The anti-blasphemy discourse belongs, in the first instance and in the main, to the conscious Muslim – those who, in line with the Quranic posture, adore and respect all the Prophets of the Almighty and would not for any reason impugn neither the personality of the divine nor His chosen servants. This proceeds from the Islamic teaching that Prophets of the Almighty are people of honour and dignity. To disparage either their status or vocation is to invite the Almighty to a war.
In other words, to be Muslim is to respect what others hold dear even if the latter runs contrary to the fundamentals of Islam. This partly explains why there has hardly been one instance when a Muslim has been accused of committing blasphemy, particularly against what, for example, Christians, consider to be divine. Jesus Christ (upon him be peace), enjoys probably one of the best portrayals in the Qur’an; portrayals that may not even be available in the Bible. It is a cardinal faith in our religion that we believe in him as as a prophet of the Almighty and in the uninterpolated message that he brought to the world. The Almighty says -The Messenger (Prophet Muhammad) believes, and so do the believers, in the guidance sent down upon him from his Lord: each of them believes in the Almighty, and in His angels, and in His Books, and in His Messengers. They say: “We make no distinction between any of His Messengers. We hear and obey. Our Lord! Grant us Your forgiveness; to You we are destined to return (Q2: 285).
Thus, Islam considers blasphemy one of the greatest infractions in the sight of the Almighty; it explains why Muslims take offense each time our compatriots decide to impugn the personality of our leader, Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w). In fact, a careful perusal of contemporary Nigerian history shows that the incident in Sokoto during the penultimate week falls into a familiar pattern; the predilection of those who know Christianity better than Jesus Christ to attack what they disbelieve, to subject the prophet of Islam to opprobrium. In other words, the unfortunate event in Sokoto was not the first of its kind. Rather, it was reminiscent of what happened on Saturday, Saturday 16th November, 2001, in which journalist Isioma Daniel, 21, carelessly wrote that Prophet Muhammad would probably have approved of the Miss World competition by “choosing a wife from one of them” (the pageants). You would recall that the unrest that followed the publication of that piece in the This Day Newspaper set off a conflagration across our nation.
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Consequent to a careful analysis of the incidents of blasphemy that have been committed against the Prophet all around the world, it is arguable to say that some if not all the perpetrators were actually aware of the evil that they were committing. They have continued to engage in the act because impugning the personality of the Prophet provides quick access to fame and material comfort. At least, this was true of Isioma Daniel who was given an expedited visa to the United Kingdom after he had set our nation on ‘’fire’ through his unconscionable disparagement of the personality of Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w).
Thus, the anti-blasphemy stand finds patronage among the majority of Muslim scholars. Except for Imam Hanafi who holds that the blasphemer may not be given the capital punishment for his action, other Imams including Maliki, Shafii and Hanbali have all prescribed the death penalty for perpetrators. But in order for such a penalty to be carried out, the suspect would have to be taken through the blade of Islamic judicial system. What this means is that the law in Islam does not allow or encourage mob action such that individuals could take it upon themself to avenge the ill perpetrated either against the Almighty or His prophets. It is against what Islam stands for Muslims, either as individuals or as groups of individuals, to take the law into their hands by meting instance justice to suspects. In fact, one thing an ordinary Muslim could do is to explore the possibility of educating the blasphemer on the evils of his action. The Muslim who hears about blasphemy could engage the blasphemer who may have committed the act based on ignorance or happenstance. The Muslim is under constant obligation to follow the injunction of the Almighty in the Ayat below: You ˹believers˺ shall surely be tested in your wealth and yourselves; you shall certainly hear many hurtful words from those who were given the Scripture before you and ˹from˺ the polytheists. But if you are patient and mindful ˹of Allah˺, surely this is a status to aspire to (Quran 3: 186).
In other words, beyond blasphemy, the blasphemous and its liquidator, there is the station of patience, circumspection, and the opening of the door of repentance even to the blasphemer. It is not a happenstance that those who attacked the Prophet of Islam while he was alive later became his strong followers and defenders of the faith later in life.