Muslim clerics oppose new gender sensitive nikahnama

March 26th, 2008 - 10:47 am ICT by admin  

By Rakesh Mohan Chaturvedi
Lucknow, March 26 (IANS) Clerics are refusing to accept the new nikahnama, a marriage document prepared by a Muslim women’s organisation, which it claims is free from any gender bias. The All India Muslim Women Personal Law Board (AIMWPLB) has prepared the new nikahnama, inviting sharp reaction from clerics.

Sunni cleric Khalid Rashid Firangi Mahali dismissed it as a “publicity stunt”.

“Two years ago the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) came out with a nikahnama and all sections approved it. Even the women representatives agreed. So what was the need for another code?” Rashid said.

But AIMWPLB president Shaista Ambar, who prepared the new marriage document, is undeterred.

“It is based on the holy Quran and adheres to Shariat (Islamic law),” Ambar told IANS.

“Those who oppose the nikahnama do not have a clean conscience. Everybody has a right to have justice, including women,” she said.

The new nikahnama, which Ambar says is applicable to both the Shia and the Sunni sects, does not accept triple talaq (divorcing just by saying ‘talaq’ three times).

It also disallows breaking marriage in anger or in an inebriated condition and also prohibits divorcing through phone, sms or e-mail.

Unlike the older one, the new marriage document lays the emphasis on registration of marriages. Photograph of bride as well as groom is also mandatory, according to the new nikahnama.

At present, a one-page document with hardly any details like address of the bride and the groom, age, and so on, is passed off as a Muslim marriage registration certificate.

“The new nikahnama makes provisions for proper registration of marriages and the certificate would work as a valid document at the time of divorce,” Ambar said.

Rashid said: “What is the need for paperwork for such a happy occasion as marriage? As for the Supreme Court order that all marriages be registered we have suggested that this be tailored to our needs.”

Rashid suggests that qazi (cleric who conducts marriage) be treated as a registrar.

“The government can check the register every three months and update its records,” he said.

Shias are also unenthusiastic about the new nikahnama. The All India Shia Personal Law Board (AISPLB) had compiled a nikahnama for the sect in 2007 that gave women the right to initiate divorce and condemned triple talaq.

“Our new nikahnama has already been approved by Syed Ali Sistani (Shia leader based in Iraq). Most marriages among Shias are taking place under this code now,” said Maulana Yasoob Abbas, who had helped in the preparation of the Shia nikahnama.

The unfazed Ambar feels that her marriage document has empowered the Muslim women to seek justice.

“Now women can even go to a civil court to get justice. The qazis do not even meet women. They turn their face away. How will they do justice?” she says.

One woman, Shamim Bano, has already used the new nikahnama to drag her husband to court for deserting her a decade ago. Ambar helped her lodge a case.

AIMWPLB has prepared the code in Urdu and Hindi and plans to upload it on Internet.

Ambar says she has already received several queries from Muslim women since she came out with the nikahnama.

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