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India: The Muslim Women Protection Of Rights On Marriage Bill – Analysis

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By R. Upadhyay

The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill was passed by the Lok Sabha on December 28, 2017 to make the practice of instant triple talaq prevailing in Indian Muslim society a criminal offence with three years imprisonment and fine to the accused husband.

However, its future is apparently found hanging in balance as the Rajya Sabha failed to pass it due to disagreement between the Government and the Opposition. Certainly, the behaviour of the Opposition members in the Upper House must have disappointed the Muslim Women for now.

But their struggle against the unjust gender injustice will remain a challenge to the Muslim orthodoxy if they don’t understand the direction of the wind is blowing in their favour of those whose struggle has at least succeeded in dividing the Muslim community- where a sizeable section particularly the modern Islamic scholars has widely welcomed the struggle to reform the Muslim Personal Law.

Some Views of the Community:

Shaista Amber, the president of All India Muslim Women Personal Law Board said, she would travel across the country to expose the “real face” and anti-women attitude of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board, which criticised the Centre for a bill that proposes to criminalise the Islamic practice of instant divorce. Muslim clerics … https://scroll.in/latest/862829/clerics-should-not-create-hurdles-for-tr….

Even before the Bill was passed in Lok Sabha, All India Shia Personal Law Board wanted a strict law against triple talaq. It said, the “Centre should draft a strict law against triple talaq, similar to the one against Sati”. https://scroll.in/latest/834892/shia-board-wants-a-strict-law-against-tr…

As far back as on 26 September, 2016, Sultan Shahin, Founding Editor, New Age Islam on behalf of Asian-Eurasian Human Rights Forum in a General Debate in UN Human Rights Council Geneva s raised the issue of instant triple talaq practised by Muslim husbands in India and throwing their wives out of their homes. He urged the community members, “We Muslims must revisit our theology in the light of the needs of the 21st century. We are not living in the 7th century and can neither fight those early battles nor organise our societies in that medieval fashion”.

Another Muslim author Muhammad Yunus in an article in New Age Islam dated 22 April 2017 observed, “The members of AIMPLB, who are adamantly persistent in negating it (the gender justice to Muslim women) under the cover of Islam are traitors of Islam, in addition to being Gender Terrorist.”( http://www.newageislam.com/islam,-women-and-feminism/muhammad-yunus,-new…).

Faizan Mustafa, the vice-chancellor of NALSAR University of Law in Hyderabad and a leading expert on constitutional law in an interview to Al Jazeera on Supreme Court verdict against instant triple talaq said, “My opinion is that the Muslim community should take this initiative and start reforming their laws”. (http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2017/08/faizan-mustafa-india-t…

The AIMPB: Self Proclaimed body to protect Muslim Orthodoxy:

Contrary to the wind blowing in direction of reform in Islamic personal laws, the radical Islamists under the banner of All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) are still holding backward ideologies in this developing country and found to be adamant to fight tooth and nail against this Bill. They don’t want any reform in Islamic laws as they would lose their main weapon to keep the Indian Muslims under their perpetual control. This self-acclaimed representative body of Indian Muslims which has been opposing any reform in Muslim Personal Law since its formation in early seventies of last century had even filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court defending the practice of triple talaq and polygamy.

On December 24, the Board’s spokes person Maulana Khalil- ur-Rehman Sajjad Nomani said, “The board is of the view that the triple talaq bill is against the Constitution, rights of women and Shariah (Islamic law). Apart from this, it is also an attempt to interfere with the Muslim personal law. If this bill becomes a law, then women will face a host of difficulties”.

Likewise, Asaduddin Owasi, the president of All India Muslim majlish-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen and also a member of AIMPLB was found to be aggressively vocal against this Bill.

Shaping of Musim Orthodoxy:

Drawing inspiration from Islamist mystics and scholars like Shaikh Ahmad Sarhindi (1564- 1624), Shah Wali Ullah (1704-1762) and Saiyid Ahmad Barlevi (1786-1831) the Islamists never tolerated any reform in medieval Islam or compromise with non-Muslims and gave shape to Islamic orthodoxy in the sub-continent under the political dominance and military power of various Muslim invaders like Arab, Persian, Turk and Mongol and their post-Moghul followers.

They thus launched institutionalised Islamic revival movements like Deoband, Nadwa, Ahl-e-Hadith, Jamaat-e-Ulema-Hind, Tabliq Jamaat and Jamaat-e-Islami to keep the Indian Muslims away from the general milieu of the country. At the same time, after India got independence, AIMPLB was formed as a representative body of the followers of above Islamist mystics and their followers and not as the representative body of entire Indian Muslims. The Board took it upon itself as a religio-political opposition body against the government whenever the latter tried for any reform in Muslim Personal Laws.

