Pakistan: Blasphemy and the Blasphemers

Credit: The Lahore Times

Aasia Bibi, a 51-year-old Christian woman, has been on the death row since November 2010 after she was convicted on charges of committing blasphemy during an argument with two Muslim women in Sheikhupura.

In 2014, the Lahore High Court upheld Aasia’s death sentence. However, in July 2015, the Supreme Court stayed her execution.

After a three-year gap, a three-judge special bench, headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar and comprising by Justice Asif Saeed Khosa and Justice Mazhar Alam Miankhel, resumed the hearing of the appeal against her conviction on Monday 08th October 2018. As per the news today the bench has reserved the judgement on the case.The major cause of concern is the section 295-B and 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code popularly known as Blasphemy Laws. Other than the above mentioned sections there are three more clauses in the Blasphemy Laws i.e. 298-A, 298-B and 298-C. But the world has problem only with the section 295-B and 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code primarily because these refers to the Holy Quran and to Apostle of Allah Muhammad (PBUH) or may be the reason is the life imprisonment and death penalty. Whatever the reason could be no one has any right to challenge the laws of the land, period.

It is quite funny that most of the countries from where the objections are being raised are the ones having racist and discriminatory laws against Muslims – singling them out as terrorist. Any individual having the forename Muhammad, Ali, Hussain, Usman and Umar to name a few, is an easy target for the security agencies in the name of the safety of their country. The Anti Terrorism Laws introduced by the United States of America have given free hand to their security agencies to pick, choose and trial anyone they may wish to. And in most of the cases the plea for innocence of those arrested is ignored and they continue to being tortured and terrorized. All this is just to safeguard “their” country.

But when it comes to the religion Islam and laws are being made to protect the Holy Book and the Apostle of Allah Muhammad (PBUH) from defamation of any kind as an Islamic Republic, the same countries object it in the name of humanity, two faced principles really. Every person has a choice to follow the religion of his own liking and this should be his personal matter but when the people start interfering in the religions of each other, the conflicts arise. Everyone must respect the religion of each other. A healthy debate is always welcomed and should happen quite often but if the finger pointing and reproach in the name of freedom of speech is unacceptable.

It is also a fact that the forces which act against Islam have singled out Apostle of Allah Muhammad (PBUH) as their target for innuendo and imputation on purpose. They have put in a very concerted effort and focused research in finding out the weakness and soft spot of the Muslims that they can pinch over and over again. They understand the emotions and reactions Muslims will have when it comes to the Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and now they quite blatantly act in the name of Freedom of Speech which annoy and irritate the Muslim Community. Resultantly things happen, which under normal circumstances should not happen and then they cry foul for humanity.

The association Muslims have with Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), it would not be wrong to assume that He is the lynchpin for every Muslim and Muslim Community at large. When someone tries to dislodge, it results in a flurry of emotions, like a bomb explosion, then they whine about the aftermath. Having said that, those affected by the schemes of things should make sure that outbreak is non violent, something which does not affect the normal course of life and cause no damage to the national assets. Rather, the person should be in senses even in the flood of emotions and this is what the Apostle of Allah Muhammad (PBUH) has taught us, to stay calm in anger and must not lose senses.

There is a lot about Muhammad (PBUH) and words really fail to express that. On his way to the battlefield when the commander in chief Tariq bin Zeyad had to pass through a jungle, full of various kinds of animals, along with his army; he addressed all the animals in jungle by saying, “we are the believers of Muhammad (PBUH) and are part of the Muslim Community (Ummah), we want to cross this jungle” and sailed through the jungle unscathed so much so that no animal came near them.

