24/4/06

In this section I want to look at the ideas of objectivity in journalism and the rationale behind the production of news.

“The mass media serve as a system for communicating messages and symbols to the general populace[1],” write Herman and Chomsky in their book Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy and the Mass Media. It is a valid point that the authors make and it is important to see the media as a dominant element of popular culture. The view point of structuralism can be bought in here as they have a significant amount to contribute to the idea of communicating by language and the medium of journalism is dominated by language. The structuralists, led primarily by Saussure’s ideas, contend that language consists of ‘signs’, which in turn can be divided into two component parts, ‘signifier’ and ‘signified’. ‘Signifier’ for Saussure means the ‘inscription or the acoustic sound’ while ‘signified’ means the ‘concept or mental image'[2].

The meaning of this initial idea of Saussure was restricted to linguistics but was taken forward by Roland Barthes who in his book Mythologies represents the most significant attempts to bring the method of semiology to bear on popular culture[3]. The guiding principle of this book is to always interrogate what is not obvious. He takes Saussure’s principle of ‘signifier’ and ‘signified’ and adds one more level to it. The first level of ‘signification’, he calls ‘primary signification’ or ‘denotation’ and the second level he calls ‘secondary signification’ or ‘connotation’. He then argues that it is at the second level of signification that what he calls ‘myth’ is produced and consumed. By myth Barthes means ideology understood as ideas and practices which defend the status quo – the ‘bourgeois norm’ – and actively promotes the interests and values of the dominant classes in society. Myth is the turning of the cultural and historical into the natural, the taken-for-granted. As we can see Barthes is taking a slightly ‘political framework of analysis’ to borrow a phrase that Stuart Allen uses in his book News Culture. The ‘political framework of analysis’ draws heavily from the writings of Karl Marx and Fredrick Engels in The German Ideology as will become obvious from this excerpt:

The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas, i.e., the class which is the ruling material force of society, is at the same time its ruling intellectual force. The class which has the means of material production at its disposal, has control at the same time over the means of mental production, so that thereby, generally speaking, the ideas of those who lack the means of mental production are subject to it…In so far, therefore, as they rule as a class and determine the extent and compass of an epoch, it is self-evident that they…among other things…regulate the production and distribution of the ideas of their age: thus their ideas are the ruling ideas of the epoch[4].

As is obvious Barthes’ understanding of popular culture is partly based on Karl Marx’ ideas of the dominant ideas being nothing but a means to maintain the status quo. While Marx was a journalist for ten years himself, he has not written directly about journalism thus his comments that he made about popular culture like the one above taken from The German Ideology need to be understood for journalistic institutions.

Before moving one I must make clear that many theorists of culture do not generally take the media into consideration in their understanding of popular culture. Most of the academicians involved in cultural studies tend to neglect this crucial aspect of popular culture. If we look at the studies of culture we will see that the early culturalists like Arnold and Leavis tended to see culture as restricted to art, literature and classical music. For them there was a difference between ‘high culture’ and ‘low-brow culture'[5]. The anthropologists offer a more complete definition of culture as ‘forms of life and social expression’. This is relevant in studies of the media as media is an important part of culture[6].

Thedor Adorno and Max Horkenheimer write that mass culture is a way of offering temporary ephemeral gratification to people condemnded to lives of work. In their idea of mass culture they bring in the idea of television[7]. Though they do not specifically comment on the media here we have to see that how media forms an important part of ‘popular culture’ and if we interpret Adorno and Horkenheimer’s thesis that they offered for ‘popular culture’ in journalism we will realise that the media serves as a temporary ephemeral gratification for the consumers of media who tend to absorb everything that is offered unquestioningly and as the ‘truth’.

This brings us to another interesting point in journalism. Journalists operate on the premise that they provide the truth to their consumers but what is ‘truth’. Is there an objective basis for truth? The answer to that question goes to the heart of ongoing debates over whether or not the news media ‘reflect’ social reality truthfully, or the extent to which journalists can produce a truthful news account. How do you separate facts from values? The assumption that the truth resides entirely in the former raises the question whether it is actually possible to separate the two.

