Fatwas against science and semantics

Published: May 31, 2013

“We agree that the blasphemy law should stay, but its wrong use by anyone, Muslim or Non-Muslim, must not be allowed,” says Ashrafi. PHOTO: INP

Pakistan is a strange country. Considering the fact that 70% of the population comprises of youth, there is no Council of Youth Affairs to safe guard their rights. A great majority of the population has no access to health and reproductive facilities but there is also no council working to ensure that people of Pakistan should be provided with basic healthcare.

On the other hand, a good 97% of the population follows some kind of Islam or the other but the country still needs multiple councils and other bodies to safeguard the religion. Two such bodies – Federal Shariat Court and Council of Islamic Ideology – regularly come up with suggestions to make Islam even stronger in the country.

The latest in the line is the brand new set of Fatwas and advisements by Council of Islamic ideology (CII) against science and semantics – yes, you got it right – against science and semantics.

The Council also believes that the blasphemy laws of the country are perfect the way they are and should not be touched.

The Council also declared the process of cloning as illegal. I am not sure what their stance on stem cell research is or if they even know about it but if they are against cloning, chances are they are against that too. I have a feeling that the minute one of the members of CII loses a limb or a spleen and is assured that they would get a new one made, they will change their tune.

Last but not the least, CII chose to attack the weakest of the weakest section of the society – the women. The latest fatwa by the council says that DNA evidence should not be used as the principle evidence in cases of rape (zana-bil-jabar) and can only be used as circumstantial evidence.

As I was unable to fathom the text and logic behind this ruling, I looked around. Nusrat Javeed and Mushtaq Minhas discussed the advisements in their May 29th show of Bolta Pakistan and spoke with one of the members of CII, Allama Tahir Ashrafi to clarify the issue. Must point out that Nusrat Javeed pressed the issue as much as he could have, considering that he is a public figure and lives in Pakistan.

Tahir Ashrafi reiterated that DNA should be considered – at best – a circumstantial evidence on basis of which arrests can be made and further investigations should be carried out. However, a suspect must not be punished on the basis of DNA evidence alone, for that, the evidence of four Muslim male adults is necessary.

Tahir Ashrafi also added that they have doctors in the Council who say that there is doubt in DNA testing (DNA testing is 99.9% accurate) and as the Shariah compliant punishment for the crime is very hard, one has to be careful.

The most logical response to that line of reasoning is that most criminals who rape women do it without audience and if somehow we happen to chance upon those elusive four Muslim male adults present during the crime of rape, under any civil law they would be considered accomplices to the crime, not morally upright witnesses.

If I were a legislator, I would call for making a law that would hand out the harshest punishment for those four adults- supposedly pious Muslims men who were silently witnessing a crime as horrible as rape.

The gender bias of the CII is evident from the fact that they have ruled out use of DNA sample as primary evidence in rape crimes alone and has not barred their use as primary evidence in other criminal activities such as murder.

We are living in the 21st century where Artificial Intelligence has made human participation in so many acts redundant. Any function that can be mechanised will be mechanised yet maulvis in Pakistan are busy ruling science out from every sphere of life, from Ramadan and Eid moon sightings to crime investigation.

Rape is a crime, not a religious matter hence its investigation should also be criminal, similar to any other criminal investigation. Human beings can and do lie, but DNA evidence does not, if implicated in a crime wrongfully, most human beings would prefer to prove their own innocence through scientific evidence rather than something as flimsy as another man’s word.

It seems as if there is a bias here. Science is appreciated when it is used to make airplanes that take citizens for umrah or to make loud speakers with which they make calls for azaan five times a day, cell phones, missiles, bombs and what not but declare that DNA evidence is not a conclusive proof of rape because science is uncertain and there is a .001% chance of the evidence being incorrect.

As far as legality of things stand, appointment of Maulana Muhammed Khan Sherani who headed that CII session is also illegal, hence all the recommendations of CII should be immediately discarded.

The constitution demands that CII chairman has to be a person with no political affiliation but Maulana Sherani is a parliamentarian, JUI-F’s Senator from Balochistan, which makes the whole council a bit shady.

