Muslims scholars and activists in city on Monday welcomed the Supreme Court verdict on the Shariah Courts (Darul Qaza) and Fatwas. Community leaders see the ruling by the SC, which is a constitutional authority, will bring more clarity to an existing position/reality of fatwas and Shariah courts. Until now, a large number of people felt that decisions by such courts had a scope for misuse as a lay person would see them as binding.
"We have not really seen the order but they have said that fatwa is an opinion, which is right," said Maulana Hakim Mehmood Dariyabadi, convenor of Darul Qaza, Mumbai. Run by the Muslim Personal Law Board, Darul Qazas look to give Muslims opinions based on interpretation of religious laws.
"We were anyway dealing with only personal matters. Opinions are never binding on anyone. If one of the parties is not present, fatwas are not even issued. In fact, we see this as something that can set up the system," added Dariyabadi.
Irfan Ali Engineer, director of Centre for Study of Society and Secularism, said, "What SC has said is what the Islam says too. Fatwas are only opinions and if someone is aggrieved, s/he should move higher courts." Some groups welcomed the statement saying that it will help pave the way for better codification of law.
Calling Shariah courts to be more accountable in future, a women's group demanded that steps be taken to link them with existing courts. "Efforts should also be taken that Shariah Adalats are compliant with the Constitutional and Quranic values. We had to open one court because Shariah courts were positive towards only males," said Noorjehan Safia Niaz, member of Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan, which started running a Aurton ki Shariah Adalat from July 2013.
"The scope of ambiguity is gone now. Islam rests on justice. Whether gender justice or other kinds of justice. Now there should be greater debate on the kinds of court they are so that these courts can complement the government in a better way," said Zeenat Shaukat Ali, professor of Islamic Studies at St. Xavier's College a pioneer of book on the rights of Muslim women.