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Allama Sir Muhammad Iqbal
The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam
Biography, Audio
Vivekananda
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Islam and Pluralism
30 Jan 2009, NewAgeIslam.Com
Deoband intervenes: ‘Muslims can do yoga, Namaz itself a form of yoga,’ says cleric

The National Fatwa Council last week issued the edict, deeming as 'haram' (prohibited) the practice of the ancient Indian fitness regime that aims at mental and physical well-being. The Council said that yoga contained chanting and worshipping also.

A university teacher of theology last month raised objection to yoga, contending that it diluted Islamic beliefs.

Joining the debate, Malaysia's long-time former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad warned against turning the edict into a religious debate.

Endorsing the National Fatwa Council's action, he said: "If they believe it is wrong, then it is wrong. It is unfortunate that other people think that it is a slur on their religion," he said.

"It is like saying Muslims should not eat pork and it is not an insult to the Chinese. It is the same when Muslims cannot do yoga, it is not because they are insulting the Hindus.

"It is just that they should not do it. Like all other things forbidden among Muslims, it is not an insult to others. Whether the Malays follow it or not, that is really their business." he said.

Mahathir said people should not make it into a religious issue.

"Personally, I don't care very much if you stand on your head or stand on your feet. It is not as if by performing yoga you immediately become a non-Muslim," he was quoted as saying in The Star.

---

Indonesia not to follow Malaysian move on yoga

 Jakarta, Nov 26 (IANS) -- Indonesia, which has the world's largest Muslim population, will not follow the Malaysian move to ban Muslims from practicing yoga, the country's top clerics have said.

"It is okay if it's for sport but I do not know if it is proven that it can destroy our beliefs as Muslims or contains ideas of polytheism," Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) deputy chairman Umar Shehab was quoted as saying by The Jakarta Post Monday.

MUI edict commission deputy chairman Ali Mustafa Yakub said there was no need to ban yoga as no Muslims were found practising it in Indonesia.

"If they are, they are not publicly visible, so there is no problem," he said.

Yakub added that the Indian influence in Indonesia was not as strong as in Malaysia and such influence was only limited to music.

Shihab said more research had to be done before a decision can be made to prohibit yoga. The council had not carried out any study on yoga as it had not received any objection from the public.

The Indonesian clerics were reacting to the ongoing debate in Malaysia, where the National Fatwa Council last week issued an edict declaring that the practice of yoga by Muslims is "haram" (prohibited) as it dilutes Islamic values and practice.

 Malaysian edict against yoga kicks up controversy

Kuala Lumpur, Nov 25 (IANS) -- A fatwa (edict) banning the practise of yoga by Malaysian Muslims has kicked up a controversy in the country, with some saying that it had nothing to do with religion and was practised because of its “known health benefits”. Two states have put on hold implementation of the fatwa.

The National Fatwa Council last week issued the edict, deeming as 'haram' (prohibited) the practice of the ancient Indian fitness regime that aims at mental and physical well-being. The Council said that yoga contained chanting and worshipping also.

However, several people have objected to it, adding to the ongoing debate whether Muslims should be asked to eschew yoga on the ground that it diluted Islamic values.

The Sultan of Selangor state said the fatwa could not be implemented in his state as it had not been presented to the state Fatwa Committee.

Perak state's Islamic Religious Department director Jamry Sury withdrew his earlier statement that Perak would adopt the fatwa, saying that several procedures including seeking the consent of the Sultan, had to be carried out first, The Star newspaper said Tuesday.

 In Perlis state, Mufti Asri Zainal Abidin spoke out against the edict. He said that a form of yoga with the non-Muslim elements removed should be allowed.

"These sports did not have anything to do with Islam but have been practised because of their known health benefits," he said in a telephone interview with Mstar Monday.

"Yoga practitioners who are Muslims should be given an alternative by practising a version of yoga that does not resemble the version practised by other religions," he said, adding that chanting while practising the exercise should also be stripped.

He maintained that yoga was a good exercise to maintain a healthy lifestyle if done minus the extra bits that are against Islamic teachings.

"The fatwa (edict) announced in this day and age should not be too rigid. The human movement does not necessarily have a connection with religion," he said.

Most other states said they would take the necessary steps to enable the edict to be implemented.

However, Sisters in Islam, a body of Muslim women, said the fact that the states had differing views on the matter seemed to suggest that there was no consensus on the ban.

The Sultan of Selangor, Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah, who is the constitutional head, said in a press statement that the Selangor Fatwa Committee would meet to deliberate the matter "in greater detail so that a decision is not made hastily”.

The Sultan said that once the state committee had made a decision, it would then be forwarded to him for approval in line with state laws regarding the administration of Islamic affairs.

The Sultan said he hoped that in future any fatwa that touched on an issue which affected the general public would be referred to the Rulers Conference prior to being announced.

"This is to ensure that the method of channelling a fatwa is implemented in a wise manner to avoid any confusion or controversy," he said.

