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Nikahnama shelved yet again by the MPLB
By Syed Ubaidur Rahman

The fourteenth convention of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (MPLB) was held in Bangalore on 28-29 October. The two-day convention had acquired significance in the prevailing circumstances. There were news that the MPLB will take some drastic steps in this convention. It was also the first convention of the Board under its new president Maulana Mujahidul Islam Qasmi who took over this important Muslim body last April.

The Bangalore convention was significant for several reasons. The Board has planned to prepare a model nikahnama (marriage contract) and it was believed that this issue would be discussed there. Another important issue that was to be discussed in the convention was the question of triple talaq. The issue was being vigorously discussed in the press and several ulama had vowed to discuss it in the forthcoming convention. 

Another important issue that was slated for discussion was the validity of talaq under the influence of alcohol. Fiqh Academy, headed by MPLB president, had declared a few months back that talaq under the influence of alcohol is not valid and thus will be void. But a recent fatwa issued by Darul Uloom Deoband has taken an opposite line. According to the ulama of Darul Uloom Deoband, talaq under the influence of alcohol is valid. They issued this fatwa merely a few days before the convention was held. But this issue was not discussed there.

The convention was well attended and delegates from all parts of the country and from all sects were present there. The issue of a new nikahnama was discussed vigorously. But the participants could not arrive at a consensus on amending the existing nikahnama. 

The convention was supposed to discuss the draft of the existing nikahnama and adopt a standard, fool-proof one and enforce it as a mandatory requirement for all Muslims marriages. But after five hours of deliberations on the issue, members could not arrive at a consensus and the subject was deferred.

The issue of nikahnama is not new. It has been making headlines for several years. Uzma Naheed of Mumbai (who is a member of the board and shoulders several responsibilities including the ladies section of Saboo Siddiq Polytechnic where she runs more than twenty courses including journalism courses in English and Urdu) had prepared a nikahnama several years ago. She had discussed the pros and cons of this draft with this correspondent in Mumbai a few months ago. She at that time had told this correspondent that she prepared this nikahnama in consultation with a number of highly educated Muslim women. She also said that she is involved in grass-roots level work so she is aware of the pathetic condition of Muslim women in the country. She had presented the nikahnama draft to the MPLB in the 13th convention held in Mumbai last year. She was assured that it will be accepted with minor changes. The MPLB had passed a resolution to accept the nikahnama in last year's convention. But instead of debating the nikahnama draft presented by Uzma Nahid, the MPLB came up with a new nikahnama before this convention and circulated the new one among Board members for their approval. But after the discussions in the recently concluded convention, this version too has been shelved and it is said that it needs further deliberations for approval. 

It is amazing that the Board did not accept the draft prepared by Uzma Nahid. She has been involved in discussions with ulama for more than five years on the issue. She knows the plight of women in the slums of Mumbai and neighboring areas where she has worked after the serial bomb blasts in Bombay in 1993. She is aware of the matrimonial problems of Muslim families in lower, lower middle class and middle class families. She had told this correspondent that she is trying to include a clause in the nikahnama that an advocate must be present during the proceedings of the nikah. In the new nikahnama presented by the MPLB they have mentioned it as an option. She had told this correspondent that she is including it because the Sharia courts have failed to safeguard the interests of the women in the country. 

Besides nikahnama the convention discussed some other important issues like Babri Masjid, safety of the minorities in the country, and state terrorism.

The Board chairman Maulana Mujahidul Islam Qasmi cautioned Muslims in his presidential address against the onslaught of fascist forces and said that it is a strategy to misguide Muslims and destroy their distinct identity.

The MPLB in its declaration has warned against any alteration in the existing status of the Babri Masjid. The declaration said that people who are talking of constructing Ram Mandir on the site of Babri Masjid are committing contempt of court. 

Expressing concern over what it called ‘state terrorism’ against religious minorities, the Board appealed to the minorities to evolve a common strategy to collectively confront the threat. 'Muslims must become practicing Muslims and take the message of unity of God and unity of mankind to their brothers and sisters in the country,' the declaration said. 

More than 350 delegates from all over the country and 90 members of the Board attended the convention.
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