishment is death if the blasphemer is a Muslim man, and if the blasphemer is a woman, she must be imprisoned with coercion (beating) till she repents and returns to Islam.[90] If a non-Muslim commits blasphemy, his punishment must be a tazir (discretionary, can be death, arrest, caning, etc.).[6][91]
Maliki – view blasphemy as an offense distinct from, and more severe than apostasy. Death is mandatory in cases of blasphemy for Muslim men, and repentance is not accepted. For women, death is not the punishment suggested, but she is arrested and punished till she repents and returns to Islam or dies in custody.[92][93] A non-Muslim who commits blasphemy against Islam must be punished; however, the blasphemer can escape punishment by converting and becoming a devout Muslim.[94]
Hanbali – view blasphemy as an offense distinct from, and more severe than apostasy. Death is mandatory in cases of blasphemy, for both Muslim men and women, and repentance is not accepted.[95][96]
Shafi’i – recognizes blasphemy as a separate offense from apostasy, but accepts the repentance of blasphemers. If the blasphemer does not repent, the punishment is death.[97][98]
Ja'fari (Shia) – views blasphemy against Islam, the Prophet, or any of the Imams, to be punishable with death, if the blasphemer is a Muslim.[99] In case the blasphemer is a non-Muslim, he is given a chance to convert to Islam, or else killed.[100]

Blasphemy against beliefs and customs[edit]

The punishment for non-conformity with prevailing beliefs and customs varies by jurisdiction.[86] 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.[101] 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.[102] In Malaysia, Islamic scholars issued a fatwa declaring yoga as blasphemous, because yoga is a form of spiritual practice in Hinduism.[103][104][105]

In 2014, an Egyptian state prosecutor pressed charges against Fatima Naoot of blaspheming Islam when she posted a Facebook message which criticized the slaughter of animals during Eid, a major Islamic festival.[106]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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    • Ahmad ibn Muhammad al-Tahawi (933), Mukhtasar Ikhtilaf al-Ulama, vol. 3, p. 504
    • Ali ibn Hassan al-Sughdi (798); Kitab al-Kharaj; Quote: “أيما رجل مسلم سب رَسُوْل اللهِ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ أو كذبه أو عابه أوتنقصه فقد كفر بالله وبانت منه زوجته ، فإن تاب وإلا قتل ، وكذلك المرأة ، إلا أن أبا حنيفة قَالَ: لا تقتل المرأة وتجبر عَلَى الإسلام”; Translation: “A Muslim man who blasphemes the Messenger of Allah, denies him, reproaches him, or diminishes him, he has committed apostasy in Allah, and his wife is separated from him. He must repent, or else is killed. And this is the same for the woman, except Abu Hanifa said: Do not kill the woman, but coerce her back to Islam.”
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    • Ibn Taymiyyah (a Salafi, related to Hanbali school), al-Sārim al-Maslūl 'ala Shātim al-Rasūl (or, A ready sword against those who insult the Messenger), Published in 1297 AD in Arabic, Reprinted in 1975 and 2003 by Dar-ibn Hazm (Beirut), the book is on blasphemy/insulting Muhammad and the punishment in the context of Islamic scriptures;
    • Jerusha Lamptey (2014), Never Wholly Other: A Muslima Theology of Religious Pluralism, Oxford University Press, Chapter 1 with footnotes 28, 29 pp. 258
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  98. ^ P Smith (2003), Speak No Evil: Apostasy, Blasphemy and Heresy in Malaysian Syariah Law, UC Davis Journal Int'l Law & Policy, 10, pp. 357-373;
    • F Griffel (2001), Toleration and exclusion: al-Shafi ‘i and al-Ghazali on the treatment of apostates, Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, 64(3), pp. 339-354
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    • Ali ibn Ahmad al-Amili al-Thani (1602), Sharh al-Luma al-Dimashqiya, vol. 9, pp. 194-195;
    • Muhammad ibn al-Hassan al-Tusi (1067), Al-Nihaya, pp. 730-731 and Tadhib al-Ahkam, vol. 10, p. 85;
    • Ali ibn al-Hussein "Sharif al-Murtada" (1044). Al-Intisar, pp. 480–481;
    • Ali ibn Babawaih al-Qummi al-Saduq (991), Al-Hidaya fi al-Usul wa al-Furu, pp. 295–297
  100. ^ Ali ibn al-Hussein al-Murtada (1044), Al-Intisar, pp. 480-481
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  106. ^ Days after Mauritania sentences man to death for 'insulting Islam', Egypt to try female writer for similar offence Agence France-Presse, MG Africa (December 28, 2014)