Last week, when a prominent Muslim outfit, Jamiat Ulema Hind asserted before the Supreme Court that Muslim laws flowed from the Quran and thus could not be subjected to scrutiny by the Apex Court based on the principles of the Constitution, it restarted the oft-repeated debate on whether, or not, Muslim personal laws trampled upon the Constitution and if they were discriminatory towards women. The SC was hearing a petition titled “Muslim Women’s Quest for Equality”. The next hearing in the case is expected within six weeks and the All India Muslim Personal Law Board is also expected to request the SC to make it a party in the case. Member of the executive committee of the board, Kamal Faruqui says that Muslim personal law works for women, especially when it comes to talaq, and the judiciary cannot be trusted to interpret it, in the absence of opinions from Islamic experts.
Q: Whenever a controversy erupts regarding Muslim personal laws, people tend to believe that organisations like the All India Muslim Personal Law Board, which interprets Muslim laws in the light of the Quran and Hadith as expounded by various Islamic authorities, is rigid and averse to reforms. Why are you rigid?
A: We represent all schools of thoughts followed in the Islamic world, be it Shafai, Hanafi, Hanbali, etc. We come to a position on any issue, take for example talaq (divorce), after a thorough consultation with Islamic experts. Many schools of thought in Islam recognise the validity of arbitrary triple talaq announced at one go. That’s why we have accepted this. But many of us consider this the ugliest thing, as there are reported cases of husband delivering such divorce out of anger or in an inebriated condition and then the wife is left to suffer thereafter. Therefore, to prevent any such eventuality, we have proposed a model nikahnama, which seeks to make the nikahnama (marriage contract) a highly thought out document. It includes an arbitration clause, which requires the appointment of three arbitrators who would be consulted by the husband and wife in case of any future discord. Without consulting these arbitrators, no divorce will be valid.
Q: Then, why do we see cases arbitrary talaq or suddenly announced talaq and women suffering because of that?
A: It is because of the fact that people don’t follow the model nikahnama. They don’t make marriage a conditioned agreement. And our fault is that we are unable to propagate our nikahnama to all parts of the country. Our Social Reform Committee is tasked with this purpose, but as we are working with various constraints like sufficient financial and community support, our reach is limited. The government does not help us in any way.
‘If the judiciary is interested in judging as per Islamic laws, then appoint Muslim judges to hear such cases. And even these Muslim judges should be well versed in Quranic injunctions and Islamic principles.’
Q: Since you claim to work among the community, do people come to you for the settlement of their marital discord?
A: Darul Qaza, our mediation department, receives complaints and disposes them of by helping people. But again, since we are limited in our means, we are unable to create the desired the effect.
Q: Why are you averse to the judiciary interpreting Muslim personal laws?
A: In the absence of proper expertise on Islamic laws, judges cannot interpret the personal laws of Muslims. If the judiciary is genuinely interested in interpreting or judging as per Islamic laws, then appoint Muslim judges to hear such cases. And even these Muslim judges should be well versed of Quranic injunctions and Islamic principles. Or simply revive the old Qazi system.
Q: Why do you think the issue of the purported clash between the judiciary and Muslim laws is debated again and again?