The fault with the reasoning of the imams lies in their
saying “as the Shirk (idolatry or polytheism) which he/she already
professes, is far more grave sin than blasphemy”. Their argument
shows that they consider their being Mushrik itself as the greatest affront
which is tolerated, and they are not killed for it so how can we kill them for blasphemy?
This is not the correct position.
“Shirk” is the greatest/unforgivable sin for the People of
the Book as per verse 4:48
“Shirk” is the greatest/unforgivable sin for the Muslims as
per verse 4:116
For the non-monotheists what is applicable is covered by
verses addressed to all mankind or to the children of Adam and is found in
verse 7:33 which reads as follows:
(7:33) Say: the things that my Lord hath indeed forbidden are:
shameful deeds, whether open or secret; sins and trespasses against truth or
reason; assigning of partners to Allah, for which He hath given no authority;
and saying things about Allah of which ye have no knowledge.
“Shirk” is therefore neither the gravest nor an unforgivable
sin for the Mushrikin who are not among the kafirin (those who are deliberate
and wilful deniers), but only what is prohibited. Just as a Muslim cannot be punished
for eating food that is prohibited, a Mushrik cannot be punished for shirk. He
cannot be forced to give up “shirk” either because “there is no compulsion in
There is no need for any law on blasphemy because the Quran
does not prescribe any punishment. Blasphemy can still be punished under
appropriate laws for maintaining public order, laws against vulgarity and obscenity,
laws against causing hurt etc.
Blasphemy in Hanafi Islamic Jurisprudence
The vast literature of the Hanafi Islamic jurisprudence does not mention blasphemy as consistent part of the Islamic penal code. A look at the authoritative rulings and decrees (Fatawa) or the jurisprudential opinions (Fiqhi A’ara) of the earliest Hanafi jurists (Fuqaha) makes it patently clear.
Imam Abū Ḥanīfa, the eponymous founder of the Hanafi school of jurisprudence, is reported to have stated:
“لا يقتل الذمي بشتم النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم ما هم عليه من الشرك أعظم”
(A non-Muslim will not be killed on the account of blasphemy against the Prophet (Shatam-e-Rasool), as the Shirk (idolatry or polytheism) which he/she already professes, is far more grave sin than blasphemy). 
Allama Qadhi Ayadh writes in his book “al-Shifa bi Ta’areef Huquq al-Mustafa”:
فأما الذمي إذا صرح بسبه أو عرض أو استخف بقدره أو وصفه بغير الوجه الذى كفر به فلا خلاف عندنا في قتله إن لم يسلم، لأنا لم نعطه الذمة أو العهد على هذا، وهو قول عامة العلماء إلا أبا حنيفة والثوري وأتباعهما من أهل الكوفة فإنهم قالوا: لا يقتل، لأن ما هو عليه من الشرك أعظم ولكن يؤدب ويعزر۔
(There is consensus in the Maliki school of law on the punishment for blasphemers, but Imam Abu Hanifa, Imam Thauri and many of his students from Kufa hold the opinion that such a Dhimmi (non-Muslim blasphemer) will not be punished with death, because the shirk professed by him, is far greater sin than blasphemy).
Imam Qurtabi has also noted the same jurisprudential stance of the Hanafi school on blasphemy in his exegesis of the Qur’an “al-Jaam’e li Ahkaam al-Qur’an” in an interpretation of the verse 8 of Surah al-Tauba. He writes:
أكثر العلماء على أن من سب النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم من أهل الذمة أو عرّض أو استخف بقدره أو وصفه بغير الوجه الذي كفر به فإنه يقتل؛ فإنّا لم نعطه الذمة أو العهد على هذا۔ إلا أبا حنيفة والثوري وأتباعهما من أهل الكوفة فإنهم قالوا لا يقتل، ما هو عليه من الشرك أعظم ، ولكن يؤدب ويعزر۔
Imam Nawawi, noted scholar of Hadith and Islamic jurisprudence quotes the eminent Hanafi Imam al-Tahawi’s argument for the blasphemy as an offence which does not require capital punishment. He writes in his book “al-Majm’u Shrh al-Muhadhdhb”:
واحتج الطحاوي لأصحابه بحديث أنس الذى فيه أن رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم لم يقتل من كانوا يقولون له السَّام عليك، وأيده بأن هذا الكلام لو صدر من مسلم لكانت ردة ، وأما صدوره من اليهودي فالذي هم عليه من الكفر أشد، فلذلك لم يقتلهم النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم
Imam Ibn e Abidin, the most quoted Hanafi jurist on this subject whose fatwas are part of the curriculum in India and Pakistan’s mainstream Sunni madrasas, has rebutted the opinion that blasphemy is unpardonable. This opinion is held by al-Bazzazzi, the only Hanafi jurist who has a differing view on this. But according to Ibn e Abidin, his view is a ‘misreading’ of Ibn Taymiyyah’s “Al Sarim-ul-Maslool a’laa Shatim-ir-Rasool”.
Thus, blasphemy is a pardonable offense in the Hanafi school of law, if the perpetrator happens to be a non-Muslim. This position has been corroborated by the majority (jumhur) of the Ahnaaf jurists, mainly disciples of Imam Abu Hanifa, such as Qazi Abu Yusuf (Kitab al-Kharaj), Taqī al-Dīn al-Subki (al-Sayf al-maslūl ‘alā man sabba al-Rasūl), Imam Tahawi (Mukhtasar al-Tahawi), Abu Bakar Ala-ud-Din Kasani (Bada'i al-Sanai’e) and many other Ahnaaf.
 1 طبعة وتصحيح الشيخ محمد راغب الطباخ فی مطبعتة العلمية حلب، سوريا طبعه اُولٰی۔1351ھ۔
2 (2) 031،1030/2الشفا بتعريف حقوق المصطفٰی بتحقيق الشيخ علی محمد البجاوی، القاضی عياض،1024/2۔ دار الکتاب العربی،بيروت۔1404ھ۔
3 83/8دار الکتب المصرية۔ القاهرة۔ طبعه ثانيه:1384ھ۔
4 427/19دار الفکر، بيروت۔ مصدر: موقع يعسوب۔ 296/3
It was the women refusing to drink water from the hands of Asia Bibi, considering her a Christian, who insulted her religion and were no less blasphemous.
Excellent scholarly piece. Thank you
very much GRD. One would hope every court in Muslim world will take
notice of it.
The British who had introduced it in
their colonies in earlier times had themselves hardly used it
once or twice in their own country.
On the temporal and historical basis
then, one may rightfully ask a question of these ignorant religious
brigades – the professedly intense devotees of Rasullullah and
-When Rasullullah conquered Makkah a
year before his death: how many Makkan kuffars were killed as a
punishment as per Quran's edict for their sins of constant blasphemy
not only against the Rasul but also Allah and Quran?
none were killed for blasphemy: did Rasullullah disobey
Quran's edict ??
the answer is yes: Was there any Muslim clergy and did they
punish him for his disobedience???
enlightened people realise that insulting anybody, let alone
Religious reformers, leaders and their followers is inhuman and
social evil and appropriate laws for punishment must be enacted,
which they do exist in civilised countries. But death penalty in
Islam only exist for premeditated murder of innocent and for inciting
national disturbance – fitnaa and fasaad, that is driving
people out of their homes and hearth for no reason.
Those who do so must be appropriately punished in an "Islamic Republic" of Paak people.