The regime of fatwas

published on November 28, 2005

By Shachi Rairikar

An Islamic religious scholar issued a “fatwa” about India tennis star Sania Mirza’s dress code saying that Islam does not permit a woman to wear skirts, shorts and sleeveless tops.

The Darul Uloom Deoband issued a fatwa against Imrana, who was allegedly raped by her father-in-law, asking her to marry her father-in-law and treat her husband like her son.


The Muslim clerics pronounced a fatwa reuniting Gudia with her first husband, in spite of the fact that she was happily married and carrying the child of her second husband.


The Muslim clergy in India has been fast in issuing fatwas against some Sania, Gudia and Imrana, encroaching on their personal lives and human rights in the name of Shariat and Islam. It seems that the victims of the Muslim clergy and their interpretation of Shariat and Islam are always innocent women. No Indian Muslim cleric has dared to issue fatwa against the terrorists or their inhuman activities. A question that comes to the mind of every Indian is “Why? Is it lack of courage or willingness or both?”  


On the other hand, the so-called progressive Muslim intellectuals in India have been condemning Islamic terrorism being carried out in the name of Jehad. They have vehemently defended Jehad and Islam as being essentially peaceful. But that is not how it is practiced. Nor have the actions of the Indian Muslim clergy, which is supposed to be more well-read and highly knowledgeable authorities on Islam, in any way supported the claim of the Muslim scholars.


In sharp contrast to the so-called progressive Muslim intellectuals, the Shahi Imam of Jama Masjid, Delhi, Syed Ahmed Bukhari has on record defended Osama, 9/11 and the Taliban. While America’s interference in Iraq and Afghanistan cannot be justified, nor can be Osama, 9/11 or Taliban. No Indian Muslim cleric has issued any fatwa against any terrorist. Not even when, some terrorists killed around ten innocent persons in the quake-hit Kashmir Valley where lakhs were rendered homeless, spending their nights out in the rain and snow. Not even when, serial bomb blasts on Diwali eve brought darkness to hundreds of Indian homes.


No fatwas have been issued against Dawood who master-minded the serial bomb-blasts in Mumbai. No fatwas were issued against the terrorist groups in the Kashmir when lakhs of Pandits were violently driven away from their homeland. Muslim clergy, which is ever ready to issue a fatwa against the slightest un-Islamic act of the Muslims, has remained quiet when it comes to Jehad or terrorism. This implies that Islam sanctions these inhuman acts in the name of Jehad. Seen in this light, the claims of the progressive Muslim intellectuals and scholars of Islam being a religion of peace looks like a farce. The big question is “Does Islam sanction shedding innocent blood in the name of Jehad?” If no, why were no fatwas issued against the terrorists and their supporters in India? If yes, can humanity afford to practice this kind of Islam?


The bigger question is why should humanity suffer for the correct/incorrect? interpretation and practice of Jehad or Islam? If Islam does preach a violent Jehad, that aspect of the Prophet’s teachings need not be adhered to and only the more relevant aspects of his teachings be followed. Just as Hindus are fast giving up the caste system, sati and other less humane practices mentioned in their scriptures, the same could be applicable to the Muslim society. On the other hand, if Islam does not sanction such violence, then fatwas should be issued against the self-proclaimed Jehadis and protectors of Islam by the Muslim clergy, the real authority on Islam. Salman Rushdie and Tasleema Nusreen have suffered the Muslim ire for their anti-Islamic acts, then why not the terrorists?  

The biggest question is why is the regime of the conservative, fanatic mullahs and maulavis enjoying state patronage? The British at the time of independence and the successive Indian governments post independence have always supported the fanatic Muslim clergy, never caring for the average Muslim opinion. The British intention of divide and rule can be well-understood though not justified, but the Indian governments’ love for conservatism can neither be understood nor justified, especially so when we like to boast of our secular credentials and liberal outlook. 


It is indeed an irony that in a constitutionally declared secular country, the demand for a uniform civil code for the followers of all religions, is looked upon as communal by the communalists and their sympathizers, the so-called “secularists”. A government claiming to be secular went to the extent of changing the constitution and going against the advice of the apex court, to appease the fundamentalists, rendering Shah Bano helpless, a victim of the communal politics of the secularists.


No so-called secular parties or their leaders dared to outright condemn the inhuman fatwa against Imrana. In fact the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, Mulayam Singh Yadav, out of fear of losing his Muslim votebank, went to the extent of justifying the fatwa saying that it must be a well-thought decision. 


The vicious circle of minorityism and vote bank politics has taken its toll. Partition, Kashmir, terrorism, riots and violence are all the outcome of our perverted practice of secularism and minorityism. Essentially, the concepts of secularism and religious minorityism are mutually opposed to each other. Ideally, a secular country should have nothing to do with minority benefits or commissions. Yet, we have practiced both the theories together in a skewed manner, fashioned to benefit a particular minority community inspired by the selfish motives of vote hungry politicians.


The Muslim clergy should come clear on the issue of Jehad and terrorism. They owe answers to the rest of the country. They need to tell us which of the two faces of Islam is correct and, should the Islamic law persist, how they plan to punish the wrong-doers of their community. This is no longer the internal issue of the Muslim community since the entire mankind is suffering due to different interpretations of Jehad. Unless this is done, the moderate voices of the Muslim intellectuals and scholars have no relevance because they are neither the preachers nor the decision-making authorities in the Muslim community. The Islam as interpreted by them remains far from the way it is practiced. They do nothing more than confusing and misguiding the people. Their rhetoric is like a sick joke to an innocent person who hears and believes about the lofty ideals of a peaceful Islam on one day and falls prey to bloodshed and terrorism the next day which again, has the apparent sanction of Islam.


Also, it is high time that the voice of the moderate, progressive Muslim is heard by the government, the media and the so-called “intellectuals” in the society, that we stop promoting Muslim fundamentalism in the name of secularism. Uniform Civil Code must be implemented and the regime of insane fatwas be rendered unlawful and abolished. Terrorism and fanaticism in any form should be strictly dealt with irrespective of the religious banner. We do claim to be a secular state, let us start acting like one. Time is running out, the mistake of fifty plus years cannot be undone, but at least we could learn lessons from the past and refrain from continuing to commit the same mistakes

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