Darululoom Deoband passes fatwas on terrorism - and body waxing

Published: October 7, 2011
 In this picture taken on September 8, 2011 students prepare for the entrance exams on campus at the school of Islam Darul Uloom Deoband. PHOTO: AFP

In this picture taken on September 8, 2011 students prepare for the entrance exams on campus at the school of Islam Darul Uloom Deoband. PHOTO: AFP

DEOBAND: “Are women allowed to do a full body wax?” Just an everyday question for the “fatwa” desk at Darululoom Deoband, a famed cradle of conservative Islamic thought in north India.

Hundreds of queries seeking guidance on every aspect of social and religious life are posted to the school each week and dutifully noted in a green leather-bound register by Habibur Rahman, a 21-year-old student.

The answers issued in response are a far cry from the common western perception of fatwas.

But they are important.

“In the theological universe, our fatwas are equivalent to a verdict by a full constitutional bench of any top court in any country,” said Rahman, who spends much of his time translating queries in English or Hindi into Arabic and Urdu.

Founded 150 years ago in the city of the same name, Deoband has trained thousands of imams who have spread its conservative brand of Deobandi Islam across South Asia and beyond to Europe and North America.

As a result, its rulings carry enormous weight with many Sunni communities across the world, and in 2008 the seminary garnered global attention with a fatwa denouncing terrorism as a sin against Islam.

But most of the work of the school’s fatwa department is taken up with smaller matters that range from marital troubles and clothing etiquette to property disputes and business ethics.

Every question is evaluated by three scholars and many of the answers are posted on the school’s website, which has a sizeable subject search index.

Clerics at Deoband stress that their fatwas are issued as guiding principles of religious behaviour and should not be coercively enforced.

“We do not intend to dictate,” said the school’s press spokesman, Adeel Siddiqui. “We just suggest and provide solutions and request people to follow our guidelines.”

But critics say such explanations are, at best, disingenuous and hide a repressive mindset, especially when it comes to women’s issues.

Previous fatwas have sought to prevent women from wearing jeans or speaking to male colleagues in the workplace.

“These religious scholars sit in a small room, far away from the grim realities of life and choose to dictate women,” said Saziya Sheikh, a Muslim teacher in a government school in Deoband.

In January this year, the school appointed a reformist rector, Maulana Gulam Mohammed Vastanvi, who said he wanted to bring more transparency to a process that had prompted the Indian media to dub Deoband a “fatwa factory”.

“Fatwas are misrepresented. They are a solution based on Sharia law to an individual’s query and cannot be generalised,” Vastanvi told The Times of India.

“We need to work on relations between the school and the media which will clear the air on fatwas,” he added.

But Vastanvi’s modernising agenda fell foul of powerful ideologues on the Deoband board and he was forced out of his post after only six months.

So for now, Rahman works much as his predecessors have for the past 150 years, translating and transcribing queries from around the world and passing them along for consideration.

And the fatwa on the body waxing question?

“Yes, a woman can wax all the body and can take help from other women as well, but the other woman should not touch her from below navel to knees,” was the response posted on the website.

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Reader Comments (32)

  • zioka
    Oct 7, 2011 - 1:30PM

    Thank god they didn’t pass any fatwas on shaving!


  • Fortune Cookie
    Oct 7, 2011 - 2:01PM

    “They are a solution based on Sharia law” – Is the waxing of women mentioned in the Hadith?


  • antony
    Oct 7, 2011 - 2:13PM

    What if this deoband fatwa preacher’s wife has a surgery or chemical therapy where a normal waxing neck to toe is done by female nurses for avoiding contamination of hair into surgery ? ..Will this preacher ask the wife herself however sick to do this ? .. Why Islamic preachers are not able to adjust to 21st century with diseases and technologies not seen as of 7th century and those species that dont adapt will not survive or will be disadvantaged lot …No India cant give reservation to alleviate these masses from poverty .This is a mental change for progress … Church held europe in its strong hold in 12-16th century and called dark ages ..Now they have a very minor role..Hindu’s tradition also went through a transformation with abolishment of sati etc and still reforming in many areas… I guess the people in this picture will reform as early as 2111 or little longer at 2211 AD hopefully.


  • sara
    Oct 7, 2011 - 2:22PM

    @fortune cookie….not waxing specifically, but removal of unwanted body hair is mentioned, and made compulsory for the armpits and genitals.


