Untangling the Concept of Blasphemy in Islam

By Rashad Ali

No one can have missed the events in Pakistan. Following the trial, and intended release of Asia Bibi, who was accused of insulting the Messenger of Islam, was locked up for 8 years, during which, we have seen the Murder of Salman Taseer, a former Governor and Statesman in Pakistan for daring to question the Blasphemy laws, an then the subsequent conviction of his murderer, and then the practical beautification of his murderer, we were informed that she would finally be released after three judges found her not guilty. This was not the end. The judges have been declared ‘wajib ul-qatl’ i.e. a death sentence has been imposed on them. Senior clerics have called for their re-trial and after riots, demonstrations, mysterious murders of senior clerics, and others denouncing the State system’s validity and calling for sub-judicial murder, the government of Imran Khan, after strong words of condemnation have caved in and allowed for a re-trial

What this article seeks to do is understand the issues of blasphemy that have arisen in recent times, whether terrorist claims to murdering alleged blasphemers, conservative clerics positions on insults to the Prophet by depicting the Prophet of Islam, and the claims and foundations of blasphemy laws within pre-modern (medieval and pre-medieval in fact) Islamic jurisprudence.

What is Shariah for Muslims?

Muslims have defined this as the ‘speech of the divine related to human conduct’[i], which is often translated into Islamic law. It is also often used interchangeably with what is known as fiqh or the ‘knowledge or understanding of the rulings of the shariah which have been interpreted from specific scriptural sources’[ii].  The difference between the two though is considerable and the mixing of the two is one that creates an analytical problem. Fiqh, for Muslim specialists of religious jurisprudence or ethics, is a human understanding of the shariah. This distinction is key in preventing the essentialising of Islam, or the belief that one specific understanding of the religious teaching IS Islam.

It is important to understand that there are many diverse interpretations of the shariah i.e. the religious texts, be they verses from the Qur’an, prophetic traditions or citations of consensus, or the rationale in these texts or their purposive content, particularly when seeking guidance on human behaviour. Hence there is a multiplicity of schools of thought and divergent understandings. While the four major schools of thought, or madhahib (or madhab in singular), are considered to provide Sunni Muslims with sound orthopraxic rulings, many others are, in fact, considered acceptable as interpretations for Muslims to follow and apply in their life. Supplementing the formal positions of these madhahib, even interpretations of well-known companions of the Prophet or major scholars from the early generations[iii] are often cited. This is evident in Muslim practice of Islam, whether in relation to prayers and how to perform them or related to questions of law, such as how to deal with issues that are of interest to us here, namely apostasy or how to deal with those that insult the Prophet of Islam.

In fact, a key aspect of the ideology and the claims of extremists is that their understanding of Islam is the only sound or correct understanding of Islam or Islamic rulings. It is also one of the problems that both critics[iv] of Islam and extremists often fall into – either essentialising Islamic rulings and “law” to the most extreme view or claiming that the most reasonable or direct reading of Islamic law requires Islam itself to be reformed[v].

An example of such extremism can be seen in a lecture delivered by al-Awlaki who not only misrepresents the views laid out in pre-modern works, but also lays claim that this is the only sound view of Islamic religious ethic as transmitted through Muslim tradition and the only possible or sound view of Islam. He argues that those responsible for insulting the Prophet of Islam should be assassinated and that Muslims have a duty to engage in such murderous acts as a means to compete for the pleasure of the Prophet and of God, and a fundamentally a religious duty[vi].

The classical position on blasphemy and Islamic law

Blasphemy in the context we are speaking of is specifically related to disparaging, denigrating, or insulting the Prophet. In relation to cartoons, they are seen as a disrespectful portrayal of the Prophet of Islam and in some instances gratuitously insulting.  Whilst much has been said of the issue of depicting the Prophet in imagery, it is to some extent necessary to differentiate the issue of images of living beings, portrayal of the Prophet, and the issue of blasphemy as defined above. The former was traditionally forbidden by Sunni Muslims scholarship. This is based upon the view held by apparent majority of traditional Sunni schools that any image of a living person or one that possess a soul is forbidden i.e. depictions of animals too. This however, is not an absolute consensus. Even among the early scholars, some had notably taken a position that two-dimensional images or portraits of living people were not forbidden. In fact, it has become the popular view with such an edict given by the Mufti of Libya, Sadiq al-Ghiryani, which actually in this instance despite the Mufti’s own Salafist leanings represents the Maliki school[vii].  It was also, according to Imam al-Nawawi[viii], a view among the salaf, or the earliest Muslims, though one that he does not consider as sound in the Shafi school, even though it was one which was held by major Shafi jurists such as Imam al-Haramayn al-Juwayni[ix] (al-Nawawi is a jurist who is considered the official representative of the later Shafi school and widely respected by all scholars and even Islamists).

