NEWS

6 months ago
5
  November
2018

The absurdity of religious sectarianism is unfolding day by day, as humanity gropes to find durable solutions to the real problems that threaten its survival. Between the problem of the eradication of hunger in the world and the question of religious identity, a trip to classical Greek antiquity, with the patron of western philosophy Socrates, best convinces on the interest of the first concern. Indeed, Socrates reproached his contemporaries for indulging in the metaphysical questions which unnecessarily divided society. Thanks to his very famous formula revealing his method known as Maïeutics ("Know Yourself"), Socrates introduced anthropology into philosophy, bringing man back to the center of all philosophical preoccupations.

At a time when humanity is preparing to celebrate the seventieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 18 of which proclaims solemnly the freedom of religion, there is an unusual event in Pakistan demonstrating the level of degeneration that religious sectarianism can engender. A Punjabi woman, Asia Bibi, a farm worker, was collecting red berries on June 14, 2009, in the village of Ittan Wali, when she committed the irreparable in the eyes of her neighbors: drinking water in a well supposedly reserved for Muslims.

Because she responded to the women who accused her of dirtying the water, this mother of five children was charged with "blasphemy", an act punishable by death in Pakistan. As soon as she was jailed, Asia Bibi was tried in November 2010 and sentenced to death by hanging. This mother, who claims her innocence, appealed this decision. When considering her appeal in early October, the Supreme Court justices seemed to question the merits of the prosecution. "I do not see any derogatory remarks about the Qur'an in the investigation report," said judge Saqib Nisar, while a second judge, Asif Saeed Khan Khosa, noted several points of non-compliance. 

Today, pressure is mounting within extremist movements in Pakistan that threaten even the judiciary’s members who have decided to acquit Asia Bibi. The lawyer of Asia Bibi was even forced to leave the country to avoid the irreparable and the demonstrations multiply to claim the punishment of judges of the Supreme Court of Pakistan whose verdict is criticized. 

The analysis of the facts recalled here leads to several questions. Is tolerance incompatible with Islam? Does the fact that a non-Muslim drink water from a well supposedly reserved for Muslims constitute a blasphemy under the Koran or the prophetic tradition?


A thorough study of Islam has the advantage of giving a negative answer to the first question. It is deduced from the Koran and the prophetic tradition that tolerance is at the heart of Islam. The relations of the prophet Muhammad with people of other religions are summarized in this verse of the Qur'an:

‘‘ To you your religion and mine to me.’’ (Quran 109: 6)

The best example of tolerance of the Prophet to members of other religions was undoubtedly the constitution itself, called "Sahifah" by early historians. When the prophet Muhammad immigrated to Medina, his trip ended his role as a simple religious leader. He became the political leader of a State governed by the precepts of Islam, which required the establishment of clear laws to ensure harmony and stability in a society that was just emerging from decades of wars of all kinds. It was therefore essential to ensure a peaceful coexistence between Muslims, Jews, Christians and polytheists. The Prophet wrote a constitution detailing the responsibilities of each group resident in Medina, as well as their obligations to each other and certain restrictions for each. Each group had to respect the details of this constitution and any violation of any of its articles was considered as treason.

Members of other religions in Muslim society also enjoyed protection in the daily practice of their worship. The Prophet says:

‘‘Anyone who kills a person who has signed a truce with the Muslims will never feel the smell of Paradise’’. (Sahih Muslim)

As the Muslims were in a position of advantage, the Prophet issued a strict warning against any form of ill-treatment against members of other religions.

Regarding the qualification of Asia Bibi's act of blasphemy, further research is needed to understand the steps taken by the Supreme Court of Pakistan to reach a verdict. ‘The notion of blasphemy has no equivalent in Islam,” says Tareq Obrou, theologian and imam at the mosque of Bordeaux, rather it is apostasy (riddat), which concerns only the Muslim who denies his/her faith. As for the representation of God and that of the Prophet, their prohibition concerns only the Muslim and not the non-Muslim, knowing that there is no scriptural source that would prohibit the representation of the Prophet. Prohibition of the representation of the Prophet is a precautionary principle, a preventive prohibition.

Returning back to Asia Bibi case, it is worth wondering who, between the extremist demonstrators and the judges of the Supreme Court of Pakistan, have the best interpretation of the teachings of Islam.

photo credits : CBN News 

Posted by Virgile Rivet SAMBA-MOUSSINGA


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