I’m Vikhar Ahmed Sayeed and am studying journalism at the Asian College of Journalism, Chennai. I completed my M. A in Modern History from JNU last year and came here to postpone the decision about what I wanted to do in life and to avoid the parochial confines of academic research. At some level I’ve been a drifter…my graduation was in commerce and then I went on to study history (I didn’t know that I would be studying history till a day before the results came out, my first choice was for another course) – but I’ve enjoyed the ride so far so I might even recommend it!

I intend to continue research on a topic that I’ve explored in some detail for my M. A seminar paper. The paper I wrote was on ‘Intra- Islamic Rivalry in late 19th Century and early 20th Century: A Case Study of the Fatawas of Sanaullah Amritsari’. In this paper I had looked at the differences that existed amongst the various sects within Indian Islam and I demonstrated how fatawas were used to foster these differences.

In my research as an Independent Fellow at Sarai (my topic is ‘Indian Print Media and it’s Reportage on fatawas) I want to see how much the media has been sensitive when they report about fatawas. Do they understand what a fatwa is? Do they understand the role it plays in the lives of Muslims, if it plays any role at all? Why does an obscure maulvi issuing a fatwa become a newsworthy item at all? I will try to trace the history of fatwa reportage in the Indian print media going back to the time of the reports of the infamous fatwa that was given about Salman Rushdie, depending of course, on the access to archives.

I will also try to look at the manner in which the whole world of fatawas operates and try to find out the relevance it holds for a contemporary Indian Muslim by trying to visit prominent madrasas across India that are affiliated to the various sects within Indian Islam.

Comments and suggestions are invited…

Vikhar Ahmed.