With the same passion and love for Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), Ilm-ud-Din, a young man in twenties from Lahore killed Raj Pal the publisher of the book which disgraced Prophet Muhammad PBUH) heinous allegations. Ilm-ud-Din was an illiterate ordinary carpenter but got furious after hearing about what had happened. He was not a fanatic or lunatic, he was just an ordinary man who worked to earn livelihood for himself and his family. He purchased dagger from his hard earned money and headed towards Raj Pal’s shop on 6th September 1929 all the way from Lahore to Amritsar. Ilm-ud-Din asked Raj Pal about his association with the book and once he admitted, Ilm-ud-Din pulled out the dagger and killed him. The employees of Raj Pal shouted, “He killed him, go get him”. “I avenged Prophet (PBUH)!!! I avenged Prophet (PBUH)!!!” he shouted back with courage. He was arrested on the spot and sent to Mianwali Jail situated in Punjab Province on October 4, 1929. He went to trial and was declared guilty. He was given death penalty. The Muslims lodged an appeal against the court decision but the appeal was rejected. Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan, was a lawyer by profession and he was asked by Dr. Allama Muhammad Iqbal and other allies to fight the case of Ghazi Ilm-ud-din. He took that case without charging a single penny. When the trial started Muhammad Ali Jinnah asked Ghazi to refuse the acceptance of the assassination in front of the judge, so that he would not, at least, get Capital Punishment but Ilm-ud-din refused. Ilm-ud-Din, now known as Ghazi Ilm-ud-Din Shaheed (R.A) was executed on 31st October 1929.

A lot of people will label this act of Ghazi Ilm-ud-Din Shaheed (R.A) as religious extremism but a rational person would understand the reason behind his act. It was sheer love, respect and regard for the Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). There is one other incidence of Salah uddin Ayubi which underlines the fact that love for the Apostle of Allah (PBUH) is something that either propels the person to pull out the extraordinary or unexpected things happen to him.

All of these incidents are known to everyone and are part of history as well. The Muslim countries, especially Pakistan, are the object of all the vilification from the western countries for the law to debar and restrain people from disgracing the Holy Prophet (PBUH) under any circumstances. While, ironically almost all the countries have laws to safeguard their integrity like Patriotism Act, Anti Terrorism Act and others of the same kind but when it comes to the honor of the Prophet (s) there can be no laws because of the freedom of speech and humanity. In a general context while there have been wars when a country invades the other country or when a group belonging to the particular country cause damage to the national assets of the other through unwarranted attacks the respective country is being invaded because the honor of the other country has been compromised. However, when it comes to the laws that protect the honor of Apostle of Allah (PBUH) and the Holy Quran, then questions and concerns are being raised from all quarters. How difficult it is for the people to digest a law that prohibits a person from making any kind of derogatory remarks against the Holy Prophet (PBUH) – the PERFECT HUMAN BEING and the sole reason for the existence of this world. We exist because of this world, which was Created only for Muhammad (PBUH) but we cannot have a law to safeguard His integrity, it cannot get any lower than that.

According to the report of the National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP), a total of 964 people had been charged under the Blasphemy Law in Pakistan from 1986 to 2009. Out of these, NCJP says, 479 were Muslims, 340 Ahmedis, 119 Christians, 14 Hindus, and 10 others. It may be noted that none of the blasphemy convicts have been executed so far, but 32 people charged with blasphemy have been extra-judicially killed, 15 were Muslims, 15 Christians, two Ahmedis and one Hindu. While researching for the topic almost all the quoted incidents of Blasphemy gives suggestion that these were framed for some vested interest or settle score especially against the Christians. It is a feeble claim, more like something which is targeted towards the law and the judicial system of the country, the laws are the same for everyone and no one should be above the law. Although, this has to be accepted here that like every other law this one has also been abused but this does not mean that there is a problem with the law or its application. The law itself does not single out people of any sect in particular; the law is as much applicable on the Muslims as it is on the people of other religions. In fact as Muslims we have a greater responsibility as far as abiding by the law is concerned but not its implementation, better leave it to those who are responsible for it.

Unfortunately the accused party would always presume that the charges against them are framed discriminately and they have been singled out just because they come under the banner of minorities. But this may not be the case always as it is not even vaguely possible that all the hundreds of cases have been framed. It is easier to believe that a certain percentage may have been wrongly accused but it cannot be all of them. They all make claims; but when it comes to proving, most of them fail. As a matter of fact the courts of law have to consider only proofs. There have been cases where the wrongly accused were released not before they have spent some years in the gallows. So you cannot blame the law for this; if someone is to be held responsible it is the person who has abused the law.

