Arabic script dress incident: Pakistani woman saved from blasphemy accusation mob

Muhammad Abdul Hayee Nasir, Student, Jamia Ahmadiyya International Ghana
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On the morning of 25 February 2024, at a restaurant in Lahore, Pakistan, a disturbing scene unfolded. A woman wearing a shirt adorned with Arabic calligraphy found herself surrounded by an angry mob. The crowd accused her of blasphemy, alleging that the script on her shirt contained verses from the Holy Quran. Within moments, the mob grew to over 300 individuals, demanding her punishment.

In a harrowing video captured by Al Jazeera, the woman – visibly frightened – sought refuge in a corner of the restaurant. Men in the crowd clamoured for her to remove her shirt, even calling for her beheading. (“Arabic calligraphy on dress design causes chaos in Pakistan”,

The police intervened and negotiated with the mob. Despite the volatile situation, a female officer managed to escort the woman to safety, shielding her from the mob. She put her arm around the woman, now covered by a black robe and a headscarf, and pushed through the crowd. Other police officers formed a chain with their arms to clear their path as people in the crowd pushed against them.

The woman was brought to a police station, where several religious scholars confirmed that the text on her dress was Arabic calligraphy, not verses from the Quran. The police then asked the scholars to record a video stating their findings and that the woman was innocent.

“I didn’t have any such intention, it happened by mistake. Still, I apologise for all that happened, and I’ll make sure it never happens again,” she said, adding that she is a devout Muslim and would never commit blasphemy. (“Pakistan woman in Arabic script dress saved from mob claiming blasphemy”,

The religious scholars confirmed that the Arabic calligraphy on the woman’s shirt bore no resemblance to Quranic verses. It was a mere design featuring the word ‘halwa,’ meaning ‘sweet’ in Arabic.

A deplorable condition in Pakistan

This incident sheds light on Pakistan’s blasphemy law, which has become a tool for vigilante “justice”. Under this law, derogatory remarks against the Holy Prophetsa are punishable by death or imprisonment, without proper legal proceedings.

This is the current state of affairs in Pakistan, where anyone can level blasphemy accusations against another individual without proper investigation. The accused person may face dire consequences, including death, without any legal proceedings being initiated against the accusers.

Just last year, in August, a mob burned Christian churches and houses in the east of Pakistan, accusing two members in the community of desecrating the Holy Quran. (“Two Christians arrested in Pakistan over blasphemy accusation”,

Moreover, this case highlights the plight of Ahmadis, a marginalised community targeted under the blasphemy law. It highlights the harsh realities of unfounded accusations and the subsequent legal struggles endured by members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in Pakistan, reflecting broader issues of discrimination and injustice. (“Pakistan Report 2023”,

These are the injustices that are being carried out in a country that claims to follow Islamic teachings.

What does Islam teach us about suspicion?

This is completely against the teachings of Islam. Islam emphasises justice, compassion, tolerance and restraint from baseless suspicions. Quranic teachings urge believers to avoid hasty judgements and uphold justice, regardless of personal biases.

Allah the Almighty states in the Holy Quran:

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا اجْتَنِبُوا كَثِيرًا مِّنَ الظَّنِّ إِنَّ بَعْضَ الظَّنِّ إِثْمٌ وَلَا تَجَسَّسُوا

“O ye who believe! Avoid most of suspicions; for suspicion in some cases is a sin. And spy not.” (Surah al-Hujurat, Ch.49: V.13)

This verse clearly instructs us to refrain from suspicion. When faced with uncertainty about a matter, the Holy Quran advises us against making rash decisions. Instead, it advocates for a thorough investigation before passing judgement by proper authorities.