This dichotomy was due to the distinction between merely two-dimensional pictures and three-dimentional statues. Though they were both prohibited, this was, according to the early hadith scholar and jurist Khattabi[x], because they were worshipped besides God. It was this aspect that was considered problematic, even as the Prophet, according to sound hadith narrations, relaxed the prohibition on two-dimensional objects. This discussion is related by the major hadith master Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani in his magnum opus, and commentary of the hadith collection of Imam Bukhari[xi] , considered the soundest narrations of prophetic statements and acts[xii]. Still, he does take the view of the majority, which is that it was forbidden to depict any human being fully in a form that could be recognised as a human being, even as he mentions the Prophetic tradition relaxing such a prohibition.

The Maliki school, as stated earlier, has taken this as a standard view, mentioned in of several views of the school by al-Zarqani in his commentary on the Muwatta, the famous collection of traditions, legal judgements and hadith as accepted by the early Muslims of the city of Medina and collected by Imam Malik bin Anas, the eponym of the Maliki madhab[xiii].  This does not necessarily translate into a permission to depict the Prophet, but it does raise the issue of its possibility, as it doesn’t appear to be a question that is explicitly discussed widely in Islamic jurisprudence[xiv]. Scholars also mention that according to some jurists the prohibition itself was considered by some to apply only to making idols and keeping idols not images[xv]

Historically, though, there does appear to be evidence to suggest that Muslims did have devotional portraits and pictures. These are still available to be viewed around the world. This was seen historically both among Sunnis and Shia cultures and specifically, but not exclusively, the Ottomans[xvi].

Again this does not in any way negate the fact that most Muslims would not see that the cartoons would have been acceptable in Islamic terms, or that Muslims should not take offense. All it demonstrates is that there are diverse views about what appears to be, at first sight, an obvious and apparent consensus. Similarly, Muslims have had various reactions to the latest depiction in Charlie Hebdo’s first magazine after the murders of their staff. This was seen in the debate on the BBC’s ‘This Week in Politics’[xvii], where there were diametrically opposed perspectives on the latest cartoon by Muslims themselves.

The Rulings on blasphemy

Classical Islamic jurisprudence similarly has a number of different positions on legal sanctions and the various complexities in the manner in which they are implemented. Unsurprisingly, these positions are at various ends of the legal and political spectrum and manifest themselves in different understandings of the world. As it was explained to this author by a mufti, or specialist in issuing religious edicts, Muslim society was historically centred around religion and organised society around it. Blasphemy was not merely a violation of the sacred in religious terms but also was considered a political act aimed at undermining the glue that bound society, differentiating loyal subjects from those whose loyalties laid elsewhere.

In such imperial times, it was also the case that the norm in political life was warfare and imperial expansion. Conflict on political, and therefore religious, identities was the norm. As such, undermining the religious foundations was seen as undermining the foundations of the society, possibly leading to treason and war. This is the way in which Muslims perceived their society and looked at preserving their integrity and empire. In such a context, blasphemy was considered a capital punishment necessary for the fundamental preservation of not just belief but the integrity of Muslim society as a whole, or so some jurists had argued.

This was and can be seen as an extreme perspective in modern multicultural societies. Alongside other rules such as those on apostasy, this perspective was also viewed in the same light by scholars such as Shaykh Mahmud Shaltut, the former rector of al-Azhar and widely respected mufti who lived through the late 19th and early to mid 20th centuries. He hence viewed them completely inappropriate today, against the principles of Islam, and against the decisive verses of the Qur’an, which gave absolute freedom of faith and forbade coercing people into embracing the Muslim faith[xviii].

