“Blasphemy has no place in a liberal and tolerant society offering equal opportunities and liberties to each citizen. Blasphemy breeds polarization, hence destabilises the society through mistrust, and hatred. Blasphemy needs to be curbed through harshest capital punishment while ensuring essential safeguards against miscarriage of justice.”
With thanks to Air Cdre Khalid Iqbal (R) (Ex- PAF assistant Chief of Air Staff)
a) Ghazi Illam ud Din Shaheed (Who layed his life for Prophet PBUH and forced British tyranny to change the laws of Blasphemy) and Quaid e Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah (A story of every muslim for everyone to understand)
b) A lost case, an upheld cause!
Quaid and the Ghazi:
Quaid-i-Azam lost only one case during his entire practising tenure, that too by choice. He chose to defend a “murderer” who had been convicted by the trial court, where he had opted for guilty plea and was not interested to defend his act. Quaid-i-Azam urged the accused to enter a plea of not guilty and to say that he had acted due to extreme provocation. The fact that accused was only 19 years old would have also worked in his favour. However, the accused refused to offer such a plea and insisted that he was proud of his actions. This case, cited as Ilam Din vs. Emperor AIR 1930 Lahore 157, was the only one suit that the Quaid ever lost. Given the stance by the accused, technically it was a lost case, yet the Quaid chose to contest it to uphold a cause. It was the case of Ghazi Ilam Din Shaheed.
One Prashaad Prataab had authored a blasphemous book. Rajpal a Hindu book publisher from Lahore took the responsibility of publishing the book in 1923 and pledged not to disclose the author’s real name. Pressure from the Muslim community resulted in the matter being taken to Session court Lahore, which found RajPal guilty and sentenced him. Subsequently Rajpal appealed against the decision of Session Court in the Lahore High court. The appeal was heard by Judge Daleep Singh who acquitted Rajpal on the grounds that criticism against the religious leaders, no matter how immoral, was not covered by S.153 of the Indian Penal Code.
Thus Rajpal could not be sentenced as law did not cover blasphemous criticism against religion.
High Court decision was widely criticised and protests were made against it by Muslims of India. Little did anyone expect that one young man’s course of action would bring about a significant change in the law, ensuring that Islam would be covered by blasphemy laws.Creation of Pakistan was still a distant dream in the hearts of the Indian Muslims.
This event was one of the contributory causes that culminated in Allama Iqbal’s proposal for a separate Muslim state in 1930, which resulted in the creation of Pakistan in 1947.
Gave my life to defend the honour of our Last Prophet Muhammad S.A.W.W:
As the noose was put around the neck of Ilam Din, he repeated before the huge crowd: “O people! Bear witness that I killed Rajpal to defend our last Prophet Muhammad S.A.W, and today they are going to hang me. I am sacrificing my life whilst reciting the kalimah shahadah (testimony of faith).” The young man was buried without any funeral. Mass demonstrations broke out. The inhabitants of Lahore wanted Ilam Din’s body returned in order to give him an Islamic funeral. Allama Iqbal and Mian Abdul Aziz campaigned to have the body of Ilam Din returned to Lahore for the funeral prayer. The British were worried that this would incite unrest. Only after Allama Iqbal gave his assurance to the British that no riots would erupt, permission was given.
- Around 200,000 Muslims attended the funeral prayer.
- Maulana Zafar Ali Khan said ahead of the burial: “Alas! If only if I had managed to attain such a blessed status!” Allama Iqbal carried the funeral bier along its final journey.
- As Iqbal placed the body of Ilam Din into the grave, he tearfully declared: “This uneducated young man has surpassed us, the educated ones.”
Repercussions of the sacrifice:
- The martyrdom of Ilam Din on 31st October 1929 had far-reaching repercussions.
- A provision Section 295A was added to the Indian Penal Code, making insult to the religious beliefs of any class an offence.
- The Pakistan Penal Code makes it a crime for anyone who “by words or visible representation or by an imputation or insinuation, directly or indirectly, defiled the name of the Muhammad”. In 1982, Section 295B was added to the Pakistan Penal Code punishing “defiling the Holy Quran” with life imprisonment.
- In 1986, Section 295C was introduced, mandating the death penalty for “use of derogatory remarks in respect of the Holy Prophet” in keeping with Ilam Din’s legacy.
Quaid e Azam and Allama Iqbal’s perspectives:
Since Quaid e Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah defended Ilam Din in his murder trial at appellate level, it can be inferred that he favoured the ‘death sentence for blasphemy’. Same was endorsed by Allama Iqbal.
On his vision of Pakistan, the Quaid had said: ‘The tolerance and good will Emperor Akbar showed to all the non-Muslims is not of recent origin. It dates back to thirteen centuries ago when our Prophet not only by words but by deeds treated the Jews and Christians after he had conquered them with the utmost tolerance and regard and respect for their faith and beliefs’.
Quaid was an inexorable defender of civil liberties. He stood for Bhagat Singh’s freedom and condemned the British government in the harshest language when no one else dared.
His landmark speech before the Constituent assembly of Pakistan on 11 August, 1947 envisaged equality for all Pakistanis, irrespective of religion, cast and creed: ‘…Now, if we want to make this great State of Pakistan happy and prosperous, we should wholly and solely concentrate on the well-being of the people, and especially of the masses and the poor. If you will work in co-operation, forgetting the past, burying the hatchet, you are bound to succeed. If you change your past and work together in a spirit that everyone of you, no matter to what community he belongs, no matter what relations he had with you in the past, no matter what is his colour, caste or creed, is first, second and last a citizen of this State with equal rights, privileges, and obligations, there will be no end to the progress you will make…We should begin to work in that spirit and in course of time all these angularities of the majority and minority communities, the Hindu community and the Muslim community… will vanish….You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place of worship in this State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed that has nothing to do with the business of the State….We are starting with this fundamental principle that we are all citizens and equal citizens of one State…Now I think we should keep that in front of us as our ideal and you will find that in course of time Hindus would cease to be Hindus and Muslims would cease to be Muslims, not in the religious sense, because that is the personal faith of each individual, but in the political sense as citizens of the State’.
Truth is that which even the adversaries accept – L K Advani from assasination to acknowledgement:
L K Advani, the extremist right-wing Hindutva torch bearer and 1992 Anti-Babri Masjid “yatra” fame Indian politician, who was once named in a police report for an alleged assassination attempt on Jinnah’s life, while visiting Pakistan, stoked off a huge scandal in India, when he referred to Jinnah as a great leader.
At Quaid’s Mausoleum, he wrote:
‘There are many people who leave an irreversible stamp on history. But there are few who actually create history. Quaid-e-Azam Mohammed Ali Jinnah was one such rare individual. His address to the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan on August 11, 1947 is really a classic and a forceful espousal of a secular state in which every citizen would be free to follow his own religion. The State shall make no distinction between the citizens on the grounds of faith. My respectful homage to this great man’.
Only that he is unaware as to what he referred to as a secular trait is infact the very essence of Islam.
Issue of blasphemy law has to be seen in the spirit espoused by the great Quaid. Blasphemy has no place in a liberal and tolerant society offering equal opportunities and liberties to each citizen. Blasphemy breeds polarization, hence destabilises the society through mistrust, and hatred. Blasphemy needs to be curbed through harshest capital punishment while ensuring essential safeguards against miscarriage of justice.