On Muhammad and death for blasphemy

On Thursday, May 12, a grisly video surfaced on Twitter.

Deborah Emmanuel, a student of the Shehu Shagari College of Education in Sokoto State, Nigeria, was stoned to death by a raging Muslim mob and her body was burnt for alleged blasphemy against Muhammad.

Her killers not only dehumanised her in the most agonising way possible, but also revealed their own faces and boasted of their action in the video footage.

Deborah had in a WhatsApp voice note, reacted against the frequent posting of Muslim contents in their class group chat on the social media platform. According to a translation of her voice note, she reminded her colleagues that the platform was created for school assignments and not distracting broadcast messages which she described as “nonsense.”

This stirred up the anger of her Muslim colleagues who then resolved to kill her. In spite of being kept in hiding by the school security, a Muslim mob surrounded the building, forced their way in, dragged her out and killed her. In the ensuing days, Muslims at different stratas across various social media groups and pages lauded the mob action.

It’s also instructive to note that on that same day, ISWAP released a video where 20 Nigerian Christians were executed to avenge the killing of Islamic leaders in the Middle East.

One of the reasons religious violence keeps occurring in Nigeria is because for decades, the fundamentalist form of Islam that justifies, rationalises and endorses the murder of “infidels” has been upheld by institutions that are supposed to establish justice and sanity.

In a society where maniacs are so indulged, why would violence stop? We have had countless instances of religious violence in Nigeria, but we have not had a matching number of trials and sentencing of the perpetrators. And with the present regime, Islamic fundamentalism has received a boost: it has grown wings and extended its tentacles.

Over a period of days, there have been protests by Muslims urging the authorities to release Deborah’s killers and some key Muslims have reiterated that the penalty for blasphemy was indeed death.

Others have said Deborah should have been handed over to a Sharia court for the right judicial penalty instead of a mob action. This is coming from the same people who want us to believe “Sharia has nothing to do with non-Muslims.” Sharia is only operational in 12 Nigerian states and it’s still subordinate to the Nigerian constitution which operates through a democracy.

The remarks of the Kaduna-based Muslim scholar, Sheikh Ahmad Gumi, in a video clip translated by PR Nigeria, was quite interesting. He argued that Muhammad didn’t kill those who insulted him.

I am not sure if he actually said this or this was an agenda taken up by the media to misinform others, but whichever way you look at it, it doesn’t stand up to the facts.

Gumi was quoted to have said, “If we think by killing Deborah, people who are not of the same faith with us will stop insulting our prophet, then we are in delusion. Hence, anyone who kills a non-Muslim who they have agreed to live peacefully with, will not smell the fragrance of Paradise for 40 years.”

Gumi, a medical doctor and retired military officer, is the current Mufti and Mufassir at the Kaduna Sultan Bello Central mosque. He has been a major Islamic figure negotiating with Boko Haram and ISWAP in Nigeria seeking amnesty from the government for a band of mass murderers and rapists who have wrought havoc on the lives of many military and civilian victims.

In February 2021, Gumi reportedly told his Muslim terrorist friends that they were being attacked by the Christians within the military.

“What I want you people to understand is, soldiers that are involved in most of the criminalities are not Muslims. You know, soldiers have Muslims and non-Muslims. The non-Muslims are the ones causing confusion just to ignite a crisis,” he said.

You can tell that this man knows the religious currency of hate and understands the stance a real Muslim is supposed to have towards “kafirs.” But he wanted us to believe Prophet Muhammad didn’t murder anyone who insulted him. Is this really true or just another attempt to pull wool over the public’s eyes? Let’s find out.

While the Quran does not explicitly stipulate murder as a penalty for speaking against Muhammad and Allah, it gave some hints of it. For example:

“Those who insult God and His Messenger will be rejected by God in this world and the next – He has prepared a humiliatory punishment for them and those who undeservedly insult believing men and women will bear the guilt of slander and obvious sin…

“If the hypocrites, the sick of heart, and those who spread lies in the city [Medina] do not desist, We shall arouse you [Muhammad] against them, and then they will only be your neighbors in this city for a short while. They will be rejected wherever they are found, and then seized and killed” (Sura 33:57, 60-61)

Verse 63 says “Do they know that whoever opposes God and His Messenger will go to the Fire of Hell and stay there? That is the supreme disgrace.”

