By Daniel Akbari
Islam generally prohibits Muslims from depicting animate life, but this prohibition is not the reason for Sunday's attack at the free-speech event in Garland, Texas. The prohibition is found in the hadith collections of both Al-Bukhari and Muslim, the two most authoritative hadith collections in Islam. The hadith are the purported sayings, deeds and silences of Muhammad and are essential to Islamic scholars in formulating Shariah. One of these hadith states, "Ibn Umar said: The Messenger of Allah said, 'Those who draw pictures will be punished on the Day of Resurrection; and it will be said to them: Breathe soul into what you have created.'"
Advertisement - story continues below
Although pictures were involved in Garland, the real issue was not depicting Muhammad; it was insulting Muhammad. No sect of Islam will kill others merely for depicting Muhammad. The Shia do not even follow the hadith that prohibits pictures. Many Shia homes have pictures of both Muhammad and Ali, the fourth caliph after Muhammad and, next to Muhammad, the most respected religious figure for Shia. The Sunni do not object to pictures of Muhammad that show him as manly, handsome, strong, or kind. The problem is pictures that disparage Muhammad or other respected Islamic figures, even if the pictures depict factual events in their lives. Drawing caricatures of Muhammad is per se insulting under Shariah.
The authority for punishing those who insult Muhammad comes from the most important Islamic source, the Quran.
Surah 9:61 states, "those who hurt Allah's Messenger will have a painful torment."
Surah 9:63 says, "Know they not that whoever opposes and shows hostility to Allah and His Messenger, certainly for him will be the Fire of Hell to abide therein. That is extreme disgrace." Under ijma, the consensus of Islamic scholars that forms the basis for Shariah, any act that will send one to hell in the afterlife warrants the punishment of death in this life.
Advertisement - story continues below
Surah 9:65 and 66 state, "If you ask them (about this), they declare: 'We were only talking idly and joking.' Say: 'Was it at Allah, and His Ayat (the verses of Quran) and His Messenger that you were mocking?' Make no excuse; you have disbelieved after you had believed. …" This means people who insult Muhammad are subject to the Law of Ridda (apostasy). Under the authority of Surah 5:54, they are killed and their property belongs to the Islamic leader. Islamic history as recorded in the hadith shows that several people were killed for poems that insulted Muhammad.
The range of actions that constitute insulting Muhammad is very broad. For example, discussing the fact that Muhammad married Aisha when she was 6 years old – even though this is recorded in hadith – is considered insulting. Sometimes there is a fine line between what is acceptable and what would constitute an insult. For example, using the word "raid" rather than "campaign" for Muhammad's expeditions would be insulting. Other examples of insults would be to say he was not a prophet or was not the last prophet from Allah, to say he was a liar, or to say the Quran is man-made. What constitutes an insult is largely subjective and depends on the discretion of the observer. Sometimes even trained and experienced Islamic scholars can say something inadvertently that other Muslims would take as an insult.
Sunday's attack shows America is at a crossroads. Americans either have to persuade their Muslim neighbors to respect the right of free speech or submit to the growing demand to put more limits on freedom of speech.
Daniel Akbari is certified by the Iranian Bar Association as a Number One Attorney, is admitted to practice before the Supreme Court of Iran and is the author of "HONOR KILLING: A Professional's Guide to Sexual Relations and Ghayra Violence from the Islamic Sources" and "New Jihadists and Islam."