Nadwa-tul-Ulema, one of India’s oldest and most conservative seats
of Islamic learning, has opened its doors to women for being trained
to become muftis or jurists.
Nadwa registrar Mohammad Haroon
confirmed that 12 Muslim girls had enrolled in the course, called
fazeelat, at different madarsas at Rae Bareli, Azamgarh and Lucknow
in Uttar Pradesh.
“On completion of fazeelat, these
girls would be eligible for a one-year course of iftah, following
which they would get the degree of mufti,” said Haroon.
Women till now were not permitted to
pursue fazeelat, which is a pre-requisite to complete the iftah
course for becoming muftis.
Islamic scholars said the move would
go a long way in the emancipation of Muslim women. Maulvis have
traditionally enjoyed a monopoly over the right to issue fatwas, or
religious decrees, which were often aimed at curbing women’s rights.
All this could change once women become muftis and earn the right to
issue their own fatwas.
“We welcome this as Muslim women will
now have a level playing field to defend their rights,” said Shaista
Amber, chairperson of the All India Muslim Women’s Personal Law
“Who understands the problems of a
woman except another woman?” she added, saying when women become
muftis they would be guided by women’s interests while issuing
The Nadwa-tul-Ulema was founded at
Kanpur in 1894 with a mission to oppose western education. It has a
formidable reputation among the Sunni sect with its words and
verdicts being respected even in Saudi Arabia.
The title of “nadvi” (someone who has
passed out from the Nadwa) is taken as a sign of one’s scholarship
The institution was intended to be a
modified version of the Deoband, the biggest Islamic seminary in
India. Many scholars reckon the Nadwa-tul-Ulema to be a bigger name
than Deoband, whose followers are known for issuing fatwas, at times
The Nadwa, which draws a large number
of Muslim students from all over the country, on the other hand has
always struck a middle path between classical Islam and modernity,
Hizbur Rahman, a senior cleric and
teacher at the Nadwa, said a separate building inside the
male-dominated institute would be earmarked for holding the classes
“The teachers, obviously male ones,
would teach them from outside the purdah — the space would be
divided by a curtain between the girl students and the teacher,” he
The university has over 10,000
students — all male — at its sprawling complex near the banks of the
Gomti on the western outskirts of Lucknow.
The campus is dotted with buildings
built in traditional Avadhi and Muslim architectural style.
Although history has examples of women
muftis in the remote past, most of the contemporary Islamic world
barred them till 2006 when Syria made a breakthrough and appointed
two women muftis to work in Damascus and Aleppo.
Last year in Lucknow, a Muslim woman
priest assumed the role of a qazi for a marriage.