This post originally appeared here 

Read more by Tazeen here or follow her on Twitter @tazeen

Tazeen Javed

Tazeen Javed

She has worked as a journalist, teacher, salesperson, activist, tour guide, election observer, fruit vendor, copy writer and television producer in the past. Tazeen blogs at tazeen.net/

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • aftab afridi

    spot on. u explained everything in words what i have been feeling about this decision. agreed with every word of this articleRecommend

  • deedee

    excellent blog! u spoke my mind!Recommend

  • Hassan

    Excellent article.Recommend

  • http://think-islam.blogspot.com PostMan

    Did anyone ask Mr. Ashrafi how did he come up with 4 witness requirement for rape? since this relates to adultery as discussed in Quran and not rape. Do they even know the difference between the two? How can they lie so blatantly?Recommend

  • Afreenish Gul

    Very well authored! I believe the words of Karl Marx apply entirely to the horrendous extremism we have embraced and institutionalized- “Religion is the opium of the people”. Recommend

  • Parvez

    Brilliant…..brilliant………brilliant…………every word written.

  • http://www.basilandrews.com Bas

    The CII and their similar affiliates should be disbanded. We have elected representatives to pass laws on such issues.Recommend

  • Rapid

    To surrender to ignorance and call it god has always been premature , and it remains premature today. As long as people beleive in absurdities they will continuously come up with amazingly stupid ideas.
    A country like Pakistan where Prime Time anchors showcase cars running on pure water, and subjects like harnassing “Djinn Power” and opening University for Black Magic are discussed frequently, why are people astonished that “Council of Islamic Ideology” has no idea what DNA testing is and why it is regarded as the best evidence in advanced countries.Recommend

  • Unknown

    How in a country like Pakistan, we can trust lab assistants, who can manipulate the results and shows the fake results of DNA. If that will be the primary evidence than make sure that tomorrow your DNA can be manipulated to show that you have done rape, although you were no where near the crime scene.Recommend

  • Muhammad Ishfaq

    D.N.A. can only confirm that an intercourse took place and that the accused was a party in it. But it cannot prove a rape. I mean D.N.A test will still be positive if there was consensual sex. so they are absolutely right in this regard,, D.N.A could be used as circumstantial evidence, not as primary evidence.Recommend

  • Munda Pakistani

    these political mullas are basically protecting people of their own tribes.Recommend

  • Hassan

    I think what you said is completely logical and absolutely right. Everyone knows the state of people in our country.
    I spend most of my day with professionals who have graduated from well-reputed institutions and most of them are from very good socioeconomic backgrounds. I often talk to them about such issues and the response I get from almost everyone of them is disappointing. In a country where educated people think like people from the stone age and can’t comprehend what is happening to them.Recommend

  • Ahmed

    What’s more important? Punishing the rapist or saving an innocent guy who has been accused of rape?
    I think it’s the second one! Anyone woman can accuse anyone of raping her like this. Plus every rape victim does not have a DNA sample of the rapist on her or any other evidence of that nature. Punishing an innocent person of rape(with just one piece of evidence) is a far greater atrocity than letting a rapist go(which offcourse is wrong nonetheless).

  • zehra

    @unknown ; that is a less occurring chance, tell me how will a women produce the four witness for rape?? and more importantly why will those men be watching a women get raped and not help?? how can they be witness of a crime they helped by mere watching and not stopping???and why will the person rape in front of four men!!Recommend

  • Saira

    “If I were a legislator, I would call for making a law that would hand out the harshest punishment for those four adults- supposedly pious Muslims men who were silently witnessing a crime as horrible as rape.”
    So true these lines are if four adult men stood watching this crime they should be considered as a part of it.
    Very well written blogs… thanks alot @Tazeen Javed Recommend

  • BlackJack

    Excellent – deserved to be the op-ed section.Recommend

  • Danish

    Adultery and Rape are two different things, thus, both ask for different treatment.Recommend

  • SK5

    Funny thing is that in the Islamic Republic of Iran cloning is fine and they even have a cloned goat. Recommend

  • Final Solution

    Do you have a sister, wife, daughter, mother? So does everyone else.Recommend

  • Raj

    @Muhammad Ishfaq: According to the international forensic laws, DNA is a primary source of evidence. Even though (as you suggested) there is a chance that forensics find semen from consensual sex but that is the whole point in forensics that you collect all the evidences on the site of rape and then rule out all the possibilities (in this case DNA of consensual partner) and then narrow down to the person who did the crime.

