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Babukhan is absolutely right
By Prof. Abida Samiuddin

I fully endorse the views expressed by Mr. Bashiruddin Babukhan, requesting the Muslim Personal Law Board to pay attention to certain issues of urgent importance, (published in the Milli Gazette, dated 16-31 July, 2002) I would like to offer one clarification with reference to Mr. Bashiruddin’s write-up and add a few more aspects of Personal Law to be considered by the Board. But before that I would also like to mention that I have complete faith in Sharia, and have contributed a few articles against the uniform civil code in reputed journals of India. Any reasonable reform can be adjusted within the framework of Shariah, provided its enlightened interpretation responds to the socio-economic compulsions of the community.

About family planning the Holy Qur’an has not spoken against it, as mentioned by Mr. Bashiruddin. The most common verse quoted by theologians is, "Murder not your children for fear of poverty. We provide sustenance to them as to you". The interpretation of the verse requires examination of the context. The Arabs used to kill their children for three reasons, viz. economic stringency, propitiating the gods and the self-imposed shame of searching for a son-in-law (applicable only in case of girl killing). Now seeing the above-mentioned verse of the Qur’an in the background of this cruel practice of Arabs one can safely say that it has nothing to do with permission or otherwise of family planning methods. Here it is the physical killing of children which has been forbidden and not the avoidance of conception.

The practice of 'azl (coitus interruptus) was quite common among Arabs even before Islam. The Prophet permitted it to his Companions with the permission of their wives.

There are overwhelming evidences to indicate that Islam emphasises birth spacing, health of the mother and right of the child to healthy upbringing. The Qur’an says: "Mothers who wish to breast-feed their infants usually do so for about two years". There are several traditions which directly or indirectly favour abstinence for increasing the spacing between two births. The motive behind such abstinence was the welfare of the mother and child.

Imam Ghazali, who was a sufi of great eminence, also mentions a tradition from the Prophet (PBUH): Smallness of a family (qillat al’ayal) is a facility (yusr) and its largeness (kathrat) results in indigence (faqr)". Imam Raghib, interpreting verse 31 of Sura Al-Asra says that it is not only the physical killing of children which is prohibited in Islam but also killing them spiritually and intellectually, denial of access to education, for example, amounts to killing them intellectually. "Those few (qalil)", postulates Hadith, "who are virtuous are superior to those many who are undesirable". It implies that the number of children should be restricted to the capability of parents to make them virtuous. A number of such interpretations suggest, that the Holy Qur’an has opposed only irreversible methods, but it allows reversible ones.

Triple Divorce
There are a few things which have been elaborated in the Holy Qur’an and the procedure of divorce is one of them, which is most rational as well as highly scientific. It introduces several stages for final separation so that the married couple may reconsider their position before taking a final decision.

Divorce is to be pronounced thrice after each menstrual period called Tuhrs. Repudiation must not take place during menstruation. The entire procedure is an emphasis that divorce should not be a hasty decision and an impulsive act. Sufficient time is given to both parties to consider reconciliation before they finally decide to part. It provides time to relatives from both the parties to intervene, counsel and protect the interests of the wife and the children. Justice Krishna Iyer remarks that "A deep study of the system reveals a surprisingly rational, human and modern law of divorce".

Triple divorce violates all the conditions laid down by the Holy Qur’an. It is not permitted by Jafria jurisprudence and sometimes back Ahl-e-Hadith have also declared it invalid. Sunni opinion is sharply divided over the issue. In most of the Muslim countries divorce has been made a judicial act. It is high time, the issue must receive the serious consideration of our Ulama. Such arguments that it is a sin, but still becomes valid is alienating the younger generation from the faith.

Recently a voice has been raised against the ban on early marriages, which is quite strange. Apart from the health hazards, it would seriously hamper the girls education. I need not say that in the light of available statistics Muslim women are at the last rung of the ladder of education in India. Exemption from a ban on early marriage would also affect the education of the boys. We have left the feudal society far behind. Our boys have to face a highly competitive society. I wonder if a community so miserably backward, both educationally and economically can afford to demand an exemption from the ban on early marriages.

The author teaches at Aligarh Muslim University
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