THE ALL India Shia Personal Law Board (AISPLB) has proposed to give more powers in its model nikahnama to Shi’ite women in divorce matters. The board will present the document at its annual conference in Mumbai on November 26.
Talking to newsmen here on Sunday, chairman of the AISPLB Maulana Mirza Mohd Athar said Ayatollah Syed Ali Sistani (Iraq) had approved the draft 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 under Shia jurisprudence a woman has the right to divorce, the board has 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, a woman would have to approach religious leadership, as is already prevalent, for this purpose. In India there are a few agents of Iran and Iraq based Ayatollahs who have power to execute “Talaq”. This process is extremely long drawn and the board has no solution to this. The present nikahnama doesn’t have any written commitments on behalf of the husband.
Athar said after the Mumbai conference, the nikahnama would be presented before the Shia community and “it is for the Shia society to accept it”.
“I have no mechanism to implement it,” Athar said. He said before nikah, the bridegroom would have to sign a declaration in which he would guarantee some basic rights to the bride. He said the declaration would also include the income and social status of groom. Failing to comply with the written assurances, the bride would have the right to move the 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 Dr Manmohan Singh last year but there had been no response so far. He said the demand would be again raised in the Mumbai session.
He said there was need for a “Shia community policy” so that it could properly commit itself to religious and national commitments. Athar, however, refused to comment on the veil controversy, which generated a lot of heat after film actress Shabana Azmi’s remarks.
Athar expressed resentment over branding of the entire Muslim community as terrorists. He said it was a dangerous trend and could lead to serious repercussions.