Hanafi Jurists and the Punishment of Non-Muslim Blasphemers


Waqar Akbar Cheema*


Lately Pakistan’s blasphemy laws have been subject to much controversy. Critics often times go on to hit the very substance and origin of the laws. In this backdrop the opinions of the Hanafi jurists are usually misunderstood and misquoted. In this article we analyze how the opinions of Hanafi jurists relate to the incumbent Pakistani laws and how some of the criticism is based on misunderstanding of that relationship.

1. Introduction

In the wake of recent events in Pakistan the issue of punishment for blasphemy has once again come to the limelight. Going beyond the particular details of recent events certain quarters have voiced their dissent about the substance of Pakistan’s blasphemy laws.[1] While the procedural details of the law and its execution are hardly being discussed the said quarters have stirred a debate on the very essence of the law. Javed Ahmed Ghamidi is an avid critic of the blasphemy law. Arafat Mazhar, a self-styled researcher, has published a series of articles on the issue. Like Ghamidi, Arafat Mazhar also makes a reference to the opinions of classical Hanafi scholars suggesting that according to them there is no punishment for non-Muslims blasphemers. Keeping aside the actual merits of the claim, this line of argumentation from these quarters is interesting as when it comes to even the most fundamental issues of Islam, they attach no value to the classical Islamic scholarship and have no qualms in adopting positions that are completely alien to the classical Islamic tradition. When it comes to academic study of Islam, their discourse is more in line with the Orientalist tradition of ‘religious studies’ rather than with the classical tradition of Islamic scholarship.

While we leave the principle treatment of this utilitarian, fatwa-shopping approach towards the Islamic juristic tradition for another occasion, here we shall dwell on the details of the opinions of the Hanafi School regarding the punishment for a non-Muslim blasphemer.

2. Opinion of Early Hanafi Scholars

Early Hanafi scholars were generally of the opinion that it is not required to execute a non-Muslim for blasphemy. Blasphemy, they argued, was a lesser sin compared to disbelief which was already tolerated of him. However, he was to be disciplined.

Al-Tahawi (d. 321/933) writes;

ومن كان من ذلك من أهل الذمة: فإنه يؤدب ولا يقتل

And when a person from the people of covenant (ahl al-dhimma) reviles the Prophet (ﷺ) he is disciplined but not killed.[2]

They did not say it was altogether impermissible to kill a dhimmi for blasphemy rather they held that it was the ruler’s discretion to execute him if it was deemed politically expedient.[3]

[Here it may be noted that if there is one thing that the recent fiasco proves it is that blasphemy is highly sensitive issue and there must be no leniency once the crime is judiciously proven.]

Referring to a report on killing of a blaspheming Jewish woman Abu Hanifa’s prominent student, Muhammad bin Al-Hasan Al-Shaibani (d. 189/804) writes:

إن كانت تعلن بشتم رسول الله – صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم -، فلا بأس بقتلها

If she openly reviles the Messenger of Allah – on him be the peace and blessings of Allah – there is nothing wrong in killing her.[4]

Therefore, the statements of early Hanafi scholars on not killing a dhimmi for blasphemy ought to be considered as explaining the obligatory; what is obligatory is not to kill a blasphemer, but to discipline and punish him another way.[5] This, however, does not mean it is altogether impermissible to execute such a blasphemer.

Commenting on Al-Tahawi’s statement that a blasphemer from amongst the dhimmis shall not be killed Abu Bakr Al-Jassās (d. 370/980) writes:

ولم يوجب عليهم قتلا

It is not obligatory (lam yujab) to kill them.[6]

Likewise, referring to Ibn Mu’id’s opinion reflecting the view of Al-Tahawi et al., Ibn ‘Abidin (d. 1252/1836) states:

يراد بقوله “ولم يقتلوا” أي حداً لزوماً, بل سياسة مفوضة الى رأي الإمام يفعلها حيث رأي بها المصلحة  

His statement “dhimmis will not be killed” means they shall not be killed obligatorily as a hadd rather for expedience according to the discretion of the ruler when he finds in it public interest.[7]

3. Does covenant of protection preclude capital punishment?

Without reflecting Arafat Mazhar refers to statements from a number of scholars that blasphemy does not break a dhimmi’s covenant of protection. Apparently, he thinks it means a dhimmi cannot be capitally punished for blasphemy. As a matter of fact breaking of the covenant of protection (naqḍ al-‘ahd) is not a precondition for capital punishment. Accordingly to Hanafi jurists the covenant (‘ahd/dhimma) does not break even if a dhimmi commits rape or murder as evident from a number of statements referred to, but not fully and faithfully translated by Arafat Mazhar. Al-Qaduri’s (d. 428/1037) statement, for instance, goes as:

ومن امتنع من أداء الجزية أو قتل مسلما أو سب النبي عليه الصلاة والسلام أو زنى بمسلمة لم ينقض عهده

If one refused to pay jizya, murdered a Muslim, reviled the Prophet (ﷺ) or fornicated with a Muslim woman, his covenant would not break.[8]

If breaking of the covenant is a precondition for capital punishment do such statements then imply that a dhimmi cannot be executed even if he commits murder and rape? The preposterity of such a suggestion is evident. A number of scholars have, therefore, clarified that covenant of protection in its own right does not preclude the possibility of capital punishment.

