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fatwas

India’s 10 Most Far-Out Fatwas

According to some, the biggest threats to Islam are social media, short skirts, and... Pikachu.

by Zeyad Masroor Khan; illustrated by Rahul Das
08 May 2018, 5:30am

The fatwa section of the Darul Uloom Deoband’s website rivals Quora and Reddit for its lively questions and commentary—on points of Islamic law. Let’s thank god there’s a forum for answering burning questions like “Do I need to take a bath after removing public [sic?] hair?” Deoband, India’s largest Islamic seminary, is at the forefront of issuing these religious directives (over 33,000 online last time we checked, and more than 700,000 total), but its clerics aren’t alone in coming up with some of India’s strangest fatwas of the last decade or so.

1) Don’t post pictures on social media
What would Instagram be without hashtags like #hijabi, #muslimcouples, or even #islam? Jannat, according to the Darul Uloom Deoband, which issued a fatwa last October against posting pictures online. The Darul Uloom Deoband has a dedicated wing to issuing fatwas, with lakhs of these directives to its credit—so they feature prominently on this list. Luckily this one doesn’t seem to have affected young Muslims on social media at all. #alhamdulillah.

2) Don’t pluck your eyebrows without male permission
Deepika Padukone probably didn’t follow this rule while shooting Padmaavat—though she’s had to face her share of decrees anyway. Issued just months before the release of the film, the fatwa against tweezing was a response not to Padukone’s perfect brows, but to a Saharanpur man who wanted to know if his wife was allowed to pluck and trim.

3) Women should not go out alone in public
Right after the no-tweezing fatwa, this ruling was issued by clerics of the Majlis-e-Shura in Jammu and Kashmir. They also (not surprisingly) banned women from talking to men on streets. And they aren’t big fans of co-education either.

4) Don’t play Pokémon Go
Even popular smartphone games can’t escape the wrath of a maulvi hell-bent on banning fun. A month after the game debuted, the Dargah Aala Hazrat in Bareilly justified its fatwa saying that Pokémon-obsessed fans might enter a religious shrine during prayer time. While we don’t deny their logic, the Dargah’s follow-up fatwa two weeks later—against eating potentially non-halal meat at KFC—seemed like a bit of a publicity stunt.

5) Don’t wear skirts while playing tennis
The Sunni Ulema board’s famous response to Indian tennis star Sania Mirza, when she became an overnight sensation in 2005 , after becoming the first Indian woman to reach the fourth round of a Grand Slam. Rather than admiring her dreams, the board was more concerned with her outfit “leaving nothing to the imagination.”

6) Marry your rapist father-in-law
This odd directive was allegedly made (and then denied) by the Darul Uloom Deoband in the Imrana rape case, which involved a woman assaulted by her father-in-law and told to henceforth treat her husband as her son.

7) Don’t donate blood or organs
Who could possibly have a problem with blood transfusions and liver transplants? The Darul Iftaa fatwa factory at Darul Uloom Deoband, that’s who. The decree practically prohibited Muslims from donating blood or body parts—it later conceded blood donation to close relatives or friends.

8) Don’t practise yoga
A bunch of maulvis in Jharkhand exhorted their followers to protest against Rafia Naaz, a yoga instructor who shared a stage with Baba Ramdev. That Muslim clerics should have such beef against yoga is as weird as their Hindu counterparts seeking to make it compulsory.

9) Don’t work alongside men
Deoband again. The institution issued a decree in 2010 prohibiting Muslim women from working at private or government institutions where men would be present. But what about office romances, sir?

10) Don’t click photographs—at all
The rector of Darul Uloom Deoband issued this gem fatwa in 2013, calling the sin of photography unlawful. Our suspicions that all smartphone brandishing selfie-takers are the devil are confirmed.