---

 Muslim practitioners of yoga upset over ban in Malaysia

 Kuala Lumpur, Nov 23 (IANS) -- Yoga as practised in Malaysia has evolved and there is nothing religious about it, several Muslim practitioners and enthusiasts of this ancient Indian fitness regime have said, expressing deep disappointment at the National Fatwa Council's move to ban yoga among Malays.

The Council Saturday declared that yoga is haram (prohibited) in Islam and Muslims are banned from practising it.

Practitioners of yoga maintain that it has not shaken their belief in Islam. They say yoga has become mainstream and no longer had religious elements.

"I believe yoga has not affected or eroded my faith. If anything, yoga is the only exercise which combines stretching, strengthening and balancing movements," yoga instructor and personality Ninie Ahmad said.

She said her faith in Islam was strong although she had been practising and teaching yoga for eight years.

Her reaction and those of many Muslims who endorse yoga came even as the Council Chairman, Abdul Shukor Husin, asked that none should question the edict.

"Many Muslims in the country fail to understand the ultimate aim of yoga," Husin was quoted as saying in The New Straits Times Sunday.

The newspaper said the edict was 'expected'.

A university teacher of theology last month raised objection to yoga, contending that it diluted Islamic beliefs.

Husin said once the fatwa was gazetted, it would be passed on to the 13 states to decide on its enforcement.

Husin said yoga had been practised by the Hindu community for thousands of years and incorporated physical movements, religious elements together with chants and worshipping, with the aim of "being one with God".

"Because of this, we believe that it is inappropriate for Muslims to do yoga. The council is declaring that practising yoga, when it comes together with the three elements, is haram," he said.

The edict would affect thousands of individual Muslim practitioners, besides yoga centres and those engaged in its business endorsement.

Muslim Malays form the majority in Malaysia's 28 million population that also has 33 percent ethnic Chinese and eight percent Indians, a bulk of them Hindus.

Although worried how the fatwa would affect her business, Ninie Ahmed, who is the brand ambassador for Adidas yoga line, said she would go ahead with plans to open a three-studio yoga centre next month.

"The show goes on for me. I have invested half a million on this. Yoga is my bread and butter," she said, adding that she was unclear how the ruling would affect her Adidas endorsement.

The centre, to be called Be Yoga, is a Bumiputera-owned (Muslim Malay) company and will be run and operated by Muslims.

"To portray yoga as harmful to one's faith will be a great loss to the country. In Klang Valley alone, there are 30,000 registered yoga practitioners in yoga centres and gyms, and 30 percent of them are Muslims," Ninie said.

Asked if she was afraid of the repercussions from the authorities, she said her centre promoted yoga purely as an exercise.

"I'm disappointed that the council failed to see the bigger picture of the benefits of yoga."

A fellow yoga enthusiast, Azzy Soraya, said it was unfair to think that Muslims who practised yoga were a step closer to converting to Hinduism.

"Yoga moved on from its religious roots a long time ago. It's about well-being and all religions encourage their followers to stay healthy."

Some Islamic bodies also disapproved of the ban, The Star newspaper said.

M. Revathi, 40, who has been teaching yoga part-time for about 10 years, said some people mistook the names of the asanas (postures) as religious verses as they were in Sanskrit "but there's nothing religious about the names".

"As for the meditation part, it's not religious either. I tell my students to relax and free their minds, and they can meditate in whatever language they like," she said.

© 2008  Indo-Asian News Service (IANS)

http://religion.info/english/articles/article_405.shtml

----------------

If not Om, then Allah, God will also do for Ramdev’s yoga’

Rajeev khanna Posted: Nov 05, 2008

Dehradun, November 4: In a bid to popularise yoga among people other than Hindus, Baba Ramdev has said one can initiate the exercise without pronouncing the word ‘Om’ and can substitute it with ‘Allah’ or ‘God’. Ramdev’s Haridwar-based Patanjali Yogapeeth has asked its Christian and Muslim followers to begin yoga with a prolonged utterance of Allah or God.

“Our aim is to connect science with yoga for the betterment of mankind. Why should anybody not enjoy the benefits of yoga because of reservation to utter ‘Om’,” said Acharya Balkrishan of Patanjali Yogapeeth.

“Baba Ramdev believes that yoga might be a gift to mankind from rishis and yogis but it is not Hinduism. It is meant for everyone. Yoga cannot be restricted on the lines or religion and community. It is meant to enlighten the entire humanity,” he told The Indian Express.

Acharya Balkrishan further pointed that the pronunciation of ‘Om’ causes positive resonance in one’s body and ‘Om’ itself is not connected to any faith or community. “None of the religious images come to your mind when you say ‘Om’. It’s universal. Its prolonged utterance gives maximum benefit to scholars of yoga. However, it can be substituted with ‘Allah’ or ‘God’,” he said.

