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The Concept of Namoos-e-Risalat or Honour of Prophet Mohammad: The Quran, Hadith, Blasphemy and Pakistani Ulema

New Age Islam Staff Writer

11 May 2021

The Violent Ideology Of The Protection Of The Honour Of Prophethood Is At The Root Of Sectarian Bloodshed In Pakistan

Main Points:

1.Quran does not prescribe any punishment for blasphemy

2. Islamic scholars of Pakistan promote violence in the name of protection of Namoos-e-Risalat

3. The holy Prophet pbuh pardoned many blasphemers.

4. A Muslim cannot be killed for blasphemy.

5. Dr Tahirul Qadri has distorted the meaning of verses to justify blasphemy killings.


Prophet Mohammad pbuh is the last prophet and was the founder of Islam. The holy Quran was revealed to him. Prophet Mohammad pbuh suffered many humiliations, abuses, physical torture and even death threats during his initial eleven years of Prophethood. He made many sacrifices for the Muslims and Islam. For this, Muslims also love him for his sacrifices, for his guidance and for the pain he went through for his Ummah.

The Quran also praises him a number of times and asks Muslims to send salam to the holy Prophet pbuh as God also sends Darood-O-Salam to him.

"Verily God and His angels send blessings on the Prophet. O believers, send darood-o-salam on him."(Al Ahzab:56)

The Quran asks Muslims again and again to respect their prophet pbuh and obey him and accept him as an arbitrator in all matters concerning them and all disputes arising among them.

"But no, by your Lord, they cannot become true believers until they seek your arbitration in all matters on which they disagree among themselves and then find not the least vexation in their hearts over what you have decided and accept it on willing submission."(Al Nisa:65-66)

Further, the Quran has declared that the holy Prophet pbuh is more important than the believers' own self. No one in a believer’s life is more important than the Prophet pbuh.

"Surely the Prophet pbuh has a greater claim over themselves."(Al Ahzab:6)

This is because God loves His prophet pbuh and showers His blessings on him. If any one speaks ill of the holy Prophet pbuh, it hurts God and angers Him.

"Indeed those who trouble Allah and His noble messenger upon them is Allah's curse in the whole world and in the Hereafter and Allah has kept prepared a disgraceful punishment for them." (Al Ahzab:57)

However, in spite of all this, the Quran does not prescribe a physical punishment for insults and evil words hurled against the holy Prophet pbuh. The Quran asks Muslims to observe restraint and leave the matter to Allah as He has prepared a grievous punishment for them in the Hereafter.

"Those who cause pain to the messenger of Allah, theirs shall be a painful chastisement."(At Taubah:61)

"And you shall certainly hear much that will grieve you from those who received the Book before you and from those who worship many idols. But if you persevere patiently and guard against evil then that will be a determining factor in all affairs."(Al-e-Imran:186)

All the above quoted verses make it clear that though God loves prophet Mohammad pbuh dearly and wants believers to send Darood-o-Salam on him as a mark of respect and love and though He is hurt at insults and abuses thrown at him, God does not want violence or bloodshed in the name of protecting his honour. He has prepared a severe torment for those who insult the prophet pbuh in the Hereafter.

So the Quran has produced the concept of the sanctity of the personality of Prophet Mohammad pbuh or Namoos-e-Risalat. A Muslim keeps the holy Prophet pbuh in high esteem and loves him more than his dear ones and his own life and obeys his commandments in all personal or communal issues.

But the concept of Namoos-e-Risalat presented by the Quran is devoid of any violence aimed at the opponents. The Quran advises Muslims to practice restraint in face of insult or blasphemy. To the Quran, protecting the honour of the Prophet pbuh means obeying him and adhering to his teachings of tolerance, forgiveness, submission to the will of God, charity, service to humankind and making sacrifices in the path of God.

But in later years, Islamic scholars explained the concept of Namoos-e-Risalat from the point of view of Hadith according to which a number of Jews and polytheists during the Prophet's life were killed at the order of the holy prophet pbuh or the killing of such people by Muslims was approved by the Prophet pbuh. On the other hand, there are also instances when the holy Prophet pbuh forgave the blasphemers.

Though the Quran does not prescribe any punishment for blasphemy, leave aside death sentence and rather advises restraint, Islamic jurisprudents drew their conclusion in favour of death sentence for blasphemy from the execution of blasphemers during the prophet's life.

The instances in which the prophet pbuh ordered the killing or approved the killing of blasphemers were the worst kind of habitual offenders who spoke or wrote highly abusive or insulting content. To understand the degree of hurtfulness of these abusive and blasphemous writings or speech we need to k ow the fact that in Arab in those times, the poetic genre of hijw (satirical poems) was very popular. These poems were written by people with poetic abilities in order to denigrate or insult or to do character assassination of opponents. Often, the poets mentioned the names of mothers, daughters, sisters or wives of their opponents in the poems and wrote filthy things about them. This would cause grave harm to the dignity of the targeted family or persons. This would often lead to bloodshed and fights. If one goes through the satirical poetry of one of the greatest poets of Abbasid era, Al Mutanabbi Alkindi, one can easily understand how damaging these poems were. Al Mutanabbi himself was killed by a man against whom he had written filthy satirical poetry.

