NEW DELHI - Fatwas issued by the Deobond seminary have become a source of controversy and confusion among India's Muslims, with many criticizing the religious edicts as outdated and running counter to the modern age.
The media uses fatwas to portray Muslims in a bad light, journalist Jawed Alam told OnIslam.net.
Darul Uloom Deoband has invited the ire of many Muslims in India in recent months after issuing a number of controversial fatwas.
One of these edicts was a ruling banning Muslim women from working as receptionists, describing the career as un-Islamic.
I think it is the right of an individual to decide which work she should do, college professor Shahista Muqim told OnIslam.net.
We are in 21st century and free to decide about our work. Religious scholars should not interfere in such issues.
In December, the Deoband has issued a fatwa that prayers of people having tattoos would not be valid as well as banning the use of multimedia cell phones.
The seminary also triggered uproar last month by issuing a fatwa against giving photos of girls to boy's family for marriage purpose, terming the practice un-Islamic.
I can't understand the logic behind this fatwa, Rahim Yusuf, who is planning to get her daughter married soon, said.
First thing boy's family wants is the photograph and without showing them photos we cannot think of marrying our daughter.
Mohammed Altaf, owner of Hum Safer Matrimonial, agrees.
We have hundreds of portfolios of Muslim girls with photographs for marriage in our database in Internet. I don't think those people are going to remove their photographs, he said.
I think it's practically not possible for Muslims to do that because some families are miles away from this place and they wanted their daughter to get married and photograph is the first thing which boy's family wants to see.
Founded by a group of Indian scholars in 1857 CE, the Deoband is the most influential Muslim intellectual school of thought in South Asia.
The school, which follows that of Imam Abu Hanifah with regard to fiqh and minor issues, has thrust into the spotlight in recent years after it has issued several fatwas denouncing terrorism.
Some Indians opine that the fatwas issued by Deoband are not binding to all Muslims.
I don't think its binding on all to accept it, Bushra Iqbal, a mother of two, told OnIslam.net.
Media needs issues and this is something that sells like a hot cake. So people ask questions and seminary gives the answer (fatwa).
Journalist Alam shares a similar view.
Fatwa is nothing but a question raised by an individual. The scholar gives answer to that question.
But scholars defended the Deoband, saying the fatwas are issued in response to questions from individuals.
Deoband interprets Islamic concepts as per Qur'an, Hadith sayings, scholar Rashid Kidwai told OnIslam.net.
There is no scope of Ijtihad (speculations) in matters that relate to new age issues, he argued.
In that context, issues such as banning mobiles have more social, moralistic than religious relevance.
Muslim masses too pick and choose. There are instances of fatwas that are favorable that are being accepted and community leaving out those that are rigid or impractical.Muslims account for 160 million of India's 1.1 billion people, the world's third-largest Islamic population after those of Indonesia and Pakistan.