Friday, February 18, 2011

Revisiting "Ghazi Ilmdin Shaheed"

Until recently, I was confused about the action of "Ghazi Ilmdin Shaheed". But now, I'm not.

The following article is a result of my own research and the lack of answers to the three lines of argument I will present. I might be wrong but I have the right to have an opinion. Feel free to disagree and debate but don't take it as an insult.

1. Death penalty for blasphemy:
It has been stated/ proved on multiple accounts that the death penalty for blasphemy is not justified in the Quran. I confirmed this with my research and I'll narrate just two verses to prove my point:

"when ye hear the signs of Allah held in defiance and ridicule, ye are not to sit with them unless they turn to a different theme: if ye did, ye would be like them. For Allah will collect the hypocrites and those who defy faith - all in Hell" (Quran 4:140)

"...but indeed they uttered blasphemy,...If they repent, it will be best for them; but if they turn back (to their evil ways), Allah will punish them..."(Quran 9:74)

We know from our readings of the Quran that punishments are told every time with a crime (which is not there on this occasion). Secondly, the verse also refers to hypocrites i.e. Muslims with weak faith. Hence, not only will Allah punish blasphemy Himself but even hypocrites will be dealt by Him.

As for Ahadith, we know that accounts of both death penalty and forgiveness exist. But we also know that a Hadith is never absolute i.e. it can be out of context. A particular account is narrated by an observer which is not always and never completely done in context. We are told what happened, but we are not (and perhaps cannot be) told exactly why it happened. In other words, Ahadith fall into hearsay evidence.

Now, we have three choices:
a) Allah, telling us to leave the issue to Him, in the Quran.
b) Hearsay evidence of forgiveness for blasphemy.
c) Hearsay evidence of death penalty for blasphemy.

Unfortunately, our right wing chose (and still chooses) the third one.

2. Imam Abu-Hanifa on blasphemy:
I personally do not believe in the teachings of a particular Imam, I believe in Muslim unity. But because the majority of Pakistanis follow Imam Abu-Hanifa, I'd like to share his view on blasphemy.
In simple words, he believes a non-Muslim cannot be given death penalty for blasphemy. The latter will always have such views, expressed or unexpressed. He can be punished under certain laws of the Islamic state but death penalty cannot be imposed.
This was followed by the British Empire when Raaj Pal was sentenced two years in prison under IPC 295-A for publishing the blasphemous book, originally written by an anonymous writer.
It's ironic how the British followed Imam Abu-Hanifa but the Muslims at that time did not.
Detailed answer here in Urdu.

3. Muslims under non-Muslim rule:
At that time, Muslims were under the rule of the British. Muslims were a minority in the United India. As minorities, it is the Islamic duty of Muslims to follow the law of the land (which in this case was pluralist and not anti-Islamic in anyway). The social contract with the government was meant to be followed as a religious obligation. When Raaj Pal was sentenced to prison, it was the Islamic and moral duty of the Muslims to accept the decision of the court. Thus, they went against Islam by taking the law in their own hands. It does not fall into Jihad either because firstly, Jihad is against a nation, not a person. Secondly, blasphemy does not fall in the prerequisites of Jihad.

It is often suggested that since Jinnah was a lawyer of Ilmdin, he approved of his action. This stance is ludicrous. Jinnah was a lawyer, bound by his duty to defend him. The argument can be comprehensively answered by the statement Jinnah made in the Assembly on September 11, 1929: “If my constituency is so backward as to disapprove of a measure like this then I say, the clearest duty on my part would be to say to my constituency, ‘you had better ask somebody else to represent you’.”

Here, I would like to clarify that the purpose of this article is not to insult Ilmdin. A crime consists of two parts- a malicious intent and an act. It's obvious that there wasn't any malicious intent, rather the love of the Prophet (PBUH). The malicious intent lies in those baseless teachings that instigate youngsters like Ilmdin and tell them that (God-forbid) the highest level of love for the Prophet (PBUH) is to kill someone in his name.
Unlike many people who will read this, I do not call anybody (in this case, Ilmdin) a Murtid (apostate) or a Kafir (infidel). Kindly refrain from calling me one too for having a particular opinion.


  1. "A crime consists of two parts- a malicious intent and an act. It's obvious that there wasn't any malicious intent, rather the love of the Prophet (PBUH)."
    v true, though its also very important to realise that ppl shouldnt be allowed to do whatever they might want, because they have 'good' intentions...that is why we have laws, a social order.
    And yes, it seems that there is no Ayat in the Quran that explicitly prescribes the death penalty for blasphemy, as it does for other sins...there is atleast one ayat that has been linked to the death penalty by certain scholars, but it is about an isolated incident, which should not be applied out of context. If the death penalty was so important, surely there would've been a mention of it more unequivocally?
    However, the most important thing at this stage is that ppl keep debating and researching the basis of this we may move towards a more tolerant society.

  2. I agree, one should not be simply allowed to do whatever he wants with a good intention but that was stated just for the heck of it. Supremacy of law should be above all.
    And secondly, there really isn't a verse that refers to capital punishment at all. The one given as evidence is:
    [5:33] The just retribution for those who fight GOD and His messenger, and commit horrendous crimes, is to be killed, or crucified, or to have their hands and feet cut off on alternate sides, or to be banished from the land. This is to humiliate them in this life, then they suffer a far worse retribution in the Hereafter.
    They fail to realize that the word here is "FIGHT", not blaspheme. Secondly, the following verse is never quoted which is:
    [5:34] Exempted are those who repent before you overcome them. You should know that GOD is Forgiver, Most Merciful.