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Efforts to evolve model ‘nikahnama’
Muslim Personal Law Board executive meeting
Shahira Naim
Tribune News Service

Lucknow, July 5
The decisions taken at the 42-member national executive of the All-India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) in Kanpur on Sunday is a classic example of too little, too late. The Board’s wish-list includes appealing and persuading the community to follow the rules of the Shariat in matters of marriage, termination of marriage by discouraging practices like “triple talaq in one sitting”, highlighting the rights and obligations of husband and wife in marriage and enforcing the laws of inheritance.

According to AIMPLB national executive member Maulana Salman Nadvi, this change of heart is to be brought about by the board through an intensive campaign addressing men after Friday prayers or and any other available platform. Interestingly, the much-hyped banning of triple talaq and adopting a model “nikahnama” were not discussed at the meeting as these issues were not on the official agenda. Maulana Nadvi expressed surprise about the curtain-raisers appearing in the media about these issues.

The lone woman member of the national executive of the AIMPLB, Ms Naseem Iqdedar Ali, disclosed that the AIMPLB subcommittee that had been assigned the task of formulating a model ‘nikahnama’ had submitted its draft that was discussed and inputs provided. It would now be taken up at the Calicut meeting of the national executive in December. Hence, the question of adopting any model nikahnama does not arise.

Commenting on the media reports on the so-called model “nikahnama” suggesting that in cases of marital disputes the contesting parties should either appoint an arbitrator, preferably an elder from either or both sides, or should approach a Darul Quza which should settle the matter as per the marriage contract, Ms Iqtedar Ali said this was nothing novel as this procedure is clearly laid out in the Koran.

According to her, the decision of far-reaching significance was advocating the revision of legal provisions that exclude women from inheriting agriculture property. In UP, disinheriting women from agricultural land has the sanction of the Zamindari Abolition and Land Reforms Act of 1951. If this reform comes through it would be a historical step forward as the seeds of this discrimination are in the Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) Application Act, 1937. It clearly omits “agricultural land” from the definition of “Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) Application Act of 1937.

While this issue had been discussed by ulemas on several occasions, it was only in this meeting that a consensus was arrived and it was decided to take UP as a pilot project and meet Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav, demanding changes in the law.

Another significant decision taken on Sunday was advocating the establishment of Darul Quzas, a sort of family courts, for the settlement of family disputes according to Shariat laws. It has been decided to promote these courts by meeting the Central Law Minister Hans Raj Bhardwaj, seeking legal powers for them.

Advocating Darul Quzas, Maulana Nadvi said these already existed in districts like Lucknow, Sitapur, Rai Bareilly. It has been decided to set up similar courts in other parts of the country, including Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Uttaranchal, Rajasthan and Tamil Nadu.

But Ms Iqdedar Ali has reservations about the feasibility of Darul Quzas in getting justice for women. According to her, immense groundwork is required before Darul Quzas can become effective providers of justice.

Another woman general member of the AIMPLB, Ms Rukhsana Lari, said that while a Darul Quza exists in Lucknow women do not know of its existence nor do these courts have the power to implement their decisions. Disclosing the ineffectiveness of women members on the general body, she said “we rarely get a chance to speak”. She attended the last meeting on the assurance that she would be given 30 minutes to air her views.

Reiterating the community’s well-articulated decision of accepting the court verdict on the Babri issue, the Babri Masjid report was formally tabled at the meeting. It was also resolved that while the board was not against a negotiated settlement of the Babri issue, it would clearly not take the lead.
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