Dear Nahid Afrin, Here’s a Short History of Fatwas on Indians to Cheer You Up

Nahid Afrin, a 16-year-old girl from Assam, who received fame through her singing talent displayed in Indian idol, has a Fatwa issued on her name by some Muslim clerics. This fatwa bans her from performing at any public entertainment event. She has come out boldly against the move saying ‘Singing isn’t anti-Islam’ and has confirmed that she will never stop singing. She has also been supported by the CM of the state.

Nahid Afrin Receives Fatwa

Feeling like an elder sister in this scenario, I thought to compile a list of Fatwas for the unstoppable you, Nahid.

What is a Fatwa?

It is a religious ruling passed by a qualified jurist or a mufti against someone who goes against the Islamic principles. A fatwa cannot create a judicial havoc, though. It gets dangerous when a fatwa states that a person may be killed if it is not followed. 

Indians Who Have Received Fatwas

There is a huge list of Indian artists- painters, singers, music composers and writers who have received Fatwas in the past. When you look at the list, you’ll know that these are a lot of people that we are proud of.

Taslima Nasreen a social activist in India had been issued a fatwa for leaving Islam. Another fatwa has been issued against her for going against Nahid Afrin’s fatwa.

A fatwa was issued against Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan for allegedly making anti-Islam comments. This fatwa also stated that comments made by him make him liable to be killed.

Sania Mirza was presented with a fatwa for wearing short skirts (apparently instead of the burqa?) on the tennis court.

Have you read the beautiful poem Madhushala or heard Amitabh Bachchan recite it? Imagine, a fatwa was issued (73 years too late) against Harivansh Rai Bachchan for writing Madhushala, saying it had some objectionable passages. They said using the words masjid, muazzin, Allatala, Eid, marsia, namazi etc along with sharab, sharabi and maykhana was blasphemous.

Quirkiest of the Fatwas Ever

And this one is just to give you an idea to what extent can this go.

  • Against Surya Namaskar in Madhya Pradesh: It could be seen as an exercise but perhaps it was just too Hindu.
  • Against fast-food and contraceptives: Okay, they didn’t want the kids to eat fast food. But contraceptives?
  • Against having Women Judges: Regressive and misogynistic to say the least.
  • Against Modelling by Muslim Women: Same as above.
  • Against Adolescent girls riding bicycles: Same as above and worse.

Celebrated India-Pakistani writers Ismat Chughtai (Naseeruddin Shah’s favourite Muse) and Manto (Nandita Das is making a film on him with Nawazuddin Sidiqqui)  were the rebels of their time (around independence) and never did they bow down to anyone- whether they were the Kings before Independence or the government after Independence.

Their writings had a speciality. They were so real and depicted the most realistic image of the society. So much that they had to keep running from the police all the time. Fatwas were issued against them too.

In 1944, as Ismat Chughtai maintains in her autobiography Kagzi Hai Pehran, she was summoned in front of the court in Lahore for a case was filed against her by some religious person/group. It was said that her work ‘Lihaaf’/’Quilt’ (which is an internationally acclaimed short story) was rather obscene. Even the publisher is summoned for publishing such a content (who did not know that it was wrong to write about a quilt/parda). In the same period of time, Saadat Hasan Manto was also summoned to Lahore for his short story called ‘Boo/Smell’. Ismat beautifully describes her love for Lahore around the summoning of the court. When the proceedings happen, none of the charges of obscenity in the stories gets proved.

But if you look at the objections pointed out against their stories, you’ll see how feudal mindsets people can have. They had a problem with Ismat (being a married Muslim woman from a good family) writing about an apparently obscene woman’s experiences. With Manto, they had the problem with the word ‘chaati’ (chest) being used to describe a woman’s chest. After the proceedings, the judge talks to Ismat in private and this conversation says it all:

Judge: I have no problem with your writing. I don’t think Lihaaf was obscene either. But Manto writes dirty.

Ismat: The world is dirty too.

Judge: But is it necessary to spread the dirt?

Ismat: Writing about it makes it easier to see the dirt and then we can focus on cleaning it.

The Judge laughed.

Fatwas must be religiously Islamic but Hindus also have their version of fatwas. Hindu fatwas are called dhamki. Like one of the greatest artists of the century, MF Hussain was sentenced to exile even till his last breath, for making obscene, anti-Hindu paintings. The sets of Padmavati have been vandalised, the filmmaker has been warned so many times. The release of Ae Dil Hai Mushkil (which was a surprisingly ridiculous film) was made difficult because it had a Pakistani actor (Fawad Khan) in it. Gulam Ali and Atif Aslam’s concerts have been cancelled multiple times. The list doesn’t end. We know the people who are at it.

Dear Nahid, when you grow up, there will be so many shackles that you’ll have to break as an artist and as a woman.  Whatever be the religion, there have been attempts to suppress art, free speech and freedom of expression in all the times in the history. But all the times in the history, there have been these people who never budged down against what was wrong. All we can do is, keep moving forward like our ancestors have. Keep singing. Ending with Ismat Chughtai’s beautiful quote:

में सरफिरी, ज़बानदराज़, मुँहफट, बदतमीज़ थी। मुझ पर पर्दा लागू हो चुका था, मगर ज़बान नंगी तलवार किसी के बस में न थी


(Follow my blog pressing the green button on the left, to get regular updates of things I write. My writings guarantee obscenity, rude, crude, explicit behaviour of all kinds, when necessary.)

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