Islam and the Political Theology of Blasphemy


[This is the sixth in a series of my notes on the International Institute of Islamic Thought conference on iftaa and fatwa held in Herndon, VA. These notes are raw material for an edited report I will write on the conference and represents my perception of the discussion. The proceedings will be published by IIIT at a later time. The Minaret of Freedom Institute thanks IIIT for the grant that makes the publication of these notes possible. Responsibility for any errors in the notes is mine alone.]

Moderator: Iqbal Unus
“Islam and the Political Theology of Blasphemy”
Muqtedar Khan, Prof of Political Science, University of Delaware

One day Mullah Nasr-ud-din gave his wife five pounds of ground meat and told her to cook it for a party he wanted to give for his friends that evening. It was in the days of Islamic feminism, so she cooked it, but invited her friends over for a party and served it to them. In the evening when the mullah got home she regretted her actions. When he asked her where are the five pounds of meat, she said the cat ate it. The mullah then weighed the cat, which was exactly 5 pounds. “Okay,” said the mullah, “I see the meat, now where is the cat?” I get the same feeling when I read about political theology. I see the politics, but where is the theology? It’s missing.

Watching the televised debates in Pakistan is not like watching an intellectual program, but more like watching a horror flick. A law promulgated in the 80s by Zia al-Haqq sentences anyone who insults the prophet to death. There have been accusations of violations of this law, often false. In a dispute between two Muslims, one became so angry that he threw the business card of the other away. The other’s name was Muhammad, so he sued his antagonist for insulting the Prophet. In another case a father and son, Salafis, were sentenced to 20 years in prison because they tore down a Sufi poster for Mawlid-an-Nabi plastered on their front door. There are two aspects to the issue: The substantive question of whether insulting the Prophet should be punishable in the first place, and cases of abuse of the law as well.

The British passed law in the 1930s after a writer was murdered for insulting the Prophet that blasphemy against ANY religious symbol you will be imprisoned for 3 years (Section 295A). From 1930 to 1986 there were only two 2 cases prosecuted under this law, but since Zia introduced the death penalty, hundreds of cases have been prosecuted. 125 cases are current, including 80 cases where the convicted have been found innocent after having spent 8 or 9 years in prison. Even if the court exonerates you, when you get home there is a welcoming party ready to kill you. Two prominent Pakistanis have been assassinated in the past few months. The governor of Punjab, Salman Taseer, was assassinated by his own bodyguard for his sympathy for a Christian accused of insulting the Prophet, The Minister of Minority Affairs was also assassinated in front of his own house.

Taseer’s assassin Mumtaz Qadri has become a national hero supported by thousands of lawyers and doctors and judges for committing murder. He was inspired to that murder by a public speaker called “Mufti” Hanif Qureshi, who said a believing Muslim must kill anyone who insults the Prophet immediately. There is much hate and almost no teaching on any religious value in such speeches. There is a consensus from the extreme Sufis through the extreme Salafis in Pakistan that not only those who insult the Prophet but those who think insulters of the Prophet should not be killed are all to be killed.

No one in these debates has mentioned the Qur’anic verse “take not life which God hath made sacred except by way of justice and law: thus doth He command you that ye may learn wisdom” (6:151). In Pakistan the struggle is between secular democrats and pietists. The democrats do not challenge that those who insult the Prophet deserve be killed, they are only concerned that the law is easily abused as an instrument of revenge. It requires only three witnesses, so if three of you dislike my presentation today, you need only sign a petition that I have insulted the Prophet and I am finished. I could be in jail for ten years before the rest of you can persuade a judge of my innocence. Then when I come out the chance of my being killed is very high. Tuseer was such a liberal, as is Shari Rahman, who initiated a bill to repeal the law in parliament and who is in hiding now. She can no longer even take state protection for anyone assigned to protect might turn out to be her assassin. There are many laws in Pakistan that are abused and should not be on the books in the first place.