The Patanjali Yogapeeth has set up Yoga Samities in 560 districts across the country to propagate the ancient asanas and pranayaam techniques. “We have hundreds of yoga teachers in the country who are Muslims. They don’t have any opposition to the word ‘Om’. A large number of Muslim and Christian students are also learning various asanas and pranayaam in different states,” said Balkrishan.

http://www.indianexpress.com/news/if-not-om-then-allah-god-will-also-do-for-ramdevs-yoga/381513/

---

 Spiritual airwaves

ASRP Mukesh | New Delhi

Monday, January 26, 2009

http://dailypioneer.com/152326/Spiritual-airwaves.html

Early morning, in the holy town of Haridwar on the banks of the sacred Ganges, about 500 people sit on mats facing their saffron-clad, bearded guru and listening to every word his speaks. Baba Ramdev talks about how yoga helps in dealing with stressful life, an outcome of a Westernised lifestyle and stresses on imbibing Indian values for a healthy living.

Some 200 miles away in Delhi, Suhita Bhaumik and her banker husband watch Baba’s discourse on television. “We follow all that he preaches and act accordingly. It has changed our lives and helped us attain peace of mind even in current times of recession,” says she.Bhaumik is not alone. It is believed that some 90 million people across the globe watch Baba’s discourses on Aastha channel. And Aastha is not the only spiritual channel on air. Sanskar, Sadhna, Jeevan and God are other few niche ‘spirituality’ channels beaming across the country today, not to mention a large number of regional ones that exist.

Such has been their popularity that even hardcore news channels have started airing sessions on spirituality. Add to it the deluge of mythological serials being aired. Introduced by Doordarshan years ago, the concept has found favour with even the most business-minded private entertainment broadcasters. The ‘televised spirituality’ is now a big business.

Not only in the country, India’s spirituality channels are gaining market across the globe too. They are now beamed into more than 125 countries. “The overseas market is starved of programmes based on Indian spiritualism. Advertisers have taken note of it. Since its launch, the number of those watching Aastha rose from 65 million in 2001 to 90 million four years later,” claims an official from the channel.

The question however one may tend to ask is: with so many mythological shows already being aired, is there a need for such exclusive spiritual channels? “Improvement in standards of living and increase in materialism haven’t reduced mankind’s innate yearning for spirituality. No one will ignore the benefits of yoga if you have someone telling the same on TV,” says Baba Ramdev, who has been credited with restoring to yoga its deserved popularity and importance.

But is there enough space for such channels in the already congested market? Dinesh Kabra, board member, Sanskar TV, says, “Times have changed. Youngsters are more stressed and they find answers in spiritual discourses. Our audience profile consists of 25-year-olds, a drastic drop in age group from the 35-plus audience we had when we started.”

N Bhaskara Rao of Centre for Media Studies echoes a similar view, “People are bored with life. And then there are many who are fed up with what other channels are offering.”

For centuries, the troubled and restless have turned to India’s religious mysticism to achieve relief and salvation. Swami Chaitanya Keerti who heads Delhi chapter of Osho says, “Our spirituality is functional and you can get tangible benefits of practising meditation and yoga.” Industry players say those who watch such programmes don’t switch channels as often as those who watch entertainment or news programmes. This might have to do with the response that religion commands in India. For, live telecast of festivals like the Kumbh Mela, Ganesh Chaturthi and Navratri in the recent past have proved that religion continues to be a huge hit with Indians. During Navratri, TAM Media Research recorded the following figures — Sanskar 6.9 million viewers, Aastha 5.7 million, Sadhna 0.8 million and God channel 0.6 million viewers.

Media commentator Shailaja Bajpai dubs such channels as ‘television psychiatrists’. “Most of the channels these days dish out violence and confusion. In comparison, on these spiritual channels you find someone saying things that are calm and soothing.”

The growing market has also made spiritual channels bring in the change in their content — from simple sermonising lectures by spiritual masters that attracted only the 50-plus crowds, they have now shifted to youth-friendly programmes like Art of Living, Yoga, Feng Shui and Vaastu.

Komal Tiwari, marketing head of Sadhna TV, says that to attract “young, corporate people”, they feature motivational speakers. And this also helps on the advertising front which is the mainstay of these free-to-air channels. “If we have younger audience, advertising will also grow rapidly as advertisers target the youth more that the older generation,” says she.

So is this ‘selling’ of religion a lucrative business after all? It is, if the spurt in ad revenues of these channels is any proof. But those in the business claim that the base for religious channels is moral, social and spiritual rather than monetary. “We’re socio-spiritual channel. Religion is not the only medium, one can also work towards building a society by giving away personal profit for larger benefit,” asserts Tiwari.

Notably, spiritual channels too have, at times come under scrutiny for being messengers of a particular religion, a disturbing thought in an environment clouded by religious bigotry. Says Shailaja, “Most channels are based on tenants of Hinduism. And if you tie this up with the communally charged environment we are living in, the influence of these channels could be significant.” Nevertheless, every channel is out to diversify to tap the vast market. Kabra says, “We keep changing ourselves by introuding good programmes to avoid monotony and to keep ourselves free from being propagators of any particular faith.”

