No Coun­try For Sharia Courts

Con­sti­tu­tional val­ues and not AIMPLB should gov­ern laws for Mus­lim women

The Times of India (New Delhi edition) - - TIMES NATION - Shazia Ilmi

While the ‘Nirb­haya’ and ‘Kathua’ in­ci­dents shock the col­lec­tive con­science of our na­tion – as they should – it is those that hap­pen within the du­bi­ous sanc­tity of cul­tural mores that elude our con­science.

A woman from Bareilly is raped mul­ti­ple times by her fa­ther-in-law and then her brother-in-law at the be­hest of her hus­band, who jus­ti­fies her degra­da­tion by cit­ing ‘nikah ha­lala’. One’s mem­ory in­ad­ver­tently brings to the fore a cer­tain Im­rana, who was de­clared ‘ haram’ for her hus­band by the pur­vey­ors of faith – Deoband sem­i­nary – in 2005 after she was raped by her fa­ther-in-law.

The most dis­qui­et­ing and alarm­ing cir­cum­stance be­fore us is the ease with which we have ac­cepted such episodes as a re­li­gious com­mu­nity, ac­qui­esc­ing to and even jus­ti­fy­ing such mon­strous pseudo-Is­lamic cler­i­cal and so­ci­etal acts of bru­tal­ity. Even though a ba­sic read­ing of the largest chap­ter in the Qu­ran, Su­rah Baqarah, should have con­vinced us once and for all that not only was the ill-fated ta­laq-e-bid­dat (triple ta­laq) of the vic­tim not val­i­dated by the Qu­ran, but that, even if the cou­ple had sep­a­rated, not once but twice, she could have still re­mar­ried her for­mer hus­band with a mere re-solem­ni­sa­tion of nikah!

But this ob­fus­ca­tion of the Qu­ran sits well, most shock­ingly, in the con­science and con­ver­sa­tion of most of our cler­gy­men, and has un­for­tu­nately be­come the norm even for the lit­er­ate and well-set­tled Mus­lim com­mu­nity who will im­me­di­ately rush to sep­a­rate cou­ples out of wed­lock as ‘haram’ or taboo to each other, at the slight­est hint of a ta­laq pro­nounce­ment, in di­rect vi­o­la­tion of the Qu­ran and Is­lam. In most such in­stances the Qu­ran is obeyed in the breach, and our ed­u­cated, seem­ingly well-mean­ing ‘muashra’ (so­ci­ety) rou­tinely ig­nores Qu­ranic in­struc­tions, thereby killing the essence and sub­stance of Is­lam, even be­fore the cler­i­cal vul­tures move in.

We are all sick­ened by the fatwa against Nida Khan for her cam­paign against triple ta­laq by Sha­har Imam Mufti Khur­shid Alam, who has ex­horted the com­mu­nity to deny her medicine if she were to fall ill, and re­fused even a grave and na­maz at her ‘janaza’ (fu­neral pro­ces­sion)!

While the no­to­ri­ous All In­dia Mus­lim Per­sonal Law Board (AIMPLB) vo­cif­er­ously ad­vo­cates ‘sharia courts’, their rep­re­sen­ta­tives like Mufti Ai­jaz Qasmi are seen brazenly abus­ing and beat­ing a woman lawyer on na­tional tele­vi­sion in an ugly al­ter­ca­tion, the vi­su­als of which will be per­ma­nently in­grained in pub­lic mem­ory.

Vote bank pol­i­tics hasn’t helped the cause of jus­tice. The track record of AIMPLB since the Shah Bano case is only too well known. It was this body that pres­surised Ra­jiv Gandhi to is­sue the or­di­nance over­turn­ing the land­mark SC judg­ment which granted the con­sti­tu­tional upon it­self ! And how many of us would be will­ing to give up our bank in­ter­est and ev­ery­day sec­u­lar choices!

Like all other cit­i­zens In­dian Mus­lims fol­low the In­dian Pe­nal Code for all civil and crim­i­nal dis­putes. Why does the nar­ra­tive of their faith be­ing in peril arise only in mat­ters of fam­ily law? If they see Supreme Court in­ter­ven­tion as an in­fringe­ment of their com­mu­nity rights, then will their next step be to chal­lenge the en­tire Pe­nal Code in­clud­ing the Crim­i­nal Pro­ce­dure Act which is ob­vi­ously not in con­so­nance with Is­lamic law as prac­tised in theo­cratic states?

The rot is deep, but jus­tice must not elude the victims of triple ta­laq and nikah ha­lala for­ever. Ac­tu­ally 22 Au­gust, 2017 will stand out in the an­nals of Mus­lim Per­sonal Law in In­dia, as a day of con­sti­tu­tional jus­tice for the in­nu­mer­able victims of ar­bi­trary cler­i­cal rul­ings and fat­was. On that day a five judge bench of the Supreme Court took the bull by the horns, ex­tri­cated the truth from the scrip­tures, and de­clared uni­lat­eral di­vorce prac­tised as ta­laq-e-bid­dat un­con­sti­tu­tional and un-Is­lamic.

The In­dian ju­di­ciary has ad­ju­di­cated with re­mark­able depth and sen­si­tiv­ity while in­ter­pret­ing the Qu­ran, even while up­hold­ing the val­ues of the Con­sti­tu­tion. Con­versely, the mul­ti­tude of mul­lahs, imams and qazis, con­sti­tut­ing a self­anointed club of Is­lamic schol­ars rep­re­sent­ing dif­fer­ent schools of Is­lamic ju­rispru­dence, dish out their own con­coc­tions of Is­lamic jus­tice.

Now there is no go­ing back to per­sonal law courts, darul qazas, or the age of ig­no­rance. The most fun­da­men­tal pil­lar of our democ­racy, the In­dian ju­di­ciary, will up­hold jus­tice to the last woman stand­ing.

When Congress pres­i­dent Rahul Gandhi tweets about stand­ing with the last per­son in the line, the “ex­ploited, marginalis­ed and the per­se­cuted” he refers to also in­clude this bru­talised Mus­lim woman. I hope he will stand with her.

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