The other debate over the meaning of Islamic laws is more interesting to me. Even if there could be a guarantee that a blasphemy law would be implemented with complete justice, there remains the question of whether someone who insults the Prophet should be killed instantly. I want to focus on the challenge advanced by two people. Allama Javid Ghamdi, who after opposing this law had to leave the country, and his supporter Dr. Farooq Khan who was killed in his own house within two weeks after Ghamdi started opposing the law. These are the only two Pakistanis continuously arguing that it is unIslamic to kill anyone on these grounds. It is instructive to see what people bring forth as their proofs.

Everybody accepts the Qur’an as the first source and the Sunnah as the second of Islamic law. The liberals do not rely so much on ijma, and some people draw on ijtihad. The Shia use the term as’al a lot more than the Sunnis who focus on qiyas and ijtihad. Those critical of the Hanafi use the term râ’i a lot. The official position of the religious establishment is that blasphemy against Muhammad is punishable by death. The blasphemer has no recourse, and no opportunity for even tauba: even if he repents he must be killed. The establishment’s biggest argument is that there is complete consensus among the sahâba, but their proof of such consensus is limited to quotations from after the tenth century and later scholars like Ibn Taymiyyah to this effect. The Sunnah of forgiveness shown by the Prophet Muhammad toward those who insulted or abused him, prominent in the seerah and hadith, is deemed irrelevant on the grounds that the Prophet has a right to forgive that we do not. Interestingly, we can forgive people who insult Allah, violating huqûq Allah (because Allah can take care of them), but not those who insult the Prophet, violating huqûq ibâd/insân. Further, it is said that even if you had no intention to insult, you are still guilty of blasphemy if someone concludes you have insulted, then you have blasphemed and deserve the death penalty.

I will give you an example of hikma from the Nakshbandi Sufi order. It is the best-written English opinion from Pakistan, not necessarily the most dominant version:

“1. The verdict of infidelity for insulting the Prophet (saws) will depend upon the apparent words and no consideration will be given to the intention and the purpose of the person committing the insult and the circumstances of the time.” What is very interesting is that they are always introducing the issue of infidelity, which means they are talking of blasphemy and apostasy at the same time, but they do not want to acknowledge there is confusion between apostasy and blasphemy.

“2. Truly, whoever abused the Prophet (saws) or ascribed any fault to him or attributed any defect to his family to his religion or his habits or reproached him or compared the Prophet (saws) with any defective thing with the objective of derailing his personality and prestige is truly an abusive person and deserves to be executed. We make absolutely no exception to this verdict whether the insult has been committed intentionally or unintentionally. This has been the verdict of all the ulema of the ummah from the time of the companions to the present day.” This is factually not correct at all, but it is their claim.

“3. If a Muslim abuses the Prophet (saws) or lies about him or picks out faults about him, or robs him of his dignity, he commits the act of infidelity against Allah azzowajal.” But if that I sthe case, they had established that it would be possible to forgive him and leave Allah to deal with him. I have sent many e-mails asking for an explanation on this point, but gotten no response.

“4. When a person (a Muslim) speaks ill of the Prophet (saws) is any connection, he becomes an infidel. According to some Ulema, if a man uses an insulting word even for the sacred hair of the Noble Prophet Muhammad (saws) he will become an infidel.”

They provide an example. One mufti has issued a fatwa saying that if you say you don’t like kaddu (a vegetable resembling a water squash), then you have insulted the Prophet and deserve to be killed on the authority of Imam Shafi.

“5. It is beyond doubt that the whole of the Ummah is unanimous that one who slanders the Prophet Muhammad (saws) or other Prophets, is an infidel, whether he committed this act while considering it legitimate or illegitimate. He is an infidel in the opinion of the Ulema, and whoever doubts his infidelity is also an infidel.”