The Ottoman era Palestinian Hanafi jurist Khair Al-Din Al-Ramli (d. 1081/1670) said;

لا يلزم من عدم النقض عدم القتل

That the covenant does not break no way entails refraining from applying the capital punishment.[9]

Ibn ‘Abidin also states this in his discussion on the issue using the very same words.[10] Similarly, Zafar Ahmad ‘Uthmani (d. 1394/1974) writes;

وليس من ضرورة جواز القتل وإهدار الدم كونه حربيا, كما فى القصاص وغيره, فاعرف ذالك

Know that, it is not a requirement for the permissibility of killing and shedding of the blood that the person be a hostile enemy (harabi) as (killing is permissible) in the case of retribution and other issues.[11]

In fact ‘Uthmani lashes out at Ibn Hazm (d. 456/1063) for insinuating that the Hanafi position on blasphemy not breaking the covenant entails against the capital punishment.[12]

3.1 Covenant of Protection and laws regarding blasphemy

That blasphemy does not break the covenant of protection applies where the covenant is general and has no stipulations regarding blasphemy. Discussing the differences of scholars on the issue Al-Tahawi writes:

لو لم يشترط لم يستحل دمه بذلك

If not stipulated (that it will break the covenant) blasphemy will not make shedding the blood of a dhimmi permissible.[13]

Likewise, commenting to a narration implying blasphemy breaking of covenant of protection Al-Tahawi says:

إسناده ضعيف ويحتمل أن يكون شرط عليهم أن لا يكون هذا منهم

It’s chain of narrators is weak and possibly there was a stipulation that they would not be among those who do it.[14]

These comments aptly prove that even early Hanafi scholars carefully considered the idea of blasphemy related stipulation in the covenant for the dhimmis. Ibn ‘Abidin concluding the discussion based on statements of Al-Ramli and Al- Shurunbulali (d. 1069/1659) writes:

أن عقد الذمة لا ينتقض بما ذكروه ما لم يشترط انتقاضه به فإذا اشترط انتقض

As stated by the scholars the covenant of protection does not break when it has no stipulations regarding blasphemy. But when it is made conditional the covenant breaks.[15]

Since it is the constitution that guarantees the basic rights to religious minorities, any punishments under the law must be considered stipulations to the covenant of protection. And there is no bar on putting such conditions to the protection mechanism that do not infringe basic civil liberties.

3.2 Other Hanafi views on blasphemy and the covenant of protection

Not only that the covenant of protection does not preclude capital punishment Hanafi jurists are not even unanimous that a blasphemer’s covenant does not break. Though the popular (mashḥūr) Hanafi opinion is that blasphemy does not break the covenant of protection of dhimmis another opinion is that it actually does.

Ibn ‘Abidin writes;

ما بحثه الامام العيني والمحقق ابن الهمام من حيث الانتقاض ايضاَ فليس خارجاَ عن المذهب بالكلية, نعم هو خلاف المشهور

Al-‘Ayni and Ibn al-Humam’s research that blasphemy actually nullifies the covenant is not altogether outside the school, though it is at variance with the popular opinion.[16]

Similarly, Abu Bakr al-Jassās states in his commentary to Qur’an 9:12:

وظاهر الآية يدل على أن من أظهر سب النبي صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم من أهل العهد فقد نقض عهده

The evident meaning of the verse is that from whosoever of the people of covenant disparage with regards to the Prophet (ﷺ) becomes known his covenant will be nullified.[17]

Another prominent Hanafi scholar Abu Al-Barākat Al-Nasafi (d. 710/1310) states in his commentary to the same verse;

إذا طعن الذمي فى دين الإسلام طعنا ظاهر اجاز قتله لأن العهد معقود معه على ألا يطعن فإذا طعن فقد نكث عهده وخرج من الذمة

When a dhimmi openly disparages Islamic faith (its tenets or personalities) it becomes permissible to execute him because the covenant with him entailed that he would not revile Islam. But when he does his covenant shall break and he shall be excluded from the protection (thus promised).[18]

Commenting to the hadith report about killing of the Jewish woman who used to revile the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ), a Hanafi hadith exegete Al-Muzhiri (d. 727/1327) writes:

وفيه دليل على أن الذمي إذا لم يكف لسانه عن الله تعالى ورسوله ودينه فهو حربي مباح الدم.

