After a while we
leave the house, consult each other what to do. We came back to offer the
old lady some money to help her in her ordeal. Her trembling hands refuse
to accept the money and she faints and falls on the ground. Her elder son
and his wife lift her and place her on a bed.
we went to the nearby village of Kukra where Imrana now lives in her
ancestral home with her husband. At first we are told Imrana is not there,
they do not speak to the media, why you have come... After some persuasion
we find that Imrana is there inside the house. Then her husband plays
truant. Soon he, too, is produced and sits in the veranda of the tiny
house while Imrana sits inside a room with doors open. The leader of our
delegation, Maulana Aqeel Al-Gharwi, offers her a general counsel on
virtues of family life, forgiveness and solving problems in private...
Without being asked Imrana bursts: “I have been wronged” (ziyadti
hui hai). Maulana said I did not ask you about that, I am only talking
in general terms and have come with the intention of helping the family
come out of this ordeal. Now he asks Noor Ilahi, Imrana’s husband, who
is squatting on the ground of the veranda: Your mother says nothing
happened, do you believe her. He replies: Yes, I believe her. Maulana asks
him again: Do you think your father can do such a thing? Noor Ilahi says:
No, he cannot do such a thing. He says this in the presence of over a
dozen people including two brothers of Imrana, one of them is visibly
angry. Imrana denied that she had asked for any fatwa and said I will
abide by Shariat.
Imrana on the
morning of 3 June when this 28-year-old illiterate Muslim woman, who is
mother of five children, had claimed that her father-in-law (Ali Mohammad)
had “raped” her at night. Imrana alleged that he fled when she
show that no one in the tiny house or her immediate neighbours heard any
“scream” at night. This is strange as early June is summer time when
all people living in the tiny inter-connected houses sleep on the terrace
or in open courtyards inside their homes.
What adds an
important dimension to the case is that this allegation was made in the
midst of an on-going dispute in the family about selling the ancestral
property. The father-in-law wanted to sell the house while the son, Noor
Ilahi and his wife Imrana, opposed the move so much so that three days
before the alleged crime Ali Mohammad had attempted suicied by consuming
Mohammad has all along denied the rape claim and the issue was dismissed
within the family. But some neighbours got wind of the claim and soon it
reached a small-time local journalist of the Hindi newspaper Dainik
Jagaran. He approached the family demanding ten thousand rupees — a
price to keep silent. The poor debt-ridden family pleaded that it did not
have this kind of money. The journalist now went ahead and published the
story in his newspaper. Zee TV picked it from Dainik Jagaran and
thereafter all the channels, newspapers, agencies, NGOs and government
organisations descended on the small village of Charthawal whose
inhabitants would tremble even at the sight of a single baton-wielding
policeman. These vultures started interviewing just about anyone they
found on the village streets, knocking at houses even after midnight,
reporting edited versions which showed that a great crime had been
committed against a hapless Muslim woman even before the crime was
As in many rural
areas in the Subcontinent, a local elders council (panchayat) was
called in the village on 15 June to deliberate over the issue. A local maulavi
told the panchayat that after the incident the woman was haram
(forbidden) for her husband as she is like his “mother” now and that
she should marry the rapist! The panchayat was described by the
media as a “Shariat Panchayat” as if a meeting of Islamic scholars had
taken the decision, which is not true. Naturally the woman refused this
grand gesture and moved out to live with her brothers in a nearby village.
Noor Ilahi, a rickshaw puller, could not stand the attention and fled from
Imrana's father-in-law being arrested by the police
Next day, 16
June, the 59-year-old father-in-law was arrested by the police on rape
charges and sent on judicial remand for 14 days. Later the police filed a
charge-sheet on the basis of the statement of Imrana. His lawyer argued in
the court that such a crime cannot take place in a small house in the
presence of five children, mother-in-law and other members of the family.
He added that it is a fictitious case made out due to family dispute.
While all this
was going on, the woman or her husband had not complained to the police.
