Prominent Islamic seminary Darul Uloom-Deoband has finally approved nikah (marriage) through the Internet.
The Fatwa department of the Saharanpur-based seminary took the decision last week, but no formal announcement was made until Wednesday afternoon.
"The Internet assumes the role of a lawyer in such cases and was therefore competent to formally supervise the Ijaab (offer) and Qubool (acceptance) made by the bride and bridegroom," Islamic Council of India chairman and senior Deoband cleric Maulana Khalid Safiullah Rehmani told IANS.
"The concept was widely discussed and debated over the past two years since the first online nikah took place in Lucknow in 2005," he said.
Of the two such marriages that have been solemnised in Lucknow since then, the first one was that of 26-year-old Shabnam who sat before a web camera to say Qubool hai (I accept) to her groom Abdul Kalaam in Mecca, Saudi Arabia.
And the wedding celebrations were not without the usual gathering of family members. At least 40 relatives of Shabnam were huddled in the cyber-café to witness the unique ritual that was followed by a small feast. Kalaam was also joined by a few friends in Mecca.
"The second marriage was solemnised from the precincts of the Ulema council," said Maulana Naimurrahman, the general secretary of the Ulema council.
However, Internet nikah has failed to find favour with Muslim women.
The All India Women's Personal Law Board (AIWPLB) president Shaista Amber prefers normal nikah to the Internet marriage. "A marriage solemnised in the bodily absence of a party, with the help of the Internet, is acceptable if the proceedings take place in the presence of two witnesses. Therefore, it could lead to major complications in the long run," she said.
"It will be difficult to accept the recent fatwa as woman-friendly," she added.
Darul Uloom is generally known for its ultra conservative views on gender issues. In August 2005, it had forbidden women from contesting panchayat elections.