بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
والصلاة والسلام على سيد المرسلين
Mere hours ago, Tahir Nasim was murdered in open court in Peshawar by a young man, Muhammad Khalid, who is being hailed as a hero of Islam by many Muslims in Pakistan.
ان لله وان اليه راجعون
Tahir Nasim, who like myself hails from an Ahmadiyyah background, but left the organization, claimed to be the Mujaddid (divinely appointed Reformer) of the 15th century after Hijrah, the Mathil (resemblance) of the Messiah, and a prophet in the same sense that Mirza Ghulam Ahmad used the term to describe himself, that is, a Zilli and Buruzi prophet. He propagated his claim to prophesy on social media. This attracted the attention of hard line elements among the Muslims of Pakistan, and subsequently he was arrested in 2018 and charged with a whole range of blasphemy offenses, the most serious of them being 295-B (defiling the holy Quran) and 295-C (blasphemy against the Prophet Muhammad (sall Allahu alaihi wasallam). The controversial murder of Tahir Nasim deserves dispassionate examination. Prior to his murder, a Pakistani gentleman and another prophesy-claimant, Asad Shah, who also hailed from an Ahmadiyyah background, was murdered in his shop in Glasgow, Scotland, by a Muslim of Pakistani descent, Tanwir Ahmad in 2016. He too is considered a ghazi and a hero, especially among Pakistani Sunni Muslims. In 2010, a British citizen of Pakistani origin, Muhammad Asghar, an elderly man diagnosed with schizophrenia, who allegedly was claiming to be a prophet in certain letters, was arrested in Pakistan under its notorious blasphemy laws. While in Adiala Jail (where I recently spent five months, also charged with blasphemy but now released on bail) one of the prison guards attempted to murder Muhammad Asghar. The latter not only survived, he was released from custody and returned to the UK. All three of these incidents were essentially inspired by the murder of Salman Tasir, the former governor of Punjab, in 2010 at the hands of his own bodyguard, Mumtaz Husain Qadiri. The murder of Salman Tasir was motivated by his speaking out before the media and press in favor of a Christian lady accused of blasphemy (295-C) against the Prophet (sall Allahu alaihi wasallam). Incidentally, that lady, named Asiya, was found not guilty and ordered released by the Supreme Court last year. She subsequently departed for Canada, and presently is considering asylum that has been offered to her by France. Before his extrajudicial murder, Salman Tasir had termed 295-C a “black law”, which caused considerable backlash from hard line religious elements in the country, and was a huge factor in why his own bodyguard decided to kill him.
I recently began a series of articles on religious freedom, and explained my position on the controversial subjects of apostasy and heresy, but thus far have not explained my position on blasphemy. I shall use this opportunity to discuss my views, in general, on this sensitive issue.
So I strongly condemn the murder of Tahir Nasim, and of Syed Asad Shah before him. I consider both of them to be martyrs, if Allah wills, and pray for their forgiveness. May Allah have mercy on their souls (Amin).
Note, I do not necessarily agree with their respective claims of being prophets (in whatever sense they intended). However, from my perspective, their claims, in their essence, were not claims that expel someone from the fold of Islam. The question for me is whether or not they were truthful in claiming to possess prophesy (in whatever sense they intended). I leave the matter in Allah's holy and blessed Hands, He is the ultimate Judge. It appears that both of these gentlemen claimed prophesy in the same sense they understood Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian to be a prophet.
I would also like to make it clear that I do not actually hold the young man, Muhammad Khalid, responsible for the murder of Tahir Nasim. He is a brainwashed youth and appears to have been misled and indoctrinated by the medieval minded Mullas of Pakistani society. Therefore, those Mullas who are saluting and congratulating Muhammad Khalid, are the ones who are truly guilty of Tahir Nasim's murder. As far as I'm concerned, it is their hands that are covered in the blood of Tahir Nasim.
