People and movements that shaped Muslim culture

Since 1987 over 1,300 people have been accused of blasphemy; over 67 people accused of blasphemy has been killed before their respective trials were over, and prominent figures who opposed the blasphemy law have been assassinated. Young Mashaal Khan was the latest victim of blasphemy, who was lynched to death by the students and the administration of his University.

Firstly, I would like to briefly discuss four different occasions in history where the tool of blasphemy was used. Mansur Al Hallaj was one of the earliest and most celebrated yet misunderstood Sufi mystic who lived in between 858-922 AD. He remains a controversial figure revered by Rumi and hated by many; he was labelled an intoxicated Sufi.

He is most notable for his saying: ‘I am the Truth’, Ana ‘l-Haq in Arabic.

Which many saw as a claim to divinity, while others read it as an instance of mystical annihilation of the ego which allows God to speak through the individual. After more than a decade of imprisonment Mansour al-Hallaj was eventually put to death publically in Baghdad in the year 922.

In another controversial statement Mansour al-Hallaj claimed:

There is nothing wrapped in my turban but God, and likewise he would point to his cloak and say,

There is nothing in my cloak but God.

He was and is celebrated by most of the mystics, who saw what he meant exactly. Abubakr Mohammad Zakariya Razi, 854-925 CE, was a Persian polymath, physician, alchemist, and philosopher. Razi was the father of immunology, the initiative to distinguish smallpox from measles, the first to write on allergies and through his Diseases of Children, on paediatrics as well. Razi was dedicated to the wellbeing of his patients. Even today there is a University named after his name in Kermanshah, Iran. Razi Day is celebrated in Iran annually on 27th August is celebrated as the National Day of Pharmacists.

Razi’s ventures into religion earned him nothing but abuse. He believed if the people of a given religion are needed about the proof for the soundness of their religion, they flare up, get angry and spill the blood of whoever confronts them with this question. They forbid rational sphere in which rational inquiry could proceed forward.

The Mu’tazila movement emerged in the Umayyad Era, and was at the height of its popularity during the Abassid period. Mu’tazili were not willing to simply accept what current political-religious authorities claimed to be the absolute truth or absolute moral law

Razi wrote two heretical books: On Prophecies and On the Tricks of False Prophets. According to Al-Biruni, the first was claimed to be against religions and the second was claimed as attacking the necessity of the oracles. Al-Biruni further criticized and expressed caution about Razi’s religious views. None of his works on religion are now extant in full.

The Mu’tazila movement emerged in the Umayyad Era, and achieved its most popularity in the Abassid period. Mu’tazili were not willing to simply live with what the current political-religious authorities claimed as being the absolute truth or the absolute right moral law. For an essential Mu’tazilite premise is that all divine revelation, including the ‘book of nature’, is open to question as to how it is rationally interpreted and understood, and also about how man can apply what he learns into practicality.

It could be said that Mu’tazila approach to theology helped nurture this new emerging scientific movement. Or else, they believed that the ‘words of Allah’ require applied reasoned thinking to this task; otherwise, the religious authorities or those who happen to be favourites of the current political regime will dictate their own interpretative views to the people in the guise of absolute God’s truth.

The Mu’tazilite school of thought has been outlawed and its instructions were no less extinct than its teachers and their writings. For a while they held out in Zaydi Yemen, where they lived on in secret exiled isolation and without any further influence to the world of Islam. Mu’tazila movement and its ideas were either not mentioned at all, or else mentioned with disdain and disingenuous labelling.

Shibli Nomani, one of modern Islam’s theologians in the Indo-Pak subcontinent rightly stated that were it not for some references and hints in a few books we would not even know that such a school ever existed.

Sarmad Kashani was a Persian mystic and poet who travelled to and made the Indian subcontinent his permanent home during the 17th century. Sarmad’s motivation to go to India was financial rather than spiritual. He left home in his 20s to seek his fortune as a merchant. But his life changed abruptly when he arrived in the port city of Thatta in what is today Pakistan. There Sarmad fell in love with a young Hindu man named Abhai Chand, and the two became inseparable. Sarmad mastered the Judaic texts and moved to study with famous Muslim scholars and later converted to Islam. Abul Kalam Azad states in his article that Sarmad’s knowledge and understanding especially of Arabic was at the level of excellence. Prince Dara Shikoh became his devoted disciple in Delhi.

Sarmad is remembered most of all by the manner of his execution, which took place in 1670 CE. The charges against him are not exonerated. His minor offences included his public nakedness, use of marijuana and his affair with Abhai Chand. But these were not enough reason for execution. However, Sarmad’s main offense was not reciting the full Kalma and claiming that the Prophet Muhammad did not ascend the heavens, but that the heavens descended to Muhammad. The religious scholars of Aurangzeb’s court pronounced him a heretic and convinced Aurangzeb to carry out the death penalty as a binding religious duty. Sarmad refused, even under duress, to narrate the full Kalma. Instead of reciting, there is no God but God, and Muhammad is the messenger of God, he insisted on stopping short, there is no God. When asked the cause for this, he simply stated that this was the stage he had reached in his spiritual journey and he would be lying if he said more. The great mosque in Delhi was where Sarmad was killed in a very inhumane way.  His head rolled down the steps of the Jama mosque. His grave turned into a pilgrimage home for thousands of Muslims.

An age has passed since Mansur’s fame has grown ancient I will figure forth anew the noose’s wine. — SarmadKashani

Ja’far Al-Sadiq was known for his liberal views on learning, and was keen to have discourse with scholars of other views. People used to question him about the existence of God, instead of imposing blasphemy on them he used to discuss and satisfy them with his lectures. To me not knowing your religion is blasphemy, showing intolerance when your religion in question and you don’t have the answers is blasphemy. Looking at the above-mentioned events shows that the history exposes the truth. Muslims cannot preserve the sanctity of the Holy Prophet through violence; it’s the Almighty God Himself who is the protector of the Holy Quran and his Prophet Muhammad PBUH.

Almighty God had promised himself in the Quran to defend His religion and the Prophet Muhammad PBUH.

A religion tends to cover the spiritual aspects of one’s beliefs. Nevertheless, being the perfect religion, Islam goes above and beyond that. It encompasses economic, social, political and even diplomatic aspects of human life. As a manner of life Islam offers rules and regulations that govern not just the spiritual diaspora, but the rights of the oppressed and weaker people, orphans, widows and minors, and non-Muslims residing in Muslim lands. For every Muslim, Islam is the solution to humanity’s problems.

The writer is a traveller and freelance writer based in UK. He has previously written for @the_nation @Dawn_com @DunyaNews @TheAsians He can be contacted on

Published in Daily Times, November 19th 2017.