The criticizers of the Blasphemy law maintain that it fails to differentiate between the act done willingly or unintentionally. As a layman, I understand that a crime is a crime and you will be convicted for it; whether it was done intentionally or not will be a secondary issue and for that the court requires some convincing. When it come to the words spoken it is far more difficult to prove or justify that these were unintentional or something never been said or the derived connotations are wrong. Every other case that I have read while preparing for the write up, claims various reasons like the accused person has said nothing of that sort, he is innocent, he is being brought in to this for some vested interest and it is the result of hatred for the particular sect. Even if these excuses are taken in to account, the reality is that like the spilt milk, the words spoken cannot be taken back. The first thing which will be considered is your action and the rest will be considered later. For example, if a person is driving the car and accidentally slams in to the person crossing the road who dies. The case will be registered against the driver. Upon appearing in the court, he may say that it was not deliberate, it all happened by chance but it turns out that he was driving under influence; he will be punished. On the other hand if it is revealed that the circumstances were out of his control like the brakes failed or the car slipped because of the oil on the road etc., the court will take these circumstances in to account and might release him or impose a token fine; it is up to the discretion of the sitting judge, really. But it is certain that unless the evidence is provided, none of the above statements will be considered.

Those who criticize the law, think that an illusion is being created through the blasphemy laws that Allah and the Prophet (PBUH) might not be able to deal with the blasphemer and would need the help of law and the people. All those people of the same opinion might as well have the reason for it too and they should also quote incident where such thing had happened. As a matter of fact, Almighty Allah Has only Sworn to save the Holy Book Quran and the Holy Place of worship from misgiving of any kind. Other than that all of the things are being dealt in this world. It is a fact that whoever has tried to maneuver changes in the Holy Quran failed miserably and then went on to apologize publicly. All such cases are part of the history and can be traced. One thing is evident from these cases that no physical harm was done to the particular person because Almighty is Omnipotent and Omniscient; He cannot by any mean cause harm to His Own Creation being a Creator.

Almighty and the Prophet (PBUH) would never deal with the blasphemers because Allah is Omnipotence and Muhammad (PBUH) is Blessing for both the Universes, and it is below Their Echelon and Reputation. It is our responsibility to hold the honor of Almighty and His Apostle (PBUH) in high esteem at personal and national level. Unless we do so, we cannot expect others to follow suit. By nature human being is bound to go astray so there must be check and balance in place to impound him in some boundaries. That is the reason why the laws and systems are being made, to maintain a check and balance.

Having said that, the way it is being projected here in Pakistan leaves much to be desired and in fact it not only gives the world an opening to criticize the country but also provides merits to the claim made by the countries of the world that we are extremists. The murder of the late Governor Punjab Salman Taseer on the fateful day of 4th January, 2010 should not have happened in the manner it did. If, as a representative of the Federation and the Constitutional Head of the province, he went to console the family of Aasia Bibi, who was given death sentence in November 2010 by the High Court under the Pakistan Blasphemy Laws, it was not something to be concerned about and raise questions. Also whatever his said in respect of the blasphemy laws was not an offense really; it was his personal opinion and a wise one as well. He pointed out the loopholes in the law, the words he chose might be a bit too hard but the point he was trying to make was reasonable and a much needed one. But feeding sense to the people of his own homeland turned out to be his crime and although whatever he said was directed to the laws made by the men, the spirit was misunderstood and given a different color altogether – blasphemy. And we Pakistanis as a nation are very emotional and in the heat of emotion late Salman Taseer was murdered by his bodyguard, Malik Mumtaz Hussain Qadri.

It did not end here; rose petals were showered on Malik Mumtaz Hussain Qadri, people distributed sweets and the worst thing was that the Khateebs of Badshahi Mosque Lahore, Data Darbar, Jamiiya Hanifiya and Governor House refused to lead the funeral prayer of the slain Governor. This shows that how much we lack social sense, the level of illiteracy in the country and the growing level of intolerance in the society. It is difficult to understand the reason why they did so as a Khateebs and as persons having knowledge of Quran and Sunnah. How can they refuse to lead the funeral prayers and claim that they are the followers of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). From where these people are making up all these assumptions, it is impossible to find any such incident from the revered and sanctified Life Span of Apostle of Allah (PBUH). During His Holy Life Span Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) lead the funeral prayer of Abdullah bin Ubai’, who was labeled hypocrite by Holy Quran, even after the revelation of the following verse:

“Ask forgiveness for them, [O Muhammad], or do not ask forgiveness for them. If you should ask forgiveness for them seventy times – never will Allah forgive them. That is because they disbelieved in Allah and His Messenger, and Allah does not guide the defiantly disobedient people.” (Holy Quran 9:80)

