Pakistani body declares transgender marriages legal under Islamic law

  • Imtiaz Ahmad, Hindustan Times, Islamabad
  • Updated: Jun 27, 2016 20:47 IST
Transgenders Sunny (L) and Maria chat at the front door of their home in Peshawar. A group of clerics in Pakistan has declared marriage between transgender individuals permissible in Islam. (REUTERS)

In a surprising move, an Islamic scholar in deeply conservative Pakistan has issued a fatwa or religious decree stating that Islam allows marriages between transgender individuals.

“A transman can marry a transwoman and vice versa, but intersex person – people born with physical sex characteristics that do not fit typical binary notions of male or female bodies – cannot marry at all according to Islam,” Mufti Muhammad Imran Hanfi Qadri said in the fatwa.

The decree was issued by the scholar from the Barelvi school of thought on Sunday at the request of Muhammad Ziaul Haq Naqashbandi, chairman of the Tanzim Ittehad-e-Ummat Pakistan, a little-known body from Lahore.

A transgender declared female at birth, but whose gender identity transitions to that of a man, can marry a transgender who is declared male at birth but his gender identity transitions over time to that of a female.

Qadri said the same Islamic rule will apply to a transgender declared male at birth but his gender identity transitions to that of a female. This person can marry a transgender declared female at birth who transitions over time into a male.

He, however, declared that an intersex person, called ‘khunsa-e-mushkil’ in Islamic law, cannot marry at all, according to Islam.

Islam, Qadri said, also prescribed their share in inheritance. Parents who expel transgender children from home or deprive them of their share in inheritance commit a sin. He asked the government to act against such parents.

According to him, making fun of a transgender person, even by way of hooting, considering them inferior and insulting them, is forbidden. “They are also created by Allah almighty,” he said.

Citing the Fatawa Rizvia authored by Ahmed Raza Khan Barelvi, Qadri said the funeral prayers for a Muslim transgender will be offered like those for other Muslim men and women.

He warned all transgender people to abide by the tenets of Islam. Prayers, fasting, paying ‘zakat’ (obligatory charity) and performing Haj are obligatory on them too, he said. Qadri said the government is duty-bound to protect the rights of transgender people by introducing proper legislation in consultation with religious scholars and eliminating negative thinking about them.

However, the fatwa was rejected by other schools of thought. The Deobandi school said in a statement the Tanzim Ittehad-e-Ummat is not in a position to issue decrees that are binding on all Muslims. A statement from Binnori Town Masjid, a center for Deobandi thought, said proper consultations are required before such a decree is issued.

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