  • from india
    Oct 7, 2011 - 2:24PM

    holy crap !!


  • Firoz
    Oct 7, 2011 - 2:50PM

    Don’t they have anything better to do?


  • Adi
    Oct 7, 2011 - 3:03PM

    @Anotny look beyond your spectacles of bias towards islam…go through some text and then comment…in situations beyond normal there can be deviations from stated guideline. Even eating horse become legal if there is nothing to eat


  • Oct 7, 2011 - 3:19PM

    Hi Mr. Firoz et al.! In our religion, the religious scholars are morally obliged to answer any question put to them by sincere seekers of knowledge, in case they know the answer. Not doing so is a serious sin known as ‘kitman al haqq’ (Hiding of the Truth).

    Mr. Antony! general fatawa are made over general situations, the case you are describing is hardly a common one.Recommend

  • Mj
    Oct 7, 2011 - 3:44PM

    People need to start thinking for themselves instead of caring about petty issues which arise due to attempts to fit thousand year old traditions to modern times.


  • khurram
    Oct 7, 2011 - 3:50PM

    you people don’t know the inch of islam. first get knowledge about a mufti (who is mufti) how he become mufti, than you will never ever argument on a mufti’s fatwa or you can say that you are not authorize to do that.

    please don’t humiliate islam.

    it is the best of all religions.


  • Syed Shoaib Ahsan
    Oct 7, 2011 - 3:55PM

    Antony … clearly you don’t have any idea about “fatwas” and I really doubt your ability to read. You should read the article again very carefully and you’ll know what was being talked about.

    Firoz … Their job is to answer queries and give fatwas accordingly. Recommend

  • Noor
    Oct 7, 2011 - 4:45PM

    Genuine article involving genuine knowledge!

    Good that people are interested in authentic references for daily life practices.


  • DaNy
    Oct 7, 2011 - 4:49PM

    It is all about beliefs my friends.


  • antony
    Oct 7, 2011 - 4:57PM

    Guys challenging my reading skills ..Please read this ” but the other woman should not touch her from below navel to knees,” Again Mufti is the best plus ours is the bestest religion of all religion comments ..I wish if some Sunniii muslim ask this fatwa preacher this question what would be the preachers answer? ..HUmans are created by god as per islam .Sikh religion was created on the teachings of Guru Nanak Dev Ji and ten successive Sikh Gurus (the last teaching being the holy scripture Guru Granth Sahib Ji). It is the fifth-largest organized religion in the world and one of the fastest-growing.. Why would Allah allow this and send Sikh souls into world if Allah has decided Quran is the only book all human kind should refer ! ..


  • Syed Shoaib Ahsan
    Oct 7, 2011 - 5:50PM

    Antony … is that the “only” thing to read in that article? As I said earlier, you should go through the article again “without” bias. The answer is there.


  • amazing fatwas
    Oct 7, 2011 - 6:34PM

    @sara to @fortune cookie
    “….not waxing specifically, but removal of unwanted body hair is mentioned, and made compulsory for the armpits and genitals.

    By god (or Allah-whoever), you also have fatwa for removing hair from arm pits and genitals!. what if some lady dont remove it- she will not remain a muslim / she will be divorced?


  • John B
    Oct 7, 2011 - 7:37PM

    It is better than other fatwas from middle east. As long as this waxing business applies to Muslim women and muslim women are okay with it I have no qualms.

    I wonder though why women’s issue should be decided by men?


  • Jameel
    Oct 7, 2011 - 8:53PM

    What is the fatwa of Daruloom Deoband about their own founder Maulana Qasim Nanutwi? It would be interesting to know.

    Beliefs of Maulana Qasim Nanutwi


  • MK
    Oct 7, 2011 - 9:20PM

    @antony :
    Your second comment speaks even louder of your confusion. For Muslims there are guidelines and exceptions for unusual circumstances and there are plenty of guidelines and fatwas for those scenarios as well. This fatwa doesn’t concern you so I suggest leave it and focus your energy somewhere else.
    Secondly humans are created by GOD, is a belief in by almost all religions (regardless of what they choose to call and name God as), and Sikhs are no exception. The path they choose to get closer to God is different but intended destination is the same.

