They were clever
enough to realise that a Musalman’s feelings are never
more easily amused than over a real or fancied insult to
the Holy Prophetsa. They,
therefore, began to proclaim that their activates were meant
to preserve the nubuwwat [prophethood]
of the Holy Prophetsa and
to repel attacks on his namus [honor]… The
trick succeeded and they began to attract large audiences
to their meetings. Since some of the Ahrar speakers are experts
in the choice of words and expression and the use of similes
and metaphors and can intersperse their speeches with flashes
of humor of however low an order, they soon began gaining
Mr. Muhammad Munir1
prophet of God is as old as the prophehood itself. Even Muhammadsa could
not escape it. He was mocked, not only during the Meccan
period of his life, but also in Medina where he had the authority
to punish. The Jews of Medina had sharp tongues and a sick
sense of humor, and did not miss an opportunity of ridiculing
After the Hijrah,
the Quraish of Mecca joined forces with these Jews to stop
the progress of Islam. The hypocrites were already there,
starting work as fifth columnists. Apart from intrigue and
war, they also employed the communications network for anti-Muslim
propaganda. The propagandist poets, whom Maxime Rodinson
has described as ‘the journalists of the time’ and
Carmichael as ‘kindlers of battle’,2 accused
the Medinite Muslims of dishonoring themselves by submitting
to an outsider. Abu Afak taunted the children of Qayla (the
Aws and the Khazraj):
I have lived a long time, but I have never
Either a house or gathering of People
More loyal and faithful to
Its allies, when they call on it,
Than that of the children of Qayla
(the Aws and the Khazraj) as a whole.
The mountains will crumble before they submit
Yet here is a rider come among them who had divided them.
(He says) ‘This is permitted; this is forbidden’
To all kinds of things.
But if you had believed in power
And in might, why did you not follow a tubba?3
in effect was saying, ‘The tubba was,
after all, a south Arabian king of great reputation, yet
you resisted him. Now what has happened to you that you have
accepted the claims of a Meccan refugee?’ Meanwhile,
Kab was elected chief of the Jews, replacing Malik b. al
Sayf4 who also lamented
the loss of Quraish at Badr.5 In
an elegy he said:
Drive out that fool of yours that you may
From talk that has no sense!
Do you taunt me because I shed tears
For people who loved me sincerely?
As long as I live I shall weep and remember
The merits of people whose glory is the houses of Mecca.6
main purpose of this vulgar and abusive campaign was to sow
the seeds of dissention between the Ansar and the Muhajirs
on the one hand and between the Aws and the Khazraj on the
other. The campaign seemed to pay off when a Jew from the
Bann Qua’inq’ua, Shas b. Qays, ordered a Jewish
youth to recite some poems composed at the battle of Buath.
They were recited to a mixed gathering of Muslims, comprising
the Aws and the Khazraj. Eventually, both sides got worked
up and challenged each other, saying: ‘If you wish
we will do the same thing again.’ They both replied: ‘We
will! Your meeting place is outside—that being the
volcanic tract. To arms! To arms!’7 As
soon as the Holy Prophetsa heard
the news he hurried to the spot with the Emigrants and addressed
the men of the Aws and the Khazraj:
O Muslims! Remember
God, remember God. Will you act like pagans while I am with
you? After God has guided you to Islam and honored you and
saved you from paganism? After he has delivered you from
unbelief and made you friends by so doing.8
verses of the Quran were revealed on the occasion10:
O ye who believe… if you obey any of those who have
been given the Book, they will turn you again into disbelievers
after you have believed. When you are the people to whom
the signs of Allah are given and among whom the Messenger
of Allah is present, how can you disbelieve? He who holds
fast to Allah is indeed guided to the right path.
O ye who believe,
be mindful of your duty to Allah in all respects, every moment
of your lives, so that whenever death overtakes you, it will
find you in a state of complete submission to Him. All of
you, take hold of Allah’s rope which He gave you when
you hated each other. He urtited your hearts in love so that
by His grace you became brethren. (3:103, 104)
This was the
atmosphere of unrest in Medina when the Prophetsa decided
to stop the poet’s propaganda campaign and ask for
volunteers to execute them. It was clear they had become
a grave danger to peace. To say that they were killed because
they reviled and insulted the Prophetsa is
to twist historical fact. To use these executions as a precedent
for the execution of those who defame the Prophetsa is
either deliberate dishonesty or sheer historical ignorance.
Defaming the Prophetsa,
known technically as sabb, is
neither a hadd offence according
to the Quran nor a capital offence according to the sunnah.
In fact it is not punishable at all, unless there are contributing
circumstances. Its punishment, like that of apostasy, is
in the hands of Allah alone. The Quran uses goodwill to uphold
the honor of Allah and his prophets, not the sword. The Quran
Revile not those
to whom they pray besides Allah, lest they wrongfully revile
Allah through ignorance. Thus unto every nation have We made
their deed seem fair. Then unto their Lord is their return,
and He will tell them what they used to do. (6.109)
love and esteem for someone come from the heart. Force can
shut mouths, create terror and result in disrespect and irreverence.
This is why the Quran takes a positive view in matters of
As regards respect
for the Holy Prophetsa,
the Quran says:
Lo! Allah and
His angels shower blessings on the Prophet. O ye who believe!
Ask blessings on him and honor him with a worthy salutation.
Lo! Those who malign Allah and His Messenger Allah hath cursed
them in this world and in the next and hath prepared for
them the doom of the disdained. And those who malign believing
men and women undeservedly, they bear the guilt of slander
and manifest sin. (33:5–59)
The Quran is
very clear about sabb. It asks
Muslims not to seem even the false gods of unbelievers and
it does not lay down any punishment for those who show disrespect
to the Prophetsa—for
them, God has prepared the ‘doom of the disdained’.
And how did the
Excellent Exemplarsa treat
those who reviled him? Let us return to the leader of them munafiqun,
Abdullah b. Ubayy. After the battle of Al-Mustaliq (6AH/AD737),
while the Holy Prophetsa was
staying by the watering-place of Al-Muraysi, an unpleasant
dispute took place between the Muhajirs and Ansar. A hired
servant of Umar, Jahjah b. Masud, and Sinan b. Wabar al-Juhani,
an ally of Ansar, began fighting.
The Juhani called
out: ‘Men of AI-Ansar!’ and Jahjah called out ‘Men
of the Muhajirun!’ Abdullah b. Ubayy b. Salul was enraged.
With him were some of his people, including Zayd b. Arqam,
a young boy. He said: ‘Have they actually done this?
They dispute our priority, they outnumber us in our country.
Nothing is more apt for us and the vagabonds of Quaraish
than the ancient saying, “Feed a dog and it will devour
you.” By Allah, when we return to Medina the most honorable
will drive out the meanest.’ Then he went to his people
and said: ‘This is what you have done to yourselves.
You have let them occupy your country and you have divided
your property among them. Had you only kept your property
from them they would have gone elsewhere.’ Zayd b.
Arqam heard this and, when he had disposed of his enemies,
went and told the Prophetsa.
Umar, who was with him, said: ‘Tell Abbad b. Bishr
to go and kill him.’ The Prophetsa answered: ‘What
if men should say Muhammad kills his own Companions? No,
but give orders to setoff.‘10
The Holy Prophetsa was,
of course, greatly upset. The tribal appeal of Juhani to
Ansar and Jahjah’s call to ‘the men of Mahajirun’ reminded
him of the Day of Buath and the war of Basus, which lasted
forty years. Had Abdullah b. Ubayy succeeded the Ansar, the
Muhajirs would have gone back to their tribal wars. The message
of Islamic unity, which changed these disunited tribes into
a mighty Arab nation, would have been lost forever. The Holy
Prophetsa was so upset that
he gave orders to move, although, as Ibn Ishaq reports, ‘This
was at a time when the Prophetsa was
not used to traveling.’11 Referring
to this incident, the Quran says:
They [the munafiqun]
say: ‘When we return to Medina the one most honorable
shall surely drive out the meanest.’ True honor belongs
to Allah, to His Messenger and believers; but the hypocrites
know it not. (63.9)
son of Abdullah b. Ubayy, heard of this affair, he went to
the Prophetsa and said:
heard that you want to kill Abdullah b. Ubayy for what you
heard about him. If you must, order me to do it and I will
bring his head, for Al-Khazraj know they have no man more
dutiful to his father than I. I am afraid that if you order
someone else to kill him, I could not bear to see his executioner
walking around and might kill him. I would therefore be killing
a believer for an unbeliever and I would certainly be damned.’ The
Prophetsa said: said: ‘No,
but let us deal kindly with him and make much of his companionship
while he is with us.’12
who understood why the Holy Prophetsa treated
Abdullah b. Ubayy and other hypocrites and Jews as he did,
have been extremely reluctant to create false martyrs in
the process of protecting the honor of the Prophetsa (Namus-i-Rasul).
