Two women claiming to be the first qazis in Rajasthan have run into trouble with the clerics, almost all of whom have outrightly rejected their new designation or stated that they cannot perform certain religious rituals which male qazis can.
Jaipur residents Afroz Begum and Jahan Ara claimed that they recently completed their two-year training from Darul uloom Niswa in Mumbai and are now the first women qazis in the state, which enable them to solemnise a nikaah and judge the issues of talaaq (divorce) or meher in Islam. (Meher is the amount presented by the groom to the bride at the time of marriage.)
“We wanted to bring justice to women and hence we pursued a two-year course in Mumbai to become qazis. The rights and equality conferred by Allah on humanity 1,500 years ago have still not been granted to women,” said Jahan Ara, 40.
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However, Rajasthan’s chief qazi Khalid Usmani said: “As per Quran, a woman can never be a man’s hakim (ruler/judge). Hence, a woman can never be a qazi. In Islamic history, there is no evidence whatsoever to say that a woman can be a qazi. And if anyone deserved to be a qazi, it was Prophet Muhammad’s daughter Fatima, who is considered a role model, but even she was not a qazi,” he said.
Jahan Ara, however, said there have been women qazis before and one Shabnam from Patna had solemnised over 700 marriages. Afroz Begum, the other qazi, 40, said: “People are opposing us but nowhere in Quran it is said that a woman can’t be a qazi. True, women can’t be Imams (one who lead prayers in a mosque), but they can be qazis and help women.”
All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) member Maulana Khalid Rashid Farangi Mahali said: “At the most, a woman can assist a male qazi in solemnising a marriage, but cannot be the sole qazi solemnising a marriage. It is not Islamically possible.”