Islam, ours and theirs

SC stand on triple talaq remains to be seen. But male monopoly over reading of Islam is under serious challenge.

Written by Javed Anand | Updated: October 25, 2016 12:31 pm
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The unfolding drama over the issues of triple talaq, halala marriage and polygamy, in and outside the Supreme Court of India, opens up the larger question of whether the Islam of the mullahs and muftis is at odds with the principles of equality, non-discrimination, personal liberty and free choice enshrined in the Indian Constitution. One often hears the reigning high priests of Indian Islam proclaim: We believe in Islam and we also have faith in the Indian Constitution. In practice, this often shows up as divided loyalty. This is evident in the current debate as it was in the Haji Ali dargah controversy earlier. Equally apparent is the emerging idea of Islam which is in conflict with the Islam of the orthodox but in consonance with constitutional values. Some Muslims talk of “our Islam” vs “their Islam”.

WATCH VIDEO: Mumbai’s Haji Ali Dargah Trust to SC: Ready to give women access to sanctum sanctorum

 

In the Haji Ali dargah case, two Muslim women activists had petitioned the Bombay High Court asserting both their constitutional and Islamic rights to equal access, on par with men, to the sanctum sanctorum. The trustees claimed their 2011-12 decision restricting women’s access was in accordance with Shariah law and therefore part of their constitutionally guaranteed right to religious freedom. In July this year, the high court ruled in favour of the women activists. An appeal by the dargah’s trustees is now before the Supreme Court, which has asked them to come up with a “progressive solution”.

The same conflict between orthodox Islam and the constitution is now in evidence with the petition of a Muslim woman victim of instant divorce from Uttarakhand, Shayara Bano, pending before the Supreme Court seeking the abolition of and declaration of triple talaq, halala marriage and polygamy as unconstitutional.

Two other Muslim women — Afreen Rehman (Rajasthan) Ishrat Jahan (West Bengal) — and three Muslim women’s organisations — Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA), Bebaak Collective and All India Muslim Women Personal Law Board (AIMWPLB) — have lined up alongside Shayara Bano in the apex court. Outside the court, a group calling itself “Muslim men for gender justice” collected nearly 150 signatures in a day from over three dozen cities across the country in support of the women petitioners. Significantly, while the Bebaak Collective (a joint platform of several Muslim women’s groups), is focused on triple talaq, halala marriage and polygamy being declared unconstitutional, BMMA is hoping for a verdict which also deems these practices as “un-Islamic”.

WATCH VIDEO: PM Narendra Modi Bats For Equal Rights : Here What He Said On Triple Talaq

 

Ranged against them is the All India Muslim Personal Law Board which has filed an affidavit staunchly defending triple talaq and polygamy, arguing that the apex court must not interfere in Muslim personal law. The Board is backed by the Jamiatul-ulema, the Jamaat-e-Islami and other Muslim bodies. What has provided extra charge to the orthodox position is the fact of the Muslim-unfriendly Modi government filing an affidavit in the Supreme Court which supports the women petitioners. To them this is nothing but the first step towards enacting a uniform civil code on Indian Muslims in keeping with the sangh parivar’s long-standing agenda.

In the past, while dealing with cases where a litigant invoked the right to freedom of religion (Article 25), the Supreme Court has based its verdicts on whether the practice in question was “an integral and essential part of [the] religion [concerned]”. The Board and its supporters insist that triple talaq and polygamy are “an integral and essential part of Islam”. What’s more, it is claimed that Shariah law is God-given and therefore immutable.

If such be the case, how is it that, forget Shias, even the Sunni Ahl-e-Hadith sect in India, considers triple talaq unacceptable? How has instant divorce been declared unlawful, polygamy banned or made conditional in many Muslim-majority countries? Is it not a fact that the entire Shariah corpus — compilation of opinions and rulings based on interpretations of the Quran and Ahadith — is man-made?

