By Zakariyya Shu’aib Adam
Blasphemy, especially against the Prophet, is the sacreligous utterances about anything related to his personality. Scholars have written books exclusively on the subject. Some of the books include Ar-risalah by Muhammad Ibn Suhnun; As-saarimul Maslool by Shaykhul Islam Ibn Taymiyyah; As-saiful Maslool by Taqiyyuddeen As-subkiy; As-saiful Mash’hoor by Muhammad Ibn Al-qasim; Tanzeehul Anbiyaa by Jalaaluddeen As-suyutiy; Rashqus Sihaam by Ibn Tuloon and Tanbihul Hukkaam by Ibn Abideen.
Other scholars have, although not exclusively, mentioned the ruling of blasphemy in their books. Among them are Ibn Hazm in his famous Al-muhallaa and Al-qadhi Iyaad in his magnum opus As-shifaa. With this, we can conclude that the ruling for blasphemy is not new to the Islamic scholastic circle. In this article, by Allah’s will, I intend to critically dissect the concept of blasphemy and the Islamic ruling on mob justice.
Blasphemy, as Ibn Taymiyyah defined it, is to use words that show a lack of respect and are perceived by all people, regardless of their beliefs, to be profane, exactly like cursing, condemnation, etc. Islamic scholars, as discussed in the aforementioned books, unanimously agreed that blasphemy leads to apostasy, and that anyone that is found guilty of it should be executed. The basis for their consensus is evidences from the Qur’an and Hadith.
Allah says: “Indeed, those who abuse Allah and His Messenger – Allah has cursed them in this world and the Hereafter and prepared for them a humiliating punishment. And those who harm believing men and believing women for [something] other than what they have earned have certainly born upon themselves a slander and manifest sin.” (Qur’an 33:57-58).
In these verses, as stated by the scholars, Allah (SWT) differentiates affronting Allah or His Messenger from maligning believing men and women; the former deserves curse and humiliating torment in the worldly life and in the Hereafter, while the latter is a calumny and manifest sin. The curse in the world means execution. There are other Qur’anic verses that support the execution of a blasphemer. These are Qur’an 5:33, Qur’an 9:61 and Qur’an 33:60-61.
Secondly, there are instances in the lifetime of the Messanger (SAW) that he ordered the execution of blasphemers against him. Bukhari and Muslim narrated in their authentic books from Jabir Ibn Abdillah that Allah’s Messenger (SAW) said, “Who is willing to kill Ka’ab Ibn Al-Ashraf who has hurt Allah and His Apostle?” Thereupon Muhammad Ibn Maslama got up saying, “O Allah’s Messenger (SAW)! Would you like that I kill him?” The Prophet (SAW) said, “Yes,” Muhammad Ibn Maslama said, “Then allow me to say a (false) thing (i.e. to deceive Ka’ab). “The Prophet (SAW) said, “You may say it.” Then Muhammad Ibn Maslama went to Ka’ab and said, “That man (i.e. Muhammad demands Sadaqa (i.e. Zakat) from us, and he has troubled us, and I have come to borrow something from you.” On that, Ka’ab said, “By Allah, you will get tired of him!…”
This hadith clearly shows that the Messenger (SAW) ordered for the execution of Ka’ab for his blasphemy against Allah and His Apostle. Ka’ab used his considerable poetic talent to compose and recite derogatory verses against the Prophet (SAW), his companions and the honour of Muslim women. When he heard about the outcome of the battle of Badr, he wrote poems satirizing the Prophet (SAW), eulogizing the Quraysh and enticing them for a war against the Muslims. That was the reason the Prophet (SAW) ordered for his execution.
Abu Dawud (4361), Nasa’i in Al-mujtaba (4070), Tabarani (11/351) and Hakim (4/394) narrated from Ibn Abbaas that: “A blind man had a female slave who had born him a child who reviled the Prophet (SAW) and disparaged him, and he told her not to do that but she did not stop, and he rebuked her but she paid no heed. One night she started to disparage and revile the Prophet (SAW), so he took a dagger and put it in her stomach and pressed on it and killed her. The next morning, mention of that was made to the Prophet (SAW) and he assembled the people and said: “I adjure by Allah the man who did this to stand up.”
The blind man stood up and came through the people, trembling, and he came and sat before the Prophet (SAW). He said: O Messenger of Allah, I am the one who did it. She used to revile you and disparage you, and I told her not to do it but she did not stop, and I rebuked her but she paid no heed. I have two sons from her who are like two pearls, and she was good to me. Last night she started to revile you and disparage you, and I took a dagger and placed it on her stomach and I pressed on it until I killed her. The Prophet (SAW) said: “Bear witness that no retaliation is due for her blood.”
Furthermore, it is based on the above evidences that the Islamic scholars made an Ijmaa’ (consensus) that a blasphemer is to be killed, regardless of his belief (I.e whether a Muslim, a Dhimmi (non-Muslim living in an Islamic state with legal protection) or any other non-Muslim). The Islamic nation cannot unanimously agree on an error, as is narrated in numerous Hadiths. Tirmidhi (2167) narrated from Ibn Umar that the Prophet (SAW) said, “Allah will not cause my ummah to agree on falsehood; the hand of Allah is with the Jamaa‘ah (the main body of the Muslims)”.