This was how major companions such as the second Caliph Umar bin al-Khattab understood the religion and condemned others for killing apostates even those that joined rebel armies and fought against Muslims. This was also the understanding of the some of the major scholars from the salaf such as the likes of Umar bin Abdul Aziz. the famed Sufyan al-Thawri, and Ibrahim al-Nakha’I as documented by major Salafi scholars such as Imam Shawkani in his Nayl ul-Awtar.[xix]

Nevertheless, today’s extremists and conservatives who do not wish to contextualise their view still advocate the pre-modern point of view, often without considering the caveats laid down by pre modern jurists as should be demonstrated through this paper.

 

Evidences used to substantiate this viewpoint – A critique

The key evidences put forward are generally found in specific texts or statements attributed to the Prophet of Islam and incidents in the time of the Prophet. The most famous ones are apparently commands of the Prophet and general rulings. There is a statement that is attributed to the Prophet saying, “whoever insults the Prophet should be killed/kill them”. This is an oft-cited narration from those that advocate such a view, such as Taqi al-Din al-Subki of the Shafi madhab.

However, even these authors are aware of the fact that such narrations are at least considered highly problematic to say the least, if not outright false. al-Subki himself states that if these narrations were sound, they would be the strongest evidence for this interpretation, yet he himself cites the Shafi hadith master who states in no uncertain terms that “this hadith is [completely] unknown” because Ibn al-Salah did not find a chain for it at all. al-Subki cites a similar narration by the prophet’s cousin Ali bin Abi Talib that says “whoever insults a Prophet, then you should kill them”. He recognises this narration as being equally problematic and cites Ibn Hibban and others as having criticised the narrators. In fact Ibn Hibban stated that Abdul Aziz bin Hasan bin Zabala discovered unfounded narrations from the ‘Madinans’ that were not to be relied upon at all. al-Dhahabi also cites other narrators that are problematic and criticised them. Hence the contemporary Salafi hadith scholar and editor of the work, Salim bin Eid bin Muhammad al-Hilali, states that the narration is fabricated (mawdu) and should be forbidden to be attributed to the Prophet.

Interestingly, al-Subki states that if these narrations were authentic, then they would clearly provide a foundation for the ruling and executing of someone for insulting the Prophet, whether Muslim or non-Muslim, without the lengths he had to go to in the book to attempt to derive such a ruling[xx]. This makes the hadith side of the evidence, or at least the alleged explicit injunctions and declarations of the rulings, unfounded or weak at best.

Al-Awlaki also attempts to cite the rulings from Qadi Iyad al-Yahsubi[xxi], the Maliki judge, as a general ruling advocating murder. However, what should be clear is that neither Qadi Iyad, al-Subki, or even Ibn Taymiyya[xxii], whom he cites extensively, actually saw this as a vigilante action or justification for terrorism. The ruling was one that could only apply after being established in a court and applied by the judge[xxiii]. Iyad states that it could only be applied if established (in thabit) which was explained by Khafaji the commentator as bil-shahada aw iqrar– or “by testimony or confession”. Furthermore, it has been claimed that historically when there were cases of deliberate blasphemy aimed purely at creating martyrs for the sake of making a point, the judges in Muslim Spain, from where Qadi Iyad hailed, stopped applying the penalty so as not to create martyrs, as the purpose of the ruling was not merely to kill people for martyrdom’s sake[xxiv].

This was also justified on the sound narrations of the Prophet not exacting any penalty for blasphemy and moreover forbidding his companions from doing so against non-Muslims who had cursed him. Thereafter, those that assumed there was a punishment sought to reconcile this, arguing that the Prophet dropped the punishment in order to soften their hearts. So for the sake of the Maslaha, or public interest, it was acceptable to not apply such punishments.

In fact that was the explanation given by Hafidh Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani of the hadith (whose authenticity is agreed upon), in the collection of Imam al-Bukhari[xxv]. Hence even according to these jurists, the course of action was aimed at bringing people together and for a public benefit, rather than applying punishments indiscriminately. The former was not necessarily the correct application of their fiqh or subjective interpretation of the shariah. The maslaha of public interest and bringing harmony to the society was more important and congruent with the purpose and spirit of Islam, at least according to the Prophet. This is definitely not the attitude of terrorists such as those that we have seen.

The proponents of such a view also argue through incidents that took place or allegedly took place during the Prophet’s own life. Commonly cited at least are two incidents including the order to execute Kab bin Ashraf and the infamous story of the killing of Asma bint Marwan. Regarding the narration of Asma bint Marwan, despite the fact that the narrations themselves are contradictory, the narrations themselves were also considered fabrications, as they were attributed to infamous narrators of hadith known to fabricate stories.

