A fatwa is a decree, a ruling. The mufti who is authorised to issue fatwas has to have encyclopaedic knowledge – for he will be required to pronounce on matters that range from personal hygiene, to marital relations, to the fine points on the law of inheritance, to whether the Earth moves around the Sun or the Sun moves around the Earth, to the way a Muslim should live in and the extent of allegiance he should owe to a country like India. In a line, fatwas are the shariah in action.
In his path-breaking book The World of Fatwas or the Shariah in Action; scholar, author, celebrated journalist, former editor and Minister and one of the foremost voices in India’s public life and discourse, Arun Shourie delves into the vast and fascinating world of fatwas as they have accumulated over the years and produces a body of work that provides a deep insight into a key aspect of Islam at home and abroad.
A revised edition of the book, with startlingly new material, has just been published by Harper Collins Publishers India. Over the coming days we will bring you excerpts from the fresh material.
The querist asks—
But first a word about the manner in which what they ask is set out: so that nothing may be lost in translation, so to say, the questions and answers, including their spellings and grammar, are given exactly as they appear in the official website of the Darul Ifta, Dar-ul Ulum, Deoband. To get back to the querist, he asks,
I would like to refer to book Fadaail-e-Hajj (English version)by Shaykhal Hadeeth Maulana Mohammad Zakariyya, published by Kutub Khana Faizi Lahore, Pakistan, on Section 9; Manners of Ziarat, story no. 9,a story about Syed Ahmad Rifaee (rahmatullahialaih) which performs a hajj and ziarahrasulullah grave. On the grave, he recited a couple of poems. After that, the sacred hand of rasulullah came out of the grave and the syed kissed it. It is said that the occasion is witnessed by 90,000 people. My question,
• Can I trust the story because as what I knew, dead people cannot at any circumstances be brought alive. So, can dead people become alive? The 90,000 witnesses also seem superflous as can people with that huge number see the hand of rasulullah come out from the grave and kissed by the syaikh? To me, the story is merely sufism in nature which lay people like me could potentially misunderstand about the story and brought forward false story to other. Only Allah knows best.
The ulema of the Dar-ul Ulum, Deoband, the institution that is often referred to as the‘Al Azhar of the East’, answer as follows:
This event does not belong to tasawwuf (mysticism), rather the people saw the holy hand coming out of the blessed grave with their naked eyes. It is proved that the dead can be alive with the permission of Allah. The book “TazkiraShah AbdurRahim Dehlavi…,” published from Al-Furqan Lucknow, contains a booklet with the title “Murdon Ki Zindon Se Ham Kalami.” In this booklet, Hadhrat Maulana Manzoor Nomani…has substantially proved in detail that the dead can talk to those who are alive. For details, study the same.
Allah (Subhana WaTa’ala) (Mighty and Great) knows Best Darul Ifta, Darul Uloom Deoband
That is not a fatwa issued in the middle ages. It was issued on 28 July 2010. Two points are worthy of notice here: What the ulema of this high authority regard as fact, and what they regard as proof of that fact. That something is written in a book to the effect that 90,000 persons witnessed the hand rise out of the grave 1,400 years ago is both necessary and sufficient for them to maintain that the hand did indeed rise out of the grave; that a booklet written by Maulana Manzoor Nomani says that the dead can talk to the living establishes that they can indeed talk…
A believer in the United Kingdom is in search for answers to equally vexed questions. “1- I have heard that when a baby is born a shaitan is also born and the shaitan stays with that person until he dies. Is this true and what is the reference?” he writes. “2- If the above is true then when the person dies then does the shaitan who was with the person also die as well or does the shaitan go by someone else?”
The ulema answer with becoming gravity and satisfaction, and also modesty:
You are right. Every man is born with a jinn companion who accompanies him till death…
We could not find whether this Satan dies after the person or goes anywhere else, but it is reported from scholars that if a dead is buried after reciting the verse… the Satan companion is also buried with him.
The fatwas issued in response to such queries give us a glimpse of one of the root causes of two, indeed twin, fundamental problems.For the ulema as well as the community they have weaned, that something is said in the Quran or narrated in the Hadis, that something has been asserted by a person whose chief claim to being an authority on matters ranging from the mundane to the entirely unknown was that he could invoke a verse from the Quran or recall an opposite Hadis or, indeed, cite the passage from the work of someone like himself—each of these is sufficient as proof of an assertion. The other side of this feature is that the liberal is always on the defensive. He would proceed by evidence—as it is understood in, say, empirical sciences. But he has no way to discount a proposition if his interlocutor can invoke the Quran or some old authority in its support.
The third difficulty for the community, and therefore for the rest of the world, is also in evidence in such pronouncements: the mind of the ulema remains rooted so far in the past as to be incomprehensible.
That is not all. For there is the other side to the coin—the mind of the followers whom they have weaned.
[Tomorrow: Fatwas on talaq and other such issues. Reproduced with permission of the author and publisher.]