The blasphemy laws in Pakistan are not only misused and misapplied, they are in fact hopelessly flawed due to ambiguous wording. Thus, even some “orthodox” traditionalist Sunni Muslim scholars, notably Professor Tahir ul-Qadiri, have criticized the procedural aspect of the blasphemy laws. Blasphemy is intentional disrespect and desecration directed against that which is holy, such as Allah Most High, His Prophets, His Angels, and His Scriptures. Thus if someone, with the intention of disrespect, curses the Prophet (sall Allahu alaihi wasallam) or desecrates a copy of the Quran, they have committed blasphemy. Anyone who is apparently a Muslim and commits blasphemy by cursing a Prophet or desecrating the holy Quran, is undoubtedly no longer a Muslim, but an apostate. Whether there is an Earthly punishment for the one guilty of blasphemy is subject to discussion, and is a contested issue that is debated among Muslims. My own position is quite nuanced. I shall (in sha Allah) write a detailed article on the subject, but for now shall give my general position, which is that there does not appear in the Shari'ah to be an earthly punishment for blasphemy, especially if it is not a severe kind of blasphemy. Thus I make a distinction between levels of blasphemy in severity. It is known, for example, that the chief of the hypocrites, Ibn Ubayy, committed blasphemy against the Prophet (sall Allahu alaihi wasallam) by saying he is (God forbid), the “meanest of men”, yet he was not subject to any Earthly punishment on account of this obvious blasphemy and disrespect. Therefore, the issue is not so black and white, though the bigoted section of Mullas assert that even the slightest blasphemy against the Prophet's holy personage (sall Allahu alaihi wasallam) must be dealt with by the sword, and even if the blasphemer begs for forgiveness and repents from his blasphemy. So we see in Pakistan that the vast majority of those who are charged with blasphemy against the Prophet (sall Allahu alaihi wasallam) under 295-C of the PPC are not actually guilty of deliberately cursing or swearing at the Prophet (sall Allahu alaihi wasallam). Mens rea is therefore a necessary part of the definition of blasphemy.
It is noteworthy that that which many of the bigoted Mullas consider blasphemy is not actually blasphemy because it lacks the element of intention to disrespect. Rather, they are examples of differences in creed and doctrine. Many Mullas consider the doctrine that Prophets are capable of sinning or erring blasphemous. Whether this doctrine is correct or incorrect is another matter, but the fact is that the Muslim who believes in it is not guilty of blasphemy because their intention is not to disrespect or insult the Prophets in personally believing or even propagating this idea. Likewise, it is obvious that the Christians, Jews, and members of other religions, who do not believe in the Prophet Muhammad (sall Allahu alaihi wasallam), and may even consider him a false prophet (God forbid), are not guilty of blasphemy. That is simply their belief, which they are entitled to hold as per the teachings of Islam itself.
Keeping this principle in mind, let us now consider the issue of someone claiming to be a prophet after the Last Prophet Muhammad (sall Allahu alaihi wasallam). According to the extremist Mulla of Pakistan, such a claimant is by default a blasphemer and it is necessary to execute him. Yet logic dictates that by simply claiming to be a prophet it does not follow that the claimant is intending to disrespect the Prophet Muhammad (sall Allahu alaihi wasallam). And practically speaking, the majority of prophet-claimants that have arisen within the Ummah simultaneously asserted their allegiance and respect for the Prophet Muhammad (sall Allahu alaihi wasallam). If they were disbelievers and apostates, it was because they were lying upon Allah, not because they intended to commit blasphemy. Therefore, as far as I'm concerned, someone merely claiming to be a prophet is not ipso facto a blasphemer.
*Here I would like to explain that in my understanding, someone who claims to be a prophet in the sense that he is abrogating the Shari'ah of Prophet Muhammad (sall Allahu alaihi wasallam), and claims that a new Scripture or Law has been revealed to him, such a claim is kufr akbar or major disbelief. Most individuals who make such a claim do not self identity as Muslims. The Baha'is, for example, who believe Mirza Husayn Ali Nuri was a prophet in this sense, do not identify as a Muslim sect, but consider themselves a separate community and adherents of an independent religion. Nevertheless, in a scenario in which someone professes to be a Muslim while making this claim, they may indeed be a disbeliever in the sight of Allah, but as I have explained, we are not in a position to brand them non-Muslim disbeliever. On the other hand, someone who claims to be a prophet but subordinate to the Shari'ah of Prophet Muhammad, remaining within his Ummah, and does not bring a new law or scripture, in my view such a claim is not in it of itself kufr akbar. It is certainly possible the claimant is a liar, but his or her claim is not disbelief or apostasy from Islam in itself.
In conclusion, I strongly condemn the senseless murder of Tahir Nasim. For me, he was a Muslim entitled to all the rights of a Muslim. Hypothetically, if he wasn't a Muslim, it was still wrong to murder him, for Allah says the murder of a single soul is akin to the murder of all humanity (Surah 5:32).