Loud on Rhetoric
The Muslim Personal Law Board has once again proved that it is loud on rhetoric and short on fulfilling its own responsibility of initiating reforms within the Muslim society. In its recently concluded session at Mumbai, the Board warned the Government against
interference in the Muslim Personal law. The Board would have carried more conviction had it shown any meaningful progress in guiding the community towards use of the instrument of talaq (divorce), khulaa and custody of children. The Board is yet to set up
even a single pre-marriage counseling centre for would-be couples and marital dispute mediation centres. It has also failed to initiate steps or to even begin codification of the Muslim Personal Law. Darul Qaza attached to leading theological seminaries continue to nullify marriages where the irresponsible—even intoxicated—husbands have uttered talaq thrice in keeping with the 10th century juristic opinion. The fact that such nullification runs counter to the Quranic procedure of talaq and negates the spirit of justice, has not made the Board resile from its blinkered view of the sharia. Even the Board’s refusal to accept the Supreme Court’s directive to compulsorily register marriages seems to be unreasonable. Registration of births, deaths and marriages are primary functions of the State if ever the national planning has to become effective. It also provides safety valve in marriages contracted with expatriates, foreigners and persons of Indian original (PIOs) in case they threaten to turn sour. Perhaps nothing would be more desirable if the marriages registered with private moulvis or mosques are aligned with the State Marriage Registration offices for the purpose. It also serves as a guarantee against marriages brokered between girls from poor Muslim household and unscrupulous foreigners by irresponsible touts. Even Khulaa provision, where the Darul Qaza instead of considering it an inalienable right of Muslim women, insist on husband’s consent, has been crying for reform on ground of justice as enshrined in the Quran. While cries for reform in these spheres have failed to move the Board, it is found crying hoarse over the slightest hint of legislation aimed at ensuring gender justice.
Such rhetoric smacks of the Board’s tendency to use religion as a red rag against the Government. It will certainly not serve the purpose of justice, if Muslim women continue to suffer under the laws that are result of interpretations prejudiced by patriarchy rather
than truth and justice.