They provide sources:

1. Imam Shahab Ul-Deen Khafaji Hanafi’s, ‘Naseem Ur Riyadh’, Vol 4, pg. 426

2. Qadi Iyad’s, ‘Ash Shifa’, Vol 2, pg. 214

3. Imam Abu Yusuf, Kitab-al Khiraj, pg. 182

4. Fatawa Qadi Khan, Vol 4, pg. 882

5. Allama Akhi Yusuf, Dhakhairat al-Uqba, pg. 240

Yet, contrary to their claims, Qadi Iyad’s says there is no consensus. In the face of the criticism that if you make your argument on the claim of consensus, which is the third source of law, you are admitting you have no evidence from Qur’an or Sunnah, they have turned to two ayahs in the Qur’an: “Truly if the Hypocrites and those in whose hearts is a disease and those who stir up sedition in the City desist not We shall certainly stir thee up against them: then will they not be able to stay in it as thy neighbors for any length of time: They shall have a curse on them: wherever they are found they shall be seized and slain (without mercy).” (33:60-61) But even in this interpretation there is a clear condition “if they do not cease.” But if you look a few ayahs early you find: “Those who annoy God and his Apostle God has cursed them in this world and in the Hereafter and has prepared for them a humiliating Punishment” (33:57), in other words Allah will handle this; mind your own business. Without identifying myself or saying I am writing a paper on this issue I asked one of these muftis why they ignore this verse and received no response. Look at 24:12-26 dealing with the slander against Aisha. None of them call for killing although this is clearly slander against the Prophet’s family.

The other verse offered in defense of the death penalty is: “The punishment of those who wage war against God and His Apostle and strive with might and main for mischief through the land is: execution or crucifixion of the cutting off of hands and feet from opposite sides or exile from the land: that is their disgrace in this world and a heavy punishment is theirs in the Hereafter. Except for those who repent before they fall into your power: in that case know that God is Oft-Forgiving Most Merciful” (5:33-4). But this verse is about war, not insults. Why do those who claim otherwise not ask for hands and feet to be cut off or for exile? In opposition to this majority view, are many verses of the Qur’an that say when people become abusive either turn away or change the subject or change their ways.

When they turn to the hadith literature, the story of Ka`b ibn al-Ashraf has become popular. The story that Ka`b was executed for insulting the Prophet is clear proof for them and, I think, played a role in Khomeini’s fatwa against Salman Rushdie. But if you read the whole story you see that he was an enemy in a time of war and committed treason against those he was treaty-bound to defend. Not only that, he was also responsible for making a treacherous agreement with the Quraish against Medina. He also insulted the Prophet, but it is difficult to make a case that this was the sole reason for his execution.

Ashraf al-Qadri, a leader of the Nakshbandi who brings Ibn Taymiyyah’s books with him into the studio, cites the case of man who had two women sing abusive songs against the Prophet. When the Prophet conquered Mecca, he gave list of ten people to be executed and this man was among them. They cite seerah that the Prophet ordered that he must be killed even if he was found under the curtain of the ka`ba. This man, however, was also a murderer, an apostate, and an enemy of the Islamic state. Again, the case that he was condemned merely for insulting the Prophet is not clear. Interestingly, while one of the two women was killed, the other sought security from the Prophet, who forgave her. Apart from these problems, what is the status of books of seerah? Can we make laws with irreversible consequences based on biographical reports? I have not seen any an epistemology from any madhhab that says legal conclusions can be drawn from the seerah.