For Noam Chomsky and Herman there is nothing like ‘objective truth’. They have come with the propaganda model where they argue that there exists within that country’s (their analysis is for the media as it operates in the United States of America) commercial news media an institutional news bias which guarantees mobilisation of certain ‘propaganda campaigns’ on behalf of an elite consensus (propaganda is deemed to be broadly equivalent with dominant ideology in this analysis. There is a collaboration of the state and the mass media. They use the idea of ‘filters’ where they demonstrate the extent to which journalists reiterate uncritically official positions of the state while simultaneously, adhering to its political agenda. The five filters are:

1. Size, Ownership, and Profit Orientation of the Mass Media[8]: This is the first filter and concerns the commercial basis of the dominant news organisations. Close ties between the media elite and their political and corporate counterparts ensure that an ‘establishment orientation’ is ordinarily maintained at the level of news coverage. It is this top tier of major news companies which, together with the government and wire services, ‘defines the news agenda and supplies much of the national and international news to the lower tiers of the media’.

2. The Advertising License to do Business[9]: “With advertising the free market does not yield a neutral system in which final buyer choice decides. The advertisers’ choices influence media prosperity and survival”. They also point out that advertisers are primarily interested in affluent audiences due to their ‘purchasing power’, and thus are less inclined to support forms of news and public affairs content which attract people of more modest means. Moreover, there is a strong preference for content which does not call into question their own politically conservative principles or interferes with the ‘buying mood’ of the audience.

3. Sourcing Mass-Media News[10]: “The mass media are drawn into a symbiotic relationship with powerful sources of information by economic necessity and reciprocity of interest. The media need a steady, reliable flow of the raw material of news. They have daily news demands and imperative news schedules that they must meet,” write Chomsky and Herman. The relative authority and prestige of these sources also helps to enhance the credibility of the journalist’s account leading to the news media’s over reliance on government and corporate ‘expert sources’.

4. Flak and the Enforcers[11]: Flak refers to negative responses to a media statement or program. This disciplines the news organisations. Chomsky and Herman are referring to a variety of flak including complaints from individuals or organised groups like state officials. The authors suggest that these makers of ‘flak’ receive respectful attention by the media, only rarely having their impact on news management activities explicitly acknowledged.

5. Anti-communism as a Control Mechanism[12]: This final filter is the role of the ‘ideology of anti-communism’ as a ‘political control mechanism’. This ideology in Herman’s and Chomsky’s words helps mobilse the populace against an enemy. The concept is so fuzzy it can be used against anybody advocating policies that threaten property interests or support accommodation with Communist states and radicalism.

Overall only the residue that passes through these five filters is pronounced fit to call news. This basically sums up the arguments of the propaganda model used by Herman and Chomsky. Chomsky and Herman write, “In sum, a propaganda approach to media coverage suggests a systematic and highly political dichotmisation in news coverage based on serviceability to important domestic power interests[13].” A main criticism of this approach according to Allen is that their approach “…risks reducing the news media to tired ideological machines confined to performing endlessly, and unfailingly, the overarching function of reproducing the prerogatives of an economic and political elite through processes of mystification. Journalists in this process become well-intentioned puppets whose strings are being pulled by forces they cannot fully understand. Meanwhile the news audience would appear to be composed of passive dupes consistently fooling fooled into believing such propaganda is true[14].” But it cannot be denied that they make important points and this framework of analysis has provided the basis for many other observers of the media to carry ahead their research.

Edward Said’s book Covering Islam: How the Media and the Experts Determine how we see the World looks at also follows a similar method of looking at the media. Said critically questions the role of the media and accuses it of creating certain shibboleths about Muslims without recognising the diversity in the faith of over one billion. He writes that the generalisations that can be made about Muslims in the media cannot be made about any other community and continues, “”My concern, though, is that the mere label ‘Islam’, either to explain or indiscriminately condemn ‘Islam’, actually ends up becoming a form of attack, which in turn provokes more hostility between self-appointed Muslim and Western spokespersons[15].”

Islam is variegated and the homogenous way in which it is looked at is wrong. “Instead of scholarship, we often find only journalists making extravagant statements, which are instantly picked up and further dramatised by the media[16].” He argues that there is a slippery concept of fundamentalism that they attribute only to Islam without ever defining any thing properly. “Much in current representations of Islam is designed to show the religion’s inferiority with reference to the West, which Islam is supposed to be hell-bent on opposing, competing with, resenting, and being enraged at[17]”. Apart from hostility and reductionism offered by all these misrepresentations they also exaggerate and inflate Muslim extremism within the Muslim world[18]”. Said’s point is that cooperation must be admitted. There has been a gross simplification of Islam.

