Diary: Court Case in Pakistan on Muslim Expressions

The Light & Islamic Review (US), January/February 1993 Issue (Vol. 70, No. 1, pp. 16—17)

In the Pakistani newspaper Dawn (1 December 1992, pp. 1 and 2), a court case is reported from Lahore in which some Ahmadis are on trial for having used the following common Muslim expressions on a wedding invitation card:

Bismillah-i-Rahman-i-Rahim (In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful), Assalamu Alaikum (Peace be on you), In-sha-Allah (if Allah pleases), Nikah masnun (marriage according to the Sunna), and Nahmudu-hu wa nusalli ala Rasuli-hil-karim (we praise Allah and send prayers upon his bounteous messenger Muhammad).

They were arrested and charged by the police, on 17 May 1992, with the offences of “injuring the feelings of Muslims”, “defiling the sacred name of the Holy Prophet”, and “posing as Muslims”, as stipulated in various sections of the Pakistan Penal Code. This particular news item reports a Supreme Court ruling which, on appeal by some of the defendants, has set aside a judgment of the Lahore High Court that had refused them bail.

The allegations in the case, as recorded in the Supreme Court ruling given in this news report, and the penalties applicable, are as follows:

“…that by using such expressions and looking at the petitioner’s faith, belief and antecedents, he had defiled the sacred name of the Holy Prophet, attracting the punishment of death and fine; … that he had deliberately and maliciously done so with a view to outraging the feelings of a particular class of citizens of Pakistan [i.e., Muslims — Editor.] and thereby committed an offence punishable with 10-year imprisonment; … it was also alleged that being a Qadiani or Ahmadi, by using the expressions, he directly or indirectly posed himself to be a Muslim … which offence was punishable with three years imprisonment ….”

The latest news is that the Supreme Court, while ruling in the matter of bail, has noted that the mere use of these expressions

“does not create in a Muslim, or for that matter anyone else, any of the feeling of hurt, offence or provocation etc. etc., nor is it derogatory to the Holy Prophet or the Muslims”.

The substantial case itself is still to proceed in the Lahore High Court.

Some of our readers may be rightly perplexed as to how it requires eminent and learned judges of the Supreme Court of a modern state to determine that a person who uses sacred Islamic expressions glorifying Allah and the Holy Prophet Muhammad is not offending Muslims or defiling the name of the Holy Prophet. It is something which is so clearly obvious to any man in the street who knows little of religion or law. Yet absurd laws create absurd situations, and the law that exists in Pakistan to the effect that Ahmadis cannot “pose” as Muslims has meant, time and again, that members of this Movement have been charged with the criminal offence of practising some aspect of Islam. By the greatest paradox and irony in religious history, a state claiming to be Islamic makes it a crime, punishable by the draconian penalties mentioned in the extract above, for some of its citizens to act upon the teachings of Islam. People have even been accused of possessing “objectionable literature”, which was none other than the Holy Quran.

If a real non-Muslim, such as a Christian or a Hindu, were to use the sacred Islamic expressions to send blessings upon the Holy Prophet, or to have the Holy Quran in his possession, no doubt all Muslims would be pleased and delighted. If a non-Muslim person or state were to announce that they agree with some particular teaching of Islam, and are going to adopt that teaching, there would be jubilation among Muslims. Yet the law in Pakistan has created a category of non-Muslim (namely, Ahmadis) whose members, if they practise any well-known aspect of Islam, are alleged to “outrage the feelings of Muslims”! We await the final outcome of the case in Lahore.