It is pretty obvious from the above verse that Almighty refused to accept the prayers for Abdullah bin Ubai’s forgiveness even from His Beloved (PBUH) but being the Blessing for the both universes the Holy Prophet lead his funeral prayers, not only that He also gave him His Holy cloak (Jubba Mubarak) and even laid Himself down in his grave before he was buried there. He did all that despite the revelation of the above verse, such was His persona and forbearance. But here people refuse to offer the funeral prayer just because a person went to console a Christian family and tried to knock some sense in their minds; from where we have learned this because this is far from the Sunnah of The Holy Prophet (PBUH). We, as believers, are putting forward such examples before the world and then complain that they do not show respect to Him (PBUH).

Historically speaking and in the light of Ijtihad, Aasia Bibi belongs to a community named Musali which was wrongly named Christians. These people were called Musali because they used to work as garbage disposers. At the time of partition when they migrated to Pakistan, they were not allowed to use the word Muslim instead people would call them Musali and separated them from the Muslim Community. The word Musali has beautiful meaning in Arabic language, but it was used as a derogatory term. So, this community could not learn about the religion Islam, the Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and even Hazrat Essa (A.S). The forces that act against Islam figured it out and chalked out the plan to utilize them. They invested huge amounts of money to construct separate colonies for them and the churches. These Musalis became Christians and started living in the colonies which were especially made for them. The churches became the safe haven for them, being the holy place of worship for the Christians knowing that no one can raise questions and doubts.

So, if a person of this history disrespects the Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) in complete ignorance then what should we do? We have the whole Life of The Holy Prophet in front of us and the best way should’ve been to deal with her in the light of the Quran and Sunnah. The following verse of the Holy Quran dictates that the evil and offensive act of an individual should not be penalized; rather someone should approach the person and tell him the reality once it will be done, that particular person will become your best friend. This is the verdict of Holy Quran.

But if this offense becomes an act of the community then it should be dealt with according to laws of the state. Since Aasia Bibi’s offense was that of an individual, it should have been dealt in the light of the below verse of Quran:

“The good deed and the evil deed cannot be equal. Repel (the evil) with one which is better (i.e. Allah ordered the faithful believers to be patient at the time of anger, and to excuse those who treat them badly), then verily! He, between whom and you there was enmity, (will become) as though he was a close friend.”(Holy Quran 41:34)

One day, the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) saw an old lady on one street of Makkah. The elderly women could barely walk as she was carrying her belongings. The Holy Prophet went up to her and asked where she was going. The old lady replied that she just wanted to go few miles away from the city. The Apostle of Allah offered to help her and carried her baggage. After travelling a few miles he asked her how much farther she wanted to go. She replied a few more miles. Upon hearing this Holy Prophet asked her the reason that why she was leaving her home for a far off place. The elderly woman replied that a person named Muhammad had arrived in Makkah, anyone meeting him would be mesmerized and spellbound by his persona. He could cast a spell on everyone and I was going away to save my life. The Holy Prophet said nothing and kept moving along with her. When they reached the outskirts of Makkah, the old lady asked him to put down her belongings there. Apostle of Allah did that and then took leave by touching her feet. The elderly woman thanked and said that you had travelled with me that far and I didn’t even know your name. The Holy Prophet smiled and said his name was Muhammad. Having learnt that, the old lady took hold of His holy hand with glimpse of tears in her eyes. “Don’t leave me here, I would love to travel back with you to my hometown, Makkah”, pleaded the lady to Muhammad (PBUH). She became an ardent follower of Islam because of practical and exemplified manifestation of verse of Holy Quran (41:34) by the Holy Prophet (PBUH). The old lady left the enmity she had and became a close patriot of Muhammad (PBUH).

There cannot be any better explanation of the above mentioned verse than this anecdote from the Life of Muhammad (PBUH). The Holy Prophet (PBUH) has established precedence for all of us to follow suit whenever we encounter such incidents in our daily life. We should bear in mind the Sunnah of Muhammad (PBUH) and the verse of the Holy Quran while dealing with such kind of incidents. Instead of doing anything in the heat of the moment and emotion, we should walk up to that person and show him through our gestures, actions and words the true picture of Muhammad (PBUH) as well as of His followers. Once it will be done the particular person will become patriot as mentioned in the above verse of Holy Quran and as it happened in the case of the old lady.

