Friday, May 21, 2010

Are fatwas strangling Muslim women?

The Dar ul-Uloom Deoband fatwa which prevents Muslim women from working has angered many. The members of the seminary who issued the fatwa say that it has been misinterpreted and it was aimed at offering protection to working women.

Moulana Khalid Saifullah Rehamani, member of the All India Muslim Personal Board who holds the authority to issue fatwas in Andhra Pradesh, Moulana Abdul Rahim Qureshi, assistant secretary general of the board, and Dr Rafath Seema, general secretary, Nisa Research and Resource Centre for Women, Hyderabad, spoke with about this fatwa and its implications.

Moulana Khalid Saifullah Rehamani: Islam places a lot of importance on family values. There is a lot of concern about the well being of women and hence it is important that they are safeguarded from the prying eyes of men. Nowhere does this fatwa say that Muslim women should not work and it has largely been misinterpreted by the media.

The fatwa clearly states that a Muslim woman should work in a clean environment and I support this. Muslim women should ensure that they are not close to strangers at work and must dress properly. What is wrong in that? Values are important in Islam and the fatwa just tells them to keep it up.

We are also against women working in night shifts but there is a rule which permits them to work in the night. We are not wrong while opposing this. Crime statistics from across the country show that our stand is justified.

When the fatwa speaks of a dress code for women, it does not mandate that women wear a burqa to work. A purdah must be worn by women and it would be good if they can wear a burqa too, but there is no compulsion. Women would be more secure if they wore a purdah to work. There is a tendency among men to stare at the women and pass remarks when they are dressed in skirts and jeans. When in a purdah, men usually tend to leave such women alone.

Such fatwas cannot be made compulsory though. A woman who loves her community and respects her religion would follow the fatwa. We do not have any laws to forcibly implement such a fatwa.

Moulana Abdul Rahim Qureshi: There is absolutely no objection to a Muslim woman working. Please don't misinterpret the fatwa. I don't have an objection to the fatwa since it states exactly what Islam already states -- that . mingling with strange men at work is not permissible as per the religion

A dress code for a working woman is very important. I don't think there should be any objection to anyone suggesting that a Muslim woman should dress properly to work. There also should be no objection if there is a fatwa which says that Muslim women should not mingle with strange men at work. We are all concerned about the safety of women hence issuing such a fatwa is important.

Fatwas are basically answers to questions sought by individuals. It is mainly applicable to the person who has asked that question, but also generally applicable to all members of the community. There have been over a 1,000 fatwas issued, but only a few get such publicity. Fatwas are important in our community since they help solve problems within the family.

Complying with a fatwa has never been a problem for a a large majority of Muslims. However, there is no rule which forces anyone to follow a fatwa.

Dr Rafath Seema: The fatwa has been misinterpreted. Islam permits a woman to stand on her feet and there is no rule which says that a Muslim woman should not work.

As a woman, I don't think there was anything wrong in suggesting that women dress properly at work. Women enjoy equal rights, but that does not mean that they should be unsafe in the outside world.

The dress code at work is a very important aspect. It only says that there should be no skin show when a Muslim woman is at work.

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