From L.S. Herdenia
BHOPAL: A nation-wide exercise has been launched to empower Muslim women and to protect them from matrimonial excesses, which they have to suffer in the name of Islam and the Quran.
These excesses are committed by making a narrow and pro-male interpretation of the Quran. With a view to correct the situation and enlighten the Muslim community about the real import of the Quranic teachings, a draft ‘Muslim Family Law’ has been prepared. The draft has been prepared by a group of distinguished jurists and social activists. The draft has already been discussed and debated upon in many cities. A similar discussion was held in Bhopal on April 15. Among others, well-known Islamic scholar Dr. Asghar Ali Engineer participated in the workshop, which was attended by representatives of Muslim women organisations from all over the State. Dr. Engineer is one of the authors of the Draft law.
Dr. Engineer explained the various provisions of the draft law. The draft law deals with several customs and practices associated with the Muslim marriages. The draft says that Nikah means a “religio-legal contract between a Muslim man and a Muslim woman that regularises the lineage of their progeny and creates rights, duties, obligations and liabilities”. The draft seeks to draw attention to the correct procedure of ‘Talaq’ (divorce). At present, even Talaqs pronounced through telephone or by SMSs are considered valid. In one case, even Talaq given by a dead-drunk husband was declared valid. The draft has several provisions about Talaq and lists the valid means of Talaq, declaring all other means to be invalid.
According to the Holy Prophet, “Talaq-e-Ahsan is the best mode of divorce. In this mode of Talaq, the husband pronounces Talaq during the ‘Taha’r’ period and in this situation, the wife waits for three menstrual cycles (if she is menstruating) and for three months (if she does not menstruate). If a cordial agreement is reached during these three months, the husband would call off his talaq and both can live together without renewing the Nikah.” The draft lists other valid modes of Talaq including Talaq-e-Hasan, Talaq-e-Tafweed and Talaq-e-Mubarat.
It is commonly believed that only husbands have the right to give Talaq. Nevertheless, the fact is that the wife can also initiate the process of Talaq. The draft says that ‘Khul is basically a right for a woman to ask a divorce from the husband in certain circumstances. It could be defined as the separation of husband from his wife, while receiving a return (of monetary gain from her) and using specific statements (to bring about the dissolution of the marriage).
The draft throws detailed light on Nikah. It explains what Nikah is and what are the obligations of the spouses after the Nikah is performed. The draft says that, “The model Muslim marriage provides written proof of the marriage and of the terms and conditions agreed between the spouses. There shall be three copies of the contract. One given to the bride, one to the groom and one kept by the mosque conducting the ceremony’.
The draft provides for compulsory registration of marriage. It provides for ‘A Quazi or an officer appointed by the state government for registering Muslim marriage in accordance with this Act. He shall be an Indian national, professing the religion of Islam and must be qualified. For the purpose of registration of Nikah, the state government shall grant licenses to one or more persons to be called Nikah registrars. The form of Nikahnama and the registers shall be maintained by the registrars and the records will be preserved by the state government. The copies of the Nikahnama shall be supplied to both the parties. The Nikahnama shall contain all the details like status of groom / bride—divorcee / widow / widower / second marriage etc. In Nikah, bride’s consent shall be obtained without which, the Nikah shall not be valid’.
Provision for maintenance for separated or divorced wives is the most controversial issue in the Muslim community. The draft explains, ‘If any husband fails to maintain his wife adequately or where there are more wives than one, fails to maintain them equitably, the wife or all or any of the wives, may, in addition to seeking legal remedy available, may apply to an Arbitration council and the Arbitration council may issue a certificate specifying the amount which shall be paid as maintenance by the husband. A husband or a wife may, in the prescribed manner, within the prescribed period and on payment of prescribed fee, prefer an application for revision of the certificate to the Collector concerned and his decision shall be final.
The workshop was informed that after the countrywide discussion is over; the authors of the draft will enter into a dialogue with the Muslim Personal Law Board.
All said and done, the acceptance of the draft Muslim family law seems to be difficult task. Conservative elements among the Muslims may not agree to confer equal rights on the wives. An indication to this effect was given by a group of conservative Muslims, which entered the hall where the workshop was being held. They questioned the authority of the persons who prepared the draft. They warned that they would not accept any changes in the existing matrimonial law. (IPA Service)