A group of influential Muslim clerics in Pakistan have issued a religious decree (fatwa) stating that transgender people have full marriage, inheritance and funeral rights under Islamic law, though they may only marry those of the opposite biological sex.
The ruling suggests that sharia law allows biological males to marry biological females regardless how they choose to dress.
“It is permissible for a transgender person with male indications on his body to marry a transgender person with female indications on her body,” the decree states.
The ruling, which was signed by 50 Pakistani clerics, declares that “normal men and women can also marry such transgender people as have clear indications on their body.”
The fatwa goes on to say that hermaphrodites, or persons carrying “visible signs of both genders,” may not marry anyone.
Along with the issue of marriage, the fatwa condemns the mistreatment of transgender persons as sinful and contrary to the will of Allah.
“Making noises at transgender people, 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 creations, which is not correct,” the ruling said.
The fatwa declared that any act intended to humiliate, insult or tease transgender persons is “haraam” (sinful), adding that transgender persons should not be deprived of family inheritances, nor the right to be buried in Muslim ceremonies.
“The hijras [transgender persons] are human beings and they have rights given by Islam,” said Muhammad Zia ul Haq Naqshbandi. “Through this fatwa, we want to inform the public that they can marry.”
Naqshbandi said that parents who denied inheritance to their transgender sons or daughters were “inviting the wrath of God.”
“This is the first time in history that Muslim clerics have raised their voices in support of the rights of transgender persons,” said Qamar Naseem, a transgender community activist. “But we have to go further for transgender people and the country needs to introduce legislation on it”.
Signers of the decree included Imran Hanfi, Pir Karamat Ali, Abu Bakr Awan, Masoodur Rehman, Tahir Tabassum Qadri, Khalil Yousafi, Gul Ateequi, Gulzar Naeemi, Intikhab Noori, Abdul Sattar Saeedi and Khizarul Islam.
The Lahore clerics’ ruling is not legally binding, but recommended that people consider harassment of transgender people a crime under Islam.
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter Follow @tdwilliamsrome