The All India Shia Personal Law Board (AISPLB) on Monday expressed its unhappiness over “repeated interference” by courts in Muslim personal law and demanded that there should be “a law for minimum interference in the issues of Indian minorities”.
Speaking about the April 6 Supreme Court order in the Shamima Farooqui versus Shahid Khan case, where the apex court had reiterated that a Muslim woman is entitled to maintenance by her former husband till she remarries, AISPLB president Maulana Mirza Mohammad Athar said while they agree with the judgment, there should also be a law to ensure minimum interference in minorities’ issues.
In its judgment, the Supreme Court has reiterated that civil law will prevail over any personal laws, which in essence, helps divorced Muslim women whose right to maintenance was curtailed by Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act-1986 passed by the Rajiv Gandhi government in the wake of the top court’s Shah Bano ruling.
While the SC had ruled in favour of granting maintenance to divorced Muslim women in the Shah Bano case, Rajiv Gandhi — ostensibly under pressure from Muslim clerics — had passed the Act that essentially diluted the SC ruling. However, over the years, the courts, in turn, ruled in favour of women and sidestepped the Act.
Mirza said AISPLB has found a middle ground on the issue, as rulings like April 6 lead to “restlessness within the Muslim community”. “On one hand, there is Section 125 of CrPC and the insistence of the top court on its applicability to divorced Muslim women, which entitles them to maintenance pay, during and after iddat period (of three months and 10 days), by her former husband, till the day she remarries. On the other, Islamic shariah law says that a man is entitled to give maintenance pay only for the iddat period… after that he is free of any responsibility… But time and again this issue has been raised, hence, we decided to find a middle ground,” he added.
“We had passed a ‘nikahnama’ at our 2007 meet in Mumbai where clause number 17 read that a husband will continue to provide maintenance to his former wife, even after the iddat period, until she finds a means to support herself. We have been careful in our wording, saying that that it should be implemented in view of humanitarian grounds and not religious grounds,” said Mirza.
“While our nikahnama itself isn’t compulsory, the SC ruling effectively binds a Muslim man to pay maintenance to his former wife after divorce, till she remarries,” he added.
Founder president of All India Muslim Women Personal Law Board, Shaista Amber, however, said: “The court has not interfered in personal laws, it has just opened the doors of divorced Muslim women. It is true that in shariah law, a divorced Muslim woman should seek money from her former husband, but then have we been following the shariah?”
“Are the clerics promoting rights of women or how women should be treated in Islam in the same way our Prophet treated his wives?” he asked.