Sharia Laws Reform

Reform in sharia laws is more advanced in countries such as Turkey, Indonesia, Morocco and Iran than it is in India. A good example would be the reforms put into effect in Morocco which was described by Ziauddin Sardar in an article titled “Change is coming to Islam” (The Times Of India, 26 Dec, 2009). He writes, “Morocco has provided a clear lead. The family law in Morocco, known as Moudawana, was based on the traditional Islamic rules on marriage, divorce, inheritance, and polygamy and child custody. Women’s groups and enlightened Muslim scholars had been campaigning for decades to change and reform it without much success. But 9/11 and its aftermath provided a new impetus. A special commission, which notably included women, was created with the specific task of producing fresh legislation based on the principles of Islam. The resulting family law, which was introduced on the statute books in February 2004, sweeps away centuries of bigotry and bias against women. The new Moudawana [Mudawwana] allows a woman to contract a marriage without the legal approval of a guardian. Verbal divorce has been outlawed: men now require prior authorisation from a court and women have exactly the same rights. Women can claim alimony and can be granted custody of their children even if they remarry. Husbands and wives must share property acquired during the marriage. Men are no longer the ‘leaders’ of the family; both husband and wife share the leadership role. The old custom of favouring male heirs in the sharing of inherited land has also been dropped, making it possible for grandchildren on the daughter’s side to inherit from their grandfather, just like grandchildren on the son’s side. As for polygamy, it has been all but abolished. Men can take second wives only with the full consent of the first wife and only if they can prove, in a court of law, that they can treat them both with absolute justice - an impossible condition. Every change in the law is justified - chapter and verse - from the Qur’an, and from the examples and traditions of the Prophet Muhammad. And every change acquired the consent of the religious scholars. With the exception of the gripes of a few extremists, the new shariah has been widely welcomed, even by the Islamist political organisations. Justice and Development Party described the law as “a pioneering reform” that is “in line with the prescriptions of Islam and with the aims of our religion”.
Ghulam Mohiyuddin
New York, USA

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 1-15 February 2010 on page no. 2

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