“The academic experts whose specialty is Islam have generally treated the religion and its various cultures within an invented or culturally determined ideological framework filled with passion, defensive prejudice, sometimes even revulsion; because of this framework, understanding of Islam has been a very difficult thing to achieve[19],” Said writes and criticises Naipual for furthering this viewpoint and writes that he has an intense antipathy to Islam. “For Naipaul and his readers, ‘Islam’ somehow is made to cover everything that one disapproves of from the standpoint of civlised, and Western, rationality.

Labels are vague and unavoidable. Labels function in atleast two different ways and produce two different meanings[20]. First, they perform a simple identifying function. The second function is much more complex and when Islam and the West are pitted against one another the assumption is that the West is greater and has surpasses the age of Christianity. On the other hand Islam is still mired in religion, primitivity and backwardness.

“The experts whose field was modern Islam worked within an agreed-upon framework for research formed according to notions decidedly not set in the Islamic world. Modern Islamic studies in the academy belong to ‘area programs’ generally and are affiliated to the mechanism by which national policy is set[21]”. He questions the source of funding for scholarly studies and links it up with questions of why scholars get it wrong. Apart from this the Western scholars do not command relevant linguistic expertise and have had to rely on press and other Western writers for information[22].

Media coverage is superficial, friendly regimes produced official information that they wanted and US had made no efforts to get to know the country well or to make contact with the opposition. These sum up US and European attitude towards Islamic World. Said writes that he has not been able to discover any period in European or American history since the Middle Ages in which Islam was generally discussed or thought about outside a framework created by passion, prejudice and political interests[23].

Said questions the aims of the press like objectivity, factuality, realistic coverage and calls them highly relative terms. “News, in other words, is less an inert given than the result of a complex process of usually deliberate selection and expression[24].” The American media differ from the French and the British media because the societies differ so much. Said writes that every reporter is subliminally aware of his setting and is subjective in that way[25]. The medium itself exercises great pressure. Said writes that all media is somewhere a corporation that has a corporate identity – they all have the same central consensus in mind. It is the result of the culture.

About this creation of consensus Said makes two points[26]. First, because the US is a complex society, the need to impart a more or less standardised common culture through the media is felt with particular strength. The second point shows that this consensus sets limits and maintains pressures. Said next comments on the quantitative aspects of news. The consequence of this is that Islam is viewed reductively, coercively and oppositionally. He gives an example by saying that Islam for the west is nothing but ‘news’ of a particularly unpleasant sort. Said criticises the whole institution of Islamic studies as geared towards providing what the media and the governments need.

Apart from the adherents of the ‘political economy’ position that includes those media theorists influenced by the ideas of Marx the other group believes in a ‘liberal pluralist position’ where they are convinced that the market-bases mass media system protects the citizen’s right to freedom of speech. It is the news media, to the extent that they facilitate the formation of public opinion, which are said to make democratic control over governing relations possible. For the adherents of this position the news media represents the fourth estate (as distinguished, in historical terms, from the church, the judiciary and the commons). Journalism, as a result, is charged with the crucial mission of ensuring that members of the public are able to draw upon a diverse ‘market place of ideas’ to both sustain and challenge their sense of the world around them. Thus, for this group of ideologues media is seen as empowering rather than propaganda. ‘News’ helps people in making decisions and forming opinions. The inherent notion on which the liberal pluralists operate is that ‘News’ provided through the media offers the ‘truth'[27].

In this section I want to look at the world of fatwas. I try to understand what a fatwa is and look at it historically in India and the manner in which it operated. Some of this research is based on a research paper I wrote earlier but I have incorporated some work I read in a recent book (Masud, Muhammad Khalid, Brinkley Messick and David. S. Powers. Islamic Legal Interpretation: Muftis and their Fatwas. Karachi: Oxford University Press, 2005) This book is very useful for anybody interested in the world of fatwas.

A fatwa is a legal opinion of a Mufti [28] (a jurisconsult). It derives from a verb meaning ‘to inform'[29]. The mufti is a person educated in Islamic jurisprudence and the mechanism of the working of the fatwa is like this; a person who is doubtful or ignorant of what the shariat says in particular circumstances turns towards the mufti to answer his question. The person writes an istifa (question) addressed to a particular mufti or to an institution and the mufti pronounces a fatwa based on his understanding of sources. These sources include the Quran, the Sunna (the traditions of the prophet), hadith reports (the activities of the prophet as seen by his companions), the fiqh literature (this means the Islamic schools of jurisprudence) and ijma (meaning consensus among a majority of the ulema)[30].

