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  • mediazioni e arbitrati, risoluzione alternativa delle controversie e servizi di mediazione e arbitrato

    » 05/27/2010, 00.00


    Enough with fatwas that betray the spirit of Islam, Islamic expert says

    Nirmala Carvalho

    After a fatwa is issued, saying that women must wear a veil in public places, a debate on Islam and Qur‘anic laws begins in India. Ashgar Ali Engineer, of the Centre for Study of Society and Secularism, tells AsiaNews that Islam needs its own Renaissance.

    Mumbai (AsiaNews) – Being tied to a medieval conception of religion will not help the Islamic world or the world in general. Rather than looking at Islam through the lenses of Sharia and hudud rules, we should undertake a cultural and religious revolution. This way, we can avoid useless fatwas and dangerous misunderstandings, said Ashgar Ali Engineer, of the Centre for Study of Society and Secularism, as spoke to AsiaNews about a recent fatwa (non-binding religious ruling) issued by a religious scholar in Uttar Pradesh.

    In one of his latest edicts, Sharif Mohd Ayyub Alem Rizvi, mufti of Darul Iftah, said that women could work in institutions under “certain conditions”, one of which is wearing the veil. Furthermore, “Muslims,” the Islamic legal expert said, “cannot work in banks because interests (a bank’s profit) are contrary to Qur’anic law.”

    This fatwa comes a few days after the Darul Uloom Deoband (Islamic School in Deoband) announced that the income women earn working in public offices alongside men is haram (prohibited).

    Both fatwas share a literalist approach to Sharia and both appeared in the Times of India, raising a storm in India.

    ”Why apply these shar’i hudud only to women?” Ali Engineer said. “Who will define their limits? For these ulema, any mixing of men and women is an act of fitna (mischief). For them, a woman’s character and integrity has no meaning or significance at all. If she lifts the veil from her face in a mixed gathering, she is transformed into a fitna”.

    Yet, “There are several instances in the Holy Prophet’s life when men and women came together,” he said. “Hazrat A’isha even led the Battle of Jamal (aka Battle of the Camel) and hundreds of sahaba (companions) were around her. No one told her not to venture out of home to take part in the battle. Shifa bint-e-Abdullah, a leading woman, was appointed by Hazrat Umar as market inspector and no one protested. What was she doing as a market inspector? Dealing with women alone?”

    However, for Engineer, things get more complicated when it comes to the veil. “The Qur’an, which is the primary source for Sharia, does not refer to hijab (veil) for ordinary women at all. On the other hand, it advises women not to display her zeenah (adornments) publicly (Qur’an, 24:31) but refrains from defining what constitutes zeenah or adornment.” Instead, the latter “has been defined by various commentators depending on their cultural environment.”

    The fact is, “The Qur’an does not even say whether they should cover their heads, let alone their faces. It says, on the other hand ‘except what appears thereof’ leaving space for interpretation. There is near agreement among commentators that face and hands should remain open.”

    What is more, this “verse is preceded by advice to both men and women,” telling them that they “are responsible for lowering their gaze. Instead, the entire responsibility is put on women that they should cover themselves including their faces, lest they should become source of fitna (mischief).”

    Actually, the Qur‘an requires “both men and women to restrain themselves. It is unfortunate that when it comes to women we totally ignore even what can be called maqasid al-shari’ah (the intentions of Sharia) and only women are held responsible for her behaviour.”

    For Ashgar Ali Engineer, fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence) “has to be thoroughly revised in keeping with the true spirit of the Qur‘an. One needs to develop a proper methodology and framework to understand Qur‘anic intentions in [their] totality, not in pieces, as our commentators have been doing.”

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    See also

    04/03/2010 INDIA
    Muslim women can move forwards wearing the veil
    A few days ago, Muslims in Karnataka took to the streets to protest the publication of an article against the Islamic veil by the ‘Kannada Prabha’ newspaper, ostensibly by well know writer Taslima Nasreen. Because of her liberal views on Islam, she has been living in exile for the past 16 years. The unrest left two people dead, and 50 injured; it also caused anger and fear among the State’s Hindu population. Asghar Ali Engineer, a Muslim and head of the Centre for Study of Society and Secularism, tells Indians about the struggle Muslim women are engaged in for their rights. He accuses Indian newspapers of distorting reality, something that is preventing a real reform of Islam.

    15/05/2013 INDIA
    Asghar Ali Engineer, a voice for dialogue between Christianity and Islam, is dead
    The intellectual died in Mumbai at the age of 74 after a long illness. A Muslim who was a friend of AsiaNews, he carried out a relentless fight "against all forms of religious bigotry."

    08/01/2010 INDONESIA
    Central Java: Islamic radicalism on the rise in Solo mosques
    The city is a hub of Islamic extremism. It was also the birthplace of radical Islamist leader Abu Bakar Bashir as well as the refuge of Malaysian terrorism Noordin Top. A radical version of Islam and self-imposed exclusivism favours spread of radicalism.

    20/08/2010 INDIA
    Kashmir: Islamic groups pressuring Sikhs to convert
    Anonymous letters are sent to local Sikhs, calling on them to embrace the fight for Kashmir. For Ali Ashgar Engineer, an Indian Muslim, Pakistani terrorists are behind the missives. For Predhuman Joseph Dhar, a Kashmiri convert to Catholicism, the issue is religious. Extremists want to islamise the Kashmir.

    11/05/2009 INDIA – HOLY LAND
    Pope’s trip to the Holy Land helps peace and dialogue, says Indian Muslim scholar
    For Asghar Ali Engineer the Pope’s trip will increase “brotherhood among the nations.” Confessional divisions are not caused by religion, but by its “political use.” He extends his best wishes to the Christians of the Middle East.

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