Challenging a male bastion, two women who were first to complete a course for Qazis among 30 students are facing a backlash from Muslim religious organisations who say they cannot “judge men”.
The women are being trained by Darul Uloom Niswaan, a centre for Islamic learning and theology started by the Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA).
BMMA founder Zakia Soman says the training programme for the 30 women began in Jaipur. The initiative is part of the larger feminist movement by some women activists and scholars who want to present a humane, just and peaceful face of Islam, she says.
Inspired by the works of progressive and feminist Islamic writings, Soman and BMMA co-founder Dr Noorjehan Safia Niaz framed the curriculum for the programme.
“Till now, the Quran has been interpreted by men and they have given a patriarchal interpretation. The growing instances of triple talaq, halala, polygamy, denial of alimony are results of patriarchal interpretation,” Soman told HT.
Dr Niaz says Ulemas and Maulvis interpret the Quran in a conservative, patriarchal manner. “They haven’t addressed problems of women nor responded to needs of a changing society.”
In Jaipur, Jahanara and Afroz Begum are facing a backlash from Muslim religious organisations for their decision to become Quazis. But they remain unfazed.
“I have been working for Muslim women since a long time. I understand their daily trials and tribulations, and I realise there is a need to view issues in the Muslim community from women’s perspective,” Jahanara said.
Afroz says the Quran gives both men and women the right to education and encourages them to gain knowledge. “I wanted to learn more about my religion so I took up this training.”
But Muslim religious bodies such as All India Muslim Personal law Board, Jamiat-Ulama-i-Hind, Jamaat-e-Islami Hind and Anjum Educational Welfare Society are up in arms.
“In Quran, it is written that women cannot judge men. So how can they become Qazis and give rulings?” All India Darul Qazat national president Khalid Usmani said.
“The Quran also states that women cannot lead men…so women cannot perform Namaz.”
Jamaat-e-Islami Hind secretary Mohamed Iqbal says the Darul Uloom Niswaan has no authority to appoint Qazis. “Qazis can only be appointed by certain bodies like All India Muslim Personal Law Board or Government of India under the Qazi Act,” he said.