Codify Muslim personal law: Islamic scholars, activists

February 5th, 2012 - 8:39 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Feb 5 (IANS) It was a rude shock for 40-year-old Nagma Sheikh when she was thrown out of the house in middle of the night by her husband after he pronounced triple talaq.

Mother of a son and married for more than 20 years, Sheikh had been seeking divorce from her husband, who was an alcoholic and would routinely beat her. Irked by the demand, her husband threw her out of the house.

However, her story ended happily. She was aware of the Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA), and contacted it.

“We asked her to approach her neighbours, and counselled them over phone. After intervention of neighbours, who understood that it was unjust and un-Islamic to turn her out like that, she was taken back,” said BMMA founder Zakia.

Sheikh, with help from Zakia and other activists, then followed proper procedures and got divorce from her husband.

“The fact, however, is that triple talaq is not at all Islamic,” Zakia said.

“The problem however is that Sheikh knew about us, but not all are aware of their rights,” she says.

The activist, along with several other leading Islamic scholars, has been demanding codification of Muslim personal law so that the laws of marriage and divorce are based on Quran, and fair for women.

A national consultation for this purpose was Sunday organised jointly by BMMM and leading Islamic scholar Asghar Ali Engineer’s Centre for Study of Society and Secularism along with Institute of Islamic Studies.

The scholars say the procedure of talaq extends over a period, and saying the word three times does not make the marriage void.

“There is time gap of months between three steps of ‘talaq’, and it includes counseling by family, discussion, and all interventions to avoid breaking of the marriage,” Zakia explained.

“Injustice is happening with women all over, men say triple talaq and even women believe that it is as per religion,” she says.

She also stresses that polygamy according to Quran is “next to impossible” with very strict conditions.

“According to Quran, if a man marries more than one woman, he should give equal treatment to them in terms of money, rights and love as well, which does not happen,” she says.

“Polygamy was started at a time when there were fewer men as many died in wars, but the Quran says evaluate everything in the context of time,” she says.

The draft codification prepared by the scholars includes strict laws on polygamy, including the assent of first wife and informing a court.

The definition and laws of nikah, divorce and mehr have also been proposed to be fixed.

“The mehr (or compensation paid to the woman in case of divorce) should be equal to one year’s earning of the man,” she explains.

The activist adds that scholars felt the need for spreading knowledge of the teachings of Quran along with the codification so that people are aware about the rights and wrongs.

“The Quran protects the interest of women, but practically that does not happen,” she adds.

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