Biblical Blasphemy vs Islamic Blasphemy

 

Biblical Blasphemy vs Islamic Blasphemy

Richard Hollerman

Those who have studied both the Bible and Muslim literature, including the Quran, will notice huge differences between the views of blasphemy held by both groups.  What can we find in the Bible and what does Islamic law state about this?

The Bible speaks about blasphemy.  The Law of Moses declared:

The one who blasphemes the name of the LORD [Yahweh] shall surely be put to death; all the congregation shall certainly stone him.  The alien as well as the native, when he blasphemes the Name, shall be put to death (Leviticus 24:16).

God considered that His “name” was holy and to be revered under all circumstances.  Since the “name” of a person referred to his character, nature, and person, we can see that to “blaspheme” God would be to lower God by means of speaking against Him, taking His name in a trifling way, representing Him in a way different from the way He revealed Himself.  You will remember the third of the Ten Commandments: “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain” (Exodus 20:7).  Over the years, Jews came to revere God’s “name” so much that they refused to even pronounce it. This was the case in Christ’s own age. While this is not at all what God through Moses revealed, it does show the respect that the Name of God commanded.

The unbelieving Jews in the first century were determined to stone the Lord Jesus for they concluded that, since He claimed to be one with the Father (John 10:30), He was guilty of blasphemy.  They said to Jesus, “For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy; and because You, being a man, make Yourself out to be God” (vv. 31-33).  Although they were wrong about the application of the Law of the Lord in regard to blasphemy, we can see that God did consider this sin to be very, very serious—so serious that one must be killed as punishment.  It is true that we are no longer under the Mosaic instruction regarding the death penalty, but we also should consider this sin to be utterly serious.

What would be the application today?  “Blasphemy” itself comes from the Greek blasphemeo, meaning “any contumelious speech, reviling, calumniating, railing,” and the adjective, blasphemos, means “abusive, speaking evil” (Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words).  Another authority says that blasphemeo means “to calumniate, revile, treat with calumny and contumely,” and with regard to God, “to speak of God or divine things in terms of impious irreverence, to blasphemy” (The New Analytical Greek Lexicon, Perschbacher). Thus, as applied to God, “blasphemy” would refer to speaking evil of Him, His nature, His character, and His works. The Christian, of course, should refrain from speaking evil of others, unless he does this to expose error and sin.

How does this relate to the religion of Islam? Blasphemy, according to Islamic law, is “irreverent behavior” toward “holy personages, religious artifacts, customs, and beliefs that Muslims revere.”  While “the Quran and the hadith do not speak about blasphemy,” “Jurists created the offence, and they made it part of Sharia.  Where Sharia pertains, the penalties for blasphemy can include fines, imprisonment, flogging, amputation, hanging, or beheading.  Muslim clerics may call for the punishment of an alleged blasphemer by issuing a fatwa.” (en.wikipedia.org/ wiki/Islam_and_ blasphemy).

Muslim ideas of blasphemy are somewhat similar to the Biblical meaning of the term—but not identical.  They do take blasphemy seriously as does the Bible. Further, they would say that it refers to “irreverent behavior” toward holy things.  Islamic Law can result in the death penalty, as in the Bible.

However, Islamic views of blasphemy are also somewhat different from God’s definitions.  For instance, the statement above says that blasphemy may be committed against persons and customs that Muslims revere.  We must ask how does the Christian view those persons whom Muslims revere who may be false teachers?  Or consider Islamic customs. What if those customs contradict what God Himself has revealed in His written Word?  For instance, notice this statement:

The punishment of those who wage war against Allah and His Messenger, and strive with might and main for mischief through the land is: execution, or crucifixion, or the cutting off of hands and feet from opposite sides, or exile from the land: that is their disgrace in this world, and a heavy punishment is theirs in the Hereafter, Except for those who return repenting before you apprehend them. And know that Allah is Forgiving and Merciful.” (5:33-34) —Qur’an, sura 5 (Al-Ma’ida), ayah 33-34[87] (Ibid.)

