On Sunday, a ruling was issued by 50 Islamic clerics in the eastern city of Lahore which put forward their views that transgender people may marry under Islamic law and that they have the right to be buried in Muslim ceremonies and to inherit property because they are Allah’s creation.
It was an especially surprising ruling considering Muslim clerics from Pakistan are more known for issuing stern, conservative pronouncements on gender-related issues, mostly limiting the rights of women.
A quick example would be the draft proposed by Pakistan’s Council of Islamic Ideology fairly recently, which recommended that husbands beat their wives lightly.
This large group of clerics have however issued a fatwa, or religious edict, affirming the rights of transgender people to marry. The fatwa also said that the Pakistani state is responsible for protecting them.
Zia-ul-Haq Naqshbandi, who heads an Islamic organization that requested the fatwa said;
“We need to accept them as God’s creation, too, whoever treats them badly — society, the government, their own parents — are sinners.”
In some cases, transgender people are severely bullied and even killed. The fatwa issued on Sunday urges people to be kind to them, saying that;
“making fun of them, teasing them or thinking of them as inferior is against sharia law, because such an act amounts to objecting to one of Allah’s creation.”
The fatwa declared that transgender men “with male characteristics” may marry women or transgender women “with female characteristics,” and vice versa. They however did not detail the nature of such characteristics and did not mention anything about people who have undergone sex-change surgery.
Due to the absence of clarity in the edict, some rights groups have deemed the ruling as confusing. They posit that, the fatwa does not do enough to protect the rights of transgender people, who often face abuse and harassment in Pakistan.
Other activists however welcomed the ruling as a first step toward seeking full legal rights for transgender people through Pakistani courts.