Towards Ensuring Women’s Rights

In a meeting on July 14 All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB), comprising enlightened Muslim women also on it, decided to set up a ‘Moaashira Committee’ to look at the social reforms to cleanse implementation of Islamic laws in matters relating to women’s entitlement in matters concerning marriage, inheritance, mahr, divorce, faskh, khula (separation) and maintenance, etc.

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In a meeting on July 14 All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB), comprising enlightened Muslim women also on it, decided to set up a ‘Moaashira Committee’ to look at the social reforms to cleanse implementation of Islamic laws in matters relating to women’s entitlement in matters concerning marriage, inheritance, mahr, divorce, faskhkhula (separation) and maintenance, etc.

The meeting was attended by a galaxy of learned Ulema, numbering about 50, with deep knowledge of Qur’anic injunctions and the holy Messenger’s (peace and blessings of Allah be with him) hadiths on these topics.
The Board decided that these matters should be dealt with by Shari’ah Courts (Dar-ul-Qada) strictly in accordance with the Shari’ah laws. It also decided to request the Supreme Court to review some of its judgments, which are in gross violation of the Shari’ah laws.
The Board also decided to approach different constituents of the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) to amend the law so that courts could not go against the provisions of Shari’ah in matters concerning Muslim personal laws which are based on the natural needs of both man and woman. Simultaneously it asked Muslims not to take these matters to the general courts.
Many non-Muslims perceive Muslim women to be victims of male chauvinism and high-handedness of Muslim males, particularly on the matter or talaq (divorce) and solicit maintenance allowance to the divorced women by ex-husband. Such a perception is based on their ignorance about Shari’ah, which has made marriage a pact of trust, each spouse having some obligations/duties. In the view of non-Muslims the personal matters such as related to marriage need to be governed by the dynamics of changes taking place in the society at any point of time. They consider being tied up to old fixed laws such as of Shari’ah as unresponsive to the requirements of the ever-changing time, and thus outdated and discardable.
Those not believing in the doctrine of sovereignty of God consider human beings to be the best judge of their affairs, their needs, aspirations, requirements of changing times and situations – and above all, deciders of solutions to the problems generated as a result of onward march of time in all spheres of human activity – social, political, economic, cultural, religious and governance related. They consider ‘man’ to be sovereign, sole law-maker for himself and decision-taker in all matters – temporal or mundane. Atheists and so-called Progressives have extended the domain of man’s authority to be final, complete and all pervasive in all his matters, leaving no place for God. What a misguided ideology!
Even a manufacturer or designer of a product or a machine provides an ‘operation manual’ for its correct and genuine use but human beings, in their opinion, are free to give to themselves the required code of conduct for their lives as per their opinion. Endowed with brain and provided with vast capabilities and energy to act in their affairs in an unbridled manner, to carry out social and economic activities affecting others and having for-reaching effect on others in the society, to make advantageous use of the natural wealth of lands, forest, water, minerals, metals, plant and animal kingdom, to understand laws of nature and advance progress of human race by observation, experimentation and employing these laws of scientific principles to base machines’ working on them, use them to fulfil their physical and other needs, have been left free to do as he or she pleases without being answerable to God for using these potentialities.
Even if a superior or master entrusts certain amount of money to a servant for some definite purpose, does he not ask for the details of the expenditure of the amount; whether it was in accordance with the wishes of the master and in the manner prescribed for the servant or in the arbitrary, undesirable independent manner by the servant much against the master’s express intentions and instructions. History is replete with innumerable instances where man’s assuming to himself the authority of creator to lay down the laws for man, his conducting himself in a manner to suggest his non-accountability for his actions before God, has played havoc and brought untold miseries to mankind. The Qur’an says, “Deemed ye then that We had created you for just, and that ye would not be returned unto Us (for accountability)? (Verse 115, Surah Mominoon). This points to the fact that man will have to give an account of his action vis-à-vis purpose of man’s creation as mentioned elsewhere also in the Qur’an i.e., to obey the laws of God in all his actions. In the divine scheme of creation of world with definite purpose it appears to be against the simple logic and therefore unbelievable that God will leave man without his divine instructions in the most important domain of marriage and its dissolution through talaq which is most despicable in the sight of God and has been allowed only when both fail to pull along and there is no scope for reconciliation even after all efforts at that have proved futile.
To appreciate different aspects of the Islamic concept of marriage, it is essential to have clear understanding of the institution in the light of the Qur’an and Hadiths on the topic. For obvious reasons it is essential to bring into existence a pious society which stands on the edifice of pleasant family life, which is possible through righteous conduct of both the members in the wedlock. Individual and collective conduct practised over a long period of time builds the foundations and superstructure of a glorious civilization, which is based on justice and fair play. There is inbuilt mechanism for resolution of conflicts regarding conjugal life. It is necessary that Ulema and the awakened members of the Ummah purge the Muslim society of the ills and unjust ways adopted by a few persons bringing a bad name to the whole community.