But when Aasia Bibi says something profane about Muhammad (PBUH) in complete ignorance of the magnificence of The Holy Prophet, we charge her with blasphemy and make calls for the death sentence. That old woman called The Holy Prophet (PBUH) a person who cast spell on His face but what He did is for everyone to take note of. Did anyone of us, especially the clergy, ever went up to her and tried picturing the true Personality of Muhammad (PBUH) before her. No, we were happy to send her in gallows to be hanged later. We went after her life without giving any due consideration to the teachings and practice of The Holy Prophet. Had anyone of us tried giving her prologue of Muhammad (PBUH) then she would have definitely walked with that particular person realizing what she said was wrong. But unfortunately no such thing happened as we chose the easy way out and lodged complaint in police station and what happened afterwards is a common knowledge. What she did was in complete ignorance; but what we did was far more blasphemous than her act, because we are lucky to have the Sunnah of The Holy Prophet with us but yet we lack implementation. Whatever happened in the case of Aasia Bibi and the like of it should not have happened in the first place, keeping in view the verse of Holy Quran and Sunnah of Muhammad (PBUH). The last sermon of Holy Prophet (PBUH), at the time of Hajjatul-Wida (the farewell pilgrimage) would be enough for the other person to realize and change his opinion about Him, if told in its true form and spirit; not a difficult thing to do. Why it is difficult for us to take the first step and help them by revealing the reality, it is far more appreciable than what we do, which is clearly against the Quran and Sunnah.

Doing such acts is by no means a service to the religion, as in reality we are actually telling people to just stay away from the religion Islam. We are providing the world an opportunity to abuse the religion Islam. In 1988, when Salman Rushdie, an Indian born novelist and essayist, wrote the profane novel The Satanic Verses, it enraged Muslims across the world. He was brainwashed and became the mouthpiece of the forces that act against Islam to achieve the nefarious objective of spreading sacrilege. The ability of Salman Rushdie as a writer was used by the Western lobby to their great advantage. The Muslims were so offended by his act that on February 24, 1989 Ayatullah Ruhollah Khomeini, the Supreme Leader of Iran, gave the fatwa against him. As per the fatwa, Salman Rushdie should be killed for his offense. Following the fatwa and some other death threats, the western countries offered him a place of safety in their country and he left India unscathed. Despite the fatwa, Muslim countries failed to cause any kind of harm to Salman Rushdie, let alone killing him and he is still spending his days of life in United States of America.

So what good was achieved by giving the fatwa for his death? The fact is that it only humiliated the Muslim countries because they were unable to kill Salman Rushdie regardless of of the fatwa. Once the fatwa was given, Ayatullah Ruhollah Khomeini should have ensured its execution as well; to let the world know and think twice before committing any blasphemous act. But it did not happen. The West still laughs at us for this act of the Supreme Iranian Leader which provided the forces that operate against Islam the leverage to do whatever profane act they want to do and the whole bunch of the Muslim countries will not be able to do anything about it. Ideally Mr. Khomeini should have acted rationally by calling up Salman Rushdie and affectionately enlightening him about the true personality and stature of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). Upon knowing the truth and the fact that he was mislead by the Western forces, Salman Rushdie would have apologized and written another book in the honor of The Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). But unfortunately sense did not prevail and now we are paying the price.

When a person draws cartoons of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), out of his own inquisitiveness, which indeed is the reflection of the Muslim community (unfortunately) burdened on Muhammad (PBUH). Since it is an individual act, it should be treated in the same spirit. Instead of beheading him, our responsibility (especially of the clergy and religious scholars) is to meet and explain to him the true personality of the Holy Prophet (PBUH). As per the verdict of the Holy Quran, if someone goes up to him and explains in a positive manner, the other person will be ashamed of whatever disrespectful thing he had done and would walk along with that individual. It is as simple as while in a foreign country, you happen to hear a group of people giving negative comments about your country. Naturally you will move towards them and you will explain those gentlemen that you are saying such thing because you have not been there and you have not experienced living in my country. As a responsible citizen you will illuminate them about your country. In the same spirit we as Muslims have a greater responsibility to elucidate those who defame and disrespect the Holy Prophet (PBUH)