Therefore, some of them who were killed b Muslims for committing blaspbemy against the holy prophet pbuh were poets who continually wrote or sang damaging and abusive poetry against him and his family members. However, there are also instances when the holy Prophet pbuh forgave his blasphemers when they repented. And the number of those forgiven is greater than the number of those killed. One of those forgiven is the poet Kaab bin Zuhair who later wrote the famous Qasida Burdah in praise of the holy prophet pbuh and received a shawl from the holy prophet pbuh as a gift.

This violent concept of the protection of Namoos-e-Risalat was promoted in Pakistan due to sectarian and political reasons. A number of books on Namoos-e-Risalat were written in Urdu justifying the killing of those committing blasphemy. Some of the books are titled "Gustakh-E-Rasool Ki Saza Sar Tan Se Juda" Tahaffuz-e-Namoos-e-Risalat Aur Hamari Zimmedariyan (Protection of the honour of prophet and our responsibility), Namoos-e-Risalat ke Saat Shaheed ( Seven martyrs of the Sanctity of Prophethood) etc. Two important books on the subject are "Namoos-E-Risalat Ki Hifazat Kijye( Protect the honour of Prophethood) by Mufti Taqi Usmani and Tahaffuz-e-Namoos-e-Risalat ( Protection of the honour of Prophethood) by Dr Tahirul Qadri.

The book by Tahirul Qadri deals with the subject of blasphemy from both historical and ideological points of view. The book gives an insight into how the concept of the protection of the honour of the prophet pbuh evolved over centuries and how the interpretations and personal opinions of muftis, jurisprudents and lesser known Islamic scholars together formed the current violent ideology of Tahaffuz-e-Namoos-e-Risalat in Pakistan.

It becomes clear from the book that Dr Tahirul Qadri who had written a voluminous fatwa against terrorism and suicide bombings himself supports death for blasphemy of any degree. To support his belief, he quotes Ibn-e-Taymiyyah:

"Of course even if the person abusing the prophet pbuh may be a Muslim he will become kafir due to his temerity and in view of the four imams and other imams deserves to be killed."

He quotes Imam Abu Sulaiman al Khatabi:

I do not know even a single Muslim who had disagreed on the permissibility of the killing of the person committing blasphemy against the prophet pbuh even if he is a Muslim."

He quotes Imam Abu Bakr Jasas:

"There is no disagreement anong Muslims on the issue that whoever attempts insult and pain to the holy prophet pbuh is an apostate deserving to be killed even if the person happens to be a Muslim."

He also quotes the statement of Allama Ismail Haqqi from his book Roohul Bayan:

"Let it be known to you that there is unanimity of the Muslim community on that insult to the holy prophet pbuh or any other prophet is Kufr irrespective of whether the person commits it intentionally or unintentionally. Abusing the holy prophet pbuh intentionally or unintentionally is equal because in the event of Kufr, no one will be exempted on the basis of ignorance, nor will the claim that it was a slip of tongue be accepted when his sanity was intact."

The statements of the Islamic jurists, scholars and muftis make it clear that even Muslims can be accused of blasphemy and killed though during the prophet's life only a few polytheists, Jews and Munafiq were killed. A Muslim can never speak ill of or abuse the holy prophet pbuh but from the statements of the Islamic scholars quoted above even Muslims can be held guilty of blasphemy and killed. According to Allama Ismail Haqqi even if some one commits blasphemy unintentionally, he can be killed. This argument is used to frame Muslims in blasphemy charges in Pakistan.

Here are some examples.

1) A Muslim man walks into a police station in Pakistan. He has an altercation with the station-in-charge. During the altercation, the man abuses the officer-in-charge. The officer-in-charge registers a case of blasphemy against the man. The reason: The name of the office-in-charge was Mustafa.

2) A Sunni Muslim medical representative visits a doctor belonging to the Ismaili sect of Shias. The doctor makes him wait for long. The MR is irritated and enters the doctor's chamber without his permission and thrusting his visiting card on his table says: “I don’t have much time. So call me when you are free." Incensed at the arrogance of the MR, the doctor throws his visiting card into the dust bin. The MR registers a case of blasphemy against the Shia doctor because the name on the visiting card contained "Mohammad".

3. According to a latest legislation passed y the Punjab Assembly, saying "Khatamun Nabiyyin"(the last Prophet) with the name of Prophet Mohammad pbuh is mandatory for everyone. If someone forgets to say that he will be accused of blasphemy.

Many examples can be given. A Muslim can never commit blasphemy against the holy prophet pbuh but it is the definition and interpretation of the word Ahanat (blasphemy) by the Islamic scholars that will cover even the Muslims under blasphemy.