    @Ahmed: the probability that a woman might indulge an innocent man to the rape crime is as minimal as the inaccuracy of DNA testing (0.001%) and therefore the argument that DNA should not be used just because 0.001% women might use it to play foul game is absurd. Secondly, when you use the term rape, it is general from sexual abuse to the actual sex. if its sexual abuse then your argument is right (DNA might not be found) but if there is sex then DNA is bound to be presented. As of now the CII has used general term so here the rape means sex without agreement of the partner. so this argument of yours is also flawed.Recommend

  • Raj

    @Unknown: Yes that is a problem but tell me how would you not guarantee that someone will rape and not buy off the witnesses (if any). Even though labs are not accurate, you can’t change the basic rule of scienceRecommend

  • R.K

    So true! You spoke my heart out. Brilliantly written.Recommend

  • Lahori

    So the solution to prevent people from faking evidence is to not allow evidence at all in a court? Recommend

  • Patrick Gomes

    DNA testing cannot prove rape. OTOH, everything the author here said about the inaneness of the requirement for four male witnesses is obviously valid. That said, this requirement was never meant to apply to zina bil jabr (rape). It’s the patriarchal nature of most Muslim societies that have led to this unfortunate confusion.Recommend

  • kaleem

    @Hassan one agrees with your point of you will be certificated as modren person and one who does not will be a person with stone-age mentality ? :) no matter she/he is doing phd in logic or philosphy or sciences. :) Grow up..
    @author according to you ….say that “maulvis in Pakistan are busy ruling science out from every sphere of life” and people of your catagory are busy in ruling out religion from the life of the people… there is no difference between both.
    “Rape is a crime, not a religious matter “….bravo….! what a deep sentence you have written… :) My parents taught from begining that fundamental reason for religion is to differetiate between evil and good..Recommend

  • http://bigsaf.newsvine.com bigsaf

    Only in Pakistan has this interpretation been accepted. Usually the word of the victim, with no witnesses needed, was enough to convict a rapist. When they have gotten the basics wrong and questionable ethics, including as the author pointed out – holding a proceeding illegally, they are unfit to advise on any of these serious matters. Recommend

  • Not Hypocrite

    Biased Recommend

  • S

    A very biased article from a liberal and westernised Pakistani.

    As far as DNA testing is concerned, it simply says it cannot be used as a PRIMARY evidence and it makes sense. DNA testing does not confimr rape, but it confirms intercourse (which is not necessarily). And it makes sense to make it secondary evidence.

    What is wrong with banning human/animal cloning? they did not talk ban plants. It makes perfect sense to me.

    And i absolutely agree with its stance on Blaspheny laws. The writer is one the most biased westernised person i have seen in a while. CII clearly condemns the miuse of the law. The law is not wrong its misuse is wrong. Like every other law. Police make flase murder cases, so shall we make murder legal?

    And there is no basis of Pakistan except Islamic Republic.Recommend

  • HTB

    Your argument is not correct. DNA can not PROVE rape. It only tells us that sex took place. The counsel is absolutely right in their stance regarding DNA evidence. I don’t know what all these commentors are talking about.Recommend

  • Unknown

    . In my personal opinion, DNA should be treated as one “witness”. Bringing only human being as witnesses, in these cases is not possible.similarly depending only on DNA test can lead to manipulation of lab results. Proper investigation with will is required but unfortunately that is absent in Pakistan, especially for women cases. Every one make fun of women in these cases and accuse women that it was according to her will. Tomorrow with only DNA tests,powerful people will change the result and will make the people guilty who will try to help the women that both of them have committed and now accusing us. Recommend

  • Nandita.
  • Cosmo

    What is your point??Recommend

  • http://peddarowdy.wordpress.com Anoop

    I agree with BlackJack, deserves to be an Op-Ed piece.

