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Global glare on fatwa clerics
- Wave of queries on Imrana embarrasses seminary

Deoband (Saharanpur), July 3: From Shia Iran to Sunni Saudi Arabia to Canada half-way round the globe, they all want to know about Imrana.

And they are flooding the Darul Uloom of Deoband with letters and emails, embarrassing the 149-year-old seminary that is used to unquestioning acceptance of its authority.

Shia clerics from Iran have questioned the fatwa, which asks the 28-year-old Imrana to leave her husband on the ground that rape by her father-in-law has turned her into a sort of mother to him, Darul Uloom insiders said.

The letters asked whether passing the edict didn’t amount to compounding the woman’s misery, although the writers expressed faith in the Deoband theologians’ wisdom.

There have been queries also from “sisterly organisations, the Muslim seminaries” in Canada, many of them donors to the Deoband school.

The questioners have quoted newspapers or sent clippings, seeking to know who among Indian Muslim clerics were criticising the fatwa, and why. Queries have poured in also from the press in Canada, where newspapers such as the National Post, Montreal Gazette and Calgary Herald have reported the matter.

Clerics from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates ' where dailies such as the Gulf News have covered the case ' have also got in touch.

“We are embarrassed by the wide-ranging queries from foreign countries,” said 29-year-old Allaz Arshad Qasmi, the youngest mufti at Darul Uloom.

“We had never imagined that the Imrana episode would have such a huge impact. Her case happened to be just one of the many we deal with every day.”

Deoband’s huge fatwa unit issues over 200 edicts a day, posting many of them on the Internet. The school also runs a fully online magazine.

“One questioner from Canada asked whether Imrana would need financial help and that, if she really wanted to abide by the Shariat laws, what was all the noise about,” a senior cleric said.

Protesters in India have included the All India Women Muslim Personal Law Board president, Shaista Ambar, who organised an “open panchayat” in Lucknow where Muslim women activists express their anger at the fatwa.

The Darul Uloom has told its foreign donors that Ambar, who is a “political person”, is not an expert on Shariat law and should be ignored.

The seminary, 25 km from Muzaffarnagar and home to more than 3,000 theology students, clarified that the fatwa indeed existed.

“I was misquoted as saying there was no fatwa on Imrana,” Darul Uloom spokesman Adil Siddique said.

A cleric said the fatwa department had heard Imrana and recorded her statement as well as those of her husband and father-in-law before passing the edict.

Imrana’s complaint was received on June 14. It said she had been asked by the local panchayat the day before to leave her husband following her rape by Ali Mohammad on the night of June 5-6.

Board denies rape

The National Commission for Women and a fact-finding team of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board have taken conflicting stands on Imrana’s allegation of rape against Ali.

S.Q.R. Ilyaas of the board team, which returned from Muzaffarnagar today, said members “found no evidence of rape except for Imrana’s claim” and suggested a property dispute between her husband Noor Ilahi and Ali behind the allegation.

Ali has alleged Imrana had seduced him to get him to write a plot of land in her name.

Women’s commission chairperson Girija Vyas, however, backed Imrana. “We trust her statement,” she said.

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