The trend of spiritual channels is not limited to our country alone. They have struck a chord with people around the world. The popularity of God TV in Africa, Asia, Europe, America and the UK, and EWTN that claims to reach 70 million across the globe, are an example.

 Rao agrees no less. “In terms of growth in viewership, these are ahead of the news and entertainment channels at least as far as our country is considered. These channels are dynamic and changing their position regularly to appeal to a younger clientele.”

Analysts say that in future such channels could double their share in Indian media. “Look at the changing profile of the advertisements on these channels. A year ago, you would see only ads of balms and incense sticks. Today, you find everything from tyres and cement to airlines,” Rao says, “It’s simple. Spirituality sells in a world jaded by consumerist excesses.” The New Year has set in and Ramdev has already positioned himself as an entrepreneur with sole objective of bringing “spiritual awakening of India” through TV. His disciples say he is set to launch two more channels. As for the investments, some say his followers will chip in, others point to

Baba’s capability of funding them. Whatever be the source, one thing is sure — the airwaves will be filled with more spirituality in the coming months.

 Fact file

Religious channels have struck a chord with people around the world. God TV broadcast in Africa, Asia, Europe, the US and the UK and EWTN that claims to reach 70 million TV homes across the globe are the indicators

Spirituality channels from India now beam in more than 125 countries

Nearly 18 per cent of the viewers watching spiritual channels are in the age group of 25 and

34 while another 17 per cent constitutes those between 15 and 24 years

Spending between Rs 40-50 lakh per month on sourcing programmes, the channel officials say the viewership is constantly on the rise

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/NewAgeIslamIslamAndPluralism_1.aspx?ArticleID=1162

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COMMENTS
8/13/2011 10:52:21 PM satwa gunam

What do expect from the bunch of human who have been trained and brainwashed on not to think or question.  They have to ask mullah for everything as they fear that they do not understand Quran and do not want to do anything against Quran as it is not expected by any Muslim.  Fundamental problem is that Muslim try to find answer for 21st century or future on the basis of the limited experience of 7th century.

8/13/2011 4:10:51 AM Anannya Karim
To cut the long story short I just want to know can the muslim perform yoga? As my intention is not to worship the Sun or the Moon. I will do it for my physical benefit only
Aamir Mughal

I couldn't agree with you more or share your anguish any more: "Why the hell  do these Muslims go after Mullahs for Fatwa for every damn thing?" [Sultan Shahin]

================================

Dear Sultan Sahab,

Now be prepared. The following rant [I have read the book and written a refutation against  against this curse prevailing amongst Indian and Pakistani Muslims and it is Shirk - Polytheism (Muslims are drowned in it despite clear warning in Quran) yet these Muslims have the audacity to ask for Fatwa against Yoga] will shake you to the core of your foundation.

I have in my possession a Risalah of Ashraf Ali Thanvi named "A'male Qurani", a book of du'a and Ta'weezat [Incantation, Charms and Amulets - using Quranic Verses]

But the problem is that it contains black magic

So one can see that Ashraf Ali THanvi tells us that if we want that hatred occurs between two person, then one should take a kind of stone, write the Quranic Ayah, on which it is written four times Allah and in between it is written twice Sihr Sihr, meaning magic. And then one should write below this picture the names of people between whom hatred is desired, and then this should be made into a Ta'wiz and burried between two old graves.

Now what religion is this to write Sihr on a Ta'weez, to bury it under two graves

It is not A'male Qurani but Shaytani

These are more the teachiugs of cursed devils, and Ashraf Ali Thanvi teaches this magic. Why to bury this between graves ? And this book is sold in Deobandi Maktabah without any problem, and that is where I bought it. But that is not strange for people who do Murqaabah of graves, claim that dead came back, as devils take form of dead and speak to these people near graves
So they think what devil tell them comes from people of grave

And indeed the ummah is in danger from such people and writings.

Sadly the book is sold all over pakistan {and india}. I had a copy too. In Pakistan and India  people are very ignorant and the name of 'maulana thanvi' and 'imam ahmad raza barelvi' is enough to make it deen [Islam]. The book is publised with the Quraanic references from Sh Taqi Usmani's [ Former Shariah Court Judge of Pakistan] father, Mufti Shafi Uthmani, the author of Ma'arif Al-Quraan. And sadly he approves it too.

Aamir Mughal

I couldn't agree with you more or share your anguish any more: "Why the hell  do these Muslims go after Mullahs for Fatwa for every damn thing?"[Sultan Shahin]

===============================

Dear Sultan Sahab,

If I am not wrong these Maulvis of the Sub-Continent after 1857 had issued a Fatwa against learning English Language [as per them if Muslim would learn English then they will become Christian, check these links and lament on the state of mind of maulvis:

[The website is based in USA - DAARUL HARB - KUFR AND WHAT NOT and please note the benefits of learning English through which one can enhance the preaching of Islam.

