Why the custom of dowry is increasing in our society?

By Arif Aziz

The world has stepped today into the twenty-first century and people are living in the electronic and computer age. Man has made extraordinary progress because of his vast knowledge but our Indian society remains a victim of many outdated customs and traditions like the caste system, narrow-mindedness and the curse of violence against women and dowry. It has now become common to burn daughters-in-law for dowry or to compel them to commit suicide by subjecting them to taunting, harassment and maltreatment for not bringing enough dowry. Previously such cases were rare and if at all such incidents took place, people were surprised and condemned such cases but now in almost every city such cases take place frequently while our society tolerates them calmly and indifferently.

This practice of bargaining openly for dowry or making the life of daughters-in-law hell because of bringing insufficient dowry is less in Muslims compared to other communities, though this vice is creeping fast among us also. Recently such a case took place in Bhopal when the in-laws sprinkled kerosene on their daughter-in-law and set her on fire. Many more such cases have taken place among Muslims at other places. If such cases in Muslim society are not many, its main reason is the Islamic concept of punishment in the Hereafter. Another important reason of this is the family laws which are termed as Muslim Personal Laws. Under thesee laws, the facilities of divorce and khula’ given to Muslims (men as well as women) have discouraged this evil and inhuman practice, however much today’s so-called modern society may make fun of these laws. A former judge of the Supreme Court, Justice H.R. Khanna while referring to this aspect of the Muslim Personal Law had stated in a discussion, though without supporting or justifying it, that if conjugal relations become intolerable to the extent of non-reconciliation under any circumstances, it should be considered a (logical) reason for divorce or separation of spouses, though under the existing laws a state of extremely bad relationship between husband and wife is not considered enough reason for separation of husband and wife or divorce.

It is surprising that in the majority (Hindu) society when a daughter-in-law is burnt alive for dowry or is harassed in in-laws house to the extent of compelling her to commit suicide, social reformers do not pay much attention to this while in cases of Muslim society, wide publicity is given even to minor incidents though, except India, in every country of the world Muslims are free from the curse of dowry. Even in India this vice has crept into Muslim society from Hindu society.  

This practice is because in Hinduism daughters do not get any share in the parents’ property and therefore, at the time of their marriage, parents send them out with big amounts of money and lots of goods which is called “kannya daan”. With changed times their nature and form has changed. Previously this custom (sending out daughters as brides) was considered an act of benevolence by the parents but now it has degenerated into a sort of forced recovery (extortion) by the in-laws and in case of non-payment of the required dowry, the in-laws resort to harassment, torture and even bride burning. Contrary to this, Islamic laws provide for patrimony under which daughters inherit a share of the parental property. Therefore, at the time of a daughter’s marriage there is not much financial burden on parents in the name of dowry but because of emulating others, Muslims too are now becoming victims of this vice, though it has nothing to do with Islamic teachings and customs. Hence it can be said without fear and contradiction that dowry demand and harassment in case of non-fulfilment of thes demands has made its inroad into the Muslim society because of the non-Muslim custom. Every Muslim family should avoid this evil custom. (Translated from Urdu)

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 1-15 April 2012 on page no. 2

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