Shaikh Ahmad Sarhindi (1564- 1624)

Ahmad Sarhindi, popularly known as Mujaddid (Renovator of Islam) who had traced his descent from Caliph Umar worked as an oppositional religious leader and declared the religious ‘liberalism’ of Mogul Emperor Akbar for accommodating a couple of Hindus and Shia Muslims in his court as heterodoxy. He tried to influence the courtiers of Akbar and continued his tirade against the Hindus as well as Shia Muslims aggressively when Jahangir ascended the throne of Delhi. He is widely known among the Muslims for his letters written in Persian not only to his disciples but also to the influential Muslims in the court of Jahangir. His letters exercised great influence in turning the ‘heterodoxies’ of Akbar to orthodoxies, which were pursued by all the subsequent Muslim rulers from Jahangir to Aurangzeb. Although, he was imprisoned in Gwalior jail for his discourteous behaviour of not bending before emperor Jehangir, the latter was subsequently so much influenced by his writings on orthodox Sunni Islam that he ordered his release and offered huge gifts to him. His tomb at Sarhind in Patiala is still an object of veneration (Islamic Encyclopaedia, Vol. I, Page297).

Shah Wali Ullah (1704-1762)

Shah Wali Ullah another Islamic mystic of the Sufi tradition of Sunnism who claimed his lineage from Quraysh tribe of Prophet Mohammad and of Umar, the second caliph was found more concerned with the political disorder after the death of Aurangzeb and the fading glory of Muslim power. A contemporary of Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab (1703-1792) an orthodox Sunni Islamic leader from Arab who launched the Wahhabi movement, Wali Ullah was also proud of his Arab origin and was strongly opposed to the dilution of Islamic culture in the cultural cauldron of the sub-continent. “Waliullah did not want the Muslims to become part of the general milieu of the sub-continent. He wanted them to keep alive their relation with rest of the Muslim world so that the spring of their inspiration and ideals might ever remain located in Islam and tradition of world community developed by it”. (The Muslim Community of Indo-Pakistan subcontinent by Istiaq Hussain Qureshi, 1985, page 216). “In his opinion, the health of Muslim society demanded that doctrines and values inculcated by Islam should be maintained in their pristine purity unsullied by extraneous influences” (Ibid. page 215).

The political rise of non-Muslims like Maratha, Jat and Sikh powers was so unbearable to Wali Ullah that he took it as a consequent danger to Islam of its political heritage and therefore raised the slogan of ‘Islam is in danger’ which is profoundly embedded to his hate-non-Muslim ideology. Successive Muslim thinkers drew inspiration from his religio-political thought that was based on the ‘Persio -Islamic theory of kingship’ (Shah Wali Allah and his Time by Saiyid Athar Abbas Rizvi, page 397). His religio-political mission to bring the Muslim society in India to the Prophet era for the political unity of the then Muslim rulers made a permanent crack in Hindu–Muslim relations in this sub-continent and undermined the self-pride and dignity of integrated Indian society.

Wali Ullah translated the writings of Sarhindi from Persian to Arabic to inspire the Muslim Indians to fight unitedly against the Marathas to save the ‘subjugation of Muslims’ by the Hindus. Since he didn’t believe in Indian nationhood or any national boundary for Muslims he wrote a letter inviting Ahmad Shah Abdali, the king of Afghanistan to attack India (Third battle of Panipat 1761), in which Marathas were defeated.

A great Muslim thinker and promoter of one of the most emotional chapters of Islamic revivalist movements in Indian subcontinent Wali Ullah’s religio-political thought brought the Arabian Indians under perpetual siege of Islamic orthodoxy. The on going Hindu-Muslim communal controversy in contemporary India is deeply rooted to his political Islamic theory. The most significant contribution of Wali Ullah(Allah) for his community is that his teachings kept alive the religious life of Indian Muslims linked with their inner spirit for re-establishment of Islamic political authority in India. It was the political theory of Wali ullah that kept the Indian Muslims under emotional social disorder and deprived them of a forward-looking vision.

Ahmad Barelavi (1786-1831):

Waliullh’s son Abd al Aziz (1746-1823) carried forward the legacy of his father and as a result India faced violent communal disorder for decades. Aziz’s disciple Saiyid Ahmad of Rai Bareli under the deep influence of political Islam propounded by Wali Ullah and the jehadi spirit of Sunni extremism of Maulana Wahab of Saudi Arabia launched jehad against the non-Islamic power of the Sikh kingdom of Ranjit Singh with a view to restore Dar-ul-Islam (A land, where Islam is having political power). Though, he was killed in battle of Balkot in May 1831, he is considered to be a martyr for the cause of Islam.