The Qur'an

http://www.usc.edu/schools/college/crcc/engagement/resources/texts/muslim/quran/

Sunnah and HadithLarge CollectionsMiscellaneous Collections

http://www.usc.edu/schools/college/crcc/engagement/resources/texts/muslim/hadith/

Riyad-us-Saliheen [This Collection of Hadiths is compiled by Imam Nawawi and often used Makkah, Medina and Mosques all over the world]

http://www.witness-pioneer.org/vil/hadeeth/riyad/default.htm

Compiled By Al-Imam Abu Zakariya Yahya bin Sharaf An-Nawawi Ad-Dimashqi

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The book of Miscellany

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Book One- The Book of Good Manners

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Book Two- The Book about the Etiquette of Eating

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Book Three- The Book of Dress

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Book Four- The Book of the Etiquette of Sleeping, Lying and Sitting, etc.

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Book Five- The book of Greetings

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Book Six- The Book of Visiting the Sick

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Book Seven- The Book of Etiquette of Traveling

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Book Eight- The Book of Virtues

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Book Nine- The Book of I'tikaf

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Book Ten- The Book of Hajj

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Book Eleven- The Book of Jihad

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Book Twelve- The Book of Knowledge

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Book Thirteen- The Book of Praise and Gratitude to Allah

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Book Fourteen- The Book of Supplicating Allah to Exalt the Mention of Allah's Messenger (phuh)

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Book Fifteen- The Book of the Remembrance of Allah

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Book Sixteen- The Book of Du'a (Supplications)

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Book Seventeen- The Book of the Prohibited Actions

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Book Eighteen- The Book of Miscellaneous Adadith of Significant values

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Book Nineteen- The Book of Forgiveness

whereas Shah Waliullah's son Shah Abdul Aziz Mohaddis Dehelvi not only issued Fatwa in faour of learning English Language but also issued Fatwa in favour of Government Job under British Raj [Reference Rood-e-Kausar by Sheikh Mohammad Ikram published in Lahore in 1950s]

MULLAHS AND THEIR FATWAS:

Here lies the so-called Muslim Ummah! - 1

Here lies the so-called Muslim Ummah! - 2

Here lies the so-called Muslim Ummah! - 3

Triple talaq: counter–perspective BY YOGINDER SIKAND  July  2004 

http://www.sabrang.com/cc/archive/2004/july04/cover10.html

The recent meeting of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) at Kanpur had raised considerable expectations that the ulema associated with it, who exercise a powerful influence on Muslim opinion, would finally declare the obnoxious practice of triple talaq in one sitting to be null and void and therefore illegal. This, however, was not to be. In fact, it so transpires that the question of banning the practice of triple talaq was not even on the agenda of the ulema gathered at Kanpur. Leading Deobandi and Barelvi scholars, whose schools represent the majority among the Indian ulema, see the practice as Islamically valid and as an integral part of the Shari’ah. Hence, they insist, the practice cannot be scrapped, as that would allegedly be tantamount to interfering with divinely revealed laws. This opinion appears to be widely shared among the ulema associated with the AIMPLB, which explains the refusal of the Board to ban the practice despite considerable public pressure to do so.

The argument that the practice of triple talaq in one sitting is an integral part of the Shari’ah is hotly contested by a minority among the ulema, such as those belonging to the Ahl–i–Hadith, among the Sunnis, as well as by the Shi’as. This clearly points to the diversity of understandings of what precisely constitutes the Shari’ah, and to elements of human effort in the construction of notions of the Shari’ah itself, a fact that the conservative ulema themselves are reluctant to acknowledge. The refusal of the AIMPLB to ban the practice of triple talaq clearly suggests that one can hardly expect the ulema associated with the Board to take any bold steps in the future that might threaten to undermine the patriarchy that is sought to be provided with a suitable ‘Islamic’ gloss. The Deobandi ulema who dominate the Board are carefully groomed in a tradition of extreme patriarchy, as is evident from even a cursory reading of the fatwas and writings of their leading scholars. Hope for reform, therefore, lies in the writings and arguments of Islamic scholars from other schools of Islamic thought and jurisprudence.

One such school is the Ahl–i–Hadith, representing a small minority among Indian Muslims. In contrast to the Deobandis and the Barelvis, the Ahl–i–Hadith insist that Muslims need not be bound by the jurisprudential precedent of the early ulema, but, instead, should rely solely on the Koran and the genuine (sahih) prophetic traditions. They are rigid scripturalists and extreme literalists, sharing much in common with the Wahhabis of Saudi Arabia. Although their position on a range of issues is thoroughly reactionary and obscurantist (leading Ahl–i–Hadith scholars are on record as hailing the Wahhabi rulers of Saudi Arabia as representing the only ‘true’ Islamic regime in the world), on the question of triple talaq they adopt a somewhat progressive stance, declaring the practice as unequivocally illegal.

