In the response of the attack on Charlie Hebdo’s offices in Paris, A person named Anjem Choudary in an article of USA Today (published on 3:43 p.m. EST January 8, 2015) disfigure Islam by promoting wrong information about Islamic teachings. He claimed that the punishment for blasphemy is death. It seems that he somehow tried to favor the attack on Charlie Hebdo. He states:
The strict punishment if found guilty of this crime under sharia (Islamic law) is capital punishment implementable by an Islamic State. This is because the Messenger Muhammad said, “Whoever insults a Prophet kill him.” — Anjem Choudary, USA Today January 8, 2015
Here i want to clarify that Anjem Choudary is Absolutely Wrong about Islam and Blasphemy. This is yet another great allegation raised against Islam. It is asked that if someone commits a blasphemy against God Almighty, the Holy Prophet(saw) or the Holy Qur’an or, for that matter, any sacred thing in Islam by using a foul language or showing disrespect in any way then what is the punishment for that? It is said and believed by many people, including unfortunately many Muslims, that the punishment for blasphemy is death. Such an assertion is totally incorrect.
The Holy Qur’an mentions nowhere that the punishment for blasphemy is death, nor even a lesser punishment. As a matter of fact, there is no worldly punishment for this crime. No doubt, according to Islam blasphemy is a crime, very despicable and offensive, but the punishment of that is entirely in the hand of God Almighty. He may punish the culprit here in this life or later. We believe that every person is going to stand accountable before God. On the Day of Judgment, God Almighty will see to it, but He has not authorized anybody in this life to give any punishment whatsoever. I quote here a reference from the Holy Qur’an:
You shall, surely, be tried in your possessions and in your persons and you shall surely hear many hurtful things from those who were given the Book before you and from those who set up equals to God. But if you show fortitude and act righteously, that indeed is a matter of strong determination. (Ch3:187)
There is no mention of any punishment here. God Almighty says that various hurtful things will be said about you. Muslims are only asked to show patience when a blasphemous act is committed against them in any way. But there is no mention of any punishment.
The Holy Qur’an further states:
And he has already revealed to you in the Book that, when you hear the Signs of God being denied and mocked at, sit not with those who indulge in such talk until they engage in some other talk; for in that case you would be like them. (Ch.4:V.141)
Allah Almighty says that when people indulge in committing blasphemy, the only action required from the believers is that they should not keep company with those people and do not sit with them any longer. It should be noted that the punishment for blasphemy is mentioned nowhere.
Blasphemy versus freedom of speech.
No doubt, the freedom o speech is necessary for the progress and development of a society. But this freedom must not be used to insult religions. That is why Islam forbids blasphemy but does not prescribe any worldly punishment for it. Islam recognizes the right of freedom of conscience and freedom of belief and that as far as one’s religious belief is concerned one is answerable to God alone. No man has the right to punish another for his choice of belief. There is absolutely no compulsion whatsoever in Islam and no punishment of any kind permitted in the Holy Quran for apostasy.
Discussing this issue, Hadhrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad (Ra), the fourth Khalifa of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community writes:
“Blasphemy: Islam goes one step further than any other religion in granting man the freedom of speech and expression. Blasphemy is condemned on moral and ethical grounds, no doubt, but no physical punishment is prescribed for blasphemy in Islam despite the commonly held view in the contemporary world. Having studied the Holy Quran extensively and repeatedly with deep concentration, I have failed to find a single verse which declares blasphemy to be a crime punishable by man. Although the Holy Quran very strongly discourages indecent behavior and indecent talk, or the hurting of the sensitivity of others, with or without rhyme or reason, Islam does not advocate the punishment of blasphemy in this world nor vests such authority in anyone.” (Islam’s Response to Contemporary Issues – page 39)
No Prophet of God was more blasphemed, maligned, insulted and abused during his life-time than the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him. He and his faithful followers were subjected to every kind of verbal invective and physical harassment. He was forced to migrate from Mecca to Medina due to the severity of persecution by the Meccans. Ten years later he returned to Mecca with ten thousand followers who could have taken the town by storm but the Holy Prophetsaw forbade any bloodshed. Much to the amazement of the Meccans he forgave them their cruel enormities and this was his general attitude throughout his life towards his enemies and blasphemous opponents. All Muslims look upon the Holy Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, as a perfect exemplar for mankind and they would do well to be moved and guided by his noble example.
Quran states committal of blasphemy against the Holy Prophet, but mentions no punishment.
The Quran mentions many blasphemous utterances of the non believers and hypocrites against the Holy Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him (PBUH), without mentioning any physical punishment for perpetrators. A few examples are quoted below:
“Verily, those who malign Allah and His Messenger – Allah has cursed them in this world and
in the Hereafter, and has prepared for them an abasing punishment. “ (33:58)
It should be noted that the ‘abasing punishment’ of blaspheming God and His Messenger rests with God alone; and it is up to Him whether He punishes such persons in this world or in the next world after death. Authority to punish the blasphemers has not been delegated to anyone, not even the Holy Prophet (PBUH).
Again it is stated in the Quran that
- Disbelievers made a jest of the Holy Prophet (21:37).
- He was called ‘a mad man’ (15:7).
- They said: ‘there is madness in him’ (23:71).
- He was called ‘a victim of deception’ (17:48).
- He was treated as a liar (35:26).
- They called the Quranic revelation as ‘mere stories of the past’ (16:25),
- The Quran was called ‘confused dreams’ and the Holy Prophet a ‘poet’ (21:6).
- He was called ‘a fabricator’ (16:102).
- They said: ‘ It is only a man who teaches him’ (16:104).
- They urged the people ‘not to listen Quran but make noise during its recitation’ (41:27).
- They ‘tore the Quran into pieces. (15:92)
Despite the blasphemy against the Holy Prophet (PBUH) quoted above, Allah advised him:
‘We will certainly, suffice thee against those who mock’ (15:96).
God Himself was therefore sufficient to deal with those who commit blasphemy against God, the Holy Prophet (PBUH) or the Holy Quran and He does not allow anyone to interfere in it. The Holy Prophet (PBUH) was advised by God:
“And follow not the disbelievers and hypocrites, and overlook their annoying talk and put thy trust in Allah; for Allah is sufficient as a guardian” (33:49); and “bear patiently what they say” (20:131).
Instead of killing the blasphemers, the believers were advised to leave the company of such men, until they change the topic of their talk.
Allah says: “…When you hear the Signs of God being denied and mocked at, sit not with those (who indulge in such talk) until they engage in some other talk; for in that case you would be like them…” (4:141)
There is no mention in the Holy Quran or anywhere else of any punishment for an apostate which may be meted out to him by any other person. The consequences of his apostasy in this world and in the next life lie solely in the hands of God. Man is free to accept or reject whatever beliefs he chooses. God says in the Holy Quran:
There is no compulsion in religion. (2:257)
It is the truth from your Lord; wherefore let him who will believe and let him who will disbelieve. (18:30)
The teachings of the Holy Quran and the examples of the life of the Holy Prophet (saw) refute all the misconceptions and misunderstanding about the punishment of blasphemy by any human being or any state; and entirely leave the authority in the hands of God, and this is a supreme reality and commandment of God and ‘there is none that can change the words of Allah.