In Cordova, between 850 and 859, a group of Christian zealots
was formed under the leadership of Eulogius. The members
of this group were determined to denounce the Holy Prophetsa publicly
and to accept martyrdom. The qadis of
Cordova, however, refused to oblige them and jailed them
instead. Will Durant reports one such incident:
Isaac, a Cardovan
monk, went to the qadi and professed
a desire for conversion; but when the judge, well pleased,
began to expound Mohammedanism, the monk interrupted him: ‘Your
Prophet’, he said, ‘has lied and deceived you.
May he be cursed, who has dragged so many wretches with him
down to hell!’ The qadi reproved
him and asked had he been drinking? The monk replied: ‘I
am in my right mind. Condemn me to death.’ The qadi had
him imprisoned, but asked permission of Abd-ur Rahman II
to dismiss him as insane.13
Ebussuud Efendi, chief mufti of the Ottoman Empire during
the reign of the Sultan Suleyman the Magnificent, allowed
the death penalty, but only for habitual and public defamers
of the Holy Prophetsa. Shaykhul
Islam went out of his way to insist that execution should
not be ordered lightly. He clearly wished to avoid frivolous
and malicious prosecutions and laid down that an offender
could not be treated as habitual ‘merely on the word
of one or two persons’. The habitual character of the
offender had to be proved to the authorities by impartial
(begharaz) Muslims, who had
no axe to grind. But there was an important rider to this
which showed that though Shaykhul Islam Ebussuud issued a fatwa without
any Quranic or hadith authority,
he knew the punishment of sabb was
Allah’s alone. The fatwa was
issued, probably under political pressure, because he nullified
its entire effect by stating that unbelievers were not held
guilty for declaring ‘that which constitutes their
disbelief’: that is, for rejecting Muhammad’ssa prophetic
The quality of
a Muslim’s faith and the measure of respect he holds
for the Prophetsa cannot
be legally defined. Conversely, an unbeliever can neither
be forced to embrace Islam nor to honor its Prophetsa at
gunpoint. This is why God has prescribed no punishment for irtidad or sabb in
this world. Despite the disparaging words uttered by Abdullah
b. Ubayy at the watering-hole of Al-Muraysi, the Holy Prophetssa did
not punish him.
of these two offences is easily exploited by politically
orientated ulema who would debase
religious causes by using them for materialist purposes and
exploit religious belief for their own ends.14
At the moment,
Deobandi/Ahli hadith ulema are
accusing the Ahmadis of disparaging the Prophetsa.
Little do they realize that in doing so they have created
the means of their own destruction. In comparison with mainstream
Sunnis, who constitute the majority of Muslims in the subcontinent,15 Turkey,
and many other Muslim countries, the Deobandis/Ahli hadith and
the followers of the Najdi reformer Abdul Wahhab are in a
minority throughout the Muslim world (except in Nejd). They
are accused of belittling the Prophetsa.
