India Muslim Women Demand Qur’anic Laws

CAIRO – Demanding rights granted in the Noble Qur’an, Indian Muslim women have joined hands to find solutions for their problems and to press for enacting Islamic laws that protect their rights in the community.

“We strongly believe that while Qur’an has bestowed umpteen rights upon women, these rights do not get reflected in the law as practiced in the country,” Naish Hasan, president of Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA), told Hindustan Times.

“In order to restore Qur’anic rights and incorporate them in the law, we want to seek expert opinion in this matter.”

Themed “Daughters of Islam Demanding Justice”, a conference organized by BMMA brought together activists, lawyers and community leaders to discuss problems facing Muslim women.

It was a trial to understand Islamic law as it is practiced in India and identify the gaps that exist between the Qur’anic ideals and the practice of law, said Sabra Habib, a woman activist.

Attendants cited low literacy and lack of codified laws for protection of women’s rights as among the main problems facing Muslims.

Muslims account for 160 million of India’s 1.1 billion people, the world’s third-largest Muslim population after those of Indonesia and Pakistan.

Indian Muslims have long suffered decades of social and economic neglect and oppression.

They are under-represented in public sector jobs, register lower educational levels and hit by higher unemployment rates.

Action Plan

Seeking actual steps to provide long-term legal relief to Muslim women, National Women’s Commission representative has promised to codify Muslim laws.

“Rights of minority women is strong on the agenda of the commission as they are the doubly deprived sections of the society,” Charu Wali Khanna, member of the National Women’s Commission (NWC), said.

“The NWC strongly feels that codification of Muslim laws be made, triple talaq should be banned and marriage registration be made compulsory.”

In India, divorce and marriage issues are dominated by All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB), the single largest religious body consisting of scholars of different schools of thought.

The AIMPLB was formed in 1973 to protect and apply Muslim Personal Law in marriage, divorce, succession and inheritance.

In 2005, Shiites and women seceded to form their own separate Boards, the All India Shiite Personal Law Board & the All India Muslim Women’s Personal Law Board.

Over the past year, Indian scholars have issued a group of laws to protect the rights of Muslim women.

In February, a group of Muslim scholars and activists announced plans for a draft of personal law that would ban triple talaq (divorce) and restrict polygamy among Indian Muslims.

The personal law also calls for the mandatory registration of all Muslim marriages with the state governments.

In March, hundreds of Muslim scholars granted women the right to dissolve marriage in case of serious breach of agreement between the couple during an international Islamic jurisprudence seminar organized by Islamic Fiqh Academy (India).