The Mumbai–based Maulana Mukhtar Ahmad Nadvi is a leading Indian Ahl–i–Hadith scholar. In his recently published Urdu book titled Talaq: Kitab-o Sunnat Ki Roshni Mein Tafsili Jai’za (‘Divorce: A Detailed Study in the Light of the Koran and the Prophetic Practice’), he writes that the practice of triple talaq was sternly condemned by the Prophet himself. The Prophet, he says, declared divorce to be the ‘most hateful’ of things allowed by God. He argues that Islam lays great stress on harmonious conjugal relations, and quotes a Hadith, or saying of the Prophet, in which Muhammad is said to have told his followers that the best among them was he who was best for, or towards, his wife.

He then goes on to describe the method of divorce laid down in the Koran and enforced by the Prophet. In case a dispute arises between husband and wife, Nadvi writes, they should first try to solve it through dialogue. If this does not work, the Koran instructs them to appoint one arbiter each from the family of the husband and the wife, who can try and resolve their differences. Only when this fails should they take the drastic measure of divorce.

In the Prophet’s time, Nadvi explains, divorce took the form of the husband uttering the word talaq three times, spaced over three consecutive menstrual cycles of the wife. During this period, the husband was to abstain from sexual intercourse with his wife, but was to keep her in the house and provide for her. In this way, the husband was given adequate time to seriously reconsider his decision to divorce. The first two talaqs could be revoked by the husband, but if the third talaq was pronounced during or at the end of the third menstrual cycle, the divorce was considered final and irrevocable. If the husband had sexual intercourse with his wife before uttering the third talaq in the third menstrual cycle, the previous talaqs were nullified.

Likewise, if he uttered the talaq at a time when his wife was menstruating, it would not be considered valid. In this regard, Nadvi relates that on one occasion a companion of the Prophet gave talaq to his wife while she was in menstruation. On learning of this, the Prophet ordered the man to take back his wife, and did not recognise the talaq. Nadvi also writes that at the time of the Prophet if a man uttered the word talaq more than once in one sitting, it was considered as just a single talaq.

This being the method of divorce at the time of the Prophet, it is considered to be in accordance with his sunnat, or practice, and hence is called talaq–isunnat. Since Muslims consider the prophetic practice a normative model for them to follow, Nadvi says, this is the method of divorce that they should adopt. No other method of divorce, he writes, can be considered binding, as that would be a violation of the sunnat. Nadvi devotes considerable attention to the practice of triple talaq in one sitting, arguing that it has no sanction in the Koran and in the traditions of the Prophet. Being, in Islamic legal parlance, a bida’at, or wrongful innovation, it is not part of the Prophet’s sunnat and hence cannot be considered as sanctioned in accordance with the Shari’ah.

In this regard, Nadvi refers to a saying of the prophet in which he strongly condemned all forms of bida’at, suggesting that those who created innovations in the faith were accursed by God. Since the practice of triple talaq in one sitting is a bida’at, he argues that those who practise or sanction it actually do so in violation of God’s will and hence are condemnable in God’s eyes. In fact, he stresses, the Prophet explicitly condemned the practice of triple talaq.  He writes that once, when the Prophet heard that one of his companions, or sahaba, had sought to divorce his wife in this way, he was enraged and sternly admonished him, saying, "What, shall God’s book be played around with and I am present among you?"

Nadvi refers to another Hadith, according to which Rukana, a companion of the Prophet, once pronounced three talaqs in one sitting but later repented. He approached the Prophet for help and the Prophet told him that the three talaqs he had given amounted to only a single talaq and therefore he could go back to his wife if he wanted to. To bolster his argument about the illegality of three talaqs in one sitting, Nadvi further adds that not a single instance is reported of such a form of talaq being accepted by the Prophet as constituting a final, irrevocable divorce.

The talaq–isunnat method, Nadvi writes, was followed in the Prophet’s time, and this was continued under his successor and the first Caliph of the Sunnis, Abu Bakr. The second Sunni Caliph, ‘Umar, too, followed this rule, but in the third year of his reign he is said to have modified it and to have made three talaqs in one sitting as legally binding and as constituting an irrevocable divorce. If the couple divorced in this fashion wanted to reunite they could only do so by resorting to what is called halala: the woman would have to marry another man, this marriage would have to be consummated, the woman would have to take a divorce from her second husband and only then could she remarry her first husband. The ulema who continue to insist on the legality of this method of talaq, and who also sanction the practice of halala, rely essentially on this decision of ‘Umar.

As a Sunni, Nadvi does not challenge ‘Umar’s decision directly, but in order to argue that this method of divorce has no sanction in Islam he insists that this innovation was simply ‘Umar’s own personal opinion, or ijtihad, which cannot be held to supersede or overrule the explicit commandments of the Koran and the Prophet on divorce. He argues that ‘Umar intended this modification to be only a temporary measure, and simply as a means to address a novel situation that had arisen in his time when men were misusing their prerogative to divorce their wives.

