The Problem of Non-Muslims Who Insult the Prophet Muḥammad

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Mark S. Wagner



Questions of whether, how, and why non-Muslims, whose infidel religious practice necessitates ongoing disregard for the Prophet Muḥammad, should be punished for the crime of insulting the Prophet (sabb al-rasūl or shatm al-rasūl) prompted lively debate among Muslims in the eleventh century, especially Shāfiʿīs. This article presents the history and development of the law, and demonstrates that while two of its most draconian interpretations, that of Qāḍī ʿIyāḍ and Ibn Taymiyya, eclipsed more nuanced discussions that took place among Shāfiʿīs and Ḥanafīs, some late Ḥanafī ulama viewed this as a bad development and sought to mine the tradition to reclaim and render normative a more lenient interpretation of the law.

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