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An open letter to the All India Muslim Personal Law Board

Bashiruddin Babukhan, an important member of the Indian Muslim community who is active in various Muslim forums, sent this letter to the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) during its meeting at Hyderabad last month, about some burning issues which beg for the urgent attention of the AIMPLB.

I am of the view that, the ulama of India are far too inflexible in their approach to the implementation of certain Shariat principles, which are coming in the way of advancement of the Muslim community in worldly affairs, which has resulted in great difficulties being faced by the Muslim masses. 

I am not against the law of Shariat but, certain problems are arising out of strictly adhering to the laws of Shariat, at the level of the common Muslim, which are as follows: These are my own observations at the grass root level.

1. Commercial Interest: The system of interest in the present banking system, which is so universal, is deemed not conducive to adhering to the Islamic ban on the giving and taking of interest. This has resulted in many Muslims putting their money into non banking companies, firms, which promised to work on Islamic principles of profit and loss, but ultimately, collapsed and the promoters ran away with all the money. Recent cases of such happenings are known to all. Therefore, the Ummah needs to be clearly guided by the Board, duly modifying the total ban on interest. This would enable Muslims to put their money into safer investments. Therefore, why not lift the ban on bank interest - which is not exploitative in nature?

2. Family Planning: Although, the Qur'an has spoken against family planning i.e. "killing" children out of fear of inability to sustain them, as in the days of the Holy Prophet, (PBUH), is causing insurmountable social and economic problems to the Muslims. In the present times, it is the large number of children in each family, which is pushing such families to utter deprivation. Thus, forcing the children of the Ummah to go without proper education, health, and a decent life. In these conditions, most poor and uneducated people cannot think of living lives even according to five pillars of Islam. Poverty is multiplying poverty, depriving the masses of the community to the basic necessities of life, which ultimately, may lead to criminalisation of our society.

3. In the Medical Field: The transplantation of human organs be considered and legalized in consonance with the prevailing laws of the land. 

4. Animal Sacrifices: To consider whether money can be distributed to poor instead of animal sacrificial meat etc.

5. The Performance of Haj: To consider and provide guidance to the Ummah, that Haj may be performed only and only after completing all their parental responsibilities and obligations, and also that, it should be performed provided they can afford the expense. Many Muslims perform Haj without fulfilling their parental obligations, thinking it is an onerous obligation on them, though the Qur'an is specific about the conditions. Yet, many Hajees do not follow the other basic Islamic injunctions, such as regular Namaz, Roza and Zakat etc in the normal course of life. Performing Haj at great cost may not be desirable when a Muslim does not perform other Faraiz during most part of his life, even after doing Haj.

6. Recitation of the Holy Qur'an: There is too much emphasis, from every one concerned, to direct Muslims to "recite" the Qur'an in Arabic. Since, we in India, do not know the Arabic language at all, just mere reading does not make us understand the Qur'anic teachings at all. Therefore, it should be emphasised that instead, the Qur'an should first be learnt and read by the Ummah in their own mother tongue or a language well understood by them. 

This would arouse an interest in the Ummah to further study the Holy Qur'an, with greater keenness, enabling them to implement such teachings. The reading of the Qur'an could only then be relevant. The present emphasis on recitation in Arabic has left the Ummah practically ignorant about the Qur'anic message and teachings. It is therefore, suggested that the emphasis should be changed from mere recitation to first reading in a language that is understood by the reader. 

7. Madrasa Education: The curriculum / syllabus of the madrasas needs to be changed - not because the government wants it. Unless some aspects of modern education are also incorporated in the curriculum, such as Maths, English or regional language, and basic Science, and a technical trade etc, lakhs of madrasa going children would find themselves unemployable in this world, except perhaps in other similar madrasas. For this, the well recognised madrasa institutions should devise new courses. Further, all madrasas which the Ummah funds must become accountable to the Ummah at all times. Or, a Madrasa Board be constituted by Ulama to prepare this special syllabus. 

The Methodology of Teaching: As part of the madrasa education revised curriculum should be introduced because most aalims go back to teaching at other madrasas. While doing so, they should know what methodology a teacher should employ in his teaching.

These are some of my concerns. The community as a whole is going down and down everyday, and their leaders - whether religious or social - are seen to be sitting on the high moral ground, when they should be playing a leading role in providing the guidance for reforming the misguided Muslim society.

The question now being asked is, in what way the MPLB is relevant to the community? Such Board meetings, which require spending lakhs of rupees to organize, what purpose they have served in the past and what it will do in future. At the Bangalore meeting of Board, what was achieved? 

I think that the Board should really become relevant to the community and become a useful body, so that it is recognised even by the government, at all levels, which can consult the body in all matters concerning Muslims of India from time to time. 

The above suggestions are my personal views, not merely as a Muslim, but as a social activist much concerned with the general well being of the Muslim community. I am not at all against the implementation of Shariat. But, the same Shariat should answer to the needs of all sections of Muslims, particularly the women, who are much abused in the ‘name’ of the Shariat - whether rightly or wrongly. We have not provided the remedy. 

¯ Bashiruddin Babukhan
(Former Minister, A.P.), Hyderabad

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