01-Sep-2005

Fatwa Or Opinion?

Commenting on one of Tavleen Singh's columns where she discussed the Imrana case, I'd written:
...it is not even clear apparently that there was a fatwa. Could it have been someone just giving their opinion?
Well it seems that both could be true and still not contradict each other. That is, even if there had been a fatwa, it would have been someone just giving their opinion. This article notes:
...a fatwa is strictly an opinion given by a mufti on religious matters to a querist who seeks some clarification. The recipient has the option to accept it; otherwise, if he so desires, he could seek a fatwa from some other mufti. Thus a fatwa is never a legally binding decision.
It goes on
As a consequence of the tremendous development of the media, if the subject matter is such that it has ingredients enough which could be played about to sensationalise it, it becomes a hot topic.
Hence a fatwa, which is really meant for the querist, gets disseminated widely by those whose only interest is to satisfy their morbid curiosity. But it continues to be a fatwa, i.e. a subject matter between the questioner and the mufti. Even after it is published in a magazine or a newspaper, it is not as if it becomes applicable to all its readers!

...
according to its traditional and proper meaning and scope, a fatwa cannot be issued suo motu by a cleric who calls himself a mufti, on a subject on which no one in particular has asked for an opinion by addressing a query to the mufti.
So much for sensationalisation of news. And even editors are not far behind with their opinions. In response to another recent 'fatwa' against women participating in elections, which led to some women opting out of the UP municipal (or similar) elections, the Economic Times immediately delivered a fatwa calling for a Uniform Civil Code. Having heard clearly on TV that it was another dedicated reporter who had sought the opinion of the mufti or pesh imam or whoever it was, it was funny reading the editorial start off as follows:
Darul Uloom, Deoband, has ruled that Muslim women should not contest elections, and if they have to, they must do so from behind the veil. It’s a regressive injunction which deserves condemnation.
Finally, a view from the other side of the Uniform Civil Code argument.

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