'Why should Zaira involve Islam in it?'
'We are living in a secular democracy and she has the right to do what she wants, but why bring Islam into it?'
Last week, when All India Trinamool Congress MP from Basirhat Nusrat Jahan entered Parliament wearing a bindi, sindoor and mangalsutra, it became a thorny issue in her native Bengal.
Nusrat, a Muslim by birth, married her boyfriend Nikhil Jain last month, and came under criticism from hardline Muslim clerics who stated that she was no longer a Muslim and had given up her Islamic faith by wearing the bindi, sindoor and mangalsutra.
Nusrat responded by stating that she 'represented an inclusive India...which is beyond the barriers of caste, creed and religion. I still remain a Muslim. ...And none should comment on what I choose to wear... Faith is beyond attire.'
Hardly had that controversy died down than another erupted after Dangal actress Zaira Wasim announced that she has given up films -- and the reason set a new cat in the dovecotes.
Zaira, in her Instagram post, said she was giving up films because she felt she was not following the tenets of Islam by acting in films.
With people on both sides of the fence weighing in, this controversy is likely to continue for some time.
But the questions will remain.
Does Islam bar marriage with non-Muslims?
Is the second largest faith in the world against women's participation in the world of entertainment, arts and culture?
"I would respect Zaira Wasim's personal choice as I would respect Nusrat Jahan's choice. We are living in India and not Saudi Arabia," Professor Zeenat Shaukat Ali, a well known Islamic scholar, tells Rediff.com's Syed Firdaus Ashraf.
In a Muslim country like Tunisia, a Muslim woman can marry a non-Muslim man. Are there any other Muslim nations where this is allowed?
I don't think there are any other Muslim countries like Tunisia which allows Muslim women to marry non-Muslim men, but as far as Turkey is concerned, if you marry under the secular law, Muslim women can marry non-Muslims.
In America, which is a multi cultural country, they can marry under civil law.
So, there are certain civil laws which permit you to have a marriage with a non-Muslim, but in Muslim countries such civil laws do not apply to Muslim women.
Men may marry, like in Malaysia when both parties agree and their religion says 'yes' to it. But in most Muslim countries, Muslim women are not allowed to marry non-Muslim men.
In India, it is allowed for Muslim women to marry non-Muslim men under the Special Marriage Act of 1954 where each one can retain their own religion.
Under that civil law you need to give a month's notice so the registrar prepares your documents and then s/he gets you married.
But let me tell you that several people have complained to me that when it is a Muslim and Hindu marriage, there are several quandaries raised and sometimes they try to make things as difficult as possible, but nonetheless the Constitution of India permits it.
What does the Sharia law or Islamic law say? According to the Sharia, is it true that a Muslim woman cannot marry a non-Muslim man?
Sharia is a very misunderstood term. Sharia means 'the way'. It is described like flowing water and not static water.
Sharia develops. Let us take the Holy Quran, the word of God and primary source of Islam.
Marriage is a bonding and that bond has been created between man and woman for procreation and therefore it is a very important bonding.
It is also related to your progeny, to creation, and that is why marriage.
When it came to marrying people from other communities, there is a verse in Quran 5.5 which says you can marry believing women and good women, chaste women from the people of the book. I am not quoting the whole verse (external link).
Now when it came to the people of the book it was said that Christians were people of the book and Jews were people of the book because it was in the region where these religions were practised.
And now they (Muslims) said marry women who believed in one god. But Christians believe in the trinity. And that is shirk (idolatry or polytheism) in Islam, but Christians were never known as mushriks (polytheists).
The question then arose: Why should you limit the people of the book to only Jews and Christians?
Why not Buddhists, Sikhs or Hindus, for that matter?
Hindus also have a book. The Holy Quran also says that Allah has given a book to every nation and He has given a book to every corner of the world and Allah has sent a prophet to every corner of the world.
Now when Allah has sent prophets to all the corners of the world and books to every corner of the world, then why are Hindus not included in people of the book?
Zoroastrians also have a book. A revealed book can also be the Upanishads, and this is what Dara Shikoh said when he was persecuted by his brother, Emperor Aurangzeb.
But is marrying people of the book applicable only to Muslim men only or to women too?
It is said to men that you can marry the people of the book. Women are not mentioned.
So a major amount of the orthodox jury said since women are not mentioned, it means Muslim women cannot marry non-Muslim men.
This was the argument of one set of jurists, which goes against the basic principle of the Holy Quran as it says everything is allowed until specifically mentioned in the Holy Quran that it is not allowed.
Everything is permissible unless mentioned that you cannot do this. Like it is mentioned that Muslims cannot eat the meat of the pig.
Whatever is not mentioned, you cannot say it is prohibited, but jurists have turned it around and said this means only what is mentioned is allowed, but that is not the principle.
Jurists took this perspective on women because women were not mentioned on marriage, but the Holy Quran is not discriminatory, it means women were also included in verse 5.5 of the Holy Quran.
When you express this kind of opinion in public, what kind of reaction do you get from Muslim jurists?
I am not saying it, but the Holy Quran is saying. There are different perspectives among jurists. Hanafi jurists think one way and Maliki think the other way.
When you made Muslim law in 1939 for Indian Muslims, Hanafi law prohibited certain things so you used the Maliki and Hanbali schools and made a law for Muslims in India.