It is evidence that when a dhimmi does not hold his tongue from disparaging Allah, His Messenger, and His faith he becomes a combatant killing whom is permissible (harabi mubah al-damm).[19]

Subcontinent scholars have adopted the same view, albeit with some clarities and adjustments. Shah Wali Ullah Al-Dehlawi (d. 1176/1763) referring to the same narration about the Jewish woman writes:

وذلك لانقطاع ذمة الذمي بالطعن في دين المسلمين والشتم والإيذاء الظاهر

This is for the fact that disparaging the faith of the Muslims, and open reviling and trouble-making break the dhimmi’s covenant of protection.[20]

Syed Amir ‘Ali Malihabadi[21] adopts the same opinion in short notes to the Qur’an and so do Ashiq Ilahi Madani[22] and Ahmad Sa’id Dehlawi.[23]

Ashraf ‘Ali Thanwi (d. 1362/1943), known as Hakim al-Ummah, reconciling the popularly known positions of Hanafi and Shafi’i schools, states in the last of his works published within his lifetime – Bawadir Al-Nawadir:

Hanafis and Shafi’is differ on the issue. For long I understood that the two positions can be reconciled by saying that the criticism is of two kinds; first is genuine research in support of one’s religion and this does not break the covenant for upholding one’s religion is included in practicing it and second is by the way of reviling and disparage and this does break the covenant for it is more than simply following [and upholding] one’s religion. This is proven by the verse, “And if they break their oaths after they have made a covenant, and speak evil of your Faith, then fight the leaders of infidelity, since their oaths are nothing, so that they may desist,” (Qur’an 9:12) Then in the work of al-Shami I found an interpretation close to it. And all praise be to Allah.[24]

In the same vein Mufti Muhammad Shafi’ (d. 1396/1976) writes under Qur’an 9:12;

Some commentators have interpreted the words: ‘speak evil of your faith’ to mean that speaking evil of the Faith of Muslims is included under contravention of pledge. A person who speaks evil of Islam and the Shariah of Islam cannot continue to be a party to the treaty with Muslims. But, according to a consensus of Muslim jurists, it means vilification that is done to insult and belittle Islam and Muslims, openly and publicly. Honest intellectual criticism while conducting research into problems and rulings remains exempt from its purview – then, it is not supposed to be vilification in its lexical sense.

Therefore, for non-Muslim citizens of Dar al-Islam, any honest intellectual criticism can be allowed, but what cannot be allowed is vilification, contempt, insult or outrage against Islam.[25]

Likewise, Mufti Muhammad Taqi ‘Usmani discussing the reason for killing of Ka’b bin Ashraf states;

وبسبّ النبى , فصار محارباً, وجاز قتله,

For disparaging the Prophet (ﷺ) he became a hostile enemy (muharab), and his murder became permissible.[26]

4. Punishment for non-Muslim blasphemers in the history of Subcontinent

Since early days of Muslim conquest of northern India, the predominant juristic affiliation of the Muslim people and rulers has been with the Hanafi fiqh. This fact is attested by fatwa compilations made under Slave King Dynasty and later monarchs.[27]

4.1 Punishment for blasphemy in the Sultanate and Mughal eras

There is evidence for executions under blasphemy laws in the Sultanate period of Muslim rule in Subcontinent.[28]  A Hindu by the name of Bodhan was executed under Sikandar Lodhi.[29] In the Mughal era, even during the reign of Akbar, or at least the early years of it, blasphemers were executed.[30] And under Shah Jahan, “blasphemy was once again made a criminal offence. A Hindu who was alleged to have behaved disrespectfully towards the Qur’an was executed. Chhaila, a Brahman and provincial qānūngo of Berar, lost his head because he was similarly accused of disrespectful language towards the Prophet.[31]

In 1734 a Hindu boy, Haqiqat Rai, was sentenced to death by a Qadi in Lahore for making blasphemous remarks about the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) and his daughter, Fatimah (may Allah be pleased with her).[32]

4.2 Opinions of pre-modern and recent Hanafi scholars of the Subcontinent

Contrary to bogus claims of critics like Arafat Mazhat, many Hanafi scholars of the Subcontinent have consistently affirmed the opinions of death sentence for the guilty of blasphemy. Opinions of some prominent scholars are presented below.

4.2.1 Qadi Than Ullah Panipatti

The well-known commentator of Qur’an and a student of Shah Wali Ullah, Qadi Thana Ullah Panipatti (d. 1225/1810) records the following in his brief on essential jurisprudence;

علامہ علم الہدیٰ در بحر المحیط گفتہ کہ در جناب پاک سرور کائنات صلی الله علیہ وسلم دشنام دہد یا اہانت کند یا در عمرے از امور دین او یا در صورت مبارک او یا در وصفے از اوصاف شریفہ او عیب کند خواہ مسلمان بود یا ذمی یا حربی اگرچہ از راہ ہزل کردہ باشد آں کافر است واجب القتل، توبہ او مقبول نیست و اجماع امت بر آنست کہ بے ادبی و استخفاف ہرکس از انبیاء کفر است خواہ فاعل  او حلال دانستہ مرتکب شود یا حرام دانستہ.