A fatwa need not be necessarily written and can be orally pronounced. The fatwas that are printed do not include the real names of the individuals involved in a dispute but allot them fictitious names, the most common ones being Umar and Zayd[31]. In India, the fatwa is not legally binding, neither was it in colonial times. In colonial India the ulema functioning as the mufti registered some important changes, fatwas were given on the authority of a particular madrasa (most madrsas had a dar-ul-ifta, were issued in larger numbers and the technology of print enabled the madrasas to disseminate their fatwas more widely and to begin publishing influential compilations of them[32]. The collections of these fatwas by the ulema of this period are of immense importance for understanding the preoccupations of Indian Muslims outside the charmed circle of those whom the British met socially[33].

Masud, Messick and Powers distinguish between the domain of legal procedure (the job of the qazi) and nonbinding advisory opinions (fatawa) and write that the muftis have received lesser attention than that qazi because the job of the mufti is unfamiliar and it was not institutionalised as much as qazis. Also many muftis operate privately and unobtrusively unlike the qazis. Fatwas, throughout history have been more concerned with practical aspects of the state of Islamic law[34].

In the Indian subcontinent and Central Asia, the Hanafi school of Sunni Islam predominated. Although several contemporary scholars treat muftis as an integral part of the pre-modern judicial system, suggesting that they were attached to the qadi courts at all levels, this conclusion is not borne out by the primary sources. In this region the term fatwa often denoted an authoritative and accepted opinion of the Hanafi school, not necessarily an opinion issued in response to a question. Pre-modern Indian fatwa collections bear the names of rulers, indicating the status of these texts as authoritative opinions potentially enforceable in state courts[35].

Whereas a judgement of a qazi entails direct action, a fatwa provides access to sharia knowledge in the form of a considered opinion. Whereas a judgement carries the presumption of finality, a fatwa enters the world of competing opinions. Despite their non-binding and informational qualities fatwas often had a significant impact on law[36].

Behind the encounter of mustafti and mufti, the posing of a query and the giving of a fatwa lies a complex social and interpretive relation[37]. The mufti is not an investigator of facts so the manner in which a question is phrased becomes important. The issues involved ought to be ones that have actually arisen and should not be purely hypothetical or imaginary. The fatwas also have a disclaimer, such as allahu a’lam “God knows best”. As muftis commonly are affiliated with particular schools of law, in some historical settings, they cite authors of authoritative works in their fatwas 25[38].

Fatwas had been in common use in colonial India. Fatwas were used quite liberally during the 1857 Mutiny and Jalal writes that “The fatwas issued during 1857 are a colourful medley of quite different points of view.[39]” Fatwas were also issued against cow slaughter, only to be rejected by another Muslim divine or propagandist[40]. In Kashmir, Shiekh Abdullah used the instrument of the fatwa as he sought to establish an alternative religious authority through his own appointed muftis[41].

All the various groups contesting for domination of the narrow sphere used the fatwa during this period as a potent instrument[42]. Several fatwa wars took place between the various groups with one fatwa being answered by another fatwa[43]. One of these fatwa wars related to the whether the azaan (call for the prayer) should be given from inside or outside the mosque. The special significance of this issue is that it was one of the few times when a non-Muslim was bought in as the arbitrator. The issue went up to the Hindu magistrate who held Ahmed Riza Khan (founder of the Barelvi school of Islam in South Asia to which most of the subcontinents Muslims claim allegiance to) guilty of libel against the recently deceased Maulana Abdul Muqtadir[44]. Ahmad Riza Khan, in the very few fatwas that he deals with the British, is rather emphatic in severing all ties with them[45]. So it is rather unfortunate that of all the alims, it was he who was forced to appear before the magistrate. This is also significant because it points to the power of the state. The ulema might choose to ignore the British and continue their religious debates with their fellow Muslims but the state would not let them go if its direct interference was solicitied.

The Deobandis also urged their followers to completely avoid the courts of British India[46]. They set up a separate court to circumvent Anglo-Muhammedan Law[47]. The ulema of this period, writes Hardy, shared the political attitudes towards British rule of the mass of educated Muslims outside the circle – antipathy, sometimes hatred, but not active underground resistance[48].