Ibn Adiy states in his Kamil fil-Duafa wal-ilal ul-Hadith that one of the narrators, “Muhammad bin al-Hajjaj… was accused of just forging hadith“. Ibn ul-Jawzi the jurist and hadith scholar in his Kitab ul-Ilal likewise quotes Yahya bin Ma’in the famous contemporary of Imam Ahmed bin Hanbal, eponym of the Hanbali school, as saying this narrator was a “liar and repugnant (khabith),” al-Daraqutni considered him a “total liar,” and Imam al-Bukhari stated in no uncertain terms that he was a “munkar” or one who rejected hadith. As such as he is the only narrator to transmit the narration from Majlad from Shabi to Ibn Abbas, leaving it an extremely weak a story or apocryphal, i.e., a fabricated narration.  These discussions can be found in the works of Salafi hadith scholar al-Albani, considered by them as their major hadith scholar of recent times, in his collection of weak and fabricated hadith[xxvi].

As for the incident with Kab bin Ahsraf, al-Awlaki tries to assert that there is no other reading of the incident that should be considered as reasonable. This actually quite difficult to accept as it is such a well-known figure from Muslim historians. He was killed, as other scholars have asserted, for a number of reasons, including conspiring with the Meccans in their war against the new city-state in Medina, which was revealed by others when they converted, i.e., an act of treason. He was also narrated to have attempted to assassinate the Prophet and hence fled and was later killed for those reasons[xxvii]. In fact the famous exegete and jurist of the Hanafi school of fiqh, Badr ul-Din al-Ayni, states in his commentary on Imam al-Bukhari’s collection of hadith that “he [Kab] was not killed merely for insulting the [Prophet], but rather it was surely for the fact that he was an aide/spy against him, and conspired with those who fought wars against him, and supported them”[xxviii]. Hence the facts disagree with the explanation of the events and incidents as presented by al-Awlaki, these are well known and well documented in the prophetic biography and hadith collections, hence commentators like al-Ayni, which are relied upon by Muslim jurists, explicitly refute the assertion made by others.

Alternative positions

Imam al-Ayni is also representative of the Hanafi madhab, which states not merely that there was no such punishment for blasphemy but that such an action by the authorities was forbidden. They use the above evidences in the Sahih of Imam al-Bukhari which stated that the Prophet was cursed by non-Muslims and yet he did not do anything. When people asked if they should kill them, the Prophet explicitly forbade it. Badr al-Din al-Ayni states that this was the opinion of Imam Muhammad bin Isma’il al-Bukhari[xxix] and he stated so by placing these hadith under the chapter of “Dealing with non-Muslims under Muslim governance who insulted the Prophet such as by saying ‘death be upon you’.” This was his fiqh, as al-Ayni explained. This was also the view of Imam Abu Hanifa the eponym of the largest school of fiqh[xxx] based on the soundest hadith on the subject – ad certainly the dominant school in countries like Pakistan.

al-Ayni also explained that people are not punished or killed for greater than such a blasphemy and insult against the Prophet of Islam, which was from an Islamic perspective that they were committing shirk or did not give God His due, but rather associating others in His lordliness in Islamic terms. Yet this was not deemed a criminal act and they were not punished for it. This was why they were not punished for the blasphemy in the time of the Prophet as that was a greater matter[xxxi].

It was also the position of Sufyan al-Thawri[xxxii] another major scholar who had his own school or madhab [xxxiii] and was a contemporary of Abu Hanifa. Additionally, it was one of the transmissions from the Shafi madhab according to the Qadi Abu Tayyib, who was a well-respected jurist and judge of the Shafi madhab[xxxiv]. Moreover Ibn Taymiyya, the Hanbali jurist also cites the Hanbali scholar Imam al-Hulwani as stating that was also a view attributable to Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal.[xxxv] So it is a position that can be found across all Sunni schools.

There is also an additional consideration from the Shafi school that advocates capital punishment. It does not consider that such punishments applicable upon people if states had treaties to not apply such punishments, such as international treaties which would have been signed making such agreements. In such a scenario, then they mention that if they were to make an agreement to allow them to call to their beliefs or if they had an agreement that said their covenants and treaties were not repudiated by such acts as blasphemy or the above, then the mutamad, a relied upon position in the madhab, was that such a Treaty could not be violated and remained intact without the punishment being applied. This was stated by Shaykh Zakariya al-Ansari in his commentary on the Minhaj[xxxvi].

