Days after Jaipur got its first-ever woman qazis in Jahan Ara and Afroz Begum, Uttar Pradesh’s Muslim community followed suit by appointing Hena Zaheer and Maria Fazal as shahr qazis – judges who decide on matters within the community as per Sharia (Islamic law) – of Kanpur.
While Zaheer will be the qazi for Shias, Fazal will look into issues pertaining to the Sunni sect. They will be empowered to solemnise nikahs (marriages) and decide on matrimonial affairs such as talaaq (divorce) as well as mahr (mandatory price paid by the groom).
The All India Muslim Women Board (AIMWB) made this announcement after its working committee held a meeting in Chamangunj on Wednesday.
Zaheer and Fazal were made shahr qazis despite Kanpur’s male clergy outrightly rejecting the appointments made in the Rajasthan capital earlier this month. Board chairperson Syeda Tabassum told Hindustan Times that the decision was part of a conscious effort to ensure equality for women in Muslim society, as per Islamic tenets.
Many delegates at the Chamangunj meeting quoted from the Quran as well as other scriptures to establish their point that Islam treats women on a par with men, and allows them to perform qazi duties.
Both Zaheer and Fazal had completed their ‘Alimah’ course, where they learned about hadith (tradition), fiqh (principles of jurisprudence) and other religious disciplines, from the Madarsa Fatima-Us-Zehra in Kanpur. “They rated best among the many candidates we analysed threadbare at the meeting,” said Tabassum, adding, “We will meet again in Kanpur next week to decide on the modalities.”
A lot remains to be done to secure equal rights for the Muslim woman, said Zaheer. “We want justice. The rights and equality conferred by Allah on humanity 1,500 years ago haven’t been passed on to women,” she said, adding that education could be used as an effective tool to empower them.
The AIMWB, established two years ago, shot into prominence three months ago when the Sunni Ulema Council demanded the abolition of the triple-talaq practice. While orthodox clergymen came out against the council’s office bearers, members of the board – headed by Tabassum – staged a sizeable demonstration in favour of the demand.
Kanpur has 10 male shahr qazis, four each in the Barelvi and Deobandi persuasion of Sunni sects and two in the Shia sect.