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Islam, Blasphemy, And The Surge In Mob Mentality Of Pakistan

On the 11th of February, a mob in Nankana Sahib District lynched a man accused of Blasphemy. Muhammad Waris, in his mid-30s, was alleged of desecrating the Quran, The Holy Book of Muslims. 


The mob broke into the police station, where the accused was held, dragged him out, and killed him. Later on, the dead body was dragged into the streets naked. People threw stones and sticks at the body. According to the reports, police could not resist them because fewer officials were present at the police station.



“The angry mob stormed the police station using a wooden ladder, dragged him out, and beat him to death,” Waqas Khalid, a police spokesperson, told the Guardian. “After the lynching, they were still unsatisfied and tried to burn his body,” he added.


This is a heinous act by Pakistani Muslims and is not the first. Pakistan has been under the umbrella of religious violence that has cost many lives from high-profile murders to those of common people. Minorities like Hindus and Christians have also suffered from religious extremism.


“I cannot even think of insulting any prophet. I didn’t say anything. It was all about a glass of water.” said Asia Bibi, the Pakistani Christian who spent eight years on death row on blasphemy charges. 


"Innocents should not be punished for no reason and people who are innocent, in prison, should be freed," she called on Pakistan Government.


The astonishing point is that most of the accused were executed by an emotionally charged mob or a religiously emotional individual. As news of blasphemy spreads in an area, a mob gathers, and riots erupt. The crowd usually demands the immediate death of the accused, causing severe destruction to human and Government property. 


A similar incident occurred recently on Feb. 3 in a school in Peshawar. Riots erupted in Peshawar Model Degree College after a teacher allegedly insulted the companions of Prophet Muhammad. Students indulged in riots and vandalized college furniture, window panes, school buses, and parked vehicles. They demanded action against the faculty member for alleged blasphemy. The blasphemous content was written on an examination paper.

What the students have done is totally an illiterate act. They just followed in the footsteps of their elders without getting into the reality of the matter.


It is critical for people to understand what blasphemy is. The words may be taken out of context. Essentially, accusers are not given the opportunity to prove their innocence. In addition, people can falsely accuse one another of blasphemy to avenge their feuds. Blasphemy laws are used under the pretext of religious protection, which is one of the reasons to be investigated.


Victims Of Blasphemy from left to right (Asia Bibi, Priyantha Diyawadan, Shahbaz Bhatti, Salman Taseer, Mashal Khan, and Ayub Masih)

One such case was reported in Dec. 2021 when Priyantha Diyawadan, a Sri Lankan national and manager in Pakistan, was beaten to death by a mob of factory workers for blasphemy charges. He tore down a poster on the factory wall that wrote holy Salatutions on the Prophet (p.b.u.h). The angry mob punished him to death and accused him of disrespecting the Prophet without thinking, how can a foreigner know a language that is unknown to him? He was just trying to impose discipline.

Another case was of a university student, Mashal Khan. Mashal was alleged of posting blasphemous content online, which Police denied later. He was lynched in his hostel during which he kept saying “I am a true follower of Muhammad, do not beat me”, but no one took empathy for him.  

Also, blasphemy laws provide more protection to the accuser than the accused, and the chances of conviction are higher given the death sentence as a penalty. The judiciary mostly overturns the penalty, but this rarely happens as the monopoly of violence lies in the hands of a fanatic.


In 2008, a Pakistani Christian, Asia Bibi, faced blasphemy allegations and was imprisoned on death row until her verdict was reviewed after pressure was placed on the Pakistani government. As a result, she was exiled to Canada in 2019. Similarly, Ayub Masih, who faced death row for alleged blasphemy, was also freed and exiled after a prominent Human rights activist,  Bishop John Joseph, shot himself as a means of protest against the cruel treatment of Christians in Pakistan. 


A photo of Bishop John Joseph 


The tyranny of some religious scholars is so intense that those opposed to these laws are condemned as non-Muslims, punishable by death. Some scholars even encourage their followers to unleash terror on such people. No one is safe, not even a high-ranking politician, a common Muslim, or a minority.

Minorities Minister Shahbaz Bhatti and Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer both cost their lives to advocate for Asia Bibi’s behalf and oppose the blasphemy laws.

The point of discussion here is whether there is any evidence from the Quran and Hadith regarding the punishment for blasphemy. The answer is no, and  I believe any Pakistani Muslim who is asked to quote a Hadith or Ayah regarding the blasphemy penalty will have no response.

What Quran And Hadith Have To Say About Blasphemy

Islam is an Arabic word that means ‘peace.’ It was revealed through the Last Prophet Muhammad(p.b.u.h). Muhammad faced many hardships in spreading Islam. Nevertheless, he spread the words of Islam through love and peace, not by the force of the sword.

No single ayah in the Quran mentions death or any other punishment for blasphemy. Several punishments are mentioned in Quran, for example, cutting the hands of a thief and flogging the adulterer. Still, there is not any kind of physical punishment mentioned for a blasphemer. The Quran in Surah Kahf ayat 29 says:

 "The truth is from your Lord, so whoever wills - let him believe; and whoever wills - let him disbelieve." 