The Deobandi/Wahhabi ulema consider
the mainstream Sunnis to be kafir for
attributing to the Prophetsa qualities
which, to say the least, are polytheist. For instance, they
say that his body did not cast a shadow because he was filled
with light. When Meauud-i-Sherif,
popularized by the Turkish poet Suleyman Chelebi of Busra
(1410), is concluded with ya Nabi Salam
Alaika (peace be with you), the Prophet’ssa soul
is present at the event, and, therefore, everyone attending
should stand to show respect. In the same manner, praying
at his tomb, kissing the grillwork surrounding it and many
other such beliefs and practices of the Sunnis Brelvis are shirk according
to Deobandis. The Wahhabis, having demolished the historical
graveyard of Jannat ul-Baqi,
wished to destroy even the dome of the Prophet’ssa mosque
and were prevented from doing so only by the strong reaction
in the Muslim world. For these acts of destruction of graves,
tombs and domes, Sunnis all over the world accuse the Wahhabis
of denigrating and belittling the Holy Prophetsa.
The Brelvis consider that it was the Deoband scholars Maulana
Muhammad Qasim Nanautwi and Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanwi, who
did not believe in Khatm-i-nubuwatt.
In a booklet, Deobandi Maulwiyon ka
Iman, Maulana Abdul Mustafa Abu Yahya Muhammad Muinuddin
Shafi ‘i Qadri Rizvi Thanwi writes:
O Muslims! Look
how this accursed, unholy, satanic assertion has destroyed
the very basis of Khatm-i-nubuwatt… See
that Maulwi Qasim Nanautwi does not believe in Khatm-i-nubuwatt,
while Maulwi Rashid Ahmad, Maulwi Khalil Ahmad and other
Wahhabi ulema have declared
those who reject Khatm-i-nubuwatt as kafir.16
polemics—all in the name of protecting the Holy Prophetsa,
the very paragon of modesty—have reached such vulgarity
that even the mildest examples are offensive. Shourish Kashmiri,
a supporter of the Deobandi school, said in his pamphlet ‘Kafir
saz Mulla’ that anyone who declares the great
leader of Deoband as kafir (unbeliever)
is a liar. In the same pamphlet he said that the Brelvi/ulema sell
religion and the sharia of the
Prophetsa to make a living,
that they are the born slaves of Lord Clive’s household,
the enemies of the Muslim League and Qaid-i-Azam Jinnah.
In another pamphlet, he said that these people were even
lower than a brick in Maulana Husain Ahmad’s and Syed
Ataullah Shah Bukhari’s lavatory. (16)
The Brelvi reply
to these abusive charges was tasteless. They said that the
man slandering them and the Holy Prophetsa had
spent his life wandering the red-light districts. ‘The
man who called Nehru a prophet is now accusing us of selling
the Shari’a of the Prophet,’ they cried. ‘Why
shouldn’t Muhammad Qasim Nanautwi be called a kafir and
how can we accept Ashraf Ali Thanwi as a Muslim? Aren’t
they the men who said the door of prophethood was open? Aren’t
they the pathfinders of the Qadiyanis? Who has taught you
how to denigrate Mustafa? Who has taught you unbelief? You
have taken your clothes off, have you no sense of decency
or modesty? You have created disorder under the name of khatm-i-nubuwwat and
spread mischief under the name of peace. You are collecting
money under the name of nubuwwat and
begging under the name of the Prophetssa.’
Sayyad Muhammad Tanha, said:
How can you appreciate the high status of
Go and smell the stinking underpants of Hindus.
Gold is your prophet, gold is your God
You belong to the party of those who show you gold
You have spent all your life with kufr
How can you, a Khatri Hindu by caste, join Islam?
O Nimrod, how can you glorify Allah?
Your place is with Hindus, go there and praise there the
name of Hari, Hari.18
Compare the language,
the style and the contents of this Barelvi attack on Deobandi ulema with
the tirade of Deobandi scholars against Ahmadis:
- Ahmadis deny khatm-i-nubuwwat;
- Ahmadis denigrate the Holy Prophetsa:
- Ahmadis created British imperialism in India;
- Ahmadis opposed the creation of Pakistan;
- Ahmadis are opposed to jihad;
- Ahmadis associate with non-Muslims;
- Ahmadiyat is a racket in religion’s name.
Both the Ahli-Sunnat
wal Jamaat (Brelvi) and Deobandi ulema accuse
each other of disparaging the Holy Prophetsa.
