Sisters to the rescue
Fathima was living a nightmare for two years. Married at 17, her husband would come home drunk every night, beat and then rape her. Going back to her poor parents was not an option, nor was taking her problem to the local all-male Sharia court.
For Anees, 39, the dilemma was different. Her 19-year-old daughter, working at a BPO, frequently got herself bleached and waxed. Was it Islamic? There was none she could ask. Or take the case of Nazia, 32, whose brothers cheated her of her share in their parents’ property. But would the all-male Shariat in Bihar do her justice? She wasn’t so sure.
Deliverance came in the form of the first all-female Sharia court in Hyderabad in 2003. The Jamiat-ul-Momminat has handled almost 6,000 petitions from Muslim women on issues ranging from marriage to divorce to working all night at a BPO.
“On an average, we receive three to four letters per day and try to dispose them the same day,” says head mufti Nazima Aziz. The court’s five muftis are all women — educated and computer savvy. “Our success rate is quite good. The majority of the cases are settled amicably,” says Mastan Ali, who founded the court along with his wife mufti Rizwana Zarin. Although, he says, the order of the court is are not legally binding, most people see reason by persuasion and avoid the costly litigation in courts. “Many couples on the verge of divorce are happy together after we counselled them.” Recently, the court issued a fatwa banning the giving and receiving of dowry, and asked all Muslims to boycott marriages in which dowry had been given. It even runs a school for girls charging nominal fees. At last count, 2200 girls had been enrolled at the school.
The muftis say that they have begun receiving queries from young, upwardly mobile women for divorce using the Qula provision in the Kurla. This month, the Sharia court will also become web-savvy — allowing petitions to be emailed from anywhere in the world.