However this is all not relevant to universally agreed upon rulings across Sunni schools for Muslims living in a country that was predominantly non-Muslim. In those cases, they would have had to obey the social agreements that they entered into implicitly by living in such countries, a “covenant of security” which would apply more so today living in multicultural societies.[xxxvii] Effectively, international agreements would preclude having such impositions upon people according to the agreements such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – of which Pakistan is a signatory – and others protecting people of different religions, nations, and their citizens, and would be considered when seeking to apply such punishments according to this point of view.

So we should be clear then on the following:

There were those that considered such matters as serious crimes that required a capital punishment. The actions of terrorists and extremists seeking to carry out such actions are not justified even by such pre-modern interpretations that believed that there were punishments for these acts. Even then, the modern world and political realities would make the same scholars see that the political agreements that we make preclude such an approach according to their own interpretation of the Shariah i.e. their own madhab of fiqh.

In fact it may well be that the Maslaha and the purposes of the shariah and the spirit of Islamic teachings does not favour such an approach and stopping such punishments would be considered perfectly consistent to the understanding of the same jurists and schools.

The basis for blasphemy laws is not necessarily the most authentic view, and certainly not the only view of pre-modern Islam. In fact, the opposite position i.e. there is no such law for blasphemy. is held across various schools of thought and madhahib from across the spectrum – which includes major jurists and hadith scholars even of the more scriptural traditionalists (ahl al-hadith). Some may have described these scholars as scriptural literalists, but it was through their literalism that they opposed such punishments.

None of the transmitted positions of Islam do not way justify the horrific acts of terrorism. The ideological and pseudo-theological narrative of al-Qaeda, ISIS, and their pseudo clerics do not have a justification for their positions and should ironically be seen as not medieval but modern and heretical distortions, of pre-modern theology, combined with the modern tactics of terror.[xxxviii]

Concluding thoughts

Ibn Daqiq al-Eid, the famous scholar who almost uniquely was considered a jurist in his own right able to deliver edicts – fatawa – from the sources directly and derive from more than madhab, wrote extensively on hadith and Islamic jurisprudence. His works are known for independent rigour, fairness in dealing with various position and schools, and the presentation and disclosure of differing perspectives. He was also known for personally striving for justice and when, in his time, there occurred an accusation of blasphemy taken against another scholar, he defended them and challenged those injustices even as they were made in the name of orthodox religious interpretations, i.e., fiqh or ruling of the Shariah.

Ibn Daqiq al-Eid commented extensively on the well-known hadith of the Prophet, relaying that among seven quintessential commands given to the companions was to come to the ‘aid of the oppressed’ – ‘Nasr ul-Mathlum’. One of the points he makes is that justice should not come in rushing to seek to apply punishments on people. He gives a scenario of when aiding the oppressed may become a duty: when two judges are present in a sitting/hearing (majlis) and they differ in their positions on a case which may involve the taking of life or punishing and/or condemning someone as a blasphemer or as a heretic (zindeeq), then the one who can see that he could prevent the punishment/condemnation or taking of life should rush forth to protect the individual from the harsh judgement of the other. This means that the one who could protect this person would be fulfilling the command of the Prophet to come to the aid of the oppressed[xxxix].

We need to challenge the narrative of extremists and highlight its ideological flaws, its simplistic view of the world and skewed nature of politics, and dismantle the pseudo-religious arguments. We need to prevent not just of those on the Islamist right but also those on the far-right from seeking to essentialise Islam, helping create and further cement civil tensions, or even justifying attacks on Muslims. The middle ground must be radically fought for.

Inconsistencies and contradictions must be addressed at a wider level so that justice is not only done as a society but, as the saying goes, must be seen to be done


 

[i] These are common definitions taken by scholars and specialists of Usul ul-Fiqh or first principles related to understanding and deriving ‘fiqh’ – definition to follow -. This was given by scholars such as the famous jurist al-Ghazali and specialist in Usul Ibn Hajib, page 272 in his Mukhtasar muntaha al-su’l wal-amal fi ilmay al-Usul wal-Jadal published by Dar Ibn Hazm, Beirut – Lebanon 2006

[ii] Page 15, al-Bahr ul-Muhit fi Usul ul-Fiqh, published by Dar ul-Kutb l-Ilmiyya, Beirut-Lebanon 2007. al-Zarkashi, Badr ul-Din Muhammad bin Bahadir, bin Abdullah died 794