Post Moghul Revivalist Movements:

Tired of their failures in re-establishing Muslim rule particularly due to the firm grip the British established on this country after the failure of Sepoy mutiny in 1857, the post-Mogul Islamists kept their violent movement in suspended animation for decades and rather launched institutionalised Islamic revival movement by opening Darul Uloom at Deoband in Uttar Pradesh to inculcate Islamic education among the Muslims with an objective to transform them to the Prophet era of the faith for restoration of lost Islamic Islamic power in this Non-Muslim majority country.

Contrary to Deoband movement, a British loyalist Sir Syed Ahmad Khan (1817-98) launched the Aligarh movement to inculcate modern education to the community in the pattern of British system of education. With the full support of the British he founded the Aligarh School in 1875 which was upgraded in 1877 to a college and named Mohammedan Anglo-Oriental College, the forerunner of the Aligarh Muslim University.

One of the objectives of the Aligarh movement was to prevent the Muslims from joining the Congress which Sir Syed condemned as anti-British and anti-Government. In his view a Hindu-Muslim alliance could only be disadvantageous to the Muslim community, which was much smaller in number, educationally backward, politically immature, and economically insecure. Alliance with the Hindus against the British could only lead to the loss of British patronage and to the exploitation and subjugation of the Muslims by the overwhelming Hindu majority. Thus began modern Muslim political separatism in India. ( https://academy.gktoday.in/article/islamic-reform-movements-of-british-i…).

Both the movements remained counterproductive for the Muslim society. Instead of producing doctors, engineers, scientists or educationists, Deoband produced Ulema and Aligarh created political separatism which ultimately divided the sub-continent. Although, Pakistan was created on the basis of religion for the Muslims, about 40% of its population stayed back in India and the Muslim orthodoxy under the banner of Jamiat-Ulema-e-Hind, the Ulema association of Deobandis aligned with Indian National Congress and became the self-acclaimed representative body of Indian Muslims. It is an irony of fate that after partition, Pakistan had refused to accept the Anglo-Mohammedan law and reformed its personal law in 1961.

The Deobandi leaders formed AIMPLB in 1973 to fight against any attempt of the secular and democratic government to initiate reform in Muslim Personal Laws framed by the British. So mch so, in last August when Supreme Court declared the medieval practice of instant triple talaq void and the Lok Sabha passed the Muslim Women Bill 2017, the board members strongly opposed it on the plea that it was an interference in the religious rights of the Muslims. The Bill was however not passed in Rajya Sabha due to vote bank politics of opposition.

Contrary to the stand of AIMPLB, rational sections of Muslim intellectuals are constantly writing against the war of radical Islamists who continue to misguide the community members against giving right to equality to their women and thereby opposing any reform in their personal laws. Unfortunately, hardly any Urdu news paper ever raised this issue or demand for restoring the Islamic criminal laws which were banned by the British. In India Muslims are not governed by the Islamic punishments for criminal offences like amputation, whipping, and beheading. If AIMPLB is so particular why is it that they have they not ever demanded punishment to Muslims for criminal offences as per Shariat? They want to follow a part of Sharia that helps them to keep the Muslim women subjugated but avoid medieval punishments based on Quran and Hadith.

The March of the Reformist Movement Cannot be Stopped:

AIMPLB is not ready to understand that larger majority of Muslim women are found restive against the prevailing practice of polygamy and halala and future of the Bill may be hanging in balance for some time to come. But it looks that it may not remain so for long.

The Bill which has provided a momentum to the movement for reform in Muslim personal law is just a landmark beginning and not an end of struggle of Muslim women against. It is a wakeup call for the Muslim society. The Muslim orthodoxy therefore must understand that for modern world, triple talaq or instant divorce, polygamy and Halala are the evils emanating from the personal laws instituted for Muslims by the British. They had accepted the Indian Panel Code for criminal offences and there is no reason why they should have any objection if triple talaq is also brought under criminal offence. They must see the writings on wall; revisit their theology in the light of the need of the hour and march with the time. It is in the larger interest of the community itself.


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SAAG

SAAG

SAAG is the South Asia Analysis Group, a non-profit, non-commercial think tank. The objective of SAAG is to advance strategic analysis and contribute to the expansion of knowledge of Indian and International security and promote public understanding.

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