For Fareen Syed, 26, Friday was special. Not because she was getting married, but because she was renewing her marriage contract.
The new marriage contract — nikahnama and iqrarnama — would entitle her to better mehr, remove the risk of talaq (oral divorce), and secure an assurance from her husband that he would not indulge in polygamy and offer her better maintenance in case of divorce.
The new contract is a movement that seeks to empower women in the slums of Behrampada. The motto of the NGO Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA) is “to give what is due to Muslim women in Islam and ensuring that it is given through a valid contract”.
“Our nikahnama is in consonance with the Holy Koran and what is permitted in Islam. This contract only gets women closer to what is ensured to them by making it binding legally. Also, they do not have to worry about their husbands divorcing them all the time. Monogamy is the stated ideal in the Koran,” said Norrjehan Niaz, member, BMMA.
“I felt that the mehr we receive is not just. Which is why I made two of my sons renew their nikahnama. One of my daughters-in-law has now received Rs25,000 instead of Rs786 given to her earlier. I wanted to start the drive at home,” said Khatoon Shaikh, a BMMA worker.
“It makes things more secure for me as my husband will not be able to divorce me even if he wants to,” said Fareen, looking at her husband Muzammil. The couple has signed the new contract, as per which, Muzammil promised Fareen a mehr of Rs11,000 — 10 times the previous amount. “In my job, I get Rs6,000 as fixed income, and if I work overtime, I manage Rs15,000. Since I do not look forward to divorcing my wife, the contract is good both ways,” said Muzammil.
Mohammad Ismail, 42, who works with a builder, said about the new contract: “I do not have any problems. It’s not that I am divorcing my wife!”
The nikah took place on Friday in the one-room office of the BMMA on Kherwadi Road. The qazi attesting the contracts initially was apprehensive about the contents of the papers, but then wilfully signed them.
Maulana Hakim Mehmood Dariyabadi, general secretary, All India Ulema Council, said: “The shariat has set a limit for everything. Polygamy is allowed if a man can do justice to all women. Not otherwise.”