Late last night, I was watching some videos that some of our brothers and sisters in the North were posting on their statuses and I realise that one of the major problems we are having in the Muslim community is the way and manner people speak for Islām without contemplating the probable consequences of their speeches. We do not have any arrangement to check the excesses of our preachers that usually trigger misapplication of the textual injunctions. In as much as things continue like this, it will be difficult to call people to order because many are fond of following their scholars blindly without foreseeing the consequences of their actions.
Unfortunately, this is one of the factors that was responsible for the evil of Boko Haram that brought not only Nothern Nigeria, but the entire country to its knees. Several billions of dollars that ought to be spent on infrastructures are still being spent on a crises that would have been averted with some sharī’ah guidelines to regulate preachings. In places where sharī’ah is more valued, it is not allowed for just anyone to speak for Islām without the licence to do so. Until we regulate preaching and da’wah generally according to the sharī’ah, we would continue to have problem of religious laxity and extremism. The middle course is the path of the Sunnah.
From some of the videos I have watched so far, I noticed the fact that some of the scholars incite mob action in this kind of situation. They are heard merely stating and threatening that the punishment for blasphemy is execution without stating clearly that the authorities are the one only saddled with the responsibility to determine whether or not someone is culpable. I even heard one of them saying something like, Kano is a commercial center where culprits of blasphemy are taken to Court. But here ( I guess Sokoto), if anyone insults the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم, they will not wait for any Court to carry out the judgment. It is sad that these kind of people speak in public and the system can’t check them.
Meanwhile, the most appropriate thing is for us to be patient upon the ignorant people who insult the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم. Perhaps, Allāh can guide them as He guide the mother of Abu Hurayrah رضي الله عنه. There are several verses of the Qur’ān and hadiths that show how patient the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم used to be whenever he was insulted. He was called “sorcerer”, “madman”, “liar” etc to his face. He was deeply pained, and yet he would exercise patience. The Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم was simply acting upon divine guidance. In Suratul Muzammil, Allāh says:
وَاصْبِرْ عَلَىٰ مَا يَقُولُونَ وَاهْجُرْهُمْ هَجْرًا جَمِيلًا
Be patient over what they say and avoid them with gracious avoidance. [Surat al-Muzzamil 73:10]
In Suratul Qaf, Allāh says:
فَاصْبِرْ عَلَىٰ مَا يَقُولُونَ وَسَبِّحْ بِحَمْدِ رَبِّكَ قَبْلَ طُلُوعِ الشَّمْسِ وَقَبْلَ الْغُرُوبِ
So be patient over what they say and exalt with the praises of your Lord before the rising of the sun and before its setting. [Surat Qaf 50:39]
When the pains of the insults got to an extent, Allāh said to him صلى الله عليه وسلم:
وَلَقَدْ نَعْلَمُ أَنَّكَ يَضِيقُ صَدْرُكَ بِمَا يَقُولُونَ فَسَبِّحْ بِحَمْدِ رَبِّكَ وَكُن مِّنَ السَّاجِدِينَ
We already know that your heart is constrained by what they say, so glorify the praises of your Lord and be among those who prostrate. [Surat al-Hijr 15:97-98]
All these verses point to the fact that patience is key whenever we hear that anyone utters a blasphemous comment against the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم or any of the religious symbols. We should never take laws into our hands. The offender should rather be taken to a court of law. Even when the Prophet had the opportunity to punish all of those who misbehaved towards him, he pardoned them. Allāh said to the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم:
خُذِ الْعَفْوَ وَأْمُرْ بِالْعُرْفِ وَأَعْرِضْ عَنِ الْجَاهِلِينَ
Show forgiveness, enjoin what is good, and turn away from the ignorant. [Surat Al-A’raf 7:199]
A noble companion, Abdullah ibn Zubair رضي الله عنه said regarding this verse:
أُمِرَ نَبِيُّ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم أَنْ يَأْخُذَ الْعَفْوَ مِنْ أَخْلاَقِ النَّاسِ
The Prophet (ṣ) was commanded to forgive the people’s bad character [Sunan Abī Dāwūd 4787]
Ibn Mas’ud رضي الله عنه reported that he saw the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم telling the story of a prophet who was beaten by his people and he wiped the blood from his face, saying:
رَبِّ اغْفِرْ لِقَوْمِي فَإِنَّهُمْ لاَ يَعْلَمُونَ
My Lord, forgive my people for they do not know. [Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī 6530, Grade: Agreed Upon]
Regarding this narration, Al-Imām An-Nawawi رحمه الله said:
فِيهِ مَا كَانُوا عَلَيْهِ صَلَوَاتُ اللَّهِ وَسَلَامُهُ عَلَيْهِمْ مِنَ الْحِلْمِ وَالتَّصَبُّرِ وَالْعَفْوِ وَالشَّفَقَةِ عَلَى قَوْمِهِمْ وَدُعَائِهِمْ لَهُمْ بِالْهِدَايَةِ وَالْغُفْرَانِ وَعُذْرِهِمْ فِي جِنَايَتِهِمْ عَلَى أَنْفُسِهِمْ بِأَنَّهُمْ لَا يَعْلَمُونَ
In this is what the prophets (peace and blessings be upon them), were upon of forbearance, patience, forgiveness, and compassion for their people, their supplications for them to receive guidance and to be forgiven, and that they should be excused for their sins because they did not know. [Sharḥ al-Nawawī ‘alá Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim 1792]
Some of these actions of the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم are what made some people to become Muslims. He was raised to perfect good character and part of good character is patience upon the evils of ignorant people.