In As-shifaa’, Al-qadhi Iyaad listed the names of some of the scholars that made the above mentioned consensus. They include great companions like Abubakar As-siddiq and other pious predecessors such as Imam Abu Hanifah, Imam Malik, Imam As-shafi’i, Imam Ahmad, Layth Ibn Sa’ad, Ishaq Ibn Rahuyah, Sufyan At-thauriy, Al-auzaa’iy, Imam Abu Yusuf and Muhammad As-shaibaniy among others. At the end, he said, “We do not know of anyone among the scholars and pious predecessors that disagree with the execution as a punishment for blasphemy.”
In As-sarimul Maslool, Ibn Taymiyyah quoted Ahmad Ibn Hanbal saying, “Whoever affronts the Prophet (SAW) or defames him (whether a Muslim or a non-Muslim) should be executed.” Ishaq Ibn Rahuyah maintained, “Muslims agree unanimously that whoever blasphemes against Allah or His Messenger (SAW) is deemed a disbeliever due to this blasphemy, even if he recognizes what has been revealed by Allah.”
Imam Muhammad Ibn Suhnun said, “There is a unanimous agreement among the Muslims on the apostasy of a blasphemer against the Prophet (SAW) and the one that defames him. His punishment is execution and whoever doubts his apostasy is also an apostate.” Imam Al-khattabiy said: “I do not know of anyone among the Muslims that is doubtful of an execution as a punishment for a blasphemer.”
Ibn Qudamah wrote, “Whoever blasphemes against Allah shall be a disbeliever, whether he is kidding or serious.”
Ibn Taymiyah said, “Blasphemy against Allah or His Messenger (SAW) is an act that nullifies faith, both outwardly and inwardly, whether the blasphemer knows that this is haram (forbidden), deems it halal (permissible), or is not aware of the ruling at all.” As-san’aani in Subulus-salaam, while commenting on the Hadith of the blind man, said: “This report indicates that the one who reviles the Prophet (SAW) is to be executed and no blood money is to be paid for him; if he is a Muslim his reviling of him (SAW) is apostasy for which he deserves to be executed.”
The only part in which the scholars differ is whether or not the blasphemer would be asked to repent. Some of them uphold that if a Muslim commits blasphemy, he becomes an apostate and would therefore be killed without asking him to repent. While others uphold a contrary opinion. They said he would be asked to repent. If he fails to repent, then he would be killed. Regarding a non-Muslim who commits blasphemy, some of the scholars said that he would be punished by death. However, if he converts and becomes a devout Muslim, the punishment is nullified as it happened with Ka’ab Ibn Zuhayr.
However, as eager as we are to see the ruling of Allah being applied on the blasphemer, it is instructive to reemphasize that Islam does not allow its adherents to take law into their hands. To be specific, the execution of a blasphemer is an exclusive responsibility of constituted authorities. This is the ruling established in Islamic law and recorded by scholars in their books.
Al-imam Al-qurtubiy, a highly-acclaimed Malikiyyah jurist, who authored one of the most widely known exegesis of the Noble Qur’an, said in the interpretation of verse 178 of Suratul Baqarah: “There is no dispute among the scholars that qisaas (retaliatory punishments) such as execution cannot be carried out except by those in authority who are obliged to carry out the qisaas and carry out hadd punishments etc, because Allah has addressed the command regarding qisaas to all the Muslims, and it is not possible for all the Muslims to get together to carry out the qisaas, which is why they appoint a leader who may represent them in carrying out the qisaas and hadd punishments.”
Ibnu Rushd, another respected Malikiyyah jurist, said in his book Bidayatul Mujtahid: “With regard to the one who should carry out this punishment – i.e, the hadd punishment for drinking alcohol – they agreed that the ruler should carry it out, and that applies to all the hadd punishments.” This ruling is also affirmed by scholars of Hanbaliyyah school. Ibnu Muflih, a Hanbaliyyah jurist, in his book Al-Furoo, said: “It is haraam for anyone to carry out a hadd punishment except the ruler or his deputy.”
In his widely celebrated magnum opus Al-mugniy, Ibnu Qudamah said: “It is not permissible for anyone to carry out execution except in the presence of a leader.” He also said, “This ruling is supported by jurists that are affiliated to Shafi’i school of thought.” Imamul Haramain Al-juwainiy, who is a Shafi’iyyah jurist, said in his book Al-giyaathiy: “Regarding hadd punishments, how they are established and when to execute them are recorded in the books of Islamic jurisprudence. And all are exclusive responsibilities of the leader. It is not permissible for anyone, including the families of the victims, to carry out such executions without the consent of the leader.”
The aforementioned submissions by scholars of different schools of thought are the ruling on mob justice. It’s not allowed in Islam. Although in Nigeria, most mob justices related to blasphemy are as a result of negligence from the constituted authorities. They never execute blasphemers that have been tried before a court of law and found guilty. That is why some analysts refer to this type of mob justice as frontier justice, where extrajudicial punishment that is motivated by the nonexistence of law and order or dissatisfaction with justice is carried out. To prevent its future occurrence, the authorities concerned must always do the needful and execute court order.
Lastly, in every religion and culture, there are redlines that aren’t supposed to be crossed. In Islam, one of the redlines that cannot and should never be approached, let alone be crossed, is the dignity of our Noble Prophet. That is why whenever an uncultured bigot blasphemed against the Prophet, the entire Muslim Ummah react. Muslims love and regard the Prophet more than anything. They can sacrifice their lives in his defense. You can’t insult our Prophet and expect us to be tolerant. We cannot tolerate an abuse to the personality of our Noble Prophet.
*Conclusively, I pledge to sacrifice my parents, my life and whatever I posses in defense of the Noble Prophet (SAW).*