On 22 November, tens of thousands of men gathered in Lahore for the funeral of hard-line Pakistani religious leader Khadim Hussain Rizvi. No cause of death was announced for the 54-year-old Rizvi, who died on Thursday (19 November) after suffering a high fever and difficulties breathing. No Covid-19 test or autopsy was conducted. Rizvi rose to prominence campaigning on the issue of ‘blasphemy’ against Islam. He was the founder of the far-right Tehreek-e-Labba (TLP) party, which was behind the recent protests against France over the publication of caricatures of the Prophet Muhammed. Rizvi also played a prominent role in demanding the hanging of Asia Bibi, a Christian woman accused of blasphemy. He became a national figure when one of his followers, Mumtaz Qadri, gunned down Punjab governor Salman Taseer in 2011 for calling for reforms to the strict blasphemy laws. Rizvi led a movement for the release of Qadri, who was Taseer’s official bodyguard at the time of his death. In 2018, TLP participated in elections for the first time and shocked critics when they garnered three provincial assembly seats and secured 2.2 million votes from around the country. Observers believe that Rizvi’s party will most likely fracture into factions following his death. Consultations have begun in order to determine his successor.

From a Christian perspective, it is tempting to want to celebrate the departure of someone so opposed to Christ and His followers; to give thanks for the reprieve from the relentless persecution from one so driven to uphold the ‘purity’ of Islam. However, we see in Ezekiel 18:23 that that is not God’s response: “Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign LORD. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?” Paul (in 1 Timothy 2:4) also reminds us that it is God “who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” Rizvi’s death should serve as a reminder that there are many who hold similar convictions to him who need to know about Christ, who need to hear the gospel. It should stir in the hearts of every one of the Lord’s followers deep anguish for those who are perishing without the saving knowledge of Christ.

Pray with us for the following:

  • For the Lord to advance His Kingdom purposes in Pakistan, through the death of Rizvi
  • For Pakistani believers to embrace the opportunities the Lord brings across their paths in the wake of Rizvi’s death
  • For believers to have hearts of compassion for those who persecute them



Image: REUTERS/Caren Firouz