As-Sunnah Vol. 2 Issue No. 5


Vantage Point: The Deobandi Predicament

Vantage Point: The Deobandi Predicament
A highly undesirable consequence of the Deobandi stubbornness in the case of Imrana was that the people’s faith was unnecessarily put to trial. Because the people were either given the option to accept the Deobandi fatawa, which was claimed to be the decision of the Qur’aan and binding upon every Muslim to consent with, in order to preserve his Islam – or to dissent against his faith by refusing to accept the fatawa. Whereas, the situation was never about deciding between obedience and disobedience to the Qur’aan, nor a choice between faith and disbelief.

Firstly, because the actual Islamic verdict based upon the genuine principles laid down by Allah in His Book and the Sunnah of Messenger (sallallahu alahi wa-sallam) did not entail any injustice upon the victim, which would incite any form of dislike or rebellion against Islam.

Secondly, the issue was a matter of Ijtihad, which permits one to reject the weak and baseless opinion, in order to accept the opinion supported with stronger proofs from the Book and the Sunnah.

The Deobandis, however, withheld this option from the people and imposed their stance upon them. This is because the Deobandis find it necessary for the preservation of their hold of influence that their fatawa be given the status of Sharee’ah and the common people adhere to it without question. This is why one sees the apparent rock-hard stances and the strong statements in support of the fatawa of the Deobandi mufti, otherwise, the Deobandis have shown remarkable flexibility when it came to the issue of using Zakaat money for their madrasas (as has been illustrated in the article).

Let there be no doubt that the Deobandis have always been guilty of excessive exaggerations when it come to exemplifying their scholars. To quote two examples,

Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanvi, says, ‘According to me, a great proof of the truth of Islam is the presence of Maulana Anwar Shah Kashmiri in the Muslim Ummah. If there was any sort of crookedness or deficiency in Islam, then Maulana Anwar Shah would not have adopted it.’ [Akabir-e-Ulama-e-Deoband, p. 98]

Moulana Rasheed Ahmad Gungohi used to say many times, ‘Listen carefully! Truth is only, what is uttered by the tongue of Rasheed Ahmad. And I swear that I am nothing, but that in this age, guidance and success is dependant upon my Ittiba (following).’ [Tazkirat ar-Rasheed, vol.2, p.17 by Aashiq Ilaahi Merathi]

In areas where the Deobandi Madrasa wields influence, the common folks are under the impression that they follow the Madhhab of the Imams, while in reality, they unwittingly follow the opinions and conclusions of the Deobandi elders.

It would be interesting to mention that the Deobandis do not agree with the principle that when two Ijtihads are contradictory, the weaker Ijtihad may be dropped. Rather, their view is that every Ijtihad of the four madhaahib (pl. of madhhab) is true and worthy to be followed. This means that if the people of the Chhartawal village were Shafa’ees, there would be no controversy at all. The people of that village would have considered the woman raped by her father-in-law to be Halaal for her husband (as was the opinion of imam Shafa’ee), and yet, would not be guilty of leaving the Sharee’ah or disobedience to Qur'aanic injunctions. Rather, the Deobandis would consider them to be good Muslims who acted in accordance with the Sharee'ah and the Qur'aan. But since the people of that village were Hanafis, the opposite ruling applies to them. This illogicality is a result of the notion that every Ijtihad is the haqq (truth) and acceptable; and in the words of Imam Ibn Abdul-Barr, ‘To prove two opposites simultaneously is the most hideous absurdity.’ [See the complete quote under, ‘How do the common people take their ruling?]

With regards to the claim that lack of Taqleed leads to following of desires and seeking conveniences in the deen, we have explained that this concern is unfounded. Because the one who wishes to follow his desires, does so even after being bound by a Madhhab, while the one who is sincere about his religion may be forced to leave action upon certain Ahadeeth or upon a stronger Ijtihadi positions due to Taqleed.

In truth, the matter is nothing more than maintaining unquestionable religious authority over the people for, if the matter of referring to the scholars is left open as it should be, the unjustifiable high influence of the Deobandis over certain sections of the people will be undermined.

As for the Imrana case, tremendous public opposition to the fatawa has made it a major embarrassment for the Deobandis and has let to the people questioning their authority and inflexibility. Caught between the rock (concept of Taqleed) and a hard place (public opinion), the Deobandis have tried to wriggle their way out of an uncomfortable position by the help of some technicalities.

The media reported, Adil Siddiqui (Media in-charge at the Darul-Uloom Deoband) as saying, ‘The fatawa came in response to a query made by a journalist seeking information to write his copy… The fatawa had nothing to do with the Imrana case, as no such request or clarification was sought by Imrana or anyone else on her behalf.’

