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Six questions Muslim Panel must answer before talking about Women's Rights

Sunday July 29, 2018 11:12 AM, Dr. Asma Anjum Khan

Muslim Personal Law Board

Mumbai: The All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) members continue to mislead the country in general and Indian Muslims in particular, regarding their anti-Islamic, against Quran and anti-Sharia views and stand about rights of women, especially regarding marriage, triple talaq and nikah halala despite facing defeat aftre defeat in courts and in public domain.

And, they are doing this just to fulfill and satisfy the agenda of their Maslak - a major part of which has nothing to do with Islam and its true teachings. In the process, they are fast losing support on the ground, and perhapse realsing this fact, they are making announcements and taking decisions that far from helping the Indian Muslims are actually strengthening the divisive and communal forces and weakening the fight against them.

Amid this entire drama by the Muslim panel, what the Indian Muslim women feel can be gauged from the following views expressed by a renowned teacher in her open letter addressed to the members of All India Muslim Personal Board (AIMPLB). Read:

Dear Respected AIMPLB Members,

Be it the women rallies taken out by All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) throughout the country abruptly stopped, the sudden "Deen bachao, Desh bachao” rally in Patna, the announcement of Darul Qazas or the conduct of the board-member, Aijaz Arshad Qasmi, you have been quite in the news, for all the wrong reasons.

The old trope used abused and misused for the nth time, Islam in danger, is taken as a compliment by the current government and presented as a trophy to its core electorate telling them,’ Look this is why we need to come to power! In a country like India, it is always prudent for the minorities to join a good cause mainly of a socio-political nature with other religious groups. Our solo tirades could be counterproductive and might harm the cause of secularism. The gullibility of the Muslim masses, their ignorance, inability to analyze the real issues pragmatically, and the inability of moving on with the times, has been exploited fully by them and also ‘us’.

Regarding marriage or divorce, a Muslim woman is as oppressed as her Hindu counterpart. But the government of the day decided to ‘save’ Muslim women exclusively, by bringing in the (Instant)Triple Talaq Bill that has a most bizarre stipulation in it. Your neighbour, a colleague, your helper or driver can complain all in ‘good faith’ that a Tariq, Jamil or Salim has given Triple Talaq to his wife. Lo, and behold the trio land in jail and cool their heels, for three long years while the complainant goes home singing his favourite tune.

To question or not to question, that is the question!

To question is the fundamental right of a human being. Muslim women are apprehensive of being dismissed (as Feminazi?) if they question or demand their right be restored to them fully as it is stipulated by Islam.

The women rallies at your call, were huge and many despite it being unusual for our sisters to participate in dharnas and agitations. These women must be thanked and appreciated for responding to you. The women too need to study and know their proper Islamic rights essentially for themselves and ponder over how they should be claiming them back.

The questions.

1. It was imperative for the board to educate the women as to why the protests were happening. Did you try to educate them about their rights as well? You made no serious attempt at sensitizing them about their rights and taking them into confidence; instead, you gave the usual cliché of Islam in danger to bring the women out.

2. After they stated that it is only the Parliament which can interfere in religion and not the judiciary, you failed to draft the bill even after SC verdict on 22, August, 2017. Ironically enough, it was you though who had asked for a legislative interference.

3. The drafting of the bill and a model Nikah Nama was deferred even when the bill was put into Parliament. This was nothing but criminal negligence. We demand an explanation.

4. The most important question is what happens to a divorced woman who has nothing to fall back upon? Can it be that we collate various Quranic interpretations about maintenance in today’s changing socio-economic contexts and analyze what can be done for these destitute women and their children in the absence of any financial security?

5. Why did you not allow inclusion of the right to Khulaa in the Model Nikahnama? How can a God-given right be denied to the abused and suffering women who want to opt out of their marriages?

6. Shouldn’t the right to divorce by the wife also be included in it, whereby (if the divorce happens) she gets to keep the mehr offered to her at the time of nikah, as opposed to Khulaa, where she has to let go of it?

A girl, the bride to be, should have sound knowledge of what she is getting into, the same applies for the boy. It is socially taboo for a bride to be, to negotiate the terms of her marriage, whereas there is nothing un-Islamic in it. A woman can stipulate in her Nikah Nama that she wouldn’t allow her would be husband to remarry during her lifetime and, the husband can decide if he wants to agree. This might save future possible inconveniences. These unnecessary social and cultural stigmas usually prop up whenever women want to assert their natural rights. If this comes from your quarters, it certainly holds more water. I also want to emphasize here, If the common basic human /Islamic rights of ours are taken care of, then the possibility of abuse in marriages decreases dramatically. There should also be compulsory pre-marriage counselling.

When women of Madinah came to Prophet PBUH complaining about their husbands, he never turned them away, nor tried to brush the problems under the carpet nor threatened the women to go on quietly in life, pretending everything is okay, he asked the husbands,

“How does anyone of you beat his wife as he beats the stallion camel and then sleeps with her at night?” He was reprimanding them for their actions. [Sahih Bukhari]

Now contrast this with the following:

The AIMPLB, defending the validity of triple talaq before the Supreme Court, has said that if the practice is discontinued, a man could murder or burn his wife alive to get rid of her. The board also said that divorce proceedings instead of triple talaq could damage a woman’s chances of re-marriage if the husband indicts her of loose character in court.

How far removed is your stance compared to the merciful conduct of Prophet (PBUH)? A woman has a right to life and dignity. She can’t be plucked out in an instant by another. Some quarters might even interpret this as a sly impetus for murder. Our words can be manipulated by the Islamophobic media. My question is how could we as Muslims even insinuate such a heinous act of violence against an unsuspecting wife? We who have been told, the best among you, is the one who is best to his wife?

Talaq is a mercy for us humans; if and when two people decide to separate, they should have the freedom to do so. But Instant triple talaq has no place in Quran.

Women representation on the board must improve. This should not be a token presence but solid robust participation by the female of the species. A woman confident, knowledgeable about her Islamic rights and obligations, who understands both her responsibilities and her dues; one who is not afraid to speak her mind, would be a huge asset to our community. Instead of being wary and apprehensive of her, you should develop the confidence to welcome and understand her.

The board must have people who can present their side of the story to the media in the language they understand. Old drivel from the yore would fail miserably as we have seen in the case of the announcement of Darul Qazas dubbed as Sharia courts by the media.

Last but not the least, the board should represent every sect and school of thought of Islam in India, the dominance of one group spoils the whole broth. As the leaders, you are in the public eye and accountable and answerable to the people.

We, the Indian Muslim women stood up for you, supported your cause, because it was our cause as well. We will be where our people are.

Now it is time for you to stand up for us.

You must hurry, as ‘someone else’ desperately wants to ‘save’ us.

[Dr. Asma Anjum Khan from Maharashtra teaches English, a motivational speaker, has written for prestigious national and international publications and websites on social, ethical, and gender related issues. FEEL (Foundation for English and Ethical Learning) is her NGO that wants to bring change by equipping people with the language of English. Twitter: @AsmaAnjumKhan.]

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