Allama ‘Alam Al-Huda writes in Baḥr Al-Muḥīt: One who hurls abuses at sanctity of Prophet (ﷺ) or blasphemes him or disparages him in any religious matter or speaks ill of his physical appearance and that of his noble personality, whether he is believer or, (a disbeliever) dhimmi or a harbi, whether he does it for sake of humor is condemnable to death, and his repentance shall not be accepted. And it is on this we have consensus of Ummah. And this applies to blasphemy of all the Prophets regardless whether the person doing it (claims to actually) consider it permissible or impermissible.[33]

4.2.2 Ashraf ‘Ali Thanwi

In November 1931, Ashraf ‘Ali Thanwi was asked about a non-Muslim blasphemer who had sought forgiveness and promised to be careful in future. This resulted in dispute among Muslim community whether his excuse should be accepted. When asked for his opinion, Ashraf ‘Ali Thanwi replied that it was in fact case of peace-making (sulh), and since Muslims were not in power ‘getting the blasphemer sentenced to death is impossible and at most fine or imprisonment would be given’ through legal prosecution, therefore, in the ‘absence of Muslim rule’ Muslims could accept the culprit’s apology and make peace.[34] This shows according to Thanwi the due punishment for blasphemer under Muslim rule is death.

Likewise, in mid-1932 some Christian Missionaries in Rangoon published blasphemous material about the Holy Prophet (ﷺ). ‘Abdul Majid Daryabadi brought to the issue to Thanwi’s notice. Thanwi not only showed his resolve for writing to ‘ulama of Burma for taking necessary steps regarding this issue his reply further exhibits that like Daryabadi he too held that death penalty was the due punishment for a blasphemer in line with opinion of the majority (jamhūr) as  stated in Ṣārim al-Maslūl and Al-Shifa.[35]

Mufti Kifāyat Ullah Dehlawī’s (d. 1372/1952) answer to a similar question suggests the same.[36]

4.2.3 Fatwas that never were; Reality of the alleged ‘systematic consensus’

Arafat Mazhar has gone further to claim that a systematic/formally organised consensus was reached among the Hanafi scholars of Subcontinent that a non-Muslim may not be killed for insulting the Prophet (ﷺ). His evidence is a 19th century text written by one Mansur ‘Ali titled, “Fatḥ al-Mubīn fī Kashf Makā’id Ghayr Muqallidīn ma’ ḍamīma Tanbīh al-Wahhabiyīn” [The Elaborate Exposition on Revealing the Conspiracies of Non-Muqallids – along with the addendum Warning to the Wahhabis.][37]  It is an apologetic work written in wake of the criticism from the so-called Ahl Hadith school of thought that certain opinions in the Hanafi fiqh are not based on Prophetic hadith. The issue of non-Muslim blasphemer is also covered in the book. To refer to such a work in a discussion on preferred opinion in the Hanafi school is either absolute naivety or rank ignorance.

As for the claim that the said works section about non-Muslim dhimmi blasphemer, where the author tries to show the hadith basis of Abu Hanifa’s opinion that blasphemy itself does not lead to breaking of the covenant, was also approved of by some 450 scholars, one can, at the most, take it with a pinch of salt. Without trying to check the validity of the claim that it was vetted by 450 scholars it must be noted that those who approved this text only approved it for its elaboration that Abu Hanifa’s view was also in reality based on his understanding of Qur’an and hadith. And every just and reasonable Muslim agrees that the opinions of all the leading jurists were in essence based on Qur’an and hadith. It is, however, altogether a different exercise to analyse different opinions and decide about their comparative strength.

However, Arafat Mazhar paints the scenario in a completely different colour as if all the scholars who approved of the book read every single page of it and confirmed it. But this suggestion is simply untenable. A cursory look at the statements of endorsement given at the end of the book make it abundantly clears as to how far the approvals go. Their might have been someone who read the book in full and accordingly stated, majority of the scholars categorically stated that they did not see the book except sparingly.

Abdul Hay Al-Lucknawi gave his views after reading the parts of the book ‘here and there.’[38]  Some scholars stated that they ‘read some quotes here and there,’[39] another stated ‘the few pages I got chance to read were correct.’[40] Other commentators gave their views after reading ‘selected parts’ of the book, some after reading ‘several[41] or ‘assorted parts’ of the book.[42] Rashid Ahmad Gangohi, one of the founders of the Deoband school, said he read ‘most parts’ of the book[43] whereas Qadi Lahore only saw its ‘different sections.’[44] While a certain Mufti wrote that he only ‘had a cursory view’ of the book, the imam of Badshahi Mosque went as far as explicitly stating that he ‘was unable to get know this book in full.’[45]

After getting to know the details and the background of the issue at hand, the reality of Arafat’s consensus claim is exposed. Where it is not even known whether the scholars actually read the passages of the book Fatḥ al-Mubīn related to the subject at hand or not, Arafat Mazhar is making claims of ‘systematic ijma’ on the same.

