We live in a world of intolerance and prejudice, where walls of hatred are getting higher and higher, where bridges, the means of uniting, are lacking. We live in a time where selfishness is gaining the upper hand even that, religion which is a great source of building bridges is being used for erecting the walls of malice, enmity and hatred. Religion is being interpreted in wrong ways, for gaining personal ends.
In recent days news attracted the attention of international media; a Christian woman Asia Bibi was sentenced to death by a court on charges of blasphemy. This incident has renewed debate about blasphemy laws, which are no doubt, to persecute religious minorities, fan religious extremism and settle personal scores. All the peace loving people and believers of the freedom of faith and human rights campaigners have condemned the verdict.
One very sad aspect of the story is that many protests are taking place demanding the death of Asia Bibi; some went many steps ahead, like a so-called religious leader Yousef Qureshi, the imam of a major mosque in the northwestern city of Peshawar, Pakistan, who offered a $6,000 equal to 500,000 rupees reward for killing Asia Bibi a victim of blasphemy laws. He said in the presence of a huge crowd of several hundred people that: “Anyone who kills Asia will be given 500,000 rupees in reward from Masjid Mohabat Khan,” referring to his mosque, and said “We expect her to be hanged and if she is not hanged then we will ask Mujahideen and Taliban to kill her.”
No doubt, this is a barbaric, inhuman, cruel and pitiless offer, which has no place in religion or in humanity. We condemn it categorically without any reservations, and appeal to such so-called religious clerics to spread peace, love, and harmony instead of enmity, hatred or malice.
Is Blasphemy a punishable act?
Let us look into some details about this issue of blasphemy. It is said and believed by many people, including unfortunately many Muslims and their leaders, that the punishment for blasphemy is death. Such an assertion is totally incorrect. There is no such penalty prescribed by religion. Not at all. And it is a significant point to bear in mind that not one protagonist demanding her assassination has quoted a single verse from the Holy Quran as a basis of authority.
The online Wikipedia writes on this subject which is also a clear example of the misinterpretation of these religious leaders who are demanding the death penalty on blasphemy charges. It says:
“Blasphemy in Islam is any irreverent behaviour towards holy personages, religious artifacts, customs, and beliefs that Muslims revere. The Quran and the hadith do not speak about blasphemy. Jurists created the offence, and they made it part of Sharia. Where Sharia pertains, the penalties for blasphemy can include fines, imprisonment, flogging, amputation, crucifixion, hanging, or beheading. Muslim clerics may call for the killing of an alleged blasphemy by issuing a fatwa.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Islam_and_blasphemy
If we look into history we find that all the divine teachers, prophets and messengers were blasphemed, maligned, insulted and abused during their life-time. Their followers were subjected to every kind of verbal invective and physical harassment. Many were forced to leave their homes, they were severely persecuted by the people of their time, but there is not a single example that they ever punished anyone on blasphemy charges, nor did they permit their followers to do so. The Prophet Muhammad, peace be on him, forgave the cruel enormities of all his enemies and this was his general attitude throughout his life towards his enemies and blasphemous opponents.
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 authorised anybody in this life to give any punishment whatsoever. I quote here a reference from the Holy Qur’an:
“And He has already revealed to you in the Book that, when you hear the Signs of Allah being denied and mocked at, sit not with them until they engage in a talk other than that; for in that case you would be like them.” (Quran: 4:141)
God 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.