CAIRO - Seeking answers to their queries about personal and family issues, Indian Muslims are turning to a new system of telephone calls and e-mails to reach out to imams for counseling and fatwa.
"Their queries are largely about what is permitted by Islam during the menstrual cycle, pregnancy and lactation, Mohammed Zabeeullah Baig, Secretary of the Ibnul Qayyim Islamic Research and Guidance Center (IRGC), told the Times of India on Sunday, February 19.
"Telephone queries are easier for women who find it awkward to approach scholars, most of whom are male, in person.
Some women call up to ask if one is permitted to read the Qur'an during the monthly cycle. They ask if one is exempt from Ramadan fasting during their periods."
Increasing numbers of Indian Muslims are seeking advice and fatwas from Muslim scholars via the telephone or e-mails.
Many seek answers for questions about personal and family affairs. Some even ask about Islam's stance on investment in the stock market.
"Islam prohibits charging and gaining from financial interest," said Maulana Shamshuddin Qasimi, chief imam of Mecca Masjid on Anna Salai.
"So Muslims think twice before investing in shares in case it's considered un-Islamic."
For Asma Mohammed, on-phone advice helps her better understand about the sayings of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessing be upon him).
"Someday I hope to read the original Arabic version. But my Arabic is poor and I must contend with English and Tamil translations," said Mohammed, not her real name.
"My mother helps me sometimes but there are many queries that she cannot clear, said the communications student.
"Sometimes, I call up the publisher or the imam of our mosque to clarify certain passages. It is helpful as approaching them in person is awkward.
Though the service is becoming popular among Indian Muslims, some see it as helping create misconceptions.
"These are shortcut methods and what one gets is somebody else's interpretation of what the Qur'an says," A. Faizur Rahman, general secretary for Forum for Promotion of Moderate Thought, said.
"Islam is not about conforming to a list of do's and don'ts. It is about perceiving the purpose of life by pondering over the Qur'an.
This cannot be outsourced from a theologian sitting in a telephone exchange answering "queries" on Islam," he said.
Real scholars are too busy to telephonically answer queries on a daily basis.
But Imam Qasimi plays down the opposition, saying the service is gaining popularity even among foreigners.
"I get calls and emails from Tamil Muslims living in US, UK, Malaysia, Singapore, Sri Lanka, France, Qatar, UAE, Saudi and African countries ," he said.
"I get about 300 calls a month. Most of them relate to prayer procedures since Islam is a practice-oriented religion.
I also get several calls related to family matters, sexual intercourse and parenting. Many callers want a solution within the parameters of Islam."There are some 140 million Muslims in Hindu-majority India, the world's third-largest Muslim population after those of Indonesia and Pakistan.
Reproduced with permission from OnIslam.net