5. Caution against confusing the details about a non-Muslim blasphemer with those about an originally Muslim blasphemer

It is important not to confuse the details of the opinions of Hanafi jurists regarding a non-Muslim blasphemer with their take about a Muslim ending up committing blasphemy.

5.1 Accepting the repentance

Many Hanafi scholars equated blasphemy with apostasy and treated a blasphemer like other apostates and, therefore, opined for accepting his repentance. Ibn ‘Abidin treated the subject at length in his treatise on the subject. However, the opinion on accepting the repentance of blasphemer-apostate cannot be extrapolated to cases involving a non-Muslim/dhimmi blasphemer. Ibn ‘Abidin himself highlighted the difference between an originally Muslim and a non-Muslim blasphemer in terms of accepting the repentance claim.[46]

5.2 Difference between man and woman

The blasphemer-apostate analogy implies difference in treatment towards man and woman. Whereas an apostate man must be executed if he does not repent, an apostate woman is not be killed in any case, according to Hanafi jurists. However, this again relates only to case of an originally Muslim person committing blasphemy. As for non-Muslims there is no such distinction.[47] The statement of Abu Hanifa’s student Muhammad Al-Shaibani regarding a female Jewish blasphemer quoted above signifies the same.

6. Hanafi jurists and capital punishment by the way of ta’zir

The foregoing assertion that a non-Muslim blasphemer may be given capital punishment by the way of ta’zir may raise a question as to how is this possible when Hanafi scholars are known to have held that upper limit for ta’zir is thirty-nine lashes. In reality, however, Hanafi scholars are very liberal in application of ta’zir and impose no general restrictions to it. It is held that ta’zir can range from a frowning look to capital punishment. Hadith reports mentioning execution – in general and not stoning to death – of those involved in bestiality or making incestuous marriages have been explained by Hanafi scholars as ta’zir and manifestation of judico-political (siyasa al-shar’ia) proceedings.

In his treatise about Abu Hanifa’s position regarding one who makes incestuous marriage that he does not get standard hadd for adultery (i.e. stoning to death or hundred lashes) but shall be killed Abdul Hayy Al-Lucknawi (d. 1304/1887) writes:

فإن قال قائل: كيف يجوز حمل القتل على السياسة مع أن الحنفية مصرحون بأن التعزير تأديب دون الحد أكثره تسعة وثلاثون سوطا؟ قلنا: هذا إذا كان التعزير بالضرب، فإن التعزير قد يكون بالصفع على العنق، وبفرك الأذن، وبنظر القاضي له بوجه عبوس، وبشتم غير القذف، وبالحبس، وبالنفي عن البلدة، وبالقتل، وبالضرب وبغير ذلك … فالمراد من قولهم أن أكثره تسعة وثلاثون سوطا أنه لا يزيد عليه إذا اختار الضرب

If it be asked: How can killing be done by the way of siyasa when Hanafis categorically state that disciplining by the way of ta’zir is less than hadd i.e. it is maximum thirty-nine lashes? We say it applies only when ta’zir is given by the way of hitting, because ta’zir may be given by slapping on the neck, twisting of the ear, frowning look by the judge, verbal assault other than allegation, imprisonment, exiling from the land, killing, hitting, and in other ways … Their statement that ta’zir is maximum thirty-nine lashes means it cannot be exceeded when hitting is chosen as method of ta’zir.[48]

This clarification removes the apparent disparity between two positions of the Hanafi jurists.

7. Summary and Conclusion

When Hanafi jurists say that a non-Muslim blasphemer is not to be killed they only mean it in the sense of obligation i.e. they say it is not obligatory to kill him/her; they do not say it is impermissible to kill such people.

According to popular Hanafi opinion blasphemy, like homicide and rape does not break the covenant of protection. In any case, the covenant is not an impediment for capital punishment.

Moreover, the Hanafi scholars observe that if the covenant of protection has relevant stipulations blasphemy can in fact nullify the covenant. In the contemporary arrangement it is the constitution that guarantees the basic rights, therefore, punishment under any constitutionally valid law makes the whole point on protection covenant irrelevant to the discussion.

There is another opinion within the Hanafi school that blasphemy does in fact break the covenant of protection. Prominent later scholars like Al-Nasafi, Ibn Al-Humam, Al-‘Ayni, and Shah Wali Ullah held this opinion.

In Subcontinent the predominantly Hanafi juristic tradition has seen blasphemers executed from Sultanate era through the Mughal rule right up to the colonial occupation.