    I am glad that you didn’t opt for the oft repeated line ‘this is not Islam’ and tackled the subject as a Scientist and an Analyst would. Recommend

  • ahmed

    like this i can buy 4 witnesses as well. whats your point? Recommend

  • Deedar Hussain Samejo

    Brilliant blog. Unambiguous Judgement. Keep it up.Recommend

  • Parvez

    @Unknown: Lets compromise I scap the prevailing judicial system and you scap the prevailing religious one……………….trust me we would both be better off.

  • Hassan

    Sir, with a mindset like yours, no one will be able to bomb us into stone age.Recommend

  • Anonymous

    @Muhammad Ishfaq: Yes it should be circumstantial evidence but there there are many scientific means to study the crime scene, gather more evidence and come up with a verdict based more on logic than on horrific patriarchal laws. Recommend

  • Genesis

    4 witness requirement for rape? will these witnesses e standing and watching rape being carried out or as humans with compassion intervene and help the poor woman.Is it the same for adultery as well. amazing law and justice for the unfortunate woman. And incidentally what do these”Scholars” think of genetically modifed food and animals.Is that forbidden?Recommend

  • Another view.

    How many chicken he eats every day look at him one can say and how he gonna think after that.Recommend

  • mind control


    And there is no basis of Pakistan except Islamic Republic.

    A republic by definition is a state ruled by an elected ruler under a Constitution. It is not ruled by Mullahs and Maulanas. Such a state would rightly be known as a Theocracy.

    And if you are very keen on living under Shariah of this variety, you always have the option of relocating to NWA. Recommend

  • ali

    Non sense and uneducated article….people here want to discuss religion who have nothing to do with it. Recommend

  • Unknown

    Yup that’s why in rape that happen infront of village, no one come out to help the victim.
    Second, mostly in these type of cases, the victims (the womens) use to be poor who are unable to buy the food, how they can buy the witnesses
    Third, mostly, only the attackers do all the wrong things, buying the witnesses, manipulating the lab reports etc etc

    I agree with you Recommend

  • I am a Khan

    All the religious clerics of Pakistan have very little knowledge of Islam and very little IQ as well. If I were made PM of Pakistan, I would sack all the molvis in Pakistan from their posts and instead make Dr Zakir Naik as the Chief of the Islamic Council of Ulema in Pakistan and ask Dr Zakir Naik to supply Pakistan with true Islamic Scholars. Recommend

  • Insaan

    @HTB: Your argument is not correct. DNA can not PROVE rape. It only tells us that sex took place. The counsel is absolutely right in their stance regarding DNA evidence. I don’t know what all these commentators are talking about.

    Even 3 pious Muslim men witnesses who saw actual penetration during a rape can’t prove rape because 4 pious men witnesses are needed. What are the chances there will be 4 pious Muslims together in once place where a woman is being raped. The only place I can think of is a police station where wives /relatives of men arrested are raped in exchange for letting the arrested men go home or a Jirga situation where a woman like Mukhtar Mai was gang raped. If a jirga says go ahead and rape this women, is that a legal rape.Recommend

  • http://... nimra

    4 witnesses? What rubbish!
    Very well written! Recommend

  • Ali Baba

    S for Strange
    4 witness requirement for rape? What do you say about this?Recommend

  • http://bigsaf.newsvine.com bigsaf

    Would the current ET Moderator for the blogs please stop the heavy handed censorship and white wash deletions of whole paragraphs just on the mere mention and identification of known extreme religious ideologies and groups plaguing Pak. Editing out sentences or buzz words from comments is one thing, like in my first para’s sentence, but this wholesale deletion, where following sentences only discussed proper moderate Islamic law – which was already posted elsewhere on ET’s website, is ridiculous and gives an impression that there is no commenting policy except of the whims and biases of whoever that ET moderator is.

    If there’s a personal discomfort on such topics, then I strongly suggest in reconsidering the duties of being a moderator, otherwise follow the lead of whoever is moderating the news articles, who is clearly not intimidated by old taboos of not discussing religious ideologies or group backgrounds. Recommend

  • Insaan

    @Genesis: “will these witnesses e standing and watching rape being carried out or as humans with compassion intervene and help the poor woman.Is it the same for adultery as well. amazing law and justice for the unfortunate woman. And incidentally what do these”Scholars” think of genetically modifed food and animals.Is that forbidden?”

