CII's un­healthy ob­ses­sion

The Pak Banker - - 4EDITORIAL - I.A. Rehman

BY killing a move to raise the mar­riage age for girls from 16 years to 18, the mem­bers of the rel­e­vant Na­tional As­sem­bly stand­ing com­mit­tee have proved that they value their sub­servience to con­ser­va­tive cler­ics more than their sta­tus as peo­ple's rep­re­sen­ta­tives. And once again the Coun­cil of Is­lamic Ide­ol­ogy has suc­ceeded in do­ing a grave in­jus­tice to girls and Is­lam both be­cause its as­ser­tion that Is­lam bars fix­a­tion of min­i­mum age for girls' mar­riage is wholly un­ten­able.

The CII's sickly ob­ses­sion with keep­ing the door to child mar­riage open re­minds us of a de­bate in the In­dian Cen­tral Leg­isla­tive As­sem­bly, 87 years ago, on the Hindu Child Mar­riage Bill. The ob­jec­tive of the bill was to re­strict the mar­riage of mi­nor Hindu girls. Largely through the Quaid-i-Azam's ef­forts the mea­sure was made ap­pli­ca­ble to Mus­lim girls and it be­came the Child Mar­riage Re­straint Act in 1929.

The bill was fiercely op­posed by the Hindu mem­bers of the as­sem­bly, and when it was sug­gested that the mea­sure should ap­ply to Mus­lim girls too, a ma­jor­ity of the Mus­lim mem­bers strongly op­posed it. A mea­sure of the pub­lic op­po­si­tion to the bill can be had from the fact that pe­ti­tions against it were signed by 72,725 per­sons while only 10 per­sons sup­ported the bill.

How­ever, not all Mus­lim mem­bers of the as­sem­bly and ulema out­side op­posed the bill. Maulana Suleman Nadvi and Khawaja Hasan Nizami backed the mea­sure. Two rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the Deoband school said leg­is­la­tion on child mar­riage could be ini­ti­ated by a Mus­lim sov­er­eign but not by a for­eign govern­ment. Some Mus­lim mem­bers changed their po­si­tion dur­ing the de­bate. For ex­am­ple, Mian Shah Nawaz from Pun­jab was orig­i­nally an en­thu­si­as­tic sup­porter of the mea­sure but turned against it af­ter be­ing shown a fatwa by 74 ulema.

The Quaid-i-Azam orig­i­nally thought that child mar­riage was not a se­ri­ous prob­lem among Mus­lims. Sub­se­quent in­quiries con­vinced him that the 'evil' of child mar­riage did ex­ist in the Mus­lim com­mu­nity and he threw his weight in favour of the bill. What he said in the house mer­its re­pro­duc­tion in some de­tail. Af­ter de­scrib­ing child mar­riage as a 'hor­ri­ble evil', Mr Jin­nah said:

"Are we pre­cluded from deal­ing with this evil? Sir, I do not pre­tend to be an alim, and I am not one. Nor do I pre­tend to be an au­thor­ity on the­ol­ogy. But I do know one thing, that dur­ing the last 30 years of my fairly ac­tive prac­tice in Bom­bay, I al­ways un­der­stood that mar­riage law had noth­ing to do with re­li­gion as such; that mar­riage was a con­tract ac­cord­ing to Muham­madan law, pure and sim­ple. Will honourable mem­bers point out to me a text of which I am not aware? I re­peat that mar­riage is a con­tract ac­cord­ing to Muham­madan law. Can that be chal­lenged? If any­body con­tra­dicts me on that, he has yet to learn the Muham­madan law. But the ques­tion is this, whether there is any text which makes it oblig­a­tory on Mus­salmans that they should get their daugh­ters mar­ried be­fore the age of 14. There is no text….

"I can­not be­lieve that there can be a di­vine sanc­tion for such evil prac­tices as are pre­vail­ing, and that we should, for a sin­gle minute, give our sanc­tion to the con­tin­u­ance of th­ese evil prac­tices any longer. How can there be such a di­vine sanc­tion to this cruel, hor­ri­ble, dis­grace­ful, in­hu­man prac­tice that is pre­vail­ing in In­dia?

"Sir, I am con­vinced in my mind that there is noth­ing in the Qu­ran, there is noth­ing in Is­lam which pre­vents us from de­stroy­ing this evil."

His ex­pla­na­tion for the Mus­lim schol­ars' op­po­si­tion to the pro­posed law is quite rel­e­vant to the present de­bate. He said: "When any so­cial re­form is sug­gested which goes to de­stroy the us­ages and the prac­tices to which the peo­ple are used and upon which they have looked as semi-religious us­ages and prac­tices, it is al­ways known all over the world that those peo­ple who have got deep sen­ti­ments, deep con­vic­tions, strong opin­ions, al­ways re­sent, and they be­lieve that it is de­stroy­ing the very roots of their so­cial life or re­li­gion."

The peo­ple have a right to ask the Coun­cil of Is­lamic Ide­ol­ogy about its rea­sons for re­ject­ing the Quaid-iAzam's ar­gu­ments on the ques­tion of child mar­riage.

It is also nec­es­sary to re­mind the CII of Al­lama Iqbal's speech at the Mus­lim League's 1930 an­nual meet­ing at Al­la­habad where he gave the idea of a sep­a­rate Mus­lim state in the north­west­ern part of In­dia. One of the jus­ti­fi­ca­tions for de­mand­ing a home­land for the Mus­lims of In­dia was the need to re­store the move­ment of ideas in the Is­lamic fiqh that had been frozen for 500 years and also to free it from the stamp of 'Arab im­pe­ri­al­ism'.

The peo­ple need to know what has been done by the CII to un­freeze Is­lamic ju­rispru­dence and free it of any im­pe­ri­al­is­tic in­flu­ence.

The CII should have no­ticed Ar­ti­cle 11 (1) of the Con­sti­tu­tion which says that "Slav­ery is non-ex­is­tent and for­bid­den" whereas Is­lam has not out­lawed slav­ery. Fur­ther it may be aware of the ar­gu­ments ad­vanced by many Is­lamic schol­ars to the ef­fect that the fiqh could change with changes in time and place, that Is­lam did not ap­prove of any rule that was con­trary to the pub­lic good and that the Ot­toman Is­lamic Code was partly based on the Swiss law.

What is the CII's at­ti­tude to the Ot­toman code, the abo­li­tion of slav­ery in the Con­sti­tu­tion, the pro­hi­bi­tion of sale of chil­dren born of bonded maids, and the prin­ci­ple that what­ever is con­trary to the pub­lic good can­not be Is­lamic?

The charge of dis­ser­vice to the peo­ple and their be­lief against the present CII is that in its bid to en­force a ret­ro­gres­sive in­ter­pre­ta­tion of Is­lam it is re­ly­ing on the ar­gu­ments the Mus­lim schol­ars adopted dur­ing their political de­cline and ig­nores Is­lam's need to keep abreast of the times.

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