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Thursday, January 12, 2012

Facing the Sun........

A Fatwa against Surya Namaskar, a kriya in the Indian art of Yoga. On the surface this looks ridiculous, which it is. But there might be a slight flip side to it. The thing is, Yoga is made synonymous with Hinduism as it was invented here in India by the earliest residents who were Hindus. And RSS is a Hindu Organisation, VHP is one, Bajrang Dal is one. Also, as the name suggests, Surya Namaskar is bowing to the sun. Rationally speaking, it only means to be able to harvest the energy of the sun and use it to remain fit. But, in a way, it also makes the Sun,  a God. So I can see why the Deoband Ulemas and the Muftis have a problem with this activity.

Now, a Fatwa, according to Wikipedia, in the Islamic faith is a juristic ruling concerning Islamic law issued by an Islamic scholar. In Sunni Islam any fatwā is non-binding, whereas in Shia Islam it could be considered by an individual as binding, depending on his or her relation to the scholar. The person who issues a fatwā is called, in that respect, a Mufti, i.e. an issuer of fatwā, from the verb أَفْتَى 'aftā = "he gave a formal legal opinion on". This is not necessarily a formal position since most Muslims argue that anyone trained in Islamic law may give an opinion (fatwā) on its teachings. If a fatwā does not break new ground, then it is simply called a ruling.

An analogy might be made to the issue of legal opinions from courts in common-law systems. Fatwās generally contain the details of the scholar's reasoning, typically in response to a particular case, and are considered binding precedent by those Muslims who have bound themselves to that scholar, including future Muftis; mere rulings can be compared to memorandum opinions. The primary difference between common-law opinions and fatwās, however, is that fatwās are not universally binding; as the Sharia is not universally consistent and Islam is very non-hierarchical in structure, fatwās do not carry the sort of weight that secular common-law opinions do.

So, if, and I agree with this completely, religion is a matter of personal allegiance and faith to someone or something, then a person be left free to decide what he/she has to do. A religion cannot claim to be tolerant if free will is completely disregarded at the feet of fatwas. Only caveat, executions can be justified on the grounds of such fatwas in extreme cases even though they can never be justified by secular democratic laws.

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