    If these witnesses start intervening, they may not be able to see EVERYTHING and there may not be enough evidence to convict the rapist. Genetically modified food is not natural. Humans have altered the “genes”. All food should be approved by “Mullahs Inc.” I am surprised Mullahs have not passed fatwasRecommend

  • haider

    @Muhammad Ishfaq:
    but there is a simple thing called LOGIC. if the DNA has evidence of intercourse and the woman is filing a rape charge in a country like Pakistan, she is probably not lying, coz the shame affiliated with rape here is not worth the “publicity” it attracts. besides, its not just the DNA evidence of intercourse which matters, but also on the clothes of woman and above all, the signs of struggle can prove whether the act was voluntary or forced. zara sochiyeRecommend

  • haider

    4 males? the word of a normal person has 50% probability to be true. 4 normal males have 200% out of 400% probability to be true, so 50% eventually. and when those males belong to Pakistan, their probability of telling the truth decreases to 5%, such liars as we are. so DNA reports with their 99.99% accuracy are a far far better way than 4 males with their 5% accuracy. Maulana Sahab, Jaan DiyoRecommend

  • suhaib

    ok if a women reports that she has been raped and later on during investigation DNA of sperms recovered for her body were same of the somatic cell DNA of alleged rapist, does it prove that women was raped? No it just proved they (alleged rapist and women who reported rape) had physical relation. . We still need furthur probe in order to convict anyone! Iam not supporting use of four male witnesses for this purpose but iam saying that DNA fingerprinting is very intial and primary evidence for rape but we can’t consider it alone for excuting anyone. Similarly if a man raped a lady with condem(safe sex) then what? Recommend

  • Hassan

    @I am a Khan:
    Zakir Naik is a supporter of Child marriage, he supported the destruction of Buddha by Taliban. He also thinks that Yazeed was a Rightous Caliph. Honestly, I think that Zakir Naik should not be allowed within 1000 miles radius of Pakistan.Recommend

  • Insaan

    @haider: when those males belong to Pakistan, their probability of telling the truth decreases to 5%, such liars as we are

    I think law requiring 4 pious Muslim men witnesses takes into consideration that most people will lie. I wonder “how one determines” if a man is pious or not. I know few namazi Muslims in USA who also fat during “RAMADAN”. Some enjoy bragging about there affairs . Some enjoy going to bars to watch go, go girls. Can they be considered “pious” Muslims.Recommend

  • mind control


    Similarly if a man raped a lady with condem(safe sex) then what?

    Then DNA testing, what else.
    You see DNA is present not only in semen but also in saliva, hair, skin, blood etc. In many cases of rape when women try to fight off the assaulter they end up scratching the face and arms of the rapist. In such cases skin tissues can be found underneath the woman’s nails and that can be sufficient to nail the rapist. Of course you may argue that the scratching was ‘consensual’.

    So ‘condem’ or not DNA can still be found and used as evidence.Recommend

  • mind control

    @I am a Khan:

    If I were made PM of Pakistan, I would sack all the molvis in Pakistan from their posts and instead make Dr Zakir Naik as the Chief of the Islamic Council of Ulema in Pakistan and ask Dr Zakir Naik to supply Pakistan with true Islamic Scholars.

    Dr Zakir Naik, incidentally is an Indian.

    Looks like you are proposing to import Islam into Pakistan from India.

    Will we see MFN status soon?


  • http://gujrat RAW is WAR

    @ Nandita

    woild you mind not posting such horrible items here…… oh god.Recommend

  • http://bigsaf.newsvine.com bigsaf

    @I am a Khan:

    If you were PM, then it would be the same sad state of affairs.


  • Insaan

    A ‘celebrity’ Saudi preacher accused of raping, torturing and killing his five-year-old daughter as reportedly been released from custody after agreeing to pay ‘blood money’.Fayhan al-Ghamdi had been accused of killing his daughter Lama, who suffered multiple injuries including a crushed skull, broken back, broken ribs, a broken left arm and extensive bruising and burns. Social workers say she had also been repeatedly raped and burnt.
    Fayhan al-Ghamdi admitted using a cane and cables to inflict the injuries after doubting his five-year-old daughter’s virginity and taking her to a doctor, according to the campaign group Women to Drive.Rather than getting the death penalty or receiving a long prison sentence for the crime, Fayhan al-Ghamdi served only a few months in jail before a judge ruled the prosecution could only seek ‘blood money’.Albawaba News reported the judge as saying: “Blood money and the time the defendant had served in prison since Lama’s death suffices as punishment.”


