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Islam and blasphemy

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Title: Islam and blasphemy  
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Subject: Apostasy in Islam, Islam and other religions, Islamic criminal jurisprudence, As-salamu alaykum, Blasphemy
Collection: Blasphemy, Fiqh, Islam-Related Controversies
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Islam and blasphemy

Blasphemy in Islam is impious utterance or action concerning God, Muhammad or anything considered sacred in Islam.[1][2] The Quran admonishes blasphemy, but does not specify any worldly punishment for blasphemy.[3] The hadiths, which are another source of Sharia, suggest various punishments for blasphemy, which may include death.[3][4] However, it has been argued that the death penalty applies only to cases where there is treason involved that may seriously harm the muslim community, especially during times of war.[5] Various fiqhs (schools of jurisprudence) of Islam have different punishment for blasphemy, depending on whether blasphemer is Muslim or non-Muslim, man or woman.[3] The punishment can be fines, imprisonment, flogging, amputation, hanging, or beheading.[6][7]

Muslim clerics may call for the punishment of an alleged blasphemer by issuing a fatwā.[8][9]


  • Islamic scriptures 1
    • Quran 1.1
  • Blasphemy as apostasy 2
  • Examples of blasphemy 3
    • Blasphemy against holy personages 3.1
    • Blasphemy against beliefs and customs 3.2
    • Blasphemy against artifacts 3.3
  • Punishment 4
    • Punishment by different Islamic schools of jurisprudence 4.1
    • Blasphemy against beliefs and customs 4.2
  • See also 5
  • References 6

Islamic scriptures


There are a number of surah in Qur'an relating to blasphemy, from which Quranic verses 5:33 and 33:57-61 have been most commonly used in Islamic history to justify and punish blasphemers.[4][10][11] For example,[4]

Blasphemy as apostasy

Blasphemy has historically been seen as an evidence of rejection of Islam, that is, the religious crime of apostasy. Some jurists believe that blasphemy automatically implies a Muslim has left the fold of Islam.[3] A Muslim may find himself accused of being a blasphemer, and thus an apostate on the basis of one action or utterance.[12][13] Some[14][15] modern Muslim scholars contest that Islam supports blasphemy law, stating that Muslim jurists made the offense part of Sharia.

Examples of blasphemy

Writer Salman Rushdie was accused of blasphemy and became the subject of a fatwā issued by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the Supreme Leader of Iran, in February 1989.

Individuals have been accused of blasphemy or of insulting Islam for:

Blasphemy against holy personages

  • speaking ill of Allah.[16]
  • finding fault with Muhammad.[17][18][19][20][21] Salafi scholar Muhammad Al-Munajjid indicates that the Islamic concept of Gheerah requires that Muslims protect the Prophet Mohammed from blasphemy.[22]

Blasphemy against beliefs and customs

  • finding fault with Islam.[48][49][50][51]
  • saying Islam is an Arab religion; prayers five times a day are unnecessary; and the Qur'an is full of lies (Indonesia).[52]
  • believing in transmigration of the soul or reincarnation or disbelieving in the afterlife (Indonesia).[53][54]
  • finding fault with a belief or a practice which the Muslim community (Ummah) has adopted.[53]
  • finding fault with or cursing apostles (Rasul or Messenger), prophets, or angels.[53]
  • expressing an atheist or a secular point of view[9][28][55][56][57][58] or publishing or distributing such a point of view.[8][28][59][60][61][62][63][64][65][66][67][68]
  • using words that Muslims use because the individuals were not Muslims (Malaysia).[33][69][70]
  • praying that Muslims become something else (Indonesia).[71]
  • whistling during prayers (Indonesia).[72]
  • flouting the rules prescribed for Ramadan.[72]
  • reciting Muslim prayers in a language other than Arabic (Indonesia).[72]
  • consuming alcohol.[72][73]
  • gambling.[72]
  • being alone with persons of the opposite sex who are not blood relatives.[72]
  • finding amusement in Islamic customs (Bangladesh).[74][75][76][77]
  • publishing an unofficial translation of the Qur'an (Afghanistan).[78]
  • practicing yoga (Malaysia).[79]
  • watching a film or listening to music (Somalia).[80]
  • wearing make-up on television (Iran).[81]
  • insulting religious scholarship.[13]
  • wearing the clothing of Jews or of Zoroastrians.[13]
  • claiming that forbidden acts are not forbidden.[13]
  • uttering "words of infidelity" (sayings that are forbidden).[13]
  • participating in non-Islamic religious festivals.[13]
  • converting from Islam to Christianity or publishing or distributing such a point of view
  • talking about or trying to convert others from Islam to Christianity or publishing or distributing such a point of view

Blasphemy against artifacts

Individuals have been accused of blasphemy or of insulting Islam for:

  • touching a Qur'an or touching something that has touched a Qur'an because the individuals were not Muslim (Nigeria).[82][83]
  • spitting at the wall of a mosque (Pakistan).[84][85]


The punishments for different instances of blasphemy in Islam vary by jurisdiction,[3][86][87] but may be very severe. A convicted blasphemer may, among other penalties, lose all legal rights. The loss of rights may cause a blasphemer's marriage to be dissolved, religious acts to be rendered worthless, and claims to property—including any inheritance—to be rendered void. Repentance, in some Fiqhs, may restore lost rights except for marital rights; lost marital rights are regained only by remarriage. Women have blasphemed and repented to end a marriage. Muslim women may be permitted to repent, and may receive a lesser punishment than would befall a Muslim man who committed the same offense.[13] In some jurisdictions blasphemy may be subject to the death penalty.[88] Many severe punishments are imposed in various Islamic societies.

