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Islam and Politics ( 5 Feb 2020, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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The AIMPLB is Again Putting Muslims to Shame; This Time by Defending Nikah Halala and Polygamy

By Arshad Alam, New Age Islam

06 February 2020

On a petition seeking invalidation of polygamy and Nikah Halala, the All India Muslim Personal Law Board sought to implead itself and argued that the petition be rejected. We shall come to the grounds on which the Board wants the petition to be quashed.

Certainly, there can be ulterior motives behind the petition. Also, since the petitioner is not from within the community, questions can be raised as to why the said petitioner is not campaigning for women’s rights within his own community, which are also highly unequal.

However, it is equally pertinent to ask as to who the AIMPLB is to represent the ‘interests’ of Muslim community. Why does the Board feel that it is its duty to represent Indian Muslims? Has the Muslim community ever elected them to this responsible position? Do they even have the mandate to speak on behalf of Muslim community which constitutes a diverse array of opinions and even religious orientations? Do they have the right to speak on behalf of thousands of Muslim women and men who want to reform such personal law within their community? Certainly not. Then why is that the highest court of this country entertains them as if they are the custodians of Indian Muslims?

The AIMPLB is making two separate sets of objections to the current petition. Firstly, it is arguing that practices like polygamy and Nikah Halala are ‘cultural’ practices and as such they need to be protected because the constitution of India invests heavily on maintaining religious and cultural diversity. This is a clever piece of argument, but, as with many organizations quoting the constitution these days, does not sound convincing. Certainly the constitution does talk of maintaining religious, cultural and linguistic diversity. However, the constitution also talks of fundamental rights. When the AIMPLB talks of rights, it always talks of the rights of community, not that of the individual. The constitution on the other hand, talks of balancing the rights of the community with the individual.

But within the worldview of the AIMPLB, individual rights certainly do not exist. So if a Muslim woman objects to the practice of Nikah Halala, then she will be asked to shut up because the rights of the community (personal laws) are more important than her individual rights as a woman and as a citizen of this country. This is certainly a delicate legal balance but for those women who are trying to change the existing balance of power within the community, the answer has been clear since many years: till the time individual rights do not get primacy over community rights, no real reforms will happen within the community. The value of diversity certainly needs to be lauded but should this necessarily trump the rights of individual women?

It should also be pointed out that AIMPLB is conflating religion with culture. For convenience, it can be argued that all Muslims follow the same religion. But then we all know that there are fundamental difference in terms of theology and even the idea of the prophetic mission within Muslims themselves.

 These differences are not just textual and polemical, but get into our very relationship towards fellow Muslims. If the religion itself is not monolithic, then how can culture be one and the same for all Indian Muslims? This is certainly a myth propagated by the AIMPLB wherein they are trying to argue that all Muslims follow the same culture. This is sociological nonsense. But then trying to fuse religion and culture is perhaps a bigger nonsense.

 In making practices like Nikah Halala and polygamy a cultural issue, they are in fact arguing that all Muslims indulge in such practices. Nothing can be farther from truth and in arguing so, the Board is caricaturing Muslims as backward and regressive people. This certainly creates a perception that most Muslim indulge in such practices. The reality, on the other hand is that instances of polygamy are more within the Hindu community. Thanks to Muslim custodians like AIMPLB, we do not need right wing Hindus to paint us as regressive and uncivilized people. The Board is doing this task remarkably well.

The second argument which the AIMPLB is making is that the state has no business in pronouncing judgments on matters of personal law. It has argued that personal laws do not fall within the definition of ‘law ‘because personal laws are based on scriptural sources, and as such they do not derive their legitimacy from secular legal jurisprudence. This is actually the repeat of the argument made during the Shah Bano affair.It seems that the Board has not learnt any lessons. If it is argued that Indian Muslims will not be governed by state’s secular laws, then this certainly will antagonise other communities who have to follow the state law in both secular and religious matters. This kind of Muslim exceptionalism has already proved to be counter- productive to the larger cause of Muslims in India.

It must also be pointed out that in matters of criminal law, the AIMPLB has no issue in accepting the secular law. But when it comes to issues wherein women and their rights are concerned, then they want primacy of religious laws over secular laws. This duplicity must be called out. But more importantly, what also needs to be said is that Muslim personal law is not divine and certainly only a small portion of it can be traced back to the scriptures. In large measure, the Sharia is man-made and has evolved through centuries of rational application of human mind. If the Sharia is indeed divine, one fails to understand how so many Muslim countries have been modifying it from time to time. 

