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Published in the 16-30 Nov 2004 print edition of MG; send me the print edition


Nikahnama report is misleading
Reply by Lakdawala

The report on Model Nikahnama appearing in MG 16-31 October is misleading and biased. It also contains factual errors as Maulana Ali Mian Nadvi was reported as the Founder president of Muslim Personal Law Board. In fact Maulana Qari Mohammad Tayyab Sahab was unanimously elected as the Founder President and it was after his demise that Moulana Ali Mian was elected as second President. 

Itís unfortunate that any work for the betterment or uplift of women is systematically sabotaged. To say that Nikahnama is nothing but ego of Muslim activists is over simplification of a complex problem.

It is strange that Muslims are generally in search of an enemy. If we donít have it then we try to create one so that we could safely put the blame of our misadventure and misfortunes on them. In sharp contrast, immediately after Hijrat, Rasulullah (S) found that with limited resources and power he had, he could not possibly fight two enemies simultaneously; the Kuffar of Makkah in the south and Jews of Khyber in the north. He did the most sensible thing by extending a hand of friendship to the Jews so that he could focus on Makkan enemy. We have a teaching in this uswa; whenever possible make friendship and peace with other communities. India is a multi-religious society where Muslims live side by side with other communities. Most of the non-Muslims are as peace loving citizens as Muslims. In my last fifteen years of social activities I found them very cooperative and they contribute more in welfare of Muslims then our own people do. Of course they have their own misconceptions and stereotype against Islam for which Muslims alone are to be blamed for, we never tried to reach them and convey the eternal message of Islam to them. I find that many social activists of the other faith want to work for the betterment of Muslim women and approach me for the purpose because they feel that nothing should be done that is ultra vires of our faith and Shariah. Since they are working at grass root level and know the problems faced by Muslim women, they also try to approach ulama through me seeking solution in Islamic Shariah. Itís unfortunate that instead of appreciating such sincere efforts, we develop enmity towards them, brand them as leftist and accuse them of interfering with the Shariah. The irony is that while we sit in our comfortable drawing rooms abusing Modis and Togadias, we find Tiesta Setelvad, Mahesh Bhat traveling between Ahmedabad and Mumbai in sultry heat fighting for justice that was denied to Muslims after worst ever genocide in Gujrat two years back.

As regards Nikahnama, we have been working on the issue for the last ten years. The reason for our patience during all these years is that we tried to involve ulama in the work and wanted a solution within the framework of Shariah. Usually the idea of a Nikahnama has been discarded on the pretext that it was media hype and the problem is not so acute that it needs to be addressed. One such assertion is that the ratio of Talaq in Muslims is 20 out of 1 lakh per annum. I donít know the source of this information. The ratio appears minuscule but if you apply the formula to Muslim population of 15 crores then it works out a staggering 30,000 each year. Is 30,000 destitute Muslim women each year not enough figure that deserves any solution for marital problems? We all have double standards. We ignore the problem and talk against any solution to it unless our own daughters or sisters are at the receiving end.

The report says:Ö "Instead of wasting our time in on symbolic solution like Nikahnama we need to coach and train our children to understand Islam and practice it as taught to us by Prophet Muhammed (S)". This solution is offered time and again by the people who are totally ignorant of the problem being faced by Muslim women today. It is obvious that this solution is the best but most impractical. My only question is that considering the socio-economic position of middle class, lower middle class and poor Muslims, it would take another 50 years to reasonably educate our masses as suggested, that too if the gigantic and daunting work is started today which is practically impossible. If for the sake of argument, we do accept the proposition workable, what solution they offer for the next fifty sixty years till our masses get educated. The Nikahnama is actually there to fill that gap. We agree that education is the only solution but till we get educated what best we could do to curb the menace of unnecessary Talaqs, non payment of maintenance as per Shariah, custody and care of young children left with the poor divorcee woman and non payment of meher that are rampant in our society.

Itís true that many Nikahnamas are under circulation but to call every one of it, as ego problem amongst various Muslim activists is unfair. I have been working at grass root level and to be true, not a day passes when some Muslims girls do not come to me with their matrimonial problems. I am never influenced by media, as my source of information is these young girls who are victims. I wish people who pass casual remarks on Nikahnama should have accompanied me for a few days to actually know what their sisters face and how they feel. 

Our group drafted a Nikahnama based on the problems Muslim women are facing, discussed it with various ulama and modified it as per their suggestions. I was fortunate to personally discuss it with late Moulana Qazi Mujahidul Islam Qasmi, former president AIMPLB, who after listening our submissions was convinced about its need and sent the modified draft of Nikahnama to hundreds of ulama. Upon receipt of their opinions, they were incorporated in a book titled "Ishtirat Fin-nikah" which was published by Fiqh Academy, Delhi. Qazi Mujahid Sahab sent all the original letters containing opinions of ulama to me and asked me to release the Nikahnama as most of the opinions were in favour. However, we insisted that either AIMPLB or Fiqh Academy should release it so that itís acceptability is not challenged. Unfortunately, due to unnecessary debates on the subject by a section of Muslims the issue became controversial and neither of the organizations could release it.

We never insisted that our Nikahnama alone should be accepted. It was suggestive and set the ball rolling. Any Nikahnama that deals with the problems is welcome. Itís good that AIMPLB is seriously considering introducing one in their ensuing meeting in Kerala next month.
With regards,

Uzma Naheed, Mumbai
Member, All India Muslim Personal Law Board -

Reply by MH Lakdawala

My article was not against any individual. It was a comment on the competition amongst various activists and groups, to get their Nikahnama approved by the AIMPLB. 

I have never mentioned that Nikahnama issue is Muslim activistsí ego problem. What I said was that it is becoming an ego problem, which is an open secret. Sister Uzmaís allegation that betterment or uplift of women is systematically sabotaged; I have no knowledge about it. Even if itís true I am not party to it.

I do not agree with her statement that ďMuslims are generally in search of an enemy. If we donít have one then we try to create one so that we could safely put the blame of our misadventures and misfortunes on themĒ. In fact, I believe that Muslim community has always supported the worthy cause. Instead of blaming the Muslim community we all must do self-introspection.
No one is stopping our non-Muslim brothers and sisters from espousing the cause of Muslim women. But common Muslim gets disturbed that under the guise of helping Muslim women many leftists do attack Islam itself and insult our Ulama, and I have witnessed this in many such meets. 

The solution quoted in my article was not my own but the opinion of the Maulana Abu Zafar Hasan Nadwi who chaired the discussion held recently in Mumbai on the proposed model nikahnama organized by Sister Uzma Nahid and Majlis. Maulana Abu Zafar Nadwi in his presidential address had said ďInstead of wasting our time on symbolic solution like Nikahnama we need to coach and train our children to understand Islam and practice it as taught to us by Prophet Muhammed (S)Ē.

Sister Uzma Nahid has every right to have her own opinion on Nikahnama. But I do not agree with her views. With my observations and experience, I feel that Nikahnama is not the panacea for the Muslim womenís problems as projected.

M H Lakdawala, Mumbai

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