  • I am a Khan

    @mind control:
    “Looks like you are proposing to import Islam into Pakistan from India.”

    Islam has no borders. A Muslim is a Muslim whether Indian, Pakistani, Saudi, Sudanese, American, European, Chinese, or whoever…

    Why I like Dr Zakir Naik is that he is one of the few scholars who always quotes from the Quran and Authentic Hadith only. He has the guts to say that he is zero as is any other scholar if they say something from their own. Muslims should follow only the Quran and the Sunnah and only a scholar that teaches only from the Quran and Sunnah is a right scholar. Some make up their own Islam which is not the true Islam. Recommend

  • Rex Minor


    Tell me sir, how come that your explanation does not come into the mind of even women? A The DNA test cannot identify consensual sex from the Rape!

    I fuly agree with your opinion.

    Rex MinorRecommend

  • http://bigsaf.newsvine.com bigsaf

    @I am a Khan:

    The ET moderator unfairly censored my last comment, again. This is what I had written after the first sentence:

    Zakir Naiq is a controversial figure, banned from the UK and Canada with good reason, besides valid criticisms from other Muslims. He’s a self avowed Salafi with extremist sympathies and other contradictory questionable beliefs who is only a good dresser and undergrad debater playing with rhetoric and semantics. He is no more moderate, tolerant nor knowledgeable as the current maulvi lot we have.

    The Pak middle class needs to stop ceding reason and be open to brainwash to conservative quackery. Unfortunately there are very few moderates left. Recommend

  • Akhtar Khan

    Unfortunately, people look at things with an emotional angle. and forget all other factors in arriving at crucial decisions. I read the first few paragraphs of the blog, and the first few comments, and decided to write on the use of DNA in the case of rape.

    Let me ask the blogger and those who agree with her to tell us what the DNA testing on a child or on sperm found on the victim prove. It proves that the man being charged is the one who had intercourse with the woman claiming that she was a victim. But it does not categorically prove that the man forced the woman to have sex. There may have been zina bil raza and not bil jabr. What if relationships turned sour after the event, and the woman decided to claim rape. Wouldn’t the man be subjected to hudood punishment incorrectly>

    There is no doubt that rape is a heinous crime, and anybody guilty of it must be given the harshest punishment. No Muslim will disagree with that.

    As regards 4 witnesses, that is for zina, whether bil raza or bil jabr. Tjat is Divine Law. Questioning it, even out of ignorance, is harmful.

    There can be other evidence that can be used. For example, resistance at time of kidnapping and throughout period of captivity will cause injuries. In the west, they say “if you are going to be raped, you might as we;; relax and enjoy”. Not so a Muslim woman. For her chastity is the most valuable. She must resist as much as possible right from the time she is picked up. She must shout and try to attract attention. She must try to cause injury to the persons violating her. Scratches, with skin or blood in her finger nails can be used later as evidence.Recommend

  • M S

    @Rapid: On Line 1: Should be God [capitalize the G when spelling God; proper Grammar and also as a matter of respect].


  • Dr.NasirSyed

    Do u people believe that if it is a case of Zina Bil Raza then should the both culprits be punished Recommend

  • Irma

    Not just four witnesses, four MALE witnesses. So women can’t even give half a gawahi anymore. We are indeed making progress! Recommend

  • Syed Muzammil

    Let’s compare it with the murder, In the case of murder most of the time there is no witness at crime scene similar the case of rape. No one murder in front of witness similar to the rape case. People are just looking it in one way, if there is witness then case would be solved in both scenarios. So presence of witness should not be an argument on this matter.

    The thing to discuss is about DNA evidence… The presence of DNA can be possible in both Rape and Mutual interest intercourse. So presence of DNA cannot prove someone guilty, it can just support the argument that it happen. There are dozens of thing that a court also consider, time of crime, intention, previous record and many other thing that can lead to perfect decision.

    If just on the DNA evidence start proving someone culprit then it would become a blackmailing tools.Recommend