By Hamzah Raza
(A Fatwā Penned by nearly 500 of the Indian Subcontinent’s Most Prominent Scholars, including the Founders of the Deobandi and Barelvi Movements Refutes Modern Pakistani Ulema’s Position of the Blasphemy Law)
Pakistan’s Constitution consists of a blasphemy law that states:
“Whoever by words, either spoken or written, or by visible representation or by any imputation, innuendo, or insinuation, directly or indirectly, defiles the sacred name of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) shall be punished with death, or imprisonment for life, and shall also be liable to fine.”
This law has been viewed as very controversial with opposition from Pakistani secularists, religious minorities, and reformist Muslims. On the contrary, Pakistan’s ‘ulamā’ (clergy or scholarly class), particularly in the Deobandi and Barelvi religious movements, have been some of the most avid defenders of the law. An important fatwā from 1923 CE titled Fath Al Mubeen Al Tanbeeh Al Wahabeen (Victory of Clarity and Refutation of the Wahhabis) reveals that Pakistan’s modern day ‘ulamā’ have unintentionally broken away from the way that the ‘ulamā’ who preceded them understood the law. This is problematic as these scholars see themselves as the intellectual inheritors of their legacy.
Fath Al Mubeen Al Tanbeeh Al Wahabeen (Victory of Clarity and Refutation of the Wahhabis), published in 1922 CE, was the result of 466 of the Indian subcontinent’s most influential Islamic legal scholars penning a text that was to refute the rising Wahhābī or Salafist movement, which is known in the Indian subcontinent as the Ahl e Hadith (People of Hadith). In the introduction to the text, the text is described as one of the most expansive and extensive projects that had yet to take place. The signatures at the end of the text include the stamp of approval from a vast array of ideologies within the Ḥanafī school. Mahmood Al Hassan Shaikh Al Hind, the founder of the Deobandi movement and the original madrassa of Dar Ul Uloom-Deoband, signed the document on page 528 of the text. The Deobandi movement has made its mark both for its large amount of followers, and for the massive amount of madrassas it has constructed. It has been estimated that two-thirds of madrasas in Pakistan are affiliated with the Deobandi movement. Just above the name of the founder of the Deobandi movement is Ahmed Raza Khan, the founder of the Barelvi movement, which boasts over 200 million followers in South Asia, and is second only to the Deobandis in the amount of madrasas it operates.
The document signed by the two largest Islamic movements in South Asia speaks about blasphemy within the view of Imām Abū Ḥanīfa, the founder of the Ḥanafī Islamic legal school, which the majority of Muslims in South Asia ascribe too.
In Urdu, the document cites Abū Ḥanīfa as saying:
“The dhimmī [a protected religious minority in an Islamic polity] who refuses to give up the jizya, kills a Muslim, fornicates with a Muslim woman, or even if he insulted the Prophet (peace be upon him), his state as a dhimmi does not change.” This is interesting because far from being worthy of death, the ruling actually states that this person remains a protected minority, even after insulting the Prophet Muhammad. The document then states that, in the view of Abū Ḥanīfa, a dhimmī could only be killed if he insulted the Prophet Muhammad with adat and kasrat.
Adat in Urdu means habitually while kasrat means profusely. The fatwā then states that this is the view of the Ḥanafī Islamic legal school. It then cites other prominent Ḥanafī legal scholars such as Abu Yusuf Al-Ansari, a direct student of Abū Ḥanīfa; Abū Saud, a Ḥanafī muftī of the Ottoman Empire; and Ibn Al-Humam, a 15th century Ḥanafī jurist, who all take the view that blasphemy cannot be taken as a one time offense.
This becomes particularly noteworthy when taking into account that the most prominent defenders of this blasphemy law are actually Deobandis and Barelvis. A fatwa delivered by Dar Ul Uloom-Deoband, the original madrasa of the Deobandi movement, contradicts the view of Mahmood Al Hassan Shaikh Al Hind, the founder of the madrasa. The fatwā of Dar Ul Uloom-Deoband states that “Under an Islamic country, the culprit of blasphemy is to be killed.”  The most prominent defender of Pakistan’s blasphemy law is Khadim Hussain Rizvi, a Barelvi preacher-politician, who is leader of the Tehreek-e-Labaik (TLP) party, Pakistan’s fastest growing political party. Rizvi has described himself as “a lover of Ahmed Raza Khan” and stated that he kisses the dirt that he walks on. Under his leadership, members of the TLP have stated that those who oppose the blasphemy law “deserve to be killed.” By this logic, Rizvi’s very intellectual forebearer would have to be killed. The viewpoints of these scholars in regard to blasphemy actually contradict the views of the founders of the Deobandi and Barelvi movements, and those of the Ḥanafī school overall.
Pakistan’s current blasphemy law is not in line with the view of the Ḥanafī legal school, nor is it line with the way that the molders of some of Pakistan’s most influential Islamic movements such as the Barelvi and Deobandi movements understood the law. It is particularly important to note that ironically, the defense of the blasphemy law by modern Pakistani ‘ulamā’ is actually a deviation from the views of the scholars that these Barelvi and Deobandi scholars claim to follow.
“Allama Khadim Hussain Rizvi about Imam Ahmad Raza Khan Barelvi (R.A)│New Bayan
2017.” YouTube, YouTube, 27 Aug. 2017, www.youtube.com/watch?v=A8T67He0yDA.
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The Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. www.na.gov.pk/uploads/documents/1333523681_951.pdf.
Griffiths, James. “Pakistani Christian Asia Bibi Has Death Penalty Conviction Overturned.” CNN, Cable News Network, 31 Oct. 2018, www.cnn.com/2018/10/31/asia/pakistan-asia-bibi-blasphemy-intl/index.html.
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Shariasourceblog. “In The News: Blasphemy Laws in Pakistan.” SHARIAsource Blog, 6 Aug. 2018, shariasource.blog/2018/08/01/in-the-news-blasphemy-laws-in-pakistan/.
 The Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. www.na.gov.pk/uploads/documents/1333523681_951.pdf.
 Lahori, Muhammad Tariq. Fatah Ul Mobeen Fi Tanbeeh Ul Wahabeen By Maulana Mansoor Ali Khan. AlNoor Publications, 2013.
 Sareen, Sushant. The Jihad Factory: Pakistan’s Islamic Revolution in the Making. Observer Research Foundation in Association with Har-Anand Publications, 2005.
 “Barelvi – Oxford Reference.” Dominant Social Paradigm – Oxford Reference, Oxford University Press, 16 June 2017, www.oxfordreference.com/view/10.1093/oi/authority.20110803095446664?rskey=cR0074&result=2&q=barelvi.
 Lahori, Muhammad Tariq. Fatah Ul Mobeen Fi Tanbeeh Ul Wahabeen.
 “Allama Khadim Hussain Rizvi about Imam Ahmad Raza Khan Barelivi (R.A)│New Bayan 2017.” YouTube, 27 Aug. 2017, www.youtube.com/watch?v=A8T67He0yDA.
 Griffiths, James. “Pakistani Christian Asia Bibi Has Death Penalty Conviction Overturned.” CNN, Cable News Network, 31 Oct. 2018, www.cnn.com/2018/10/31/asia/pakistan-asia-bibi-blasphemy-intl/index.html.