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Source: This post is based on the article “Sir Syed Ahmed Khan and Maulana Azad show how to deal with hurt religious sentiments” published in The Indian Express on 7th Jul 22.
Syllabus: GS1 – Society
Relevance: Blasphemy and associated issues
News: Muslims find blasphemy an abominable act for which the offender must part with his life. This is a popular narrative but has hardly any Quranic validation and is not consistent with what the Prophet did in his lifetime.
Two widely respected public intellectuals and religious scholars of India, Sir Syed Ahmed Khan (1817-1898) and Maulana Abul Kalam Azad (1888-1958) found that the punishment for blasphemy was not in conformity with the teachings of Islam.
Their judicious views on blasphemy are invested with the potential to solve the vexed issue.
What are the views of Sir Syed Ahmed Khan and Maulana Abul Kalam Azad on blasphemy?
The issue of blasphemy repeatedly surfaced in 19th and 20th-century India, and Sir Syed and Azad, known proponents of contrary political ideologies, tried to acquaint Muslims with credible Islamic laws dealing with the matter.
They urged Muslims not to be carried away by emotions. Instead, they said, a compellingly argued reply to the profanity-filled books or remarks would be more effective.
– Further, the Quran did not specify corporal punishment for such a deplorable act.
One must not take vengeance on behalf of the Almighty or his messenger.
For Sir Syed, blasphemy does not call for violent and loud protest and requires nothing short of a rational rejoinder. It means one responds to books with books, words with words. Banning or burning books offers no solution (“kitab ka jawab kitab hai kitab jalana nahi”).
Example: In 1873, Bombay was rocked by a violent clash between Muslims and Parsis, following the publication of the translation of a Persian book allegedly full of disparaging remarks about the Prophet.
Sir Syed responded to the situation by writing an editorial in his bilingual newspaper, the Aligarh Institute Gazette, and spelt out what caused communalism in India.
Sir Syed wrote: “One must not try to settle the issue by himself. The nasty books aimed at denouncing or despising other religions must not find their way; the government must enact stringent laws, and these texts are to be settled with the provisions of the sedition laws.”
When Swami Shraddhanand’s (1856-1926) book was published, Maulana Azad, strongly insisted that Muslims should not try to punish the guilty without seeking remedies offered by the Constitution.
Sir Syed and Azad’s judicious views on blasphemy are invested with the potential to solve the vexed issue that frequently surfaces in countries where many Muslims live. In India, they are of particular importance.