Dr Tahirul Qadri goes one step further. He finds a verse that clearly orders the killing of those committing blasphemy. He quotes verse no. 61 of surah Al Ahzab to support his belief that the Quran permits the killing of those committing blasphemy against the holy prophet pbuh. The verse is as follows:

"The accursed ones, wherever they are found and seized they are killed." The verse uses the words "Quttilu Taqteela". He says:

"According to Quran, who ever commits blasphemy against the prophet pbuh will be killed according to "Quttilu Taqteela". The jurisprudents of the community have issued similar orders for the protection of the honour of the Prophethood in every age. The moment anyone committed blasphemy against the prophet pbuh, killing order was issued for him so that the disease of blasphemy is rooted out for good."

The fact is that the verse in question is not about blasphemy but about the mischief mongering of the Munafiq and enemies of Muslims of the prophet's time who would falsely accuse Muslim men and women of sins and spread rumours about them and spread mischief of every kind. The verse does not deal specifically about blasphemy against the holy prophet pbuh. The preceding verses are as follows that give a clear picture of the context;

"For those who annoy Allah and His messenger--Allah has cursed them in the world and in the Hereafter and has prepared for them a humiliating punishment (Azabam Muhina).(57) And those who cause pain to believing men and women undeservedly bear a calumny and a glaring sin.(58) O Prophet tell thy wives and daughters and the believing women that they should cast their outer garments over their persons; that is most convenient, that they should be known and not molested. And Allah is oft-forgiving most Merciful.(59)

Truly if the hypocrites and those in whose heart 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 neighbours for any length of time"(60)They shall have a curse on them: wherever they are found, they shall be seized and slain,"(61)

From the above quoted verses it becomes clear that the mischiefs of the Munafiq against the prophet pbuh and against the believing men and women is being discussed here and not specifically blasphemy. And for blasphemy, a humiliating punishment (Azab-e-Muheen) from God in the Hereafter is mentioned. In the Quran the word Azab means wrath of God either in the world or in the Hereafter. Azab does not mean physical punishment by law of the land. But to prove that the verses quoted above are about blasphemy and God has prescribed death for blasphemy, he says that the phrase Azab-e-Muheen in verse 57 means capital punishment. Here is his argument:

"Azab-e-Muheen means very painful and humiliating punishment which has lessons for others. This is a common word. This word has been used on various occasions in the Quran in relation to various sins and crimes. Its meaning is always determined with reference to the Book and Sunnah . In other words, the word does not have a predetermined meaning so it cannot be used everywhere for the same punishment qualitatively and quantitatively. Its meaning will be determined according to the context and the gravity and degree of the crime will be kept in view.

But it can be definitely said that when this word (Azab-e-Muheen) will be used in connection with blasphemy against the Prophet pbuh, it will only mean death sentence, not any other punishment."(Tahaffuz-e-Namoos-e-Risalat: Dr Tahirul Qadri, Page 156)

Such interpretations (rather misinterpretations) of the Quranic verses by reliable Islamic scholars of the Quran have only promoted violence in the name of the protection of the honour of the Prophet. No Muslim was killed for blasphemy during the life of the prophet. There is an incident when Hadhrat Umar wanted to kill a Kharijite because he accused the holy Prophet pbuh of not distributing the war booty among the warriors justly but the holy Prophet pbuh prohibited him from doing so to avoid disturbance and bloodshed.

In Pakistan books written by Dr Tahirul Qadri and other Islamic scholars on Namoos-e-Risalat justifying the killing of Muslims and non-Muslims by the arguments quoted above have complicated the situation. The blasphemy laws of Pakistan provide for punishments from penalty to death sentence. Most of the accused in these blasphemy cases are Muslims. Cases of blasphemy are slapped on members of minority communities on slightest provocation. Even if the courts acquit the accused, they are killed extra judicially and the killer is glorified and made into a saint.

Since 1990, about 77 people have been killed in connection with blasphemy. About 80 convicts are on death row. From 1967 to 2014, over 1300 people have been accused of blasphemy and most of the accused are Muslims. Asia Bibi, a Christian woman was accused of blasphemy but the court acquitted her. Still the extremists threatened to kill her. At last she had to leave her motherland Pakistan and seek asylum in Canada.

Human Rights activists and liberal Islamic scholars have been campaigning for reforms or changes in the current blasphemy laws but radical Islamic groups are against any changes in the laws against blasphemy. In 2011, Governor of Punjab Salman Taseer was killed by his bodyguard Mumtaz Qadri because Salman Taseer demanded reforms in blasphemy laws.

In 2015, Khadim Hussain Rizvi founded Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan on the issue of blasphemy. It is against any changes in the blasphemy laws of the country.

Blasphemy laws have no basis in the Quran but Islamic scholars like Dr Tahirul Qadri have distorted the meanings of the verses of the Quran to justify the killings in the name of protecting the honour of the prophet pbuh. Arguments and opinions of other Islamic scholars have also been accepted to declare even Muslims of opposing sects as kafirs and deserving death. Until these misinterpretations and personal opinions of jurists not supported by the Quran and Hadith are refuted in the light of the Quran and Hadith, bloodshed and persecution of Muslims and non-Muslims will continue and tarnish the image of Islam.


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