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Winds of change in Muslim society
By Syed Ubaidur Rahman

Abdul Karim ParekhWinds of change it seems have started blowing in the somnolent Muslim society too. Woman the neglected lot is now coming out of the closet to claim its share in the community. And none other than the Muslim Personal Law Board has taken the lead to usher her in a new world of change. Ulema, the very people accused of neglecting women and responsible for their pathetic condition seem to have taken up the task of changing the whole perception of Muslim women in their society.

A two-day-long conference was organized on 7-8 April by All India Muslim Personal Law Board at Jamia Millia Islamia in New Delhi on 'Genuine Problems of Women and their Solution in the Light of Shariah'. Here Muslim women took the lead in organizing the conference and ran it as smoothly as anyone could do. The conference attended by a large number of men and women also received ample media coverage.

The conference was organized to ponder over the issues confronting the Muslim women in the country. The issues included nikah, triple talaq in a single sitting, Khula, meher, forced marriage, women inheritance besides women's pathetic condition in the Muslim society in the country.

The All India Muslim Personal Law Board has been deliberating on all these issues for quite some time. Few months ago it organized a meeting of all its members in down south Bangalore where the issues of talaq and a nikahnama were discussed in full length. The women members of the Board took full interest in the meeting held in Bangalore and even forced the Board not to issue a final draft of the nikahnama.

But it was different from earlier meetings of the MPBL in the sense that women had been assigned to organize and run the program. They, from all over the country descended in the capital to attend the meeting specially called for women to deliberate on their issues. More than 40 organizations were represented in the meeting. Well known Muslim women activist and a member of the Board Dr Haseena Hashiya organized the program that was attended by a number of prominent ulema including Qazi Mujahidul Islam Qasmi president of the Board, Maulana Abdul Kareem Parekh, Maulana Jalaluddin Anser Umri, Maulana Kalbe Sadiq, Maulana Rabe Hasani Nadwi, Maulana Ateeq Ahmad Bastawi and Maulana Khalilur Rahman Sajjad Nomani. Yusuf Muchala a renowned Supreme Court lawyer was also present in the meeting. Syedah Syedain Hameed, Hasanat Mansur of Federation of Muslim Women Organization, Mrs. Haseena of Awaz-e-Niswan from Mumbai, Safia Iqbal and Begum Naseem Iqtidar Ali were among prominent women activists who attended the meeting.

Though not much came out of the meeting in the sense that the much publicized nikahnama was not discussed here, but it made it clear that the Board cares for the women. Maulana Parekh the senior Board leader was very clear on the issue. During his presidential address he said that Muslim men should be forced to accept shariah laws. He said that our society does not allow the women those rights that have been enshrined in Islam. Maulana Parekh made it amply clear that the Muslim community has no regards for Islamic laws and it is the only cause for women's worst state of affairs in the Muslim society.

Maulana Parekh said that we will have to make talaq a tough job so that men could not just utter three words and relieve from the responsibility of their wives. He said that like proceedings of nikah we will have to involve our ulema in the process of talaq too. He also said that in his home town he has made arrangements that people come and ask him before divorcing their wives. 'Most cases of divorce are caused by insignificant reasons and if proper time is taken before pronouncing talaq, the instances of talaq will drastically come down' he added.

Qazi Mujahidul Islam Qasmi while speaking in the conference made it amply clear that the Board is consistently taking care of the issues that concern the Muslim families and particularly the Muslim women. He accepted that women are being denied due rights in our society and showed his determination to correct the mistakes made by us in this regard. He said that we will have to take a tough stance on the issue of triple talaq in a single sitting. The Maulana has also mooted the idea of establishing darul quzat (shariah courts) in every city. These sharia courts if established will look after the issues concerning Muslim personal law. This proposal has got wide acceptance among women who came to attend the meeting. The ulema have also resolved to hold workshops in various parts of the country with the help of imams and other opinion makers for increasing awareness of rights and duties among the people at the local level.

The MPLB conference has cleared several myths surrounding the Muslim society. Muslim women from whichever social strata they may belong, all of them have great faith in the sharia laws and Islam. Media or feminists are free to claim whatever they can, but the Muslim women are fully satisfied over what rights Islam has provided them. One more thing that clearly comes out of the meeting is the elimination of myth regarding ulama. The conference showed that ulama not only are much more liberal than we believe but they are also ready to go out of the way for according due rights to Muslim women.

Women issues have taken center-stage even in organizations like MPLB which for long has been receiving adverse propaganda for not giving any attention to women’s issues. But this adverse propaganda seems to have taken a beating since a few years and now the Board has been regularly talking of the women’s issues.

But people are skeptical of such programs. They ask as to how these sorts of programs will help in solving the contentious issues like women's battered position in a male dominant society like ours and issues like nikah and talaq? When the same question was posed by this correspondent to Maulana Parekh, he said that it may well be the start of a change in our society. Let's first sit together and deliberate the issues that need our real concern. He added that nothing could be changed so suddenly.

When Hasina Hashia the convener of the program was posed the same question she said that it is great to see ulama speaking so favourably of women. When asked if she believed that anything is going to come out of such programs she said that she has high expectations from such meetings.

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