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How About A Fatwa Against Triple Talaq, Wife Beating, Child Marriage…..

By A. Faizur Rahman

17 June, 2008

That the fatwa against terrorism issued by the Darul Uloom Deoband is a positive development in Indian political history was proved by the fact that it was supported even by the anti-Muslim BJP. And there can be no doubt that it sent a strong message to the extremists exploiting Islam to gain gullible recruits for their unIslamic cause. But unfortunately, Muslim organisations have not shown the same interest and alacrity in clarifying their position on a host of other issues, particularly those concerning women.

An article in The Times of India (The ulema strike back, June 15) quoted Mahmood Madani of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind as saying that the ulema were forced to issue this fatwa because the western media had not stopped demonizing Islam. According to the same article, Kamal Farooqui of the Muslim Personal law Board was of the opinion that the "new awaking" among the ulema was in response to secularists' accusation that they were not coming out openly against terrorism.

This sophistical reasoning cannot fool the masses. Is terrorism the only anti-human issue against which a fatwa deserves to be pronounced? Has not the misinterpretation of the Quran on sensitive issues such as divorce, stoning to death for adultery, wife beating and child marriage defamed Islam enough? How can these self-appointed spokesmen of the Muslims ignore the fact the organisations in which they are members continue to victimize Muslim women through arbitrary legal decisions in the name of the shariah?

For instance, the All India Muslim Personal Law Board in its Nikahnama released in May 2005 tacitly approved instant triple talaq which renders a woman stranger to her husband within seconds. The same is true for child marriage which, shockingly, has been legitimised by the Board. Section 3 of the Nikahnama states that marriage between minors or to minors is valid if conducted with the approval of their parents or guardians.

It is a well known fact that marriage in Islam is a civil contract described as meesaaq by the Quran (4:21), and as such it can be finalized only between persons who are both intellectually and physically mature enough to understand and fulfill the responsibilities of such a contract. This can be clearly understood from the Quranic verse concerning the orphans which commands, "And test the orphans until they reach the age of nikah (marriage), and if you find in them rushdh (maturity of intellect) release their property to them."(4:6).This verse clearly proves that the age of marriage is the age of majority.

And if the marriage of a child is performed while he or she is still a minor, Islamic law gives the minor the option to dissolve the marriage on attaining majority basically to protect the minor from an unscrupulous or undesirable exercise of authority by the parents or the guardian. This is known as Khiyar-al-Buloogh or the Option of Puberty and is based on a hadith in Mishkath-al-Masabih wherein the Prophet gave a minor girl the option to repudiate her marriage when she informed him that her father had given her in a marriage which was not to her liking. Therefore, on what basis does the AIMPLB justify child marriage?

In another interesting incident concerning the shariah, The New York Times on March 22, 2007 reported that a German Judge turned down citing the Quran, a Muslim wife's request for a fast-track divorce on the ground that her husband beat her from the beginning of their marriage. The Judge justified her ruling saying that the couple came from a Moroccan cultural milieu in which it is common for husbands to beat their wives because the Quran sanctions such physical abuse.

The Judge was obviously quoting one of the most mistranslated verses of the Quran (4:34) which supposedly allows wife beating. The mistranslated word is wazribuhunna which is derived from the root zaraba. Major commentators of the Quran including Ibn Kasir, Pickthall, and Maulana Maududi, the founder of Jamaat-e-Islami, have rendered this word as "beat them" ignoring the fact that the word zaraba has various other shades of meaning.

Out of the 49 times it occurs in the Quran, 31 times it has been used in the meaning of "to explain by giving an example." Only 10 times it has used to mean "to strike" but mostly in the context of Moses "striking the rock" or the sea, and angels "striking the faces" of the sinners. The verse 4:34 actually talks about the various means at the disposal of a husband to bring about a reconciliation with his wife and obviously beating the wife cannot be an option to sort out differences. Therefore, the translation "beat them" is clearly not justified in this context.

Undoubtedly, the fatwa against terrorism is a step in the right direction but it is not enough because the targeting of the entire community in the war against terror is not the only problem facing the Muslims. The internal issues discussed above too need a serious consideration by the ulema. For, in the case of the designs of "enemies of Islam" to defame the religion, the world knows that the entire community cannot be guilty at once. But in the case of the so-called shariah laws concerning triple talaq, stoning to death, the killing of apostates and other such issues, not just others but the Muslims themselves realise that these are anti-human provisions not approved by the Quran. If urgency is not shown in resolving these issues the ulema would find it impossible to move away from "destructive emotionalism" towards forming a "constructive agenda for the community" as envisaged by Mr. Mehmood Madani.

(The author is a student of comparative religion and an executive committee member of Harmony India, Chennai, an organisation dedicated to communal amity and secularism. He may be reached at


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