The blasphemy law of Pakistan is against the Hanafi jurisprudence
Blasphemy is the act of reviling, ridiculing, or being disrespectful or irreverent to God or that which is considered sacred. The military government of Zia-ul-Haq ‘Islamised’ the law by adding a number of clauses to the law as part of a comprehensive policy of Islamisation in 1987.
Blasphemy is a hugely sensitive issue in Pakistan, an Islamic republic, with even unproven allegations provoking mob lynchings and violence. There is no doubt that this law is being misused, and the minorities often become the victim of it. The laws are often used to settle personal vendettas, and we have seen such cases in the past. There have been 702 cases registered against minorities, which equates to 52% of total cases against 4% of the population of Pakistan.
Every religion has its fanatics; Islam also has its fanatics. The issue, as I see it, is that the majority of Muslims in Pakistan are fanatical about their religion, and an institutionalized blasphemy law tells them that their fanaticism is justified. No one will defend a blasphemy accused – the law in effect gives free rein to anarchy that is increasingly seen in each case of blasphemy. The need of the hour is to reform the law.
The question is can a non-Muslim be killed for blasphemy?
Now I shall analyze Pakistan’s blasphemy law under the light of Sunni Jurisprudence.
The majority of the people living in Pakistan follow the Hanafi jurisprudence of Sunni Islam. Within the Hanafi jurisprudence, it simply does not go higher than Imam Abu Hanifa, and it is a hanafi school of thought that is dominant in significance, regarding religio-legal in the top court, the federal Sharia court and the Council of Islamic ideology.
According to most of the Hanafi jurists, if any Muslim commits blasphemy then he terminates to exit as a Muslim (apostasy). Since the punishment for apostasy in Islam is death, therefore, any Muslim, who insults God, or Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him) or Quran must be killed because after committing such acts he or she no longer stays as Muslim.
In the light of these jurists, one thing is quite clear that if the blasphemy law of Pakistan were based on the teachings of these jurists, then it would not have been applicable on non-Muslims. Its execution would have been for Muslims only. Imam Abu Hanifa (The founder of Hanafi school) in this regard says:
‘If a dhimmi (non-Muslim) insults the Holy Prophet, he will not be killed as a punishment. A non-Muslim is not killed for his kufr (denying the Prophet) or shirk (polytheistic beliefs). Kufr/Shirk are bigger sins then sabb e rasool. – (Therefore, non-Muslims will not be killed for sabb e rasool.)’ [Al Saif al Maslool]
Deoband and Barelvi are the two sects of Hanafi school of thought. And according to the founder of Deoband school of thought (Maulana Mahmood Ul Hassan), founder of barelvi thought (Ahmed Raza Khan Barelvi) and the rulings of the founder of Hanafi school, non-Muslims cannot be killed for the act of blasphemy. The only applies to Muslims.
Maulana Mahdudi, the founder of Jamaat-e-Islami and a prominent name across the country, was also of the view that a non-Muslim cannot be killed for the act of blasphemy.
The rights of dhimmi (non-Muslims) living in a Muslim state include protection of his life even in instances of blasphemy as per Maulana Maududi.
It is crystal clear from the above discussion that the blasphemy law of Pakistan is against the Hanafi jurisprudence of Sunni Islam.
Ironically, four years ago this month, Punjab Governer Salman Taseer was assassinated by Mumtaz Qadri, for pleading for a pardon for Asia Bibi.
We need to be tolerant and rational more rather than becoming fanatics. The review of blasphemy law is the need of the hour.
The author is a student of computer science based in Lahore. He usually writes about cricket and politics. He loves travelling and also a foodie. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org