Muslim women approach the judiciary in a quest for justice, Muslim orthodoxy
rallies against the abolition of Personal Laws. Their rhetoric of ‘identity
under attack’ resumes. Clearly, Indian Muslims have moved beyond the politics
of identity; choosing to express themselves through contributions to science,
architecture, law, medicine, film, theatre, music, literature and other fields.
over the validity of pronouncing Talaq, divorce, three times in one go or over
three months offer no solutions. Both methods find permissibility in schools of
Islamic Fiqh, jurisprudence. Unilateral divorce allows men to commit grave
injustices by stripping women of honour and dignity, inalienable rights both in
Islam and the Indian Constitution. It is unwise to expect reform from the
community whose religious leaders have historically treated women as subjects
and not equals.
is a human endeavour that evolved over centuries with multiple schools holding
diverse opinion. The principles of Islamic jurisprudence are weighing the
benefit and harm of legal rulings in societies that jurists live in. Barring
the foundational five pillars of Islam, nothing in Islamic law is definitive.
Salafis and Wahhabis reject classical Islamic jurisprudence and philosophy.
Their myopic literalist interpretations of Islam cause gross violations of
always been flexible in adapting to changing times and situations. Umar, the
second Caliph of Islam and companion of Prophet Muhammad, dropped Sharia
punishments for theft when famine struck Arabia. He realised people were
stealing to survive. The eighth century Imam Shafii, founder of Shafii
jurisprudence, changed many of his Fatwas on migrating from Iraq to Egypt. Had Sharia
lacked movement, Islam would not thrive in India.
dynamic, understood and practised in a variety of ways in different cultures.
Patriarchy remains deaf to the Quran’s call for equality, justice and
compassion that extends to all humanity. Excluding women from leadership,
patriarchy is blind to the Quran celebrating the wise consultative rule of
Queen Sheba and her diplomatic engagement with Solomon.
fails to recognise the Quran honouring women as recipients of Wahi,
Divine Revelation; as experienced by Moses’s mother and Mariam, or Mary. Some
famous early and medieval commentators of the Quran, such as Imam Hajar
Asqalani and Imam Qurtubi, include Mary amongst the prophets.
of Prophet Muhammad disappeared within 40 years of his death with powerful and
oppressive patriarchal tribes regaining power. The poor, women and slaves
embraced by Islam were again marginalised. Islam’s paradigm shift in empowering
women and slaves had created great difficulties for the Prophet. He sought
political counsel from women, welcomed them in his mosque; encouraged women
like Haqibatul Arab to deliver Khutbas, sermons. He appointed Umm
Waraqa the Imam of her mosque, and sent a muezzin, one calling to prayer,
from Medina to her village.
Islamic scholars, including the famous 9th century Imam Tabari, drew upon this
precedent to proclaim it lawful for women to lead mixed gender prayers.
American Muslim feminists are reclaiming this tradition despite the
controversies it evokes.
abrogated the concept of God as Father, saying, ‘Nothing is like Allah’. God
transcends gender and is best understood as Noor, Compassionating and
Illuminating Guidance. ‘He’, is used in the Quran and its translations because
Arabic grammar is gender specific with no pronoun for the neuter gender. In
most languages including Arabic, Persian and Urdu, the feminine is applied for
‘Zaat e Elahiya’, Divine Essence.
The word Rahm,
womb, is derived from God’s primary attributes Rahman and Rahim, Mercy and
Compassion. Prophet Muhammad often likened God to a Mother who forgives her
children. Traditional Arab poets addressed God in the feminine, literature that
would probably be termed blasphemous today.
advocates equitable treatment of slaves and encourages freeing them, but does
not specifically ban slavery. Responding to prevailing 7th century Arabian
evils, Quran forbade the inheriting of women, female infanticide and abuse of
slaves. Muslims across the world welcomed the abolition of slavery, believing
it to be in accordance with Quranic guidance.
scholars have responded creatively with Quranic verses sanctioning armed
struggles. Invoking the principle of ‘Asbab e Nuzul’, cause of
revelation, they rightly limit this relevance to ‘just wars’ against oppression
fought by the first Muslims. Instead of similar creative engagement with regard
to oppressive canonised laws for women, patriarchy maintains the status quo.
Women’s rights can no longer be defined by political Islam or Arab culture and
of inheritance and Nafaqah, maintenance, Quran guarantees a minimum
financial protection for women but does not cap the maximum. Offering more
financial and emotional security to women can never conflict with Islam.
Prophet Muhammad famously said, ‘None of you believes till you love for the
other what you love for yourselves.’
denies the right of punishment to individuals, leaving this responsibility to
the state. Sharia endorses responsible citizenry, making it mandatory for
Muslims to comply with laws of the lands they inhabit.
women pilgrims travelling to Mecca required to be accompanied by a Mahram,
husband or other male relatives with whom marriage is forbidden. Negotiating
modern challenges, many Islamic scholars have ruled it permissible for women to
travel alone. They declare the state as Mahram, for in ensuring
security, the laws of the state replace the role of the ‘protective bodies’.
This principle should extend to the Indian state.