By Arshad Alam, New Age Islam
24 May 2017
How should one understand the new affidavit filed by AIMPLB in Supreme Court yesterday? In this affidavit the Board has promised to the Court that it will issue an advisory against instant triple Talaq and advertise it through social media. It also says that the Qazi will be empowered to include a section within the Nikahnama (marriage contract) which will unambiguously say that the groom will not be entitled to pronounce instant triple Talaq in case he wishes to divorce his wife.
Some are arguing that this is a progressive step which the Board has taken while others are saying that it was left with no option. But it is really worthwhile asking as what made the Board change its decision because it was the same Board which was earlier arguing that despite the fact that triple Talaq is a sinful practice, it is very much Islamic and hence it cannot be abrogated. Is it that reality has finally dawned on these clerics that there is no way that the court is going to rule in their favour that now they have come up with this advisory.
But first there are fundamental questions about the advisory itself. Who is the AIMPLB to issue such an advisory and with what authority have they done so? The AIMPLB is represented by a crafty set of clerics, some of whom have shown political ambition from time to time, and in no way can be called representative of the Muslim community. Muslims in India are a diverse community with many sectarian divisions and the AIMPLB does not represent all of them.
Secondly, it has a mere cosmetic presence of Muslim women who think their sole agenda is to ditto whatever the male members of the Board have to say on any issue.
Thirdly, there are scores of Muslims who think that we should not have such a body in the first place: that Muslim representation should be about jobs and other such secular issues. These liberal and modernist Muslims do not find a place within the AIMPLB.
In nutshell, the AIMPLB is not a body which represents the entirety of Muslim opinion. Truth be told, if there was no party called the Congress, there wouldn’t be a body called the AIMPLB. If this motley group of clerics do not represent the community, then how can they issue advisories?
The so called advisory will call upon the Qazis to declare that the bridegroom will desist from uttering instant Talaq in case there is a disagreement between the couple. Now again, what authorities do the Qazis have in contemporary India? How are they to ensure that the marriage contract expressly forbids instant triple Talaq? Given the situation that Muslim women are at the receiving end, what if there is pressure on them not to put this component in the contract. How is the Qazi then supposed to behave and act? The simple fact is that Qazis have no authority today and by invoking the institution of the Qazis, the AIMPLB is telling us that they still live in a time when the institution of Qazi was relevant. And that precisely seems to be the problem. They are living in a time warp and refuse to wake from their slumber and see the light of the day. The world has changed while they slept all this while.
Are the AIMPLB members foolish to understand that their advisory cannot be implemented. They very well know that. Hence this affidavit is nothing but a last ditch attempt to save the Muslim personal law from being legislated at by a secular court. This may sound strange but I think this is the only reason why they have come up with the brilliant idea of submitting an affidavit at the last moment and stating that they will be issuing an advisory. This is nothing but a last attempt to stall adverse noting of the highest court, and that too in a matter which has been constructed as integral to very faith of Islam.
On one of the many televised debates on triple Talaq, a women member of AIMPLB said what is only talked about in hushed tones within Muslim circles. She clearly stated that a secular state with Hindu judges cannot adjudicate on matters of Islamic law in India. And this precisely is the crux of the problem. The Muslims of the AIMPLB still do not see the Indian state as their own and the judiciary as representing their viewpoints also. They see it primarily from an Islamic prism: non-Muslim judges should not sit in judgment over an Islamic issue. And that’s the reason primarily why they have chosen to file this affidavit in the Court after all the hearings are over. This is a last ditch effort on the part of AIMPLB to thwart any legislation by non-Muslims on matters related to Islam.
What should we call them? Conservatives would be too mild a word. What should we call a body which does not recognise the judiciary and other state structures as their own. They claim to speak on behalf of all Muslims but ordinary Muslims of this country have immense faith in the Indian judicial system. For many Muslims falsely accused of terrorism, it has proven to be the last hope. It is only through the judiciary that majority of Muslims have reposed faith in Indian democracy. By not showing faith in the judiciary, the AIMPLB opens itself to the charge of not being open to the idea of nation state itself.
Arshad Alam is a columnist with www.NewAgeIslam.com
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