Muslim Law Board caught in a time warp

Last Updated: Tue, Apr 03, 2018 14:39 hrs
Indian Muslims (Image courtesy: Associated Press)

All India Muslim Personal Law Board with the support of a host of Muslim religious organizations is hosting huge rallies of Muslim women across the country against the triple talaq bill. From small towns to big cities and metros, the Muslim Law Board is bringing out Muslim women in huge numbers in its support. It wants to prove before the government and the judiciary that Muslim women by and large are opposed to the triple talaq bill.

There is no denying that the Muslim law board has been able to mobilise hundreds of thousands of women in its support. The protests have been held in almost every state including Maharashtra, Telangana, Karnataka, Assam, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. A huge rally of women is planned for April 4 in the Indian capital as well.

With these rallies and the large-scale support that the Muslim law board is getting from women across the country, it wants to showcase the level of support that the board enjoys among Muslims in general and Muslim women in particular. It is also trying to highlight the fact that the women who support the ban on triple talaq are very few and the overwhelmingly large number of Muslim women want to adhere to its own interpretation of the Muslim personal law.

High level of support

There is no denying that a large number of Muslims in the country still support the Muslim Personal Law Board, notwithstanding the fact that the ineptitude of the clerics associated with it gave leverage to the BJP government to act on the triple talaq bill. ‘The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2017’ being referred to triple talaq bill has caused widespread outrage within the Muslim community against the BJP government at the center.

The Muslim Personal Law Board has tried to cash this large-scale resentment among the Muslims against the BJP government and launched a country-wide campaign against the bill. It must be added here that Muslim women, by and large, are supportive of the stand of the Muslim law board as they don’t want to go against Shariah.

The Muslim women are also not very happy over the general victimisation of them in the draft bill. The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill 2017 says, “In order to prevent the continued harassment being meted out to the hapless married Muslim women due to talaq-e-biddat, urgent suitable legislation is necessary to give some relief to them. The bill proposes to declare pronouncement of talaq-e-biddat by Muslim husbands void and illegal in view of the Supreme Court verdict. Further, the illegal act of pronouncing talaq-e-biddat shall be a punishable offence. This is essential to prevent this form of divorce, wherein the wife does not have any say in severing the marital relationship. It is also proposed to provide for matters such as subsistence allowance from the husband for the livelihood and daily supporting needs of the wife, in the event of husband pronouncing talaq-e-biddat, and, also of the dependent children. The wife would also be entitled to custody of minor children.”

Shaheen Talat, a Muslim women activist in Bihar who was part of one such procession says “If the government is serious for the welfare of women in the country, why it is solely concentrating on Muslim women. Our Hindu sisters too need government attention. More than two and half million our Hindu sisters are trying to fend for themselves without any support as they have been abandoned by their husbands. Why the government doesn’t take up their issue on a priority basis? Muslim women affected by instant triple talaq are a fraction of the Hindu women who have been abandoned by their husbands without formally being divorced”.

There is no denying that the triple talaq was not the only issue Muslim women are facing in the country. There are more pressing issues including lack of avenues for higher education and employment. The Muslim women also believe that there was malafide intent in bringing the triple talaq bill in such a haste without even consulting Muslim women or Muslim organizations. They largely believe that the BJP government’s effort to act hastily against triple talaq was to defame the Muslim community and the Muslim Personal Law. This is the reason that the Muslim women have come out in record numbers in support of the Muslim personal law board.

Despite the overwhelming support that the board is getting among Muslim women, it cannot be absolved of the fact that its ineptitude allowed the government to bring the bill.

Why Law board is also responsible for the bill

The Muslim women largely seem to be oblivious to the fact that the government was able to bring the triple talaq bill only due to the fact that the Muslim law board played in its hand. Instant triple talaq concept is alien to many Muslim schools of jurisprudence. Nonetheless the Muslim Law Board wanted to adhere to only Hanafi school of jurisprudence. There is no denying that an overwhelmingly large number of Muslims in India follow this school of fiqh or jurisprudence. But there are also large number of followers of other schools of thoughts including salafi, ahle hadith, ithna ashari or shia and maliki.

Many of them don’t buy the instant triple talaq thing. The Board instead of insisting on legality of the instant triple talaq would have done well to adopt a more progressive attitude in this regard by not insisting on being the representative of Hanafi school alone.

While writing in The Wire, Mohammad Sajjad, a professor of history in AMU says, “Another vital issue that the AIMPLB has been refraining from addressing is the sub-sectarian rivalries and communal conflicts because of certain religious rituals performed or processions brought out in the public sphere...Rivalry and competition among certain sub-sects (maslak) is giving rise to the assertion of maslaki identities in the public sphere. This assertion often leads to communal clashes – both inter-maslak and inter-religious (Hindu-Muslim)”.

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