Forgiveness, Not Death, for Hamza Kashgari

By Hesham A. Hassaballa

The ultimate fate of Saudi blogger, poet and writer Hamza Kashgari is still unknown. The 23-year-old, who formerly worked for the Saudi Arabia newspaper Al Bilad, recently tweeted some critical comments about the Prophet Muhammad (saw), which left conservative Saudi clerics crying blasphemy and calling for his blood. Kashgari’s cause has been taken up by Muslims around the world, many who say the call for his execution goes against the Prophet’s emphasis on love and forgiveness.

On the Prophet’s birthday (which fell on Feb. 12), Kashgari tweeted these statements, in 140 character increments, of course:

On your birthday, I will say that I have loved the rebel in you, that you’ve always been a source of inspiration to me, and that I do not like the halos of divinity around you. I shall not pray for you. On your birthday, I find you wherever I turn. I will say that I have loved aspects of you, hated others, and could not understand many more. On your birthday, I shall not bow to you. I shall not kiss your hand. Rather, I shall shake it as equals do, and smile as you smile at me. I shall speak to you as a friend, no more.

Because of those tweets, conservative clerics are clamoring for his death. I, and many others, spoke out against his execution, citing the fact that there is no evidence in the Qu’ran that calls for the death penalty for apostasy. But what’s more sorrowful is that in the heated rhetoric surrounding this young man’s tweets, lost is the substance of what he wrote. No one, it seems, focused on this statement: “I will say that I have loved aspects of you, hated others, and could not understand many more.” That, I think, is the key: He did not understand many aspects of the Prophet, his life and ministry.

Well, especially if that is the case, then the response should be compassion and education, not death and destruction. And, even if he had completely denied the prophet hood of Muhammad, he shouldn’t be executed. His faith, or lack thereof, is his choice. Kashgari, like all of us, will be judged by God, and it is not our place to play God’s role.

Maybe, despite his having been born and raised on the same piece of earth as the Prophet, Kashgari really did not know the Prophet Muhammad’s story, his life and his ministry. Maybe he did not really know the beauty of his character, the sanctity of his method or the magnanimity of his conduct. Maybe he did not really know how much his contemporaries loved him, how much his family adored him and how his followers were devastated when he was gone. Maybe Hamza Kashgari just does not understand, as seems to be from his tweets.

The Prophet’s story and life is indeed inspirational, as young Hamza himself said. Prophet Muhammad’s life has inspired me so much that I was blessed to publish his story entirely in poetry. And, if those who call for this blogger’s death truly love the Prophet, then they should follow his example and have compassion for the man. Those who are against him should lead by the example of the Prophet and set the blogger free.

The Prophet’s life is full of stories of how he forgave his worst enemies. Time and again, he refrained from taking personal revenge against anyone who slighted him, attacked him or even tried to kill him. His own uncle, Abu Lahab, would follow the Prophet wherever he went and tell people, “Don’t listen to him! He is a madman.” The Prophet did not even try to stop him. And when he marched triumphantly in Makkah, where I am sure many of Hamza Kashgari’s detractors now live, he told the Quraish tribe — his most bitter and brutal of enemies — “Go now and be free, I forgive you.”

Where has that spirit of forgiveness and compassion gone? Where has that kindness and generosity gone in the land of the Prophet (pbuh)? Why this rush for blood and death? This is reminiscent of the reaction to the silly Danish cartoons about the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). If one really loves the Prophet, then he will react in the way the Prophet would react: with kindness and generosity. Listen to the word of God:

 “But [since] good and evil cannot be equal, repel thou [evil] with something that is better and lo!, he between whom and thyself was enmity [may then become] as though he had [always] been close [unto thee], a true friend! (41:34)”

Yes, the tweet may have been imprudent and disrespectful. But, is killing him the answer? Is calling for his death going to make him come back to the faith and love the Prophet even more? Absolutely not. Our faith is all about love and compassion for all, to spread the light of God’s love to the rest of the world through our actions and thoughts. Why is it that, so many times, our people completely fail to see this?