It is pertinent to mention here that this does not in any way overlooks the love, passion and emotional attachment we, as Muslims, have with The Holy Prophet (PBUH). When someone says anything disrespectful about Muhammad (PBUH) it ignites the Muslims and the love takes over everything. It is just like when a person says anything about the mother or father of anyone else; it might not be cause of concern for us as much as when the same individual says something about our own parents; we will not wait for another second to grab him and do whatever we could possibly do physically. This action is laudable because it shows the affection and emotional connection you have for your parents and if you don’t take any action at that moment, it will be dreadful and weakness on your part. We all know that for a fact that Holy Prophet (PBUH) is above our parents, children and family, so whatever an individual do to protect His honor is all but natural. When the disbelievers said something disrespectful for Bibi Maryam (A.S); Prophet Essa (A.S) stood up for her and did whatever he could do as a toddler to safeguard the honor of His mother. He could not use force against them because of the age factor but he voiced his opposition in such an aggressive manner that after that particular incident, no one ever dared saying anything disrespectful about Bibi Maryam (A.S). All of these are the examples of the justified reaction of an individual towards the action of another.

In the same manner the Christians have an emotional connection with Prophet Essa (A.S) and would not bear it if someone in any way disrespects Him. They have made laws to protect His honor and these are being implemented in several countries under the title of Blasphemy Laws. And, we (Muslims) did the same to safeguard the honor of The Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). There is nothing wrong in having Blasphemy laws and these should not be questioned either, rather these laws should be respected. The following few paragraphs will focus on the Blasphemy Laws of Pakistan.

The following is the text of sections 295 (B)(C) and 298 of the Pakistan Penal Code commonly known as Blasphemy Laws:

Section 295-B: Defiling, etc., of copy of Holy Quran: Whoever willfully defiles, damages or desecrates a copy of the Holy Koran or an extract therefrom or uses it in any derogatory manner or for any unlawful purpose shall be punishable with imprisonment for life.

Section 295-C: Use of derogatory remarks etc., in respect of the Holy Prophet:

Whoever by words, either spoken or written or by visible representation, or by any imputation, innuendo, or insinuation, directly or indirectly, defiles the sacred name of the Holy Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him) shall be punished with death.

Section 298: Uttering words, etc., with deliberate intent of wounding religious feelings:

Whoever, with the deliberate intention of wounding the religious feelings of any person utters any word or makes any sound in the hearing of that person or makes any gesture in the sight of that person or places any object in the sight of that person, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to one year, or with fine, or with both.

Section 298-A: Use of derogatory remarks, etc., in respect of holy personages:

Whoever by words, either spoken or written, or by visible representation, or by any imputation, innuendo or insinuation, directly or indirectly, defiles the sacred name of any wife (Ummul Mumineen), or members of the family (Ahle-bait), of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him), or any of the righteous Caliphs (Khulafa-e-Raashideen) or companions (Sahaaba) of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three years, or with fine, or with both.

Section 298-B: Misuse of epithets, description and titles, etc., reserved for certain holy personages or places:

1. Any person of the Qadiani group or the Lahori group (who call themselves “Ahmadis” or by any other name) who by words, either spoken or written, or by visible representation: (a) refers to, or addresses, any person, other than a Caliph or companion of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), as “Ameer-ul-Mumineen”, “Khalifat-ul-Mumineen”, “Khalifat-ul-Muslimeen”, “Sahaabi” or “Razi Allah Anho”; (b) Refers to, or addresses, any person, other than a wife of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), as Ummul-Mumineen; (c) refers to, or addresses, any person, other than a member of the family (Ahle-bait) of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), as Ahle-bait; or (d) refers to, or names, or calls, his place of worship as Masjid (mosque); shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three years, and shall be also liable to fine.

2. Any person of the Qadiani group or Lahori group (who call themselves “Ahmadis” or by any other name) who by words, either spoken or written, or by visible representation, refers to the mode or form of call to prayers followed by his faith as “Azan” or recites Azan as used by the Muslims, shall be punished with imprisonment or either description for a term which may extend to three years and shall also be liable to fine.

Section 298-C: Persons of Qadiani group, etc., calling himself a Muslim or preaching or propagating his faith:

Any person of the Qadiani group or the Lahori group (who call themselves “Ahmadis” or by any other name), who, directly or indirectly, pose himself as a Muslim, or calls, or refers to, his faith as Islam, or preaches or propagates his faith, or invites others to accept his faith, by words, either spoken or written, or by visible representations or in any manner whatsoever outrages the religious feelings of Muslims, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three years and shall also be liable to fine.

