9:59 am - Saturday March 17, 2018

All India Muslim Personal Law Board – Leading the third Mullhas’ war against reform in Muslim Personal Laws

All India Muslim Personal Law Board – Leading the third Mullhas’ war against reform in Muslim Personal Laws

By Ramashray Upadhyay ramashrey-jee
At a time when there is a spurt in the intellectual debates on Muslim Personal Laws and when the whole country particularly the Muslim women are eagerly waiting for the outcome of the day to day hearing of Supreme Court hearing of a case on triple talaq from May 11, remarks of Allahabad High Court on May 9 should be of interest.
The High Court said that “talaq by a Muslim husband to his wife cannot be made in a manner which may infringe her fundamental rights guaranteed under Article 14 and 21 of part III of the Constitution”. This should ideally provide an opportunity for the enlightened Muslims to mobilise the community and fight for justice in the ongoing Mullahs War against reform in Muslim Personal Laws. It is in the interest of the country that the enlightened Muslims succeed this time.
This is urgent and of immense help to the community as the Muslim orthodoxy led by All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) is leading once again a third Mullhas’ war to resist any reform in Muslim Personal Laws. It has even challenged the Supreme Court for interfering in the religious rights of Muslims!
Mullahs’ Wars to Control the Community:
Carrying forward the legacy of Islamist priestly class following their failure during Sepoy mutiny in 1857 and launching sustained movements like Deoband, Aligarh, Nadwa, Ahl-e-Hadith, Jamaat-e-Ulema-Hind, Tabliq Jamaat and Jamaat-e-Islami, the Mullahs are again on the war path. Their interest appears to be solely to maintain their power over the community.
Buoyed up by their victory in the first battle in early seventies of the last century against the Government’s initiative for reform in the Muslim Personal Laws and formation of AIMPLB and followed in the second battle in Shahbano case in mid eighties, the Mullhas of post-Independent India now seem to be determined to ensure that there is no reform in Muslim Personal Laws. But this time, in the third war, the Mullahs are being challenged by an ongoing Muslim feminist movement and added to this is a positive stand taken by the NDA government on this issue.
In a function in honour of Kannada philosopher Basaveswara on April 29, Prime Minister Narendra Modi urged the Muslims to end the practice of triple talaq and said, “I am sure enlightened people will also emerge from among Muslims and come forward to end this practice liberating our Muslim daughters and mothers from the scourge. I am sure enlightened Muslims will take this responsibility upon themselves.” Again, the Prime Minister while responding to a 25-member delegation of Muslim leaders under the umbrella of Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind told that “the Muslim community should not allow the issue of triple talaq to be politicised and urge the delegation to take the responsibility for initiating reform in this regard”.
Judging from past experience it is still doubtful whether the ‘enlightened’ Muslims and the members of delegation referred to would lend their ears to the sane advice of the Prime Minister and join the feminists within the community to defeat the Mulhas and the AIMPLB who are against any ban on triple talaq.
History of Muslim orthodoxy resisting any reform in Muslim Personal Laws dates back to the Constituent Assembly debate when the Muslim members strongly resisted any reform in the Islamic personal laws. Unfortunately, the then political leadership of the country accepted the medieval voices of these members and allowed the issue to fester. Perhaps the government expected that over a period, enlightened Muslims would come forward and rationalise the personal laws of Muslims in tune with the developing the modern environment. However, it was not to be. Both the community and the political leadership for different reasons ignored this vital issue.
Muslim Politics- Post Independence:
In fact, despite frequent debates on reform in Muslim Personal Laws since Independence, this unresolved issue remained an important ingredient of Muslim politics in post-colonial India. The Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) Application Act 1937and Dissolution of Muslim Marriage Act 1939 were enacted by the British for political reasons.
Asaf A. A. Fyzee, a noted Muslim writer and internationally known authority on Islamic jurisprudence maintained, ‘Islam, in its orthodox interpretation has lost the resilience needed for adaptation to modern thought and modern life.’ (A Modern Approach to Islam, 1963, p.105.) He was the first Muslim Indian courageous enough to contend that Muslim law in India is not based on the Shariat but was introduced by the British for political reasons.’(M.R.A. Baig, Th e Muslim Dilemma, 1974, p.20).
Over post-Independence years, the Mullahs linked the issue of Personal Law with religio-cultural identity of Muslims along with other issues like the so called Babri Masjid, Urdu, minority character of Aligarh Muslim University, family planning, the right to prayer in archaeologically protected mosques, madrasa education, Waqf , the haj subsidy etc.. Any attempt to rationalise these issues was always viewed by the Islamic radicals as a danger to the identity of the community. Though such issues may not have much relevance to the modern concepts, as well as their spiritual relevance, their politicisation by self-seeking Islamic priestly class under the support of ‘secular’ politicians often resulted in political quibbling causing irreparable damage to the Indian society and unity of the country.
Are Islamic Laws Immutable? the view of the Scholars and experience in other countries:
The argument of Muslim fundamentalists that Islamic laws are immutable—is not based on sound logic. In fact, a number of Islamic countries made certain reforms in Shariat to meet the changing social environment. ‘As many as twenty-two Arab countries and some eighteen non-Arab Muslim countries have systems of personal law that have been codified and reformed in variety of ways.’ (Tahir Mahmood, ‘Personal Law in Islamic Countries’, 1987. Quoted in Gerald James Larsen, ed., Religion and Personal Law in Secular India, p.2.)
Muslim majority countries like Morocco, Tunisia, Syria, Turkey and Iran took up measures to prohibit polygamy, which shows that there is enough scope for transformation of Muslim Personal Laws. ‘Turkey, Cyprus, Tunisia, Algeria, Iraq and Iran do not give a Muslim husband right to divorce his wife unilaterally. A Muslim husband seeking divorce from his wife must apply to the court of law.’(H.A. Gani, Muslim Politics and National Integration, 1978, p.115).
Encouraged with the changing attitude of a number of Muslim majority countries towards the Shariat, the Union Cabinet appointed a committee comprising of Muslim leaders like Humayun Kabir, Hafiz Muhammad Ibrahim, Muzaffar Hussain and Jamia Vice Chancellor Mohammad Mujib in 1963 for suggesting reforms in the Muslim Personal Laws. The issue also figured at the International Congress of Orientalists in Delhi in 1964.
The initiative of the government stirred a countrywide debate on the subject. Some liberal Muslim intellectuals also suggested reforms in Muslim Personal Laws as was done in a number of Islamic countries. Tahir Ahmad, then Associate Professor at Indian Law Institute, carried out a survey on the state of Muslim Personal Law in twenty countries and found that Shariat was not applied uniformly in all these countries. Fyzee maintained: ‘The law of divorce, whatever its utility was during the past was so interpreted that it has become the one sided oppression in the hands of the husband-and almost everywhere Muslims are making efforts to bring the law in accordance with modern ideas of social justice.’
Begum Sharifa Tayabji in her presidential speech in the Maharashtra State women conference (Pune, 27 December1971) maintained, ‘the Muslim personal law as practised under the Shariat Act had brought untold miseries to Muslim women should be discarded forthwith in favour of a common civil code’. She added, ‘if Rasul Allah is to appear in person before us he would roll his head in shame over our performance. … . M.C.Chagla said, ‘in secular India, everyone should have equal rights and polygamy



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