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The War Within Islam ( 10 Oct 2012, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Fatwas in the 21st Century: No Denunciation Of Taliban, Suicide Bombing Of Sufi Shrines Or Sectarian Conflict

 By Waseem Altaf

05 Oct, 2012

One would hardly find any fatwa against the Tehrik-e-Talban or suicide bombers. Fatwas are also significant in fuelling sectarian conflict among Deobandis and Barelvis

In April 2006, the Islamic Fiqh Academy of Saudi Arabia issued a fatwa giving sanctity to “Misyar”, which refers to a temporary marriage between two individuals and may even last an hour. It has now been legitimized by the highest fatwa issuing authorities of Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Misyar is now permissible to all Sunnis and Ahle-Hadis. The Shias were already practicing “Mutah”.

Ever since there has been a 50 percent increase in Misyar marriages after the issuance of a religious edict (fatwa).

In March 2010 the Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Aziz - al-Sheikh, the head of the Council of Senior Scholars, and six other members of the fatwa committee from The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia declared: “It is necessary to keep away from places where men congregate. Women should look for decent work that does not make it possible for them to attract men or be attracted by men".

I recall an incident narrated by my friend Rana Zia-ul-Haq from Bahawalpur when a lady who was a social worker and an activist, expired in his neighbourhood. The son of the deceased lady went to the mosque to request for an announcement of her death. It was harshly refused by the Maulvi, as he claimed that the lady was an Ahmadi. He further pronounced that he would not allow namaz-e janaza of the deceased in the Muslim tradition and would never permit anybody to bury her in a Muslim graveyard.

The boy was deeply distressed and tried his utmost to convince the Maulvi that his mother was not an Ahmadi, but the Maulvi insisted that since she was too bold and non pardah observing hence she was an Ahmadi. When some respectable people from the area came to know of the odd situation, they asked the Maulvi to be rational. To this he told that mufti sahib would decide whether the lady can be buried in the Muslim tradition or not.

An hour later an overweight person with dyed thick beard appeared along with four other persons and was introduced as the mufti. At the time around two hundred persons had gathered in the mosque and the mufti began his speech. His words were too rude, harsh and inflammatory. My friend Rana Zia, who was sitting close to him, after being perturbed by his tone, touched his knee in order to make him a little cool. The mufti mistook it as if he would receive some cash.

The mufti abruptly changed his tone and declared that since Rana-Zia-ul-Haq being a true Muslim had testified that the lady was a Muslim; hence she was a Muslim and could be buried in the Muslim way.

Later he demanded money from Rana Zia who then paid him rupees 1000.It later transpired that out of that the Maulvi was paid rupees 300.

The burial in the Muslim tradition cost rupees one thousand.

Another incident, again from Bahawalpur, when my friend Masood Malik, against the will of his parents entered into a court marriage with his girl friend; however under intense pressure from his parents divorced her after 15 days. The divorce was pronounced thrice in one instance. A few days later Mr. Malik realized that he had committed an inhuman act since the girl was also abandoned by her parents, and was living in a blind girls' hostel.

He came to me and told that he wanted a patch up with his ex-wife. He also informed that his father had obtained a fatwa from a mufti who informed that divorce did take place even if he divorced his wife in one instance and there was no room for reconciliation. We then went to a mufti and obtained a counter fatwa for rupees 1500 which supported reconciliation within 90 days. The father of Masood had paid rupees 1200 for the fatwa causing dissolution of marriage. In rupees 300 extra, Masood Malik got reunited with his wife.

When Masood Azhar, another one from Bahawalpur, tried to re launch Jaish-e-Muhammad after his release from an Indian prison with the connivance of the deep state; a fatwa was required to legitimize violence. And when one of the three prominent Deoband leaders, Maulana Yousaf Ludhianvi, refused to give a fatwa in favour of Azhar, he was shot dead on May 18, 2000 in Karachi. Dr Sarfaraz Naeemi of Jamia Naeemia and a vocal voice against suicide bombings, who had given out a fatwa, got killed in a suicide attack on June 12, 2009. Dr. Tahir-ul-Qadri did give out a fatwa against suicide bombings in a conference sponsored by the British counter- terrorism think tank Quilliam. Soon afterwards he fled to Canada.

Religious scholars have been quick to give out fatwas that the Rs.430 million zakat funds could be used for Jehad in Indian Administered Kashmir.

However, one would hardly find any fatwa against the Tehrik-e-Talban or suicide bombers. Fatwas are also significant in fuelling sectarian conflict among Deobandis and Barelvis. Some Deobandis like Mufti Taqi Usmani, who carries a huge clout among Deobandis, has not openly condemned suicide bombings on Sufi shrines. A fatwa issued by an Egyptian cleric Sheikh Omar Abd al-Rahman resulted in the assassination of President Sadat and the first attack on the World Trade Centre in 1993.

The Bangladesh High Court in a verdict passed on July 8, 2010 declared all kinds of extra-judicial punishment as illegal, including those made in the name of fatwa in local arbitration. The day is not far when all kinds of fatwas would be banned in a country where 90 percent of the population is Muslim.

On July 29 2010, the Bangladesh Supreme Court in another landmark verdict restored secularism in the country's constitution and banned all political parties based on religion. It is now a punishable offense to use religion in politics.

Bangladesh which was liberated in 1971 when we were 24 years old has progressed much faster. We still have to translate the term secular into Urdu. Presently it is ladeen. We have yet to decide if suicide bombings which are allowed in Israel, are also allowed in our holy land or not. What do we have to do with fatwas.

It is more than sixty five years and the state made for Muslims is yet to define a Muslim.

Perhaps one day the Supreme Court would take a suo motto notice, summon some religious scholars and ask them to define a Muslim. The religious scholars would then find themselves as confused as those assigned to define obscenity.

Religion in politics is consistently taking its toll.

Waseem Altaf is a social activist.