It is called the doctrine of taqahur, you can go from one school to another school in Sunnis, and even now you can make that law.
Unfortunately, there are no people who are educated to talk about this. When you talk about the madrasa system it is supposed to educate you, but they only teach you what they think they must teach you to indoctrinate you.
The Holy Quran, on the other hand, is a very wide, open-hearted book, an embracing book and inclusive book. Unfortunately, due to this narrow interpretation, we have made the Holy Quran exclusive.
It is said Prophet Mohammed is Rehmatul Al Amin. He has come for all the people and not only for Muslims, so how can you make these rejections?
Can you name the Muslim jurists who have said non-Muslim men can marry Muslim women?
There is this well known jurist, Khalid Abu Al Fadal. He has said there is no express prohibition of a Muslim woman marrying a non-Muslim man.
And given the Holy Quran's silence on this issue, he said it is only extra textual reasoning that prohibits Muslim women from marrying non-Muslim men, and this emerged gradually.
There is no explicit 'no', but because there is silence, the interpretation has come from others and not the Holy Quran.
Sometimes you marry a Muslim woman and then you force her to convert her to your religion, now that should be avoided.
Because of this conversion of Muslim woman to other religion is a problem, otherwise there will be no hindrance to such a marriage.
The second Islamic scholar is Imam Khalil Mohammad. In strongest terms he says Muslim women can marry outside the faith provided she is not forced to convert.
His reason is that there should be a clause in the marriage that the Muslim woman should not be forced to convert and the children must be allowed to follow whichever religion they want to once they come of age.
That means the man's religion must not be imposed on his Muslim wife or the child.
There are other jurists too who spoke on this issue of Muslim women marrying non-Muslim women, like Asma Lambret and also Al Ajami.
And then there is the late Hasan Turabi who says there is not a single verse in the Holy Quran prohibiting a Muslim woman marrying outside her faith.
There is Moiz Amjad who has also opined on a non-Muslim men marrying Muslim women and the decision of marriage should be left to Muslim women.
There is Taj Hargey and Osama Hassan who too say more or less the same thing, that the marriage decision should be left to Muslim women.
Why don't these examples come up in debate when Muslim women marry non-Muslim men?
The Holy Quran says rise to enlightenment. Islam is not regressive, Muslims have made it regressive, unfortunately.
What about Zaira Wasim's decision to quit movies citing Islam?
Her move is very regressive. Zaira Wasim should not have involved Islam in her quitting movies.
If tomorrow I don't want to be a professor or TV anchor, why should I bring religion into it?
She is a smart girl and maybe there is some influence on her.
There are many Muslim film stars in India. Like Waheeda Rehman who said she will not wear sleeveless and never wore sleeveless in films.
The entire Zaira Wasim episode is taking Islam backward.
Why should she involve Islam in it? We are living in a secular democracy and she has the right to do what she wants, but why bring Islam into it?
I would respect Zaira Wasim's personal choice as I would respect Nusrat Jahan's choice.
We are living in India and not Saudi Arabia.
Where in the Holy Quran it is written that you cannot wear sindoor or mangalsutra?
Creating issues out of a non-issue has become a habit with us.
Is it true that entertainment is un-Islamic?
I don't think that way. When Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) was received in Medina, women of the city were singing and performing folk dance.
It was a dance of welcome which the tribal people perform. This is history and it was the folk dance of Arabia.
Will Zaira Wasim's announcement strengthen the hands of regressive elements in the Muslim community?
Of course, they are certainly going to take advantage of it. They will tumble out with their interpretation, and unfortunately there are not enough Muslim scholars to counter it.
We should create a group of scholars who can counter this.
Is it possible to be a devout Muslim and a modern human being at the same time?
Of course, it is.
A modern human being is a very good Muslim. What is a good Muslim? It means you are kind-hearted, inclusive and kind to your fellow being who do not belong to your community.
It means you follow Arkan e Islam (the five pillars of Islam) and that is between you and God.
Islam says about ibaadat (devotion) and muammalat (dealings) with non-Muslims and how you speak with them, how you embrace them and how kind you are.
And Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) came for all mankind.
There is a very famous Hadith of the Prophet where he says about loving all mankind, and Hindus say the same thing in Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam (the world is one family).
Christians also say 'Love Thy Neighbour' -- but do any of us practise it?
Does Islam exercise greater control over its practitioners as compared to people of other faiths?
Islam does not, but the jurists of Islam do.
There is a difference between practising your religion and falling into your narrow interpretations as given by narrow thinkers. It depends on what you want.
You pick up the Holy Quran and read it for yourself, why don't you read it?
But the perception is that Muslims are very rigid when it comes to their religion, as proven in the case of Zaira Wasim.
It is because Muslims are still living in medievalism. I am sorry to say that, and they should not be.
Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) gave you freedom of speech, writing, thinking, creating and scientific thinking, so where are your Muslim scientists? Where are Muslim philosophers?
You (the Muslim orthodoxy) finished them off in 200 years of Islam and said that Islam does not tell you to do this or do that.
There are 805 verses in the Holy Quran dealing only with education and its offshoots. It says seek knowledge even if it is in China. Now the Holy Quran was not taught in China then. So it is secular knowledge.
Islam has taught you about deen (religion) and duniya (world), so why are you not going after that?
The Muslim world has to advance and they have to honour what the Holy Quran says and not get into their own thinking and their own interpretations.