It was only two weeks after the alleged rape that the woman made a
complaint to the police and an FIR (first information report) was
registered. She appeared before a civil court in Muzzafarnagar on 20 June
to make her statement.
Now was the time
for political meddlers to exploit a situation for their benefit as usual.
A Delhi-based secularist women outfit called “Muslim Womens Forum”
sent two representatives on 20 June to meet Imrana. They bribed her with
five thousand rupees and asked her to say to the media and police that she
will not accept the ruling of Shariat and will only go for the civil
court’s judgment to safeguard her rights.
At about the
same time a Noida-based Urdu newspaper, Rashtriya Sahara, asked the
Mufti in India’s premier Muslim seminary, Darul Uloom Deoband, to give
his opinion. The mufti (Maulana Habibur Rahman), without ascertaining the
facts of the case or going to the area or sending someone there to find
out the truth, issued a fatwa on
16 Jumada al-Oula 1426 Hijri (25 June) saying that Imrana is now haram
(forbidden) for her husband and should leave him.
We obtained a
copy of this fatwa and asked Mufti Habibur Rahman certain
questions. He was unable to counter our argument that the Quranic
injunction (“And marry not women whom your fathers married…” - 4:22)
does not apply here. He gave us some references to support his view but
when we read them, they did not seem to support the Mufti’s
interpretation which is the opinion of some Hanafi fuqaha
who consider illegitimate sexual contact including rape also as a cause
for prohibiting such marriages.
the Mufti again. This time he referred us to another Maulana who, he said,
was present in the meeting when the decision was taken. We told him, why
should we go to someone else when he (Mufti Habibur Rahman) had signed the
fatwa. Seemingly he was not pleased with our argument and asked us
to write down whatever “problems” we had in mind. We did this
promptly. He replied on 3 July repeating the same Hanafi stand which is
based on interpretation instead of a clear textual support from the
Qur’an or Hadith.
top ulama of Deoband revealed that they are not ready to re-assess
their position even by an inch. Maulana Usman, vice principal of the Darul
Uloom Deoband, said, “we do not issue fatwas, we are only copiers
of [old] fatwas”. He brushed aside the possibility of Ijtihad
saying that conditions today are worse than those found when the doors of Ijtihad
Other schools of
thought like Shafi’is, Malikis, Ja’fari Shia and Ahl-e Hadith reject
this interpretation as they hold that only legitimate marriage is
meant in the Qur’anic injunction and a crime does not change the rule.
In their view, the prohibition relates only to legitimate relationships
and not to rape which is a crime for which the criminal should be
punished. In case of India, the criminal and civil laws of the land apply
to all citizens and Muslims follow Islam only in respect of personal laws.
Hence what happened in Muzaffarnagar is a case where Indian criminal law
applies and it should take its course.
was wrong for three reasons: it assumed a case of rape where no rape
had taken place; it interpreted a Qur’anic text (4:22) in a wrong way;
and it intervened in an issue of criminal law which is beyond the purview
of the Muslim personal laws applicable to Indian citizens. The Quran says
that the wives (or ex-wives) of fathers are haram for their sons.
The case at hand is not of wives or ex-wives; it is a criminal case of
rape which does not make the raped woman wife of her rapist.
Just one day
after our interaction on 29 June, the Mufti’s office announced on 1 July
that the previous fatwa was not about Imrana, which is factually
incorrect. While the name “Imrana” is not mentioned in the question to
which the fatwa was given, her village and district are mentioned.
Moreover, the 3 July issue of Rashtriya Sahara Urdu newspaper
carries an article by Mufti Habibur Rahman which explicitly mentions the
name of Imrana and pronounces the same opinion he earlier expressed in his
The All India
Muslim Personal Law Board too has now distanced itself from that fatwa
and will now meet soon to reconsider the issue.
parties were quick to take advantage of the issue in order to indulge in
their usual pastime of attacking the Muslim personal laws and repeat their
age-old demand to force a “Uniform Civil Code” (UCC) applicable to all
citizens. True, UCC is a “guiding principle” laid down in the Indian
Constitution’s Article 44 but at the same time personal laws of various
communities including Hindus are respected and the stated policy of the
government ever since Independence has been that the personal laws will
not be changed unless the demand is made by the concerned community
Thus we saw
various communist, socialist and rightist parties repeat their demand to
enact UCC. The most vociferous voice was that of the beleaguered Hindutva
leader LK Advani who faces a terrible backlash these days from his own
forces for saying while in Karachi that Jinnah was a “secular” person.