Javid Ghamdi has been accused of denying the hadith, but at least in the context of this debate, he does not. He argues that the Qur’anic verse “if anyone slew a person unless it be for murder or for spreading mischief in the land it would be as if he slew the whole people: and if anyone saved a life it would be as if he saved the life of the whole people” (5:32) governs the entire issue of punishment by death in the Qur’an and allows capital punishment in only two cases, murder and spreading fasâd (corruption, social disharmony, mischief, including terrorism) in the land. Insulting the Prophet cannot be considered spreading fasâd in the land, but the civil disturbance caused to the attempt to enforce this law might be. Then he comes to the issue of the Hanafi position. Imam Abu Hanifa did not subscribe to this position. He is very clear in saying that a dhimmi cannot be killed. He says if a dhimmi emphatically insists on insulting the Prophet he should be banished from the land. He expresses surprise hat anyone would even think of killing a non-Muslim for this when we don’t kill people for committing shirk the greatest sin of all. His position regarding Muslims who commit this act is that they become murtad, which many scholars do consider a capital crime. But non-Muslims are not committing apostasy by insulting the Prophet. None of the muftis seem to understand what Abu Hanifa is saying.

Don’t these scholars understand that they are manipulating the Qur’an and the seerah and they are selecting evidence for the purpose of supporting a pre-determined position? I thin they do. I think this is a hostile debate between a secular political elite and a “religious” counter-political elite. The reason no one is paying attention to the valid religious arguments of Taseer and Ghamdi is that this is not a religious debate but a political one. If you think having an elected government is a guarantor of peace and harmony, just look at Pakistan today.

Of the 55 Muslim countries only five have a very strict punishment for blasphemy including Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Iran. When Pakistanis are asked does this make the other 49 countries murtid, they say, no, because they are founded on nationalist, not Islamic, principles. I think we need to rethink the question of ijma, because it does not exist unless we define out of consideration those who disagree with it. We may have ijma on basics like God is one, but beyond those how can one establish it? Ibn Taymiyyah didn’t even use the word ijma, he said “general consensus.” How can the Pakistanis of all people where the majority are Hanafis claim ijma when Abu Hanifa does not agree with them? I think we must look critically when anyone invokes ijma as the sole source of a law, especially things like death and war. How can people miss the point that the fact that there is a debate demonstrates that there is no ijma. And if there were an ijma, the Qur’an overrides it. Selective sources are insufficient, and sources must be examined inclusively.

I think in an Islamic society there should have a single authorized body with a monopoly on the issuing of fatwas. In Morocco you could not have a debate like this because they have an amîr al mu`minîn.  Finally, I think the debates are political rather than religious and political preferences invariably color the discourse that contemporary Islamic scholars deploy as theology in the public arena.

Discussant: Khaled Troudi

You indicated that there is no clear hukm on blasphemy, but I invite you to review the contextual meaning of these verses and these hadith. For example, verse 5:33: “The punishment of those who wage war against God and His Apostle and strive with might and main for mischief through the land is: execution or crucifixion of the cutting off of hands and feet from opposite sides or exile from the land: that is their disgrace in this world and a heavy punishment is theirs in the Hereafter.”  Verses 9:64-66 clearly apply to mocking the Prophet: “The Hypocrites are afraid lest a Surah should be sent down about them showing them what is (really passing) in their hearts.  Say: ‘Mock ye! but verily Allah will bring to light all that ye fear (should be revealed).’ If thou dost question them they declare (with emphasis): ‘we were only talking idly and in play.”  Say: ‘Was it at Allah and His signs and His apostle that ye were mocking?’ Make ye no excuses: ye have rejected faith after ye had accepted it. If We pardon some of you We will punish others amongst you for that they are in sin.” Muslims are in a weak state and vulnerable to mockery. The seerah explains these verses. “Whoever curses the Prophet, kill him,” is an authentic hadith. The Prophet gave orders to kill people who insulted him and Islam: Abdullah ibn Ubay, Ibn Salud, Ka`b ibn al-Ashraf, Asma bint Marwan, and Ibn al-Hanif were all killed. I would also ask why you did not take into account many traditions used by these scholars about those who insult the Prophet or Islam? For example Ibn al-Mundhar says scholars who agree that those insult the Prophet must be killed mentioning by name opinions of Imam Malik, Al-Laith, Ibn Hanbal, Shafi, and Abu Hanifa. The Shia tradition according to Khui has the same conclusion. Why did you focus only on Pakistan and not Saudi Arabia and Iran?