It needs to be said unequivocally that the practice of Nikah Halala is abhorrent. Muslim women and men have been raising their voices against this practice since many decades now. There are documented cases of how women have been subjugated through this practice, not just in India but even in the South Asian Muslim communities abroad. Similarly, Muslim women have been fighting against the practice of polygamy. Way back in the early 20thcentury, the All India Muslim Women’s Conference, drafted a model Nikahnama and inserted therein a clause that if the husband takes another wife, then the extant marriage will be immediately annulled. More recently, the Bhartiya Muslim Mahila Andolan, has been organizing Muslim women and amplifying the hitherto suppressed voices of Muslim women. A sensitive Muslim organization would have listened to these voices and would have become the beacon of reform. However, we should not have any hopes of this kind from the AIMPLB.

Arshad Alam is a columnist with


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  1. Suhail, most of the clergy and non-clergy today are showing hypocrisy on many issues. you may not be either of them..........
    By Zain 15/03/2020 23:45:09
  2. The clergy over the years prepared a parallel theology based on deductions and assumptions of scholars. They igmired clear injunctions of Quran and Hadith. Nikah Hala is one of the innovations based on the misinterpretatios of some verses and promoted by corrupt maulvis. Quran does not prescribe hala.
    By Arshad 15/03/2020 23:38:56
  3. Arshad, you have handled this complex subject very well. Congrats. The objection made by the AIMPLB is wrong. The first thing they should ask isDoes Polygamy or Nikha Halala enhance the quality of life or does it denigrate life? Does it build up or does it tear down? If the AIMPLB thinks the culture of polygamy or Nikha Halala enhance life, then their worldview too is pretty wrong. You are correct in saying the Board is caricaturing Muslims as backward and regressive people”.

    Many Muslims, particularly women in the West are doing well. Simply because they are freer; no polygamy, no names calling, less extended families, more intimate supervision of a few children.  When the head of a family looks for a second or third wife, the family becomes a disaster. You cannot make a sober judgement on any issue while embracing many women or wives. History is replete with the fallen kingdoms, because the kings took bold decision for war at the harem embracing women with boiling hormones, just to show how powerful they are.  Similarly today many young people, after watching porn material in their smart phones, with boiling hormones and the secretions half way down the tract, look at women just as a cat looking at a fried fish. Women are to be pitied.  Gone are the days when a single touch of a woman’s hand can be a heaven. AIMPLB should know that basically man is a polygamist and woman is a monogamist. Woman does not rape a man. In the Christian West casual sex is rampant – as well as divorces. No woman wants her husband or partner to utter the same words – darling, honey, sweetie etc. into the ears of another woman. Halala marriage is the worst. I have already commented on this subject sometime back. It is not a simple kiss on her cheek, but the mixing of eight secretions. Halala husband can linger in her mind until her death and wreck the family.

    Though Christians are the worst sex offenders, some have changed in their later life. Many Christian saints were initially sinners, including Leo Tolstoy.  President Bill Clinton had sex affairs with the woman Monica Lewinsky, but later appeared, sweating, in the TV, and said “I am a sinner”. That confession in public made him free, just as South African Cricketer Hansie Cronje publicly confessed that greed was the cause for the match fixing. They have many to look for moral guidance. Jesus was a virgin, his mother Mary was a virgin, great prophet John the Baptist was a virgin, and boldly went to the King Herod and said at his face “You cannot keep your brother’s wife. That woman demanded his head. He was beheaded and his head was given to her on a plate.(Mathew 14:1-12)  In Quran Surah 12 we find Prophet Joseph was chased by his mistress to sleep with him but he refused and consequently he was in Prison on false accusation. Only a God of moral perfection is God.

    If AIMPLB do not have the courage to confront these historical forces and the religious and social traditions which create and sustain them, they will be able to do very little to help their society to extricate itself from its present predicament. 

    Jesus said “Not everyone seeing sees; not everyone hearing hears”. (Mathew 13:13)

    By RoyalJ 20/02/2020 15:42:13
  4. Nikah is not only a social practice but it is a religious too.Divorce system in Islam is defined it is obvious that some practice may be look absurd to you and all but you think if a man is divorcing a woman again and again then some way out would be needed or not.
    By Muhammad Yunus 11/02/2020 23:46:02
  5. Yalk that was Your Paigmebr did so he might have some mental problem. Not me, Also Muslims have same problem on the name of sunnah you Muslims do all bad things which does not suites to human beings
    Also when I said allow everything to muslims according to Sunnah than it is correct because Hindus should not be responsible to make you Muslims correct rather they should only concern about effect by Muslims on Hindu.
    By Aayina 11/02/2020 23:02:14