Advani thundered on 1 July that “Muslim laws must change”. He called
for “an immediate change in Muslim personal laws.” Just like Shah Bano,
Imrana issue had given a strong stick for the BJP to beat
“pseudo-secularists”. “No civil society can accept the treatment
being meted out to Imrana, the victim of a heinous crime, by clerics. The
ulemas must reconsider their decision to ensure that dignity is restored
to Imrana,” said Advani. In good measure, he announced to a cheering
crowd, “Just as a Muslim is proud of Islam, I am proud of being a
Earlier on 28
June, BJP general secretary Arun Jaitley had said in a specially convened
press conference that “The entire nation is concerned over recent
developments in relation to the case of Imrana, a helpless victim of rape
allegedly committed by her father-in-law.” Jaitley demanded the
implementation of UCC, saying that Imarana’s case shows that
“obnoxious religious practices [are] still prevalent…This is wholly
unacceptable under any civilised notion of the rule of law.”
President of the
Vishwa Hindu Parishad (World Hindu Council-VHP) Ashok Singhal said that
“the time has come to quash the Muslim Personal Law.”
Marxists too joined the fray. CPIM’s Brinda Karat on 27 June said that
it’s a “shocking example of how contractors of religion can bulldoze
the constitutional rights of a citizen.”
spokesman Abhishek Singhvi announced on the same day that “Fatwas are
irrelevant.” Replying to a question, Singhvi said if there is a crime
involving a person of any religion, caste or creed, then it is dealt under
the criminal law and fatwas or personal laws become irrelevant.
Later on 3 July
a delegation of the All India Womens Congress offered fifty thousand
rupees to Imrana "as the first installment". Delegation leader
Rita Bahuguna-Joshi demanded UP government to give her 0.5 million rupees.
Chief Minister Mulayam Singh on 29 June supported the fatwa in the
Imrana case, saying “The decision of the Muslim religious leaders in the
Imrana case must have been taken after a lot of thought…The religious
leaders are all very learned and they understand the Muslim community and
Hindutvite poet used the occasion to send a message to Imrana and through
her to the ungrateful Indian Muslims. The concluding lines in a poem
titled “Thank Allah, Imrana Bibi” said:
Poor Imrana Bibi,
Mother of five kids,
My heart goes to you.
Were you living
Where Mullahs rule the lands
You’d have met Allah by now.
Thank Allah, you
live in India
The rapist will rot in the prison
By the laws of the land.
A delegation of
the National Commission for Women visited the victim on 30 June. It
demanded a speedy trial and appealed against politicisation of the
incident. Commission chairperson Girija Vyas, a Congress leader, said that
“the issue should not be politicised but treated on humanitarian
grounds.” She enlightened us that the “Constitution is supreme.”
While all this
was going on, Muslim organisations failed to take notice for over ten
days. The first organisation to send a fact-finding mission to the town of
Charthawal, barely 130 kilometers from Delhi, was the Delhi-based Muslim
Political Council of India (MPC), on 23 June. This delegation videographed
the whole interaction including an extensive interview with Imrana. Two
days later the MPC issued the first statement by a
Muslim organisation on the issue.
Personal Law Board delegation led by Dr Qasim Rasool Ilyas visited
Charthawal on 30 June. Jamaat-e Islami Hind sent a delegation led by its
Secretary Maulana Nusrat Ali on 2 July. Thereafter the Milli Council too
sent a delegation led by Maulana Gulzar Mazahiri. Majlis-e Fikr-o Amal
sent a delegation led by Maulana Aqeel Al-Gharvi on 5 July. All these
delegations came back with the impression that no rape had taken place and
that it was a case of property dispute. Their statements were rarely
published by the mainstream media which had its own agenda to vilify the
Muslim community and prepare the public opinion for a uniform civil code
and for this a wronged and defenceless woman suited more than a helpless
old man in the twilight of his life.