Discussant: Louay Safi

I think the issue is timely and the situation is serious. I agree that Pakistan is a special case. There is a beautiful hadith: “Allah does not take away the knowledge by taking it away from (the hearts of) the people, but takes it away by the death of the religious learned men till when none of the (religious learned men) remains, people will take as their leaders ignorant persons who when consulted will give their verdict without knowledge. So they will go astray and will lead the people astray.” [Bukhari] You’ve heard of a power vacuum; I think we have a knowledge vacuum. We have people obsessed with a virtual text taken out of its discourse. The Qur’an is not individual texts, but has a complete meaning that stimulates thinking, that forces you to think in your social and critical context. When the Qur’an talks about fasâd, it is not talking about making people uncomfortable; it is talking about taking life or property, about rape and massacre, depriving people of their dignity or rights—not verbally disparaging someone’s religious sensitivity. Knowledge is being taught as something that has been achieved. This is not knowledge; knowledge is a process.  Calling for someone to be killed for such reasons is not free speech but incitement. Pakistan spends less than 1% of its income on education. What you see here are people who are angry about their deprivation.

Khan: I explained why 5:33 did not apply. If I say, “Dick Cheney is a dog who eats from garbage,” have I declared war on the United States? No. So how could an equally repugnant statement against the Prophet be a declaration of war? And if it is a declaration of war, then why are they not calling for crucifixion? They are not arguing; they are making a pretense at an argument. The other arguments are indeed strongly worded, but none calls for death. Yusuf Qaradawy has written a new book in which he makes the same argument. I didn’t bring up the verses because none of the scholars brought it up. I am not taking sides, issuing my own fatwa; I am analyzing the debate in Pakistan on this issue. I introduced the verses from Surat-an-Nur only because I sent e-mails to the ulama asking why they did not talk about this and they did not respond. They are more interested in killing somebody than in knowing what the real Islamic position on this issue is. Ibn al Munza is the one everybody in Pakistan quotes to show there is ijma, but there is no ijma. Is Imam Abu Hanifa outside the fold of Islam? He’s a salaf. Do the salafis believe in the tabi`în or not? This man inciting murder in violation of the law of their country is fasâd by definition. A case was filed by five people, none of whom was a witness to the alleged crime. A man died because of it. We can no more say Ka`b ibn al-Ashraf was killed for insulting the Prophet than we can say bin Ladin was killed for insulting George Bush or his father. Abu Hanifa’s view is widely available in translation into Urdu on the Internet but it continues to be misrepresented.

General Discussion

M. Ayoub: As usual you are the conscience of the Muslims. You are absolutely right that the verse 5:33 does not apply here because hirâba is highway robbery, not slander. Fasâd means making life impossible for people. I have a feeling that in Islam there is no blasphemy law and this is a British law the Muslims have inherited. I do not see it in the rest of the Muslim world as it is in Pakistan. In Arabic we do not even have a clear word like blasphemy. Kufr does not mean blasphemy, but rejection.

Kenneth Honerkamp: I lived in the Northwest frontier from 1969-79; I was in the Deobandi madrassas and I never heard of this issue. What happened? What is the political advantage? Lastly, I have a story from Morocco. A sharîf (a member of the Prophet’s family) got into an argument with a Moroccan man. The vehemence of the argument escalated until the man said, “You and your family are dogs.” The sharîf took the man before a judge accusing him of insulting the Prophet and demanding he be killed. After hearing both sides, the judge said, “If you were a real sharîf you would never have let the dispute come to this point,” and he dismissed the case. So, what political groups profit from this?

Anwar Haddam: We see the need to contextualize fatwas and see the maqâsid behind them. Protecting the lives of human beings is one of the most important objectives of Shariah. Implementing this law is fasâd. As to your suggestion of a state monopoly on iftaa, I think we need to protect the independence of the muftis from the state. It is implementation of the fatwas that must be the monopoly of the state.