Upon detailed analysis of the above mentioned sections of the blasphemy laws one feels that there is a deficiency in the laws except for 298-B and 298-C. The law is missing a pivotal point; as it only takes in to account Holy Quran, Holy Prophet (PBUH) and the holy personages relating to Him in one form or the other and ignores all the other Holy Books, Prophets (A.S) and Angels. If uttering words of disrespect for Holy Prophet (PBUH) is blasphemous then passing derogatory remarks for the 123,999 Prophets before Him should be equally blasphemous. Similarly, if desecrating Holy Quran is a punishable offense then the same should be applied to all the holy Books. It is a hadith of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) that, “Whoever does not believe in all the Prophets (A.S) before me should not relate to Me.” This hadith is a manifestation of the importance of believing and respecting all the Prophets (A.S). As per the verdict of Holy Quran, the faith remains incomplete until or unless we believe in Holy Prophet (PBUH) as well as on the 123,999 Prophets before Him and not only that we must believe in all the holy Books and Angels as well. The Holy Quran prohibits us from differentiating between any of the Prophets (A.S) and demands that all Prophets be given the equal amount of respect and regard.

In April 1994, the Lahore High Court while extending the application of the blasphemy law ruled that defiling the names of “all the true prophets of Allah mentioned in the Koran”, including Abraham and Jesus, constitute blasphemy.  The Federal Shariat Court in its judgment of 1990 had already recommended that the words “any prophet” be substituted for “the Holy Prophet”, meaning the Prophet Mohammed, in Section 295-C. But The Federal Shariat Court never paid heed and gave credence to the valuable suggestion received from the High Court. In nutshell, having a law that only caters to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and ignores the rest of 123,999 Prophets is not in line with the following verse of Holy Quran.

Say, [O believers], “We have believed in Allah and what has been revealed to us and what has been revealed to Abraham and Ishmael and Isaac and Jacob and the Descendants and what was given to Moses and Jesus and what was given to the prophets from their Lord. We make no distinction between any of them, and we are Muslims [in submission] to Him.” (2:136)

In another verse of same Surah (Chapter), Holy Quran categorically makes it binding upon all believers to have faith in Allah, His Books, His Angels and His Messengers and forbids discriminating between them.

The Messenger has believed in what was revealed to Him from His Lord, and [so have] the believers. All of them have believed in Allah and His Angels and His Books and His Messengers, [saying], “We make no distinction between any of His messengers.” And they say, “We hear and we obey. [We seek] Your forgiveness, our Lord, and to You is the [final] destination.” (2:285)

So in the light of Holy Quran and Sunnah the following amendments in the blasphemy laws are imperative:

  1. The section 295-C of the law should distinctly separate offense in two forms i.e. at individual level and at community level. If an individual has said something blasphemous or acted in that manner, it should be dealt with in the light of the Holy Quran (41:34) and Sunnah of Muhammad (PBUH), which is to go up to the person in question and show him the true picture of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) in affectionate manner. But if the community becomes blasphemous then the State should take control of it.
  2. The death penalty in section 295-C should be for the community level offense and not for the action of an individual.
  3. The law should entrust responsibility on the clergy and religious scholars of the country that when an individual is charged with blasphemy, they should approach the particular person and enlighten him about the true persona of the Holy Prophet (PBUH).
  4. The section 295-C of Pakistan Penal Code should not only refer to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) but also include all the 123,999 Prophets (A.S) before Him from Prophet Adam (A.S) to Prophet Essa (A.S); any derogatory and demeaning remarks in respect of all of them must be termed blasphemous.
  5. All the holy Books should be included in section 295-B.
  6. Angels should be made part of the Section 298-A.

Since all of the above mentioned amendments are in accordance with the Holy Quran and Sunnah, so these must be considered rationally, deliberated and made part of the blasphemy laws in order to give the laws a perspective, make them more comprehensive and broader in spectrum.

