Articles by Vision21, Iqbal Series
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What is Blasphemy?

Shaista Kazmi

Blasphemy, in its literal meanings, is defined as a behavior or language expressing disrespect for God or for something sacred

The issue of blasphemy, highlighted again by the recent banning of certain websites in Pakistan, has caught the attention of everyone again, through debates on media. I also read and heard different versions of thought on the issues of blasphemy. While due to the rapid transmission of the message throughout the country, and due to pressure generated by the perceived angry reaction( read road demonstrations resulting in injuries, burning , destruction and looting) of the people, authorities were keen to ban the sites within a few hours.

On the other side, it also gave birth to a serious question in my mind that ‘what the hell is blasphemy’ indeed?

As an ordinary Muslim, I may not be an authority to speak on Islam,(although Islam never limited or restricted opinion formation , to any ‘authority’), still the concept of blasphemy, as it is practiced in Pakistan at least, seems skewed, lacking commonsense and dare I say quite the opposite to what we learn as Muslims were the teachings of the prophet whose very honour we are trying to protect. Doesn’t that sound how we define the word ‘hypocricy’?

With our outrageous behaviour of killing, injuring, looting and burning do not we defile what the Prophet termed as sacred for Muslims and human beings? And thus by not listening to what he commanded do we not commit blasphemy?

It is saddening ( and not surprisingly lacking common sense) that, where the blasphemy laws deal with the cases such as Reciting prayers in a language other than Arabic (Indonesia); being alone with persons of the opposite sex who are not blood relatives; practicing yoga (Malaysia); watching a film or listening to music (Somalia); wearing make-up on television (Iran); and touching a Quran or touching something that has touched a Quran because the individuals were not Muslim (Nigeria), it shuts its eyes to what the life of the Prophet exemplifies. Yes that is his Sunnah.

While speaking about the sacredness of the Islamic beliefs and practices, how can the self styled and self declared saviours of the Islamic customs just ignore what the prophet had made sure to convey to them by asking it thrice in his last address that ‘have I conveyed the message of Allah to you?’

He laid out clearly as to what is sacred to the believers, when he said, “Allah, the Blessed, the Supreme, has made your blood, your property and your honor as sacred as this day of yours in this town of yours, in this month of yours (and such protection cannot be slighted) except rightfully.”

And then he alarmed that ‘do not revert to disbelief after me by cutting the necks of each other.‘

Where do we stand today in the light of Prophet’s message?

Is the blood, property and human dignity and honour, any matter of concern for us? Does anyone really deem these as sacred?

If we look around ourselves, what we see rampant around us is hunger, poverty, injustice, and people deprived of their rights. Despite seeing it all around us every day, did anyone ever take out a procession against the demeaning and dehumaising levels of poverty that more than 70% of us live in?

The crux and thrust of the message of Islam revolves around the significance of the right of the human beings. The objectives of the prophet was the conveyance of the divine messages, reform of society and the liberation of man from the clutches of perversion, crime and moral decay and taking them out from the depths of ignorance of their being. Their objective was to free him from the evils of tyrants and oppressors and to wean them off backwardness and superstition.

But we will still see around us that the touching of Quran by a non Muslim is an issue of blasphemy and dying of hunger is not. We still place the pages of Quran at the highest place in our homes but completely ignore the message it proclaims.

The message of God as the prophet conveyed is that Islam is the synonym for peace. Peace, I repeat the word. Islam stands for the justice. It stands against the discrimination of any kind and oppression and harassment of the weak. If anything it stands for is then it is these underlying principles, revitalizing the human dignity and a just society. A path for human beings that help them form a just society, enhancing life on earth and, making use of its resources and materials ( in moderation and as a trust) and using human and intellectual energies for the benefit of other humans.

Islam is about just distribution and use of resources equitably to all members of society with a view to nip in the bud the formation of any category of economic or social classes. This was the message of the Prophet and the principles of Islam in its human and social dimensions.

What was the message the Prophet conveyed to Meccan woman when he went to see how she was? The woman who used to throw garbage on him daily, when she was not there to through the dirt on him one day?

What did he mean when he told the people to choose for their brothers the same what they like for themselves?


Do we have the moral nerve to give the people what we like for ourselves? Is not the desecration of the teachings and orders of the God and prophet, not following these teachings the blasphemy then?

He asked his people thrice whether he conveyed His message.

Why are we silent then? Silent in practice… Do we still not know what is sacred? Or we are not his people?

We are indeed all blasphemers. And those demonstrating to protect his honour, who defile and desecrate his teachings by their very acts of arson and pillaging, while completely ignoring his message against poverty, injustice and human misery are the biggest blasphemers of us all.

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Vision 21 is Pakistan based non-profit, non- party Socio-Political organisation. We work through research and advocacy for developing and improving Human Capital, by focusing on Poverty and Misery Alleviation, Rights Awareness, Human Dignity, Women empowerment and Justice as a right and obligation. We act to promote and actively seek Human well-being and happiness by working side by side with the deprived and have-nots.

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