    Extremist views like yours are the cause of a lot of trouble in this world. One is a Muslim is he/she believes in oneness of god and believes in messengers and prophets of God with Prophet Muhammad being the last. If one does not follow certain rules or guidelines (both mandatory and recommended) they can be considered non practicing, but are Muslims by definition. No one including you has a right to call them non Muslims or issue any “AMAZINGFATWAS”.

    @John B
    It is not an issue that is being “DECIDED” by men. They are just quoting Islamic laws because they were asked. One can ask a woman scholar and get the same answer, because the “DECISION” is not made by either those men or women, there are guidelines in our scriptures, men or women when asked just inform you about them. Recommend

  • amazing fatwas
    Oct 7, 2011 - 10:10PM

    “If one does not follow certain rules or guidelines (both mandatory and recommended) they can be considered non practicing, but are Muslims by definition. ”
    – As per another amazing fatwa, these non practicing muslims are considered “Wajib-Ul-Qatl”


  • OhLaLa
    Oct 7, 2011 - 10:18PM

    Hmm…I need to know the Deoband fatwa on botox. Think might be needing it soon.


  • Adil
    Oct 8, 2011 - 6:50AM

    To be honest, I knew after reading the headline before even reading the article that something funny’s gonna come….their fatwas are always controversial,vague and often shocking.


  • narayana murthy
    Oct 8, 2011 - 7:46AM

    When people ask about the plight of Muslims in India, all they have to do is look at such organizations to get answers.

    A regressive, narrow minded, bigoted, backward, ignorant organization like Darul-Uloom-e-Deobandh can only keep the Muslims of India regressive, narrow minded, bigoted, backward, ignorant.

    I think, the government must declare their activities as anti-social (which, they clearly are) and ban the organization, lest they they turn India into a Pakistan.

    I hope the Muslims of India (the lower-middle class and the lower class only) wakes up and rejects such organizations vehemently and show them their rightful place – nowhere. This country of 1 billion people with 170 million muslims cannot progress unless Muslims wake up. They must also understand that by following such organizations, they are practically becoming a burden on the economy of this country and isolating themselves from the rest of the world (not just India).


  • G J Zaman
    Oct 8, 2011 - 8:50AM

    This was first published at

    You should give credit to the original source of the article.


  • Aftb Kenneth Wilson
    Oct 8, 2011 - 9:05AM

    Why should one believe in Men Made Laws which are not acceptable to other denominations of the same religion???? Waxing or no waxing is not for the men to decide. It is totally women’s problem. There is also difference on circumcision for women. Widely done in Egypt and Sudan.


  • Maher
    Oct 8, 2011 - 10:12AM

    What about Tatoos??Recommend

  • Maher
    Oct 8, 2011 - 10:16AM

    These guys want to live in stone age. We have to adjust with modern society keeping our religious aspects with us.


  • Hameed
    Oct 8, 2011 - 10:44AM

    Interesting that the Molvis have time to pass fatwas on waxing and terrorism but nothing on being honest, God Fearing human beings.Recommend

  • Oct 8, 2011 - 12:12PM

    Hi Hameed! How would you know that they do not? Please list the number of major Fatawa compilations that you have gone through. Re “Stone Age”: Laws, manners and self-restraint are the product of human civilization, those who do not ascribe to Divine laws are barbarians.


  • abc
    Oct 8, 2011 - 12:24PM

    @ Antony

    The situation you describe is a one-off, and if you must know, the other woman can wax the female patient as long as medical reasons permit.

    You must know abortion is also condemned by Islam, but if there is danger to the life of the mother, a woman can abort her baby too. So please remain in the context of things

    As far as the navel to the knee thing is concerned, it is derived from satar. Satar between women is navel to the knees, just like between men. Between men and women is a completely different story.


  • sara
    Oct 8, 2011 - 10:44PM

    @amazingfatwas….well, theres no harm in following something like that is there? do u REALLY want to roam around with hair in your armpits or genitals and have germs breed there???


  • Bolimaga Bevarsi
    Oct 9, 2011 - 7:59AM

    @narayana murthy

    Stop your Hate Spewing rants on our minorities. I found this article refreshing and gave me a very good insight as to how one of the most iron curtained religious organisation works. Dont forget that the very fact that all kinds of religious practices exist in our country(puritanical to unorthodox) makes our country unique. It makes me proud to associate with my country- India.
    ….and don’t worry about development, in the larger picture, despite many petty obstacles, all communities in India are improving.


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