Insults Against the Prophet Muhammad – A Statement by Habib Ali al-Jifri

A statement addressing the offense of religious sanctities and guidance on the duty upon Muslims in such times.

Issued by Habib Ali al-Jifri


Praise be to God.

Away from the politicized escalation that is taking place in relation to the fallout of the repeated crime of insulting and denigrating Islam’s prophet, may peace and blessings be upon him; and away from the clashes between extremists of all types; and in response to the questions that come up again and again in relation to this issue, I offer the following words:

  • ُRepeatedly offending the sanctities of an entire religion is one method that contributes to inciting and fostering hatred in society. It stems from a background sense of cultural supremacy and is exploited for political gain in election campaigns or inter-state rivalries. These offenses have nothing whatsoever to do with freedom of expression. In a judgment from 2018, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) upheld an Austrian court’s ruling that non-objective debates and discussions about the Prophet (peace and blessing be upon him) can be a form of disparagement that does not fall within the framework of freedom of expression. The Austrian court described disparaging remarks as something that may provoke prejudice against Muslims and risk religious peace, a conclusion that the European Court affirmed (1).


  • The vast majority of Muslims will never accept living with malicious insults against the Prophet, no matter how often they reoccur. Persistence in these insults will only result in feeding racist, religious, and secular extremism and violent extremism.


  • Insisting that the integration of Muslim societies in the West takes a path that leads to dissolving their identity and culture is a blatant violation of human rights even if it is guised under the cloak of preserving Western culture and national identity. It is in direct contradiction of the claim that diversity is to be accepted and exclusion is to be rejected. Such an insistence goes beyond suppressing freedom of expression to preventing freedom of thinking.


  • Whoever gives himself the right to insult and denigrate the sanctities of a community on the pretext of free expression does not have the right to rob others of the right to call for the economic boycott of states that support the denigration. That too is freedom of expression. However, where does this manipulation of the values of freedom of expression and defending the honor of the Prophet ﷺ take us? It leads us down a dark path, the consequences of which are dire, and in which there is no victor or winner.


  • The most appropriate response to the current situation, and the one that is consistent with the Prophet’s guidance and the higher objectives of Islam, is to offer clarification, engage in appropriate protest, and open the doors of dialogue and cooperation with those thinkers in Western societies who reject offence-causing and denigration as an approach. They are many and I had successful experiences with them during the 2006 Denmark crisis. The remedy to the current situation does not lie in committing crimes or having reactions that empower racist nationalists, the extreme right, neo-Nazis, and ultra-secular fanatics (2).


  • The political opportunism that exploits such crimes and uses them for political gain in electoral races or rivalries between states is also a crime. It obstructs the path of calling to God and it harms the justness of defending and protecting one’s sanctities and sacred symbols. Political opportunism is a recurring matter in all issues concerning Muslims and it repeatedly harms those issues: just look at the recurring exploitation of the Palestinian cause.


  • Engaging Islamic centres, mosques, and faith-based schools should not be determined by domestic election campaigns nor external political rivalries. It is not acceptable for these institutions to turn into subjects of influence for movements or a means by which foreign states put pressure on the local state while the leaders of such institutions enjoy the benefits of living in that country. It is necessary to protect these institutions from ideological extremism and party and organisational affiliations that conflict with the tasks that these institutions were established to provide, such as worship, education, and charitable, social and cultural work.


The Duty of Muslims


The first duty of Muslims in defending the honor of the Prophet ﷺ and supporting him is to truly be Muslim, in their state of heart, their character, and their dealings. They should undertake the task of acquainting their society with the Prophet ﷺ through their spiritual state before their words because much of the publicity that instances of denigration get is in response to the actual behavior of some Muslims, which only makes the lies that the denigrators cast against Muslims seem as if they are facts that can be substantiated by those heinous behaviors. Though these behaviors do not justify the offensive attacks of the denigrators, they do explain the ignorance of the ignorant.

In closing:

Our turbulent world is in dire need for the beauty of the Muhammadan reality to shine on it and for it to be quenched from the spring of Muhammadan compassion ﷺ. This is the radiant message that we must not be distracted from conveying regardless of the quick succession of events in life, no matter how intensely dark and unjust they are. A glimpse of light from this reality and a drink from that spring is a guarantor of saving this world from people who have made it miserable by dint of their neglect towards the soul and its purification; thus, the desires of their lower selves veils them from witnessing the beauty and comprehending perfection.

God, the Exalted, says: “You are sure to be tested through your possessions and persons; you are sure to hear much that is hurtful from those who were given the Scripture before you and from those who associate others with God. If you are steadfast and mindful of God, that is the best course.”

Grant our egos piety and purify them, O God. You are the best Who purifies them! You are their Guardian and Patron! Grant us the tenderness of our Master Muhammad’s soul ﷺ, the kindness of our Master Muhammad’s heart ﷺ, and the tremendous character of our Master Muhammad ﷺ, in honor of our Master Muhammad ﷺ.

(1) For the text of the ECHR judgement see:{“itemid””002-12171”]}

(2) A documentary on the Denmark experience: