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The Blasphemy law-By Qaisar Sultan

The vehemence of religious parties in Pakistan in favor of killing Assai Begum is both religiously and politically driven. You read about religious politicians asking for the death sentence and not less. Are they sure that this woman had made those comments. They have to prove the love of God and His prophet; and ignoring the true spirit of religion. In Islamic jurisprudence, the true justice was the purest spirit. They did not like to commit injustice by listening and relying on hearsay and innuendoes. And even in the blasphemy issue they were highly sensitive to taking human life. Is it not the Sharia law that allows some relief to the indicted person to give benefit of doubt? A religion of justice and compassion should not be maligned by politically driven zealots. In a politically charged environment where everything is about power and procession, we should be extremely careful about taking someone life. There is a clause in the blasphemy laws that suggest if the blasphemer recants or shows repentance and remorse than the person should be forgiven. There is another course of action that permits the accused to leave the country. How they could wish to persecute a woman who denied the allegation by telling the prosecutor that she was framed by two women who she had some dispute. In fact, those two women, who have brought the allegation, should be cross examined, and a discovery should be established to find the truth. The blasphemy laws that are based on the Sharia laws have a history of disagreement and revival throughout Islamic rules and era. Here we are presenting our religion to the world ruled by an angry mob mentality.

The nomadic life where Islam originated went through an evolution of governance and changing its jurisprudence when it spread into urban life of varying cultures. After four caliphates period and the horrible murders of caliphs, split the religion into sects. It was hard to arrive to one fiqh, describing the Sharia laws.  Though the Sharia laws, meaning “path” were based on Quran and Sunnah, the life and saying of prophet, called “hadith”. The interpretation grew complex and point of contention to its reliability, nature and adaptation in the lives of Muslim societies.  There were so many varying interpretations of Sharia laws that the adaptation became controversial. The Hanafi, Shafii, Hanbali, Maliki and Jafari’s fiqh disputed each other, some lightly and some wholeheartedly, that the future Islamic unity was threatened. If we look at the modern Muslim states, we find five different school of thoughts adapted by different countries. The Hanafi, more liberal fiqh, has been followed by Turkey, Pakistan, India and central Asia, Indonesia and Malaysia stick to the Shafii fiq; Saudi Arabia and Taliban have embraced Hanbali, the most orthodox fiqh; and we find Maliki in North African countries; and Jafari’s fiqh in Iran and now in Iraq.

Though Islamic justice was practiced during the first four caliphs, it was the Abbasid period that the school of Islamic laws evolved. The Sharia slowly advanced into a documented form after 750 AD. When the issue of Ra’y that was argued and decided between the Ulama and Qadis, Malik Ibn Anas started working on codifying the Muslim jurisprudence, what was simply ad hoc system based on not purely Quran and Sunnah, but the tribal and cultural sensitivities were added through time? The governors from different regions who appointed the Qadis had to oblige the local population. The Qadis were able to sanction and interpret the Sharia laws. During the Abbasid period some of the greatest Islamic jurists completed the Sharia laws that are being followed today.  The application and practice of judicial principles based on the interpretation were seriously applied to override the hadith by Hanafi and Shafii schools of Islamic jurisprudence. Finally, the reality of analogy was accepted by the Hanbali. The Medina scholars lost the influence on the Islamic jurisprudence. The Quran, Sunnah and the analogy took strong hold on the way cases were decided. After the French revolution, British ascendency, colonialism and American independence, the civil laws became more acceptable. There were issues, especially in the civil cases, such as mercantile legal issues, the Muslim countries adapted some of the civil laws practiced in the west.

The problem appears when Hadd punishments, ordered for theft, adultery, rape, murder, blasphemy; including flogging, stoning, amputation, and execution that brought the world attention. If we look at those countries that follow Hanafi fiqh, such as Turkey and Pakistan, the discretion of Shari’at courts find a way to avoid severe punishments which has brought these countries in line with the modern civil laws. In the absence of rule of law, the harsh nature of Muslim rulers who are more interested in their own power and money, the Sharia laws combined with the duplicity of civil laws, have caused confusion and injustice. The dual legal system does not justify correctly the Sharia laws or civil laws. But, in the cases of unforgiving punishment, the state has to be extremely cautious to implement severe interpretation of the Islamic laws. The religious extreme view of adhering to Sharia laws is very much politically oriented. They do not care if the world turns against us due to the killing of a woman, most probably innocent. They wish to overturn the government if the execution would be commuted to a lenient punishment. They would not ask for hanging the Taliban murders, arsonists, sabotagers and terrorists. The minorities in Pakistan are always threatened by the religious groups. They have killed so many Christians and burnt their churches. We are already perceived as uncivil people in the world as the terrorists do destruction in the name of our religion. We are getting tired telling the world that Islam is a religion of peace and justice. The issue of Assia begum has brought the attention of the world leaders, including the pope. Should we allow few religious zealots to give Muslims and the religion of Islam a bad name? The government, if there is one in Pakistan right now, should pardon this woman and permit her to leave the country. We do not wish to open the flood gate of more hatred against our religion. We should be showing the world that it is only a small group of religious nuts who cause the mayhem in the world. The majority of Muslims are not part of the vigilantly chastisement; and do not support the extreme and savage punishments for possibly false hearsay charges of insulting our prophet. We should not repeat the ruthlessness of the Spanish inquisition in the name of religion and faith that eventually forced the exodus of Muslims and Jews from Spain. The tribunal “Holy” office tortured even followers of other Christian sects due to their belief that any other way of practicing Christianity was heresy.  The religious fervor and zealotry of Isabella and Ferdinand demonstrated the extreme view of any faith. God, His book and His prophet do not require the protection from the callousness of some orthodox zealots.

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