A Hanafi school opinion on the acceptance of repentance of an originally Muslim blasphemer rests on the blasphemer-apostate analogy and, therefore, does not extend to non-Muslims. Likewise, the special dispensation for women does not apply to non-Muslim women blasphemers as it also rests on the blasphemy-apostasy relation.

With regards to non-Muslims the substance of current blasphemy laws of Pakistan is not against any of the Hanafi school’s recognized positions.

References & Notes:

[*] Significant part of this paper is based on Ahmad Shamil’s Urdu article; Qanun Tauhin-i-Risalat aur Mister Arafat Mazhar ka Tarz-i-Tahqiq

[2] Al-Jassās, Abu Bakr, Sharh Mukhtasar Al-Tahawi, (Beirut: Dar Al-Basha’ir Al-Islamiya, 2010) Vol.6, 142

[3] The reference is to the concept of al-siyasa al- shari’ya i.e. judico-political administrationSiyasa is neither ad hoc nor ultra vires to Shar’ia as ordinarily understood. Wael B. Hallaq alludes to its nature and significance in Islamic legal tradition:

The imperative of upholding justice as embodied in the Shar’ia thus had to be reconciled with the demands and expediency of political rule, for it was widely recognized that the latter’s failure would be assured without the backing of the former. Yet, it was equally and fully recognized that, without the sovereign’s juridico-political administration (siyasa shar’iyya), the Shar’ia would also become a hollow system. (Shar’ia, Theory, Practice, Transformations (New Delhi: Cambridge University Press, 2009) 198-199)

For more on this listen to Dr. Jonathan AC Brown’s lecture “Is there Justice Outside God’s Law?: Making Sense of the Boundaries of the Sharīʿah in Islamic Civilization

[4] Al-Sarakhsi, Muhammad bin Ahmad, Sharh Al-Siyar Al-Kabir, (Beirut: Dar Al-Kotob Al-Ilmiyah, 1997) Vol.4, 188; It may be pointed out that the statement comes from the discussion related to ahl al-harb, i.e. non-Muslims who are neither dhimmis nor in some peace deal with Muslims. However, the qualifying evidence for this statement is a narration related to a woman from amongst the Jews of Madina who had accepted the authority of the Prophet (ﷺ). Taking these two facts into consideration the implication is that blasphemy breaks the covenant. cf. Al-Shami, Ibn ‘Abidin, Majmu’a Al-Rasa’il, (Istanbul: Dar S’adat, 1325 AH) Vol.1, 355

[5] Recently, an audio tape of Mufti Taqi ‘Usmani has attracted attention wherein he points out that according to Hanafi jurists a non-Muslim blasphemer is not to be killed rather he is to be punished in some other way. In the light of what follows it is evident that he also meant to describe only what is obligatory. His statement cannot be construed to suggest that it is impermissible to kill a non-Muslim blasphemer.

[6] Al-Jassās, Abu Bakr, Sharh Mukhtasar Al-Tahawi, Vol.6, 142

[7] Al-Shami, Ibn ‘Abidin “Tanbīh al Wulāt wal Hukkām ‘ala Ahkām  Shātim e Khair il Anām” included in Majmu’a Al-Rasa’il, (Istanbul: Dar S’adat, 1325 AH) Vol.1, 356 and 353; see also Al-Shami, Al-Radd al-Muhtar, (Beirut: Dar Al-Fekr, 1992) Vol.4, 215; Al-Saharanfuri, Khalil Ahmad, Bazl Al-Majhud fi hal Abi Dawud, (Beirut: Dar Al-Kotob Al-Ilmiyah, n.d.) Vol.17, 301; ‘Uthmani, Zafar Ahmad, ‘Ila’ Al-Sunan, (Karachi: Idara Al-Qur’an wa Al-‘Ulum Al-Islamiya, 1415 AH) Vol.12, 547

[8] Al-Qaduri, Abu al-Hussain, Al-Mukhtasar, (Beirut: Dar Al-Kotob Al-Ilmiyah, 1997) 237

[9] Al-Shami, Ibn ‘Abidin, Radd al-Muhtar, (Beirut: Dar al-Fekr, 1992) Vol.4, 215

[10] Al-Shami, Ibn ‘Abidin, Majmu’a Al-Rasa’il, Vol.1, 353

[11] ‘Uthmani, Zafar Ahmad, ‘Ila’ al-Sunan, Vol.18, 257;

[12] ibid., Vol.12, 540

[13] Al-Tahawi, Mukhtasar Ikhtilaf Al-‘Ulama, (Beirut: Dar Al-Basha’ir Al-Islamiya, 1417 AH) Vol.5, 505

[14] ibid., Vol.5, 506; Also see, Al-Khazraji, Jamal Al-Din, Al-Lubab fi Jam’ bain Al-Sunna wa Al-Kitab, (Damascus: Dar Al-Qalam, 1994) Vol.2, 766