Why are Sunni ulema hell-bent on defending the continuance of triple talaq which is not only contrary to the unambiguous Quran injunction, but which even according to them is “theologically repugnant”? What, except their male-centred worldview, stops them from seeing the two-faceted nature of the Quranic stipulations concerning women: Some truly progressive by the prevailing cultural sensibilities at Islam’s birth, some like “directive principles” pointing towards a far more egalitarian and gender just future society?

Will the Supreme Court revert to the “essentiality” criterion in the present case? Or should it refrain from stepping on this “slippery slope” and limit itself, as some legal luminaries suggest, to the position that the constitutional right to freedom of religion (Article 25) is subservient to the equality, non-discrimination and personal liberty principles that precede it?

Which approach the apex court adopts remains to be seen. But one thing is clear. The centuries-old Muslim male monopoly over the interpretation of Islam is under serious challenge. Across the globe, an increasing number of Muslim women and men are now doing their own reading of religious texts and coming to the same conclusion. That the core values enshrined in the Quran are consonant with the fundamental rights and freedoms embedded in the Indian Constitution, as also the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948. The real conflict today, then, is between their “our Islam” and the supremacist, misogynist “their Islam” of the patriarchs.

Islamic scholar Aziza Hibri keeps it simple: “Where there is no justice, there is no Islam”. Let the Board and its ardent supporters explain to the Supreme Court and the rest of us how triple talaq and polygamy practices are egalitarian or just.

The writer is general secretary, Muslims for Secular Democracy, and co-editor, ‘Communalism Combat’

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  1. P
    Prashant
    Oct 20, 2016 at 9:00 am
    In quran,,, Religion comes first nd then state(infact there is no concept of state ),,,,,,,,as per quran--A muslims shd have a Muslim king,,, otherwise it's not a state but merely a pice of land,,,,,,,,,For developing a state,,,, it shd be Governed by Muslims,, Occupied by Muslims,,non muslims shd Give Zazia,,,bt if u are practice Idolatry,,,then u shd be behead ed,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,so For most of the Orthodox Indian Muslim s,,,,,India is merely a pice of Land,,,,,,,,,nd this the only reason why they support stan,,
    Reply
    1. P
      Prashant
      Oct 20, 2016 at 9:07 am
      They want Shariah law shd be implemented,,,As per Shariah Law ""A non muslim is know as Jimmi,,or second cl Slave(not citizen),,,There is some liberty for Christian nd Jews,,,,,but those who practice Idolatry,,shd be beheaded immediately,,,,,Non muslim shd ne kept out of any Govt admin posts,etc,,,For Idolators as Per true quran nd Shariah ""either islam or death"",,,,,,,,Muslim follow 4 sects of school,,,,3 of them directly say,,,Non muslim shd be beheaded,,,last one give little "Riyayat" but only after payment of JAZIA
      Reply
      1. A
        Aryan
        Oct 20, 2016 at 11:10 am
        No religion is bad until its followers try to make it one. How can Triple Talaq be called God-ordained when it is not in Q'uran ? Does God ask us to keep the women in disadvantageous position ?
        Reply
        1. K
          Krishna Bhagawan
          Oct 20, 2016 at 7:02 am
          interesting that the author avoided to mention his own view
          Reply
          1. R
            Redback
            Oct 20, 2016 at 8:04 am
            Good on you brother. We need more of progressive people like you in every religion for stronger and peaceful India.
            Reply
            1. K
              K SHESHU
              Oct 20, 2016 at 1:55 pm
              Many Islamic countries have abolished triple talaq. Many quite from quoran saying one sitting triple talaq is unislamic.
              Reply
              1. A
                A. KHAN
                Oct 20, 2016 at 7:15 am
                TRIPLE TALAK SHOULD BE ABOLISHED AND BANNED. MANY OF THE MUS LIMS WANT TO DISCARD THIS LAW.
                Reply
                1. S
                  srinivas cvjanu
                  Oct 20, 2016 at 10:29 am
                  The w piece has no opinions no comments but looks like giving the opposers the names of the people challenging them and giving a chance to fringe to stop them
                  Reply
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