A Muslim woman advocate associated with the RSS has moved the Supreme Court seeking that the religion’s personal law be codified to end practices such as polygamy and triple talaq.
Farah Faiz contended in her plea that “talaq-e-bidat (triple talaq) is not a form of divorce recognised in the Quran. The procedure prescribed entails arbitration and reconciliation after talaq is pronounced by the husband”.
“The practice of talaq-e-bidat without proper conciliation violates the basic right of every Muslim woman to live with dignity,” it read, adding that Muslim women have become victims of gender discrimination in the absence of proper codified rules governing marriage, divorce and maintenance.
Faiz’s petition reflects the growing demand among Muslim women for the discriminatory practice to be liquidated. Petitions challenging the age-old ritual were filed after the top court decided to look into the issue on its own last year.
However, many Muslim bodies — including the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) and the Jamiat-Ulama-i-Hind — have opposed the petitions. They are of the view that the judiciary does not have the authority to scrutinise religious practices.
Faiz, who runs an NGO Muslim Women’s Quest for Equality in Uttar Pradesh, is also national president (honorary) of the RSS-associated Rashtrawadi Muslim Mahila Sangh.
Her petition contended that while several Islamic countries have codified the Muslim personal law, the Shariat is interpreted as per the “whims and fancies of the local ulemas” in India.
She demanded a high-level committee comprising scholars and broad-minded academicians, not clergymen, be set up for the codification. “For too long, Muslim women have been victimised by the interpretations of our semi-literate clergy,” Faiz told HT.
The advocate also vowed to challenge the AIMPLB’s authority to govern the practices of Muslims in India. “It’s an NGO and does not have any right to control us,” she said.
Social evils like polygamy, unilateral talaq and gender discrimination were not an integral part of the religion, Farha’s petition said. “Muslims are totally dependent on half-baked maulanas, muftis and qazis who try to sort out problems in their own way.”
Faiz cited a 2005 incident in UP’s Muzaffarnagar district —where a woman was raped by her father-in-law — to put forth her point. Instead of punishing the accused, the local clergy had issued a fatwa stating the victim should divorce her husband and treat him as her son.