As can be seen, the Quran says that the greatest of punishments can come against one who wages “war” against Muhammad, a false teacher. In contrast to this, the Bible clearly says, “Every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; this is the spirit of the antichrist” (1 John 4:3). The Christian is to “refute those who contradict” sound teaching of the Word of God—and this would include any false teachings held by Muslims (Titus 1:9).  Back in the Law of Moses, a false prophet was to be “put to death” since he had sought to lead people away from the true and living God (Yahweh) (Deuteronomy 13:1-11). Further, the false prophet who “speaks a word presumptuously” that God has not commanded him to speak “shall die” (Deuteronomy 18:9-22). 

This reverses the view of Islam regarding false teaching.  Islam says that one who speaks against Muhammad and Islam practices can suffer the death penalty. God would say that those who speak against the God of the Bible and is a false teacher or false prophet was to die (under Moses).

Although we are not under the instruction of the Law of Moses today, and we do not kill false teachers, we should still expose false teachers and prophets as such. But the Islamic Law says that if one denounces such a false teacher, such as Muhammad or a Muslim teacher, that person should die.  Can we see that this instruction turns the Word of God upside down and places the Christian in jeopardy, according to Islamic Law?

This is why it is so utterly dangerous for a consistent and outspoken follower of Jesus to even live in strict Muslim lands!  If the Christian is consistent with the teaching of Scripture and the Muslim is consistent with the teachings of the Quran, it would seem that the Christian will inevitably be maimed or, more likely, be killed because he has violated Islamic blasphemy laws!  The reverse is true: The Christian recognizes the consistent Muslim as guilty of blasphemy against Jesus Christ and God the Father; however, God doesn’t say to punish Muslims. Rather, the follower of Jesus is to love and reach out to Muslims with kindness and truth.

Punishment for the Christian (who speaks against Muhammad and Islamic practices and beliefs) appears to be swift and decisive. Notice the following:

The punishment for non-conformity with prevailing beliefs and customs varies by jurisdiction.[84] In September 2009, Abdul Kahar Ahmad pleaded guilty in a Malaysian Sharia court to charges of spreading false doctrines, blasphemy, and violating religious precepts. The court sentenced Ahmad to ten years in prison and six lashes from a rattan cane.[89]

We don’t know what this person actually did or said, but surely the Christian would be considered guilty of “spreading false doctrines, blasphemy, and violating religious precepts.”  The Christian who openly preaches that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God (which Islam adamantly denies), and who preaches the death of Jesus on the cross and His resurrection (which Islam also denies), would be considered guilty of false doctrines, although Jesus Himself said that this belief is essential for one who receives eternal life (John 20:30-31; Romans 10:9-10). 

The Christian would be considered to be guilty of “blasphemy” since He would want to show the contrast between “Allah” and the true and living God of Scripture—Yahweh God (the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ). Scripture says that it is essential that one believe in God to be saved and have eternal life (Hebrews 11:6; John 5:24).

The same article that we have been quoting (from Wikipedia) lists various offenses that some Muslims have used to punish the perpetrators. The list is long but it is also insightful.  I’ll plan to make a few comments under several of the offenses:

Individuals have been accused of blasphemy or of insulting Islam for:

A Christian could be convicted of this as he does show the faults and misbeliefs in the religion of Islam.

  • saying Islam is an Arab religion; prayers five times a day are unnecessary; and the Qur’an is full of lies (Indonesia).[44]

Here again, the Christian could be found guilty if he does point out some of the fallacies in the Quran.

  • believing in transmigration of the soul or reincarnation or disbelieving in the afterlife (Indonesia).[45][46]
  • finding fault with a belief or a practice which the Muslim community (Ummah) has adopted.[45]

Obviously, a Christian could easily be convicted of this offense.

Would the Christian “find fault” with Islamic leaders and teachers if they teach falsehood contrary to God’s Word?

