Monday, October 14, 2013

Fuming Against Dar-ul-Uloom

The following piece appeared in the New Indian Express on the said date.

Our remarks are in black against the original article in blue.

Stop creating Muslim misfits

Published: 08th October 2013 06:00 AM
Last Updated: 08th October 2013 01:15 AM
In the interest of Muslims, there is an urgent need to reform or shut down Darul Uloom Deoband,
Now that you are at it you might consider shutting down Islam too.
... the internationally known Islamic seminary engendering obscurantism, sectarianism and religious orthodoxies harmful to Muslims.
Perhaps you wanted to write infamous in place of known.
In a recent fatwa, it ruled that Shias, mainly Bohra Muslims, are non-Muslims, violating the egalitarian tenets of the Indian republic.
Dar-ul-Uloom was established much before the establishment of the Indian Republic. Hence the Indian republic accepts the existence of the Dar-ul-Uloom as it was. And one of the jobs of Dar-ul-Uloom is to interpret Islam. It was within its right to do what it did.
Fatwas are Islamic legal opinions given in response to a query and, while not many Muslims follow them, they do influence the devout ones.
 You are getting distracted. 
The accepted view that no clergy exists in Islam is untrue, as a large number of clerics in Indian villages act as doorkeepers to Muslim minds.
You are taking up issues with Islam.
If we could hazard a guess then the object might be to adjust Islam to the whims of your current hosts, the US.
In recent years, the Darul Uloom Deoband has delivered numerous fatwas which undermine women’s freedom.
For the record you are taking the western standards as the norm.
The western standards were designed, having their roots in the the crusading mentality, to be anti-Islamic.

With that mindset it is not possible to engage Muslims in any useful dialogue. Moreover it is strange that a person with a Muslim sounding name should appoint himself as a spokesman for the west.

