To help activists gain clarity on the issue of fatwas, city-based Institute of Islamic Studies (IIS) organised a day-long seminar on ‘Fatwa: Its relevance and implications in today’s context’ at Goregaon’s St. Pius College.
Around 20 women from the Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA) and Hukook-e-Niswan, a women’s organisation, attended the seminar.
“Fatwas are basically informal opinions of scholars based on their interpretations of the Shariat [Islamic law] and that they are not binding on anyone by any law,” said Zeenat Shaukat Ali, an Islamic scholar and one of the speakers at the conference.
Ali stated that fatwas can be issued only by well-qualified muftis (Islamic priests) in consultation with other scholars, as a response to questions posed by a lay person. “Muftis must give a proof of what they claim from passages in the Quran and Hadith [a report of the sayings or actions of Prophet Muhammed], or else they must be punished for tarnishing the image of Islam,” said Ali. “No fatwa is enforceable, even if it comes from high, prestigious institutions.”
IIS director Asghar Ali Engineer said, “Often they [fatwas] reflect individual cultural prejudices that are justified in the name of Islam.”
Maulana Arif Umri, a city-based writer and teacher said, “People have been misguided by priests about the meaning of fatwas, and it is important for them to hear this from a Maulana himself.”