A Facebook page representing the Barelvi School of Sunni Islam
On December 11, 2013, the Supreme Court (SC) of India struck down a lower court decision to decriminalize gay sex, thereby upholding the 153-year-old colonial-era Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code which punishes gay couples with a 10-year prison term. The judgment came on a petition to which several Islamic and Hindu religious groups were party. The SC pointed out that it was the government of India that had to pass legislation in order to remove Section 377.
On December 20, the Indian media reported that an Islamic cleric of the Barelvi school of Sunni Islam based in the northern Indian town of Bareilly had issued a fatwa against both homosexuality and heterosexual cohabitation, calling such relationships anti-Islam and stipulating punishments for gay couples such as stoning and burning.
The fatwa was issue by Mohammad Afzaal Rizwi, the mufti (a scholar qualified to issue a fatwa) who is based at the Darul Uloom Ifta at Bareilly. Fatwas are legal advisory opinion in Islam, usually delivered in response to a question. Rizwi's fatwa came in response to a query by Akhlaq Ahmed Siddiqui Noori, who sought clarification on the issue.
Following are excerpts from a media report on the fatwa:
"The mufti has cited two hadiths (teachings of the Prophet Mohammed) from the Koran as a premise for his fatwa. As per Hadith Dur-re-Mukhtar, such acts could attract severe punishment, he said. 'A person may be burned alive, pushed from a high wall, or beaten publicly with stones if he indulges into either of the two behaviors,' the fatwa states.
"The other hadith is a story that explains why Islam is against homosexuality. The story relates to a tribe, Kaum-e-Looth, which existed in the pre-Islamic era. The tribe is said to have perished because it indulged in homosexuality.
"Regarding live-in relationships, the fatwa says a couple staying together or having sexual relationship without solemnizing marriage is banned under Islam. The woman in a live-in relationship cannot ask for the rights of a wife.
"Many clerics have backed the fatwa. Maulana Tasleem Raza Khan of [the religious group] Ahle Sunnat Movement said the two relationships do not have legal validity under Islam. He said no religion would allow this and advised Muslims to boycott the law that promotes such behavior.
"Shia cleric Maulana Yadoob Abbas said both live-in relationships and homosexuality are against nature. Going against nature would spell doom,' he said. Maulana Khalid Rasheed Firangi Mahli of Eidgah Lucknow termed it 'against Indian tradition.'"
 Timesofindia.com (India), December 20, 2013.