[15] Al-Shami Ibn ‘Abidin, Al-Radd Al-Muhtar, Vol.4, 214; also see ‘Uthmani, Zafar Ahmad, ‘Ila’ al-Sunan, Vol.12, 548, 555

[16] Al-Shami, Ibn ‘Abidin, Majmu’a Al-Rasa’il, Vol.1, 354

[17] Al-Jassās, Abu Bakr, Ahkam al-Qur’an (Beirut: Dar Ihya al-Turath al-‘Arabi, 1405) Vol.4, 275

[18] Al-Nasafi, Abu Al-Barkāt, Madarik al-Tanzil wa Haqa’iq Al-Ta’wil, (Beirut: Dar Al-Kalim Al-Tayyib, 1998) Vol.1, 667

[19] Al-Muzhiri, Al-Hussain bin Mahmud, Al-Mafatih fi Sharh Al-Masabih, (Kuwait: Dar Al-Nawadir, 2012) Vol.4, 241

[20] Al-Dehlawi, Wali Ullah, Hujjat Allah Al-Balighah, (Beirut: Dar Al-Jeel, 2005) Vol.2, 256

[21] Malihabadi, Amir ‘Ali, Mawahib Al-Rahman, (Lahore: Maktaba Rashidiya, 1977) Vol.3, 63

[22] Madani, ‘Ashiq Ilahi, Anwar Al-Bayan – Illuminating Discourses on the Noble Qur’an, Translated by Afzal Hussain Elias (Karachi: Darul Ishaat, 2005) Vol.2, 426

[23] Dehlawi, Ahmad Sa’id, Kashaf Al-Rahman, (Karachi: Maktaba Rashidiya, n.d.) 300

[24] Thanwi, Ashraf ‘Ali, Bawadir al-Nawadir, (Lahore: Idara Islamiat, 1985) 108-109; Apparently, here Thanwi referred to what Ibn ‘Abidin al-Shami has quoted from some Shafi’i scholars;

إذا ذكره بسوء يعتقده ويتدين به، بأن قال إنه ليس برسول أو قتل اليهود بغير حق أو نسبه إلى الكذب فعند بعض الأئمة لا ينتقض عهده أما إذا ذكره بما لا يعتقده ولا يتدين به كما لو نسبه إلى الزنا أو طعن في نسبه ينتقض.

If a non-Muslim mention the Prophet (ﷺ) in negative tone saying what is part of his religion like saying that he was not a Prophet or that he killed the Jews unjustly or that he made a false claim to Prophethood then to some of the scholars this does not break the covenant. As to mentioning him in a way that is not part of his religion or beliefs like attributing to him illicit sex or attacking his lineage then it does break the covenant. (Al-Shami, Ibn ‘Abidin, Radd al-Muhtar, Vol.4, 214)

Bawadir al-Nawadir was published only a week before Thanwi’s death. Therefore, it is safe to conclude that his opinion quoted here reflects his final understanding of the issue, and overrides any suggestion to the contrary from his earlier works.

[25] Shafi’, Muhammad, Ma’arif al-Qur’an, (Karachi: MaktaDarulUlum, n.d.) Vol.4, 321

[26] ‘Usmani, Muhammad Taqi, Takmila Fath al-Mulhim, (Beirut: Dar  Ihya’ al-Turath, 2006) Vol.3, 178

[27] For details see, Bhatti, Muhammad Ishaq, Bar-i-Saghir mein ‘Ilm Fiqh, (Lahore: Kitab Sarai, 2009)

[28] Sharma, Sri Ram, The Religious Policy of the Mughal Emperors, (Bombay: Asia Publishing House, 1972) 6, 16

[29] ibid., 21

[30] ibid., 31

[31] ibid., 117; see also, Sangar, Satya Prakash, Crime and Punishment in Mughal India (Delhi: Sterling Publishers, 1967) 171

[32] Latif, Syed Muhammad,  Tarikh-i-Lahore,  (Lahore:  Takhliqat, n.d.) 324; also see, Najjar,  Bakshish Singh, Punjab Under the Later Mughals, (Lahore: Book Traders, 1972) 279 and Bazm-i-Urdu, Lahore Guide,  (Lahore:  Rifah Aam Press, 1909) 61-62

[33] Panipatti, Thana Ullah, Ma La Budda Minhu, (Kanpur: Matba’ Majidi, 1327AH) , the statement actually comes from Panipatti’s translation of chapter “Kalimat Kufr” of an earlier work titled Fatawa Burhani which he appended to his own brief on other general topics of fiqh.

