Blasphemy in Islam: The Quran does not prescribe punishment for abusing the Prophet

Mosque of Medina, first built by the Prophet Muhammad himself For the Muslim Times encyclopedic collection about the Prophet Muhammad, may peace be on him, please click here

Mosque of Medina, first built by the Prophet Muhammad himself.  For the Muslim Times’ collection on Free Speech, please click here

Source: Times of India

By Maulana Wahiduddin Khan | Oct 2, 2012, 12.00 AM IST

In Islam, blasphemy is a subject of intellectual discussion rather than a subject of physical punishment. This concept is very clear in the Quran.

The Quran tells us that since ancient times God has sent prophets in succession to every town and every community. It says, moreover, that the contemporaries of all of these prophets adopted a negative attitude towards them.

There are more than 200 verses in the Quran, which reveal that the contemporaries of the prophets repeatedly perpetrated the same act, which is now called ‘blasphemy or abuse of the Prophet’ or ‘using abusive language about the Prophet’. Prophets, down the ages, have been mocked and abused by their contemporaries (36:30); some of the epithets cited in the Quran include “a liar” (40:24), “possessed” (15:6), “a fabricator” (16:101), “a foolish man” (7:66). The Quran mentions these words of abuse used by prophets’ contemporaries but nowhere does the Quran prescribe the punishment of lashes, or death, or any other physical punishment.

This clearly shows that ‘abuse of the Prophet’ is not a subject of punishment, but is rather a subject of peaceful admonishment. That is, one who is guilty of abusing the Prophet should not have corporal punishment meted out to him: he should rather be given sound arguments in order to address his mind. In other words, peaceful persuasion should be used to reform the person concerned rather than trying to punish him.

Those who adopt a negative stance towards the Prophet will be judged by God, who knows the innermost recesses of their hearts. The responsibility of the believers is to observe the policy of avoidance and, wishing well, convey the message of God to them in such a manner that their minds might be properly addressed.

Another important aspect of this matter is that at no point in the Quran is it stated that anyone who uses abusive language about the Prophet should be stopped from doing so, and that in case he continues to do so he should be awarded severe punishment. On the contrary, the Quran commands the believer not to use abusive language directed against opponents: “But do not revile those [beings] whom they invoke instead of God, lest they, in their hostility, revile God and out of ignorance” (6:108).

This verse of the Quran makes it plain that it is not the task of the believers to establish “media watch” offices and hunt for anyone involved in acts of defamation of the Prophet, and then plan for their killing, whatever the cost. On the contrary, the Quran enjoins believers to sedulously refrain from indulging in such acts as may provoke people to retaliate by abusing Islam and the Prophet. This injunction of the Quran makes it clear that this responsibility devolves upon the believers, rather than holding others responsible and demanding that they be punished.

Looked at from this angle, the stance of present-day Muslims goes totally against the teachings of the Quran. Whenever anyone – in their judgment – commits an act of ‘abuse of the Prophet’, in speech or in writing, they instantly get provoked and respond by leading processions through the streets, which often turn violent. And then they demand that all those who insult the Prophet be beheaded.

Muslims generally advocate the theory that freedom of expression is good, but that no one has the right to hurt the religious sentiments of others. This theory is quite illogical. Freedom is not a self-acquired right. It is God, who, because of His scheme of putting man to the test, has given man total freedom. Then the modern secular concept of freedom is that everyone is free provided he does not inflict physical harm upon others. In such a situation, the above kind of demand is tantamount to abolishing two things: firstly, to abolishing the divine scheme, and secondly, to abolishing the modern secular norm. Neither goal is achievable.

So the hue and cry against the so-called abuse of the Prophet is simply untenable. By adopting this policy, Muslims can make themselves permanently negative but they cannot change the system of the world.