The physical, mental, intellectual and spiritual forces at play in a man’s/woman’s life and thus the psyche of the people is related in their conduct. A man’s desires, likes and dislikes, priorities and preferences, emotions and motives, all indicate his philosophy and ideology of life. His beliefs lead to his perceptions which motivate him to act which finally culminates into some result as the law of ‘cause and effect’ operates in this world. If Muslim males abide by the procedure laid down for talaq in the Shari’ah, the possibility of giving talaq in anger, an emotional fit or in though less hurry, little caring for the fact whether the wife is in a state of tuhar (menstrual cleanliness) will be almost ruled out.
At the very outset of nikah believers are called upon to fear God as is His right for man to fear Him. People are reminded of the undeniable fact that all of us are progeny of a single man Adam and his spouse Hawwa (peace be with them). In this context the Qur’an says, ‘O mankind! Reverence your Guardian-Lord who created you from a single person, Created, of like nature, his mate, and from them twain scattered (like seeds) countless men and women; – Reverence Allah, through Whom ye demand your mutual (rights), And (reverence) the wombs (that bore you): for Allah ever watches over you (Surah Nisa IV, 1).
Regarding divorce the Qur’an says, ‘O Prophet! When ye do divorce women, divorce them at their prescribed periods; and fear Allah your Lord. And turn them not out of their houses, nor shall they (themselves) leave except in case they are guilty of some open lewdness: Those are limits set by Allah and any (one) who transgresses the limits of Allah does verity wrong his (own) soul. Thou knowest not if perchance Allah will bring about thereafter some new situation. Thus before they fulfil their term appointed, either take them back on equitable terms or part with them on equitable terms (Surah Talaq, LXV, 1 and 2). Thus it is obvious that parting of ways, should it become inescapable, must be without any bitterness or ill will.
The holy Prophet has said that marriage is his Sunnah and the one who did not follow this Sunnah is not from amongst him.
(1) Nobody should consider other person as inferior to him/her as the humanity has been reminded of its common origin, thereby establishing equality among them.
(2) Muslims must adopt taqwa i.e. fear of God in their thinking and conduct because this alone is the guarantee for man’s regulated behavior conforming to the tenets of Islam.
(3) Muslims have been asked to remain Muslim i.e. Obedient to the commandments of God and conduct themselves according to the instructions of his holy Prophet (peace be with him). They have been warned that they must die only as Muslim.
(4) Doing good to relatives is obligatory for Muslims and has been assigned a prominent position in Islam as it leads to many social benefits such as promoting love and affection, understanding and sympathy, generating feelings of sacrifice and benevolence among relatives which help both the donor and the recipient with entire Muslim society’s upliftment to a higher spiritual and material level banishing abject poverty, hungered and destitution.
(5) Straight, clear and unambiguous talk which is based on truth, does not damage others, nor deceives other in believing something which the speaker does not intend or would not stand by is what is desired from a Muslim is as other styles and ways of conversation are faulty and liable to create mischief.
The type of society which Islam aims at, the direction which it wants to give to human thinking, human emotions and shape to the various human capabilities, intellectual and moral changes that it wants to imbibe in its followers, and the social transformation that it wants to bring about in the lives, the standards of conduct it lays down for the righteous, all revolve round the success of family life of its members. A happy family life bestows mental peace, satisfaction of living a disciplined life leading to over-all harmony in relations so essential for all-round development of humankind. Without a comprehensive and balanced outlook, society becomes self-centered, unjust and eccentric so far as consciousness about one’s rights alone is concerned. Such a myopic society in turn causes distortions leading to conflicts of sorts, causing distress, turmoil and unrest which are suicidal for its balanced growth as is the present scenario all the world over.
The question that keeps the minds of many people agitated including those of few ignorant Muslims also, is the source from where the financial needs of a divorced woman will be met. In fact the Shari’ah has charged woman’s close relatives such as father, brother(s) or son(s) with this responsibility. Should all of these not be in such a position the Muslim organisations such as Waqf Boards in different states must discharge this duty. Many people are aware that properties worth hundreds of crores of rupees are under the charge of these Waqfs. What is needed is better management by capable and efficient people possessing administrative experience and a strong will power to bring efficiency in the management of Waqf properties by dynamic, earnest and sincere efforts. The situation may sometime require to get these properties vacated from illegal occupants – both govt. departments and private people. The recent case of Govt. of Maharashtra allotting Waqf Board land to business tycoon Ambani for commercial purposes is an instance where immediate action is required to undo the wrong and look into the matter lest such wrong-doings are repeated. It is estimated that in Haryana, Punjab, Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and Assam Waqf properties can fetch crores of rupees by way of rentals every month. Planned, judicious and wise management can lead to several other important works of uplift of backward Muslim society suffering from cash crunch. Higher centres of technical education and hospitals, apart from other important works calling for urgent attention of the Ummah can be attended to bring self sufficiency and prosperity to the suffering Muslim community.