[34] Thanwi, Ashraf ‘Ali, Imdad al-Fatawa, (Karachi: Makataba Darul ‘Ulum, 2010) Vol. 4, 166-167

[35] Daryabadi, ‘Abdul Majid, Hakim ul Ummat: Nuqush wa Ta’surat, (Lahore: Maktaba Madina, n.d.) 213-215, Maqala 44,

[36] Dehlawi, Kifayat Ullah, Kifayat al-Mufti, (Karachi: Darul Ishat, 2001) Vol.1, 94-95

[37] ‘Ali, Mansur, Fatḥ al-Mubīn fī Kashf Makā’id Ghayr Muqallidīn ma’ ḍamīma Tanbīh al-Wahhabiyīn, (Farangi Mahal: Dar Al-‘Ilm wal ‘Aml, n.d.)

[38] ibid., 467

[39] ibid., 468, 470

[40] ibid., 468

[41] ibid., 476

[42] ibid., 488, 494

[43] ibid., 487

[44] ibid., 501

[45] ibid., 502

[46] Al-Shami, Ibn ‘Abidin, Majmu’a Al-Rasa’il, Vol.1, 355

[47] ibid.

[48] Al-Lucknawi, ‘Abdul Hayy, Al-Qawl Al-Jazim fi Saqut Al-Hadd bi Nikah Al-Maharim, (Lucknow: Matba’ Yusufi, n.d.) 35-36

About the author

Waqar Akbar Cheema


  • This entire article is a strawman argument. The linked article on Dawn only argues that capital punishment, the death penalty, is not religiously obligated in the Hanafi madhab. Not that it is impermissible. You argue that they said the death penalty is impermissible and wind up reaching a conclusion which matches the actual substance of their article, that the death penalty is permissible but not obligated.

    • Strawman argument! Looks like you are unable to comprehend the citations used in the article as well as lack understanding of the fiqh and the jurisprudence of imam Abu hanifa ( may Allah have mercy on him)

      • Interesting enough, this article hasn’t even mentioned what Abu hanifa had said, and Yahya is right the Dawn article had only argued for a non-mandatory penalty. But anyway what did Abu Hanifa(may Allah have mercy upon him) actually say?
        Al-Khattabi (d. 998), a Shafi‘i jurisprudent, explained that the authorities
        “differed in the matter when the insulter was a non-Muslim.”

        And finally Imam Abu Hanifa said that:“They
        [i.e., non-Muslims] are not killed for insulting the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم ,for that which they have against him of polytheism is worse.”

        Please Mr. Iqbal, come to your senses. Look I get extremely angry when anyone insults the Prophet(S), but please understand why Dawn even made the article to begin with. Because Pakistan’s blasphemy law is hitting heavily at its non-muslim minorities. The government of Pakistan had arrested and charged a mentally ill girl for blasphemy, Rimsha Masih. This is the utmost ridiculous, and what part of ta’zir doesn’t this article understand. “Lately Pakistan’s blasphemy laws have been subject to much controversy.” hmm? why is that? Because it charges people who are not even accountable, yet it never mentions that the Rimsha Masih case. How about the Asia bibi case? Just because she questioned(she never critisized him or insulted him) the Prophet(S) doesn’t mean she is accountable for blasphemy. Regardless, she couldn’t even get access to water just because she is a non-muslim and she was humiliated as well, then came in the suggestion to convert to islam after these illiterate muslims humiliated her. Then she merely questioned the Prophet(S), and they are freaking out. Seriously, why would she convert to Islam if the Islam she perceives is from these idiots?

        “With regards to non-Muslims the substance of current blasphemy laws of Pakistan is not against any of the Hanafi school’s recognized positions.”

        But anyway we as muslims are commanded to turn away from the ignorant, and i’ll leave this hadith for them to deal with:
        “Indeed, whoever kills one who has a covenant from Allah and a covenant from
        His Messenger, then he has violated the covenant with Allah and the covenant of
        His Messenger. So he shall not smell the fragrance of Paradise, even though its
        fragrance can be sensed from the distance of seventy autumns.” (Tirmidhi)

        But anyway back to responding to you:

        Even if Pakistan actually has genuine blasphemers, or anyone my view is that it is much recommended to leave them alone as the Prophet would never take revenge for anything:
        Aisha(RA) said that “Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) never beat anyone with his hand, neither a woman nor a servant, but only, in the case when he had been fighting in the cause of Allah and he never took revenge for anything unless the things made inviolable by Allah were made violable; he then took revenge for Allah, the Exalted and Glorious.” (Sahih Muslim)

        Aisha had also said that “… he wouldn’t repay an evil with an with an evil, rather he would pardon and overlook”(Tirmidi).

        Anyway if you want a better article than the Dawn one then read this:

        Ismail Royer’s article, this is much much more scholarly and mature than the other.

        Asalaamu Alaykum Wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakaatuh.

  • Excellent article, very detailed and informative, problem with so called Pakistani “enlightened” are two fold, they think Pakistani state is based on Sharia and hanafi “madhab” is an independent religion