So what if one of the direct parties involved with the case were to approach Darul-Uloom Deoband for a verdict? Would the verdict be any different? Certainly not - as the fatawa is based on a well-known position of the Deobandis on cases as this. Quoting Fatawa Rahimiyyah,

‘… (if) the woman indulges in adultery with her husband’s son, she will become unlawful forever for the husband but the marriage-bond will not break.’ [Fatawa-Rahimiyah (vol.2, Kitab at-Talaq, p.121) This fatawa was based on Durr-e-Mukhtaar and Shami, (vol.2. P.386-7)]

Furthermore, the Deobandi position in this matter is still harsher. According to them, Hurmat al-Masaaharah is not only established by adultery but by mere touching.

From Bahishti Zewar by Moulana Ashraf Alee Thanwi, p.406 (Eng. Trans. Published by Urdu Book Depot, 2nd ed. 1974)
‘21. In the darkness of the night a man woke up to awaken his wife, but unwillingly he caught his daughter with a youthful passion (i.e. with desire), then his wife will become prohibited for him. There is no way of legitimizing it. It is necessary for him to divorce his wife.’
‘22. If a man touched his wife’s step-mother with evil intention, then she becomes absolutely prohibited for her husband and there is no way of legitimizing it. The same applies to the step-mother if she does it with her step-son.’

So the Darul-Uloom’s distancing itself from the fatawa of its mufti is merely a political move, it does not in anyway mean that they have reconsidered their view on the matter. Milligazette, a New Delhi based newspaper has closely followed the events of the case and its editor had the following to say on the twists and turns of the Deobandi mufti who issued the fatawa.

‘… a Noida-based Urdu newspaper, Rashtriya Sahara, asked the Mufti in India’s premier Muslim seminary, Darul Uloom Deoband, to give his opinion. The mufti (Maulana Habibur Rahman), without ascertaining the facts of the case or going to the area or sending someone there to find out the truth, issued a fatawa on 16 Jumada al-Oula 1426 Hijri (25 June) saying that Imrana is now Haraam (forbidden) for her husband and should leave him.
        We obtained a copy of this fatawa and asked Mufti Habibur Rahman certain questions. He was unable to counter our argument that the Qur’aanic injunction [‘And marry not women whom your fathers married…’ (4): 22)] does not apply here. He gave us some references to support his view but when we read them, they did not seem to support the Mufti’s interpretation which is the opinion of some Hanafi fuqaha, who consider illegitimate sexual contact including rape also as a cause for prohibiting such marriages.
        We confronted the Mufti again. This time he referred us to another Maulana who, he said, was present in the meeting when the decision was taken. We told him, why we should go to someone else when he (Mufti Habibur Rahman) had signed the fatawa. Seemingly, he was not pleased with our argument and asked us to write down whatever ‘problems’ we had in mind. We did this promptly. He replied on 3 July repeating the same Hanafi stand which is based on interpretation instead of a clear textual support from the Qur’aan or Hadeeth.
        Discussions with top ulama of Deoband revealed that they are not ready to re-assess their position even by an inch. Maulana Usman, vice principal of the Darul-Uloom Deoband, said, ‘we do not issue fatawas, we are only copiers of [old] fatawas.’ He brushed aside the possibility of Ijtihad saying that conditions today are worse than those found when the doors of Ijtihad were closed.   
        …Just one day after our interaction on 29 June, the Mufti’s office announced on 1 July that the previous fatawa was not about Imrana, which is factually incorrect. While the name ‘Imrana’ is not mentioned in the question to which the fatawa was given, her village and district are mentioned. Moreover, the 3 July issue of Rashtriya Sahara Urdu newspaper carries an article by Mufti Habibur Rahman, which explicitly mentions the name of Imrana and pronounces the same opinion he earlier expressed in his fatawa.’ [Milli Gazette, ‘Imrana case: Rape by Media’ by Zafarul-Islam Khan]

Bewildered by the public outrage, the Deobandis have resorted to ways that may be acceptable for political parties, but in Islam, lying and deception are considered serious flaws and behaviors incompatible with being Islamic scholars, teachers and guides.

The greater concern is that if the Deobandis manage to wriggle out of this situation without any commitment to re-evaluate their position or at least an unprejudiced discussion, things will remain as they are. The next victim of rape by close-relatives may not have the privilege of having media frenzy on its side, and would be victimized by the Deobandi intransigence, who will give priority to self-preservation over compassion for the victim. They will continue to enforce their weak opinion in this matter and keep-up their call to blind-following.

If this happens, whatever little good that could come of this sorry saga will be lost and all the bad press Islam has received as a result of the Deobandis will be in vain.

Taken from As-Sunnah Newsletter -


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