The Quran also made it clear that people who speak against Islam are in the same category as those who physically fight against Muslims.

“But if they violate their oaths after their covenant, and attack your religion with disapproval and criticism, then fight (you) the leaders of disbelief (chiefs of Quraish pagans of Makkah) – for surely their oaths are nothing to them – so that they may stop (evil actions).” (Sura 9:12)

“They (the disbelievers, Jews and Christians) want to extinguish Allah’s light (which Muhammad has been sent – Islam) with their mouths, but Allah will not allow except that his light should be perfected even though the kafirun [infidels] hate it” (Sura 9:32)

In the hadiths and Muhammad’s biographies, we find several examples of how he countenanced or directly called for the assassination of his critics.

“A Jewess who used to insult the prophet and disparage him was strangled to death by a man. When the case was reported to Muhammad, the apostle of Allah declared that no recompense was payable for her blood” (Sunan Abu Dawud 38:4349).

“Now al-Nadr b. al-Harith was one of the satans of Quraysh; he used to insult the apostle and show him enmity. He had been to al-Hira and learnt there the tales of the kings of Persia, the tales of Rustum and Isbandiyar. When the apostle had held a meeting in which he reminded them of God, and warned his people of what had happened to bygone generations as a result of God’s vengeance, al-Nadr got up when he sat down, and said, ‘I can tell a better story than he, come to me.’ Then he began to tell them about the kings of Persia, Rustum and Isbandiyar, and then he would say, ‘In what respect is Muhammad a better story-teller than? (Alfred Guillaume, ed, The Life of Muhammad [translation of Ibn Ishaq’s Sirat Rasul Allah], Oxford University Press, pp. 135-137).

Al-Harith was one of two prisoners who was captured after the battle of Badr and was not allowed to be ransomed by his clan (which was often the usual practice among the Arab tribes). He was beheaded by Ali at the behest of Muhammad.

Uqba bin Abu Muayt mocked Muhammad and wrote derogatory verses about him in Mecca. When he was captured at the Battle of Badr in 624 AD, Muhammad ordered him to be executed. “But who will look after my children, O Muhammad?” Uqba cried with anguish. “Hell,” retorted the prophet coldly. Then the sword of one of his followers cut through Uqba’s neck (Bukhari 4:2934).

A blind man also had a slave mother who used to insult Muhammad. The man tried to stop her but she didn’t quit:

“One night she began to slander the Prophet … and abuse him. So he [the blind man] took the dagger, placed it on the belly, pressed it, and killed her. A child who was between her legs was smeared with the blood that was there.” When Muhammad heard this and that the victim used to insult him, he said “Oh be my witness, no retaliation is payable for her blood” (Bukhari 3:4348)

One of his victims was Abu Afak, a 120 year old Jewish man who opposed Muhammad through poetry. When a call was made for his murder, Salim ibn Umayr said:

“‘I take a vow that I shall either kill Abu Afak or die before him’. He waited for an opportunity until a hot night came and Abu Afak slept in an open place. Salim placed the sword on his liver and pressed it till he reached his bed. The enemy of Allah screamed…” (Kitab al-Tabaqat al-Kabir 2:31).

When Asma bint Marwan heard of this evil, she began to speak out against Muhammad with her poems. Muhammad said to his thugs:

“Who will rid me of Marwan’s daughter? ‘Umaryr bin Adiyal Khatmi who was with him heard him and that very night he went to her house and killed her. In the morning, he came to the apostle and told him what he had done and he [Muhammad] said, ‘You have helped Allah and his apostle Umayr!” (Ibn Ishaq, Sirat Rasulallah, translated by A. Guillaume, 1955, pp. 675-76).

After the battle of Honain, Abbas, one of Muhammad’s soldiers, complained about how the booty was shared and recited some little, nasty poems. “The Apostle overheard him and said with a smile, ‘Take that man from here and cut out his tongue” (Sirat, p. 595).

In another instance, Ka’b Al-Ashraf was reciting poems to criticize Muhammad. He asked his henchmen, “Who will help me get rid of this rascal?” then “Muhammad bin Maslama got up saying ‘O Allah’s apostle! Would you like that I kill him? ‘The Prophet said ‘yes.’ Muhammad bin Maslama said ‘Then allow me to say a (false) thing (to deceive Kab). The Prophet said, ‘You may say it.’ This man went on to Kab and acted like a friend till he killed him (Bukhari 5:369).

