FATWA FODDER | india | Hindustan Times
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india Updated: Nov 05, 2006 10:43 IST
M Hasan
M Hasan
Highlight Story

Mullahs feed on controversies and so they love to lap up any issue — Imrana or Shabana. M Hasan exposes these ‘enemies within’ vis-à-vis Islam

From the row over Imrana’s rape to Shabana Azmi’s veil statement, the Muslim community is caught in a quagmire. While debate over various issues continues to rage, there is hardly any effort in self-introspection. The politics of fatwas has indeed provided fodder to ‘Islam-bashers’. The trouble is not within Islam but with its illogical interpretation. 

Interestingly, most of these controversies revolve around the status of women in Islam, despite clear Quranic injunctions providing adequate protection to the fair sex.

In fact, the Muslim community has been suffering from two terminal problems — ignorance and complacency. It goes without saying that one breeds the other. To retain their lucrative profession, Mullahs have an octopus-like grip over the Ummah (community). Fatwas issued at the drop of a hat have created a piquant situation.

Disturbed over the situation senior vice-chairman All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) Dr Kalbe Sadiq said, “I will be happy if the government comes out with any mechanism to ban fatwas”. However, referring to Shabana’s comment on the veil, Naib Imam Eidgah and board member Maulana Khalid Rashid Firangi Mahli said it had become fashionable to give expert opinion on Shariat without understanding it.

The clerics of Firangi Mahal, starting from Mulla Nizamuddin, were known as consolidators of over 300-yreal-old rationalist traditions in Islamic scholarship in India. This house of Ulema (clerics) was also instrumental in providing Islamic laws to the Muslims in the country. Despite pressure, Khalid Rashid has been trying to carry on the tradition.

In fact, Islam needs openness in the 21st century and it is not possible without restarting Ijtihad (application of reasoning and rationalism on religious issues).

Ijtihad has become imperative to rectify aberrations that have crept into the religion through Arab imperial history. But it can only be done by consensus. The resumption of Ijtihad on those issues, which are not clear, could go a long way in solving the prevailing problems in the community. No doubt the ban on Ijtihad had done irrevocable damage to the Muslim world. It provides opportunity for balanced thinking on a situation that has not developed. The practice of Ijtihad was stopped in the second century Hijra (8th AD). Mohd Rashid Raza in his book ‘Al Wahidatul Islamia’ (page 112) had written that the ban on “Ijtihad was not an act of Shariat but it was politically motivated”. Allama Al Ghazali and Al Aziz bin Abdus Salam had even declared the “ban was aimed at cheap publicity, support to government and getting the posts of Qazis”.

In the early 20th century, philosopher-poet Allama Mohd Iqbal wrote, “During the last 500 years, religious thought in Islam has been practically stationary.

There was a time when European thought received inspiration from the world of Islam”, (Reconstruction of religious thoughts in Islam, p 6). “With the reawakening of Islam, therefore it is necessary to examine, in an independent spirit, the revision and if necessary, reconstruction of theological thought in Islam,” Allama Iqbal noted.

However, the apostles of modern ‘Jihad’ movement have derailed the whole process.

In women affairs the religious seminaries in India have come out with contradictory statements thereby complicating the situation.

CP Rama Swami Aiyar in his book Phases of Religion and Culture wrote, “There are many misconceptions regarding the Quranic teachings, and the world is, for instance, apt to forget that the rights and privileges of women were enhanced and vindicated rather than suppressed and ignored by the laws of Mohammad”.

While giving equal rights, the Quran says, “They are an apparel for you, and you are an apparel for them” (Surat al Baqara: 187).

How could Imrana’s rapist father-in-law turn out to be her husband when the Quran has regarded it illegal and sinful to cohabit with any woman except one’s own wedded wife. Similarly, both men and women have rights over each other as the Quran states, “And women shall have rights similar to the rights against them, according to what is equitable” (al Baqara: 228).         

The prevailing situation has also badly affected the socio-economic development of the community. The Justice Rajendra Sachar Committee has come out with startling revelations about the backwardness of the community. The Congress-led UPA Government has been trying to present a comprehensive programme to pull out the community from the mess.