The fatwa against Nusrat Jahan has left the citizens boggled. Even though the secular liberals are strangely mum about it, the real feminists, preaching women equality regardless of the religion have come out to be extremely perturbed. A further dig into this extremely biased degree has revealed a stream of past fatwas, each more bizarre than the other. The Darul Uloom Deoband, clerics of which issued the fatwa against Nusrat Jahan, has been on the forefront of issuing bizarre fatwas against women.
Nusrat Jahan, a TMC MP from Basirhat has recently married a Kolkata based Jain businessman. During her introductory speech in the Parliament, Nusrat had donned the newlywed Hindu wife attrite consisting of a bindi, sindur and mangalsutra. Darul Uloom had taken great offence in this and had issued a fatwa condemning the marriage.
Mufti Asad Qazmi, the chief cleric of Jamia-Sheikh- Ul-Hind Madrassa in Deoband said that she has violated Islam as a Muslim can marry a Muslim only. He stated, “We do not recognize such marriages.”
Nusrat Jahan hasn’t changed her religion, and according to the constitutional provisions, inter-religious marriage is permissible and recognized under law. It is however strange that the Deoband seminary is suddenly having problems with this arrangement when a number of Muslim men marry Hindu women and even force them to convert to Islam in the name of “love jihad”. That isn’t an issue for them but if the same is done by a woman, they seem to have objections.
In the past, Deoband seminary has received a lot of criticism on their previous fatwas, the most prominent one being when they told women to not work outside their homes. The fatwa read, ‘It is unlawful for Muslim women to do job in government or private institutions where men and women work together and women have to talk with men frankly and without veil.’
A close analysis of this fatwa brings to light the intent of the Deoband scholars. According to them, a woman cannot work outside their homes in the company of other men, and talk to them ‘frankly’ (whatever that means) and most importantly, cannot be without a veil. This effectively eliminates the chances of women employment in most of the organizations. The fatwa is directly stating that the women cannot be elected as representatives in the parliament or the legislative assembly. Moreover, there isn’t a single government or private sector job which strictly employs women as part of its staff. For a more productive and effective work environment, the employees are supposed to and even encouraged to interact together. The only place of work suitable for women, in this case, would be an all girl school teaching job or a female only medical ward, where, then again, donning a veil would not be suitable. By preaching that women should not talk to males in their place of work, the Deoband scholars are either telling the women to sit at home or telling them to be extremely unprofessional and unproductive, which directly affects the economy of the country. This fatwa also effectively debars women from studying in the top universities to get higher education.
The fact that this might have disastrous implications on the women is obviously lost on the Darul Uloom Deoband scholars. The highly patriarchal mindset of the scholars was visible when a fatwa, issued in 2008 read, ‘It is not a good thing for women to do jobs in offices. They will have to face strange men (non-mahram), though in veil. She will have to talk and deal with each other which are the things of fitna (evils). A father is committed to provide maintenance to his daughter and a husband is asked to provide maintenance to his wife. So, there is no need for women to do jobs which always pose harms and mischief.’
This essentially states that the women have to be dependent on a male entity throughout their lives, and live in constant fear of abandonment. Anything otherwise would be “haram”.
A variety of other fatwas have been seen over the years. One such fatwa forbade the women from wearing pants as it outlines the shape of her body, which is forbidden by the Shariah. Moreover, a couple of years ago, a fatwa had been issued which had banned women from cutting their hair or plucking their eyebrows, as these activities are “un-Islamic”. The blatant interference of the religion in a woman’s personal matter was seen when another fatwa was issued which read, “If the hair on face and hands make the woman look ugly then it is allowable for her to cut it for her husband’s pleasure.” Moreover, it was also forbidden by a fatwa for a husband and wife to engage in sexual acts while she was menstruating as it is “haram”.
A year ago, a fatwa had been issued on the preference of the burqas. It essentially banned the use of designer burqas whose trend was increasingly being observed. The fatwa did not stop at this. It further stated, “In fact, women should not step out of house unnecessarily and must be kept hidden otherwise evil eyes stare at them. Even when they go out, they must wear loose robes.”
Crossing all levels of absurdity, Darul Uloom Deoband issued a fatwa which read, “It is ‘na-jayaz’ (illegitimate) and sin for men and women to have food together at wedding functions or other events.”
A number of other fatwas include, Muslim women must fully cover themselves, including even their faces, in front of all non-mahram males including their eyes, if they can; that they cannot travel alone, other than in the vicinity of their homes, without a mahram accompanying them; that they cannot drive cars or be in a vehicle alone with a non-mahram; that they cannot offer namaz if they are wearing nail polish and that they cannot ‘speak loudly’, as their voices should be concealed from non-mahram males.
Most abhorrent is the fatwa which forbids the women and their spouses from practising family planning on the alleged grounds that it is ‘haram and unlawful in Islam.’
While it isn’t legal to enforce the fatwas, and they are just established practices of a “good Muslim”, they tend to have a very strong impact on the women. A few years ago, a 28 year old woman named Imrana was raped by her father in law in UP. There, instead of punishing the father in law, Darul Uloom Deoband issued a fatwa ruling that the woman’s husband was now her son and that she cannot live with him. While the situation and the ruling were gruesome in itself, what further shocked the citizens was the sheer undoubted obedience of the woman to the degrading degree. She said that she is willing to abide by the fatwa if the Darul Uloom Muftis want her to, and subsequently moved to her parent’s house.
This rape case aptly illustrates the condition of the women and dominance which Darul Uloom’s fatwas have over them. Learned Islamic scholar Arif Mohammad Khan in his interview recently had stated in detail the evils of the Deoband’s translation of Quran in the country. This translation is still widely used and the women are suppressed on the basis of it.
The Darul Uloom Deoband just wants to reinforce the archaic and patriarchal practices due to which a number of women are suffering. The fatwas have a huge societal impact in the Muslim community and illustrates how a woman is supposed to be a “good woman”.