As the media
continued to parrot its preferred line, MPC president Dr Tasleem Rahmani
called a press conference in Delhi in which he showed a 3-hour video in
which Imrana was shown as saying that no rape had taken place, that she
was given five thousand rupees by a womens organisation.
Dr Rehmani said
that the case was blown out of proportion to malign the Muslims and the
Shariat. He announced that he planned to file a complaint in the Press
Council of India against “irresponsible” reporting. Again, most
newspapers and channels chose not to carry Dr Rehmani’s statement.
It is a fact of
life in India today that all possible liberties are taken where Muslims
are concerned. The media does not take the same freedom when it comes to
other communities. This media was repeating ad nauseum that the
AIMPLB was supporting the Deoband fatwa when only a certain member
of the board, a laywoman, had done that. UP minister Azam Khan said on 1
July that in the guise of Imrana issue, the media is targetting Islam.
“There is an attempt behind this conspiracy to malign Islam and
Muslims,” he added.
On 1 July the
AIMPLB distanced itself from the Deoband fatwa and said that a meeting of
its working committee will be called to deliberate on the issue. Next day
Syed Shahabuddin, president of the All India Muslim Majlis-e Mushawarat (AIMMM),
came out strongly against Advani’s outpourings. He said that the AIMMM
condemns the political exploitation of the Imrana case by the BJP to
promote its long-cherished agenda of religious assimilation of the Muslim
community through imposition of a common civil code in substitution of its
Shariat-based Personal Law. (for full text see: http://www.milligazette.com/IndMusStat/2005a/053-mmm-02jul05.htm
Muslim intellectuals have spoken against the fatwa. Islamic law
expert Prof Tahir Mahmood appealed to the AIMPLB not to enforce the fatwa
on an innocent and unwilling couple desirous of continuing their marriage.
He said that Imrana’s fate cannot be decided by ‘ancient juristic
wisdom’ laid down ‘by some religious jurists of Arabia over a thousand
years ago’. That rule, he added, may have been a pro-women provision for
its times in a society where remarriage for divorced women was easy, but
in India today, he said, the rule ‘need not be strictly imposed on an
innocent and unwilling couple desirous of continuing in marriage’.
former chief justice of India, said that a forced rape cannot annul a
woman’s marriage. A Muslim marriage is a contract but it is not too weak
to be broken up so easily.
Husain Qasmi, a leading cleric, said that though this is the opinion of
the Hanafi fiqh, doors of ijtihad are open to reconsider it.
The same opinion was expressed by Mufti Muhammad Arshad. Chairman of the
Islamic Council of India, Qari Muhammad Miyan Mazhari, termed the fatwa
as “unjust” while Maulana Wahiduddin Khan, the well-known Islamic
scholar, said that no fatwa was needed as this was a clear case of
criminal law to be tackled by civil courts.
Muftis of the
Barelvi sect, after a meeting in Muradabad on 1 July, said that since
Imrana’s husband has not accepted the occurrence of rape and still
believes in the chastity of his wife, he can continue living with her.
Jamiat-e Ahl-e Hadith (Salafis of the Subcontinent) said that rape does
not annul a marriage. Shia ulama too took a similar stand.
The storm over
Imrana will die down as time passes but forces which are ever-ready to use
any handle to beat Muslims with will soon find some other issue and blow
it out of proportion unless leaders of the Muslim community are ready to
meet the challenges and adapt to the demands of the modern times and
requirements of natural justice. «
:: Imrana on video - no rape
Muslim Political Council's report on the Imrana episode
Text of the Question and fatwa on Imrana
Statements on Imrana case
Indian Muslim Islamic News
Indian Muslim Organisation Press Releases / Statements
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