It clearly shows that Islam gives freedom of belief to everyone. If blasphemy were punishable by death in Islam, then the Prophet would have been the first to order the killing of hundreds of his foes, who later became his closest companions.

Allah in Quran tells the Prophet Muhammad and His believer that you will hear many things that will hurt you from those who have received scripture before you and from the polytheists, but you have to be patient, determined, and mindful of God.

With the exception of a few earlier Arabs who accepted the Prophet as the Messenger of Allah, the majority of people of Makkah opposed him, humiliated him, cursed or blasphemed him, or even tried to kill him. Yet, he preferred to practice forgiveness and to seek divine mercy for them.

The older woman who used to throw garbage on the Prophet was visited by him when he did not see her throwing it anymore to learn that she was not well. The people of Taif injured Muhammad (p.b.u.h), Gabriel (the angel) came and asked permission to crush the people between the mountains, but the Prophet refused, saying they were illiterate, they did not know the truth.

The people of Makkah had mocked and ridiculed the Prophet. Quran has repeated these blasphemies and even answered them. Many people called Muhammad a Magician and Madman, but Muhammad never ordered the killing of anyone. Instead, He forgave them and prayed for them.

After the conquest of Makkah, when Muhammad made Madinah an Islamic state, no such laws were made for a blasphemer. And even after the death of the Prophet, during the reign of the rightly guided caliphs, no such laws were imposed.

Blasphemy Law In Pakistan-Inherited from British Rule


Pakistan inherited its blasphemy laws from the British Colonial Evidence Act of 1872. As a result, Pakistan's Criminal Code has its blasphemy laws. For instance, code 295 forbids damaging or defiling a place of worship or a sacred object, code 295A forbids outraging religious feelings, code 295 B forbids defiling the Quran, and code 295 C forbids defaming Prophet Muhammad. The Criminal Law Amendment Act of 1986 enacts the death penalty for blasphemy.

Most Muslim countries have blasphemy laws that allow the death penalty as the only punishment. Among them, Indonesia has a balanced approach to the blasphemy law.

Article 156(a) states that "any person expressing hatred, violence, or misusing a particular religion recognized in Indonesia will face imprisonment for a maximum of five years."

Data provided by National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP) shows a total of 776 Muslims, 505 Ahmedis, 229 Christians, and 30 Hindus have been accused under various clauses of the blasphemy law from 1987 until 2018.


The vast majority of these cases were lodged for desecration of the Koran - far fewer than blasphemy against the Prophet Muhammad.


Is Mob Mentality Justified In Islam


Capital punishment in Islam is applied in the case of apostasy, murder, adultery, waging war against Allah and His Messenger, and spying. But these are to be announced by the judges(Qazi’s) according to the scenario and the situation and after listening to the accuser. Therefore, common Muslims cannot take the matter and announce the judgment themselves.

Mob mentality is never justified in any system, especially in the Islamic system, says Dr. Yasir Qadhi, a preacher and a theologian. In an Islamic land, mockery of Allah and his prophets is forbidden. 

The open mockery of Allah and his messengers hurts Muslim sentiments worldwide, but violence is never the answer. Fiqh laws and regulations must be involved in order to combat it. Taking the law into one's own hands and justifying it is not allowed.

The books of Fiqah are very clear about blasphemy. Anything that is blasphemous must be explicit, unambiguous, and clear and must be intentional. However, several scholars claim that, even if the victim seeks forgiveness and it was done with an intention, it still needs to be granted. 

The mob mentality exists because our people have allowed it and acted upon it. Some leaders and clerics have preached hatred of others for decades. Our understanding of Islam and Seerah (The life of the prophet Muhammad) is to concentrate on our faults rather than others. If a Christian says God has a son, it may seem blasphemous to Muslims, but there is nothing wrong with it because it is their belief. Islam teaches us to respect others' beliefs. However, we lack knowledge and wisdom about Islam and respond violently to opponents. We think we are protecting Islam, but the reality of it all is that we are not. We are actually misrepresenting it.

An Action Needed

In conclusion, the mob mentality of Pakistan has caused many individuals to lose their lives in cases of alleged blasphemy. The Quaran and books of Fiqah do not condone this violence, but the British Colonial Evidence Act of 1872 has created blasphemy laws that have led to this outcome, and the arrogance of extremists has reached a point where they do not want to listen to any argument based on the Quran and the teachings of the Quran. 

Muslim scholars worldwide need to revisit issues such as blasphemy based on the Quran and Sunna rather than falling victim to unsubstantiated positions.

Muslim scholars should advocate common laws for every religious community and religion if they are concerned about people's sensitivities regarding their faith and holy figures. Laws must be strengthened along with religious harmony in society to prevent such crimes against humanity.

The un-Quanic and un-Prophetic practices adopted by many Muslim scholars must be challenged. Islam is not the monopoly of self-imposed scholars. It is a faith given to people for their well-being and guidance without any interference from any authority other than Allah, the Almighty. Those who assume the divine role in condemning people and deciding their life and death must be challenged, and what better way than to seek the repelling of blasphemy law in light of the Quran and Sunna?


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