In the case of an insult to Muhammad, the Muslim community is considered to be under an obligation to avenge the insult because the possibility of forgiveness expired upon the death of Muhammad.[3]

Punishment by different Islamic schools of jurisprudence

The Quran does not explicitly mention any worldly punishment for blasphemy (sabb allah or sabb al-rasul), as it does for apostasy (riddah). Islamic jurisprudence (fiqh) of Sunni and Shia madhabs have declared different punishments for the religious crime of blasphemy, and they vary between schools. These are as follows:[2][3][89]

Hanafi – views blasphemy as synonymous with apostasy, and therefore, accepts the repentance of apostates. Those who refuse to repent, their punishment is death if the blasphemer is a Muslim man, and if the blasphemer is a woman, she must be imprisoned with coercion (beating) till she repents and returns to Islam.[90] If a non-Muslim commits blasphemy, his punishment must be a tazir (discretionary, can be death, arrest, caning, etc.).[7][91]
Maliki – view blasphemy as an offense distinct from, and more severe than apostasy. Death is mandatory in cases of blasphemy for Muslim men, and repentance is not accepted. For women, death is not the punishment suggested, but she is arrested and punished till she repents and returns to Islam or dies in custody.[92][93] A non-Muslim who commits blasphemy against Islam must be punished; however, the blasphemer can escape punishment by converting and becoming a devout Muslim.[94]
Hanbali – view blasphemy as an offense distinct from, and more severe than apostasy. Death is mandatory in cases of blasphemy, for both Muslim men and women, and repentance is not accepted.[95][96]
Shafi’i – recognizes blasphemy as a separate offense from apostasy, but accepts the repentance of blasphemers. If the blasphemer does not repent, the punishment is death.[97][98]
Ja'fari (Shia) – views blasphemy against Islam, the Prophet, or any of the Imams, to be punishable with death, if the blasphemer is a Muslim.[99] In case the blasphemer is a non-Muslim, he is given a chance to convert to Islam, or else killed.[100]

Blasphemy against beliefs and customs

The punishment for non-conformity with prevailing beliefs and customs varies by jurisdiction.[86] In September 2009, Abdul Kahar Ahmad pleaded guilty in a Malaysian Sharia court to charges of spreading false doctrines, blasphemy, and violating religious precepts. The court sentenced Ahmad to ten years in prison and six lashes from a rattan cane.[101] In October 2009, Somalia's hardline Islamist group al-Shabaab whipped women who were wearing a bra, and whipped men for being beardless. The group said violation of Islamic custom deserved whipping.[102] In Malaysia, Islamic scholars issued a fatwa declaring yoga as blasphemous, because yoga is a form of spiritual practice in Hinduism.[103][104][105]

In 2014, an Egyptian state prosecutor pressed charges against Fatima Naoot of blaspheming Islam when she posted a Facebook message which criticized the slaughter of animals during Eid, a major Islamic festival.[106]