Khan: It is interesting that the two words they use in Urdu do not mean blasphemy, but (tawhîn) insult.

M. Ayoub: In Arabic this means “weakening.”

Khan: In Urdu they use Arabic words with entirely different meanings. They also use the word shâtim. They are not using the word sulh, which is very interesting. The word shâtima does not occur in the Qur’an at all. Sabba appears in this interesting verse: “Revile not ye those whom they call upon besides God lest they out of spite revile God in their ignorance.  Thus have We made alluring to each people its own doings.  In the end will they return to their Lord and We shall then tell them the truth of all that they did” (6:108). It is also used in Ibn Taymiyyah’s book.  It also arises in the Sunni-Shia debate with regard to insulting the companions of the Prophet. In every case that has come up since Zia al Haqq put the law in its current form, not a single defendant has claimed that it was their intention to insult. All have been apologetic for giving offense, but as I have said lack of intention is no excuse.

As for the political advantage, in Third World countries debates are rarely on policy; they are almost always on cultural symbols. In Pakistan they have found, just a year or two after the Danish cartoons, the power of campaigning on religious symbols. When extremist Christian pastors in America insult the Prophet or Islam they get little attention here, but they make the front page in Pakistan.

I agree with you about monopolies. There is, I think, a hadith that if you see a scholar going to a rich man’s house, assume he is a thief. The role of the scholars as the critics of the powerful has, I think, been lost.

Sami Ayoub: The notion of ijma in the sense that everyone agreed never existed. When verses are taken out of context to support killing, we must put them back into context to challenge that claim.

Khan: If we say there is ijma, then we exclude ourselves from the conversation. As soon as we ask a question, ijma is put into question. The opinion of the Muslims of Herndon is of more concern for me than an imagined consensus form a thousand years ago. The verses that the ulama of Pakistan are using based on he interpretation attribute to Ibn Taymiyyah were not brought by his student Ibn Kathir into his tafsîr. He says these verses apply to hypocrites.

M. Ayoub: I argue that Khomeini did not issue a fatwa against Salman Rushdie because had he done so, it would have been on the grounds of apostasy, that his insulting the Prophet and his wife constitituted kufr, in which case he should have been given time (three days by the most widely accepted view) to repent. I think he was making a recommendation. He gave the reason, saying, it was so no one would insult Islam again. If you think this is a fatwa—

Haddam: That is the problem. That is why we need a definition of a fatwa.

Khan: They put a monetary reward.

M. Ayoub: Khomeini put no monetary reward.

Adam El Shiekh: At the time of Khomeini’s fatwa, I commented in a khutba that you couldn’t kill someone without a hearing, even in absentia, producing a record for history. I was targeted for execution and had to go underground for three or four months. Dr. Moqtedar says the fatwa is still valid in Pakistan, but after a year or two I was able to go back and stayed there for a few years.

Sarah Albrecht: How would you see your own role as a scholar in this debate?

Khan: What motivates me is that if they were to apply this rule against those who insult Jesus, then all Muslims would be accused of insulting Jesus, because we say he is not God. It sounds ridiculous. I don’t want to get involved in Pakistan’s internal politics, but if they claim Islam as their justification, they are drawing me in. I am providing a critique of these people using their own methods to show they are not sincere in their use of their own methods.

Moustafa Kassem: What about Imam Ghazali’s Fausal al-Tafriqa which is a manual on this question. He identified intention, level of knowledge, and outside pressure, as relevant issues that must considered as well as the necessity of giving three days for repentance.

Khan: There is zero mention of Ghazali or of the three day period in this debate.

Laila Ghouri: Islam has not divorced itself from the crazy actions of Muslims. Violent acts of the IRA are not attributed to Christianity or Jesus, while the violent or crazy actions of Muslims are linked to Islam or Muhammad. Why is this and what can and should be done about it?