When Muhammad conquered Mecca, he said: “There are four persons whom I shall not give protection” He identified them as the “two singing girls of al-Maqis; one of them was killed and the other escaped and embraced Islam” (Abu Dawud, 2684).

In Sunan an-Nasai (Book 37, Chapter 14), we read this same narration, this time with the names of six victims:

“On the day of the Conquest of Makkah, the Messenger of Allah granted amnesty to the people, except four men and two women. He said: ‘Kill them, even if you find them clinging to the covers of Ka’bah.’ (They were) ‘Ikrimah bin Abi Jahl, ‘Abdullah bin Khatal, Miqyas bin Subabah and ‘Abdullah bin Sa’d bin Abi As-Sarh.

Abdullah bin Khatal was killed because he “joined the pagan Arabs as an apostate. He was never repentant at this heinous crime but rather employed two women singers and incited them to sing satirically about the Prophet (Safiu Rahaman al-Mubarakpuri, ar-Raheeq al-Makhtum, pp. 396-397).

Under Sharia law, a Muslim can receive a death penalty for uttering statements of unbelief; sarcastic comment about Allah’s name or command; slander against Muhammad; denying any part of the Quran; reviling Islam or being sarcastic about Islamic laws (Ahmad al-Misri, Reliance of the Traveler, 597-98).

Some jurists stipulate death for non-Muslims who insult Muhammad or attempts to lead a Muslim away from Islam. Generally, the punishment ranges from imprisonment, paying fines, hanging, beheading or immediate conversion to Islam to avoid death.

The facts are clear and Muslim leaders should stop speaking from both sides of their mouths. If they truly believe Muhammad was a mere human and has not been deified, then he can’t be blasphemed. You can’t blaspheme a human being, only God, or a Divine Being (such as the eternal Holy Spirit) can be blasphemed.

Furthermore, the idea of “blasphemy” against Muhammad is not (and should not be) a crime because we are not in a theocracy. In fact, Muslims gratuitously blaspheme Jesus each time they say He was only a human messenger of Allah and no one had put their necks on a chopping block over this.

There are some places where the Quran says what Christianity would regard as blasphemous against Jesus Christ. A few examples are in order:

1. Sura 21:98 says, “Certainly! You (disbelievers) and that which you are worshipping now besides Allah, are (but) fuel for Hell! (Surely), you will enter it.”

This is not only referring to non-Muslims such as Christians,  but also includes Jesus Christ, the Divine Person whom Christians worship. It’s blasphemous to declare that He will burn in hell.

2. Sura 5:17 says, “Certainly they disbelieve who say: Surely, Allah – He is the Messiah, son of Marium. Say: Who then could control anything as against Allah when He wished to destroy the Messiah son of Marium and his mother and all those on the earth?…”

For whoever is speaking in the Quran to declare that he wished to destroy Jesus Christ the Messiah is regarded as another blasphemy.

3. Sura 3:59 says, “Verily, in the sight of God, the nature of Jesus is as the nature of Adam, whom He created out of dust and then said unto him, ‘Be’ and he is.”

Jesus is not “dust.” Even the Quran calls him “God’s Word” (4:171) and tells us that He was taken to heaven alive. Of course, Muhammad was dust and went back to the dust. Therefore, to denigrate Jesus to the level of a mere dust is blasphemous.

So we can draw the following conclusions:

Fact 1: Blasphemy is speaking against God/Divine Persons.

Fact 2: Muhammad is a mere human, not God or a Divine Being.

Fact 3: The idea of “blaspheming” a mere human long dead and gone is either shirk (polytheism) on the Muslim side or absurdity on the Christian side.

Fact 4: Islam actually blasphemes the divine persons of other religions not only by its authoritative texts, but also by word-of-mouth and in literature.

Fact 5: Christianity does not prescribe death for actual blasphemy of its own Divine Persons. It is a sin, but not a crime.

Fact 6: Since Christianity does not murder people for blaspheming Jesus or the Holy Spirit, Islam has no right to kill any Christian for allegedly blaspheming a mere human who died 14 centuries ago. This is true equity and fairness which must be instituted.