A POWERFUL Islamic seminary in northern India has issued a fatwa, or decree, against Muslims working in banks, a spokesman says, deeming it a violation of Islamic law.
The ruling by the Darul-Uloom Deoband, India’s oldest Sunni-run seminary, in northern Uttar Pradesh state, was issued last week but made public on Friday, Mufti Shakeel of the “Fatwa” department said.
“According to the tenets of Islam, Muslims must not work in banks because as employees they would have to deal with transactions involving interest and also make interest entries in bank ledgers,” Shakeel said by telephone from Saharanpur district, 450 kilometres from Lucknow. “That is a violation of sharia,” he said, referring to the Islamic religious law based on the Koran and the Prophet Mohammed’s teachings.
“Interest is strictly banned under sharia law. Anyone having anything to do with interest is clearly committing an illegal act,” he added. Established in 1866, the Darul-Uloom Deoband is believed to have inspired Muslim hardliners and the leaders of the Taliban movement in Afghanistan, who attended Deobandi-influenced seminaries in Pakistan.
The school wields enormous influence among Sunnis in India and a section of Muslims in Pakistan also honours them. In 2006, it issued a decree against Muslims buying life insurance. In Islamic countries, banking customers who are granted a loan do not pay interest and customers who save do not earn interest on their savings.
Officially secular and Hindu majority India, whose Muslim population numbers between 135 million to 140 million, does not have financial institutions offering Islamic banking services. Muslims leaders and professionals described the decree as “impractical.”
“The fatwa is in keeping with our religious beliefs but as India does not offer Islamic banking services, it is an impractical move,” Kamal Farooqui, an accountant and member of the autonomous All India Muslim Personal Law Board said.