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March 3, 2000
Fatwa against Shabana Azmi
Syed Amin Jafri in Hyderabad
Film actress Shabana Azmi has earned the wrath of the mullahs in Hyderabad because she tonsured her head for her role in the controversial film, Water.
Five city-based Islamic seminaries have termed the action "as a violation of Islamic doctrine and abominably inadmissible." They want Azmi to renew her faith.
The fatwas [religious edicts] these institutions issued declare that Muslim film stars performing acts of polytheism on screen should also renew their faith. One termed it as an "atheistic act and a mortal sin" while the others defined it as "transgression."
It was a Hyderabad-based journalist, Syed Fazil Hussain Parvez, who sought edicts on these issues in the wake of the controversy raging on in the Muslim community over Azmi tonsuring her head. The issue was hotly debated in the local Urdu press.
"I posed two questions to the religious institutions after the Urdu press was flooded with queries and protests about Shabana Azmi's outrageous act. I sought a fatwa on whether actors from Muslim families or having Muslim names are committing sacrilege by performing the rites of other religious groups on the screen," Parvez told rediff.com.
"I also cited the instance of Shabana Azmi, who not only performs puja on screen but also got her head tonsured for portraying a character in Water. I wanted to know whether her act is permissible in Islam or whether she is liable for excommunication," he said.
Another query he posed to the religious scholars was whether Muslim film stars, who offer namaz and go for Haj or Umra in real life but commit polytheistic acts on the screen "under professional compulsions" should be condoned for their sacrilegious acts, which constitute "unforgivable sins."
The queries were sent to Al Mahada-Aali-ul-Islami, Darul-Uloom Sabil-ul-Islam, Darul-Uloom Rahmania, Darul-Uloom Hyderabad and Hyderabad's oldest Islamic university, Jamia-e-Nizamia.
The institutions responded promptly. Darul Uloom Rahmania's Mufti Ghiyasuddin issued the edit on February 24, followed by Al Mahada's Mufti Khaled Saifullah Rahmani on February 25, Darul-Uloom Sabil-ul-Islam's Mufti Mustafa Miftahi and Jamia-e-Nizamia's Mufti Ibrahim Khaleel-ul-Hashemi on February 26, and Darul Uloom Hyderabad's Mufti Mohammed Jamaluddin Qassimi on February 27.
According to the edict from Darul Uloom Rahmania, offering worship to the deities would be tantamount to paganism or infidelity. If a Muslim woman tonsures her head, it would be a violation of the Shariat and Islamic doctrines.
Jamia-e-Nizamia, which is one of the oldest Islamic universities in India, has termed all acts of polytheism as "atheism".
Al Mahada said that terming such acts of polytheism as professional compulsion was an excuse which was worse than the sin itself. If a Muslim, even while knowing that due to these acts a Muslim loses his faith, goes ahead with it then he is committing infidelity. Hence, all film stars who call themselves Muslims must renew their faith.
The Darul Uloom Sabil-ul-Islam declared that it was unlawful for Muslims to act in films. If a Muslim, while sticking to his religious faith, still acts in a film, it would amount to transgression.
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