Skip navigation
Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item:
Authors: Islam, Sarah
Advisors: Cook, Michael A
Contributors: Near Eastern Studies Department
Keywords: blasphemy
criminal law
Islamic law
Prophet Muhammad
Subjects: Islamic studies
Religious history
Issue Date: 2022
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: My dissertation examines the evolving discourse on blasphemy (sabb al-rasūl) as an Islamic legalcategory among capital crimes in medieval Islamic history, from 630 AD until the fall of the Ottoman empire. Historians have generally understood blasphemy, known as sabb in the Islamic context, to connote any act constituting insult to the Prophet Muhammad or God. Acts of sabb are generally considered to be ḥudūd crimes in Islamic law. Ḥudūd crimes were deemed to be mandated by God and hence unalterable by human beings, requiring mandatory sentences in the form of corporal or capital punishment. A common view among historians has been that Muslim jurists were unanimous in asserting that any individual, whether Muslim or non-Muslim, who reviled the Prophet (sabb al-rasūl) was to be executed, and that not doing so would be a violation of God’s law. My dissertation demonstrates however that historical sources present a far more complex picture, one in which the Sunnī schools developed enormously different views on sabb depending on historical context and the legal interpretive tools jurists prioritized. Early Ḥanafīs would take the view that the Muslim sābb could be forgiven with repentance and have penalties revoked, while the non-Muslim sābb was not liable at all. The advent of the Ottoman Empire, however, would shift the Ḥanafī discourse to one that embraced irrevocable execution as the penalty for sabb. The Shāfiʿīs, to ensure that non-Muslims were penalized at least at an equivalent level to the Muslim sābb, developed complex ʿiṣma frameworks to ensure this result. The Mālikīs and Ḥanbalīs outwardly avoided speculative reasoning and established their claims based on textual sources in attempts to yield “certain” results, but the multiple competing reports on sabb ascribed to early jurists resulted in contradicting rulings in both schools. In this project I examine judicial opinions, historical chronicles, Islamic legal texts and other sources chronologically that deal with sabb al-rasūl, from the formation of the genre in early Islam until its sophisticated formulation in Ottoman times. My aim is to produce an intellectual history that is both source-critical and diachronic, with select socio-historical and comparative interventions as is relevant to the subject matter at hand.
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Near Eastern Studies

Files in This Item:
This content is embargoed until 2024-11-22. For questions about theses and dissertations, please contact the Mudd Manuscript Library. For questions about research datasets, as well as other inquiries, please contact the DataSpace curators.

Items in Dataspace are protected by copyright, with all rights reserved, unless otherwise indicated.