Then these fatwas were also circulated among the general populace by either reproducing them in the newspapers run by these organisations or by printing tracts and distributing them all over South Asia and beyond. Bookshops were also publishing houses and began to be identified with particular groups of ulema[49]. The Barelwis had two printing presses in Bareilly that exclusively published Riza Khan’s work. His books had generally something on the cover that poked fun at other sects and the newspaper that furthered the cause of the Barelwis was the Dabdaba-e Sikandari and had a section that reproduced the fatwas of Riza Khan[50].

Most madrasahs had a dar-al-ifta (an office that was responsible for answering fatwas) and Sanyal writes, “Even the addition of a Dar al-ifta to a madrasas of the time was competitive, for it was through the fatwa produced by the ulema of different movements that they made known their stand on controversial issues and rebutted those of their rivals. Ahmad Riza expressed his views for the most part in a daily stream of fatwa going out to people through British India and beyond”[51].

The main groups involved in these contestations and these contestations continue even in the present day were the Ahl-e-Hadis (the adherents of this group recognise only the Quran and the hadith and legitimate sources of Islamic law), the Deobandis (The Deobandis are Hanafis, meaning the followers of the Islamic jurisprudential system as established by the 8th century cleric Imam Abu Hanifa), the Barelwis (The Barelwis legitmise the uniquely sub-continental version of Islam which includes sacerdotalism) and the Nadwaites (followers of the Nadwat Ul Uloom in Lucknow). Most of the Sunni Muslims barely tolerated the Shiahs and considered them apostates from the true faith. The issues dealt with by the Barelwis, the Ahl-e-Hadis and the Deobandis seem to have been similar, as can be understood from the analysis of their fatwas, and the concerns were also the same[52].

Fatwa writing for Riza Khan was a hierarchical institution and it was divided among his disciples based on their areas of specialisation but complex fatwas were answered by himself. Sanyal writes, “Matters relating to ritual and the so-called ‘pillars’ – purification (taharat), prayer (salat), alms-giving (zakat), fasting (sawm) and the pilgrimage (hajj) – appear first and in that order, in the first 4 volumes. The remaining volumes deal with marriage (nikah), regulations concerning infidels, apostates, and rebels (sair), economic issues such as partnership (shirkat) and sale (bai’) and bequests (rahn) among other things.”

“Then there are fatwas on janaza, fatwas relating to the Khilafat movement of the 1920’s, on learning the English language. These fatwas on political issues are enmeshed in the section on funerals and apostates.[53]” I agree with Metcalf when she writes that the concern of these fatawa has mainly been with “…correct individual ritual practice and behaviour in everyday life, not, in these years of high colonial rule, issues of larger political or societal concerns.”[54] Metcalf has translated and paraphrased a few Deobandi fatwas of which I will reproduce one here for the reader to understand the general way in which a Deobandi fatwa was composed

Query: What of a person who goes to Noble Mecca on hajj and does not go to Medina the Radiant, thinking, ‘To go to Noble Medina is not a required duty (farz-i-wajib) but rather a worthy act (kar-i-khayr). Moreover, why should I needlessly take such a dangerous route where there are marauding tribes from place to place and risk to property and life. A great deal of money would be spent as well- so what is the point?’ Is such a person sinful or not?

Answer: Not to go to Medina because of such apprehension is a mark of lack of love for the Pride of the World, on whom be peace. No one abandons the worldly task out of such apprehension, so why abandon this pilgrimage? The road is not plundered every day; (safety) is a matter of chance- so that is no argument. Certainly, to go is not obligatory. Some people, at any rate, think this is pilgrimage is a greater source of reward and blessing than lifting the hands in prayer and saying amin out loud. Do not give up going out of fear of controversy or concern for your reputation. Should you abandon this pilgrimage from such apprehension and supposition, or put it off, consider, then, which portion is that of full faith. It is a joy to spend money on good acts. To go from Mecca to Medina, travelling first class, costs only fifty rupees. Whoever takes account of fifty rupees and does not take account of the blessed speulchre of the lord is a person of undoubtedly defective faith and love. Even if not a sinner, this person lacks faith in is basic nature. The end. Almightly Allah knows better[55]. Rashid Ahmad, may he be forgiven[56].

