The hypocrites say, ‘If we return to Medina, the one most honorable will surely drive out therefrom the one most mean (Muhammad);’ while true honor belongs to Allah and to His Messenger and the believers; but the hypocrites know not. (Al Quran 63:9)
By ARAFAT MAZHAR —
This is the fourth article in a five-part series on the untold story of Pakistan’s blasphemy law. It is recommended that the previous parts be read in order to understand the context of this article.
At the beginning of this year, when this series began, Junaid Jamshed had been charged with blasphemy.
Judging from comments across social media and forums, a significant proportion of the online population reacted with a mood of forgiveness.
Some commentators said he was deserving of sympathy and forgiveness because, even though he was accused of blasphemy, he had apologised and was a Muslim. Indeed my first article went to great lengths to establish the acceptability in Islam for pardon of actual blasphemers.
When this same charge is levelled at a non-Muslim, however, the reaction is extremely negative, and often violent.
Such a reaction is contradictory to the Hanafi jurists who have commented on the issue throughout the past 1200 years. Those jurists represent the stance of the Hanafi school of thought, which is one of the four schools of thought in Sunni Islamic Jurisprudence and the one with the largest following in the world, as well as the predominant theological orientation to which an overwhelming majority of Pakistani Sunnis subscribe.
Contrary to popular sentiment and belief, the position on Muslim blasphemers is actually stricter and more severe than on non-Muslims. In fact, throughout the Hanafi tradition, blasphemy by non-Muslims is recognised merely as an extension of their disbelief.
The founder of Hanafi School, Abu Hanifa notes:
‘If a dhimmi (non-Muslim) insults the Holy Prophet, he will not be killed as punishment. A non-Muslim is not killed for his kufr (denying the Prophet) or shirk (polytheistic beliefs). Kufr/Shirk are bigger sins then sabb e rasool. – (Therefore non-Muslims will not be killed for sabb e rasool.)’ [Al Saif al Maslool]
Further, Abu al-Husayn Ahmad al-Quduri:
‘Non-Muslims insult Allah and say that He has a son and the Zoroastrians say He has an “opposite.” This does not break their covenant of security, therefore the same applies to insult of the prophet PBUH.’
Ali ibn Abi Bakr al-Marghinani in Al Hidaya (which is taught all over Pakistan in Hanafi seminaries) states:
‘Insulting the prophet is kufr/disbelief. Since the non-Muslims are not killed for their disbelief, they will not be killed for any addition in their disbelief.’
In fact, Tahawi goes on to prescribe a verbal warning as an appropriate punishment for an offending non-Muslim:
‘If a non-Muslim commits blasphemy, he will be given a verbal warning. If he repeats the offense, he will be punished but not killed.’
[Mukhtasar al Tahawi]
One may be tempted to think that in citing these sources, I am cherry-picking i.e. selectively choosing ones that support this stance. But, in fact, this is not the intent or method of research.
Below is a compiled, annotated timeline of every Hanafi jurisprudence text of significance that has discussed non-Muslim blasphemy.
Arafat Mazhar is the founder of Engage, an institution for research and reform of religious laws in Pakistan.