As we saw earlier, the Jamaati Islami described the Ahl-i-Quran
as being worse than the Ahmadis. But the Shias have not been
spared either—they have been accused of degrading the
status of the Holy Prophetsa by
claiming that Ali shared the prophethood with him.
scholar, Wilfred Cantwell Smith, who visited the subcontinent
and closely observed the Muslim society of India and Pakistan,
has accused Muslims of ‘a fanaticism of blazing vehemence’.
In his book, Islam in Modern India,
Muslims will allow
attacks on Allah: there are atheists and atheistic publications
and rationalistic societies, but to disparage Muhammad will
provoke from even the most liberal sections of the community
a fanati cism of blazing vehemence.19
This is an incorrect
assessment of Muslim temperament. Prof. Cantwell Smith has
generalized. Actually, it is the Mullahs and the politically
orientated leadership which recognized: ‘that the feelings
of a Musulman are never more easily aroused and his indignation
awakened than over a real or fancied insult to the Holy Prophet.’20
No doubt the
rich and the poor, the intellectuals, the uneducated, the
pious and impious have always been united in the love of
the Prophetsa and considered fana
fir-rasul (annihilation in the name of the Prophetsa)
to be the peak of religious experience. But no Muslim is
unmindful that the Holy Prophet’ssa highest
experience was the miraj, when
he, surrounded by clouds of angels, soared high into the
Divine Presence, where even the angel Gabriel has no access.
The power-hungry Muslim leadership forgets that the exhortation ‘Muhammadsa is
the Messenger of God’ is only the second part of the
confession of the Muslim faith. The first is: ‘There
is no God but Allah.’
There is no way
to measure love or respect. Lovers and mystics wrote diwans after diwans and
finally devoted their lives to trying to express feelings
no language could really convey. The mullahs can scan the
poem of love, but cannot understand it. It is no mere accident
that the founder of the Ahmadiyyah Movement in Islam was
named Ghulam Ahmadas. What
an honor! What a status! What a glory! In the following three
couplets he answers those who accuse him of disparaging the
Holy Prophetsa and critics,
like Cantwell Smith, who accuse Muslims of being negligent
of Allah’s honor:
After the love of Allah it is Muhammad’s
which has captivated my heart;
If this love be kufr, by God
I am a great kafir.21
My Love! My Benefactor! Let my life be sacrificed
in Thy way,
For when hath Thou shown indifference in Thy goodness to
If it be the custom that claimants of
Thy love be beheaded at Thy threshold,
Then let it be known I am the first to claim that reward.23
The founder of
the Ahmadiyyah Movement in Islam has clearly and honestly
declared his faith in the supreme authority of the Holy Prophetsa as
the Khatam-un-nabiyyin. He said:
The basis of our
religion and the essence of our belief is that there is no
God but Allah and Muhammad is His Prophet. The faith that
we follow in this earthly life and the faith in which, by
the grace of God, we shall depart from this transitory abode,
is that of our Lord and great Master, Muhammad –( may
peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) is Khatam-un-nabiyyin.
Nabuwwat, prophethood are the great blessings, leading man
straight to God and it has reached that state of completion
to which nothing can be added.24
A superior status,
comprising all that is good, belongs to our Lord and Master,
Seal of the Prophets, Muhammad Mustafasa.
It is unique to him, it is unapproachable.25
The writer of
the four quotations given above, Mirza Ghulam Ahmadas,
and his followers have been declared non-Muslims by Muslims
described by Sir Muhammad lqbal (1875–1938) in the
following stanzas of a long Urdu poem:
Hands are impotent and nerveless,
hearts unfaithful and infidel,
The Community a heartbreak to
their Prophet and a shame;
Gone are the idol-breakers, in their
places idol-makers dwell;
Abraham their father was: the
children merit Azar’s name.26
New and strange the band of drinkers,
and their wine is strange and new,
A new shrine to house their Kaaba,
new and strange the idols too.
Very heavy on your spirits weighs the
charge of morning’s prayer;
How much more would you prefer sleeping, than
rising up to worship me.
Ramadan is too oppressive for you
tempers free to bear;
Tell me now, do you consider that the
law of loyalty?
Nations come to birth by faith; let
faith expire, and nations die
So, when gravitation ceases, the
thronged stars asunder fly.