[iii] The famous scholar and jurist Ibn Hajar al-Haytami, who is considered to be the soundest retention of the Shafi school, or madhab, one of the most widely followed of the Muslim schools of jurisprudence, states this in a Fatwa or religious edict where he states that this was the position of the early major scholars including the celebrated Imam al-Iz bin Abdul-Salam and Taj al-Din Ibn al-Subki and others. Whilst some did restricted it to the four schools the soundest view was that it was not restricted. This is recorded in the collection fatawa or non-binding religious edicts, in the chapter on ‘Qada’ or juridical verdicts, page 308 volume 4, al-Fatawa al-Kubra al-Fiqhiya ala madhab Imam al-Shafi published by Dar ul-Kutub ul-ilmiyya, 1997, al-Haytami, Shihab al-Din Ahmed bin Mohammad bin Ali bin Hajar al-Makki died 1565

[iv] A good example of this is the new atheist Sam Harris who describes Islam as ‘all fringe and no centre’ an that Islam itself is extreme. Whilst this is an intellectually problematic approach and indeed one stooped in simplistic assumptions, it is a good example of the prevalent type of criticism of Islam. http://www.samharris.org/site/full_text/the-reality-of-islam

[v] An attempt to demonstrate that the hermeneutic approaches are not literalistic nor are they free of considerations of natural law, inductive scrutiny and principle based interpretations, which deal with or historically have dealt with problematic statements in scripture, is James A C Brown’s ‘Misquoting Muhammad: The Challenge and choices of interpreting the Prophet’s legacy’ http://www.amazon.com/Misquoting-Muhammad-Challenge-Interpreting-Prophets/dp/178074420X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1421642879&sr=1-1&pebp=1421642885881&peasin=178074420X

[vi] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jY27ozxBXis The Ruling on insulting the Prophet

[vii] The various views, ranging from permissibility; prohibition; permission of incomplete pictures or without the head; that which was in a venerated position was forbidden – are all mentioned, with the third preferred by al-Zarqani in his commentary on the Muwatta: page 429, volume 4, Shar’h ul-Zarqani ala Muwatta al-Imam Malik, Dar al-Fikr, Beirut – Lebanon 1997, Mohammad Abdul Baqi bin Yusuf al-Zarqani Died 1122

[viii] Imam Abu Zakariya Yahya bin Sharaf al-Nawawi died in 1277 and officially is considered the reference for the soundest position in general, of the later Shafi school. A scholar who is cited by Sufis, traditional scholars, and respected by salafis and Islamists as well as across all schools of Sunni jurisprudence

[ix] Imam al-Haramayn Diya ul-Din Abdul Malik bin Yusuf al-Juwayni, was the teacher of the famed mystic, scholastic theologian and jurist al-Ghazali. He was a theologian )mutakallim) and legal theoretician (usuli) and jurist. His works on jurisprudence bridge the gap between the early and later school and he is considered a major scholar within the Shafi madhab. He died in 1085  

[x] Abu Sulayman Hamd bin Mohammad bin Ibrahim known as Khattabi was a scholar of hadith literature as well as Fiqh and theology. He is widely quoted by scholars such as Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani and al-Nawawi in their respective commentaries. Died 988

[xi] Muhammad bin Isma’il al-Bukhari is considered by Sunni Muslims one of the greatest of scholars of Hadith or collections of reports of the Prophet’s sayings, actions or incidents in his life. His collection is considered the soundest of collections of Hadith followed by those of Imam Muslim bin al-Hajjaj. Died 870

[xii] pages 2623 to 2629, volume 3, Fat’h ul-Bari bi-Shar’h Sahih al-Bukhari, published by Bait ul-Afkar ul-Dawliya, Jordan and Saudi Arabia 2004. al-Asqalani, Hafidh Ibn Hajar died 1372

[xiii] See footnote 46 for elaboration.

