Knock-knock-knockin' on the Mullah’s door
Knock-knock-knockin' on the Mullah’s door
A growing number of Indian Muslims, women and men, are challenging the injustices and indignities being suffered by Muslim women in Islam’s name
It is paradoxical in the extreme; it’s also a fact of life. Muftis, qazis, maulanas and molvis in India keep proclaiming that Islam has given justice and rights to women that no other religion has. The fact however is that thanks to the clerics, in the name of the Muslim Personal Law in India, when it comes to gender relations, the plight of Muslim women in secular democratic India is far worse than their counterparts even in many Muslim majority countries (neighbouring Pakistan and Bangladesh included) which claim to be Islamic states run according to shariah laws.

The reason for this sorry state of affairs is simple: most Muslim majority countries have codified, enacted reforms in family laws. In India however, the Muslim clergy continues to insist that the Muslim Personal Law is based on Shariah laws which are God-given and therefore are immutable, can never be changed. 

If shariah laws are indeed God-given and immutable, how could they be modified, reforms introduced in so many Muslim-majority countries, often with the co-operation and the consent of the ulema? To this there is no coherent or rational response.

The issue has once again acquired urgency following the recent stand taken by the Jamiatul-ulema-e-Hind, the largest organisation of Muslim clerics in India, that Muslim Personal Law cannot be tested against the touchstone of fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution of India since it is not a state-made law.

This has once again brought into sharp focus the issue of the Muslim clergy’s dogged determination to resist every attempt at codification or reform in the Muslim Personal Law which a growing number of Muslim women and men claim as being grossly unjust to women. The Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA) has prepared a draft and launched a campaign for the codification of Muslim Personal Law.

Coincidentally, a related development has added an extra charge to the issue. On Tuesday (February 9), several prominent religious leaders have declared that there is no place in Islam for a female qazi (judge, someone well-versed in Islamic jurisprudence). In other words, only Muslim men are qualified to interpret Divine Intent.

Unrelated to family relations, but relevant to the larger issue of gender relations and gender discrimination is the petition of the Bhartiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA) in the Bombay High Court on the right of Muslim women who have been denied full access to the Haji Ali Dargah in Mumbai.
Sabrang India which supports gender justice and gender equality is opening up space for debate on the issue.