Indian Muslim Women Take Muslim Personal Law to Court

Nisa – a progressive Muslim women's forum based in Kozhikode, India – filed a petition in the Supreme Court seeking to declare as unconstitutional sections of the Muslim Personal Law. These elements deal with the practice of triple talaq (a divorce obtained by the husband saying “I divorce you” three times), polygamy, nikah halala (bar against remarriage with divorced husband without an intervening marriage with another man) and inequality in intestate succession.

“We are just asking for the basic rights guaranteed by the Constitution to all Indians,” said Nisa President V.P. Zuhara, stated,

This petition is coupled with another one filed a few weeks ago by another Muslim woman regarding the same matter.  

K.Alilutty Musaliar, the general secretary of the largest group of Sunni scholars in the state responded to the development by saying sharia laws could not be questioned.

Kerala High Court Judge B. Kemal Pasha said Muslim Personal Law discriminated against women on matters related to dowry, divorce and inheritance and this was in contradiction to the Quran's position on these issues.

Pasha, who spoke at a seminar organized by Nisa, believes several shortcomings of Muslim Personal Law stemmed from the fact it was not properly codified. Expressing this theory regarding the origin of the inequality in Muslim Personal Law, he said,  "Currently the courts are rendering justice on the basis of precedence and on the basis of the Mohammedan Law as compiled by legal expert D. F. Mulla. What is being implemented is not fully as per Quranic verses. Let the personal law be codified as per the principles of Quran which had expounded equality for man and woman.”

The Constitution guarantees equality to both men and women, added Pasha. All Indian laws are under the purview of Article 14 and Article 21, which guarantee the right to equality and the right to life respectively.     

Pasha’s words at the Nisa seminar will hopefully provide powerful support for Nisa’s Supreme Court petition bringing in a new age of true equality amongst Indian Muslims. For the moment at least, this new age seems like a real possibility in the near future.

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