The Deoband seminary has a habit of making headlines with its many edicts — remember Imrana? Its latest fiat against life insurance has predictably ruffled feathers.
The Muslim community has sharply reacted to its contention life insurance is "anti-Shariah". Its logic that the interest paid on insurance policies cannot be justified in the light of Shariat, which is against the practice of usury, has not found too many takers. The seminary has also called insurance gambling.
Voices of modernity and reason in the community have been quick to caution the school.
Naib Imam Eidgah Maulana Khalid Rashid of Firangi Mahal, worldwide known as "house of fatwas", said those issuing edicts should be careful and take into account contemporary conditions before proscribing anything.
Edicts should be issued after thorough study. "Just proclaiming that such thing is anti-Islamic is absolutely improper", Rashid said. "The modern world has changed and that should be taken into account before issuing fatwas".
However, Maulana Atiqur Rahman of Nadvatul Uloom supported the fatwa but added a rider: if there was a legal compulsion it could be allowed.
The situation is different in the Shia community. The community is not a stickler for fatwas. The chairman of All India Shia Personal Law Board (AISPLB) Maulana Mirza Mohd Athar said Iran and Iraq-based Shia Ulema (clerics) had already given detailed guidelines on the matter.
Pointing out that life insurance was not against the tenets of the Islam, Athar said only 20 per cent tax should charged on the total amount.
During the last year, Deoband has waded into controversy after another because of such edicts. Before the fatwa on Imrana, the institution had barred people from watching television, including Islamic channels.