Nikah solemnized by woman creates controversy

August 13th, 2008 - 6:08 pm ICT by IANS  

Lucknow, Aug 13 (IANS) Naish and Imran may be enjoying the bliss of their wedlock in the confines of their home but their nikah - solemnized by a woman qazi - has created much controversy and debate among the Islamic clergy here. At their wedding here Tuesday night, the qazi’s task was perfomed by Saeeda Hameed, who also happens to be a member of the Uttar Pradesh Planning Commission.

Naish Hasan, 34, is a postgraduate in economics and women rights activist running her own NGO, Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan, which had recently brought out its own draft of nikahnama.

Its version of nikahnama was in sharp deviation from the traditional one but it was claimed to be in the larger interest of Muslim women and had no room for separation by triple utterance of the word talaq.

Imran, 35, has a Ph.D. from the Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) and works for another NGO.

While leading Shia scholar and priest Maulana Kalbe Jawaad sees nothing wrong with the ritual, his Sunni counterpart Maulana Khalid Rasheed, seen as progressive among the Islamic clerics, did not approve of it.

On the other hand, Islamic scholars at the Nadwa school of Islamic studies have remained tight-lipped on the issue - at least for the time being.

Maulana Rasheed did not mince words in terming the whole affair as a “publicity stunt” by the bride.

Rasheed, Lucknow’s naib imam or deputy chief priest and also head of the city’s oldest Islamic seminary Firangi Mahal, said the nikah was lacking on several counts too.

“Apart from the fact that it should have been performed by a male, it was also technically wrong and unacceptable that a Sunni couple’s nikah should be performed by a person belonging to the Shia sect,” Rasheed told IANS here Wednesday.

“The fact that the reading of the khutba (recitations from the Quran) did not follow the nikah was another major deviation from the traditional Islamic path,” he added.

Sunni cleric Maulana Khalid Rasheed said: “There are some religious duties that have been bestowed only on men.” Rituals like delivering sermon cannot be performed by a woman due to purdah, he added.

Maulana Jawaad, however, did not consider recitation of the khutba binding. “I am not aware of any such provisions of the holy Quran making recitation of the khutba as a must after a nikah, so I see nothing wrong with such a wedlock.”

Rasheed did not refute the argument, but maintained: “Fine, such a nikah may not be invalid but it will not have the same sanctity under Islam as one that is followed by khutba.”

The nikahnama the couple signed was also not the conventional one. “This nikahnama was drafted by the Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan, a voluntary organization of activist Muslim women who felt the conventional nikahnama had a typical male bias,” said Saeeda Hameed.

The couple was set to go against one more traditional condition - having no male witness to sign the nikahnama.

Had it not been for the intervention of the sole woman member of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board, Begum Ikhtidar Ali Khan, the nikahnama would have gone without a single male witness.

“Since I happened to be present at the ceremony, I managed to prevail upon the bride’s family to include a male witness, otherwise they had no plans to include any male as a witness,” Khan told IANS.

Both Rasheed and Jawaad are in agreement on this count - at least one male witness has to countersign the nikahnama. Ideally both witnesses should be male but if there were two women to sign as witnesses, there ought to be at least one male witness, they felt.

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