Daoud Nassimi: The penal laws of Islam are for an Islamic state and not for an individual to apply. When Allah commands us to fight fî sabîl Allah it does not mean physical fighting but a spiritual fight. Anything else is fighting against Allah. Preventing people from the path of Allah is included in the definition of fasâd, for example: “Those who reject God and hinder (men) from the path of God for them will We add Penalty to Penalty; for that they used to spread mischief (fasâd)” (16:88).

Khan: I am familiar with that verse, but I am not sure insulting anybody constitutes preventing some one from the path of Allah. One of the failed anti-Shariah laws proposed that performing wudu be punishable by fifteen years in prison. So, you can wash you feet but if you washed your feet for the purpose of prayer you could have been imprisoned for fifteen years. That would be an example of preventing people from the path of Allah. An insult is not a war. Shâtima does not mean insult, but vilification. The argument of these people is that Pakistan is an Islamic state but the state is controlled by kufâr. The fact that I argue against killing someone who demonizes the Prophet doesn’t mean I don’t want to stop him. I might feel like killing such a man, but my religion prevents me from doing so. The Qur’an says clearly when you come across ignorant people, say “Peace!” and turn away. People who abuse the Qur’an are engaged in psychological torture against those who hold it dear, but that does not justify killing them. It is conceded that shâtima against the Qur’an is not a capital crime, but perhaps that will change in the future. What bothers me is that the Muslim masses are so ignorant of the sources that they are easily taken in by such faulty arguments. There is a story, I think about Ali, that he was once about to kill a man in battle, but the man spat upon him, so Ali backed off because he was no longer sure if his motive to kill the man was the just cause of battle or the affront of the personal insult.

Ghauri: You make valid points, but I have a problem with the analogies to insulting Dick Cheney or Obama. When you insult the Virgin Mary or Christ, the Catholic Church does respond. Where do you draw the line?

Adam El Sheikh: If you tell these people that the Prophet is described in the Qur’an as a man like me or you, they will say this is an insult.

M. Ayoub: There is a blasphemy law in the gospels, but it prohibits blasphemy against the Holy Spirit only. If you blaspheme against Jesus you might be forgiven, but blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is unforgivable.

Khan: It is clear that some of the ulama believe that if you do not believe the Prophet has `ilm al-Ghayb (knowledge of the unseen), you are not a Muslim. I met the king of Saudi Arabia only once and he told me, “You don’t understand that Saudi Arabia is different from other countries because the people are more conservative than the ulama and the ulama are more conservative than the king. I would be happy to appoint a woman minister tomorrow. The ulama will not let me because the people will not let them. I nearly said, “That’s very democratic.” That happens in the United States where the imam’s salary and his job depend on the doctors and engineers with no formal training in Islam, who do the fundraising in the mosque. Imams have told me “When I get tenure like you have, I will give the khutbas you want me to give.”

To Laila’s question: Yes, we should respond to insults to the Prophet, but not violently. The Qur’an says in two places, “Respond to evil with good.” We can fund a yearlong celebration of the Prophet Muhammad or of the Qur’an. Better yet, people will stop believing these attacks on the Prophet and on Islam when they see Muslims behaving magnanimously.

Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad, Ph.D.
Minaret of Freedom Institute

2 Responses to “Islam and the Political Theology of Blasphemy”

  1. Bob Williams says:

    Greetings in Peace,
    Mualana Mawduwdi did warn Indian Muslims of partition – a British creation. The Oxbridge elite now own most of the land, while the refugees (no, many were not muhajjir) continue to rent. Political sociology must examine the root of the problems – the British designed state.

  2. […] “Pakistan’s supreme court has called on the country’s politicians to ensure that hundreds of people facing imprisonment and even execution under controversial blasphemy laws have not been falsely charged, often by enemies wanting to settle personal scores.” Best to just end this unIslamic law: […]

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