[xiv] Shia clerics have issued edicts stating that it was in fact permissible in principle to do so, as stated by a leading shia cleric Ayatollah Sistani. http://www.economist.com/blogs/economist-explains/2015/01/economist-explains-12. There has been some debate some of these issues among Sunni clerics also in modern times. http://www.abigmessage.com/fatwas-against-visual-depiction-of-the-prophet-and-his-companions.html

[xv] This is discussed by major medieval Shafite jurists such as Imam al-Zarkashi and Imam Sha’rani on their respective works on Islamic Principles or Qawa’id ul-Shariah, see page 391of ‘Maqasid al-Sanniya fi-Bayan al-Qawaid al-Shariah’ of Imam Andul Wahhab bin Ahmad al-Sha’rani died 973H, published by Dar al-Fat’h 2016

[xvi] http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/jan/10/drawing-prophet-islam-muhammad-images Drawing the Prophet: Islam’s hidden Mohammad images

[xvii] http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b04yl86t/this-week-15012015

[xviii] Pages 280-281, Islam – Aqida wal-Shariah, published by Dar ul-Shuruq Cairo – Egypt 1992. Imam al-Akbar Mahmud Shaltut Died 1963

[xix] https://abuaminaelias.com/freedom-of-religion-and-apostasy-in-islam/ for a good discussion on the sources and understanding of early Muslims.

[xx] pages 1180119 al-Subki

[xxi] Qadi Iyad bin Musa al-Yahsubi was a famous judge and jurist and scholar of Hadith traditions from Muslim Spain. He was known for his work on Prophetology commonly known as the Shifa and his commentary on the Hadith collection of Imam Muslim bin al-Hajjaj, al-Jami al-Sahih, which was widely  cited by ater scholars and upon which Imam al-Nawawi heavily relied. Died in 1149

[xxii] Ibn Taymiyya was a controversial figure among orthodox Muslims of his time. He did not always conform to the prevailing consensus on matters of creed, religious practice and political edicts and was imprisoned several times. Famously, he criticised the Mongols’ conversion to Islam as insincere and as a means of justifying the occupation of Muslim territory. His life and works are often seen as contradictory: at times he appears to advocate tolerance of differences in juristic positions; other times he ascribes deviancies to people in minor juristic disputes. His student, the polymath Imam al-Dhahabi, stated that he took a more tolerant view towards the end of his life. He is considered the putative authority of modern jihadism and an inspiration for Qutbist Islamists as well as austere Salafi-Wahabism. Some believe this to be a misreading of his edicts: his fatwa concerning the status of the city of Mardin, for example, was allegedly subject to a copyist error changing the meaning. While many believe he wrote that Muslims should be treated as they deserve and unbelievers should be fought as they deserve, the original edition only contains yu`a’mal (should be treated) which was mistakenly rendered yuqatal (should be fought) in a subsequent edition. Nevertheless, the incorrect fatwa has been used to justify indiscriminate violence, terrorism and the excommunication of Muslims; and Ibn Taymiyya remains a reference point among contemporary Jihadists. For a thorough study of his thinking and work see Ibn Taymiyya and His Times, eds Y. Rapoport and S. Ahmed (Karachi: Oxford University Press 2010) [footnote taken from  ‘A Guide to Refuting Jihadism’, by Rashad Ali and Hannah Stuart]

[xxiii] See pages 270 onwards of Khafaji’s commentary on the Shifa of Qadi Iyad, Nism ul-Riyadh fi shar’h ul-Shifa Qadi Iyyad of Shihab al-Din Khafaji volume 6 Dar ul-Kutub ilmiyya

[xxiv] In the article Shaykh Hamza Yusuf attempts to explain that some elements will inevitably react to what he sees as provocation and praises the Popes pronouncements. He also cites the incidents of the ‘Martyrs of Cordoba’. There are of course hugely disputed versions of these events. http://seekershub.org/blog/2015/01/on-the-passing-of-the-young-abdullah-abdullatif-alkadi-and-a-postscript-on-charlie-hebdo-sh-hamza-yusuf/

[xxv] Pages 3081-3082, volume 3. al-Asqalani

[xxvi] These discussions can be found in the major collections of Hadith analysis by these authors. Many of the comments can be found in Nasir al-Din al-Albani’s collection of weak and fabricated Hadith. whilst he has been criticized he is in good company here with major masters of Hadith scholarship throughout the ages. See his collection Silsilat al-ahadith al-da’ifa wal-mawdu’a wa atharuha al-sayyi’a fil-Ummah, published by Maktabat al-Arif, Riyadh – Saudi Arabia 1988. Died 1999

[xxvii] These reasons were elucidated by the scholar and Qur’an specialist Nouman Ali Khan, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SzP8e9b_OT8 My thoughts on Paris Shooting. He also elucidates that this understanding is in complete violation of the Qur’an in multiple verses and the entire life of the Prophet in Mecca and Medina

[xxviii] page 121, volume 24, Umdat ul-Qari Shar’h Sahih al-Bukhari, published by Dr Ihya Turath al-Arabi Beirut – Lebanon 2003, al-Ayni, Badr ul-Din Abu Muhammad Mahmood bin Ahmad. Died 1360

[xxix] Page 120, al-Ayni.

