The All India Shia Personal Law Board (AISPLB) has proposed to widen the scope of divorce by Shi'ite woman in its model nikahnama. The board will present the document at its annual conference in Mumbai on November 26.
Talking to newsmen on Sunday, AISPLB chairman Maulana Mirza Mohd Athar said the Ayatollah Syed Ali Sistani (Iraq) had approved the draft of the nikahnama.
He said the document had also been legally scrutinised by experts in India. He said Shia women facing various domestic hardships would have right to approach religious leadership to seek divorce.
Even though women have right to divorce under Shia jurisprudence, the board has only added some more points to make it "pro-woman".
But there is no departure from the tedious process of divorce. As per the draft document, women would have to approach religious leadership, as is already prevalent, for this purpose.
In India there are few agents of Iran and Iraq based Ayatollahs who have the power to execute talaq. This process is extremely long-drawn and the board has no solution to this. The present nikahnama does not have any written commitments on behalf of the husband.
Athar said the nikahnama would be presented before the Shia community after Mumabi conference and "it is for the Shia society to accept it".
"I have no mechanism to implement it", Athar said. He said the bridegroom would have to sign a declaration before Nikah, in which he would guarantee some basic rights to the bride.
He said the declaration would also include the income and social status of the bridegroom. Failing to comply with the written assurances the bride would have right to move religious authority for divorce.
Expressing concern over gross under-representation of Shias in elected bodies and other governmental organisations, Athar said the board had submitted a memorandum to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh last year but there was no response.
He said the Mumbai session would again press for the demand. He added there was also the need of a "Shia community policy" so that it could properly commit itself to religious and national commitments.
Athar however refused to comment on veil controversy generated after the statement of film actress Shabana Azmi.
Athar expressed resentment over branding of entire Muslim community as terrorists. He said it was dangerous trend and could lead to serious repercussions.