Hesham A. Hassaballa is a columnist at Patheos and a frequent contributor to altmuslim at Patheos.

  • Muhammed Ali Razavi

    Allah (subhana wa ta’ala) has said this in description about people like you:

    Of the people there are some who say: “We believe in Allah and the Last Day;” but they are not (really people) of faith. [Ref: 2:8]

    Why they are not people of faith, believers, because they love, and befriend those who hate Allahs Messenger, and those who oppose him:

    Thou wilt not find any people who (truely) believe in Allah and the Last Day, loving those who oppose Allah and His Messenger, even though they were their fathers or their sons, or their brothers, or their kindred. For such … [Ref: 58:22]

    Muhammed Ali Razavi

  • Muhammed Ali Razavi

    Hamza Kashari’s statement:

    “I will say that I have loved aspects of you, hated others, and could not understand many more.”

    Its like saying: Mom i love your hands, and ur feets they are so soft, but when i look at your face ur so ugly: i want to spit on it in disgust. In short call this stabbing to death while sweet talking ur victim. I hope you understand that not understanding a aspect of life another human being is no reason to hate that part of life, and hate is conclusion one arrives at after processing the info and decides according to my taste budds this is disgusting (thus you hate it from there on). All of our emotions are controlled by our sense of reasoning. We use the reasoning to make criteria of ugly, beautiful, bad, good, evil, righeous, and then judge according to these, and like, and hate according to these criterias which we have instilled in our subconcious mind and on basis of which we judge everything.

    Therefore Hamza Kashgari’s hate isn’t due to not understanding, his hate could be triggered by the strictness of deen of Islam. He might hate Prophet’s certain aspect of life (i.e. Prophet instructing women to cover) because he may ascribe to more whorish morals of western world. Hate for something has to be cultivated, just has many other things in human nature, no one is born to hate anything, they hate, love, due to certain conditioning, and this conditioning of having hate for certain aspects of Prophet’s life is disgusting. So Hamza’s hate for certain aspects of Prophet’s life was cultivated, and was result of conditioning therefore he is not innocent victim. Rather guilty of a crime whos punishment is death in Islamic law. The allowances can be made based on, did he abuse Prophet normally, was this one off out burst, and if he did not abuse Prophet, and this was one off outburst, and he is truely repentant, without making excuses for his actions, i see there is a permissibility of letting him go free. If its found that it was his habbit, and in his routine he slandered, belittled, slandered Prophet, Islam, then he will be deemed as a Munafiq who is to be killed.

    With regards to your argument o Islam is peace, prophet is mercy, we should let him go. Islam is peace yet war is permissible, it teaches forgiveness yet allows slaughter in battlefield, point is some things which are against the nature of religion of Islam are permitted. Divorce even though its most disliked by Allah yet its permitted. Allah is merfiful, Ar’Rahman, Raheem, yet hell is waiting for those who do not earn the permit to enter heaven. Are you going to argue since Allah’s nature is Rahman, Raheem there is no hell, and there is no punishment in hell? Yes, Prophet is Rehmatal Lil Alameen, but punishment for those who drink alchahol, steal, was carried out, cutting of hand, 80 lashes for alcahol. Implimention of Islamic law is not contrary to rule of mercy, tolerance, love, kindness. Secondly if i slap you and you have the right to slap me back on order of court, eye for an eye, but if you can forgive me its better. Unfortunately insulting of Prophet and his forgiveness was for his life time, those who insulted him he forgave them, and on number of ocasions he didnt, but he is no longer here to forgive therefore the law states death sentence those who abuse Prophet of Allah. If Prophet of Allah had forgiven Hamza Kashgari today, we the Muslims would have no bone to pick because the one who was harmed chose to forgve.

    Think about the issue through the lense of sharia, Quran and Hadith, and not through the secular humanist lense.