Last but not least, when we quote Hadiths, due consideration should be given to the facts that whom we are associating it with and before mentioning them, it is imperative to thoroughly analyze them. There is famous story of the old woman who used to throw garbage on Muhammad (PBUH) everyday when He happens to pass by her house. This activity continued for eleven consecutive days. On the twelfth day when Holy Prophet (PBUH) crossed her house and no garbage was thrown at Him, He got worried and inquired from the people that where is the old woman who used throw garbage at me every day, do you know why she had not tossed it up today. People informed Him that she is not well, hearing this Holy prophet (PBUH) asked about her house so that He could go there to know her well being. His companions requested Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) to not to go there as she was her enemy. Muhammad (PBUH) categorically told them that He has no ill feelings for her and went to her house. If only, we could learn something from this anecdote and the life span of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), we will definitely be careful while quoting Hadiths.

It is understandable that there would have been instances during the life of Holy Prophet (PBUH), where His companions and ardent followers had taken to task those who tried to reproach and defame their beloved Prophet (PBUH). But to expect that Muhammad (PBUH) would have in any form commended these actions is inappropriate and exactly opposite to His stature as Blessing for Universe. One should keep in mind that He was given the title of ‘Blessing for the Universe’ by no one else but The Creator of the Universe. While, it is impossible to comprehend the magnitude of this word, one can at least get to know something about it through the following conversation between Almighty and His Beloved (PBUH), even if it is in bits and pieces.

The At-Tash’hud we recite at the culmination of every last rakat of prayer is actually a recreation of the conversation held between Allah and the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) during the night of the Heavenly Ascent (Mairaj). Just as it is customary for a guest to bring a gift for the host, the Holy Prophet (PBUH) upon reaching the divine place said, “O’ My Owner, I have pondered about the gift worthy of You, a gift which that should be unique, beautiful and appropriate as well. As You are the Master of All, in this World and the Hereafter. I only have these words: All my abilities and those of the whole Universe are from You only, all of my prayers, my daily chores (of life), all my deeds (good and otherwise) are for You and I present them as a gift.”

Upon Hearing this Allah replied, “O’ My Messenger, Peace be upon you. Had you brought something tangible, My response would have been limited. But You have presented Me with all that Belongs to Me as the Master; and now in reciprocation, The Peace that I have and that which is in My Treasure is only for you.” But it didn’t end here. Upon hearing this, it is said, Muhammad (PBUH) got worried that my Master has reserved all the Peace for me but what is to become of all those (people) I have left behind (for this Ascent).

Recognizing this the Almighty said, “I am the Creator of your (most) righteous followers but their piety, honesty and good conduct is the result of Your teaching and their close attachment with You. I include all of Your most righteous followers in the Peace that I have conferred upon You.” At that instance, Muhammad (PBUH) called upon all the souls that he felt constituted his Clan of the self-righteous and the pious as per the Almighty. At that moment, these most righteous souls said, “We bear witness that no one else is worthy of worship except Allah and we bear witness that Muhammad (PBUH) is the Messenger of Allah.” This was Muhammad’s (PBUH) conversation with the Almighty and even though it was his Ascent (Mairaj) and not ours, he remembered people alike, who are capable of nothing, and for his sake only we got this big favor. Salutations to the greatness of the Perfect Human Being who remembered his followers even during Mairaj, how such an exalted Person can ever appreciate harm done to his followers or anyone else for that matter, we owe it to Him for this remembrance.

Summing up, every country has a fundamental right to have laws that it feels are appropriate and no one has a right to question their legitimacy. But that does not mean that we become outright radical and uncompromising. Every man-made thing has a scope for improvement and Blasphemy laws are no different, this is an undeniable fact. There is no harm in giving rational consideration to the voice of the people and the recommendations for amendments in the law coming from various circles. The religious scholars and clergy can meticulously analyze these suggestions in the light of Holy Quran and Sunnah to make the best possible decision. Unfortunately, whenever the question is raised, instead of answering them all the religious groups can come up with is to ride the streets in protest and chant slogans. It is high time they all should realize that nothing can be achieved by chanting slogans until they put that in to practice. It is also the responsibility of every Muslim as the ambassadors of the religion Islam and Sunnah to conduct themselves in the most appropriate, upright and positive manner to answer all the misgivings that people have. Once it will be done, then most of the FITNAS will cease to exist. People will raise questions, doubts and reservations, they will try to play with our emotions but we should remember that whoever acts resolutely without letting the emotions control him is wiser than the one acting otherwise.

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