This is the general reply to a fatwa. Instead of answering the question in a simple manner the answer is long and drawn out and as the portion in italics shows is specifically targeted at other groups. In this particular fatwa of Rashi Ahmed Gangohi the target is the Ahl-e-Hadis. The Ahl-e-Hadis do not encourage pilgrims on the Hajj to visit the grave of Mohammed and thus we see how Gangohi is directly making them the targets of his fury when he writes that making this pilgrimage is a greater source of reward than lifting the hands in prayer and saying amin out loud. This practice called rafayidin is peculiar to the Ahl-e-Hadis’ salat and there are many fatwas legitimising this practice in Amritsari’s collection. This is one example to show how the fatwa was used as a chance to very visibly demonstrate the contempt that one group held for the other.

Metcalf has examined the Deobandi fatwas and writes that they were largely concerned with dealings with other Muslim groups rather than having to anything to do with the Hindu and the British. The Deoband fatwas were quite prolific and the number of fatwas produced by the dar-al-ifta at Deoband were 147, 851 between 1911 and 1951[57]. The influence of the ulema was primarily limited to matters of belief, ritual and relations to other religious groups. She writes, “Many of the fatawa dealt with the basic required rituals of the faith. A full one-fifth of the whole were devoted to the correct performance of the canonical prayer, the most important and frequent of the Islamic religious duties. These fatawa dealt with such problems such as the correct time of prayer, the manner of ablution and the procedure of both requisite namaz and special prayers. They, too, reflected reformist concerns. For example, they forbade the funeral prayer to be read in either mosque or graveyard and prohibited ceremonies on fixed days after a death. Many of the fatawa on namaz treated differences in details of performance with the Ahl-i Hadis. A handful of fatawa deal covered other ritual obligations such as fasting and hajj. About an equal number were concerned with the proper care and techniques of reading the Quran. The bulk of the remaining fatawa dealt with relations to other groups, including the Ahl-i Hadis, the so called bid’ati Muslims, the Shiah, the Hindus, and the British rulers. The existence of such fatawa suggest the active religious debate characterisation of this period.[58]” This long quote from Metcalf shows a remarkable similarity on the issues dealt with by Amritsari and thus, the Ahl-e-hadis with even the ratio of fatwas on certain issues being the same. The only lack in Amritsari’s fatwas is on those related to the British.

Even the fatwas of Ahmed Riza Khan ignores British presence[59]. But unlike the fatwas of Sanaullah Amritsari (a prominent early twentieth century cleric of the Ahl-e-hadis) and Ahmed Riza Khan Barelwi the Deobandi fatwas did not have extensive citations from the Quran and the hadis[60]. The fatwas are in simple Urdu and are actual exchanges of letters. At the risk of digressing, a point must be made here about how the ulema tended to popularise Urdu and Metcalf writes that Deoband was instrumental in establishing Urdu as a language of communication among the Muslims of India[61]. Robinson also mentions this point as he traces the history of the Firangi Mahal family. He writes that the Perso-Islamic culture declined in India from the 1820’s and 1830’s and the reformist ulema were partly responsible for this decline because they started using local languages to transmit their messages[62]. The fatwas of Abdul Hay, a prominent Firangi Mahali were also important during this period but these were rather more academic compendium of legal rulings than the collections of the Deobandi ulema[63].

Many a time there was a bombardment of fatwas on either side. One instance was when Ahmed Riza Khan went on his second Hajj in 1905 and secured fatwas against the Deobandis who responded with their own fatwas[64]. Riza Khan institutionalised the traditional version of Islam that had come down through the centuries and was widely prevalent all over the subcontinent. He wanted to maintain Islam as it existed and he did not see any mistake in the way Islam was followed. Riza Khan gave a legitimacy to the rituals and ceremonies that were being practised among South Asian Muslims but which did not have scriptural sanction. Riza Khan’s argument was that any practice that hundred’s of ulema have considered to be good over hundred’s of years cannot be bad[65]. These practices increasingly came under attack of reformist groups like the Ahl-e-Hadis and the Deobandis.

To the extent that the sharia remains relevant or authoritative, it is usually in the domain of family law. Many nation states have muftis nowadays. Formal instructional programmes and apprenticeships for the training of muftis have been established in institutions such as Azhar University in Egypt and Dar-al-Ulum in Karachi, which has a specialised two year program of courses in ifta[66]. Dar-al-ifta’s have become common in many countries. Other notable fatwa committees include that established by the World Muslim League in Mecca etc.

In my further research I will be looking at the way the media reports about fatwas.

[1] Herman…p. 1

[2] Storey…p. 93

[3] Ibid. p. 94

[4] Allen…p. 50

[5] Storey…p. 3

[6] Rivkin…p.

