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Published in the 16-31 Jan 2005 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

New challenges face AIMPLB

By Rizvi Syed Haider Abbas

Maulana Rabey NadwiLucknow: The cold-wave in the environs of the Gomti could not lower the heat around the last executive meeting of All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) on Dec. 25, 2004. Nadwat-ul-Ulama was the venue for the historic meeting on the issue of Nikahnama (marriage contract) which had dogged the board for many years.

AIMPLB is a body of eminent Muslim scholars and leaders representing Muslims of all sects. It has two hundred and one members out of which twenty-five are women. It has an executive consisting of forty-one members with Begum Naseem Iqtidar Ali as the only woman delegate on it.

The Nikahnama had the priority on the agenda and after two-hours of deliberations it was finally adopted with some minor amendments. This was arrived at after specimen copies of Nikahnama were sent, months back, to ulama, theologians, scholars and intellectuals for their opinions and comments. Around thirty of the executive committee members attended the meeting which continued until 9 pm in the evening.

The board does not call it a model Nikahnama. “It is just a Nikahnama," said Zafaryab Jilani, the legal advisor to AIMPLB. When asked what is the new structured format now, he said "It provides a guideline for a husband and wife how they should behave in the event of a dispute between them, and how it should be resolved."

Thereafter, the issue of triple-talaq, which has made headlines these days, was discussed threadbare. The Nikahnama incorporated that talaq (divorce) should not be pronounced unless required under compelling circumstances and as far as possible it should not be pronounced thrice in one sitting. The Nikahnama also says that mahr (dower) is an integral right of a woman and it should be paid in full at the time of Nikah itself and if not possible then part of it should be given in gold or silver. It further provided that both husband and wife should sign a declaration at the time of Nikah that they would abide by the decision of Darul Qaza or Sharai Panchayat or some local respected Alim to solve any dispute.

Darul Qaza system, therefore, needs to be expanded. But how would the Board punish those who pronounce triple talaq? "Different Muslim organisatons and some big madrasahs will be approached to establish Darul Qaza and bear the expenses for the same so that Darul Qazas can be established across the length and breadth of India. The training of Qazis is undertaken in Imarat-e-Sharia, Patna, which is trying its best to provide as many Qazis as possible," said Jilani. And, what about punishment? "If the government agrees to confer the right to punish to Darul Qazas under the Qazi Act we will have no objection to flogging the person who pronounces triple talaq in a single sitting as was done during the caliphate of Hazrat Umar," answered Jilani.

The matter of how our Muslim women have been denied their right to inheritance in the ancestral agricultural land, was again taken up by the Board. These rights of Muslim women, especially daughters, mothers and widows, were snatched away by the Uttar Pradesh Zamidari Abolition and Land Reforms Act of 1951 and the sole right of inheritance was given, instead, to the son(s) in agricultural land!

The Board demanded an amendment in UP ZALR Act. "It was decided that a reminder be sent to UP Chief Minster Mulayam Singh Yadav, and to UP Parliamentary Affairs Minister Mohammad Azam Khan so that the rights to inheritance of Muslim daughters and mothers may be ensured forthwith," said Kamal Farooqui, a member of the board.

It would be interesting to mention here that the Board had made representation against the same since 1970s when Shripat Misra was the CM of UP and he had expressed his inability to amend UP ZALR Act. Thereafter, in late 1990s there was an amendment to it during CM Mayawati’s regime in which the right to inheritance was given to widows. Morevoer, Hindu women have been given equal rights in property by the recent bill in parliament. What will be the Muslim women’s share? "We have a rationale derived from Holy Quran and the same rationale is to be followed regarding inheritance for Muslim women," said Farooqui.

The issue of Babri Masjid and the role of CBI came under the scanner and it was resolved that Maulana Syed Nizamuddin, general secretary of the Board, would send a letter to Mulayam Singh Yadav asking that the state government should issue a fresh notification in consultation with the High Court for referring the Babri Masjid demolition case relating to Crime No. 198 to Lucknow court. "The notification if issued would certainly enhance the speedy disposal of those accused in Babri Masjid demolition," said Jilani.

