By MEMRI (the Middle East Media Research Institute) January 12:
A Review Of Recent Arrests, Imprisonment, Flogging, Death Sentences
In Arab and Muslim countries, defaming Islam and the Prophet Muhammad is still defined as an offense against the shari’a that entails punishment. Recent examples of enforcement include the arrest of Saudi intellectual Dr. Turki Al-Hamad and Saudi blogger Hamza Kashgari; another Saudi liberal, Raef Badawi, was sentenced to public flogging, and both Mauritanian blogger Mohamed Cheikh Ould Mkhaitir and Iranian blogger Soheil Arabi were even sentenced to death.
These recent cases were preceded by well-known assassinations or assassination attempts against individuals accused of insulting Islam or the Prophet, such as the fatwa issued by Ayatollah Khomeini in 1989 against the author Salman Rushdie, which called to kill him for his book The Satanic Verses (this fatwa still holds in Iran); the assassination attempt against Nobel laureate Egyptian novelist Naguib Mahfouz for irreverent allusions to Allah and the Prophet in his book Children of Our Neighborhood; the murder of Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh for his film Submission, which shows Koranic verses written on the body of a woman; and fatwas permitting the killing of the artists responsible for the Danish cartoons published in 2005.
Historic Perspective: Punishment Of Prophet’s Defamers Based On Koranic Verses, Hadith, Authoritative Sirah Literature (Biographies Of The Prophet)
According to the shari’a, defaming the Prophet is an act of blasphemy, the punishment for which is death even if the accused repents. This law is a Koranic decree, for Koran 9:61 says: “Those who hurt Allah’s Messenger will have a painful punishment.” The same Surah also states: “…Say: “(Go ahead and) mock! But certainly Allah will bring to light all that you fear. If you ask them (about this), they declare: ‘We were only talking idly and joking.’ Say: ‘Was it at Allah and His verses and His Messenger that you were mocking? Make no excuse; you have disbelieved after you had believed. [Koran 9:64-66].” In addition, the Sira literature (biographies of the Prophet) and the Hadith include many instances in which Muhammad ordered to kill his maligners or praised his followers for doing so. In the Muhammad’s era, writing poems against him was considered an unforgivable crime, and many poets were killed for this, including the Jewish poet Ka’b bin Al-Ashraf, who would ridicule the Prophet. According to a hadith, he was killed by Muhammad bin Maslama at the behest of the Prophet himself and with his blessing. Another poet who composed a poem against Muhammad, the Jewess ‘Asma bint Marwan, was assassinated by ‘Umayr bin ‘Adiy, who was later praised by the Prophet for executing her. Some sources state that Muhammad asked who would kill this woman on his behalf, and a member of her tribe volunteered. Two more poets killed for this crime were Abu ‘Afak, assassinated by Salem bin ‘Umayr, and the Meccan poet Sarah, whom the Prophet ordered to kill on the day Mecca was conquered.
Prominent medieval Islamic scholar Ibn Taymiyya, considered by many to be the father of the modern fundamentalist Islamic movements, wrote on this issue: “Mocking Allah, His verses or His Messenger is blasphemy.” He wrote further: “Whosoever curses the Prophet, be he a Muslim of an infidel, must be put to death. All [religious] scholars take this view.” The late Saudi mufti ‘Abd Al-‘Aziz Ibn ‘Abdallah Ibn Bazz said: “Anyone who curses Allah or His Messenger Muhammad in any way is a heretic apostate.”
Since criticism of Muhammad is still taboo in the Muslim world and cases of it are fairly rare, this act and the punishment it merits are not major topics of debate in Islamist discourse. However, when it does occur – as in the case of Rushdie’s book or cartoons lampooning Muhammad – it is regarded as a “crime” whose perpetrator must be punished. Governments in the Muslim world, as well as the sheikhs of the religious establishment, handle this matter according to political considerations, sometimes enforcing strict punishments and sometimes lenient ones, according to the political interests of the moment.
The following are some recent examples of citizens of Muslim countries punished for harming Islam or the Prophet.
- Mauritanian Blogger Sentenced To Death For Insulting The Prophet
- Iranian Blogger Receives Death Sentence For Insulting The Prophet
- Saudi Blogger Arrested For Tweeting “There Are Things About The Prophet That I Hate”
- Saudi Intellectual Dr. Turki Al-Hamad Arrested For Calling To “Correct The Faith Of Muhammad”