There is a relevant Hadith in which the Prophet of Islam has said: ”Min husn Islam al-mar tarkahu ma la yanih” (A good Muslim is one who refrains from indulging in a practice that is not going to yield any positive result). This Hadith applies very aptly to the present situation of Muslims. They have been making noise for a very long time against blasphemy, but it has been in vain. Muslims must know that they are not in a position to change the world, so they must change themselves. There will be two instant advantages of adopting this policy: they will save themselves from becoming victim of negative sentiments and will be able to devote their energies to constructive work.

The writer is an Islamic scholar and founder of the Centre for Peace and Spirituality International.


Categories: Asia, Blasphemy, Free speach, Free Speech

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7 replies

  1. Hi there.

    I was just reading a quite different viewpoint here:

    “That is, one who is guilty of abusing the Prophet should not have corporal punishment meted out to him: he should rather be given sound arguments in order to address his mind.”

    Are you aware of any examples from the Hadith of Muhammed punishing those followers of his who killed others and then claimed that their victims had insulted Muhammed?

    Most of the Islamic sources I’m aware of have claimed that those who insult Muhammed and Islam should be punished (at least, under an Islamic state), but I recognise that I may have only been exposed to a narrow range of view-points.



  3. Wahiduddin Khan sahib is a great scholar of good merit. His advice in the matter of religion has much value.
    It is true that there is no punishment mentioned for blasphemy in the Quran and it is the Quran which decides the matters. Hadith could be far off wrong in some matters.
    Punishments, Haraam and Halaal, life and death are all mentioned in the Quran. Quran also tells the Muslims not to indulge too much into others affairs, i.e. mind their own business. [5:104/105]


    Why is Saudi Arabia, where THE MESSAGE was delivered upon the command of THE MORE GRACIOUS – THE MOST MERCIFUL by The Angel Gabriel to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), devoid of Freedom of Expression and an array of Human Rights?

    Is it not the moment for The Muslim World to reflect upon the following:

    (A) The Gracious Qur’an – 7th century
    (B) The Magna Carta – 13th century
    (C) The U S Constitution/The Bill of Rights – 18th century
    (D) FRANCE – Liberté – Ëgalié – Fraternité – 18th century

    THE MESSAGE’s narratives is a treasure trove for the Homo-sapiens values on this splendid planet. So, a question has to be asked. What is Saudi Arabia doing with its immense wealth to actualising The Signs of THE CREATOR.

    Umar Solim – England

  5. Zia,
    I see that this article is making the rounds again after having had all the previous comments deleted.
    I referred you to sura 33:58-61 which prescribes the punishment of death for anyone who slander, have disease in their hearts or are scandal-mongers.
    What do those mean if not blasphemy especially as examples were made of those found guilty without trial?

  6. Capital punishment is only for national security issues and for those creating rebellion. These would be kind of people who will be called enemies of the state in this day and age.

    After fall of Mecca no one was rounded up and forced to be a Muslim. There is complete freedom of religion but we need law and order otherwise there is constant civil war in any society.

  7. بسم اللہ الرحمن الرحیم
    The blasphemy law is not an Islamic Law at all, its base is, how ever, in the Holy Bible, there are so many cases of blasphemy in the lifetime of the Holy Prophet SAW, the grate most among them is Abdullah bin Obaiee bin Salool, the Chief of Hypocrite, is there a single instance in the life time of Ramat-ul-lil-Ala’almeen SAW that any single person had been punished for the charges of blasphemy, none. To punish blasphemer, however, Allah has taken in His own hand that they will be abased in this very world and herein after, if they do not desist they will be the fuel of hell fire but Holy Quran has not mentioned any other punishment for them with the human hands. Even if there is one not any individual can be permitted to take law in his own hand. Tasir Shaheed was right to name blasphemy laws as black laws because they have been misused for political gains in the society. These laws are not Islamic at all and they are very destructive to the peace of society and instead of promoting tolerance and peace, by them terrorism is being promoted, so these laws should be repealed forthwith and Mumtaz Qadri be hanged for his blunt crime, other wise both our beloved Holy Proved SAW ‘s honor and our beloved homeland ‘s honor are at stake . Zarif Ahmad

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