Just in case the author thinks he is addressing Muslims as a fellow Muslim then the platform chosen is very unfortunate. In-house problems should be solved in the house.
Notably, women cannot preach or deliver sermons;
Actually they do, amongst women.
... working women cannot mix with male colleagues;
This one you got right. It is clear that either you are looking for mixing with opposite gender or you are trying to appease the detractors of Islam. Both reflect badly on your character.
... women must wear a burqa;
You mention it as some sort of injustice. Justice is to implement Islam. In Islam modesty is prescribed not only for women but for men too.
... triple talaq uttered through a cellphone is valid;
Divorce is a serious matter in Islam and no Muslim should play with it. Even by way of allowing your anger to get better of you. When faced with a serious issue the option available is to take it seriously. To change the tenets of religion to suit your temper is not religiosity. Islam was decided ny Allah, exalted is He, for us we do not have the liberty to redesign it. Nor has the Dar-ul-Uloom said liberty. Designer Islam is not Islam.
...women cannot serve as qazis, or judges;
True. Still with us?
talking to one’s fiancĂ© on phone is haram or forbidden;
True again. Are you a new kid on the block? People have been talking about these things for a long time and you are still stuck at the start line.
... adolescent girls over 13 years cannot ride bicycles;
I see. Got to check this one.
... it is undesirable for women to drive a car;
I have heard that is true about Saudi Arab. Got to check this one also.
... women shouldn’t contest elections and must observe purdah;
Most probably true. And you are repeating yourself.
... co-education is impermissible.
True. Sad that you discovered it just now. And you immediately jumped to the conclusion that Dar-ul-Uloom should be shut down. Looks like your brain did not boot properly.
Such fatwas include: Muslims shouldn’t work in banks;
That is related to Riba, the interest. This does not preclude bank jobs. You seem to be a rather clear customer of western ideology to the complete exclusion of Islam. The west has been doing that for long. Fourteen hundred years or so. You bring in only one new ingredient - that you are a Muslim or  at least have a Muslim sounding name. Unfortunately that too does not sound terribly original. There have been many people with Muslim sounding names who tried to fit Islam to the western ideal. They got no where and all such attempts are destined to fail in future. The reason is simple. Either we fit ourselves in the religion preferred by Allah. ( Rebuttal to be continued.)
modelling and acting are offences; watching cartoons on television is unlawful for children; donating blood and organs is haram; photography is sinful; celebrating birthdays is disallowed; a person blaspheming Prophet Muhammad should be killed; body scan is impermissible; and life insurance is illegal.
Such fatwas emasculate Muslim minds. Noted academic S Irfan Habib urged Muslims to ignore them. Yasoob Abbasi of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board said these “irresponsible” fatwas bring a bad name to Islam; another Board member Q R Ilyasi reminded that co-education schools exist in Saudi Arabia and Iran. Maulana Syed Ashraf Kichhouchhvi of the All India Ulama and Mashaikh Board, a body of Sufis, dubbed the anti-birthday fatwa as sans spiritualism. Regarding body scan, Faizan Mustafa, vice chancellor of the National Law University in Hyderabad, said that whatever the state does for the common good is allowed in Islam. Arshad Alam of the Jamia Millia Islamia University described these fatwas as sectarian, contested by Ahl-e-Hadees, Barelvis and Shias. Waqarunnisan Ansari, a Mumbai corporator, questioned the clerics’ competence to issue fatwas, asking if they know the terrible conditions experienced by women. Reflecting at the bigger problem facing Muslims, social activist Javed Anand warned that all religious groups such as Tablighi Jamaat, Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind, Ahl-e-Hadith and Jamaat-e-Islami do not think “any differently” from the Darul Uloom Deoband.
Islamists argue that one should ignore these fatwas as the silent majority of Muslims disregards them. This argument itself is a problem: the silent majority cowers behind the four walls of home when a cleric rules over an entire village.Islamists accuse liberal Muslims of defaming Islam and argue that anti-women fatwas are just a few. But, these fatwas are a mirror to the ruling ideology that causes Muslim decay. At this point in civilisation as we have journeyed from the invention of the wheel and steam engine on way to landing at Mars, it is meaningless to debate what arguments the Darul Uloom Deoband offers for its fatwas. The concern is: it is creating misfits for the modern world; its graduates will go on teaching a distorted version of Islam.
After 1857 when Muslims lost power in Delhi, two responses emerged: one, Sir Syed Ahmed Khan advocated scientific education as the cure for Muslim decay and established a modernist college known as Aligarh Muslim University; second, Maulana Muhammad Qasim Nanautvi favoured Islamic revival as the medicine for Muslim development and founded the Darul Uloom Deoband. The seminary relies on contributions and trains 5,000 residential students, with 1,000 graduating every year with an 8-year Fazeelat degree. However, its syllabus covers only three disciplines: Islamic jurisprudence, a hadith or traditions of Prophet Muhammad, the Koran. It doesn’t even teach Islamic history, except for bits that figure in a hadith. It has recently introduced skills courses in English and computer science for post-Fazeelat students but these aren’t aimed at broadening students’ minds.
Delhi-based journalist Abid Anwar, who studied at the Darul Uloom Deoband, says the clerics who issue fatwas do not read newspapers or watch television and are unaware of societal realities. “The seminary must incorporate social sciences, mathematics, geography and natural science right from year one of the Fazeelat course if it wants to prepare its students to interact with the wider society,” Anwar says, citing the example of Bihar where madrassas introduced the subjects in the 1980s. However, reform initiatives were always rebuffed. In 2009, the Indian government tried, in line with the Sachar Committee recommendations, to introduce a madrassa reform legislation so that their degrees are valued at par with mainstream schools. But Abdul Khaliq Madrasi, pro-vice chancellor of Darul Uloom Deoband, accused the government of interference. In 2011, the seminary’s reformist vice chancellor Ghulam Muhammad Vastanvi was removed. A tiny number of clerics sabotaged madrassa reform, though most Muslims favour it. This is the crux: a few Islamic clerics have the ability to push an entire community into decadence; while more schools are needed, the real problem is the darkness emanating from Darul Uloom Deoband. Not to forget: Deoband-leaning seminaries are producing jihadists and suicide bombers in Pakistan.
In a vibrant democracy like India, there is always something a government can do for its citizens. It must set up an educational commission on Darul Uloom Deoband and other seminaries, inquiring into their role in causing Muslim backwardness. It must: examine if their syllabus meets the educational needs of Muslims or they are producing second-class citizens in violation of the Constitution; probe their sources of funding and if they are influenced by foreign elements like Saudi Wahhabis; work to set up a council of fatwas representing clerics from all Islamic sects and ensure 50 per cent of them are women; suggest measures for recruiting female teachers in seminaries in the hope that in a 100 years — as there is no shortcut — they will produce a women-friendly interpretation of Islam.

Tufail Ahmad is director of South Asia Studies Project at the Middle East Media Research Institute, Washington DC.