This would seem to prohibit the Christian from praying for the salvation of his friends and neighbors if they are Muslims. It would also militate against fulfilling the “great commission” of the Lord Jesus (Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16; Luke 24:44-47).

This could happen if a Christian desired to speak to a woman about her salvation and relationship with God (cf. John 4). While the Christian would respect the principle of purity and modesty, surely he would say that this requirement goes beyond reason in some circumstances.

  • finding amusement in Islamic customs (Bangladesh).[66][67][68][69]
  • publishing an unofficial translation of the Qur’an (Afghanistan).[70]
  • practicing yoga (Malaysia).[71]
  • watching a film or listening to music (Somalia).[72]
  • wearing make-up on television (Iran).[73]
  • insulting religious scholarship.[8]

If a Christian were to show fallacies in Muslim authorities, he might be charged with this offense.

This could happen if the Christian pointed out that certain Muslim prohibitions are unscriptural.

  • uttering “words of infidelity” (sayings that are forbidden).[8]

If this means that the Christian is considered guilty of “infidelity” (because he rejects certain beliefs of Islam), he could easily be considered guilty of this Muslim offense.

  • participating in non-Islamic religious festivals.[8]

Perhaps this could include the simple breaking of bread that Christians participate in each Lord’s day or even Christian worship and fellowship (Acts 2:42-46).

  • converting from Islam to Christianity or publishing or distributing such a point of view. (entire Muslim part of Middle East, Asia, and Far East).

From what this says, if a Muslim comes to Christ for eternal salvation, he could be prosecuted in many Muslim lands. Or if he distributes Christian literature in those lands, he could be punished.  Obviously, this would violate the Lord’s great commission commands (Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16).

  • talking about or trying to convert others from Islam to Christianity or publishing or distributing such a point of view (entire Muslim part of Middle East, Asia and Far East). (Ibid)

Again, this Islamic Law would plainly violate Christ’s command to proclaim His death and resurrection to all of the world—including over one billion Muslims around the world.

Could the disciple of Christ be convicted of any of these Islamic offenses? Indeed, he could, as we have seen.  In fact, it seems inevitable that the follower of Jesus (if he is consistent and faithful to Scripture) would definitely be punished on multiple counts if he were living in a consistent Muslim country.

Some of our readers may have heard of a contemporary short film entitled Innocence of Muslims, a movie on You Tube that depicts the life of Muhammad.  The drama pictures Muhammad as a fraud and a lustful, autocratic religious leader.  The film itself is of poor quality and perhaps not entirely accurate, but it does point up the extreme reactions that loyal Muslims have when their beliefs are violated.  The release of the film was enough to spark riots across the Near Eastern countries.  The local newspaper recently ran a short article about this: “Cairo: An Egyptian court convicted seven Egyptian Coptic Christians and a Florida pastor in absentia Wednesday, sentencing them to death on charges linked to an anti-Islam film that had sparked riots in parts of the Muslim world.

“The case was seen as largely symbolic because the defendants, most of whom live in the United States, are outside Egypt and thus unlikely to face the sentence.  The charges were brought in September during a wave of outrage in Egypt over the amateur film, produced by an Egyptian-American Copt. . . .

“Maximum sentences are common in cases tried in absentia in Egypt.  Capital punishment decisions are reviewed by the country’s chief religious authority, who must approve or reject the sentence.  A final verdict is scheduled for Jan. 29.” (Fort Worth Star-Telegram, December 1, 2012).

Although we wouldn’t want to endorse a film that is not entirely truthful, this incident and the capital punishment sentenced on these eight people show that some Muslims are serious about following the demands of their law and defending their “prophet” Muhammad.  They are willing to kill (commit murder) in order to defend what they mistakenly deem to be right. Again, this shows how Biblical blasphemy has been turned upside down and reinterpreted in Muslim lands.

What are we willing to accept?  Will we accept the written Word of God regarding blasphemy and truth?  Or will we surrender to false interpretations, false beliefs, and false views in regard to the meaning and application of Blasphemy?

 

 

 

 

 

 

   

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