It shines light (again) on that famous comment which in our opinion crystallizes the Two Nation Theory: Hindus and Muslims can never co-exist….their heroes are our villains and vice versa
There are shrines and roads and squares all over Pakistan commemorating the memory of Ilm-ud-Din. But sad to say, the grave of Dr Abdus Salam has been defaced. The nobel laureate was also a proud son of Pakistan and he belongs to the Ahmadi tradition – the same Ahmadis, who as a group were in the forefront of the Pakistan movement. Pakistan has honored one son but not the other. Too bad.
“As Iqbal placed the body of Ilm Din into the grave, he tearfully
declared: “This uneducated young man has surpassed us, the educated
The 1920’s in India witnessed the publishing of an inflammatory book
vilifying Prophet Muhammad (SAW) thereby adding fuel to the existing
Muslim/Hindu tensions. The British Raj ruled India and the creation of
Pakistan was still a distant dream in the hearts of the Indian Muslims.
The Muslim population was understandably incensed and mass protests were
held. Prashaad Prataab had authored Rangeela Rasool (The Colourful
Prophet), under the pen name of Pandit Chamupati Lal. The word rangeela
means ‘colourful’ but can be understood in this context to mean
Rajpal was a Hindu book publisher from Lahore. He 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
Raj Pal 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 gave leave to appeal on the grounds that
on the basis of criticism against the religious leaders, no matter how
immoral it is, is 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. The High Court decision was widely criticised and
protests were made against it by Muslims of India. Little did anyone
suspect that one young man’s course of action would bring about a
significant change in the Law, ensuring that Islam would be covered by
Ilm Din was an illiterate teenager from Lahore. His father was a
carpenter. One day he was passing near Masjid (mosque) Wazir Khan. There
was a huge crowd shouting slogans against Rajpal. The speaker
thundered: “Oh Muslims! The devil Rajpal has sought to dishonour our
beloved Prophet Muhammed (S.A.W) by his filthy book!”
Ilm Din was deeply affected by this passionate speech and vowed to take
action. On 6th September 1929 Ilm Deen set out for the bazaar and
purchased a dagger for one rupee. He hid the dagger in his pants and
waited opposite Rajpal’s Shop. Rajpal had not arrived yet. His flight
had arrived at Lahore airport and he proceeded to phone the police in
order to request them to provide him security. Ilm Deen did not know
what the publisher looked like. He asked a few passer-by’s as to
Rajpal’s whereabouts and said that he needed to discuss something with
him. Rajpal entered the shop without detection but soon after a man
alerted Ilm Din that Rajpal was inside. The young man entered the shop,
lunged forward and attacked him. He stabbed his dagger into the chest of
Rajpal with such force that his heart was ripped from his body. Rajpal
fell dead on the ground. Ilm Deen made no attempt to escape. Rajpal’s
employees grabbed him and shouted for help.
The police arrived at the scene and arrested Ilm Deen. He was kept in
Mianwali jail. The case went to court and Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali
Jinnah was his defence lawyer. Jinnah fought Ghazi Ilm Deen’s case on a
special request from Allama Iqbal. Jinnah urged Ilm Din to enter a
plea of not guilty plea and to say that he had acted due to extreme
provocation. The fact that Ilm Din was only 19 years old would have also
worked in his favour. Ilm Din refused to offer such a plea and insisted
that he was proud of his actions. This case was the only one that
Jinnah ever lost. The Session Court awarded Ilm Din the death penalty. Against his wishes, the Muslims lodged an appeal, but it was rejected.
Ilm Din’s execution occurred on 31st October 1929. When asked if he
had any last requests, he simply requested that he be allowed to pray
two rak’at (units) nafl (voluntary) prayer, thus following the example
of Khubaib (RA) who also prayed 2 rak’ats nafl before the pagan Quraish
As the noose was put around the neck of Ilm Din, he repeated before the huge crowd:
“O people! Bear witness that I killed Rajpal to defend our last
Prophet Muhammed S.A.W, and today they are going to hang me. I am
sacrificing my life whilst reciting the kalimah (shahadah – testimony of
The young man was killed and the authorities buried him without any
Janazah (funeral) prayer being offered for him. Mass demonstrations
broke out and there the tension between the Hindu and Muslim communities
The inhabitants of Lahore wanted Ilm Din’s body returned
in order to give him an Islamic janaza (funeral). Two celebrated
activists — Dr. Muhammed Allama Iqbal and Mian Abdul Aziz — campaigned
to have the body of Ilm Din returned to Lahore for the Janaza 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, was permission given.
When the body of Ilm Din was exhumed from its grave, it was found to
be the intact without any change whatsoever. The kaffan (shroud) had not
changed its colour. This occurred on 14th November 1929 — a full 15
days after the hanging. After a two-day journey, the body arrived in
Lahore. Muslims from the whole city and millions from adjoining areas
attended his funeral.
Ilmuddin’s father requested Allama Muhammad
Iqbal to lead the funeral prayer and this shivered Dr. Allama Iqbal who
replied that I am a sinful person not competent to do this job to lead
the funeral of such a matchless warrior. 200,000 Muslims attended the
funeral prayer which led by the Imam of masjid Wazeer Khan, Imam
Muhammed Shamsuddeen. Mawlana 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 Ilm Din into the grave, he tearfully declared: “This uneducated young man has surpassed us, the educated ones.”
The killing of Ilm Din had far-reaching repercussions. A provision
was added to the Penal Code, making insult to the religious beliefs of
any class an offense. Allama Iqbal’s proposal of a separate Muslim
state in 1930 resulted in the creation of Pakistan in 1947. 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 Prophet Muhammad”.
