Opposition to Uniform Civil Code is ideological

Faizan Mustafa’s article on Uniform Civil Code, published recently in The Hindu, has rightly pointed out that the acceptance of Uniform Civil Code by Muslims will not in any way help the cause of integration or development. But where he fails is his argument that Muslims oppose Uniform Civil Code due to their “Minority psyche” and once they are convinced about the good intentions of the government and become empowered, their opposition will evaporate. He says:

The Muslim law has been reformed in several countries. Then why have Muslims opposed reforms in India? The answer lies in the ‘minority psyche’ of Indian Muslims, which is tied to the question of their identity. Let them be convinced that a uniform civil code has nothing to do with their distinctive identity, let them develop faith in the new government, let them have a fair and equitable share in the power structure of the state and let culprits of communal violence not be rewarded with ministerial berths. Accepting a uniform civil code would then become far easier. Muslims in India should also realise that in spite of uniform family laws in the West, Islam is growing at a very fast pace. Thus, a uniform civil code is not a great threat to the religion as it is perceived by many.

The truth on the other hand is that the opposition to uniform civil code has much bigger issues involved, which are mainly ideological and social. Muslims are not opposing UCC just because it is now being talked about by the new government, which belongs to a political party considered anti-Muslim by many Muslims. Muslims opposed it even when Congress was in power. Even Leftist parties have been highly supportive of UCC.  In fact, “liberal” ideologists have been more vocal in support of the UCC, and their support is based on their peculiar understanding of “equality” between men and women.

Muslims will not support any change in the laws which go contrary to the spirit of Qur’an and Sunnah. The argument in favour of UCC is often based on the concepts of equality of men and women practiced by the current ideologies. The modern world is ruled by the forces of economics. Their social ideology emanates from the kind of economics they are pursuing. It is the demands of the economics that have overriding influence in all the spheres, including education, health, political and social matters. It is the market-sponsored feminism, which is trying to rewrite the roles of men and women in society. These roles are more often than not in sharp contrast to the roles assigned to them by Nature. The Islamic laws, on the other hand, are in accordance with the biological roles men and women are destined to play; and the social laws are designed to help them attain their respective roles in a way that they become complimentary to each other. Equality in the modern world is based on artificial unnatural notions; equality in Islam is natural.  

The market-driven economy wants to cash in on every need, strength and weakness of human beings. The unfortunate part is that the business of weaknesses has become so big that they try to institutionalize and legalize many practices that are dangerous for healthy living. Men and women for them are commercial beings rather than human beings. The current system wants women in the market when they are young; their biology wants them to remain in the safe environs of their homes. This is where the confrontation begins. Markets are totally ignoring the biological roles both play, which are hugely different. The role of man in the whole reproductive cycle is limited to a few minutes of physical contact. As soon as this contact results into conception, the biological role of man ends. After that, it is the woman alone dealing with her body and its product. She has to keep her child in her belly for a period of at least nine months. If she chooses to abort, it is she who suffers. She kills her child and faces the knife and injections. If she continues with pregnancy, her role becomes more important after the delivery. She is biologically duty-bound to breastfeed her child, which should ideally continue for two years. This total duration of around three years, from conception to the completion of breastfeeding, keeps her totally occupied. It is a full-time job, and it is an injustice to her if even during this period she has other burdens over her shoulders. Her role does not end after three years. Her child needs her special attention for another 10 years.  The reproductive role of the woman starts immediately after puberty and continues till about 45 years. If she performs her normal, optimum biological functions during these 30 years, she needs total support from one who is responsible for her biological condition. It is therefore the duty of man to look after her - physically, financially, psychologically and socially. If he wants the woman to share the financial burden, it is an injustice perpetrated on her. But this is exactly what the modern world is doing. Man has transferred half of his burden to women, and has called this transfer of burden her “financial independence.” The markets need their attraction and services, so they are “helping” them in averting their biological roles. And this is done in the name of “rights”: right to abort, right to use contraceptives, right to have sex outside marriage, right to divorce, right to maintenance, right to work, etc.