[xxx] The perplexing factor here is that Pakistan is arguably a country which suffers from the abuse of blasphemy laws and sub cultures which exploit them and has lead to horrific incidents which are far too well known, is a country whose Muslims claim to follow the school of Abu Hanifa i.e. the Hanafi madhab

[xxxi] Page 121, al-Ayni

[xxxii] Page 537 volume 31, al-Tawdih li-Shar’h al-Jami al-Sahih, published by Wizarat ul-Awqaf Qatar 2008. A commentary on Imam al-Bukhari’s collection of Hadith authored by the famous Hadith and Fiqh specialist Siraj ul-Din Abu Hafs Umar bin Ali bin Ahmad al-Ansari. Died 1402

[xxxiii] Sufyan al-Thawri was a major scholar from the second generation of Muslims and was considered a Tabi’i i.e. a scholar who had met companions of the Prophet. He had his own school of thought and madhab, and a major scholar of Hadith also. See al-Imam Sufyan al-Thawri wa ara’uhu fiqhiya muqarana bil-madhahib al-ukhra, published by Obeikan, Riyadh – Saudi Arabia, 2007. al-Thawri died 778

[xxxiv] Pages 206-207, al-Subki. al-Subki himself argues though that Shafi has more of a right to be followed than Qadi Abu Tayyib, whose position he narrates but does not advocate following – page 208

[xxxv] Page 190. The editor also cites Ibn Taymiyya’s work al-Sarim al-Maslul volume 2 page 23 on the same page footnote 4. al-Hulwani is Muhammad bin Ali bin Muhammad bin Uthman bin al-Buraq al-Hulwani. Died 1111.

[xxxvi] Page 316, volume 2, Fat’h ul-Wahhab bi-Shar’h minhaj ul-Tullaab al-Ansari, Shaykh Zakariya, was a major scholar of the later school in the Shafi school whose works are widely studied today. Died 1520

[xxxvii] Both the above reference and the consensus of Sunni schools can be found in the Hanbali author’s Kashf ul-Litham Shar’h Umdat ul-Ahkam, volume 7, pages 198- 207, a commentary on the most authentic Hadith found in the collections of Bukhari and Muslim, when discussing the meaning of the Hadith: “traitors will be known on the day of judgement by carrying the flag of treachery”. Published by Dar al-Nawadir in Syria – Lebanon – Kuwait. Imam Shams al-Din Muhammad bin Ahmad bin Salim al-Safarini. Died 1774

[xxxviii] For an elaborate but brief explanation of this see Bombing Without Moonlight – The Origins of Suicidal Terrorism, Published by Amal Press, Bristol – London, 2008. Murad, Abdal Hakim.

[xxxix] Page 169, volume 2, Shar’h ul-Ilmam bi-ahadith ul-Ahkam, published by Dar al-Nawadir, Beirut – Lebanon – Kuwait, 2010. Imam Ibn Daqiq al-Eid, Taqi ul-Din Muhammad bun Ali bin Wahb al-Qushayri al-Misri. Died 1302

 

About the Author: Rashad Ali is a counter terrorism practitioner. He works on deradicalization initiatives with Prisons, Probation, UK courts, Police and community groups. He is a Resident Senior Fellow at ISD – Institute for Strategic Dialogue.

He is classically trained in Islamic theology and jurisprudence and Modern studies in Islam, and read at Markfield Institute and has taken courses at al-Azhar University in Cairo. He has also studied various texts in Aqida (theology), Fiqh (jurisprudence), Usul ul-Fiqh (Principles of Islamic Jurisprudence), Qawaid (Maxims of jurisprudence) Tasawwuf (Spirituality), Hadith (traditions of the Prophet), Mustalah ul-Hadith (science of Hadith), Tarifat wal-Hudud (definitions and terminology)  Arabic language, with various of scholars from various denominations and schools of thought. 

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