See also


  1. ^ Blasphemy at
  2. ^ a b Wiederhold, Lutz. "Blasphemy against the Prophet Muhammad and his companions (sabb al-rasul, sabb al-sahabah): The introduction of the topic into shafi'i legal literature and its relevance for legal practice under Mamluk rule."Journal of semitic studies 42.1 (1997): 39-70.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Saeed, Abdullah; Hassan Saeed (2004). Freedom of Religion, Apostasy and Islam. Burlington VT: Ashgate Publishing Company. pp. 38–39.  
  4. ^ a b c
    • Siraj Khan, Blasphemy against the Prophet, in Muhammad in History, Thought, and Culture (Editors: Coeli Fitzpatrick and Adam Hani Walker), ISBN 978-1610691772, pp. 59-67
    • R Ibrahim (2013), Crucified Again, ISBN 978-1621570257, pp. 100-101
  5. ^
  6. ^ See the articles about Islamic jurisdictions under Blasphemy law.
  7. ^ a b P Smith (2003), Speak No Evil: Apostasy, Blasphemy and Heresy in Malaysian Syariah Law, UC Davis Journal Int'l Law & Policy, 10, pp. 357-373;
    • N Swazo (2014), The Case Of Hamza Kashgari: Examining Apostasy, Heresy, And Blasphemy Under Sharia, The Review of Faith & International Affairs, 12(4), pp. 16-26
  8. ^ a b "Blasphemy Salman Rushdie". Constitutional Rights Foundation. 2009. Retrieved 10 July 2009. 
  9. ^ a b Doran, Michael Scott (January–February 2004). "The Saudi Paradox". Foreign Affairs. Retrieved 27 July 2009. 
  10. ^ Brian Winston (2014), The Rushdie Fatwa and After: A Lesson to the Circumspect, Palgrave Macmillan, ISBN 978-1137388599, pp. 74, Quote - "(In the case of blasphemy and Salman Rushdie) the death sentence it pronounced was grounded in a jurisprudential gloss on the Surah al-Ahzab (33:57)"
  11. ^ Richard T. Antoun (2014), Muslim Preacher in the Modern World, Princeton University Press, ISBN 978-0691602752, page 194, Quote - "All the negative connotations of factionalism, social dissension, blasphemy, and their logical conclusions conspiracy, military confrontation and damnation - are captured in the title of this sura, al-Ahzab (The Confederates, Book 33)"
  12. ^ Saeed and Saeed, p. 48.
  13. ^ a b c d e f g h "Blasphemy: Islamic Concept". Encyclopedia of Religion 2. Farmington Hills, MI: Thomson Gale. 2005. pp. 974–976. 
  14. ^ Declan O'Sullivan (2001), The Interpretation of Qur'anic Text to Promote or Negate the Death Penalty for Apostates and Blasphemers, Journal of Qur'anic Studies, 3(2), pp. 63-93
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  17. ^ Ibrahim, Yusha'u A. (20 June 2009). "Nigeria: Blasphemy - Rioters Burn Police Outpost, Injure 12". Daily Trust. Retrieved 30 July 2009. 
  18. ^ Ibrahim, Yusha'u A. (11 August 2008). "'"Nigeria: Mob Kills 50-Year-Old Man for 'Blasphemy. Daily Trust. Retrieved 30 July 2009. 
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  21. ^ "Pakistan city tense after 'blaspheming' Christians shot". BBC. 20 July 2010. Retrieved 21 July 2010. 
  22. ^ Shaykh ‘Abd al-Rahmaan al-Barraak, Majallat al-Da’wah, Islam QA Fatwa 14305: It is essential to respond to those who defame the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) retrieved February 12, 2015 | If we leave the kuffaar and atheists to say whatever they want without denouncing it or punishing them, great mischief will result, which is something that these kuffaar love....Whoever hears the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) being insulted and does not feel any protective jealousy or get angry is not a true believer – we seek refuge with Allaah from humility, kufr and obeying the Shaytaan
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  28. ^ a b c Boyle, Kevin; Juliet Sheen (1997). Freedom of Religion and Belief. Routledge. p. 30.  
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  30. ^ MacFarquhar, Neil (24 June 2007). "Iran Cracks Down on Dissent". The New York Times. Retrieved 11 July 2009. 
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  33. ^ a b "Pakistan: Use and abuse of blasphemy laws". AI Index: ASA 33/008/1994. Amnesty International. 27 July 1994. Retrieved 19 February 2010. 
  34. ^ Riaz Ahmed Gohar Shah is convicted of blasphemy
  35. ^ Indonesian prophet jailed for blasphemy
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  53. ^ a b c The Peace FAQ: Blasphemy
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  80. ^ "Somali Men Get 40 Lashes For Watching Pornography". Newstime Africa. 1 December 2009. Retrieved 4 December 2009. 
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  88. ^ France 24: Praying for a pardon: Christian sentenced to death for 'blaspheming against Islam'
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  90. ^
    • Abu al-Layth al-Samarqandi (983), Mukhtalaf al-Riwayah, vol. 3, pp. 1298–1299
    • Ahmad ibn Muhammad al-Tahawi (933), Mukhtasar Ikhtilaf al-Ulama, vol. 3, p. 504
    • Ali ibn Hassan al-Sughdi (798); Kitab al-Kharaj; Quote: “أيما رجل مسلم سب رَسُوْل اللهِ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ أو كذبه أو عابه أوتنقصه فقد كفر بالله وبانت منه زوجته ، فإن تاب وإلا قتل ، وكذلك المرأة ، إلا أن أبا حنيفة قَالَ: لا تقتل المرأة وتجبر عَلَى الإسلام”; Translation: “A Muslim man who blasphemes the Messenger of Allah, denies him, reproaches him, or diminishes him, he has committed apostasy in Allah, and his wife is separated from him. He must repent, or else is killed. And this is the same for the woman, except Abu Hanifa said: Do not kill the woman, but coerce her back to Islam.”
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    • Muhammad ibn al-Hassan al-Tusi (1067), Al-Nihaya, pp. 730-731 and Tadhib al-Ahkam, vol. 10, p. 85;
    • Ali ibn al-Hussein "Sharif al-Murtada" (1044). Al-Intisar, pp. 480–481;
    • Ali ibn Babawaih al-Qummi al-Saduq (991), Al-Hidaya fi al-Usul wa al-Furu, pp. 295–297
  100. ^ Ali ibn al-Hussein al-Murtada (1044), Al-Intisar, pp. 480-481
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  105. ^ New York Times, Seeking to clear a path between yoga and islam (April 8 2012)
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