Muslim Personal Law Board and Indian Muslim women
Both the public meetings
were impressive in terms of the crowd they attracted and also for
the message the organisers wanted to send to the government. The
first was organised in Mumbai on April 22 by the All India
New Delhi/Kolkata: A
Delhi High Court ruling that a Muslim girl can marry once she
attains the age of puberty has sharply split the community, with
clerics backing the law and virtually everyone else against it.
Muslim religious leaders across the country are pleased with the
court edict that based its judgement on the Sharia, the moral code
and religious law of Islam. While criminal laws in India apply to
all equally, communities are allowed their own personal laws.
"According to Mohammedan law, a girl can marry without the consent
of her parents once she attains the age of puberty," Justices S.
Ravindra Bhat and S.P. Garg said recently.
The bench was ruling on a Delhi Muslim girl's contention that she
had married on her own free will when she was 15 years old and
that her mother's charge that she had been abducted be dropped.
She won the case.
Well-known Bengali writer Syed Mustafa Siraj is amongst those who
are shocked that a court has given legal sanction for
puberty-marriage when the official minimum age to wed in India is
18 for females and 21 for males.
"A lot of girls attain puberty at age 12. Does it mean they can be
married off when they are barely 12-13? I protest against this
ruling," Siraj told IANS in Kolkata.
Bangalore-based writer Farida Rahamatullah agreed: "Whatever the
personal laws of Muslims, Hindus or Christians, it is a crime to
let a 15-year-old girl marry and begin a family life when she
ought to be studying, playing and dreaming of a career and a job.
"In fact the law courts should protect the girls and ensure they
exercise the right to marry or not till they turn major at 18
years. Fifteen is too young an age to decide their future as they
will be immature, indulgent and vulnerable to the hazards of a
Patna-based Maulana Anisur Rahman Qasmi, however, hailed the
ruling. "There is nothing wrong in it," he said.
Raheem Quraishi, assistant secretary of the All India Muslim
Personal Law Board, echoed him. "It is a right decision."
The Board has been demanding an amendment to the Prohibition of
Child Marriage Act to exempt Muslims from it. Under the Shariat
Application Act, marriage is one subject where the Sharia should
The Board has also been impleaded in a case with the Bombay High
Court in which parents were booked by police for marrying off
their 17-year-old daughter.
"I respect the high court's order," added Mufti Mohammed Mukarram
Ahmed, the Shahi Imam of the Fatehpuri Masjid in Old Delhi. "As
per Muslim Personal Law, a 15-year-old girl can marry."
But they appeared to be isolated with a large majority of urban
Muslims as outraged as Syed Mustafa Siraj and Farida Rahamatullah.
"This is totally wrong," cried out Mohammad Shabbir Ansari, an
engineer at Noida, which borders Delhi.
Homemaker Nazia Umar told IANS: "I am not at all in favour of this
decision. Whatever reasons a court may give, Islam does not allow
anything that hurts anyone. A 15-year-old is not ready for
Noorjahan Safafia Niaz, founder member of the Bharatiya Muslim
Mahila Andolan in Mumbai, backed them.
"A 15-year-old girl might have reached puberty but she might not
be emotionally mature or ready for marriage," she said.
Taha Moheen, president of the Bangalore Islamic Foundation, warned
that the judgement could lead to exploitation and set a bad
He also pointed out that the number of such marriages had
declined, especially in urban areas, due to awareness and
interventions by community leaders and religious heads opposed to
According to the Sharia, a Muslim girl can marry once she attains
puberty. Keeping this in view, the British permitted Muslims to
marry their daughters when they were 15.
Subsequent governments increased the age of marriage for all
communities to 18 and then came the Prohibition of Child Marriage
Act. The Board wants Muslims to be exempt from this law.
Abdul Azeem, a postgraduate student in Hyderabad, was in favour of
the ruling but warned that the Sharia can't be interpreted in bits
"The court has said only one part of the Sharia. There are also 'ahadith'
(sayings of Prophet Mohammed) that a marriage is not valid without
the consent of 'vali' or custodian of the girl.
"Such one-sided verdicts promote vices. This could encourage girls
to violate the limitations set by Sharia, develop illicit
relations and revolt against parents."
Aziz Mubaraki, secretary to the Shahi Imam of Kolkata's Tipu
Sultan Mosque, went a step further: "We feel the court should not
involve itself in religious matters. We will be guided by the
tenets of Islam. We will go by our religious norms, even if there
is an overlapping court ruling."
(Sirshendu Panth, Sanu George, Fakir Balaji, Madhulika Sonkar,
Mauli Buch, Imran Khan and Mohammed Shafeeq contributed to this