 The man-dominated market has spawned a strange kind of feminism which, in fact, benefits him more than her. Man’s burdens are decreased and woman’s increased. And to make it possible, the whole family system is purposely destroyed. Marriage before a certain age is illegal while sex legal. Polygamy, which has a very low incidence, is illegal, but promiscuity is not only legal but is also engulfing an increasing number. Teenage marriage is banned but teenage pregnancy is becoming common. Both marriages and divorces are being made difficult, so that people prefer to have living-in relationships rather than entering into proper marriage. The old-fashioned family system will keep women confined to their homes for a long period, which is not acceptable to the market. So many industries survive on their going out. She is being purposely kept away from her biological functions because market cannot afford it.

 Islam decides rights and duties on the basis of respective natural rights. If woman has to bear the biological burden, man has to bear the financial burden. Equality does not mean uniformity. Equality means distribution of privileges and burdens. The modern world wants to impose uniformity in the name of equality. In Islam, if man is responsible for financial burden, he receives a bigger share in inheritance. Woman has the advantage of not being under compulsion to earn for the family, so her share is less. But if she desires, she can earn, and in that case all her earnings will be exclusive hers own.  

The UCC demands a ban on polygamy but no curb on extramarital relationships. Islam does the opposite. The social fact is that promiscuity can engulf almost everyone, but polygamy is self-limiting. With hardly 1-2 percent incidence of polygamy, it should not have been a major issue. But the media makes it an issue. Promiscuity for them is no issue, which has much more serious implications. In Islam, marriage is a civil contract; and once the marriage ends, there cannot be any kind of relationship or contact left in between them. But there are people who want men to give life-long maintenance to her, despite the fact that she is no longer performing her duty as wife...

There are of course some issues that are to be tackled within the Islamic Shariah. One-time divorce is against the Qur’anic guidance on the matter, which fixes a three months’ time before the finality of divorce. This is highly scientific, as it helps in the rights of fetus and mother, helps in defence against sex transmitted diseases and gives the spouses a time to reconcile. They also have the right to seek Khula. There is a need to ensure that Mehr is paid at the time of Nikah, and is not deferred, which again is against the spirit of the Qur’an. There is of course absolutely no justification in denying women their rights in inheritance. They have their shares in their father’s properties (including agricultural land and business), mother’s property, husband’s property and children’s property if they die while they (wives and mothers) are alive. There are other rights, which are hardly discussed. They have the right to breastfeed their children for a period of two years. And they have the right to choose their spouses and reproductive rights. Their religious and social rights are the same. In case their husbands indulge in any of the prohibited activity, they can seek divorce.

 Islam, in addition, asks people to wage a war against exploitation of women. Prostitution is simply not acceptable, and Muslims must start a jihad against this. This will expose the market-sponsored designs. How can the champions of women’s rights tolerate a practice like abortion? There should be a campaign against abortion by choice. There cannot be a bigger crime against humanity than abortion. Ironically, abortion is being defended in the name of women’s reproductive rights...

Education is must for women also, and they are required in many professions such as medicine, police, and teaching. But a largescale drive for job-oriented education has resulted in many serious side effects. It has increased unemployment for the needy, increased economic disparity, increased crimes against women, increased promiscuity, increasedexploitationand abuse of women, weakened family system and has led to the neglect of children. Women’s involvement in social affairs should be encouraged after 45. Women need protection, security and care more than anything else. Giving them rights at the cost of security just for the larger interests of the market is not helping anyone. It should be remembered that every woman is a working woman; and the noblest of all jobs is the job of a family woman. Housewives should better be called housemanagers.

 Muslims must give up their defensive and apologetic attitude, and must learn to challenge the modern ideologies, which bring more disaster than relief. Uniform Civil Code is not acceptable, as it negates the natural needs of men and women and makes them captives of the forces of economics. Some communal elements argue in its favour only because it irks Muslims. However, if Muslims do bring the sinister designs of the market forces in picture, followers of other religions will appreciate their position. In the meantime, Muslims have to empower women within the Islamic parameters.

 As far as the Uniform Civil Code is concerned, any attempt to bring it, in piecemeal or wholesale, will be resisted by the community wisdom through all possible means of a democratic system. And it should be kept in mind that the constitution of a country is never above the will of the citizens of the country, especially the citizens who are affected by any particular part of the constitution. A constitution or any part of it is sacrosanct only till it has the approval of the citizens.

The author is a thinker and writer with over a dozen books including his latest Muslims Most Civilised, Yet Not Enough.He may be contacted at:

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 16-31 July 2014 on page no. 11

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