At another place, Allah states:

وَلَا تَقْفُ مَا لَيْسَ لَكَ بِهِ عِلْمٌ إِنَّ السَّمْعَ وَالْبَصَرَ وَالْفُؤَادَ كُلُّ أُولـئِكَ كَانَ عَنْهُ مَسْؤُولاً

“And follow not that of which thou hast no knowledge. Verily, the ear and the eye and the heart—all these shall be called to account.” (Surah Bani Isra’il, Ch.17: V.37)

This verse also instructs us that we should not follow what we know nothing about. That is, we should not be suspicious about something of which we have no knowledge.

The crowd that gathered around the woman failed to enquire about the true cause of the disturbance. Instead, they blindly joined in after witnessing others shouting at her. Had they adhered to these teachings, such chaos could have been avoided.

Then, Allah the Almighty has commanded men to lower their gaze. He states:

قُل لِّلْمُؤْمِنِينَ يَغُضُّوا مِنْ أَبْصَارِهِمْ وَيَحْفَظُوا فُرُوجَهُمْ ذَلِكَ أَزْكَى لَهُمْ إِنَّ اللَّهَ خَبِيرٌ بِمَا يَصْنَعُونَ

“Say to the believing men that they should restrain their eyes and guard their private parts. That is purer for them. Surely, Allah is well aware of what they do.” (Surah an-Nur, Ch.24: V.31)

Despite Allah’s command for men to lower their gaze, we witnessed hundreds of men shouting at a woman to remove her shirt under the false belief that it bore Quranic verses. They even threatened her life.

Such behaviour contradicts their claim of being upright men and followers of Islam. It highlights their departure from Islamic teachings, raising questions about their sincerity in adhering to Islamic principles.

In the video, we observe blatant disregard for these commandments as men shout at a vulnerable woman to remove her shirt. It is disgraceful that they consider themselves Muslim men! This incident is deeply disturbing, and one can only imagine the consequences if the police had not intervened.

The Holy Prophetsa stated that:

“A Muslim is a brother of another Muslim, so he should not oppress him, nor should he hand him over to an oppressor. Whoever fulfils the needs of his brother, Allah will fulfil his needs; whoever brought his [Muslim] brother out of discomfort, Allah will bring him out of the discomforts of the Day of Resurrection, and whoever screened a Muslim, Allah will screen him on the Day of Resurrection.” (Sahih al-Bukhari, Kitab al-mazalim, Hadith No. 2442)

Instead of demanding forgiveness from the woman, the clerics and the other individuals involved should have apologised to her for mistakenly identifying the Arabic calligraphy on her shirt as Quranic verses.

What is the punishment for blasphemy in Islam?

No such punishment is prescribed in the Holy Quran, or in any of the traditions of the Holy Prophetsa. Islam promotes the need for respect of all religions for the sake of peace in society, but it does not set out any punishment for blasphemy despite the offence it may cause people of faith.

We have evidence in the traditions of the Holy Prophetsa where Abdullah bin Ubayy bin Salul (known as the chief of the hypocrites) continuously abused the Holy Prophetsa and opposed him in Medina.

When he passed away, the Holy Prophetsa stood to offer his funeral prayers but was asked by one of his companions, “O Messenger of Allah! Do you offer the prayer for this man although he said so-and-so on such-and-such day?”. The Holy Prophetsa ignored his statements and continued to offer the funeral prayers of the dead man. (Sahih al-Bukhari, Kitab at-tafsir, Hadith 4670)

The above example shows that the Holy Prophetsa never ordered any punishment for anyone who insulted or abused him or God; on the contrary, he went to pray for them that they be guided aright. (“What is the punishment for blasphemy in Islam?”,

So, when the Holy Prophetsa himself never punished anyone for blasphemy, then who are these people to mete out punishment against someone? The saddest part is that the woman was not even guilty of the “crime” that they levelled against her.

In conclusion, the incident underscores the urgent need for reform in Pakistan’s blasphemy laws. It serves as a wake-up call to uphold justice, foster religious tolerance, and prevent the persecution of innocent individuals in the name of religion. May Allah guide the people of Pakistan towards the path of righteousness and compassion. Amin.

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