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Talaq rights proposed for Shia women

Sunday, 5 November 2006 - 9:10pm IST

In what could be a revolutionary step for the over five crore Shia Muslims of the country, AISPLB has announced a model 'nikahnama'.

Under the new 'nikahnama', they would get maintenance till remarriage

LUCKNOW: In what could be a revolutionary step for the over five crore Shia Muslims of the country, the All India Shia Personal Law Board (AISPLB) has announced a model 'nikahnama' (code of conduct for marriage) which envisages the right to 'talaq' (divorce) for Shia women, too.

"The 'nikahnama' is a decisive step for the empowerment of women of the Shia community," AISPLB president and renowned cleric Maulana Mirza Mohammad Athar told reporters here on Sunday. He said the 'nikahnama' had been approved by the Grand Ayatollah Sistani of Iraq, the supreme religious head of the Shias the world over. It would be presented for approval at the annual AISPLB convention in Mumbai on November 26.

A similar model 'nikahnama' ---- also aimed at giving extensive rights to women ----- drafted last year by the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) for Muslims at large is still to be approved by the Board.

The Shia 'nikahnama' also promises to meet the same fate, getting bogged down as it is by controversy even before its formal presentation before the community, which forms a minority of the Muslims. Maulana Athar himself accepted that he had not consulted All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) vice-president and the Shia cleric Kalbe Sadiq and his son, the renowned Shia Maulana Kalbe Jawwad, both of whom happen to live in Lucknow.

Maulana Kalbe Jawwad dismissed the new model 'nikahnama' as redundant. "There is nothing new in this 'nikahnama'… whatever it says is already provided for in Islam," he said derisively. He said Islam gave equal rights to women in all walks of life, and there was, in fact, no need for such a 'nikahnama'.

However, Maulana Athar feels it is a revolutionary step for Shia women, and would give them a right which they have not had for the past 1400 years, that is since the origin of Islam. Muslim women only have the right to 'khula' wherein a woman can end her marriage but have to forego the 'mehar' (alimony fixed at the time of 'nikah'). This is different from 'talaq' which is unilateral divorce given by the husband.

Under the 'nikahnama', the boy would have to sign a set of conditions before the 'nikah', the first condition being that the girl would have an equal right to 'talaq'. The boy would also have to specify his income, social status and qualifications in writing before marriage. Islam provides for three months’ maintenance to a divorced woman.

Under the new code, the prospective groom would have to give an undertaking that in the event of divorce he would be liable to maintenance till the time the woman gets remarried or has an alternate source of income.

“This is not a religious, but more of a social issue,” Maulana Athar said, adding that he expected Shias to adhere to this code under social pressure. “We have given a solution to an age-old problem… It can not be forced upon the people. It is up to the people to accept it or not,” he said.

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