1982, President Zia ul-Haq introduced Section 295B to the Pakistan
Penal Code punishing “defiling the Holy Qur’an” 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
Islam’s hudood (prescribed punishments).
Ilm Din’s legacy is still
visible across Pakistan, where parks, hospitals and roads carry his
Rashid Rehman was killed for defending a man accused of blasphemy [EPA]. The
recent murder of a brave human rights lawyer Rashid Rehman reminds us of the
society we have shaped. It is now an unregulated space where even defending the
rights of an accused is a crime.
threats, including those in the courtroom, public. The local state authorities did next to
nothing to protect him or rein in the individuals and groups preaching violence.
It seems when it comes to religiously motivated violence the might of the
state disappears. Victims of blasphemy law are no longer fit for due process.
They need to be punished directly. A few days after the murder of Rehman,
another accused of blasphemy was shot dead by a teenager in a police station
of Salmaan Taseer in January 2011, debates on the colonial blasphemy law have
disappeared from the public domain. Those who advocated against its misuse were
also silenced through litigation in courts by the right-wing lobbies that no
longer constitute the lunatic fringe. In fact, the idea of blasphemy as a
threat to Pakistan’s carefully constructed “Islamic” identity mixes
passion, politics and power. A state that quietly smiles at the success of its
project is now complicit in mob justice and even brutal killings such as the
one that took Rashid Rehman’s life.
eve of Hindu festival Holi, an allegation of blasphemy against a local Hindu led
to the attack on a community centre and a temple in the stronghold of liberal
PPP (Pakistan Peoples Party) Larkana in Southern Pakistan. The scenes of
vandalisation in Sindh province, otherwise known as the land of Sufis and where
the largest number of the Hindu population lives, were chilling.
the response of the state officials who are content with terming such issues
“sensitive” or in other words a no-go area carved in the public
imagination. A report by Reuters states that March 2014 was the
“worst month for attacks on Hindus in 20 years with five temples attacked,
up from nine during the whole of 2013”.
Lahore court awarded death sentence to another alleged blasphemer, Sawan Masih,
marking a new low in our legal and judicial system. A low income settlement in
Lahore – Joseph Colony – was attacked in 2013 and nearly a hundred homes were
torched. The mayhem was triggered by an ‘allegation’ of blasphemy. To give
credit where it is due the Punjab government promptly helped in rebuilding
these homes. However, its police and prosecution failed to nab those who were
involved in this kind of “collective punishment”.
failed to take cognizance of the reported involvement of its local leader from
the area. And the judicial system – trained in the curricula and discourse of
Islamisation and deeply afraid – meted out a tough sentence to another Christian.
militant organisations according to reports maintain close surveillance of
Christian settlements. The results of this activism have been witnessed in
Gojra, Jospeh Colony and elsewhere. Collusion by political parties and
inability of law enforcement agencies have led to a state of confusion and
has the unique distinction of abusing the controversial blasphemy laws and
according to a recent report (prior to Sawan’s sentence), 14 individuals were
on death row on blasphemy convictions and 19 convicts were serving life
are hundreds of others who have been arrested or charged with the crime. It is
not the execution of a sentence but the fear and mob justice that comes in the
wake of such charges. After Rehman’s murder, lawyers would think twice before
taking such a case. Judges would be afraid to deliver verdicts and the police –
already partisan – will further abandon its job.
Sawan Masih, a few parliamentarians raised this issue in the national assembly
but nothing changed. Outraged citizens protest, write op-eds in the English
press and few reckless types like me, who tried to raise these issues on
television, face bullets.
largest private TV network – GEO – is under attack for allegedly airing a
blasphemous morning show. The controversial content was a lapse of editorial
judgment but the charges have put thousands of workers’ lives at risk. The
channel that has been in a tug of war with Pakistan’s premier intelligence
agency – the ISI – has now been entangled in the ultimate crisis. It may mend
its relations with the state but charges of blasphemy will continue to risk its
a society where even an allegation of blasphemy is enough to sentence and burn
people. In Sindh and Punjab mobs have burnt the accused reminding one of the
ugliest of practices in human history. The abuse of blasphemy law is nothing
but an issue of power and ideological supremacy by the fanatics in our society.
in the early twentieth century, is a national hero of Pakistan’s collective
memory. It cannot be denied that the love and veneration for Prophet
Mohammad (pbuh) is a tenet of lived Islam across the Muslim world.
case, this is less of a religious obligation and more of a political project.
Implementing the blasphemy law with or without the due process is a means of
dealing with a pre-Islamic past, the colonial experience, and modernity.
direct result of a state project which has drummed Islamo-nationalism to build
widespread public support for “strategic” aims. The battle with
India is not about Kashmir or water but it is about believers vs infidels. Similarly,
the engagement with the West can be managed by invoking the spectre of West
attempting to harm Islam and Muslims.
number of my countrymen view the debate on blasphemy law as “Western
agenda” and something that West sponsored “evil” NGOs propagate
to damage Islam and Pakistan.
country on earth? There are at least a billion Muslims living outside Pakistan
and we cannot assume the gatekeeping of Ummah. No one denies that the Western
aggression and misadventures haven’t helped either. But we are now trapped in
our own discourse, glued to an identity that values exclusion over pluralism.
The rise of such discriminatory discourses in Pakistan through publications,
media, militant groups – considered legitimate – have compounded our everyday
reality. Upholding human rights is now a sin punishable by death.
whether we like it or not.
Pakistan’s Parliament needs to change the investigative procedure of the
blasphemy law and institute safeguards against adverse police reporting. Most
importantly, it will need to protect the judges and lawyers who defend human