Some people have argued that they support mob action because when they take culprits to Court, they often escape justice. This is true as we have seen on many occasions in this country that rate of impunity is very high. People commit heinous crimes and get away with it. However, this does not still justify jungle justice or mob action in any way, especially if the culprit is an adherent of another religion. It destroys the peaceful co-existence among the various religious groups in our society. It is still better to allow the law to take its cause than to take laws into our hands. Jungle justice is barbaric and should be condemned by all without any exceptions. It is a form of injustice on its own. Security agencies should please arrest those who participated in this evil and bring them to book.
However, in this kind of situation, it is often difficult to make a balanced comment without being castigated ignorantly by some people. But we are not going to refrain from speaking the truth because some people would not understand it. The same sharī’ah that kicks against mob action or jungle justice also kicks against the attitude of inciting violence through blasphemy, khurūj or any other means. It is hard to find a situation whereby a Muslim will get up and be insulting the religious symbols of the Christians or other faiths. Unfortunately, we have seen many Christians and several other non-Muslims insulting the Messenger صلى الله عليه وسلم or desecrating the Qur’ān etc.. This is how they provoke violence.
In cases of this nature, it is hard to find non-Muslim blaming those who incite violence through blasphemy, but they will be the first to not only condemn the dangerous consequences of blasphemy, they put the blame on Muslims and Islām as if we are all in support of jungle justice in this regard. This in itself is a blasphemy. Many more blasphemous statements have been uttered by non-Muslims after yesterday’s incident in Sokoto. They have been calling us unprintable names. Instead of calling their people to order by warning them against blasphemy, they utter diversionary comments to make it look as if Islām and Muslims are all bad just because of the evil committed by the ignorant ones amongst us. As intolerant as some Christians are, we can’t also hold that all Christians are intolerant.
The evil committed by the ignorant few in among Muslims should not be used to castigate Islām and Muslims. We are peaceful and tolerant people. I can’t forget the Alu-4 incident where 4 young men were burnt alive through a mob action, we didn’t blame it on Christianity or Christians despite the fact that the incident occurred in a Christian dominated environment. Jungle justice or extra judicial killings must be condemned anywhere it is found and regardless of who committed it. No religion or ethnic group should be labelled for it.
The truth is that Muslims have been much more tolerant toward the Christians and people of other faiths. We shouldn’t be paid back with blasphemy or rejection of hijab as we can see in Kwara State, Nigeria where a Muslim was even murdered recently in the process. The tolerance of Muslims can also be seen in the rate at which Muslim communities accommodate Christians in their dominated areas. In the core Muslim North, Christians are allowed to build Churches in many of the urban areas. In fact the number of Churches are more than that of Mosques. But in the Southeast and Southsouth dominated by Christians, building of Mosques even at the outskirts is a hell. The point here is, the way we Muslims condemn jungle justice on this matter, the non-Muslims too should be just enough to condemn blasphemy in its various shades against Islām and its symbols.
Lastly, it is important to state here that one of the probable punishments of abusing the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم عليه under the sharī’ah depending on its gravity, the reaction of the accused and the kind of violence it can cause is execution. Some of the scholars do not support execution in this case. The proper thing is to call on the person to retract his or her blasphemous comment. If he or she fails to do, it can lead to death sentence. Blasphemy can lead to loss of many lives if it leads to violence. So, the prescription of death sentence in some instances is justifiable.
In fact the most acceptable view of the great scholars of Islām is death sentence for a culprit of blasphemy. It is not a matter to be joked with. But it must be carried out by the State and not by individuals or mob actions as it occurred in the instant case. This is the view of Sheikh ibn Taymiyyah رحمه الله (See Sārimul Maslūl ‘alā Shātimir Rasūl). This is also the view of many of the madhāib (schools of thought). The scholars hold that when the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم was alive, the culprits had the opportunity of his forgiveness. But after his death, there is no room for that. He can only forgive them on the Day of Judgment if he wishes. Many of the northern states in Nigeria have this in their laws because of what it had led to in the past. It was on this basis that even some Muslims and non-Muslims have been convicted and sentenced accordingly in recent time.
The conviction of death sentence in a case of blasphemy is in line with the report of Ibn Abbas رضي الله عنه regarding a blind man who after several warnings killed his concubine who used to disparage and slander the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم and the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم said:
أَلاَ اشْهَدُوا أَنَّ دَمَهَا هَدَرٌ
Bear witness there is no retaliation for her life. [Sunan Abī Dāwūd 436]
However, some scholars have held that this narration is weak because it came through a questionable chain of authority and that it contradicts some well-established moral and legal principles in Islām. The bottom line here is that it is very wrong for anyone to use this narration to justify extrajudicial killing in cases of blasphemy as many are doing today.
It is however disturbing that many of those who kick against jungle justice in the present case were the ones condemning the famous Kano Court judgment on a similar case. I believe the court must have examined the case properly before arriving at that conclusion. And more so, the convicted persons have right of appeal even up to Supreme Court and the most likely end is that they will be freed at last. But they must have faced some difficulties that could make them have a rethink if Allāh wishes.
Some Muslims are apologetic about death sentence in a case of blasphemy and several other sharī’ah rulings on some crucial matters. They condemn Court judgments on blasphemy and they also condemn mob action against culprits. This is a clear case of double standard. Does it mean blasphemers should be left to continue to stir religious crises here and there? While jungle justice is a no go area for Muslims, then taking culprits to Court is the best whether or not he or she would escape justice. Crimes must be punished in the most appropriate manner so that other people who have the tendency to commit similar offence could be deterred.
©Ibn Abdillah As-sudaisiy Al-Iloori