It was, he writes, in order to stop men from abusing their right to talaq that ‘Umar decided to make three talaqs in one sitting a final, irrevocable divorce. By doing so, he intended to warn men of the grave consequences of the break-up of their families if they misused their right to divorce. ‘Umar’s ruling was thus intended to protect women rather than harass them although today this ruling is being used precisely to serve the latter purpose. Nadvi insists that this constitutes a flagrant violation of Islam and here quotes the Prophet as imploring for God’s wrath on those men who misuse their right to divorce.

Nadvi opposes the view of many traditionalist scholars who claim that ‘Umar’s decision was unanimously agreed upon by all the sahaba, or companions, of the Prophet present. He insists that ‘Umar’s decision does not constitute an ‘ijma, or collective consensus, of the sahaba, which is evoked as a principal source of law by the ulema. He cites the instances of several leading sahaba who dissented from ‘Umar’s decision in this regard, including, and most importantly, ‘Ali, the fourth Caliph of the Sunnis and the first Shi’a Imam, ‘Abdullah ibn Abbas, Zubair ibn Awam and ‘Abd ur–Rahman ibn Awf. Following them, several of their followers, too, differed with ‘Umar on this issue. In fact, Nadvi writes, there has never been any ‘ijma on three talaqs in one sitting as constituting a final, irrevocable divorce.

Numerous ulema down the ages to the present day have opposed this position, strongly criticising those ulema who hold the contrary opinion for upholding what they consider as a bida’at. Nadvi writes that among those who dissented from ‘Umar’s decision of considering three talaqs in one sitting as constituting a final divorce were such leading Islamic jurisprudents as Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal, founder of the Hanbali school of Sunni jurisprudence, several followers of Imam Malik and Imam Abu Hanifa, founders of the Maliki and Hanafi schools of jurisprudence respectively, the influential scripturalist reformist Ibn Taimiyah and his disciple Imam Ibn Qayyim al–Jawziya.

Having thus proved the absence of any ‘ijma on ‘Umar’s decision, Nadvi writes that Muslims must accept the sunnat of the Prophet and the practice of Abu Bakr rather than ‘Umar’s opinion on the matter of talaq. The Prophet’s sunnat, and not that of his Caliphs, has normative authority for Muslims, and if any of the Caliphs departed from the Prophet’s tradition, Muslims must follow the Prophet and not the Caliphs in this regard. Furthermore, as the first Caliph of the Sunnis, Abu Bakr had more authority than ‘Umar, and so his practice in the matter of talaq, which was identical to that of the Prophet, must be followed, instead of ‘Umar’s opinion.

Umar’s ijtihad cannot be considered, Nadvi stresses, as constituting a permanent modification of the Shari’ah, which cannot be changed. The only unchangeable sources of law, he says, are the Koran and the genuine Hadith, and both these set out the sunnat method of talaq, which, therefore, must be strictly adhered to. Since ‘Umar’s opinion on talaq departs from the Koran and the genuine Hadith, it cannot be accepted as a legally binding decision. Furthermore, Nadvi writes that since it is argued by those who defend ‘Umar’s rule that it was intended as a punishment (ta’zir) for erring husbands, one must raise the question as to whether this decision has proved to be adequate or suitable for the purpose. Since it is today being used largely to harass hapless wives instead of punishing oppressive husbands, it does not serve its original purpose at all and hence must be banned, Nadvi insists.

The conservative ulema, Nadvi observes, depart from the sunnat of the Prophet not only on the issue of triple talaq but also on a range of other issues related to talaq that impinge on the rights of Muslim women. Thus, he notes, many ulema (and these include most Barelvis and Deobandis) insist that talaq uttered by the husband while drunk or while asleep, in a fit of anger or while under coercion, is binding. This, Nadvi insists, is completely at odds with the teachings of the Prophet. He writes that talaq given under coercion has no recognition or validity, for the Koran explicitly lays down that there can be ‘no coercion in religion’. Just as if a person is forced to utter ‘words of infidelity’ (kalimat-i kufr) he is not considered to have become a disbeliever, or if a non-Muslim is forced to utter the Islamic creed of confession he is not considered a Muslim, so, too, if a man is coerced into pronouncing talaq, it has no validity in law.

Similarly, Nadvi writes, if a person pronounces talaq in a state of drunkenness or insanity, it is not to be considered valid, for he is at that time not in possession of his senses. To back his argument, he refers to a Koranic verse which warns people not to pray while drunk, and to worship only when they know what they are saying. This implies, he says, that God does not regard a drunken man’s utterances of any value. Similarly, using the same logic, Nadvi opposes the argument of those ulema who claim that talaq uttered in a fit of anger, when the man does not know the consequences of what he is saying, is binding.  

