The whole episode of the hanging of Mumtaz Qadri showed that the fundamental questions raised by his hanging, and his murder of Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer, were left unanswered, and were as much likely to trouble the polity, as before the murder. The issue was not whether the punishment for blasphemy was death, or whether Governor Taseer had committed the offense or not, as whether a private person could inflict that punishment. That question in turn also arose because the whole episode seemed to show that the state created after the British left India, did not provide a legal framework that would have the trust of the Muslims of India, but obliged them to seek to inflict remedies that even the Islamic legal system leaves to the courts.

It is almost an afterthought that the murder was that of a sitting Governor. Perhaps that should not make anyone’s murder stand out, but it did make Mumtaz Qadri’s act more striking than other murders. It should be noted that Qadri took the position that Salmaan Taseer had committed blasphemy, which constituted grave provocation. The Supreme Court rejected this defense, and held that criticism of the blasphemy law did not constitute blasphemy.

Some of the discussion was that the death sentence was not prescribed for blasphemy. That seems to be to avoid the question, for even if the offence attracts the death sentence, can it be administered by any Muslim, or only by a court? It should be noted that the incidents quoted from the lifetime of the Holy Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him) as evidence of the death sentence do not involve a sentence passed in court, something the Holy Prophet (PBUH) used to do at the time, but of Muslims acting at once.

The Supreme Court did not accept that this meant Qadri was right in killing Taseer. It followed not just Raj precedents, under which the current blasphemy law was framed, but the Islamic precedents of the administration of blasphemy law after the Holy Prophet (PBUH). The Raj had made all blasphemy, not specifically against the Holy Prophet (PBUH), offences, and that too against public order, because it led to rioting. That is the part of the Penal Code that was amended to make blasphemy against the Holy Prophet (PBUH) a capital offence. Notionally, therefore, it remains an offence against public order, being liable to cause enraged Muslims to run amuck and express their outrage by taking to the streets and looting, burning and killing. An important part of the support for Qadri was to do with having an easy way of affirming one’s faith. After all, demonstrating one’s devotion to the Holy Prophet (PBUH) by attending a funeral beats following his example and teachings for a lifetime.

The Islamic law has also sought to transfer that outrage to the courts. Instead of a mob taking responsibility into its own hands, it leaves it to a court to punish the offender. Indeed, the Muslims of the Subcontinent struggled for, and created, Pakistan so that they could provide for such punishments. It should not be forgotten that this was a very real problem. There was one example of a Hindu blaspheming against the Holy Prophet (PBUH), who was killed by a Muslim, whom the Raj duly hanged, and who is known today as Ghazi Ilam Din Shaheed. This was the culmination against the pigs’ heads thrown into mosques at prayer times, or the processions playing loud music taken out past mosques, again at prayer times. It is worth noting that such incidents do not take place in modern India. True, there has been a recent incident of a Muslim killed by an enraged mob after an accusation that he had eaten beef. Several Indian states have made the slaughter of cows illegal, to prevent Hindu religious sentiment from being inflamed.

Qadri’s act was a clear sign of distrust in the courts, amounting to a rejection. As became evident after his hanging, a section of society disapproved of his act, to the extent of finding his hanging an act of justice. However, it had never been suggested that if not punished, anyone would wreak revenge for Taseer’s murder. It had been left to the courts, in other words the legal system, to determine if the offence of murder had been committed and to give an appropriate punishment.

The original offence of blasphemy is liable to be treated in the same way. Most people are not affected by most offences, even capital ones. If someone is murdered, if a theft is committed, people who are not victims, suspects or witnesses are not involved. However, blasphemy against the Holy Prophet (PBUH) involves all Muslims, who are victims. The judicial system is supposed to step in, as it does with crimes of more limited scope, and administer any punishment that might be due. Private parties are not allowed to do so.
In effect, Qadri’s act showed that he did not trust the courts. The people who attended his funeral prayer shared that distrust, and though attendance at a funeral does not mean a vote it is indicative of an opinion. In this case, it indicates that Pakistan has not achieved the purpose for which it was created. The justice system does not fulfill the aspirations of the people.

An unexplored aspect of the whole affair has been that of the hanged man’s name: Mumtaz Hussain Qadri. The use of biradri or tribal names as a surname is common (as is done by this writer), but though the use of a Sufi loyalty is much less common, it is not unheard of. Qadri is one of the four Sufi orders, the others being Chishti, Suhrawardi and Naqshbandi, the last being the rarest to be used as a name. The Qadri order is named after Syed Abdul Qadir Gilani.

There is a strand of opinion in the West which sees the Sufi orders as being possible allies in the War on Terror, as being followers of a version of religion less committed to jihad than the Salafis. Mumtaz Qadri showed how wrong they are. It should be noted that he did not act against his name by his action; rather he showed himself as part of a strong tradition. It should not be ignored that Turks tended to combine Sufi practice and jihad bis-saif. The Osmanlis used Sufi practices to strengthen military discipline, and the 19th century Daghestani jihad of Imam Shamyl was based on a Sufi order. It bears mentioning that the Indian Subcontinent was brought Islam by Turks ever since Mahmud of Ghazna.

Mumtaz Qadri was thus the epitome of a reaction of a Sufi people. Sufism derives from Islam, and even in the Subcontinent, Sufi practices are closely linked to the Sharia. Therefore, it is a very Sufi thing to resent blasphemy, and to resent the court system. The West has noticed that the Taliban are Deobandis, and that Deobandis have a longstanding rivalry with Brelvis, and that the latter look with greater favour on Sufistic practices than the former. It has made the next jump, to the belief that Sufis are somehow against jihad and are somehow their allies in the War on Terror.

There are many things wrong with this view, not the least of which is to confuse the Deobandi-Brelvi divide with anything more serious than the Oxford-Cambridge or Harvard-Yale divide. It should not be forgotten, for example, that there are many Deobandi pirs. It should also be clear from the massive turnout at the funeral, that whether Sufi or Salafi, Brellvi or Deobandi, Muslims are united upon the honour of the Holy Prophet (PBUH).