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An attempt at refurbishing Muslim personal law: Bharatiya Muslim Morcha Andolan


By Sreyashi Mazumdar

Source: The Hindu
Source: The Hindu

Codification of Muslim personal laws has always been a hot potato among the intelligentsia and a coveted platter for politicians who nibble on delicate issues like religion in order to serve their vicious purports. However, amid the brouhaha it is the common man whose voice remains unheard. There has been a persistent demand for the codification of Muslim laws that would scuttle the degree of discrepancy both in public and private fora. The Shah Bano case was one such example that had unleashed a string of debates and deliberations on the veracity of a codified Muslim personal law. Though the entire debate on the issue might have lost its sheen, efforts are being made to reform or rather bring forth a refurbished Muslim personal law that would be gender just and prudent.

Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan today has released a national study on Muslim women’s views on reforms in Muslim personal laws. The study extensively fleshes out the hushed voices of Muslim women who want a change in the laws shaping their personal lives. Unlike the Hindu, Christian, or Parsee community, the Muslim community does not have a coherent law that would define the tenets of justice. It is the Muslim personal law board or the Maulvis who look over contentious cases like divorce, succession, proprietary, etc. In an attempt at scuttling the loopholes, BMMA had conducted a study which included 4710 Muslim women across 10 states to collate their views on the discrepancies in the Muslim personal law.

According to the study, a whopping 80 percent of the women demanded a major reform in the Muslim personal law; they demanded an elaborate Codified law based on the Quranic justice framework.

Some of the sought after demands sounded out during the study include eradication of Zubani Talaq (around 92 percent of the women demanded abolition of zubani talaq), there should be a reconciliation period of around three months before the termination of the marriage (around 88 percent supported the aforementioned demand), government intervention in helping codify Muslim personal law, the religious leaders should be gender just and cater to the demands of women prudently (86 percent of the women quoted their voice for the same).

“Deliberations on contentious issues catering to Muslim personal law has always been imbued with a patriarchal color. It is the religious leaders who get the scope to voice out their opinion which inevitably doesn’t cater to the larger section of the Muslim community, especially women. Even political leaders who adhere to the so called secular ideology end up tarnishing delicate issues like the need of a codified Muslim law owing to their constant thirst for power,” said Zakia Soman, a member of BMMA who conducted the aforesaid study on Codification of Muslim personal law.

“We have taken into consideration the voices of majorly illiterate women because we feel that their voices remain tethered within the four walls; educated women still have resources to voice out their opinions and switch to other options,” added Noor Jahan Sofiniaz, a co-author of the study and a member of BMMA.

“We are planning to present our study before the law commission, the ministry of women and child development and to other states as well,” added Soman.

Next Story

One India One Law: End of Cruel Practice of ‘Triple Talaq’ Divorce Law in India, Supreme Court Passes Verdict Today

After the contentious debate of several years, triple Talaq is outcasted from Indian social systems

Triple Talaq
Triple Talaq

Aug 22, 2017: The Apex Court today has made a historical verdict by imposing a ban on triple talaq calling it ‘unconstitutional’. Supreme Court also upheld the validity by stating that it is not the violation of Article 14, 15, 21 and 25 of the Indian Constitution.

A bench of five judges, directed by Chief Justice J S Khehar, declared a split verdict. The verdict of five judges also came from five faiths. Justices Uday Lalit (Hindu), Joseph Kurien (Christian) and Rohinton Nariman (Parsi) decreed that triple talaq is unconstitutional. Chief Justice JS Khehar(Sikh) and Justice Abdul Nazeer(Muslim) supported the validity of triple talaq. Chief Justice also asked the government to bring enactment within the period of six months and proposed all political parties to decide on the issue collectively.

What is “Triple Talaq”?

Triple Talaq (Talaq-e-Biddat)  is a verbal divorce where a Muslim husband can divorce his wife by merely uttering “Talaq Talaq Talaq”. A divorced woman is not allowed to remarry her divorced husband unless she first marries another man under the practice called Nikah Halala.

Origin of Sharia Law

Prior to Independence, British Judges were assisted by Muftis and Qazis for the performing of executive functions in India. In 1880, Qazis were deprived of their judicial powers through ‘The Qaziz Act’. On the other hand, the British started pronouncing judgments on Muslim Personal Law. Keeping the whole scenario in consideration, the establishment of Sharia courts was demanded in the first quarter of 20th century, however, the demand was not conceded. Later in 1920, the first sharia court was established in Bihar.

Many mosques in the country are functioning on Sharia courts based on Muslim Shariat law. The source of Muslim Personal law is the 1937 act of Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) application, which was also an attempt by British India to win over Muslim clergy. These extra-constitutional bodies had the power to function as courts parallel to Indian courts.

Also Read: Why wear a Burqa to prove Love towards your Religion?

The famous Abdul Rehman case on Triple Talaq

Abdur Rehman, a Muslim NRI from the UK had approached sharia court named Makkah Masjid Sharia Council in Chennai to get reunited with his wife. However, instead of reuniting the couple, Sharia court pressurized him to divorce his wife after he uttered talaq thrice. The man pleaded that he has changed his mind and he wants to reunite with her. After facing refutation from Sharia court, Abdul approached to Madras High Court begging for the same. He even said in his appeal that many blameless Muslim brothers or wives face the same problem across Chennai and Tamil Nadu on the whole because of the functioning of such forums that claim them to be judicial forums.

The High Court judgment said: “If a place of worship – whether it be a temple, mosque or church – is used for purposes other than prayers, and more specifically to create extra-constitutional forums, certainly the authorities are duty-bound to action against them.”

It ordered the state government to ensure that such courts do not function. This order was not specific to Muslims, and it empowered the police authorities to close down such extra-constitutional court, whether run by Hindu, Christian or Muslim.

Although the judgment did pronounce on the behalf of the sufferers of sharia law, there were still some ambiguities that led to confusion among such extra-constitutional bodies. A large number of Sharia courts which were supervised by imams and Islamic scholars operated from places that were not Mosques. It was not clear that whether the order applies to only sharia courts performing from mosques or to those who operate from Madrassas and non-religious places. Hence, a further detailed clarification was needed.

In 2014, Supreme Court declared the functioning of Sharia courts illegal and can be challenged in the court of law. On the contrary, Madras High Court did not make it clear owing to which the ambiguity in the Tamil Nadu state remained.

Supreme Court Verdict (2014)

A Delhi based advocate, Vishwa Lochan Madan challenged the validity of the parallel courts run by institutions such as Dar-ul-Qaza, Darul-Iftaa and Dar-ul-Uloom Deoband which issued fatwas. Under his appeal, he highlighted the plight of a woman, Imana, who was asked by Dar-ul-Uloom, Deoband to leave her husband and children and live with her rapist, father-in-law in her case. Madan argued that Sharia courts meddles with the personal affairs and obstructs the religious and social freedom of Muslims.

According to Supreme Court, Islamic judges, who interpret religious law can only come into power when individuals submit voluntarily to them and that their decisions or fatwas are not legally binding. It also curtailed the forums like Dar-ul-Qaza, Darul-Iftaa and Dar-ul-Uloom Deoband to issue fatwas on the basis of complaints by strangers.

The Supreme Court stated, Religion cannot be allowed to be merciless to the victim. Faith cannot be used as a dehumanizing force. Fatwas touching upon the rights of an individual at the instance of rank strangers may cause irreparable damage and therefore would be absolutely uncalled for. It shall be in violation of basic human rights. It cannot be used to punish innocents.