Reports on Islah-e-Muaashira (reform of society) were submitted by convenors from all parts of the country. Maulana Abdullah Mughisi and Aziz-ul-Hasan submitted their reports on western and eastern UP respectively. Elaborate discussions took place to lay down guiding principles to promote the reform-of-society campaign. Future programmes, like giving a lecture for about half-an-hour before Nikah as a condition, prompt payment of dower, in full or part, before solemnising the Nikah etc, were formulated.

The meeting was presided over by board president Maulana Rabey Hasani Nadwi. Prominent among the present were board vice president Dr. Syed Kalbe Sadiq, Siraj-ul Hasan, former president of Jamat-e-Islami Hind, Salim Qasmi, Syed Nizamuddin, Abdur Rahim Quraishi, Wali Rahmani, Burhanuddin Nadwi, Yaseen Ali Usmani, Sajjad Nomani, Salman Nadwi, Qasim Ilyas Rasool, Aqil Husami, Sulaiman Sikandar and Hakim Irfan Husaini.

What came as a surprise was that not even a cursory note was taken of the creation of a new “board” called the “All India Muslim Personal Law Board (Jadeed)” founded on 10 December 2004 by one of the progenies of the founder of Barelvi sect, Maulana Tauqeer Raza Khan, on the plea that his sect was not properly represented on the old board. There is news in the air that Shias too are in the process of forming their own board for similar reasons. The Barelvi board is said to be part of a Congress effort to split Muslims. Maulana Tauqeer is an active Congressman and close to the Congress MP, Maulana Ubaidullah Azmi. Reportedly the previous BJP government too toyed with the idea and contacted a number of ulama for the purpose.

"Look, as far as I recollect those who attended the meeting as special invitees were Abdul Mannan Advocate, Hamza Hasani, Khalid Rashid Firangimahli, Maulana Gulzar Qasmi, Prof. Nafees Ahmad, Maulana Shamsuddin, and Dr. Abdul Haq Ansari of Jamat-e-Islami Hind, Board is very adequately represented by all sects," said Syed Shahabuddin a member of the Board.

Some voices of concern were, however, raised. Qamar Alam Advocate was more forthcoming. "After AIMPLB was formed in 1972, the All India Muslim Personal Law Conference was created to marginalise the Board’s influence. It was formed by Maulana Ashraful Qadri as its president and Yaseen Akhtar Misbahi as general secretary. Maulana Idris Bastawi and Maulana Obaidullah Azmi were part of it and despite these people being respectable and scholarly, Muslim masses did not give it any legitimacy. Today, even the members of Aala Hazrat Ahmad Raza Khan are not in its favour. Mannana Raza Khan, the Sajjadanashin and eldest brother of Tauqeer Raza Khan, has rejected his brothers’ gimmick," he said adding that "Barelvi sect’s Maulana Muzaffar Husain Kichchauvi has been the vice president of the Board, Mufti Mukaram Ahmad, Maulana Yaseen Ali Usmani are all represented."

"The Muslim community should not be impressed as the Board is the sole body but we too have certain grievances," said Khalid Sabir, UP president of Muslim Majlis who added that the AIMPLB let down many peope in the past. “Where were they when the Indian Union Muslim League was formed in UP to lessen the popularity of the Muslim Majlis, when IUML was cornered by forming Indian National League in Kerala, when the growing influence of Students Islamic Movement (now banned) was sought to be neutralised by creating Students Islamic Organisation and when Muslim Majlis-e Mushawarat was broken to form the Milli Council," he said. Khalid Sabir is now co-ordinating with the Movement For Reservation for Muslims, a campaign now gaining momentum. He recently fought, though unsuccessfully, the state assembly by-elections from Allahabad-West and many Muslim leaders campaigned for him including Tauqeer Raza Khan. 

UP parliamentary minister Mohammad Azam Khan too shares this opinion. He told the MG, "The formation of this new Board is only to belittle the all-encompassing role of the AIMPLB as the advocate of Muslim issues in the nation. Now the Babri Masjid title-suit is coming close to judgment under the Board’s supervision. BJP and VHP and their cronies want an out of court settlement after their agent shankaracharya made an unsuccessful bid for an out of court settlement. They have time and again insulted the judiciary. Now, when the Board maintains that a judicial verdict is the only solution to it, these anti-Muslim forces are trying to create hurdles like Tauqeer Raza Khan who was nominated as member of Sunni Central Waqf Board by BJP in UP." 

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