On the question of halala, too, Nadvi stiffly opposes the Deobandi and the Barelvi ulema. He writes that the practice is abominable, and goes so far as to equate it with adultery (zina). He says that it has no sanction whatsoever in Islam, quoting the Prophet as having invoked God’s anger on those who engaged in the practice. He adds that there is an urgent need to promote popular awareness about halala and its seriously deleterious consequences, especially for hapless women who are sometimes subjected to this practice.

The practice of talaq–i–bida’at and the associated practice of halala, Nadvi writes, are sought to be legitimised by influential sections of the ulema by evoking the notion of jurisprudential precedent. They claim that since the founders of the schools of Sunni jurisprudence and several of their followers upheld these practices, they cannot be rescinded. This, indeed, is the position taken by most Deobandi and Barelvi ulema in India today. Nadvi stiffly opposes this argument, arguing that the founding Imams of the four schools never claimed infallibility for themselves. Indeed, he adds, they went so far as to insist that if any of their opinions violated the Koran and the genuine Hadith, they were to be rejected, and the latter were to be followed in their place.

Since the practice of accepting triple talaq in one sitting as constituting a final divorce and the associated practice of halala violate the Koran and the genuine Hadith, Nadvi says, those who claim to be faithful adherents of the established schools of jurisprudence, and this includes the Deobandis and the Barelvis, must follow the position of the Koran and the genuine Hadith in this regard if they are to be considered true followers of their Imams. To refuse to do so, Nadvi asserts, is absolutely forbidden (haram). Those who continue to uphold the practice of triple talaq in one sitting and justify halala are thus, he says, ‘grave sinners’ (sakht gunehgar) in God’s eyes. Leading ulema in several Muslim countries, such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, Egypt, Sudan and Syria have outlawed triple talaq in one sitting and halala on Islamic grounds, and Nadvi insists that there is no reason why the Indian ulema should not do the same.

Another Indian Ahl–i–Hadith scholar who has written on the vexed issue of triple talaq in one sitting is the Kuwait-based Hafiz Muhammad Ishaq Zahid. In his Ahl-i–Hadith Aur Ulema-i Harimayn Ka Ittefaqi Ra’i (‘The Consensual Opinion of the Ahl–i–Hadith and the Ulema of the Holy Cities’), Zahid makes much the same arguments as Nadvi. He adds that ‘Umar’s opinion has no legal status since ‘Umar himself later revoked it. On the question of the alleged ‘ijma of the sahaba on ‘Umar’s ruling, he follows Nadvi in dismissing this claim, and goes so far as to label it ‘baseless propaganda’. He writes that even the conservative ulema who claim an ‘ijma of the sahaba on ‘Umar’s opinion agree that prior to ‘Umar there existed an ‘ijma on Abu Bakr’s opposition to triple talaq in one sitting and on his insistence on the talaq-i sunnat method. The ‘ijma of the sahaba in Abu Bakr’s time has more legitimacy than the alleged ‘ijma in Umar’s time, says Zahid, for the Sunnis believe Abu Bakr to have been superior to ‘Umar. Hence, the ‘command’ (hukm) of ‘Umar cannot be held to overrule the ‘ijma of the sahaba in Abu Bakr’s time on the matter of divorce, especially since it was identical to the Prophet’s own opinion.

Likewise, Zahid, adds, the fourth Caliph of the Sunnis, Hazrat ‘Ali, did not accept ‘Umar’s ruling on triple talaq, and hence the alleged ‘ijma cannot be said to have been accepted after ‘Umar as well. In actual fact, says Zahid, ‘Umar’s decision was his own personal ijtihad, not a legal order based on the Shari’ah. The ijtihad of a person is not binding on anyone else and has no validity if it goes against the explicit commandments of the Koran and the genuine Hadith. Furthermore, a person’s ijtihad cannot be regarded as permanently binding, for a rule derived from ijtihad changes with change of time or place (zaman-o makan), and lacks permanent status, unlike the Koran and the sunnat of the Prophet. For these reasons, Zahid writes, the ruling of ‘Umar has no legal binding. Instead of following it, Muslims must follow the method of divorce laid down in the Koran and enjoined upon by the Prophet.

The Ahl-i Hadith are not alone in their opposition to the stance of many Deobandi and Barelvi ulema and the AIMPLB on the question of the practice of triple talaq in one sitting. Numerous Muslim reformers have lent their voice to the demand that the practice be outlawed. Yet, blind adherence to the established schools of jurisprudence as well as deeply entrenched patriarchy continue to pose a major hurdle in coaxing the conservative ulema to agree to ban the practice. As the refusal of the AIMPLB to condemn the practice suggests, the conservative ulema seem to be in no mood to listen to the voice of reason or even to arguments that insist that their own position on the issue has no legitimacy in Islam itself.

(Yoginder Sikand is head, Centre for Studies on Indian Muslims, Hamdard University, New Delhi).

Sultan Shahin

 

I couldn't agree with you more or share your anguish any more: "Why the hell  do these Muslims go after Mullahs for Fatwa for every damn thing?"

Sultan Shahin

 

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