There Is No Punishment for Blasphemy in Islam

Many Muslims believe that blasphemy (ridiculing) Islam or Prophet Muhammad demands a penalty. Some Muslims even take matters into their own hands and kill people who ridicule the prophet. However, the Quran does not prescribe any penalty for blasphemy. As a matter of fact, the Quran indicates that the prophet himself was often ridiculed in person and the prophet was told to simply ignore them as if to let God deal with them.

Blasphemy towards Prophet Muhammad, the Quran and God Himself

We see in the Quran that Prophet Muhammad

  • was mocked and ridiculed (37:12) like the messengers before him (13:32; 15:11; 21:41)
  • was called an inventor, forger, liar (16:101; 25:4)
  • was called a man who was bewitched (17:47; 25:8)
  • was called a possessed poet (37:36)

We also see in the Quran that it was called

  • “Muddled dreams” (21:5)
  • “Foreign, outlandish” (16:103
  • an invention, a forgery (38:7)
  • Tales of the men of the past (25:5)

Of course, the gravest blasphemy was that done against God Himself (7:180)

وَلِلَّهِ الْأَسْمَاءُ الْحُسْنَىٰ فَادْعُوهُ بِهَا ۖ وَذَرُوا الَّذِينَ يُلْحِدُونَ فِي أَسْمَائِهِ ۚ سَيُجْزَوْنَ مَا كَانُوا يَعْمَلُونَ
And to Allah belong the best names, so invoke Him by them. but shun such men as use profanity (Arabic: Yul’hiduna) in His names. They will be recompensed for what they have been doing. (7:180)

The Arabic word “yul-hiduna” means to blaspheme, deviate, violate, distort, pervert.

Nowhere in the Quran did any of these insults attract the death penalty. Rather, the advice given was to be patient as indicated in 38:17 and 20:130.

اصْبِرْ عَلَىٰ مَا يَقُولُونَ وَاذْكُرْ عَبْدَنَا دَاوُودَ ذَا الْأَيْدِ ۖ إِنَّهُ أَوَّابٌ
Be patient over what they say and remember Our servant, David, the possessor of strength; indeed, he was one who repeatedly turned back [to Allah ]. (38:17)
فَاصْبِرْ عَلَىٰ مَا يَقُولُونَ وَسَبِّحْ بِحَمْدِ رَبِّكَ قَبْلَ طُلُوعِ الشَّمْسِ وَقَبْلَ غُرُوبِهَا ۖ وَمِنْ آنَاءِ اللَّيْلِ فَسَبِّحْ وَأَطْرَافَ النَّهَارِ لَعَلَّكَ تَرْضَىٰ
So be patient over what they say and exalt [ Allah ] with praise of your Lord before the rising of the sun and before its setting; and during periods of the night [exalt Him] and at the ends of the day, that you may be satisfied. (38:17)

The Right to Kill

From the Quran’s perspective, the right to kill is only allowable in two circumstances.

  1. As a retribution for murder (punishable by the state). (5:32)
  2. As a retribution for causing ‘fasaad’ (gross mischief, spreading corruption, evil, beyond all bounds) in the land (punishable by the state). (5:33-34)

Murder (5:32)

مِنْ أَجْلِ ذَٰلِكَ كَتَبْنَا عَلَىٰ بَنِي إِسْرَائِيلَ أَنَّهُ مَن قَتَلَ نَفْسًا بِغَيْرِ نَفْسٍ أَوْ فَسَادٍ فِي الْأَرْضِ فَكَأَنَّمَا قَتَلَ النَّاسَ جَمِيعًا …
Because of that, We decreed upon the Children of Israel that whoever kills a soul unless for a soul or for corruption [done] in the land – it is as if he had slain mankind entirely. … (5:32)

“Fasaad” (gross evil beyond bounds) (5:33-34)

إِنَّمَا جَزَاءُ الَّذِينَ يُحَارِبُونَ اللَّهَ وَرَسُولَهُ وَيَسْعَوْنَ فِي الْأَرْضِ فَسَادًا أَن يُقَتَّلُوا أَوْ يُصَلَّبُوا أَوْ تُقَطَّعَ أَيْدِيهِمْ وَأَرْجُلُهُم مِّنْ خِلَافٍ أَوْ يُنفَوْا مِنَ الْأَرْضِ ۚ ذَٰلِكَ لَهُمْ خِزْيٌ فِي الدُّنْيَا ۖ وَلَهُمْ فِي الْآخِرَةِ عَذَابٌ عَظِيمٌ إِلَّا الَّذِينَ تَابُوا مِن قَبْلِ أَن تَقْدِرُوا عَلَيْهِمْ ۖ فَاعْلَمُوا أَنَّ اللَّهَ غَفُورٌ رَّحِيمٌ
Indeed, the penalty for those who wage war against Allah and His Messenger and strive upon earth [to cause] corruption is none but that they be killed or crucified or that their hands and feet be cut off from opposite sides or that they be exiled from the land. That is for them a disgrace in this world; and for them in the Hereafter is a great punishment. Except for those who return [repenting] before you apprehend them. And know that Allah is Forgiving and Merciful. (5:33-34)

Note that 5:33 uses the word “strive” (Arabic: ya-ouna) which indicates that the corruption and evil done is one that is repeated with serious efforts. What’s also interesting to note about verses 5:33-34 are the punishment options:

  • Execution
  • Crucifixion
  • Exile

What is also significant is verse 5:34 which states that if evildoers repent before they are captured, then they should not be punished according to 5:33.

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