Metro 'Islam, the law and Zamfara Blasphemy Massacre' by Ibrahim MaiJamaa [OPINION]



Blasphemy, as defined by many scholars as the exhibition of irrelevant behavior or language towards God, religion or anything held sacred.

Yes, it is a sensitive issue to many, especially those who have an unshakeable faith in their beliefs, religious leaders, holy book, places of worship and rituals.

What acts can be deemed irreverent, how those who carry out such acts should be punished, and what role the law should play in preventing blasphemy are questions that have instigated huge debate in my mind, leaving me with a sleepless night and a continuous day-dream in my hearts; I feel like writing something about it.

The killing of eight people who were set ablaze to death in Talata-Mafara, Zamfara state over the alleged blasphemy by some student was not the teaching of the Holy Qur’an or the prophet Muhammad (PBUH). Rather, it was an ignorance and a self-satisfied acts.

Although the Holy Qur’an very strongly discourages indecent behavior and indecent talk, or the hurting of the sensitivity of others, with or without rhyme or reason, Islam does not advocate the punishment of blasphemy in this world nor vests such authority in anyone.

There is nothing in Holy Qur’an or the authentic teaching of the prophet Muhammad (PBUH), justifying the killing of people for opposing, criticizing, humiliating or showing irreverence toward holy personages, religious artifacts, customs and beliefs of Islam.

The Holy Qur’an says: “Revile not ye those whom they call upon besides Allah, lest they out of spite revile Allah in their ignorance. Thus We have made alluring to each people its own doings. In the end will they return to their Lord, and We shall then tell them the truth of all that they did.” (6:108)

“O ye who believe! Let not some men among you ridicule others: it may be that the (later) are better than the (former): Nor let some women ridicule others: it may be that the (later) are better than the (former): Nor defame nor be sarcastic to each other, nor call each other by (offensive) nicknames: Ill-seeming is a name connoting wickedness, (to be use of one) after he has believed:

And those who do not desist are (indeed) doing wrong.” [49:11]

“Hold to forgiveness, command what is right; but turn away from the ignorant.” [7:199]

“Have patience with what they say, and leaves them with noble (dignity).” [73:10]

“.... But they uttered blasphemy… if they repent, it will be best for them, but if they turn back, Allah will punish them.” [9:47]

There has been no prophet upon whom derogatory words were not used. The Holy Qur’an confirms that “Allah sent a Warner to every people, and that each and every one of the prophets has been a subject of mockery,” [23:45].

Yet despite the fact that the Holy Qur’an confirms that all prophets have been subject to attack by others, there is no evidence that any of the offenders were ever be ordered to be killed.

In his lifetime, the Holy prophet (PBUH) was subjected to verbal and physical humiliation. He even escaped assassination by migrating to Madina. He was accused of forgery, the Holy prophet (PBUH) was repeatedly mocked by unbelievers times without number. The Holy Qur’an points out that his opponents claimed he was “a madman” [23:71].

In view of the aforesaid, is it not a serious act of blasphemy to say that the Holy prophet’s (PBUH) Sunnah or Practice was the same as the cold-blooded killing in Zamfara state? I believed all lovers of the prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and the religion of Islam should ponder over this question seriously.

As a human being, we are all bound by law and order both natural and common laws. The federal republic of Nigeria operates two court systems. Both systems can punish blasphemy; in section 204 of Nigeria’s Criminal Code entitled “Insult to religion”, it stated that:

“Any person who does an act which any class of persons consider as a public insult on their religion, with the intention that they should consider the act such an insult, and any person who does an unlawful act with the knowledge that any class of persons will consider it such an insult, is guilty of a misdemeanor, and is liable to imprisonment for two years”.

Again no place in Nigerian Constitution that give the provision of killing a person or group of persons that commit a blasphemous utterance.

It is time that Muslim scholars, Government and all law enforcement agencies from all over the world to revisit issues such as blasphemy in the light of religion and law rather than falling victims of been silent about it which cannot be substantiated by the divine writ.

If Muslim religious scholars are seriously concerned about the sensitivities of the people with regards to their faith and its holy figures, if Government and law enforcement agencies are seriously concerned with the lives of peoples and their safety, then they must work in tandem to advocate common laws for every religion and religious community begin with being just and fair to the victims of the recent Zamfara state blasphemy massacre by bringing those behind the act to book.

Again and again, Government and law enforcement agencies should ensure that respect must be shown to all religions and freedom of speech must not be seen as a license to hurt and provoke others.

Ibrahim MaiJamaa can be contacted via [email protected]


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