[7] Ibid.,

[8] Herman…p. 3

[9] Ibid., p. 14

[10] Ibid., p. 18

[11] Ibid., p. 26

[12] Ibid., p. 29

[13] Ibid., p. 35

[14] Allen…p. 60

[15] Said…p. xv-xvi

[16] Ibid., p. xviii

[17] Ibid., p. xxv

[18] Ibid., p. xxvi

[19] Ibid., ps. 6 & 7

[20] Ibid., ps. 9 & 10

[21] Ibid., p. 19

[22] Ibid., ps. 22 & 23

[23] Ibid., p. 50

[24] Ibid.

[25] Ibid., p. 51

[26] Ibid., pgs. 54 &55

[27] Allen…p. 49

[28] The education of a Mufti involves several years of education. The education to become an alim requires 14 years at the Nadwat-ul-Uloom. I am not sure about the number of years it requires at other institutions. Kozlowski writes that only 7 students become Maulawi Kamil every year which gives them the right to issue a fatwa. A person who wants to be a Maulawi Kamil has to first be a Maulawi and then graduate to be a Maulawi alim and only then finally he can be a Maulawi kamil that is equivalent to an M.A. p. 909.

[29] Kozlowski…p. 896.

[30] Masud…p. 16

[31] We see this phenomenon occurring in several of Sanaullah Amritsari’s fatwas also.

[32] Zaman…p. 25

[33] Hardy…p. 171

[34] Masud…p. 4

[35] Masud…ps. 14 & 15

[36] Ibid., p. 19

[37] Ibid., p. 20

[38] Ibid., ps. 22-25

[39] Jalal…p. 33

[40] Jalal…p. 85

[41] Rai…p. 269

[42] See Sanyal…pp. 203-207 for a brief idea about the manner in which Riza Khan used the fatwa to target other groups.

[43] Sanyal…p. 196

[44] Sanyal…p. 197 and p. 200.

[45] Sanyal…p. 283.

Ahmad Riza Khan’s response as far as relations with the British went showed a reluctance to deal with them at all: –

– Muslims must refrain from taking disputes to the court

– Muslims should keep commercial transactions within the community

– Wealthy Muslims should open interest-free banks for fellow Muslims

– Muslims should go back to follwing the din (religion) correctly

[46] Kozlowski…p. 922

[47] Metcalf…pp. 146-147.

[48] Hardy…p. 173

[49] Metcalf…pp. 214-215.

[50] Sanyal…p. 84-87

[51] Sanyal…p. 81

[52] The issues dealt by the ulema even today remain the same as the article by Gregory Kozlowki shows. Kozlowski studies the fatwas of the Mufti of the Jami’ah Nizamiyyah in 1989 and writes that, “In published collection of fatawa, an outside portion of the queries and replies deal with ritual matters such as the etiquette of prayer or the pilgrimage and ritual pollution. Many of the problems addressed seem to be purely hypothetical, designed as much to display a scholars forensic skill and learning as to resolve some genuine dilemma. The most common queries to this mufti (of the Jami’ah Nizamiyya) were those that related to marital relations and inheritance.

[53] Sanyal…p. 183-184.

[54] Metcalf…Intro…p. 17

[55] Kozlowski writes that the fatwas of Jamiyah Nizamiyah also carry the caveat, ‘God alone knows the truth!’ p. 917. Thus, we see how the ulema try to solve the issue to the best of their knowledge but try to signify their modesty by including this statement at the end of every fatwa.

[56] Metcalf…Two Fatwas…p. 56

[57] Hardy…p. 171

[58] Metcalf…Islamic Revival…p. 149

[59] Sanyal…p. 50

[60] Metcalf…Two Fatwas…p. 62

[61] Metcalf…Islamic Revival…pp. 102-103. Also see pp. 206-210. Metcalf writes that from modest beginnings early in the century, Urdu had become the language of almost all religious works with a shift in the social and political implications of using Urdu slowly shifting. Urdu was identified as a Muslim language and threatened. The ulema were reacting to a threat to their culture and political position by fostering the use of Urdu. The ulema played a fundamental role in establishing Urdu as a pre-eminent symbol of Muslim identity in India.

[62] Robinson…Ulama…p. 33

[63] Hardy…p. 173

[64] Sanyal…p. 65

[65] Sanyal…p. 162-163.

[66] Masud…p. 27

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