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Women and
gender justice

Women and gender justice / Reflection

Islam - Sharia

Photo by Andy Dean Photography / Alamy

Islam - Sharia

Emerging empowerment of Muslim women

Muslim women are slowly emerging from behind the curtain and fighting for their rights.

I raise up my voice — not so I can shout, but so that those without a voice can be heard… We cannot succeed when half of us are held back.

Malala Yousafzai

Reforms towards Muslim women right's: a collection of articles

Altaf Ahmad, extract from Khabar South Asia, (3rd August 2013)

The All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) has five prominent scholarly female faces in its executive council out of 20 members. We have never restricted any woman from doing any social service. ‘To serve mankind’ is what Islam teaches us, and our beloved prophet has urged us to handle feminine matters with utmost care, respect and mercy,” he said.

Zeeshan Shaikh, extract from The Indian Express, 9th July 2013.

In a first of its kind initiative in the country, Shariah courts exclusively meant to handle cases pertaining to women will be set up in Mumbai, Pune, Ahmedabad and Dindigul. These courts are expected to adjudicate on matters like divorce, polygamy, maintenance, custody of children and property rights.

The Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA), which is fighting for the rights of Muslim women and demanding codification of Muslim Personal Law, will set up these courts. It plans to take this initiative further in states like West Bengal, Orissa, UP, MP, Bihar, Karnataka, and Jharkand in the next six months.

“Women have failed to get justice from the Imarat-e-Shariah, or courts run by the All India Muslim Personal Law Board. Their decisions are not based on Quranic principles. Therefore, we have decided to set up Shariah courts which will be run by women,” BMMA founder member Noorjehan Safia Niaz said.

The BMMA is planning to train 20 women to begin with. “They will be told about the rights of women as per the holy Quran so that they can give an informed judgement,” Naz said. Shariah courts, or Darul Qaza as they are popularly known, are vital instruments of the alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) mechanism in the country’s judicial system. Though these institutions are called courts, they function more like counselling centres whose decision is not binding on the parties.

The All India Muslim Personal Law Board runs a number of Shariah courts. In Bihar, Jharkhand and Orissa, there are Imraat Shariah, which operate on the same principles.

These courts are headed by Qazis who are well-versed in Islamic jurisprudence. Women’s groups have, however, complained that these centres are biased towards men.

Islamic scholars have raised doubts about the new centres. “Counselling needs to be within the confines of Islamic law. One has to see if the new venture (BMMA) has the necessary expertise and knowledge to pass judgements on religious matters,” Maulana Burhanuddin Qasmi, director of Markazul Maarif, a social religious organisation, said.

Dr. Noorjehan Safia Niaz and Zakia Soman, extract from Seeking Justice Within Family, (Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan, March 2015, Mumbai, India, pp. 68-70).

“… within the Islamic framework there is a strong need to appreciate and distinguish between the normative and contextual writings. There are many verses of the Holy Quran which have a normative, immutable and prescriptive appeal. They point towards universal values of justice, equality, wisdom and compassion which must permeate life of each and every human being for all time to come. On the other hand there are the contextual and descriptive verses which were relevant for those times and for that particular society. As a principle new age Muslim women and men must root for the universal principles and base their laws and their way of life on those. In other words, a humanistic understanding of the Quran will ensure that as Muslims we are able to ensure justice within and live in peace with other communities and the world at large.

Allah is a universal power which as per the tawhidic understanding permeates all beings, living and non-living. This universal power is rahman and rahim, merciful and beneficent and is embedded in the Islamic notion of Taqwa or moral/ethical notions. It is very heartening and encouraging to note that across the Muslim societies Muslim women are embracing these very Islamic and universal ideas of Tawhid and Taqwa which encourages us to love all as creations of one God and live and let live everyone in peace and tranquillity. Emboldened by the conceptualisation of God as merciful and just, Muslim women are now seeking justice and equality within families and are reclaiming their right to read the Holy Quran and arrive at their meanings based on their own lived realities.”

“… Contemporary Muslim women have inadvertently opened the doors of ijtihaad by creating knowledge from their perspectives and their own lived realities which are largely experiences of injustice and inequality. In other words there is a move towards ‘democratization of the production of religious knowledge’. Women are no longer dependent on men to know what God wants from them. They no longer have to accept what men have been telling them. They no longer have to believe that God has created them as inferior to men. They now read, translate, interpret and explain to the world that their god is just, loving and merciful and has created them on par with men.”

I raise up my voice — not so I can shout, but so that those without a voice can be heard… We cannot succeed when half of us are held back.

Malala Yousafzai