Why, you are a people utterly bereft
of every art;
No other nation in the world so lightly
spurns its native place;
You are like a barn where lightnings
nestle, and will not depart;
You would sell your fathers’ graveyards,
And say that such a thing was right;
Making profit out of tombstones has
secured you such renown—
Why not set up shop in idols,
if you chance to hunt some down?
Loud the cry goes up ‘The Muslims?
They are vanished, lost to view’,
We re-echo, ‘Are true Muslims to be
found in any place?’
Christian is your mode of living, and
your culture is Hindu;
Why, such Muslims to the Jews
would be a shame and a disgrace.
Sure enough, you have your Syeds,
Mirzas, Afghans, all the rest;
But can you claim that you are Muslims
if the truth must be confessed?27
that the Muslims of the day would shame even Jews, and that
they would even sell their ancestors’ tombstones, the ‘poet,
philosopher, political thinker and altogether most eminent
figure in Indian Islam of the twentieth century’28 decided
to distinguish between Muslims and Ahmadis.
So in 1936 he
wrote in an open letter to Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, the leader
of the predominantly Hindu Indian National Congress and,
later, first prime minister of India, demanding that Ahmadis
should be declared a non-Muslim minority. In the constitution
of secular India the demand was, of course, ignored. But
for the ulema of Deoband it
was a matter of life and death. Hindus have occupied Babari
Masjid in Ayodhya and converted it under police protection
into the Ram Janina Bhoomi temple. Another section of Hindus
demand the conversion of Benares and Kashi mosques into temples.
Most Hindus are agitating for the abolition of Muslim personal
This is what
becomes of people who reject prophets of God and men of peace.
They stand disunited and bereft of the blessings of the peace
they sought to disturb. They breed violence and terrorism.
- Munir Commission
Report , 258.
- Maxime Rodinson, Mohammad ,
trans. Anne Carter (New York, 1971), 194. ‘A tribal
poet among the Bedouin,’ as Joel Carmichael puts
it, was ‘no mere versifier, but a kindler of battle’,
his poems were ‘thought of as the serious beginning
of real warfare’ (The Shaping of the Arabs, a Study
in Ethnic Identity, New York, 1967, 38).
- IbnHisham, Kitab
Sirat Rasul Allah ,995.TheEnglish translation
is by Anne Carter, given in Rodinson’s Mohammed , op.cit .,
- Ali b. Burhan ad Din ud-Halabi, Insan
al-Uyun , vol. II, 116; cited by Kister, The
Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient ,
vol. VIII, 267.
- Ibn Hisham, op.cit .,
- Ibn Hisham, op.cit .,
550, this translation by A. Guillaume.
- Will Durant, The
Story of Civilisation , 11 vols. (New York: Simon & Shuster,
1950), vol. IV, The Age of Faith, 301.
- Munir Commission
Report , 259.
- In the subcontinent they are generally
known as Brelvis.
- Deobandi Maulwiyon
ka Iman (Lyallpur: Shahi Masjid, n.d.).
- Razakhani Fitna
Pardazon ka siyah jhoot .
- Shah Muhammad Asi and Syed Muhammad
Tanha, Shourish’ urfBhare
ka Tattoo , 7–8.
- Wilfred Cantwell Smith, Modern
Islam in India (Lahore, 2nd ed., 1947).
- Munir Commission
Report , 257.
- Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, Izala-i-Awham (Amritsar,
1891), part 1, 176.
- Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, A’ ina-i-Kamalat (Qadian,
1893), last page.
- Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, op.cit ., Izala-i-Awham ,
- Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, Tawdih-i-Maram (Amritsar,
1308 AH), 23.
- According to the Quran, Abraham’s
father’s name was Azar, (Adhar) the name given by
the Church historian, Eusebius, and not Terah as given
in Genesis 11:26; Quran, 6.75.
- Sir Muhammad tribal, Bang-i-Dara,
Jawab-i-Shikwah , stanzas VII, IX, X and X V II,
trans. A. ,J. Arberry.
- Ant Ahmad and G.E. Grunebaum (eds.) Muslim
Self-Statement in India and Pakistan , 1857–1968
(Wiesbaden, 1970), 13.